Notre Dame 2021 Spring Preview: Career Starts
Notre Dame’s 2021 spring drills are projected to begin a week from today (Saturday, March 27), although nothing official has yet been declared by the school.
Unofficially, it could be said the Fighting Irish return only two starters among 11 from last year’s offense when including at least half the season, although “starting” can have different definitions.
Defensively among the top 11, the number can go be listed as high as six returning starters when including co-starting roles. Meanwhile, special teams will feature third-year starters in kicker Jonathan Doerer and punter Jay Bramblett, while long-snapper brings back Michael Vinson.
Listed are the career starts breakdown on offense and defense at Notre Dame exclusively, with the parentheses indicating the number of starts made in 2020:
OFFENSE: WHAT'S MY LINE?
C Jarrett Patterson — 21 (8)
RB Kyren Williams — 12 (12)
OL Josh Lugg — 8 (3)
WR Avery Davis — 4 (4)
WR Lawrence Keys — 3 (0)
TE Michael Mayer — 3 (3)
WR Braden Lenzy — 3 (1)
C Zeke Correll — 2 (2)
G Dillan Gibbons 1 (1)
Note: Wisconsin graduate transfer quarterback Jack Coan has 18 career starts, 14 in 2019 and four in 2018.
• Last year Notre Dame returned a program record 114 career starts along the offensive line, but four of the five are now off to the NFL. This year the number is reduced to 32 career starts.
Yet even with center Patterson, who had foot surgery last November and likely will be limited this spring, he might be in for a position switch (he was recruited as a left tackle) if rising junior Correll seizes the role at center.
• Lugg started the final five games at right tackle in 2019, but also has experience at guard and center.
• No one better reflects how “starting” can be mislabeled than tight end Mayer. Although as a freshman he officially started only three games, his 564 snaps, or 47 per game, were the most at his position group, ahead of Tommy Tremble’s 472. Tremble turned pro after his junior year.
• Davis was technically the “starting” slot, but because Notre Dame employed two- and three-tight end sets frequently, he had way fewer snaps than Mayer and Tremble — and even former No. 3 tight end Brock Wright had 345 snaps compared to Davis’s 385.
• Although popular opinion last pre-season held that Notre Dame would have a “running back by committee,” Williams monopolized the playing time with 597 snaps (about 50 per game), while freshman Chris Tyree was next with 192 (about 16 per contest).
DEFENSE: MIDDLE IS CENTERPIECE
NT Kurt Hinish — 25 (12)
MLB Drew White — 24 (12)
DT Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa — 21 (9)
S Kyle Hamilton —12 (11)
LB Shayne Simon — 8 (8)
CB TaRiq Bracy — 8 (6)
CB Clarence Lewis — 6 (6)
S Houston Griffith — 3 (2)
LB Marist Liufau — 3 (3)
DT Jayson Ademilola — 2 (2)
LB Jack Kiser — 1 (1)
DT Rylie Mills — 1 (1)
• Hinish is the lone returning player on offense or defense who has started every game the past two seasons, although White is close.
• Similar to the offensive line last year, Notre Dame’s 2021 strength is up the middle with interior tackles Hinish and Tagovailoa-Amosa, middle linebacker White and 2020 All-American free safety Hamilton. Furthermore, the depth is strong at both tackle spots as well as with senior Bo Bauer playing regularly behind White at the Mike spot.
• Defensive end had two captains apiece in 2019 (Khalid Kareem and Julian Okwara) and 2020 (Ade Ogundeji and Daelin Hayes). This year it will be led by junior-to-be Isaiah Foskey, who played 282 snaps last year, or about 24 per game.
• Interestingly, Foskey’s snap count last year was barely behind Will starting linebacker Simon (297), who split action with Liufau (206) and Kiser (129).
• Establishing a successor to Butkus Award winner Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah at rover will be a top storyline. Interestingly, his backup last year, former Ohio State grad transfer Isaiah Pryor, is now listed at safety.
That could lead to senior Paul Moala (sidelined with an Achilles injury last year) or maybe Kiser as options at rover.
• Talk about it inside Rockne’s Roundtable.
• Learn more about our print and digital publication, Blue & Gold Illustrated.
• Watch our videos and subscribe to our YouTube channel.
• Sign up for Blue & Gold's news alerts and daily newsletter.
• Subscribe to our podcast on Apple Podcasts.
• Like us on Facebook.