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Notre Dame Center Matt Hegarty Transferring for 5th Year

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The Irish inch closer to the 85 scholarship limit with the loss of the senior from New Mexico.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday afternoon ESPN's Matt Fortuna broke the story that current Notre Dame senior center Matt Hegarty is leaving the Irish to play his graduate season elsewhere.

Hegarty spoke with Fortuna and laid out his reasoning for leaving South Bend:

"I am extremely grateful for the opportunity that the Notre Dame Football program has afforded me. I want to thank Notre Dame, my coaches, my teammates and friends at school for the four great years I had at Notre Dame. I also want to thank the Notre Dame Nation for all of their support over the years. My focus has been to pour myself into everything that I have done at ND. I have worked hard and have always done everything that was asked of me. Recently my coaches informed me that they wanted me to change positions. They also explained that with many younger players in the wings, they wanted to develop them more heavily in the rotation-- a need that I understand and appreciate.

Unfortunately, I have already had to miss a precious amount of football battling back from my stroke, and I value every rep and opportunity going into my final year of college ball that much more. My goal is to contribute this season, continue to develop my skills and pursue my dream of playing in the NFL. Because of this goal, I have asked for a transfer to play at another school where I can contribute more on the field. Notre Dame has amassed formidable depth on the O-line and have many very talented players to fill all positions.

So I wish everyone at ND the best this year and especially to my 15 brothers on the offensive line as they prepare for the 2015 season."

Hegarty came to Notre Dame in the 2011 class as a Composite .970 elite recruit and was supposed to play tackle. However, he was quickly moved inside and worked his way to the center depth chart. Towards the end of his redshirt freshman season he suffered a stroke and needed heart surgery, severely hurting his development as a football player.

Thankfully, Hegarty was able to overcome the odds while making 2 starts to end the 2013 season and 11 starts at both center and guard this past season.

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The move by Hegarty now brings the scholarship numbers for Notre Dame to 81 (this includes Baratti and VanGorder) in the freshman through senior classes with decisions on 12 more eligible 5th-year players still to be made. That overall number is bumped up to 82 with the arrival of California transfer Avery Sebastian.