Around this time last year, I wrote a piece reflecting on the turnover inherent in college football and the opportunities it creates for new stars and heroes to emerge. Here again at the start of another season, I think that is worth revisiting. College football is a sport where every season sees new heroes rise and, just as quickly, move on to bigger and better things. Notre Dame Fighting Irish fans once again had to say goodbye to some truly special and beloved players this offseason: Kyle Hamilton, Kyren Williams, and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa to name only a few. But with those departures come opportunities for new players to step up, and Irish fans have plenty of reasons to be excited about some of these new names.
2022 is somewhat different from 2021 here in that the biggest transitions - apart from Brandon Joseph stepping into Hamilton’s shoes - are not exactly new names, but previously marginal contributors who will now be stepping into larger roles. From the offensive line to wide receiver, last year’s freshman phenoms and fill-ins are becoming this year’s starters. Williams’ departure at running back leaves the Irish without a bell-cow ball carrier, and Chris Tyree, Logan Diggs and/or Audric Estime will have to step up. We all grew to love Williams for his infectious energy and play on the field - around this time in 2022, in all likelihood we’ll be waxing poetic in the same way about one or more of these guys. That’s an exciting thing to know.
Of course, the most significant vacancy on offense is at the quarterback position, where Jack Coan’s up-down-up-again one-year journey has ended, with Tyler Buchner ready to take the reins. We saw Buchner’s raw potential last year, and where he still had to learn - how ready he is to emerge as the Irish offense’s true leader could be the most important question in projecting the outcome of this season. But given what we’ve seen, Irish fans can be plenty hopeful about the presence of a true star quarterback in the program for the first time in many years.
The defensive side of the ball also presents plenty of opportunity for new stars to emerge. Isaiah Foskey’s return opens up the possibility for him to ascend from an excellent player to a program legend along the lines of Stephon Tuitt and Justin Tuck, with Notre Dame’s single-season and career sack records both very much in reach. Does he end up at the top of that mountian? The prospect of the Ademilola brothers stepping into new roles as a terrifying pair alongside him and Rylie Mills is tantalizing, as are the fates of new stars in the back seven. Do Marist Liufau and/or Jordan Botelho seize the opportunity to write their names alongside Te’o and Gilman as Hawaiian standouts under the dome? Does Cam Hart’s strong 2021 springboard him into becoming a top NFL prospect at corner?
These are questions we can’t answer yet, but I have good news: the answer is coming very, very soon, and we’re going to get to fall in love all over again. Get ready for it, and make sure to cherish it.