What are the Notre Dame transfer portal options this offseason? As the Irish close the book on an 11-2 season that ended with a new head coach, it’s time to look at ways to improve. The Irish are in line to potentially return as many as ten offensive starters. They’ll also have two quarterbacks with some experience in Drew Pyne and Tyler Buchner.
Right now, Notre Dame enters a championship window. To this point, it feels like the Irish have been building and dipping their feet in the water. But not until Saturday did they look capable of staying on the field with a true top 10 team. 2022-2023 were the years circled on the calendar as the years of Tyler Buchner. With him and/or Pyne under center, and experienced returners elsewhere, the potential is there. The Irish are not shy about utilizing the transfer portal. While their academic restrictions make it tougher, they’ve landed some significant names in recent years. 2020 wide receiver Ben Skowronek and 2021 quarterback Jack Coan were major contributors in one-year stints with Notre Dame. So where could Notre Dame look for upgrades for a potential title run in 2022?
5 Notre Dame Transfer Portal Options
Brandon Joseph, Safety
This name is at this point quite familiar to Notre Dame fans. Brandon Joseph is an elite safety who could fill the void left by Kyle Hamilton. He was an All-American in 2020 and notched nine interceptions over the past two seasons. Joseph naturally fits in as an elite defensive player that could immediately start for Notre Dame. More specifically, it could allow some Irish players to move back to their natural position. The Irish started Ramon Henderson, a converted corner, at safety down the stretch in 2021. Moving Henderson back to corner could give the Irish some needed depth at the position. Joseph is a game-changing, ball-hawking safety. Frankly, he’s the type of elite talent a national championship team pursues and is an instant starter in South Bend.
Taj Harris, Wide Receiver, Syracuse
The second Notre Dame transfer portal option is Taj Harris. Harris was an elite talent at Syracuse who apparently got fed up with the Orange’s run-heavy and anemic offense. After Notre Dame set all kinds of passing records in the Fiesta Bowl, they can really recruit Harris to come be their #1 receiver. The Irish return Braden Lenzy and Lorenzo Styles as starters. Avery Davis is also a candidate to return for a sixth and final season.
That being said, Harris has more pedigree than all of those names. His 58 catches for 733 yards in 2021 exceed anything Notre Dame has in terms of returning talent. The biggest questions regarding Harris would be academic eligibility (as always) and also cultural fit. Harris was a bit of a controversial figure in New York, and a player leaving midseason raises eyebrows. However, Harris brings depth and some additional talent at a position of need. It’s worth looking into.
Mario Williams, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma
Mario Williams is a bit of a longshot, but this would be an absolutely massive move for the Irish. Likely, South Carolina (with former Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler) or Florida State (Williams is a Florida native who considered the Seminoles) are favorites. Williams could also essentially be a package deal with Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams. Granted. the Irish could bring in Williams too – this isn’t unthinkable, but with two solid quarterbacks on the roster, it’s not needed. Also, it would be a horrendous indictment of the Irish’s quarterback development if they felt their two homegrown four-star quarterbacks were still not an upgrade over another transfer.
For the above reasons, Williams is definitely a longshot, which is why Harris may be more likely. A freshman All-American, Williams notched 35 catches for 380 yards. He has two years, at minimum, left in college. Pairing him with Lorenzo Styles is a mouthwatering concept for Notre Dame. As Notre Dame pursues a national championship, adding an additional young talent to go with some experienced veteran could be a fantastic move.
Isaiah Johnson, Edge, Fresno State
Isaiah Johnson is another curious prospect out of Fresno State. The Irish are losing Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa at edge, and they could lose Isaiah Foskey. The defensive line is definitely the source of some immediate questions for 2022. There’s a distinct possibility all four starters are not there next season. However, the Irish have plenty of depth on the interior with players that stepped up throughout the 2021 season. So the edge should be the bigger priority if Notre Dame wants to pursue an upgrade.
Johnson doesn’t necessarily represent an instant upgrade. However, he has two years of eligibility left and twelve career starts at Fresno State. Over his time with the Bulldogs, Johnson notched four sacks and seven tackles for loss. Should Notre Dame see maximum losses from the defensive line, experience and depth should not be overlooked. Johnson brings both of these qualities to the table.
Jackson Sirmon, Linebacker, Washington
Jackson Sirmon is the final Notre Dame transfer portal option featured in this article. If cornerback Cam Hart declares early for the NFL draft, that position likely becomes a bigger need. However, the idea of pursuing Sirmon takes into consideration the loss of Drew White. White has been a massive factor for Notre Dame over their past three seasons and captained the Irish this past season. At Mike linebacker, White leaves a big hole. Sirmon is an inside linebacker and led Washington in tackles this past season. In 2021, he notched 91 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble. Sirmon also has three career fumble recoveries.
As they enter 2022, the Irish have high expectations defensively. While they do have depth at linebacker, the Irish could use the experience that Sirmon brings. White felt like the quarterback of the Irish defense at times, and an external upgrade here allows Jack Kiser and JD Bertrand to stick at rover and weakside linebacker, where they’ve excelled in 2021. Sirmon is not as big a priority, however. The Irish have Marist Liufau returning from injury and an elite recruit in Jaylin Sneed who could play immediately. However, Sneed is a freshman and Liufau is returning from a broken leg. They’re far from certainties, and Sirmon is a potentially intriguing addition.
Main image courtesy: The Spun