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Notre Dame Football

Examining the Notre Dame Roster After Spring Ball

April 24, 2023

15 practices have come and gone this spring and w know a lot more about the Notre Dame roster now than we did a month ago. With that additional knowledge, we have a much clearer view of the strengths and deficiencies on the current roster.

There may be more subtractions during the next week with the transfer portal. Lorenzo Styles and Prince Kollie have both entered their names in, but with where they stood on the depth chart this spring, they were projected to be more depth than key pieces. I don’t expect anyone considered to be a key piece for Notre Dame in 2023 to enter the portal during this current transfer window.

If there’s more losses, it’s far more likely to be players who aren’t projected to play much this fall.

With that in mind, the roster is basically set for this season unless Notre Dame picks up a transfer or two. It would be completey unexpected if they decided to add a player at quarterback, running back, linebacker, tight end, cornerback, or any specialists. They are set at those positions with even more reinforcements coming from players returning from injury like JD Price, Eli Raridon, and the freshmen arriving in June.

While there are still some questions about how good the starters will prove to be at linebacker and tight end, no one would say they lack options with great potential who are already on the team.

It’s different at other positions where Notre Dame’s staff may be open to taking a transfer and could decide to actively pursue players at these spots. It should be noted, however, that all of these positions look far better off now than they did a month ago after what we’ve learned about the 2023 Fighting Irish.

Do they need another safety?

Prior to the spring when news broke of Brandyn Hillman no longer enrolling at Notre Dame, Marcus Freeman mentioned that they may have to explore adding someone in the portal because of numbers at the position. I don’t think much has changed there because the Irish just went through a spring ball where they finished with only three healthy safeties who are on scholarship. That’s not where Notre Dame wants to be with depth this season.

The good news for them is that graduate transfer Thomas Harper and early enrollees Benjamin Minich and Adon Shuler will be healthy for the season. Doubling up on the depth is good and Harper should be someone capable of being in the two-deep at the very least.

With that and how they feel about Xavier Watts, Ramon Henderson, and DJ Brown, this isn’t a desperate situation. It’s more that they would feel a lot more comfortable with one more player who they think can play if needed.

That could come from a corner shifting over or from a transfer. Or it could come from either Minich or Shuler if they think they are ready to play.

Assessment: the ideal scenario would be to nab an Alohi Gilman type of impact transfer, but that is highly unlikely unless someone unexpectedly enters the portal. I think one more player for depth would be nice, but they may be better off shifting a corner and/or making sure to add another safety in the current recruiting class.

Should they stand pat at wide receiver?

I think there are a lot of people who would have slotted in Kaleb Smith and Lorenzo Styles as important players for Notre Dame prior to the start of spring ball. Both are now no longer on the team.

And yet…they don’t feel like crippling losses. The Irish are in pretty good shape overall and the reviews on the three early enrollee receivers have been extremely positive. There’s a chance that they might all contribute in some way as freshmen.

Whether or not they have a true WR1 is a different topic, but there is a lot of excitement about Tobias Merriweather and Jayden Thomas and the Chris Tyree experiment appears to now be a permanent move.

The group doesn’t have the past production. They do have talent.

Assessment: if everyone was sold on Deion Colzie being consistently reliable as a starter at boundary, then I’m not sure they would even look to add anyone to the group. They still might not want to because Thomas could play the boundary if he’s not in the slot and they have plenty of options in the slot.

If they could add a bigger body boundary receiver to compete with Colzie, it would be beneficial. Aside from that, they could always use more players with explosive athletic traits so if the right receiver was available, it would be worth pursuing.

Is offensive guard a need?

It was pretty obvious after the spring of 2021 that they needed to address the guard position in the portal. They did that by adding Cain Madden, but the jump from Conference USA to Notre Dame wasn’t an easy one.

The current situation isn’t nearly as dire as it was then and they have a 5th-year senior at center and two stud tackles sandwiching the open guard spots. I think they’ll be just fine with the in-house options no matter who ends up winning those jobs.

Assessment: very unlikely they try to add someone unless that someone has been a proven quality starter at the Power 5 level.

Are they set on the defensive line?

No one is going to claim this defensive line is elite, but with a defensive tackle like Jason Onye on the rise as rotation player at nose tackle and some solid competition for the rotation spots at defensive end and Vyper, they have the kind of depth that is necessary to play at a high level up front.

Assessment: everyone would take more pass rushers if they can get their hands on them and if Notre Dame could magically grab a War Daddy nose tackle out of the portal, there is no way they would say no to that player.

That probably won’t happen, so I see Notre Dame rolling with what should be an ascending group with more freshmen arriving in the summer to add to the mix.

Coming out of the spring, it’s fair to say that the coaching staff found more answers on the roster rather than unearthed more questions. In regards to the transfer portal, it’s more about “wants” than having “needs”.

There’s a lot of development that needs to take place, but the potential is there with this team to find a lot of internal solutions based on things we’ve seen and heard during the spring. They aren’t where they want to be yet when it comes to elite players across the board, but coming out of spring without serious concerns at some positions like they had in the previous three years is an important step in the right direction for the program.

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