Notre Dame Position Battles Rage On
With just over two weeks until the season opener, Notre Dame position battles continue to rage. While the quarterback battle, and other questions, may have been decided, there’s still a lot to figure out as fall camp wears on.
Despite the departure of 2nd-round draft pick Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, the Irish still have a very deep linebacker corps. Drew White is one of the few certainties, as the captain will be playing a majority of the Irish’s defensive snaps. After that, there are further questions about who will step up in starting roles. Asked which defensive players had ‘transformational’ summers like the wide receivers, head coach Brian Kelly didn’t list any linebackers.
Marist Liufau, Shayne Simon, Jack Kiser, and Bo Bauer figure to be factors in the rotation, but there are questions with all three players. Liufau was solid in 2020 but battled Simon all year for a starting position. Liufau may be a slight favorite, but both players could see a lot of snaps at Florida State.
Bauer is a dynamic player who can be paired with White to form a fearsome linebacker duo up the middle. He’ll be getting snaps, but how many is yet to be determined. Then there’s Kiser, who stepped up in a big way at times last season, but does he have starter-level consistency? Isaiah Pryor and JD Bertrand, the latter of whom has had a great fall, waits in the folds if Kelly can’t fully rely on Kiser.
A 3-way Battle At Cornerback
Another room full of questions for the Irish, this position has some intriguing battles. Sophomore Clarence Lewis figures to be the top cornerback for the Irish, but senior Tariq Bracy has looked good in Notre Dame’s fall practices. He was replaced by Lewis as a starter last season and is trying to earn back his role.
Meanwhile, Cam Hart has solidified himself as one of the most athletic players on the team, arguably the second fastest defensive player, behind Kyle Hamilton. Hart is a converted corner so his technique needs to have improved in order to be a reliable starter. If he does, however, the Irish could have three starting-caliber cornerbacks, which isn’t a bad problem to have. Kelly listed Lewis, Bracy, and Hart as three of the most improved players defensively, which gives new defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman an unexpected luxury. With three vastly improved corners, the battle for the starting roles is one worth watching down the stretch of Notre Dame’s fall camp.
Replacing Tommy Tremble
Michael Mayer is an outstanding player, and he showed that from the moment he stepped on campus. However, Tommy Tremble may have been even more critical to the offensive success last season, despite minimal pass-catching contributions. A 3rd-round pick of the Carolina Panthers, Tremble was a physical and gritty tight end who excelled as a run-blocker. Devastating both at the line and downfield in assisting with big runs, Tremble was a force for the Irish. When he was injured in the 2021 Rose Bowl, Notre Dame struggled to generate much of a rushing offense. This year, Mayer returns, but there is an interesting battle to replace Tremble.
The odds-on favorite is George Takacs, who figures to be second on the tight end depth chart. Takacs appeared occasionally in Notre Dame’s brutal four tight-end sets last year and looked good in the spring. But there’s plenty of promising youth on the depth chart behind Takacs. Sophomore Kevin Bauman is an intriguing option while freshmen Cane Berrong and Mitchell Evans put together strong spring efforts. Takacs again figures to be the main option, but offensive coordinator Tommy Rees loves his tight ends and may utilize more than two. If so, who’s the third, or even fourth in line to receive offensive snaps? It’ll be a youthful battle to keep an eye on as Notre Dame forges their offensive identity.