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Notre Dame Football: The five most important players for the Irish in 2021

The pre-spring version

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Rose Bowl Game Semifinal Game - Notre Dame v Alabama Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The later than normal spring football start for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish is wreaking havoc with how I normally schedule posts, but it’s time to really start looking ahead to spring and beyond.

Today we’re going to look at who I feel are the five most important players for the Irish in 2021. This isn’t a “who’s best” list, and it’s certainly subjective. Because of the many changes that happen over the next six months, I’ll likely revisit this idea a couple of times.

So let’s get into it (in no particular order).

Safety, Kyle Hamilton

Yeah, Kyle is quite likely the best player on the entire team, and he can make an incredible impact each week from his safety spot. Notre Dame has a lot of questions in its secondary for 2021, but a superstar Kyle Hamilton can help erase some of the deficiencies in the group. To win the big games, you need playmakers on both sides of the ball, and most of us are certain Kyle can deliver more than what we saw in 2020.

Quarterback, Jack Coan

Basically INSERT STARTING QUARTERBACK NAME HERE. Without question, the expectation from most people is that Coan starts at QB in 2021 for the Irish. That automatically makes him one of the most important players on the team because what the quarterback position means in the game.

Offensive Tackle, Jarrett Patterson

Patterson was one of the best centers in football last season before he suffered a season ending foot injury. The expectation is that Patterson takes over at left tackle, and Zeke Correll will take over at center. This move will allow Notre Dame to truly put its best five offensive linemen out on the field. If Patterson doesn’t work out at LT — as Coan’s protector — he would likely move back to center which puts more inexperience across the line.

Kicker, Jonathan Doerer

Clemson v Notre Dame Photo by Matt Cashore-Pool/Getty Images

Remember when Doerer first became the starter after Justin Yoon graduated, and a lot of people felt the Irish could lose one or two games just based on this new question mark at kicker? Well... it was a thing. Doerer excelled (17-20) and the Irish went went 11-2 in 2019 with both losses having not been adversely affected by Doerer. In 2020, Jonathan was a lot more shaky with his field goal kicking (15-23) in a 10-2 year, but the dip in production also did nothing to affect the win/loss column. All of that might be a lot different this year with a transition to a new QB and reloading along the offensive line. There may be a few more closer games — and that’s where Doerer’s importance will be felt.

Defensive End, Isaiah Foskey

To win at an elite level, you need a pass rush. Ideally, it’s a pass rush that doesn’t need schemed or forced from a blitz package. Foskey is talented enough to be one of those great pass rushers which is incredibly useful when — again — you have a secondary with questions. He’s going to need to kick it up a notch in 2021, but I don’t get the sense out there that he won’t do the thing.