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Notre Dame Football

Spring Breakout

March 13, 2022

This spring might feel like it’s now or never for certain individuals on the Fighting Irish. It’s a different situation for these five players.

Notre Dame needs them to make the leap in 2022 if they want to ascend to new heights as a team because no team can win big with just a couple of elite players like returning stars Isaiah Foskey and Michael Mayer. The best teams have several players who are All-American caliber or at least on the cusp of it.

Going into this spring, the Irish don’t have that. Yet.

That can change if the next couple of months become a springboard to great seasons for these five players. The ceiling for how good the team can change drastically provided that they are on the right track to become the next set of stars wearing blue and gold.

QB Tyler Buchner

Notre Dame had a good quarterback in Ian Book, but he seemed to hit his head against his ceiling as a player and could never get past that. That’s why some fans still pine for Phil Jurkovec and have put all of their hopes into Buchner.

Buchner, with his video game numbers in high school and exciting dual-threat ability, is one of the new breed of quarterbacks in college football. His skill set allows the offense to open up in a way that it never really managed to do during the dozen years of the Brian Kelly era. In order for that to happen, he has to win the quarterback job first and show he is much more than a dangerous runner.

Quarterback development is a process and not always a linear one. No one expects Buchner to look close to a finished product this spring. It will be about improvement and enough of it to suggest that he is going to be a problem that Ohio State is going to have to worry about in September.

WR Lorenzo Styles Jr.

One thing that is still as important as ever for offenses is the need to be explosive in the passing game. Notre Dame is likely going to lean on Styles heavily in that area. His speed and ability to make plays after the catch showed up in the second half of his freshman season and now he’ll have an opportunity to be the big play option for the Irish in 2022.

Miles Boykin is the most recent example of a Notre Dame player who went from a breakout in the bowl game to becoming WR1 for the offense the next season. It continued in the spring and Styles should be on a similar trajectory.

DL Rylie Mills

It felt like Mills was on the verge of something big as a sophomore with dominant displays as a pass rusher in fall camp, but we didn’t get to see all of what he could be until the Virginia game. He racked up five total pressures that night, including two sacks.

He was bumped up the depth chart in that game with Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa out with an illness. MTA is now gone so Mills is likely to have an opportunity to take his place at end and on 3rd downs rushing the passer.

Mills has the kind of frame that should have NFL scouts drooling and he’s at his best when he’s shooting gaps, much like Jayson Ademilola. If Mills can join Ademilola and Foskey as a disruptive presence up front then there aren’t going to be too many offensive lines that can handle them from week to week.

CB Cam Hart

Hart was good as a first-year starter at cornerback, but they need him to be better this season. It wouldn’t hurt if he was able to prove that he can make the move back to the boundary this spring as well.

The field and the boundary are two different animals in coverage. Some players can make that transition look easy (see Love, Julian). Some find it a bit more difficult (see Pride, Troy). Hart has the physical tools to succeed there. Perhaps he simply didn’t have the experience needed to do so last year.

Hart was second on the team in Havoc plays last season (13.5) so we know he can find the football. We’ll see if he can build off of that and become a player that can match up with top receivers.

LB Marist Liufau

It was set to happen in 2021. No player on defense looked more impressive last summer than Liufau. Things got postponed with a season-ending injury in late August and it was evident that he was greatly missed.

They needed him to replace some of that dynamic playmaking ability that Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah brought to the team the previous two years. They’re still searching for that at linebacker this year, which is why Liufau is one of the most important players on the roster.

If he can look like the player he was on track to be before the injury, then Notre Dame’s front seven is going to be cooking with gas. He might be the next the great linebacker for the Irish, but it starts this spring.

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