Notre Dame’s Opponents: Veteran BYU will be anything but a trap game in Las Vegas for the Irish

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When No. 5 Notre Dame heads to Las Vegas to play No. 25 BYU on Oct. 8, some Irish fans will make the mistake of referring to the Shamrock Series contest as a “trap game.”

They will be wrong.

A “trap game” should include a feisty underdog, but a decided underdog, nonetheless. The Cougars will be underdogs to Notre Dame — by about a touchdown, most likely — but not decided underdogs. They are simply too good to be dismissed so readily.

2021 REVIEW
BYU went 5-0 against the Pac 12 last season on its way to a 10-3 showing, bringing its two-year record to 21-4. Losing to Boise State and Baylor were both understandable defeats, and injuries had caught up to the Cougars by the time they fell to UAB in the Independence Bowl.

That all came in what was expected to be a rebuilding year after Zach Wilson led BYU to such lofty heights in 2020. Some of last season’s success came via close-game luck, the Cougars going 4-1 in one-score games and thus adding one win to their expected tally based on total scores.

A valid stat and one to keep in mind year-to-year, that does not properly take into account how injuries beat up BYU’s offense late in the season. Most notably, quarterback Jaren Hall (pictured at top) was too injured — a foot/ankle injury in the regular-season finale — to play in the bowl game after missing two early-season games to a rib injury. Hall played through the rib injury against Boise State, but one could wonder if he was at less than his best.

WHAT BYU LOST
Running back Tyler Allgeier may as well be the start and end of this list, and as good as Allgeier was — 276 rushes for 1,601 yards and a country-leading 23 touchdowns — replacing him with Cal transfer Christopher Brooks makes that task a bit easier. Brooks at least briefly considered transferring to Notre Dame before he opted for the lead role in Provo.

BYU returns 18 of its 22 starters, not to mention both its starting kicker and punter. Of the 17 defenders that took at least 250 snaps last year, 16 return.

BYU ranks No. 1 below at 85 percent returning production.

If that 85 percent returning mark does not emphasize enough how much continuity the Cougars enjoy, then realize BYU is one of only 22 teams to return its head coach, both coordinators and its starting quarterback.

OFFENSIVE SUMMARY
When Hall started a game in 2019, he became the first Black quarterback to start a game in BYU history. That warrants mention both to show the prominence he has taken in Cougars history and to illustrate how long he has been at BYU, even if Wilson earned the headlines in 2020. Hall is a fifth-year passer, and his experience showed last season as he threw 20 touchdowns compared to only five interceptions while completing 63.9 percent of his passes.

Hall averaged 8.73 yards per pass attempt, underscoring both his efficiency and explosiveness. And that was all while beat up, not to mention his leading receiver, Gunner Romney, also was battling some knee issues.

The offensive line returns 90 career starts this season and adds Oregon transfer right tackle Kingsley Suamataia. At 6-foot-6, the former highly-touted recruit left the Ducks to be closer to home, not because of any issues finding playing time.

With Brooks and Suamataia, BYU is well-positioned to continue to lean on its offense, which has been the driving force behind head coach Kalani Sitake raising this program to the Big 12.

The Cougars converted 45.9 percent of their third downs last season, good for No.15 in the country, behind that running game. Of course, if Brooks and Suamataia do not pan out, then that efficiency will fall off, but they were both positioned for playing time at their previous stops. The new era of transfers with immediate eligibility changes some of the assumptions usually applied to them.

Brooks wanted to play on a winning team; Suamataia wanted to be closer to his home of Orem, Utah, less than 10 miles from Provo.

That is how Sitake gets to inherit a running back that averaged 5.2 yards per rush last season in the Pac 12 with seven total touchdowns and the No. 23 overall recruit in the class of 2021, respectively. They should help BYU maintain that offensive potency without much issue.

DEFENSIVE SUMMARY
The defense cost BYU last season. The loss to Boise State was simply an ugly football game; Hall’s ribs stood out to any invested viewer. But the other two defeats — at Baylor and in the bowl game against UAB — saw the Cougars give up 946 combined yards with 526 coming on the ground. The Bears and Blazers combined to average 5.98 yards per rush, and if accounting for the three sacks managed by BYU, that average slips over 6.0.

The Cougars gave up conversions on 43.6 percent of third downs, ranking No. 106 in the country (of 130 teams), making it clear the rush defense was lackluster in the most pivotal moments.

For Notre Dame’s concerns, that will be the weakness to exploit in Las Vegas. But BYU may be able to load up the box most of the season. Not only does it return 16 of those 17 contributing defenders, but it also added a cornerback from Vanderbilt and Micah Harper, who was a rotational piece at cornerback in 2020 before an injury cost him the 2021 season. With a better secondary, the Cougars should have more bodies to spare to stop the run.

2022 OUTLOOK
The most veteran team in the country has a win totals Over/Under of 8.5 simply because BYU has worked hard to beef up its independent schedule with Power Five teams the last few years. Taking on Baylor and Oregon in September will not necessarily help the Cougars’ record. Nor will facing the Irish in early October a week before hosting Arkansas.

All four of those teams may end the season ranked. To reach the Over on its win total, BYU will need to beat at least one of them, while also winning at Boise State and at Stanford in November. Few teams would cruise through that slate.

In that respect, life may get easier for BYU when it moves to the Big 12 next season. Looking at five of those opponents just listed — ignoring Stanford for these purposes — they have an average preseason SP+ rank of No. 22. The top-five future Big 12 teams, including Cincinnati and Houston but excluding Oklahoma and Texas, have an average preseason SP+ rank of No. 26.

Life may not be as good in 2023 for BYU, simply because this experienced roster will matriculate in due time, but its trajectory suggests it will handle the Big 12 just fine.

NOTRE DAME’S OPPONENTS
— Ohio State’s offense projects to match the best of the century
— Marshall set for fun in the Sun Belt with advantageous debut schedule
— Cal’s offensive struggles continue to undermine quality defense
New QB Drake Maye not the only change for disappointing North Carolina, Mack Brown

Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick to step down in 2024, to be succeeded by NBC’s Pete Bevacqua

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Notre Dame director of athletics Jack Swarbrick will step down in early 2024 after more than 15 years in the role, the University announced Thursday morning. NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua will succeed Swarbrick, first joining Notre Dame this July as a special assistant to University President Fr. John Jenkins, focusing on athletics.

Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde first reported these plans.

“It speaks volumes about Notre Dame and Father Jenkins’ leadership that we can implement such a well-conceived succession plan and attract someone of Pete’s talent and experience,” Swarbrick said in a statement. “I have worked closely with Pete throughout his time at NBC and based on that experience, I believe he has the perfect skill set to help Notre Dame navigate the rapidly changing landscape that is college athletics today and be an important national leader as we look to the future. I look forward to helping Notre Dame’s student-athletes and coaches achieve their goals in the months ahead while also helping Pete prepare for his tenure as athletics director.”

Swarbrick took over the role in the summer of 2008. Since then he hired football head coaches Brian Kelly and Marcus Freeman, as well as women’s basketball coach Niele Ivey and men’s basketball coach Micah Shrewsberry, navigated Notre Dame’s partial entry into the ACC and kept the Irish actively engaged with the twice-expanded College Football Playoff.

Swarbrick told Sports Illustrated he would “love to do one more thing in the industry,” suggesting this is not an outright retirement for him, but it was important to him for Jenkins to choose the next AD.

“There’s a sense that it’s the appropriate time,” Swarbrick said. “It’s important for Father John to make the selection of the next AD, because I don’t know how much longer he’s going to go.”

A 1993 alumnus of Notre Dame, Bevacqua has worked at NBC since 2018, securing a Big Ten partnership that goes into effect this summer, as well as extending NBC’s deals with the NFL and the PGA Tour.

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Pete Bevacqua, left, with former Notre Dame head coach Lou Holtz in 2018. (Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

“This is an unbelievable honor for me and a dream come true,” Bevacqua said in a statement. “With the exception of my family, nothing means more to me than the University of Notre Dame. As a Notre Dame alum, I have a keen understanding and deep appreciation of the lifetime, transformational benefit our student-athletes receive in a Notre Dame education, one that is unique and unlike any other institution in the world.”

NBC has broadcast every Notre Dame home game since the 1991 home opener with the current deal running through the 2025 season.

Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 75 Chris Terek, incoming freshman offensive lineman, four-star recruit

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Listed measurements: 6-foot-6, 295 pounds
2023-24 year, eligibility: An incoming freshman, Terek has all four seasons of eligibility remaining.
Depth Chart: Terek will come nowhere near Notre Dame’s two-deep this season, needing to focus more on strength and conditioning while also getting a better feel for the idea of a move to an interior, something the Irish will at least consider with Terek.
Recruiting: A long-time Wisconsin commit, Terek reconsidered his college destination when the Badgers abruptly and rather surprisingly fired Paul Chryst. The rivals.com four-star joined Notre Dame’s class right about the exact same time Wisconsin was announcing the hiring of Luke Fickell.

“Notre Dame, they’ve got a pretty crazy track record,” Terek told Inside ND Sports. They do very well with their O-linemen. (Former Irish offensive line) coach (Harry) Hiestand is awesome. And they seem like they’re really building something there.”

WHAT WAS SAID WHEN TEREK SIGNED IN DECEMBER
“His massive lower body — which Notre Dame strength and conditioning coordinator Matt Balis should enjoy molding — gives Terek ample power, something that Hiestand could turn loose on many Irish running plays. …

“Give Terek some time to develop physically before locking him into the two-deep anywhere.”

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS

2023 OUTLOOK
Do not expect to hear Terek’s name again until the spring. That is not a knock on him, not in any regard. Rather, it is an acknowledgment of what to expect from most freshmen offensive linemen and, in particular, what to expect from them when Notre Dame has 17 scholarship offensive linemen on the roster.

Five of them are freshmen, and while early enrollee Sam Pendleton could perhaps crack the paper version of a three-deep at center, none should press for playing time in 2023.

Terek, perhaps more than the others, will need the year with no expectations. He played right tackle in high school, and the Irish are likely to try him out on the interior. At 6-foot-5, he is not yet too long to play inside, but much more vertical growth could change that.

Learning the interior footwork will be enough of a task for Terek as a freshman, along with the usual strength and conditioning work.

DOWN THE ROAD
With 17 scholarship offensive linemen knocking around, and three already committed in the next class, position competitions will be the norm moving forward, though there will naturally be front runners.

Current sophomore Billy Schrauth and fifth-year Andrew Kristofic should emerge as the starting guards this season. If Kristofic spurns his final year of eligibility in 2024, current junior Rocco Spindler should get next crack at a starting role.

Both Schrauth and Spindler could be around in 2025, with current junior Pat Coogan supplementing them if he has not grabbed hold at center. Only then can names like Terek, classmate Joe Otting and sophomore Ashton Craig begin to be considered.

All of which is to say, Notre Dame is in an enviable position. Offensive line talent is scarce on the transfer market. Individual players need to be staring at uphill trajectories like this if the program wants to be a genuine contender instead of just the 10th team into the expanded Playoff.

WHY No? 75?
Terek wore No. 77 in high school, but current sophomore Ty Chan owns those digits in the Irish locker room. With offensive linemen largely focused on numbers in the 70s, 75 is one of just two available numbers (along with No. 71).

Perhaps Terek drops to No. 67, but for this penciling him into the content calendar, 75 fits well enough.

NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
The summer countdown begins anew, Rylie Mills to Deion Colzie
No. 99 Rylie Mills, senior defensive tackle, moving back inside from end
No. 98 Devan Houstan, early-enrolled four-star defensive tackle
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, junior defensive tackle, one of three Irish DTs with notable experience
No. 95 Tyson Ford, sophomore defensive tackle, up 30 pounds from a year ago
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, a senior defensive tackle now ‘fully healthy’ after a 2022 torn ACL
No. 91 Aiden Gobaira, sophomore defensive end, former four-star recruit
No. 90* Brenan Vernon, incoming freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 90* Boubacar Traore, incoming freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, the next starter at ‘TE U’
No. 86* Cooper Flanagan, incoming freshman tight end, four-star recruit
No. 85 Holden Staes, sophomore tight end, up 20 pounds in a year
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, senior tight end coming off a torn ACL
No. 83 Jayden Thomas, junior receiver, probable No. 1 target in 2023
No. 79 Tosh Baker, senior tackle, again a backup but next year …
No. 78 Pat Coogan, junior interior offensive lineman
No. 77 Ty Chan, sophomore offensive tackle, former four-star recruit
No. 76 Joe Alt, first-team All-American left tackle
Rhode Island transfer safety Antonio Carter gives Notre Dame desperately needed backline depth
Penn State RB transfer Devyn Ford gives Notre Dame newly-needed backfield depth, experience

Notre Dame adds four-star RB and in-state OL after biggest recruiting weekend of summer

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Following its biggest on-campus recruiting weekend of the summer, Notre Dame has already added two pieces to its future rushing game. First, consensus four-star running back Kedren Young (Lukin High School; Texas) committed to the Irish late Monday night, and then consensus three-star offensive lineman Styles Prescod (Hamilton Southeastern H.S.; Fishers, Ind.) followed suit midday Tuesday.

The No. 16 running back in the class and No. 213 overall prospect, per rivals.com, Young chose Notre Dame over Missouri, Texas A&M, Texas and Michigan. In total, eight Division I programs from his homestate of Texas offered Young scholarships.

At 5-foot-11 and 210 pounds, he runs angry before running away from defenders, who have a hard time squaring him up on the rare occasions they get a chance at a tackle. Young’s highlight reel borders on tedious it is filled with so many breakaway runs, scoring 19 touchdowns and averaging more than seven yards per carry as a junior.

He is the second running back in Notre Dame’s class of 2024, joining consensus four-star running back Aneyas Williams (Hannibal H.S.; Mo.). The Irish need such a duo given the distinct likelihood current junior Audric Estimé heads to the NFL after this season, leaving Notre Dame with only three unproven ball carriers in the backfield.

Either sophomore Gi’Bran Payne or Jadarian Price could break through as Estimé’s complement in 2023, but both have worrisome injury histories, making a sheer numbers approach to the position prudent.

Both Young and Prescod were at Notre Dame for the so-called Irish Invasion this past weekend, a camp the Irish coaching staff uses as a chance to evaluate many top prospects in person while also giving them an opportunity to see campus before possibly taking an official visit this fall.

For Prescod, it was a shorter trip. From a suburb north of Indianapolis, he had about a two-hour drive to South Bend, the rare prospect close enough to Notre Dame to give the Irish a geographic advantage, even as half the Big Ten chased the offensive lineman, including Iowa, Michigan and Indiana.

Notre Dame first sought the 6-foot-6, 265-pound Prescod when Harry Hiestand was still the Irish offensive line coach, with new position coach Joe Rudolph finishing the push.

Prescod plays tackle in high school, and while Indiana high school football is not the stiffest of competition, he looks the part of a collegiate tackle, as well. Most notably, Prescod sets a clean edge even if he is not yet fully grown. He also has some power to his blocks, while still needing to add 20-30 pounds of muscle.

If that day comes, Hiestand’s, Rudolph’s and Notre Dame’s expectations of Prescod as a prospect should become reality.

The third offensive lineman in the class, he joins four-star Peter Jones (Roswell; Ga.) and three-star Anthonie Knapp (Malvern Prep; Penn.).

The combination of Young and Prescod brings the Irish class of 2024 to 19 total commits, the most in the country at the moment. Notre Dame ranks No. 2 in class rankings, per rivals.com, behind only Georgia (with 17 commitments) and ahead of Michigan (17), LSU (16) and Penn State (17).

This is the second year in a row the Irish have spent the summer in the top three, falling to No. 11 when all was said and done last cycle. There are obviously no assurances another such late drop will not befall Notre Dame, but regardless, the summer momentum furthers the Irish coaching staff’s recruiting pitch.

Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 76 Joe Alt, first-team All-American left tackle

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Listed measurements: 6-foot-8, 315 pounds.
2023-24 year, eligibility: A junior, Alt has two years of eligibility remaining.
Depth Chart: Alt will be the Irish starting left tackle this fall, not surprising given he will be the first-team All-American left tackle in most, if not all, preseason considerations.
Recruiting: Notre Dame recruited Alt as an offensive lineman when he was a 240-pound tight end. He was up to 280 pounds by the time he signed with the Irish in December of 2020, still needing to add weight as his frame continued to grow.

Throughout that entire process, he remained a three-star prospect despite his father’s NFL pedigree, a 13-year NFL tackle. Few three-star recruits are drafted, even fewer are surefire first-round draft picks, and fewer yet are All-Americans as sophomores.

CAREER TO DATE
Alt’s career hit the fast track when injuries to three young tackles ahead of him in the first month of the 2021 season left Notre Dame with no choice but to throw him into a starting role; less than two years after Alt was a high school tight end, he was the starting left tackle following in the footsteps of Zack Martin, Ronnie Stanley and Mike McGlinchey.

There is obviously no way to ever know how long it would have taken Alt to blossom on Saturdays if not for the back-to-back-to-back injuries of Blake Fisher’s torn meniscus, Tosh Baker’s concussion and Michael Carmody’s sprained ankle in September of 2021, but it is an entertaining parlor wonder.

Instead, Alt will go down as a three-year starter at left tackle, not missing a game in 2022. Counting this coming season, Alt will be the fifth consistent starter at left tackle for the Irish in the last 14 seasons. Three of those previous four were drafted in the top 20 with Liam Eichenberg going No. 42 overall in 2021.

2021: 13 games, 8 starts.
2022: 13 starts.

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
Logically, Alt is likely making more this year than all but one or two other players on Notre Dame’s roster. Given he has proven himself and will consistently be a headline player in 2023, even as an offensive lineman, that should not surprise anyone.

Much of that income will not be noticed publicly, but some of it will come from the most obvious of sources, working with the next generation of players.

This space has said it before, and it will say it again. The NCAA’s prohibiting players from working in camps like that up until a few years ago was the most obtuse of its many obtuse policies.

Alt will also profit off sports cards and signing them. Again, an obvious thing that was never going to harm anyone except the NCAA’s monopoly and schools’ control of players, which is why it was outlawed for so long.

QUOTES
When Harry Hiestand retired, it was generally understood Irish head coach Marcus Freeman would have his pick of offensive line coaches from across the country. Notre Dame returns three veteran starters up front, including a clear first-round draft pick in Alt. That line should make its position coach look good the next couple of years. Pulling Joe Rudolph out of Virginia Tech, where Rudolph had made a long-term commitment just a year ago, proved that understanding to be true.

“Some guys just have amazing talent,” Rudolph said of Alt in mid-April. “Amazing athleticism, amazing size.

“And then there’s some guys that just have the quality of leadership and the grit and the way they’re going to get it done in the moment. They’re going to be a great leader and make guys around them better. You don’t always find that all in one guy.

“He’s as close as I’ve got to see all of that in one guy. He brings it from all facets, and it’s much appreciated. … Very unique young man.”

WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
“If Alt was able to help solidify the Irish line, along with left guard Andrew Kristofic stepping in for Zeke Correll, with his size after just one summer in a collegiate strength and conditioning program, then all expectations should be fast-forwarded even further. It defies logic to think someone once projected as a possible 2024 contributor could now be a stalwart on the Notre Dame line in 2022, but Alt has made that a potential reality.

“That is not meant to jump the proverbial shark or to move the figurative goal posts. It is just the possible continuation of Alt’s rapid ascent.

“At the absolute least, he should start throughout the season, barring injury. His length was what made Alt an intriguing prospect as a recruit, along with his lineage. Taking so well to adding weight already should make him durable, as well.

“He will give up some sacks, just as he did early in his first start, but that is the inevitability of the position. Under returned offensive line coach Harry Hiestand’s eye for fundamentals, Alt should correct those mistakes shortly after he makes them. That could make for a very impressive November.”

2023 OUTLOOK
Alt ended last season as a first-team All-American. Remember: He was recruited as a project, not as a three-and-done, multi-year All-American first-round draft pick.

Walter Camp has already named him a preseason first-team All-American for 2023, and a pile more of those nods should come before the season. So his 2023 will be marked by three possibilities: unanimous All-American, Outland Trophy, Joe Moore Award.

If Alt pulls off those first two, Notre Dame will be in good position for the third, the honor given to the best offensive line every season. If that becomes reality, then the Irish ceiling in 2023 ticks toward Playoff contender.

There are few other ways to genuinely track a left tackle, but Ohio State’s primetime visit on Sept. 23 will shine a light on Alt. Buckeyes junior defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau could be a top-15 pick in the spring. Alt faced a similar prospect last season, not giving up a pressure to Clemson defensive end Myles Murphy on 15 snaps matched up against each other. Worth noting: Murphy went No. 28 in the NFL draft.

DOWN THE ROAD
There is an easy way to judge the veracity of a 2024 mock draft right now: Is Alt in the top 15? If not, find a more in-touch analyst.

Not much else needs to be said here. If Alt is looking at a top-15 projection, and that is on the low end, no one in South Bend should try to dissuade him from jumping to the NFL. Tosh Baker or Blake Fisher should assuage most 2024 worries about the left tackle position.

Some pieces of context to Notre Dame left tackles in the NFL draft to remember when Alt hears his name called:

2014: Four-year starter Zack Martin goes No. 16 overall.
2016: Two-year starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley goes No. 6 overall.
2018: Two-year starting left tackle Mike McGlinchey goes No. 9 overall.
2021: Three-year starting left tackle Liam Eichenberg goes No. 42 overall.

NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
The summer countdown begins anew, Rylie Mills to Deion Colzie
No. 99 Rylie Mills, senior defensive tackle, moving back inside from end
No. 98 Devan Houstan, early-enrolled four-star defensive tackle
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, junior defensive tackle, one of three Irish DTs with notable experience
No. 95 Tyson Ford, sophomore defensive tackle, up 30 pounds from a year ago
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, a senior defensive tackle now ‘fully healthy’ after a 2022 torn ACL
No. 91 Aiden Gobaira, sophomore defensive end, former four-star recruit
No. 90* Brenan Vernon, incoming freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 90* Boubacar Traore, incoming freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, the next starter at ‘TE U’
No. 86* Cooper Flanagan, incoming freshman tight end, four-star recruit
No. 85 Holden Staes, sophomore tight end, up 20 pounds in a year
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, senior tight end coming off a torn ACL
No. 83 Jayden Thomas, junior receiver, probable No. 1 target in 2023
No. 79 Tosh Baker, senior tackle, again a backup but next year …
No. 78 Pat Coogan, junior interior offensive lineman
No. 77 Ty Chan, sophomore offensive tackle, former four-star recruit
Rhode Island transfer safety Antonio Carter gives Notre Dame desperately needed backline depth
Penn State RB transfer Devyn Ford gives Notre Dame newly-needed backfield depth, experience