The Notre Dame Fighting Irish will be trying to expand on their 11-1 record from last season, which saw them narrowly miss out on the College Football Playoff, finishing No. 5 in the rankings, one spot behind Cincinnati. Absolute heartbreaking stuff.
A razor-thin Playoff miss like that will push a team to play even harder the following season, and that's what you should expect from Notre Dame football this year. Welcome to the Irish revenge tour.
Marcus Freeman Ushers in a New Era of Irish Football
The Irish have the nation's best secondary, which is saying something after losing safety Kyle Hamilton to the NFL Draft. Head coach Marcus Freeman, Brian Kelly's successor after his departure to LSU, also has the nation's best center anchoring an elite offensive line along with one of the country's best tight ends.
Sure, their running back corps led by Chris Tyree is young, their wide receiver depth may be tested this season, and South Bend's starting quarterback Tyler Buchner is just a sophomore, but still, Notre Dame will be in the playoff hunt once again this season. But that could come crashing down as the Irish open their season in Columbus against the Ohio State Buckeyes, who also missed the Playoff last year.
After that opening game, it is smooth sailing with BYU and USC being the only potential hazards on a fairly easy schedule for the Irish. Seriously, North Carolina and Boston College aren't going to derail the Irish football team. If they can beat OSU on September 3rd, start penciling them into a Playoff spot right then and there. It would be theirs to lose.
And with these five players, they have as good a chance as anyone to compete for a national championship.
Michael Mayer, TE
Michael Mayer enters the year as Pro Football Focus' No. 2 tight end and should be easily in the mix for the Mackey Award, which goes to the nation's top tight end. Mayer has registered 113 catches, 1,290 yards, and nine touchdowns in his two seasons in South Bend. With wideout Avery Davis out for the season after suffering a torn ACL in preseason workouts, Mayer will be a focal point in this offense and an intriguing option on Draft Day in 2023.
Isaiah Foskey, DE
Notre Dame's pass rush is going to be a force this season, especially with Isaiah Foskey coming off the edge. In two seasons with the Irish, he has logged 72 tackles, 15.5 sacks, and six forced fumbles. Foskey is an absolute machine and the star player on a defense that returns most of their starters from an 11-2 season a year ago. The sky's the limit for Isaiah Foskey this year. If he and the Notre Dame defense can continue where they left off last season, we could be talking about Foskey in the conversation for a top-10 NFL Draft pick next spring.
Brandon Joseph, S
Notre Dame went out and added to their elite defense by way of the transfer portal, luring Brandon Joseph over from Northwestern. Joseph was a two-time All-American and two-time All-Big Ten player in his three seasons with the Wildcats, logging 129 tackles, nine INTs, six broken-up passes, one fumble recovery, and a single sack. He led the nation in interceptions in 2020 as well. Notre Dame is hoping Joseph can replace Hamilton, the one large piece to replace from last season.
Jarrett Patterson, C/OG
Four-year starter Jarrett Patterson is an absolute beast on the offensive line. Standing 6-foot-4 and weighing 307 pounds, he is easily an NFL prospect. However, we are hoping he is 100% after suffering a torn pectoral muscle this spring. He is expected back at the start of the season and as the top center in the country, will be key to this elite offensive line.
Cam Hart, CB
Cam Hart started his career as a wide receiver but has since developed into one of Notre Dame's top cornerbacks, the exact opposite journey of Xavier Watts, who is now a wideout for the Irish. We think he could develop into a solid cover corner this year with a strong start to the season. Hart had 42 tackles, two INTs and nine broken-up passes last season.