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Notre Dame Football

DBs relish Freeman's system; ND's health, Transfer Portal updates

April 24, 2021
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First, Cam Hart switched positions.

Then, Hart encountered an offseason change at defensive coordinator.

Now? The Notre Dame sophomore has emerged as a potential lockdown-cornerback in the defense of new Fighting Irish coordinator Marcus Freeman.

Hart has wholly embraced the rigors of the position and demands that have arisen from Freeman's suffocating style.

“I've honestly played DB my whole life,” Hart said Saturday via Zoom following Notre Dame's practice. “Switching over, I transferred the ball skills. I just want to work on my technique.

“We're going to be in press coverage 90% of the time, the majority of plays.”

That shift since Freeman arrived in January, Hart said, has been tailor-made for his approach to the game.

“Coach Freeman, he has taken a lot of the thinking out of it,” said the 6-foot-2.5-inch, 207-pound Hart. “More so just being there, being in the right position, using the right techniques.

“I feel a lot more comfortable in this defense.”

Added sophomore defensive back Clarence Lewis, “This year is definitely less thinking, you just play faster and many chances to turn the ball over.”

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly praised both Hart's physical toolbox and the way Hart has mentally evolved at the position.

“Cam's making progress,” Kelly said. “A lot of this is a combination of technique and being much more of an aggressive mindset instead of a reactive, defensive mindset. That's coming together with Cam.

“He's got the skills, he's got length. He's strong physically. He's one of our strongest if not our strongest defensive back. Really pleased with his progress. He'll continue to get stronger, continue to work on technique. Now it's mindset. Go get the ball; it's yours. Because he's going to be in a plus match-up physically with a lot of guys that he goes against. We're making great progress there.”

With Hart taller than 6-2, Ramon Henderson at 6-1 and All-America safety Kyle Hamilton at 6-4, among others, the Irish are positioned to have one of their longest, rangiest secondary units and one of the longer defensive back-ends in college football.

HEALTH REPORT

Asked for an update on the various Irish players out or limited this spring, Kelly turned to his notes for a fairly comprehensive rundown on his squad's roster health:

“Let me pull my sheet here so I have something in front of me. Run progression has started by Kyle Hamilton, so he's running. He's in our stretching. Kevin Austin has started his run progression and Paul Moala. All three of those guys are in their run progression.

“Drew White is in practice. What we do with him in the spring game, I haven't decided yet. We'll probably protect him. He wants to play; we'll probably have to rock-scissor-paper that one. But he's back in a practice setting.

“(Brendon Clark) is out, obviously, still.

“On the D-line, (Will) Schweitzer had surgery yesterday, very successful. (Jacob) Lacey is still out, making great progression. He was out on the field in a full, he was doing 350s today, full conditioning.

“Rubio had a hyper-extended elbow. We're not sure what his status is going to be for the spring game, but he's had a really good spring.

“I think that's pretty much the major list. (Josh) Lugg is back. He practiced today. Of course, (Jarrett) Patterson is out.”

PORTAL PATROL

Notre Dame isn't standing pat as it pertains to its current roster, incoming signees due in the next four to six weeks or its outlook for the fall.

Kelly & Co. have been deep in the NCAA's Transfer Portal and planned to continue that approach moving forward.

“I think as part of your operation, you have to be looking at the transfer portal,” Kelly said. “But it has to fit, right? It's got to be the right fit for your university and your program, but it has to be part of what you do in your program in recruiting.

“To be monitoring and looking at it and measuring and each and every year whether there is a particular fit for your football team.”

The Irish signed Jack Coan from Wisconsin out of the Transfer Portal earlier this year and landed Ohio State transfer Isaiah Pryor a year ago.

It's been indicated Notre Dame could look to add anywhere from two to four additional players via the Transfer Portal prior to the 2021 campaign, if the Irish find players who fit their culture, needs and the university.

 
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