Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 32 Prince Kollie, freshman linebacker, Butkus Award winner

Prince Kollie
rivals.com
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Listed measurements: 6-foot-2, 210 pounds.
2021-22 year, eligibility: A freshman, Kollie has all four seasons of eligibility ahead of him.
Depth Chart: Junior Jack Kiser will start at Rover on Labor Day Eve (43 days), partly because while senior Paul Moala’s recovery from an Achilles injury may have moved quicker than expected this spring, it should still be managed carefully. Behind Kiser, though — particularly while Moala gets up to full speed — Kollie could work his way into a complementary role.
Recruiting: An Under Armour All-American and consensus four-star, Kollie wavered in his commitment to Notre Dame when defensive coordinator Clark Lea took the head coaching job at Vanderbilt. Kollie had been pursued by the likes of Alabama, Georgia, and LSU, so he had plenty of other offers to consider once his primary Irish contact left South Bend.

But Lea went out of his way to reassure Kollie as he put together his own first recruiting class with the Commodores, making it clear to the Butkus Award winner (best high school linebacker) that Notre Dame was where he belonged.

No. 32? NOW?
Projecting the incoming freshmen’s uniform numbers is an exercise in making mistakes. Conjecture thought Kollie would get one of thee Notre Dame numbers of lore, but Nos. 3, 5 and 7 are all currently unavailable on this roster, so No. 9 felt like the next best option, somewhat following in the footsteps of Jaylon Smith, also a one-time high school Butkus Award winner.

But instead, the Irish have hung No. 32 on Kollie’s shoulders, per an updated profile page on the University’s website, a number that first appeared on his Instagram a month ago.

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
Social media is about more than being social these days. Instead, it is now an avenue toward greater rewards.

WHAT WAS SAID WHEN KOLLIE SIGNED
“Discussions of Kollie include two knocks on him: His size makes him a hybrid linebacker candidate and his high school competition is lackluster. In the eyes of the Irish coaching staff, though, neither of those is a concern. “Tweeners” make ideal Rovers, and its eye for talent evaluation has proven itself in recent years: Paul Moala, Jack Kiser and Marist Liufau all could have been similarly knocked for their high school competition, and all three look like viable contributors at the next level.

QUOTES
Comparing Kollie to Smith in any regard is unfairly aggressive. So is putting him in the same sentence as Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, but then again, Owusu-Koramoah did win the collegiate Butkus Award the same year Kollie won the high school version. For that matter, the duo doing such put them in a direct parallel with Smith and Manti Te’o, who pulled off the same double in 2012.

But Brian Kelly compared Kollie to Owusu-Koramoah, and some quotes warrant sharing repeatedly.

“People always talk in terms of playmakers on offense,” the Notre Dame head coach said during December’s signing period. “[Kollie is] a playmaker on defense. He wrecks your day on offense.

“We saw so many similarities with Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Prince in terms of the way they play. The suddenness, just the natural fit at the Rover position for us, which we’ll continue to employ in our defensive structure. To add a playmaker of his capabilities was so attractive to us and it was a natural fit.”

2021 OUTLOOK
The Irish coaching staff, new defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman included, likes Kiser. Some of the 2021 scheme will be designed to showcase the Indiana native. That kind of emphasis implies an assumption that Kiser will rise to the occasion.

But to keep him fresh, Notre Dame may put Kollie into genuinely competitive moments. He already has a frame to hold up at the next level, and Kollie has always relished the physical nature of the game.

The Irish may first break in Kollie with work on the special teams coverage units, but making a few tackles there would only strengthen the likelihood of picking up some of Kiser’s workload.

DOWN THE ROAD
Kollie is poised to be the next in line among “great Notre Dame linebackers,” as made clear by mentioning the last few above. But the next next is also possibly already committed.

The Irish not only have four consensus four-star linebackers pledged in the current cycle, but one of them is clearly a natural Rover, Jaylen Sneed.

The two will man Notre Dame’s outside linebacker positions for years to come, beginning in perhaps 2023. But one will move from the supposedly ideal fit at Rover to Will (weakside) linebacker.

That could be looked at as a sacrifice, or as a step toward an even more multiple defense, something Freeman already prefers.

NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
Let’s try this again
No. 99 Rylie Mills, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 98 Alexander Ehrensberger, sophomore defensive end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, early-enrolled freshman defensive tackle the size of a Volkswagen
No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, fifth-year defensive tackle-turned-end
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 91 Joshua Bryan, incoming freshman kicker
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, early-enrolled freshman tight end, a former high school quarterback
No. 87 Michael Mayer, star sophomore tight end and lead offensive weapon
No. 85 George Takacs, senior tight end, ‘152 years old’
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, sophomore tight end
No. 83 Jayden Thomas, freshman receiver, four-star prospect out of Georgia
No. 82 Xavier Watts, sophomore receiver
No. 81 Jay Brunelle, speedy sophomore receiver
No. 80 Cane Berrong, early-enrolled freshman tight end
No. 79 Tosh Baker, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 78 Pat Coogan, incoming freshman center
No. 77 Quinn Carroll, junior offensive lineman
No. 76 Joe Alt, incoming and towering freshman offensive lineman
No. 75 Josh Lugg, fifth-year right tackle, finally a starter
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, junior offensive tackle, possible backup center
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, early-enrolled offensive tackle, former Auburn commit
No. 70 Hunter Spears, junior offensive guard, former defensive tackle
No. 68 Michael Carmody, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 62 Marshall guard Cain Madden transfers to Notre Dame, likely 2021 starter
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, senior defensive tackle
No. 56 John Dirksen, senior reserve offensive lineman
No. 56 Howard Cross, junior defensive tackle
No. 55 Jarrett Patterson, the best Irish offensive lineman
No. 55 Kahanu Kia, freshman linebacker, Hawaiian, LDS member
No. 54 Jacob Lacey, junior defensive tackle
No. 54 Blake Fisher, early-enrolled freshman left tackle, starter?
No. 52 Zeke Correll, junior, starting center
No. 52 Bo Bauer, senior linebacker, #BeADog
No. 50 Rocco Spindler, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard
No. 48 Will Schweitzer, early-enrolled freshman defensive end
No. 47 Jason Onye, incoming and raw freshman defensive end
No. 44 Devin Aupiu, early-enrolled freshman defensive end
No. 44 Alex Peitsch and No. 65 Michael Vinson, Irish long snappers, both needed
No. 41 Kurt Hinish, fifth-year defensive tackle, eventual record-holder in games played
No. 40 Drew White, fifth-year linebacker, three-year starter
No. 39 Jonathan Doerer, fifth-year kicker, using the pandemic exception
No. 35 Marist Liufau, junior Hawaiian linebacker
No. 34 Osita Ekwonu, junior defensive end
No. 33 Shayne Simon, senior linebacker
No. 29 Matt Salerno, senior punt returner, walk-on
No. 28 TaRiq Bracy, senior cornerback, possible nickel back
No. 27 JD Bertrand, junior linebacker
No. 26 Clarence Lewis, sophomore cornerback, second-year starter
No. 25 Philip Riley, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 25 Chris Tyree, speedy sophomore running back
No. 24 Jack Kiser, junior linebacker, onetime pandemic hero
No. 23 Litchfield Ajavon, junior safety
No. 23 Kyren Williams, junior running back
No. 22 Logan Diggs, incoming freshman running back
No. 21 Lorenzo Styles, early-enrolled freshman receiver
No. 21 Caleb Offord, sophomore cornerback
No. 20 C’Bo Flemister, senior running back, coming off an offseason with a smirch
No. 20 Justin Walters, early-enrolled freshman safety and likely early special teams contributor
No. 19 Jay Bramblett, junior punter
No. 19 Justin Ademilola, senior defensive end
No. 18 Joe Wilkins Jr., senior receiver, team favorite
No. 18 Nana Osafo-Mensah, junior defensive end, coming back from a knee injury
No. 18 Chance Tucker, freshman cornerback
No. 17 Jack Coan, graduate quarterback, Wisconsin transfer
No. 17 Jordan Botelho, sophomore defensive end, full-speed at all times
No. 16 Deion Colzie, incoming freshman receiver with both speed and leaping height
No. 16 KJ Wallace, junior safety, possible starting nickel back
No. 15 Ryan Barnes, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 14 Kyle Hamilton, junior safety, preseason All-American, top 2022 draft prospect

Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 55 Kahanu Kia, freshman linebacker, Hawaiian, LDS member

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Listed measurements: 6-foot-1, 210 pounds.
2021-22 year, eligibility: A freshman, Kia has four seasons of eligibility remaining, but he is expected to interrupt them with a two-year mission as a practicing member of the Church of Latter Day Saints. Kia will most likely take that mission in the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years, then returning to Notre Dame as a sophomore for the 2024 season.
Depth Chart: Kia looks and plays like a prototypical middle linebacker, or Mike, where he will be no higher than fourth-string for the Irish this season, behind fifth-year Drew White, senior Bo Bauer and junior JD Bertrand.
Recruiting: The Polynesian Bowl invitee and consensus three-star recruit chose Notre Dame over Utah, where his father played defensive line in the mid-90s. The No. 38 outside linebacker in the class, per rivals.com, Kia had to forsake his childhood dream to end up in the Midwest.

No. 55? NOW?
Projecting the incoming freshmen’s uniform numbers is always nothing but pure conjecture, but there is also always some logic in those attempts. Kia wore No. 8 in high school; Notre Dame does not have a No. 8 on its roster. There was seemingly the possibility of a fit.

But in preparing for the preseason, the media relations team has updated incoming freshmen’s pages on the University website, and in doing so, revealed Kia will be No. 55 this season. The logic? Who knows.

So at the cost of very clearly being quite out of order, Kia shows up now, along with his new number, just as incoming receiver Jayden Thomas did earlier at a belated No. 83. And for that matter, three of the previous submissions are corrected. Defensive end Jason Onye will wear No. 47, not No. 38. Kicker Joshua Bryan will wear No. 91, not No. 37. And defensive back Chance Tucker will wear No. 18, not No. 22, in a truly confounding choice given defensive end NaNa Osafo-Mensah is also listed as wearing No. 18.

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
A wrinkle of the allowance of NIL rights this summer that has not been discussed as much as most other aspects of them, high schoolers are also now able to profit off their names, images and likenesses. The only reason they could not before was the NCAA’s overreach, and now that it has restrained itself a bit, that long-called-for common sense also applies at the preps level.

Which is to say, someday players could be compensated for appearing in postseason All-American bowls, such as the Polynesian Bowl.

WHAT WAS SAID WHEN KIA SIGNED
“Kia has the body to play middle linebacker, but with more coverage skills than usually found there. In that respect, some comparisons to Bo Bauer may be applicable, though Kia is already more disciplined than Bauer was early in his career.”

QUOTES
Per former Irish recruiting coordinator (and now associate head coach) Brian Polian, Hawaiian recruiting extraordinaire, Kia’s recruiting rankings were ones suppressed by the pandemic, as his development would have shown through in a senior season.

“Kahanu Kia, had he had the chance to play a senior year, would have had more than some of the Pac 12,” Polian said in December’s early signing period.

2021 OUTLOOK
Perhaps Kia gets some special teams work this season, but it is hard to imagine Notre Dame deploying him in more than four games and thus costing him a year of eligibility when he will be gone for the next two. Returning in 2024 with four seasons of growth ahead would make the most sense.

DOWN THE ROAD
Not to take the easy way out, but it is impossible to predict what roster Kia will return to in 2024. The Irish have four consensus four-star linebackers committed in the current recruiting cycle, with two of them being among the best inside linebackers in the country.

By the time Kia returns, Niuafe Tuihalamaka (No. 5 inside linebacker in the class of 2022, per rivals.com) and Joshua Burnham (No. 4) will be juniors with two years of development under their belts, while Kia will have been almost entirely away from football for that entire stretch.

If Kia goes on the expected two-year mission — and more power to him for doing so — it may be that he does not contribute until the current recruiting class has worked its way through the program, perhaps in 2026.

In very literal ways, it is impossible to predict what that roster will look like.

NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
Let’s try this again
No. 99 Rylie Mills, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 98 Alexander Ehrensberger, sophomore defensive end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, early-enrolled freshman defensive tackle the size of a Volkswagen
No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, fifth-year defensive tackle-turned-end
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 91 Joshua Bryan, incoming freshman kicker
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, early-enrolled freshman tight end, a former high school quarterback
No. 87 Michael Mayer, star sophomore tight end and lead offensive weapon
No. 85 George Takacs, senior tight end, ‘152 years old’
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, sophomore tight end
No. 83 Jayden Thomas, freshman receiver, four-star prospect out of Georgia
No. 82 Xavier Watts, sophomore receiver
No. 81 Jay Brunelle, speedy sophomore receiver
No. 80 Cane Berrong, early-enrolled freshman tight end
No. 79 Tosh Baker, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 78 Pat Coogan, incoming freshman center
No. 77 Quinn Carroll, junior offensive lineman
No. 76 Joe Alt, incoming and towering freshman offensive lineman
No. 75 Josh Lugg, fifth-year right tackle, finally a starter
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, junior offensive tackle, possible backup center
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, early-enrolled offensive tackle, former Auburn commit
No. 70 Hunter Spears, junior offensive guard, former defensive tackle
No. 68 Michael Carmody, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 62 Marshall guard Cain Madden transfers to Notre Dame, likely 2021 starter
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, senior defensive tackle
No. 56 John Dirksen, senior reserve offensive lineman
No. 56 Howard Cross, junior defensive tackle
No. 55 Jarrett Patterson, the best Irish offensive lineman
No. 54 Jacob Lacey, junior defensive tackle
No. 54 Blake Fisher, early-enrolled freshman left tackle, starter?
No. 52 Zeke Correll, junior, starting center
No. 52 Bo Bauer, senior linebacker, #BeADog
No. 50 Rocco Spindler, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard
No. 48 Will Schweitzer, early-enrolled freshman defensive end
No. 47 Jason Onye, incoming and raw freshman defensive end
No. 44 Devin Aupiu, early-enrolled freshman defensive end
No. 44 Alex Peitsch and No. 65 Michael Vinson, Irish long snappers, both needed
No. 41 Kurt Hinish, fifth-year defensive tackle, eventual record-holder in games played
No. 40 Drew White, fifth-year linebacker, three-year starter
No. 39 Jonathan Doerer, fifth-year kicker, using the pandemic exception
No. 35 Marist Liufau, junior Hawaiian linebacker
No. 34 Osita Ekwonu, junior defensive end
No. 33 Shayne Simon, senior linebacker
No. 29 Matt Salerno, senior punt returner, walk-on
No. 28 TaRiq Bracy, senior cornerback, possible nickel back
No. 27 JD Bertrand, junior linebacker
No. 26 Clarence Lewis, sophomore cornerback, second-year starter
No. 25 Philip Riley, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 25 Chris Tyree, speedy sophomore running back
No. 24 Jack Kiser, junior linebacker, onetime pandemic hero
No. 23 Litchfield Ajavon, junior safety
No. 23 Kyren Williams, junior running back
No. 22 Logan Diggs, incoming freshman running back
No. 21 Lorenzo Styles, early-enrolled freshman receiver
No. 21 Caleb Offord, sophomore cornerback
No. 20 C’Bo Flemister, senior running back, coming off an offseason with a smirch
No. 20 Justin Walters, early-enrolled freshman safety and likely early special teams contributor
No. 19 Jay Bramblett, junior punter
No. 19 Justin Ademilola, senior defensive end
No. 18 Joe Wilkins Jr., senior receiver, team favorite
No. 18 Nana Osafo-Mensah, junior defensive end, coming back from a knee injury
No. 18 Chance Tucker, freshman cornerback
No. 17 Jack Coan, graduate quarterback, Wisconsin transfer
No. 17 Jordan Botelho, sophomore defensive end, full-speed at all times
No. 16 Deion Colzie, incoming freshman receiver with both speed and leaping height
No. 16 KJ Wallace, junior safety, possible starting nickel back
No. 15 Ryan Barnes, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 14 Kyle Hamilton, junior safety, preseason All-American, top 2022 draft prospect

Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 83 Jayden Thomas, freshman receiver, four-star prospect out of Georgia

Jayden Thomas
rivals.com
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Listed measurements: 6-foot-1, 185  pounds.
2021-22 year, eligibility: The one class on Notre Dame’s roster with clear eligibility parameters, Thomas has four seasons of eligibility remaining.
Depth Chart: The Irish will give their quartet of senior receivers all sorts of chances to finally step forward this preseason, but if a couple of them (continue to) falter, particularly Braden Lenzy at the field position, then Thomas and his fellow freshmen may get opportunities sooner than expected.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star prospect and the No. 45 receiver in the country, per rivals.com, Thomas turned down most of the SEC, including his homestate Georgia, when he chose Notre Dame. In landing Thomas, the Irish continued a recent trend of leaning on the Peach State, with notable signees such as safety Kyle Hamilton and tight end Tommy Tremble coming through in ways players from other southeastern states often have not.

No. 83? NOW?
Projecting the incoming freshmen’s uniform numbers is always nothing but pure conjecture, but there is also always some logic in those attempts. Thomas wore No. 4 in high school; Notre Dame does not have a No. 14 on offense. There was seemingly the possibility of a fit.

But in preparing for the preseason, the media relations team has updated incoming freshmen’s pages on the University website, and in doing so, revealed Thomas will be No. 83 this season.

So at the cost of very clearly being quite out of order, Thomas shows up now, along with his new number. And for that matter, three of the previous submission are corrected. Defensive end Jason Onye will wear No. 47, not No. 38. Kicker Joshua Bryan will wear No. 91, not No. 37. And defensive back Chance Tucker will wear No. 18, not No. 22, in a truly confounding choice given defensive end NaNa Osafo-Mensah is also listed as wearing No. 18.

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
Not everything needs to be about money. Sometimes it is about fun, and whatever else this is …

WHAT WAS SAID WHEN THOMAS SIGNED
“Thomas’ 4.6-second 40-yard dash speed does not leap off the screen, but his acceleration and detailed footwork make him a dangerous route-runner, particularly pertinent at either the field position or the slot.

“The critique of the Irish roster this year, and to a lesser extent the last four years, has been a lack of outside playmakers. Stocking the roster with fundamental receivers like Thomas should change that in due time.

2021 OUTLOOK
Be it at the field position or along the boundary, Thomas will be behind a senior (or two) given many chances to fail. That is not an outright luxury bestowed by the Irish coaching staff, but rather an attempt at getting the best players on the field no matter what. Notre Dame knows it needs to better develop its perimeter playmakers. In 2021, those most dangerous options will be Lenzy and classmate Kevin Austin.

That will all make getting on the field more difficult for Thomas, if not impossible on offense. But on special teams, his underrated physicality should translate.

Playing four games on coverage units would be a starting point for Thomas, and a starting point that could turn into more pretty quickly given the turnover on the Irish special teams this offseason.

DOWN THE ROAD
Thomas’ long stride belies his athleticism, but it will reveal itself in due time. That stride will be best used in the field role, where plenty of space is available, not to mention his 6-foot-1 frame is a bit undersized for the boundary role as offensive coordinator Tommy Rees has used it.

Lenzy may hold onto the starting role on the wide side through 2022, but after that, consider it up for grabs. While Thomas is not touted as much as the other two freshman receivers (Lorenzo Styles and Deion Colzie), a four-star prospect out of Georgia should be viewed with as much long-term optimism as nearly any other recruit.

NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
Let’s try this again
No. 99 Rylie Mills, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 98 Alexander Ehrensberger, sophomore defensive end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, early-enrolled freshman defensive tackle the size of a Volkswagen
No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, fifth-year defensive tackle-turned-end
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 91 Joshua Bryan, incoming freshman kicker
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, early-enrolled freshman tight end, a former high school quarterback
No. 87 Michael Mayer, star sophomore tight end and lead offensive weapon
No. 85 George Takacs, senior tight end, ‘152 years old’
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, sophomore tight end
No. 82 Xavier Watts, sophomore receiver
No. 81 Jay Brunelle, speedy sophomore receiver
No. 80 Cane Berrong, early-enrolled freshman tight end
No. 79 Tosh Baker, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 78 Pat Coogan, incoming freshman center
No. 77 Quinn Carroll, junior offensive lineman
No. 76 Joe Alt, incoming and towering freshman offensive lineman
No. 75 Josh Lugg, fifth-year right tackle, finally a starter
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, junior offensive tackle, possible backup center
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, early-enrolled offensive tackle, former Auburn commit
No. 70 Hunter Spears, junior offensive guard, former defensive tackle
No. 68 Michael Carmody, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 62 Marshall guard Cain Madden transfers to Notre Dame, likely 2021 starter
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, senior defensive tackle
No. 56 John Dirksen, senior reserve offensive lineman
No. 56 Howard Cross, junior defensive tackle
No. 55 Jarrett Patterson, the best Irish offensive lineman
No. 54 Jacob Lacey, junior defensive tackle
No. 54 Blake Fisher, early-enrolled freshman left tackle, starter?
No. 52 Zeke Correll, junior, starting center
No. 52 Bo Bauer, senior linebacker, #BeADog
No. 50 Rocco Spindler, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard
No. 48 Will Schweitzer, early-enrolled freshman defensive end
No. 47 Jason Onye, incoming and raw freshman defensive end
No. 44 Devin Aupiu, early-enrolled freshman defensive end
No. 44 Alex Peitsch and No. 65 Michael Vinson, Irish long snappers, both needed
No. 41 Kurt Hinish, fifth-year defensive tackle, eventual record-holder in games played
No. 40 Drew White, fifth-year linebacker, three-year starter
No. 39 Jonathan Doerer, fifth-year kicker, using the pandemic exception
No. 35 Marist Liufau, junior Hawaiian linebacker
No. 34 Osita Ekwonu, junior defensive end
No. 33 Shayne Simon, senior linebacker
No. 29 Matt Salerno, senior punt returner, walk-on
No. 28 TaRiq Bracy, senior cornerback, possible nickel back
No. 27 JD Bertrand, junior linebacker
No. 26 Clarence Lewis, sophomore cornerback, second-year starter
No. 25 Philip Riley, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 25 Chris Tyree, speedy sophomore running back
No. 24 Jack Kiser, junior linebacker, onetime pandemic hero
No. 23 Litchfield Ajavon, junior safety
No. 23 Kyren Williams, junior running back
No. 22 Logan Diggs, incoming freshman running back
No. 21 Lorenzo Styles, early-enrolled freshman receiver
No. 21 Caleb Offord, sophomore cornerback
No. 20 C’Bo Flemister, senior running back, coming off an offseason with a smirch
No. 20 Justin Walters, early-enrolled freshman safety and likely early special teams contributor
No. 19 Jay Bramblett, junior punter
No. 19 Justin Ademilola, senior defensive end
No. 18 Joe Wilkins Jr., senior receiver, team favorite
No. 18 Nana Osafo-Mensah, junior defensive end, coming back from a knee injury
No. 18 Chance Tucker, freshman cornerback
No. 17 Jack Coan, graduate quarterback, Wisconsin transfer
No. 17 Jordan Botelho, sophomore defensive end, full-speed at all times
No. 16 Deion Colzie, incoming freshman receiver with both speed and leaping height
No. 16 KJ Wallace, junior safety, possible starting nickel back
No. 15 Ryan Barnes, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 14 Kyle Hamilton, junior safety, preseason All-American, top 2022 draft prospect

Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 14 Kyle Hamilton, junior safety, preseason All-American, top 2022 draft prospect

Kyle Hamilton Notre Dame
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Listed measurements: 6-foot-4, 219 pounds.
2021-22 year, eligibility: A junior, Hamilton has three seasons of eligibility remaining thanks to the universal pandemic eligibility waiver, but by no means should anyone imagine he will use more than one of those years.
Depth Chart: Hamilton will start for Notre Dame at safety, and he will not come off the field in any package except the one designed to enjoy blowouts.
Recruiting: The consensus four-star prospect, All-American and 2018 USA Today second-team All-American turned down Clemson, Georgia, Michigan and Ohio State to sign with the Irish. The No. 7 safety in the country and No. 75 overall recruit in the class, per rivals.com, Hamilton did not become a hyped four-star prospect until relatively late in the cycle, a strong junior season and subsequent camp circuit earning him the eventual recognition.

Despite that late recruiting rise, Notre Dame pursued Hamilton relatively early in the cycle, before that ratings bump, thanks to a tip from a friend of former safeties coach Terry Joseph when he was still coaching at North Carolina, closer to Hamilton’s home of Atlanta. Joseph joined the Irish in the winter of 2017 and began his pursuit of Hamilton in earnest halfway through Hamilton’s junior year. He had shined on the field, but that camp boost had not yet occurred.

Hamilton has been a fit with Notre Dame in nearly every regard, so maybe he would have headed to South Bend regardless, but the early Irish arrival in his consideration certainly helped the cause.

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
Of the entire roster, Hamilton was positioned to be the biggest beneficiary of name, image and likeness rights this month, and he has indeed followed through on those possibilities. The preseason All-American has launched a podcast with a few teammates, will hold a youth football camp, has a sponsorship deal with apparel company Rhoback and offers Cameo videos for a mere $49, and that list is not comprehensive.

But the top item Hamilton has done is launch his own line of apparel, sporting a logo blending his initials with his uniform number.

Hamilton will assuredly continue to profit off his name, image and likeness, and rightfully so. As his draft prospects become more solidified, a few national brands should even begin to seek him out.

CAREER TO DATE
Hamilton did not enroll early at Notre Dame, but within his first few preseason practices, he made it clear he did not need that head start. The stories from his first preseason with the Irish border on myth, intercepting enough passes that the unofficial counts varied from four to 10. Fittingly, his first snap at Notre Dame Stadium resulted in an interception returned for a touchdown.

Myth had immediately become reality.

Hamilton played in all 13 games as a freshman, the third safety behind seniors Alohi Gilman and Jalen Elliott, providing them both rest and flexibility. He moved into a starting role in 2020 and led the Irish in tackles, but made only one interception, the result of opposing quarterbacks knowing better than to test the All-American. On 580 snaps last season, quarterbacks threw toward Hamilton 31 times, on which he gave up 18 catches for 138 yards, a 4.45 yards per attempt average.

2019: 13 games; 41 tackles with one for loss, four interceptions and 10 passes defended.
2020: 11 games; 63 tackles with 4.5 for loss, one interception and seven passes defended.

QUOTES
New Notre Dame defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman undoubtedly did not choose the Irish over LSU this offseason solely because of Hamilton, but having a first-team All-American anchoring the back end of your defense in your first season at a new stop is obviously a nice safety net, pun only somewhat intended.

“You look at Kyle and you can tell the skill set that he brings,” Freeman said in April. “The length he brings to our defense is second-to-none. You can watch the film from last year, but until you see this guy live and in-person, you don’t realize how long and how much room and area and space he can take up.”

But Hamilton has not yet played in front of Freeman. Those assessments were made simply by walking by Hamilton, not by seeing him in practice. The star was held out all spring as he recovered from minor ankle surgery, more a precaution than an actual need to sideline him.

“The hardest thing for him is we have to continue to push him when he’s not practicing,” Freeman said. “… He’s a film junkie. He and [safeties coach Chris] O’Leary are always in there watching film. He’s always trying to find ways to improve. He’s like a coach sometimes back there. I see him coaching those young safeties up. That’s what he’s got to do.”

To be clear, Hamilton was running by the end of spring practices and will be full-go when the preseason commences.

2021 OUTLOOK
Consensus and unanimous statuses are not tracked in the preseason, but suffice it to say, Hamilton is a preseason first-team All-American, and if he plays to form, he should end up a unanimous first-team All-American at season’s end.

He is one of the best defenders in the country, and Freeman and Notre Dame will rely on him to play as such. Hamilton’s length and range in the defensive backfield provide flexibility to Freeman’s defense that may make up for some inconsistencies and development elsewhere.

That multitude of duties awaiting Hamilton makes projecting his stats a difficult endeavor, so let’s instead simply say, Hamilton will impact 13 games this season, one way or another.

DOWN THE ROAD
Barring injury, Hamilton will be no lower than a top-10 pick this spring, and it is more likely he is within the top five than not. He should be an NFL starter in 2022.

NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
Let’s try this again
No. 99 Rylie Mills, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 98 Alexander Ehrensberger, sophomore defensive end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, early-enrolled freshman defensive tackle the size of a Volkswagen
No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, fifth-year defensive tackle-turned-end
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, early-enrolled freshman tight end, a former high school quarterback
No. 87 Michael Mayer, star sophomore tight end and lead offensive weapon
No. 85 George Takacs, senior tight end, ‘152 years old’
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, sophomore tight end
No. 82 Xavier Watts, sophomore receiver
No. 81 Jay Brunelle, speedy sophomore receiver
No. 80 Cane Berrong, early-enrolled freshman tight end
No. 79 Tosh Baker, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 78 Pat Coogan, incoming freshman center
No. 77 Quinn Carroll, junior offensive lineman
No. 76 Joe Alt, incoming and towering freshman offensive lineman
No. 75 Josh Lugg, fifth-year right tackle, finally a starter
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, junior offensive tackle, possible backup center
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, early-enrolled offensive tackle, former Auburn commit
No. 70 Hunter Spears, junior offensive guard, former defensive tackle
No. 68 Michael Carmody, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 62 Marshall guard Cain Madden transfers to Notre Dame, likely 2021 starter
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, senior defensive tackle
No. 56 John Dirksen, senior reserve offensive lineman
No. 56 Howard Cross, junior defensive tackle
No. 55 Jarrett Patterson, the best Irish offensive lineman
No. 54 Jacob Lacey, junior defensive tackle
No. 54 Blake Fisher, early-enrolled freshman left tackle, starter?
No. 52 Zeke Correll, junior, starting center
No. 52 Bo Bauer, senior linebacker, #BeADog
No. 50 Rocco Spindler, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard
No. 48 Will Schweitzer, early-enrolled freshman defensive end
No. 44 Devin Aupiu, early-enrolled freshman defensive end
No. 44 Alex Peitsch and No. 65 Michael Vinson, Irish long snappers, both needed
No. 41 Kurt Hinish, fifth-year defensive tackle, eventual record-holder in games played
No. 40 Drew White, fifth-year linebacker, three-year starter
No. 39 Jonathan Doerer, fifth-year kicker, using the pandemic exception
No. 38 Jason Onye, incoming and raw freshman defensive end
No. 37 Joshua Bryan, incoming freshman kicker
No. 35 Marist Liufau, junior Hawaiian linebacker
No. 34 Osita Ekwonu, junior defensive end
No. 33 Shayne Simon, senior linebacker
No. 29 Matt Salerno, senior punt returner, walk-on
No. 28 TaRiq Bracy, senior cornerback, possible nickel back
No. 27 JD Bertrand, junior linebacker
No. 26 Clarence Lewis, sophomore cornerback, second-year starter
No. 25 Philip Riley, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 25 Chris Tyree, speedy sophomore running back
No. 24 Jack Kiser, junior linebacker, onetime pandemic hero
No. 23 Litchfield Ajavon, junior safety
No. 23 Kyren Williams, junior running back
No. 22 Logan Diggs, incoming freshman running back
No. 22 Chance Tucker, freshman cornerback
No. 21 Lorenzo Styles, early-enrolled freshman receiver
No. 21 Caleb Offord, sophomore cornerback
No. 20 C’Bo Flemister, senior running back, coming off an offseason with a smirch
No. 20 Justin Walters, early-enrolled freshman safety and likely early special teams contributor
No. 19 Jay Bramblett, junior punter
No. 19 Justin Ademilola, senior defensive end
No. 18 Joe Wilkins Jr., senior receiver, team favorite
No. 18 Nana Osafo-Mensah, junior defensive end, coming back from a knee injury
No. 17 Jack Coan, graduate quarterback, Wisconsin transfer
No. 17 Jordan Botelho, sophomore defensive end, full-speed at all times
No. 16 Deion Colzie, incoming freshman receiver with both speed and leaping height
No. 16 KJ Wallace, junior safety, possible starting nickel back
No. 15 Ryan Barnes, early-enrolled freshman cornerback

Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 15 Ryan Barnes, early-enrolled freshman cornerback

Ryan Barnes 2021
Notre Dame Athletics
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Listed measurements: 6-foot-1 ⅞, 182 pounds.
2021-22 year, eligibility: As an early-enrolled freshman, Barnes obviously has four seasons of eligibility remaining.
Depth Chart: Barnes worked at field cornerback during his spring head start, where he should crack the depth chart no higher than third, behind sophomore Clarence Lewis and senior Tariq Bracy. Even if Bracy ends up working at nickel back throughout the fall, Barnes is not in position for extensive work, at least not as of yet.
Recruiting: A consensus three-star prospect, Barnes’ ratings and his offers diverged. While rivals.com may have considered him the No. 60 cornerback in the class, Clemson, LSU, Oregon and USC all saw fit to pursue the Maryland product.

To some degree, Barnes’ recruiting profile was diminished by his lack of a senior season due to the pandemic, but that clearly did not hurt his quality of options.

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
Though not a for-profit opportunity, Barnes and the rest of his teammates will partake in a “Lift for Life” tomorrow (Friday) to benefit rare disease research. For every max rep taken on the leg press, donations will go to the undeniably good cause.

Kids these days, so selfish, right?

WHAT WAS SAID WHEN BARNES SIGNED
“Barnes comes in as a cornerback, and his length would serve him well there, but it could also serve well at safety, where Notre Dame is more likely to be short-handed down the line.

“In addition to length, Barnes brings speed. In other words, he has the tools of an ideal cornerback. As suggested above, the three-star ranking is misguided in this instance. …

“Whether Barnes ends up at cornerback or safety, the recent years when Notre Dame missed at one of those positions (2017 at cornerback, 2020 at safety) mean large holes exist on the depth chart.”

2021 OUTLOOK
Enrolling a semester early may have put Barnes in better position to play in 2021, but the growing depth at cornerback for the Irish means that is still not an excellent chance. Notre Dame has added pieces at corner diligently the last few recruiting cycles. Add in receiver-turned-corner junior Cam Hart, presumed boundary starter, and suddenly the Irish may not be as desperate at cornerback as they have seemed to be every couple seasons for the last decade.

Nonetheless, Barnes’ length could make him an intriguing piece if needed. Two things remain beyond teaching at cornerback, speed and length, and Barnes already has half that combination to a degree perhaps only Hart can genuinely match in the position group.

It is most likely Barnes sees minimal action in 2021, perhaps in a few blowouts or maybe in a very specific matchup against a physical receiver.

DOWN THE ROAD
Barnes could move to safety in years to come, something openly acknowledged during his recruitment, but his most likely destination may be boundary cornerback, where his length could be best utilized.

Hart should have that position to himself for the next two seasons, giving Barnes some time to work on the finer pieces of his technique.

NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
Let’s try this again
No. 99 Rylie Mills, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 98 Alexander Ehrensberger, sophomore defensive end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, early-enrolled freshman defensive tackle the size of a Volkswagen
No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, fifth-year defensive tackle-turned-end
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, early-enrolled freshman tight end, a former high school quarterback
No. 87 Michael Mayer, star sophomore tight end and lead offensive weapon
No. 85 George Takacs, senior tight end, ‘152 years old’
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, sophomore tight end
No. 82 Xavier Watts, sophomore receiver
No. 81 Jay Brunelle, speedy sophomore receiver
No. 80 Cane Berrong, early-enrolled freshman tight end
No. 79 Tosh Baker, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 78 Pat Coogan, incoming freshman center
No. 77 Quinn Carroll, junior offensive lineman
No. 76 Joe Alt, incoming and towering freshman offensive lineman
No. 75 Josh Lugg, fifth-year right tackle, finally a starter
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, junior offensive tackle, possible backup center
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, early-enrolled offensive tackle, former Auburn commit
No. 70 Hunter Spears, junior offensive guard, former defensive tackle
No. 68 Michael Carmody, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 62 Marshall guard Cain Madden transfers to Notre Dame, likely 2021 starter
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, senior defensive tackle
No. 56 John Dirksen, senior reserve offensive lineman
No. 56 Howard Cross, junior defensive tackle
No. 55 Jarrett Patterson, the best Irish offensive lineman
No. 54 Jacob Lacey, junior defensive tackle
No. 54 Blake Fisher, early-enrolled freshman left tackle, starter?
No. 52 Zeke Correll, junior, starting center
No. 52 Bo Bauer, senior linebacker, #BeADog
No. 50 Rocco Spindler, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard
No. 48 Will Schweitzer, early-enrolled freshman defensive end
No. 44 Devin Aupiu, early-enrolled freshman defensive end
No. 44 Alex Peitsch and No. 65 Michael Vinson, Irish long snappers, both needed
No. 41 Kurt Hinish, fifth-year defensive tackle, eventual record-holder in games played
No. 40 Drew White, fifth-year linebacker, three-year starter
No. 39 Jonathan Doerer, fifth-year kicker, using the pandemic exception
No. 38 Jason Onye, incoming and raw freshman defensive end
No. 37 Joshua Bryan, incoming freshman kicker
No. 35 Marist Liufau, junior Hawaiian linebacker
No. 34 Osita Ekwonu, junior defensive end
No. 33 Shayne Simon, senior linebacker
No. 29 Matt Salerno, senior punt returner, walk-on
No. 28 TaRiq Bracy, senior cornerback, possible nickel back
No. 27 JD Bertrand, junior linebacker
No. 26 Clarence Lewis, sophomore cornerback, second-year starter
No. 25 Philip Riley, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 25 Chris Tyree, speedy sophomore running back
No. 24 Jack Kiser, junior linebacker, onetime pandemic hero
No. 23 Litchfield Ajavon, junior safety
No. 23 Kyren Williams, junior running back
No. 22 Logan Diggs, incoming freshman running back
No. 22 Chance Tucker, freshman cornerback
No. 21 Lorenzo Styles, early-enrolled freshman receiver
No. 21 Caleb Offord, sophomore cornerback
No. 20 C’Bo Flemister, senior running back, coming off an offseason with a smirch
No. 20 Justin Walters, early-enrolled freshman safety and likely early special teams contributor
No. 19 Jay Bramblett, junior punter
No. 19 Justin Ademilola, senior defensive end
No. 18 Joe Wilkins Jr., senior receiver, team favorite
No. 18 Nana Osafo-Mensah, junior defensive end, coming back from a knee injury
No. 17 Jack Coan, graduate quarterback, Wisconsin transfer
No. 17 Jordan Botelho, sophomore defensive end, full-speed at all times
No. 16 Deion Colzie, incoming freshman receiver with both speed and leaping height
No. 16 KJ Wallace, junior safety, possible starting nickel back