Story Poster
Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame Depth Chart Analysis

January 10, 2022
7,455

Things are starting to shape up with the Notre Dame roster for the 2022 season after a number of key declarations happened over the weekend. Many of them went the way the Irish coaching staff wanted them to, including getting Isaiah Foskey, Jarrett Patterson, Jayson Ademilola and Avery Davis back.

They have 33 players returning who were in last season’s two-deep and that’s definitely a great thing. At the same time it leads to some questions about the depth chart and if people may be moved around to find more playing time.

There are still a few players who have to announce their intentions for next season (Bo Bauer, Joe Wilkins, and TaRiq Bracy), but here’s a look at some positions where we have a better idea of how things might play out at each spot.

Offensive line

With Josh Lugg and Jarrett Patterson both coming back, it means that the Irish are returning four starters up front. That doesn’t even include Blake Fisher. It’s a pretty nice situation for Harry Hiestand to walk into to say the least.

We know Patterson will be at center. What happens with Lugg is more up in the air, but it makes more sense for him to slide inside to compete at right guard than it does for him to stay at tackle. Fisher is likely going to play at one of the tackle spots with Joe Alt at the other and the ceiling is sky high with that pair.

Zeke Correll would have been the leading candidate to replace Patterson at center, but with that path now blocked, it appears he’ll be relegated to backing up that spot. He isn’t an option to start at guard based on what we saw from him in 2021.

There are others who might be options to start at guard to compete with Lugg like Rocco Spindler and Michael Carmody. Both have a lot to prove this spring to leap over him or Andrew Kristofic, though.

These are all good problems to have. A spot that was supposed to only return two starters is in a really strong spot heading into the spring.

Wide receiver

The big loss is Kevin Austin deciding to move on to the NFL and that leaves the boundary wide open. That’s one reason why Wilkins returning feels like a good bet, but we’ll have to wait and see if that’s the case. Deion Colzie and Tobias Merriweather, who will be on campus in the summer, can both be expected to push for that role.

The Irish did get two key pieces back in Braden Lenzy and Avery Davis. Neither is going to block Lorenzo Styles from continuing his ascension, but having both of them come back opens it up for Styles to move around at “X” or the slot.

This will be something interesting to watch in the spring as Davis is not expected to be healthy enough to participate at that time coming off of his knee injury. That would mean Styles should get most of his work in the slot and then we’ll see what they do with Davis when he is fully healthy.

Tight end

In a bit of surprise, George Takacs decided to come back and that solidified the tight end position for next season. Michael Mayer is TE1 in bold print. Takacs was TE2 this year and did a fine job as a blocker, improving greatly over the course of the season.

He should be slotted in that same role this year, but I don’t believe anyone should discount Mitchell Evans or Kevin Bauman from making a push.

Defensive line

There were three defensive linemen who caused the most disruption rushing the passer against Oklahoma State and all three of them announced they would be coming back for another year this week. Isaiah Foskey is the massive one, but the Ademilola twins returning is great news for the pass rush as well.

With Foskey and Justin Ademilola back at Vyper, what does it mean for Jordan Botelho? He needs more opportunities to rush the passer. Is Rover still a spot for him? I don’t think so in the long term. It all depends on what they do with Justin and whether or not they move him back to the strongside, where he played in 2022.

That position needs addressing with Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa gone and there needs to be significant improvement from NaNa Osafo-Mensah or Alex Ehrensberger if either of them wants to be a starter. We may see Rylie Mills move out there in the base defense, but that would weaken the depth at 3-technique if that happens.

There are still some things that need to be worked out on the defensive line as to where everyone fits and I would expect most of that to be figured out this spring.

Rover

Linebacker in general will get sorted out more when/if Bauer decides to come back, but Rover is a bit murky now with Paul Moala in the transfer portal and Isaiah Pryor concluding his college career.

Of course there is Jack Kiser, the returning starter there, but his best position is likely inside. Notre Dame needs to find other options even if Kiser does stay out at Rover.

It could get interesting if they decide to move Prince Kollie back out there. He originally started there before being forced to move to Will because of injuries to Marist Liufau and Shayne Simon. There’s also Jaylen Sneed coming in as an early enrollee and he’s might be the rare athlete who is too good not to play early at Notre Dame.

Could we see a change in philosophy with Xavier Watts moving there permanently? The addition of Brandon Joseph at safety may allow for that to happen. Watts looked great playing the perimeter and if he emerged there it would give Notre Dame more flexibility with more of a three safety look.

A lot will depend on the new coordinator and how he wants to run things, but I see Watts as an intriguing option.

Safety

DJ Brown and Houston Griffith are back, but the biggest news is Joseph transferring in from Northwestern. It would be fair to assume that he will start and that leaves Brown and Griffith to compete with Ramon Henderson. We’ll see if any other younger players can get into the mix, but those four appear to be the top guys heading into the spring.

If Watts stays at safety, his and Henderson’s development are going to be critical for the defense. The ceiling doesn’t look higher than what we’ve seen from Brown or Griffith so Watts and Henderson combined with Joseph could change the dynamic at safety in a significant way.

 
×
subscribe Verify your student status
See Subscription Benefits
Trial only available to users who have never subscribed or participated in a previous trial.