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Notre Dame Football

6 Who Need to Have a Great Fall Camp

June 21, 2022

In August of 2018, Jalen Elliott was running with the twos at safety. With Alohi Gilman now eligible and both Nick Coleman and Houston Griffith competing with him, Elliott appeared like he might be replaced as a starter.

We know that didn’t happen.

Elliott, who struggled as a starter during his sophomore season, stepped up and had a great fall camp. He teamed with Gilman to form a strong duo and Elliott ultimately led the team in interceptions.

He needed to prove himself during that camp and did. It ultimately led to him solidifying his spot as a starter for the next two seasons. These six players have all started games for Notre Dame, but have a lot to prove as well. All of them need to have a strong fall camp because there are younger players pushing to overtake them on the depth chart.

G Andrew Kristofic and G Josh Lugg

Kristofic started in the second half of last season and played pretty well. Lugg has started 19 games in his Notre Dame career. Most of them have been at right tackle, where he also played much better in the second half of the season.

These were the two starting guards this spring and neither of them looked impressive during full practices the media were able to view. That doesn’t mean they won’t be the starters this fall and potentially be very good for Notre Dame, but the small sample size we saw was enough to suggest that these two need to be much better to keep those starting spots.

If they struggle to block Jayson Ademilola, Howard Cross, and Rylie Mills, they will probably have a tough time going up against North Carolina’s Miles Murphy, Clemson’s Bryan Bresee, and USC’s Tuli Tuipulotu. How they measure up against Notre Dame’s good group of interior pass rushers is going to matter.

There’s also the possibility that Harry Hiestand could look at moving Jarrett Patterson to guard and have Zeke Correll start at center. There’s players like Rocco Spindler and Michael Carmody who will push for playing time as well.

This camp could go a long way in determining whether Lugg finishes as a starter and whether or not Krisotic can establish himself as a fixture up front for the Irish over the next couple of seasons.

LB JD Bertrand

Bertrand missed out on being a full participant this spring while recovering from a wrist injury that hampered him last fall. He’ll be back in full health to compete this August, but a starting spot isn’t guaranteed, even though he put up over 100 tackles last season at the Will spot.

He won’t play there this fall, not with a healthy Marist Liufau back and Prince Kollie ascending. Bertrand will be back at his more natural Mike linebacker position and will be competing with fifth-year senior Bo Bauer and true freshman JR Tuihalamaka.

It would be safe to project Bertrand as the favorite to win the job, but he still needs to show he can be a better tackler in space as well as in coverage. If he does that, then we can probably pencil him in for another highly productive, yet more efficient season. If he doesn’t, then it opens the door for Bauer to finally break out of being a sub-package contributor for the Irish and for Tuihalamaka to prove that the flashes he showed during the spring mean he’s ready to roll as a freshman.

Marcus Freeman and Al Golden could also do some shuffling with some players to see if another combination gets them their best three on the field as starters if they don’t like what they are seeing from the aforementioned three competing at Mike.

It’s a position that will be very interesting to monitor in camp.

CB Clarence Lewis

Lewis went from promising rookie year at Notre Dame, where he finished as the starter at field corner, to struggling against the best receivers he faced on the boundary as a sophomore.

Elliott got his redemption after many people counted him out. Lewis could do the same, but he won’t get a chance unless he can fight off the competition.

Cam Hart should be back and ready to go with a move from the field to the boundary a likely scenario for him. That would slide Lewis back over to the field, but that spot isn’t simply sitting there for him. Freshman Jaden Mickey turned heads in the spring and appears ready to contribute. There’s a handful of other young corners who are trying to emerge as well.

It would be unwise to count Lewis out because there have been plenty of examples of players who experienced dips before rising up at Notre Dame (Elliott, Jerry Tillery, and Daelin Hayes are some recent examples). But the time to rise up for him is now because the competition at corner should be fierce.

S DJ Brown and S Houston Griffith

It’s the tale of two safeties who both are seen as stop-gaps by Notre Dame fans. Brown is the one who has ball production (three interceptions) and Griffith is the better tackler.

They’ll not only be battling each other to see who plays next to Brandon Joseph, but there’s also Ramon Henderson. If the season started tomorrow, most would expect him and Joseph to be the starters. The only way that narrative changes is if either Brown or Griffith show they are ready to take a big step in 2022.

Maybe that won’t be possible for either fifth-year player, but without that, it’s difficult to envision either playing a prominent role in this year’s Irish defense.

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