Irish Players Make Pre-Season All-American Lists

Notre Dame All-American

Notre Dame players are well-represented on the pre-season All-American lists in the annuals recently released by Lindy’s Sports, Athlon Sports, and Phil Steele. The Irish have received their share of pre-season attention this year, and it has continued with the 2024 college football preview magazines. The All-American lists include five Irish players—defensive tackle Howard Cross III; safety Xavier Watts; kick returner Jayden Harrison; cornerback Benjamin Morrison; and tight end Mitchell Evans.

Howard Cross III

Each of the three publishers name Cross as a first-team All-American. And rightfully so. It is debatable who the best player on Notre Dame’s stacked defense is for the coming season. But Cross must be in the conversation. Cross concluded last season second on the team with 66 tackles, including seven for a loss. He also recorded a pair of sacks and forced a pair of fumbles. Cross was instrumental in securing Notre Dame’s comeback victory over Duke last season. He forced a fumble from then Duke quarterback and new teammate Riley Leonard in the waning minutes of that game, preserving the Irish win.

Xavier Watts

Lindy’s Sports and Phil Steele name Watts as a first-team All-American, while Athlon has him as second team. Last season Watts led the nation with seven interceptions. His exploits earned him the Bronco Nagurski Trophy as the nation’s best defensive player. A standout on the Irish defense, Watts had 52 tackles a year ago, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. It was quite a season for Watts, who started as a wide receiver when he arrived at Notre Dame. He transitioned to defense in 2021. The upcoming season will mark his fifth and final with the program.

Jayden Harrison

Athlon and Phil Steele have Harrison on the first team. Lindy’s Sports did not include return specialists on its list. A new weapon for the Irish, Harrison began his collegiate career at Vanderbilt in 2020 before transferring to Marshall. He will use his final year of eligibility playing for Notre Dame. The speedster returned two kickoffs for touchdowns last year for Marshall, tying him for second among all FBS players. He racked up 705 return yards on 23 returns a year ago, including a 98-yard return. Harrison played in all 13 games for Marshall, starting in four. As a wide receiver, he caught 28 passes for 410 yards.

Benjamin Morrison

Morrison is listed as second team on both Lindy’s Sports and Athlon. Morrison played in 12 games a season ago. He recorded 31 tackles, and 25 solo, including 3.5 tackles for loss. He finished the season second on the team with three interceptions and led the Irish with 10 pass breakups. Morrison ranks among the country’s best cornerbacks, and he was a Thorpe Award semifinalist in 2023. The junior underwent shoulder surgery this past spring. He is projected by most experts to be a first-round draft pick in the 2025 NFL Draft.

Mitchell Evans

Evans is second team on Athlon’s and third team on Lindy’s Sports and Phil Steele. Evans was quarterback Sam Hartman’s go-to target during much of last season. He ran up 422 yards on 29 receptions last season before suffering an ACL injury against Pittsburgh in October. Evans played in eight games as a junior, starting seven, and averaged 52.8 yards per game. Evans proved he was one of the nation’s top tight ends before the injury. If healthy, he will be expected to serve in a similar capacity for Riley Leonard this year.

With five players on the pre-season All-American lists, Notre Dame’s 2024 season appears loaded with potential. Cross, Watts, Harrison, Morrison, and Evans can be counted on to provide veteran leadership. As optimism for the upcoming season continues to grow, these standout talents will be key in leading Notre Dame to new heights in head coach Marcus Freeman‘s third season.


Notre Dame All-American
Photo courtesy: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports


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