The start to spring football practice for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish is now less than a week away, and there is all sorts of stuff for Marcus Freeman and his staff to figure out for the 2023 season. Fortunately for everyone involved, the spring period isn’t the last word or last chance. It’s a beginning — which can be all sorts of things.
Rather than go through a long-winded preview of the position groups, I thought it would be more constructive to just offer up some of my thoughts. Of the 14 scheduled practices this spring, only one is going to allow the media to watch the entire practice — so if you honestly think you’re going to get a ton of real insight this spring, you haven’t been paying attention for the last decade.
Wringing out the roster
Is there a classy way of saying that at some point Notre Dame is going to have to trim down its roster before August? The Irish are 8 over the 85, and while the obvious response to this fact is, “don’t worry about it since they’ll probably lose more than that,” it doesn’t make the situation any less curious.
I’m certain that on day one of practice there will be at least a couple of players not on the roster. Then it will come down to the pecking order with the ever-evolving depth charts. Generally it’s the veteran player that’s graduating in May that still hasn’t solidified a real role on the team, and looks elsewhere for more playing time — which is totally normal and fine.
Because of the limited amount of practice that we will be able to see, some of the moves will seem like they don’t make much sense. It’ll be fine, but I am curious as to how it all shakes out.
If you listen to the OFD Podcast (which is likely getting a name change next week to “The Earned 5-Star Podcast”) then you already know how I feel about a so-called quarterback competition between Sam Hartman and Tyler Buchner.
It’s nonsense, and I refuse to engage in such playacting. Sam Hartman is the starting quarterback and Tyler Buchner is the backup.
Still... I’m more curious about what Buchner does this spring as opposed to Hartman. I’ve seen plenty of Sam Hartman over the years and I have a really good idea about what he brings to the Irish in 2023. Buchner, on the other hand, has the inside line on being the starting QB in 2024 and 2025 — despite the inevitable 3-way fake competition talk for 2024 between Buchner, Kenny Minchey, and C.J. Carr.
Harry Hiestand is out and Joe Rudolph is in, and there are some tough choices on the horizon. Notre Dame is absolutely set at tackle with Joe Alt on the left and Blake Fisher on the right, and Zeke Correll will be another veteran starter at center. But what about at both guard spots? There are rumblings about Billy Schrauth that might be true, and that would take care of one guard spot.
The bigger issue for me is what the Irish do with these 5 players; Caleb Johnson, Michael Carmody, Rocco Spindler, Tosh Baker, and Andrew Kristofic. Who rises to the top, and who possibly looks around?
Notre Dame returns Marist Liufau, Jack Kiser, and JD Bertrand at linebacker — the three starters from 2022. And yet... it feels like everyone is just waiting on Prince Kollie and Jaylen Sneed to take over. While I don’t really foresee that happening in the sense of the starting job, it would be nice to see more competition pressure put on the veterans.
- Six running backs on the roster feels like one too many. I’m curious to see what Chris Tyree is asked to do, and even more curious as to how healthy Jadarian Price is or isn’t at the moment.
- It’s a whole different vibe for the wide receivers this year as opposed to last year. Last year the Irish had around four scholarship WR’s healthy for spring, and this year it’s 9 — which include three freshmen and transfer Kaleb Smith the Elder.
- I try not to think about the safety situation too much, and focus on the possibilities at cornerback with Cam Hart, Benjamin Morrison, and yes... Clarence Lewis. It’s my understanding that Thomas Harper was brought in to help at the nickel, but I think Lewis can also help contribute there as well.
- I’m normally on Team Neutral Site Games Blow and I don’t care for international games either... but I suppose if they can give me more video of Audric Estime being awesome, I can live with it.