Thoughts on Notre Dame football, its recruiting efforts and college football
POTENTIAL NOTRE DAME ALL-AMERICAN BREAKOUTS
Notre Dame had five players earn first or second-team All-American honors in 2020, and just two of those players are slated to return this fall (Kyle Hamilton, Kyren Williams). Both will have opportunities to continue being among the nation's best at their position, and there are three other Notre Dame players that I have my eye on for breakout All-American campaigns.
Michael Mayer, Tight End - Mayer was a freshman All-American this past season but now the Kentucky native gets a crack at becoming one of the nation's best overall tight ends. Mayer had a fantastic freshman season, finishing sixth nationally among tight ends in catches (42) and 10th in receiving yards (450). Mayer is clearly Notre Dame's most talented pass catching option and he'll likely be even more of a focal point of the offense this season, so there's a good chance his numbers will take a jump forward.
The key for Mayer is Notre Dame's coaches looking for more ways to use him for big plays. Mayer made his living working the short to intermediate zones, and he showed a rare ability to make plays after the catch for a tight end. Him getting more changes to work up the seams and the deep zones on horizontal routes will help him generate more big plays.
I'm most interested to see how Notre Dame uses him in the red zone. Mayer had just two touchdowns as a rookie, but with a year of experience he should become a far more impactful red zone weapon.
Jarrett Patterson, Offensive Line - Patterson was one of the nation's best centers last season prior to him missing the final four games with an injury. Often overshadowed by his All-American linemates (Liam Eichenberg and Aaron Banks were consensus All-Americans in 2020), Patterson is now the veteran and start of the offensive line.
We don't yet know for certain what position he'll play, but right now he is slated to play guard. Whether that remains true or he moves to tackle, Patterson enters the season with a reputation for being one of the nation's best interior blockers. If we're being honest part of being an All-American is entering the season with an already established reputation and playing at a program that is often given the benefit of the doubt at a certain position. Both things are true for Patterson.
If he's back to full strength I expect Patterson to provide the inexperienced line with a great deal of veteran leadership, but even more importantly Patterson has the tools and opportunity to become a dominant blocker.
Jayson Ademilola, Defensive Tackle - The first two predictions aren't surprising, or reaches, but the next couple of more risky predictions because there is a big jump needed for both players. Let's begin with Ademilola, who I've been told by multiple sources had an absolutely dominating spring, which comes after he was outstanding against Clemson and Alabama to end the season.
Ademilola has shown flashes of being a big-time player going all the way back to his freshman season. He graded out as Notre Dame's best interior run defender in 2018 and 2019 on a per-snap basis, and in 2020 he was the defense's best interior pass rusher. Now a senior, Ademilola is looking to put it all together.
The New Jersey native needs to stay healthy, that is key number one. He was on the verge of a breakout in 2019 and 2020 before going down with an injury. If he stays healthy he'll get a chance to produce at a higher level. If he stays healthy and is motivated (and I believe he is), Ademilola could have a Sheldon Day type of senior season. He could emerge as Notre Dame's best big man, and if the Irish defense is as good as I think it will be in 2021, being its best defensive lineman will put Ademilola on the All-American radar.
Jack Kiser, Rover - Kiser had just 20 tackles as a sophomore, so predicting him to all of a sudden become an All-American is certainly a leap of faith, but there are two reasons I'm going out on that ledge. One, the rover position is an important one in the Marcus Freeman defense. Two, Kiser is really, really athletic and talented.
Freeman's 2020 Rover (Jarell White) was on pace for 100 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, four sacks and three interceptions if the Bearcats would have played a full season. With all due respect to White, Kiser is a longer and more athletic football player, and if Kiser puts up those kinds of numbers at Notre Dame he's on the All-American radar. Kiser was impressive all spring, showing the ability to make plays in space against the run, to handle perimeter throws and his coverage skills stood out in video clips and the Blue-Gold Game.
Kiser is stepping into the spotlight as a replacement for Notre Dame's top All-American in 2021 - Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah - so he'll have eyes on him already. If he steps up and performs early he'll get on people's radar, and if he plays at the all-around level I believe he can there's no doubt he'll make a push for All-American honors.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR ON THE TRANSFER MARKET
Notre Dame recently offered Tulsa grad transfer cornerback Akayleb Evans, a long and talented cover player. Notre Dame will have to battle Texas to land him, but there's no doubt Evans would improve the Irish roster.
I get asked a lot about transfers, and what I would do or believe Notre Dame should do when it comes to transfers. I'm not opposed at all to landing transfers, but I do have concerns about the transfer market not being handled properly. There's a reason programs like Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State are picky about how they go about the transfer market.
Below is my opinion of how Notre Dame should handle the transfer market.
*** Focus on players with multiple years of eligibility. One thing I like about Evans is that he has two seasons of eligibility remaining. Perhaps he would depart for the NFL after the 2021 season, but you'd be landing him with the possibility of multiple seasons of eligibility. It's harder for Notre Dame to get non-graduates, but those type of players, for me, are better than one-year transfers.
*** Focus on the talent, not the experience. If you simply have young players at a position I'm not sure I'd look at a transfer unless that veteran is a significant talent upgrade over the younger players. One exception to that is when you have injury questions at a position, which is why I was on board for Notre Dame getting Jack Coan at quarterback. Otherwise I'd rather see the Notre Dame staff focusing on coaching up their younger or more inexperienced players instead of beginning what can become a cycle of needing to fill a position with transfers.
That's a concern I have at cornerback and wide receiver, and its why I do not want Notre Dame to bring in a transfer at wide receiver or offensive line unless we are talking about a high-talent player with multiple years of eligibility.
*** Difference makers. When we are talking about a player that significantly upgrades the roster that changes my hesitancy with transfers. Whether its a one-year player or a player with multiple seasons left, if a transfer is a difference maker that provides a significant talent upgrade than I'm all for it, but those players tend to be very, very rare. I believe Evans is that kind of player.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
I recently sat down with Alain Poupart of All Dolphins to talk about how former Notre Dame All-American offensive tackle Liam Eichenberg fits in with the Miami Dolphins.
Notre Dame is already after some of the nation's best 2023 quarterbacks, and we broke down the 12 names you need to know at the position.
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