The current Notre Dame roster looks very different than it did coming out the bowl game victory against South Carolina. There are some new faces as well as some holes left by players who would have had major impacts on the roster this upcoming season. Now that the dust has (for the most part) settled and the roster is set, it’s time to make some statistical predictions!
This week we will be focusing on the major defensive stats and including who I think will be the top 3 in each!
JD Bertrand - This should come as no surprise as Bertrand will come close to logging the most snaps on the Irish defense. He looks to be fully healthy and should dispel the odd dislike for his consistent play. He was the leader a year ago and I expect him to easily surpass 100 tackles this year.
Jack Kiser - Kiser is a workhorse and always seems to find himself in the right position. He finished the year second in tackles last season, and will wind up in a similar spot in 2023. It was a bit of a mystery why Kiser wasn’t on the field all the time last year as I think he is one of the most consistent players on the roster.
Xavier Watts - Despite not starting the whole year and playing some WR, Watts finished 8th on the team in tackles. He is known for his impact at the point of attack and this year will be a HUGE step in his development. This will be the longest he has been at one position and will thrive this year. I expect him to be an incredibly impactful safety and have a similar style of play to Alohi Gilman.
Safety Xavier Watts made his first career start Saturday and tied for the team lead with 8 tackles. He covered a lot of ground on a few of them, including this TFL that helped Notre Dame get its first goal-to-go stop for a field goal since Sept. 17. pic.twitter.com/zU5GAZooIU— Patrick Engel (@PatrickEngel_) November 15, 2022
Jordan Botelho - Wild Stat Alert. Botelho had 11 tackles on the year. of those 11, 4.5 were sacks and 2 were TFLs. over HALF of his tackles came behind the LOS. If you believe in Notre Dame’s defense this year, it means you believe in Botelho. His consistency could be the key to the entire defense. I believe it in and think he can and should reach double digits sacks.
#Punahou's Marist Liufau & #SaintLouis' Jordan Botelho impact Notre Dame upset of #16 Syracuse. Botelho had two sacks in the 2nd half. Liufau interception flipped the momentum as Cuse was driving.— Alan Hoshida (@AHoshidaSports) October 29, 2022
Irish gets #5 Clemson next week #CFBHawaii
Rylie Mills - Mills is going to move back inside this year, which should be a much better fit after he never seemed fully comfortable on the outside a year ago. Mills needs to take another step this year as physically, he has every tool in the book. Mills has been very streaky with sacks, and I expect him to rack up a decent amount against some of the lesser competition. He can completely overpower tackles and guards and will do so early in the year.
"Rylie (Mills) was learning how to play a new position and now that he's got his understanding down, that's why you're seeing him play much more football for us." - Brian Kelly— Matt Freeman (@mattfreemanISD) December 8, 2020
Good hands here. (99) pic.twitter.com/NS1sGFXNL4
Jaylen Sneed - This is the wildcard pick. Sneed will not be a starter, but will come in during passing downs/third downs. Athletically, he is a freak and has every tool to be an elite blitzer/edge rusher. He also switched to the #3, which easily makes him faster and a better player, because #science.
Benjamin Morrison -Morrison is simply an elite man cover corner. Teams will look to test him early in the year, but will come up empty handed. Normally teams would just avoid a player like Morrison, but Golden and Mickens will probably have him shadow top receivers in the biggest games, which will allow him to make his plays. I don’t think he can match the INT numbers from a year ago, but he will get his and definitely make plenty of plays.
Xavier Watts - As you can tell, I am VERY high on Watts. He is a very sound tackler and found his footing as a cover man towards the back half of the year. His natural comfort at the position only continues to grow and he will settle in on being one of the best overall players on the team in 2023.
More good eyes from Xavier Watts. The play is designed to get him chasing the play action and #87 feigns a stretch block to the left before coming back right, behind the line. Watts reads it, gets through the traffic, makes the play. pic.twitter.com/W42snFgSZm— Greg Flammang (@greg2126) November 30, 2022
Cam Hart - Hart often does not get tons of passes coming his way as he has been a very solid man cover corner. However, with Morrison’s ascension, Hart will get more opportunities to make plays. He often more disruptive by body position than with ints/getting his hands on passes, but he will still get his fair share.
Jack Kiser - Kiser has always had a way of finding himself around the football. He has 3 career picks, including 2 for TDs. I expect at least 1 scoop and score and a pick 6 for Kiser this year.
PICK SIX FIGHTING IRISH ! ☘️— TBP College Football (@thebluepennant) September 25, 2021
LB Jack Kiser intercepte QB Graham Mertz et inscrit un TD défensif de 66 yards ! Boom !
Quel débâcle pour le quarterback des Badgers...
Wisconsin 13, Notre Dame 34pic.twitter.com/LWE5PxvT0I