Notre Dame and the rest of the college football world is in a unique situation over the next few seasons as they try to juggle the 85-man scholarship limit with the extra year of eligibility everyone gained due to Covid-19.
Notre Dame and every other program has unlimited scholarships for 2021, but the Irish have to be back down to 85 by the time the 2022 season starts. The extra year that was granted to each player by the NCAA means Notre Dame will have a lot more players eligible for a fifth-season in 2022, so there will be more decisions to be made in regards to who the staff bring back in 2022, which then in turn impacts the size of the 2022 recruiting class.
Notre Dame could end up with a class as small as 18 and as big as 25, depending on how the next year shakes out. Let's crunch the numbers.
OUT OF ELIGIBILITY
Notre Dame has eight players on the roster that are out of eligibility after this upcoming season. Those players are quarterback Jack Coan, wide receiver Avery Davis, defensive linemen Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and Kurt Hinish, offensive lineman Joshua Lugg, rover Isaiah Pryor, linebacker Drew White and placekicker Jonathan Doerer.
By my count Notre Dame has 16 players eligible for a fifth season in 2022. Those players are running back C'Bo Flemister, wide receivers Kevin Austin, Braden Lenzy, Lawrence Keys III and Joe Wilkins Jr., tight end George Takacs, offensive linemen Jarrett Patterson and John Dirksen, defensive end Justin Ademilola, defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola, linebackers Bo Bauer, Shayne Simon and Paul Moala, safeties Houston Griffith and DJ Brown, and cornerback TaRiq Bracy.
Notre Dame bringing back half those players would make for a big fifth-year class, and bringing back just seven could ultimately be the most likely option. The fewer fifth-years the more players the Irish can land in the 2022 class.
I expect Griffith, two receivers, at least one Ademilola, Bauer and Simon to return. Patterson's decision will be determined by his draft positioning following next season.
EARLY NFL ENTREES/TRANSFERS/MEDICAL ISSUES
If seven graduate players return it leaves Notre Dame with 17 open scholarships for the 2022 class. As is the case every season for Notre Dame and every other program, there will be other departures from the roster besides just graduating. There will be early NFL departures, transfers and possibly medical issues that end a career or two.
I would be a bit surprised if Kyle Hamilton and Kyren Williams are on the roster in 2022. Both are among the best returning players in the country at their position, and running backs rarely stay for a fourth season when they get back-to-back heavy workloads. It also doesn't appear to be a loaded running back class, which could add even more incentive to Williams going pro after this season.
There aren't any other players that I project to be early NFL departures right now, but I would not have assumed Tommy Tremble would have been an early NFL entrant and third-round pick a year ago at this time. Nationally, I'm not sure anyone saw Zach Wilson (BYU), Greg Newsome (Northwestern) or Javonte Williams (North Carolina) as top 40 picks either.
Players who could boost their draft stock significantly with breakout seasons are offensive lineman Jarrett Patterson, defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola and defensive end Isaiah Foskey.
I would expect the combination of early departures to the NFL, transfers and medical hardships to get to at least five.
If I'm accurate with the numbers and departures it would put the Notre Dame scholarship total for 2022 to be 22. If there is a surprise early departure for the NFL, if Notre Dame decides to bring back fewer fifth-year players than expected or if there is an extra additional transfer or two it would allow the Irish to get up to 25.
Check back later today to get a breakdown on how the 22-25 player 2022 recruiting class could look like.
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