For a while, the Blue and Gold Game was set up as a quarterback showcase. Drew Pyne and Tyler Buchner are duking it out for the starting role, and the game was a big chance for both. Now, that’s not as much a storyline, as Buchner is out with a rolled ankle. Pyne’s play is still going to be very interesting to watch, particularly as he suits up for both teams. That latter fact means Irish fans can see his chemistry with the full assortment of available receivers (and maybe most importantly, Michael Mayer).
But with less of a quarterback battle to watch, here’s a look at eight non-Pyne/Buchner headlines to watch in the Blue and Gold game.
A Goalkeeper At Kicker
Notre Dame soccer was the Irish’s most successful team this past fall, advancing to the College Cup. Central to their final four push was goalkeeper Bryan Dowd. The rising junior pitched two shutouts and then saved two penalty kicks in the NCAA Tournament to win three games. However, amidst Dowd’s heroics, there was a forgotten fact. The goaltender came to South Bend as a two-sport athlete. And for the first time, Irish fans will see Dowd lace up his football cleats, kicking for the blue team. Listed as a kicker/punter, Dowd’s role is not determined. However, how he performs is an interesting storyline, with both kicking and punting duties up for grabs.
Third-string quarterback battle
It’s not the quarterback battle fans hoped to see, but don’t forget about this battle for the QB3 role. Ron Powlus III and freshman Steven Angeli will play for opposing teams and spell Drew Pyne in the Blue and Gold Game. Angeli and Powlus will compete for that critical third quarterback spot on the roster. With Buchner out for injury, there are some mild concerns about the durability. But the third-string quarterback could find themselves in an important backup role this fall. And down the road, nothing is certain with future quarterback recruiting, so it’s a battle to watch with some long-term implications.
First Full Look At Brandon Joseph
This is more about anticipation. Brandon Joseph replaces surefire first-round pick Kyle Hamilton at safety. He’s been playing well this spring. But can he truly replace Hamilton? How much of that freshman All-American talent came over from Northwestern? For Irish fans, they hope that every bit of it remains. It’ll be curious to see how Joseph and other safeties are utilized. Practices have featured aggressive blitz packages involving safeties, and Joseph also excels in man coverage. How will his versatility be utilized?
Marist Liufau Is Back from injury
Marist Liufau looked primed for a breakout season last season before his season-ending injury. Jumping back into the flow, this spring and Liufau looks ready to perform in 2022. The Irish must replace Drew White in 2022 – can Lifau step up and take on that rover role? How much of an impact does he have on the Blue team defense?
The Running Backs
Chris Tyree is listed as questionable, so he’s unlikely to play much in this contest. Assuming that, freshman Jadarian Price is the primary running back for the Gold Team. It’s already an interesting development that he gets this role instead of sophomore Audric Estime. Rather, Estime plays on the Blue Team with Logan Diggs. All three backs will get plenty of reps. What’s the role for each back, and what the split of snaps look like is certainly a storyline to watch.
Lorenzo Styles And Deion Colzie On The same roster
Given the split of receivers, it was an interesting development to see Lorenzo Styles and Deion Colzie both drafted by the Blue Team. The sophomores are critical to Notre Dame’s offensive scheme in 2022. Styles brings electrifying speed, and Colzie offers size the Irish haven’t had since Chase Claypool. How will the Irish utilize their two sophomores in the same offensive scheme? It’s an intriguing question and one that could be an early preview of a significant portion of the passing attack this fall.
Defensive Line Depth
Isaiah Foskey is unlikely to play, or at least not much. Jayson Ademilola is out, and Justin Ademilola is in a similar position as Foskey. The depth at the defensive line has been a heralded storyline this spring, and the Irish can flaunt it in the Blue and Gold Game. Potential new starters Howard Cross and Rylie Mills were the first defensive line selections. Gabriel Rubio and Jacob Lacey should also get some run on the interior defensive line. Similarly, reserve edge rushers NaNa Osafo-Mensah and Alex Ehrensberger also have opportunities to solidify themselves as depth options behind Mills, Justin Ademilola, and Foskey.
Freshmen Aiden Gobaira, Tyson Ford, and Joshua Burnham are potential Year-1 contributors, and their Saturday efforts will be a talking point. And don’t forget about sophomore Jason Onye. Coaches have lauded Onye’s rapid improvement since arriving as a three-star from Rhode Island. Is he a guy that could force his way into some defensive packages in 2022? Every single player in this position grouping is worth watching.
No Cam Hart or Tariq Bracy available limits the number of impact corners in the Blue and Gold Game. And then Clarence Lewis and Ryan Barnes took their talents to the Blue Team. That leaves true freshman Jaden Mickey as the clear No. 1 cornerback for the Gold Team. And that means Mickey should get a host of reps against Colzie and Styles, particularly in the early portions of the game. Mickey’s an intriguing four-star prospect, and the Irish’s secondary is widely considered the weaker part of their defense. A strong showing from Mickey goes a long way towards boosting confidence in the unit heading into the summer.