Notre Dame’s fall camp is at an end, and we are less than two weeks away form the season-opener against the Navy Midshipmen in Dublin, Ireland.
Inhale deeply, and let that sink in for a moment. Forget about the Under Armour deal, conference realignment, NIL, recruiting, and whatever other sidequest is out there — the real journey is one step ahead.
It’s funny how many people I run into out in the wild that quickly ask me, “How are the Irish looking this year?”. They don’t have the time (and neither do I) to take in all of the nuances, so my typical answer is, “Pretty good — but we won’t really know until Ohio State and USC.”
And that’s not really even true. Notre Dame has four games to play before the Buckeyes invade South Bend. But... you (and they, hopefully) understand the general meaning. This post can serve as a longer answer that will still only scratch the surface — excuse me — set the table (gotta use the proper idiom here).
One of the primary goals of fall camp is to stay healthy. There have been many seasons affected by an injury or two in August, but it seems like the Irish are in decent shape overall this year. Marcus Freeman announced on Saturday that tight end Kevin Bauman and defensive end Aiden Gobaira both tore their ACL’s and will miss the season. For Bauman, this is the second ACL tear for him while at Notre Dame.
Tight end Eli Raridon continues to make progress, and although he isn’t back to 100%, their plan for him seems to be working and will be back early in the season.
OFFENSIVE LINE SHUFFLE
Joe Alt, Zeke Correll, and Blake Fisher are good to go, and now the guard situation seems to be settled (at least for now). It looks like Rocco Spindler has won the job at right guard, while Pat Coogan is the starter at left guard. This configuration would not have been the bet back in the spring, as Billy Schrauth was thought to be a shoe-in at LG with Andrew Kristofic likely getting the nod at RG.
On Sunday, Notre Dame announced their captains for 2023; Cam Hart, Joe Alt, Sam Hartman, and JD Bertrand.
This is definitely not the Kelly era. Four captains as opposed to like six or seven, and the QB is a named captain — revolutionary.
It feels like it’s been a while since there has been a name change to a defensive position, but we got one this fall with the AZTEC. Here’s what Marcus Freeman had to say about the position at his press conference on Saturday:
“It’s ability to get another DB on the field in certain passing situations. I’m sure we’ve given it some creative name. But all you’re doing is adding a DB and taking out either a D-Lineman or a linebacker.
When we’re in passing situations, and we think we’re going against an offense that might have four wide outs or truly in a passing situation.
You’ve got to be able to match up. And so, they like it because we created this cool name, called it the Aztec. But hey, it’s just another way to say, ‘Get another safety on the field.’”
Freeman also stated that all of his safeties are available to play the position.
WIDE RECEIVER CONCERNS
Despite the addition of Sam Hartman and the development of the group over the last year — it still sounds like there are still some massive questions at wide receiver. It appears that Jayden Thomas, Tobias Merriweather, and Chris Tyree will likely be the starting three, but I’m not sure that any of them really stood out during camp.
Two names that keep getting mentioned are freshmen Rico Flores and Jaden Greathouse — but we should still be a little cautious when imagining them playing a lot right away (for now).
Matt Salerno continues to get the media love, but that’s probably because he’s doing good things in practice.
SOME QUICK HITTERS
- Devyn Ford might very well be the #2 RB behind Audric Estime and also the top kick returner.
- The defensive line depth has been better than I expected, but I’m still concerned about the pass rush.
- Got a few DM’s that told me Drayk Bowen is absolutely the real deal, and I love that for us.
- The defensive back depth might be the most encouraging part of the entire team.
- Sam Hartman BAYBEEEE
ON TO NAVY
This one statement is part of the many reasons why playing Navy is a waste of time. Two weeks of practice for an offense the Irish won’t see all season long. Cool.
“Well, I think defensively, it’s really time to turn your attention to Navy. We’ve been doing normal defensive things that you’ll see for the majority of the year…We have not being doing much Navy-specific defense. And so now, your attention will turn to defending the triple-option and what Navy’s offense will present.”
IT’S ALL THERE
The table is set, but it can change in a hurry — whether by force or by choice. Notre Dame is a top 15 team with a chance to make the college football playoff thanks to a strong schedule.
Twelve days to go.