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Notre Dame Football

Which Notre Dame Freshmen See the Field in 2020?

August 4, 2020

Notre Dame could very well get practice rolling sooner than later as we wait for a schedule to be released. 

The Fighting Irish got just one spring practice, so it prevented an early look at the early enrollees. We were able to see them run around without pads for two hours, but that's about it. 

Xavier Watts, Rylie Mills, Alexander Ehrensberger, Jordan Botelho and Ramon Henderson passed the look test. Still, we don't know much more about them as we would in a typical year. 

It's hard to predict which freshmen could see the field this fall as we likely won't have access to camp, but Notre Dame will need contributions from a few, even if they are small roles. 

It starts with running back Chris Tyree. The Chester (Va.) native is the fastest player in the 2020 class and has bulked up to around 190 pounds since arriving in South Bend in June. That's a good sign, but somewhat expected knowing Tyree's work ethic. 

Notre Dame needs a playmaker to emerge from a deep running back stable. You could insert several names into the roles this year, but there are more questions than answers for Lance Taylor's group. Inexperience is the No. 1 concern as Tony Jones Jr. got the bulk of the work in 2019. 

Tyree will get a chance to earn touches as his speed is something the Irish offense needs from the position. If he can impress early, it might be a role he doesn't give up for three or four years. 

Tight end isn't lacking for experience and two tight ends with starts under their belt is rare for most programs. Senior Brock Wright and junior Tommy Tremble could be the top duo in the country, but freshman Michael Mayer will likely still see the field. 

The five-star prospect arrived in South Bend ranked higher than Cole Kmet, Alize Mack and Wright, which were all ranked as high four-star prospects. 

Mayer's combination of size, speed and strength is exciting, which is likely why he won't be kept off the field as a true freshman. Tommy Rees has shown he wants to utilize the tight end and Mayer brings another level to the offense. 

Now, Mayer will be behind the learning curve a bit because he wasn't an early enrollee. It's not a huge gap this year, but he still missed meetings and installations that would have furthered his development. However, whether it be short-yardage or redzone situations, Mayer could find himself an early role as he presents a tough matchup for linebackers or safeties from day one. 

Receivers Jordan Johnson and Xavier Watts could also very well see the field. Notre Dame returns plenty of speed and playmaking ability from the receiving corps, but both freshmen are talented enough to find the field. 

Johnson and Watts are bigger bodies than Braden Lenzy and Lawrence Keys III and while they might lack experience, Rees can find ways to use them. 

Both freshmen can stretch the field with their speed and both are good at 50-50 balls. If one or both can impress early, I think you could see them on the field early to see if it's worth burning their four-game redshirt. 

On defense, it's a little harder to project as it's an experienced group. I think defensive tackle Aidan Keanaaina could find himself in a position to play past four games because of his size and strength. 

Kurt Hinish and Ja'mion Franklin are smaller nose guards and Keanaaina could help clog the middle in short-yardage. But he'd have to prove he can win at the point of attack where those two have proven they can along with Jacob Lacey. 

The same goes for Vyper Jordan Botelho. He has a few experienced players in front of him, so playing four games like Isaiah Foskey seems more likely. However, if the Irish sustain injuries or other health issues, Botelho could find himself in a role as those in front of him can move around to fill holes. 

Entering the spring, I felt Notre Dame would likely need to get a freshman ready to play. Since then, Notre Dame added NC State graduate transfer Nick McCloud and that allows Mike Mickens some breathing room. 

Ramon Henderson seems the most likely to find a role because of his athletic ability, but more importantly, his size. At 6-foot-3, the California native could help in situational football. It might still be a stretch to get him on the field, but he's more physically developed than Caleb Offord and Clarence Lewis arrived in June. I'd expect all the freshmen cornerbacks to redshirt if all goes as planned, but it wouldn't surprise me to see one of them get more and more work as the season goes on in practice or games.

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