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Offseason O’pinions: Notre Dame Football Post-Spring Roster Audit

“Let’s see how far we’ve come” –Matchbox 20

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: APR 22 Notre Dame Blue-Gold Game Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Whew! It’s been too long, OFD readers. But final exams are complete so now I am back with TAKES, and quite a few to make up for lost time. So I will be offering them in a new segment I like to call “Offseason O’pinions” (because a name that appropriates from the Irish is Phil Jurkovec’s worst nightmare).

Enough chit chat. Time to get to it.

Spring practice is over and done. Some players impressed, some jumped ship and some didn’t change expectations either way. Here’s a post-spring audit of where Notre Dame stands at each position.

Stock Up

Notre Dame Spring Football Game Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Offensive Line

It’s difficult to increase your stock when you return arguably the best offensive tackle tandem in college football and a fifth-year senior at center. So the perceived improvement at this position is marginal, but an improvement nonetheless because of the demonstrated depth at the position.

Most likely to fill in the guard spots are Andrew Kristofic and Billy Schrauth. The former has four years in the program and has proven himself to be a quality plug-and-play guard; the latter is a true sophomore who seems to be living up to the hype. Behind them is some combination of Tosh Baker (who can also play tackle), Rocco Spindler and Pat Coogan.

The talent isn’t top-tier at all five spots, but it is remarkable that so many highly-recruited players have decided against entering the transfer portal. With Joe Alt and Blake Fisher anchoring the outside and Zeke Correll holding down the middle, the depth of quality linemen to complete the puzzle is reassuring if nothing else.

Defensive Line

Take what you see in the Blue-Gold Game with a grain of salt, especially on the defensive side of the ball. There’s only so much an offensive line can do when it’s not composed of the starting five and the defensive line has been practicing against the offensive gameplans all of spring prior. Also, Rylie Mills still needs to put everything together on gamedays, and Ohio State transfer Javonte Jean-Baptiste left essentially no impression this spring (aside from how cool he looks wearing No. 1).

But with all that said, Notre Dame has a depth chart, even if it lacks the top-end talent of an Isaiah Foskey. In the middle, Gabriel Rubio and Jason Onye remain on the rise, plus Aidan Keanaaina is still on the roster and easily provides the most size. If Tyson Ford and Donovan Hinish can handle a handful of snaps per game then it could go a long way over the course of the season. And as for the edge, Alexander Ehrensberger’s retirement is somewhat of a loss, but Jordan Botelho looks like he can pick up where he left off in last season’s Gator Bowl (two sacks and two quarterback hurries).

Again, there’s no Foskey on the roster, but ideally Notre Dame can “Moneyball” this situation and recreate Foskey and Justin Ademilola in the aggregate of Botelho, Jean-Baptiste, Nana Osafo-Mensah, Josh Burnham and Junior Tuihalamaka.


Thank the sweet Lord above, you took a transfer portal addition in Rhode Island defensive back Antonio Carter II. Now please go get another transfer. Or even two more. And move a cornerback to the position for good measure. A rise in stock says more about where this position was at the start of spring than where it is now, because it still needs all the help it can possibly get.

For all his limitations, D.J. Brown is a consistent player. But he isn’t a game changer, nor is Ramon Henderson unless he finally figures out the right mindset for the position. And with both Ben Minich and Adon Shuler sidelined with injuries this spring, it’s unlikely that either true freshman will have a Kyle Hamilton-esque impact in 2023.

All that is to say that even if Xavier Watts has a breakout year, his impact will be limited depending on who is opposite him. If that was true of Hamilton then it certainly is true of Watts.

Stock Down

Syndication: Notre Dame Insider Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union / USA TODAY NETWORK


Yes, Sam Hartman showed that he can perform outside of a slow-mesh offense. Big shocker from a guy who’s thrown 110 touchdown passes across five collegiate seasons. Hartman weathering the learning curve of spring practice at Notre Dame does not alone make up for the loss of Tyler Buchner in the transfer portal.

The discourse around Buchner is polarizing, so his departure may be downplayed by those who think he would never have developed into a worthy starting quarterback at Notre Dame. But whether or not Buchner’s development would ever be enough, his dual-threat ability would make him a better backup option in 2023 than either Steve Angeli or Kenny Minchey. And rare indeed is the season in which Notre Dame doesn’t have to plug in its backup quarterback, even if only for a series, because of an injury to the starter.

Running Back

This is no slight against Gi’Bran Payne, who was as reassuring as a previously-unknown player can be during spring practice. But he needs to demonstrate that ability against opposing defenses, especially considering his injury history. And speaking of injury history, Jadarian Price’s achilles tear is the kind of major setback that raises legitimate questions about when (if ever) he’ll return to pre-injury form. The staff is optimistic about Price’s timeline, but you never know.

But that’s all burying the lede. The real reason that running back stock is down is the departure of Logan Diggs. Is Diggs’ transfer worth it if it spares you the headache of having a guy on scholarship who constantly needs to be convinced to stay at Notre Dame? Probably not, and the fact that he wasn’t technically a “starter” doesn’t make it hurt any less, because the guy was the best pass-catching running back on top of being a strong ball-carrier.

The Irish still have plenty of talent at the position in Audric Estime, Price, Payne, and incoming freshman Jeremiyah Love. There’s also the option of giving converted wide receiver Chris Tyree more work at running back if injuries become an issue. But inexperience and question marks have changed the complexion of this position.

Holding Steady

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: APR 22 Notre Dame Blue-Gold Game Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Wide Receiver

It’s tough to watch a performance like Jaden Greathouse had in the Blue-Gold Game (11 catches for 118 yards) and not think that he’ll be someone who actually contributes as a true freshman at Notre Dame. Plus, Tobias Merriweather and Deion Colzie are twin towers (6-foot-4 and 6-foot-5, respectively) who provide range on the outside that the Irish haven’t had in a long time. If Jayden Thomas remains a steady pass catcher and Chris Tyree gets comfortable in the slot, Notre Dame could have a dynamic pass game.

And if that were all there was to talk about from the spring, this stock would be on the rise. But the losses of Lorenzo Styles to transfer and Virginia Tech transplant Kaleb Smith to medical retirement can’t be ignored. Admittedly, Styles regressed so much last season that the coaching staff planned to move him to cornerback this spring, but injuries happen and it would’ve been nice to have Styles and/or Smith as a backup option.

Instead, Notre Dame’s current two-deep at wideout includes a true freshman (Greathouse), a former walk-on (Matt Salerno) and a converted running back who may need to take reps at his old position (Tyree). And those three are behind Merriweather, who has still yet to demonstrate why the staff thinks he’ll be the go-to wide receiver, and Colzie, whose end to 2022 may very well have just been a flash in the pan.

Reports have been positive about freshman Rico Flores, Jr., but again, he’s a true freshman at a place that struggles to get true freshman receivers on the field. Ditto for Braylon James, the most athletically gifted of the early enrollee wideouts but also the rawest. Tight end can offset some of the snaps, but this isn’t a classic Irish tight end depth chart (see below).

But despite all the question marks, the expectations for this position group were already tampered at the start of spring. The early returns on freshmen and the coaching staff’s optimism is enough to say that wide receiver hasn’t lost any stock from then to now.

Tight End

What’s a more unenviable position: being the starting tight end who follows the greatest tight end in Notre Dame history, or being the classmate of said greatest tight end? Mitchell Evans most likely has the former honor and Kevin Bauman has the latter. Both have been plagued by injuries, as has Eli Raridon early in his Notre Dame career.

There’s undeniably talent in the room between the aforementioned players, Holden Staes and freshman Cooper Flanagan. What also seems undeniable is that Notre Dame should lean more on wide receivers than tight ends, and it’s been a minute since that was the case. But much like the receiver position, this state of the tight end room was known before spring and nothing happened to sway the perception one way or another.


Prince Kollie was a valuable roster piece for Notre Dame (just ask the Clemson Tigers). But his departure via the transfer portal means a couple of things: (1) Kollie wasn’t passing Marist Liufau or J.D. Bertrand on the depth chart, and (2) the players behind him were probably gaining a little too much ground for his liking.

Even though Junior Tuihalamaka and Josh Burnham have both converted from linebacker, there is by no means a dearth of talent at linebacker. Bertrand, Liufau and Jack Kiser provide more than enough experience, even if they may be somewhat lacking athletically. Behind them, sophomore Nolan Zeigler and true freshmen Drayk Bowen, Jaiden Ausberry and Preston Zinter showed out in the Blue-Gold Game. And that’s not even mentioning former five-star Jaylen Sneed.

The ceiling isn’t exactly high, but the floor certainly is. What Notre Dame has had at linebacker the last two years has been reliable even if by no means glamorous. The position has one more year of this before Marcus Freeman’s linebacker recruiting classes start coming to the forefront.


There really isn’t must to say at this point. Benjamin Morrison should build on his freshman All-American season and Cam Hart should be a quality starter opposite him (assuming that Hart is 100% after yet another shoulder procedure this spring). Behind them, Jaden Mickey and Clarence Lewis are good depth pieces and Oklahoma State transfer Thomas Harper should be a reliable nickel (health-permitting).

It’s interesting that Chance Tucker and Ryan Barnes forewent the transfer portal despite their apparent positions on the depth chart. But the only way this position could have improved its stock is if early-enrollee Christian Gray had stayed healthy all spring and shown signs of being the next Mickey or Morrison. Maybe he (or his class of 2023 counterpart Micah Bell) will ultimately do that, but there just isn’t enough to go on right now.


When USF transfer kicker Spencer Shrader joins the team this summer, the real scrutiny of the kicking game can begin. Same with the punting position once UPenn transfer Ben Krimm arrives in South Bend. But until then, Michael Vinson continues to hold down the long snapper spot.