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Notre Dame Football: Joe Alt and Xavier Watts earn Unanimous All-American honors

First time since 1990 Notre Dame had two unanimous selections

USC v Notre Dame Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have produced two more Unanimous All-American selections with Joe Alt and Xavier Watts appearing on the last list needed.

From Notre Dame’s press release:

Joe Alt And Xavier Watts Earn Unanimous All-America Status

South Bend, Indiana — University of Notre Dame juniors Joe Alt and Xavier Watts were named to the 2023 American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) All-America First Team on Thursday, December 14, securing Unanimous All-America honors for the two Fighting Irish standouts.

The AFCA is one of the five All-America teams that are utilized to determine both Consensus and Unanimous All-America honors. Alt and Watts earned first-team honors from Walter Camp, the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA), the Associated Press, The Sporting News and the AFCA to earn the designation as Unanimous All-Americans.

Alt and Watts are the 109th and 110th Consensus All-Americans in Notre Dame football history and the 35th and 36th unanimous selections. The 2023 season marks the first since 1990 that the Irish have seen two student-athletes earn unanimous honors in the same year. College Football Hall of Fame inductees Raghib Ismail, Michael Stonebreaker and Chris Zorich were all unanimous selections in 1990.

Notre Dame has seen at least one player earn Consensus All-America honors in four consecutive seasons (Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah in 2020, Kyle Hamilton in 2021, Michael Mayer and Isaiah Foskey in 2022, followed by Alt and Watts this season). That four-year run of consensus honors the best for the program since the eight-year stretch from 1987 through 1994.

Joe Alt

FWAA All-American - First Team

Walter Camp All-American - First Team

Associated Press All-American - First Team

The Sporting News - First Team

American Football Coaches Association - First Team

Alt, who was a finalist for the 2023 Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy, served as the bedrock of Notre Dame’s offensive line from the left tackle position. The North Oaks, Minnesota, native helped the Irish offense finish the regular season ranked ninth in the FBS for scoring offense (39.1 points per game), 12th in team passing efficiency (161.49) and 16th in passing yards per completion (14.02).

Notre Dame’s 39.1 points per game this season is the best average for the program since 1912, and would rank second all-time in the school record book. The Irish were in goal-line situations of five yards or less 18 times this season and converted each time, including 12 rushing touchdowns, four passing touchdowns and two field goals (one of which was forced by the end of a half).

Notre Dame held seven of 12 opponents to their lowest sack totals of the year, including sixth-ranked Ohio State and 10th-ranked Southern Cal. The Irish offensive line helped their side of the ball rank eighth in the nation in tackles for loss allowed (3.75/game) and 13th in sacks allowed (1.17).

According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Alt allowed just five pressures and a single sack in 368 pass block sets this season. PFF ranks Alt as the second overall offensive tackle in the nation and is the only offensive tackle rated by the service in the top-eight in run blocking and pass blocking. He started all 13 games for the Irish in 2023 and since assuming the starting left tackle position during the 2021 season has made 33 consecutive starts.

Xavier Watts

FWAA All-American - First Team

Walter Camp All-American - First Team

Associated Press All-American - First Team

The Sporting News - First Team

American Football Coaches Association - First Team

The 2023 Bronko Nagurski Awardwinner as the nation’s best defensive player, Watts led the nation in interceptions this year with seven and established himself as one of the best playmaking safeties in the country. He is the first Notre Dame player to post back-to-back games with multiple interceptions and just the fifth FBS player to do so in the last five seasons. Watts also became the first Notre Dame player to intercept a pass in three consecutive games this year.

A two-time national defensive player of the week in 2023, Watts earned his first award after dominating the game against No. 6 Southern Cal on October 14. He piled up seven tackles, intercepted reigning Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Caleb Williams two times, forced a fumble and also recovered a different fumble and returned it for a touchdown.

He followed up the Southern Cal performance with two more interceptions in the victory over Pittsburgh. All seven of Watts’ interceptions this season have led directly to Notre Dame points including five touchdowns.

Watts finished the season fifth on the Notre Dame team with 47 tackles, which included 2.5 TFL, four passes broken up, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble. His 137 interception return yards are the second-most at Notre Dame since 1996 (Julian Love, 2017, 153).