Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 5 Cam Hart, senior cornerback, second-year starter

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Listed measurements: 6-foot-2 ½, 205 pounds.
2022-23 year, eligibility: A senior, Hart has three seasons of eligibility remaining.
Depth Chart: Hart will start opposite junior Clarence Lewis this season, the former likely at boundary cornerback and the latter at field corner.
Recruiting: The consensus three-star prospect and Maryland native received offers from most of the Northeast, choosing the Irish over Virginia, Virginia Tech and Boston College.

CAREER TO DATE
Recruited as a receiver, Hart flipped to defense early in his freshman season — before the season, in fact. A shoulder injury cut short his playing time that year and assimilation to the new position.

He then backed up Nick McCloud as boundary cornerback in 2020. Hart did not play all that much, but he was clearly McCloud’s primary backup despite never playing defense aside from those brief 2019 blowouts and not even having spring practices — canceled by the pandemic — to learn the position.

That naturally led to Hart starting last season, and he may have been the one Irish cornerback not individually exploited at any point despite taking more than 700 snaps.

2019: 3 games.
2020: 8 games; 3 tackles with two passes broken up.
2021: 13 games, 10 starts; 42 tackles with four for loss and nine passes broken up with two interceptions.

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
Along with former Irish safety Kyle Hamilton, Hart led the way on the “Inside the Garage Podcast” last season, part of Colin Cowherd’s Volume Sports network. Though Hamilton is obviously with the Baltimore Ravens now — something that brought Baltimore-native Hart great joy — the podcast will continue in the 2022 season.

In fact, Hamilton’s draft experience led to some podcast fodder.

Defensive back KJ Wallace is also no longer in South Bend, having transferred to Georgia Tech. That also produced content.

Frankly, this kind of thorough material as players continue on their careers is an insight into their lives that was never allowed before NIL rights and one that betters the public’s understanding of college football.

QUOTES
Look through Hart’s career again and realize how impressive his 2021 was. He had hardly played cornerback in his entire life and then he became a full-time, reliable starter.

To Notre Dame cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens, that simply means more is attainable for Hart at the position.

“This was his first true year starting, so I think he was still learning corner play. Some of the things that you would naturally have if you played it all your life …,” Mickens said this winter. “Now he understands corner, where his help is, how his technique can be better to me in better positions to make even more plays than he did this year. He has caught up to the game. Now I think it’s more let’s go dominate.”

WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
“Notre Dame’s recruiting woes in 2017 and 2018 left the Irish desperate for a cornerback years later. Between the two recruiting cycles, they signed exactly one cornerback who would play in multiple seasons, Tariq Bracy in 2018. Otherwise, Notre Dame created a massive vacuum on its defensive depth chart.

“So it sought out McCloud and moved Hart from receiver. The Irish put together a defensive backfield with tape and little else, and it worked in 2020. McCloud played very well.

“For it to continue to work, Notre Dame will need Hart to remain healthy through all of 2021 and never become a liability on the perimeter. Then, and only then, the Irish may have found enough cornerback depth in years to come to have navigated those past recruiting lapses.

“For Hart, a healthy and productive 2021 would include not getting exposed by USC’s talented receivers as Bracy was in 2018; it would include matching the physicality of Wisconsin’s receivers; it would include knocking down a few Sam Howell deep balls at the end of October.

“That is asking a lot, but the Irish have little elsewhere to turn, so Hart will need to deliver for Marcus Freeman’s first defense to hold up. …

“If Hart manages those tall tasks, then he should be entrenched as Notre Dame’s starter for a few years. Using up all four seasons of remaining eligibility would be a stretch, simply in terms of roster construction, but Hart could have the longevity of a traditional fifth-year player, making him a possible three-season starter on the boundary.”

2022 OUTLOOK
A shoulder injury cost Hart the 2022 spring. That does not spark the concern that came from losing the 2020 spring when he needed development, but it does warrant mentioning as shoulder injuries are some of the more problematic in modern football. Hart’s should be alright, but it is something to keep in mind if he struggles in 2022.

Struggles should not be anticipated. Hart’s acclaim has gained steam this offseason, even with him missing the spring. His rapid development — rapid considering how little defensive experience he had entering the 2020 season — suggests a shutdown season could be on the precipice.

As well as McCloud played in 2020, the Irish have not had a veritable shutdown corner since Julian Love in 2018. Hart becoming one could give new Notre Dame defensive coordinator Al Golden freedom to have some fun with designs.

Even if Hart only has a strong season, he should allow Golden some flexibility. Hart worked at field cornerback for a chunk of last season. That interchangeability will help the Irish disguise some coverages, and that momentary hesitation from an opposing quarterback should be all the Notre Dame defensive line needs.

RELATED READING: Improvement needed from Notre Dame’s cornerback position

DOWN THE ROAD
That shoulder worry may push Hart to the NFL if he is healthy throughout 2022. A shutdown season would demand as much.

He could return to start again in 2023, and quite possibly in 2024. Notre Dame would welcome him, given the lack of known depth at the position.

But it will be in Hart’s best interest to chase a mid-round future sooner than later.

NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
From Blake Grupe to Braden Lenzy, the offseason countdown begins anew
No. 99 Blake Grupe, kicker, Arkansas State transfer
No. 99 Rylie Mills, junior defensive lineman, a tackle now playing more at end

No. 98 Tyson Ford, early-enrolled freshman, a defensive tackle recruited as a four-star end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, sophomore defensive tackle, still ‘as wide as a Volkswagen’
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, a junior defensive tackle who tore his ACL in March
No. 91 Josh Bryan, sophomore kicker
No. 91 Aiden Gobaira, early-enrolled freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 90 Alexander Ehrensberger, junior defensive end, a German project nearing completion
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, sophomore tight end
No. 87 Michael Mayer, junior tight end, likely All-American
No. 85 Holden Staes, incoming freshman tight end
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, junior tight end
No. 83 Jayden Thomas, sophomore receiver, former four-star recruit
No. 80 Cane Berrong, sophomore tight end coming off an ACL injury
No. 79 Tosh Baker, one of four young Irish offensive tackles
No. 78 Pat Coogan, sophomore center, recovering from a meniscus injury
No. 77 Ty Chan, incoming offensive tackle, former four-star recruit
No. 76 Joe Alt, sophomore starting left tackle
No. 75 Josh Lugg, sixth-year offensive lineman, likely starting right guard
No. 74 Billy Schrauth, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard coming off foot surgery
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, senior offensive tackle-turned-guard
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, sophomore offensive tackle, former Auburn pledge
No. 68 Michael Carmody, junior offensive line utility man
No. 65 Michael Vinson, long snapper, ‘Milk’
No. 65 Chris Smith, defensive tackle, Harvard transfer
No. 59 Aamil Wagner, consensus four-star incoming freshman offensive tackle
No. 58 Ashton Craig, incoming freshman center
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, fifth-year defensive tackle, coming off shoulder surgery
No. 56 Joey Tanona, early-enrolled offensive guard coming off a concussion
No. 56 Howard Cross, senior defensive tackle with heavy hands, and that’s a good thing
No. 55 Jarrett Patterson, fifth-year offensive lineman, three-year starting center, captain
No. 54 Jacob Lacey, senior defensive tackle, now lighter and a starter
No. 54 Blake Fisher, sophomore starting right tackle, ‘ginormous’
No. 52 Zeke Correll, senior center or perhaps left guard
No. 52 Bo Bauer, fifth-year linebacker, Ironman
No. 50 Rocco Spindler, sophomore offensive guard
No. 48 Will Schweitzer, sophomore end-turned-linebacker
No. 47 Jason Oyne, sophomore defensive end-turned-tackle
No. 44 Junior Tuihalamaka, early-enrolled freshman linebacker, consensus four-star recruit
No. 44 Alex Peitsch, junior long snapper
No. 42 Nolan Ziegler, early-enrolled freshman linebacker, Irish legacy
No. 41 Donovan Hinish, incoming freshman defensive tackle, Kurt’s brother
No. 40 Joshua Burnham, early-enrolled freshman linebacker-turned-end
No. 34 Osita Ekwonu, senior Vyper end coming off an Achilles injury
No. 31 NaNa Osafo-Mensah, senior defensive end
No. 29 Matt Salerno, fifth-year receiver, punt returner, former walk-on
No. 28 TaRiq Bracy, fifth-year starting nickel back
No. 27 JD Bertrand, senior linebacker recovering from a plaguing wrist injury
No. 25 Philip Riley, sophomore cornerback
No. 25 Chris Tyree, junior running back, possible Irish bellcow
No. 24 Jack Kiser, senior linebacker, second-year starter
No. 23 Jayden Bellamy, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 22 Justin Walters, sophomore safety
No. 22 Logan Diggs, sophomore running back with a shoulder injury
No. 21 Jaden Mickey, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 20 Jadarian Price, early-enrolled freshman running back with a ruptured Achilles
No. 20 Benjamin Morrison, freshman cornerback
No. 18 Chance Tucker, sophomore cornerback
No. 18 Steve Angeli, freshman QB, Blue-Gold Game star
No. 17 Jaylen Sneed, early-enrolled linebacker, Rover of the future
No. 16 Brandon Joseph, Northwestern transfer, preseason All-American, starting safety
No. 16 Deion Colzie, sophomore receiver
No. 15 Tobias Merriweather, freshman receiver, forever a memorable recruitment
No. 15 Ryan Barnes, sophomore cornerback
No. 14 Bryce McFerson, freshman punter facing a Harvard challenge
No. 13 Gi’Bran Payne, freshman running back, late recruit
No. 12 Tyler Buchner, sophomore starting QB
No. 12 Jordan Botelho, a defensive end-turned-linebacker
No. 11 Ron Powlus III, sophomore QB providing steadiness to a chaotic room
No. 11 Ramon Henderson, junior cornerback-turned-safety
No. 10 Drew Pyne, junior quarterback
No. 10 Prince Kollie, sophomore linebacker, high school Butkus Award winner
No. 9 Eli Raridon, incoming freshman tight end with a torn ACL
No. 9 Justin Ademilola, fifth-year defensive end, a backup in name only
No. 8 Marist Liufau, senior linebacker returning from a dislocated ankle
No. 7 Audric Estime, sophomore running back, No. 2 on the shortened depth chart
No. 7 Isaiah Foskey, defensive end on a record chase
No. 6 Clarence Lewis, three-year starting cornerback
No. 5 Joe Wilkins, receiver with a September-costing foot injury