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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame Fall Camp Preview | Cornerback

July 19, 2022

When someone thinks of Notre Dame football, they should think of great defenses. That’s what has carried the Irish to double digit wins in the last five seasons. They’ve always been pretty good on offense, but it’s the defense that has been the stronger unit in the last half decade.

There’s no reason that shouldn’t continue this season with a front seven loaded with talented options leading the way. Whether or not the defense can take it to another level this fall under Al Golden will largely depend on how good the Irish are at cornerback.

They bring back two returning starters and their starting nickel from last season. Normally that would mean things are settled, but that doesn’t seem to be the case heading into fall camp. The spring indicated that there will be plenty of competition at the position and there will also be players moving to other spots.

Clarence Lewis moved the boundary early in the 2021 season, but it looks like he will be back playing the field corner spot. There’s no debating that he had some rough moments against the best receivers he faced last fall. The hope is that this move makes more sense for him and he can get back to the promise he showed as a freshman in 2020 (seven pass breakups, nine total Havoc plays as a part-time starter).

With Lewis moving back to his old spot, it seems like a pretty obvious indication that Cam Hart will be starting on the boundary. Hart had a fine season as a first-year starter in ‘21, but he was originally starting on the boundary before the coaching staff made the switch after some early struggles.

He has all of the physical tools to succeed there. We didn’t get to see him at that spot in the spring after missing time recovering from shoulder surgery, so there is a bit of an unknown heading into August. Expectations for him are very high and a strong camp should propel him to a great season.

Ryan Barnes saw a ton of reps playing the boundary with Hart out and there is no doubt he looks the part. He didn’t get tested vertically down the field in the practices we saw and that remains the biggest question about him at the moment. His development will be important to watch because he may be someone who ends up at safety if things don’t work out.

No freshman defender turned more heads this spring than Jaden Mickey. He looks ready to contribute immediately and possibly even push to start at field corner. He always seems to find the football in coverage. He may even be someone who pushes at nickel as well, although that job looks more secure with TaRiq Bracy.

Bracy didn’t make a big deal of deciding to return to Notre Dame compared to others on the team. His play on the field did enough talking for him where he looked as good as he ever has as a slot corner. I would expect him to play at outside corner as well, but he looks like he can make a significant impact as the nickel in sub-packages this fall.

To call this an important camp for Philip Riley and Chance Tucker feels like an understatement. It already appears that Mickey has jumped the line on the depth chart and the coaching staff is high on freshman Jayden Bellamy, who was on campus as an early enrollee in the spring, and Benjamin Morrison could be someone who makes some noise in camp as well. Riley may be someone who is ultimately a better fit at safety and this camp should reveal a lot about his future.

Corner shouldn’t be considered a weakness for the defense, but how things progress during camp for several individuals will determine whether it can be a strength this season. Men’s Branded Heather Gray Throwback Helmet Shirt

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