Notre Dame Football’s Top 25 Most Important Players, No. 8: Clarence Lewis
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Notre Dame’s Top 25 Most Important Players, No. 8: Clarence Lewis

Throughout July, will feature a countdown of the 25 most pivotal figures counted on to help lead Notre Dame back to the College Football Playoff in 2021.

This is not necessarily about who is the best player or the top pro prospect. It’s more along the lines of individuals that need to either emerge, remain a centerpiece or significantly elevate their production to help Irish reach that goal.

Much is based on talent and impact, but a premium is also placed on these questions: 1) If you subtracted this individual from the roster, how much of a setback would it be? 2) If this less proven player emerges and makes an impact, how much does that raise the ceiling (or lower it, if a breakout does not happen as expected)?

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Notre Dame Fighting Irish football sophomore cornerback Clarence Lewis
Lewis emerged as a starter at cornerback at the end of his freshman season. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

The players and their rankings were determined by vote from five staff members.

Next in the countdown is sophomore cornerback Clarence Lewis, who collected 83 points in our poll.

Why Lewis Is Ranked No. 8

Lewis' true freshman season was one for the books. He started six times, made 33 tackles and broke up seven passes. His emergence at field corner has been big for a Notre Dame defense that is set to start Cam Hart, who didn't start a single game last season, at boundary.

Lewis plays like a veteran, and the country has taken notice. He earned second-team Freshman All-America honors from The Athletic. He was the ACC Defensive Back of the Week for his 12-tackle performance against North Carolina.

Lewis set the tone for his sophomore season with the fifth and sixth starts of his career in the ACC Championship Game and College Football Playoff. He's expected to double that total in 2021.

With the way the game has shifted to more of a focus on throwing the football, it's important for teams like Notre Dame with postseason aspirations to have lockdown corners. Lewis is on his way to becoming one for the Irish.

Lewis’ Status Entering The Season

The departure of Nick McCloud has given way to Lewis to start at field corner. Notre Dame brought McCloud in as a graduate transfer so the Irish could have experience on the back end. This year, Notre Dame is relying on Lewis.

Lewis went to South Bend as a three-star recruit. He wasn’t supposed to be in this position so soon, but here he is. It'll be important for Lewis to avoid a sophomore slump. If he does, Notre Dame could easily turn to senior TaRiq Bracy at field corner.

Bracy wasn’t great in his junior season last year, but he still started five times. He is dependable enough to get reps at an important position. Lewis, though, appears to have an edge over Bracy as a starter going into the fall.

What Would Be Considered A Successful Individual Season?

Lewis should have two goals for 2021: lead Notre Dame in passes defended and record the first interception of his career. It's hard to ask for more than one for cornerbacks that quarterbacks tend to stay away from. If Lewis has the type of season everyone expects, then QBs won't want to look his way often.

Lewis ranked second on the team in passes defended last season behind only McCloud. With McCloud gone, Lewis is now the leader of the cornerback room despite only being in his second season with the program.

Sure, Notre Dame also has a senior in Bracy at the position. He has plenty of experience, but it's not looking likely he'll start over Lewis. Not early on, at least. That makes Lewis a key cog for the Irish.

A successful season for Lewis would be starting every game, being able to square up with the opposition's best receivers and being someone the Irish defensive backs can turn to on and off the field.

Behind The Ranking

The top 25 was determined in the same manner as the Associated Press top 25. Five staff members submitted their ballots, and each position on the ballot was given a point value. The top ranking was worth 25 points, No. 2 was worth 24, No. 3 worth 23 and so on down until No. 25, which was worth one point. The players with the 25 highest point totals made the list.

Individual rankings

Patrick Engel: 12

Tyler Horka: 9

Mike Singer: 6

Todd Burlage: 9

Steve Downey: 11

Prior Top 25 Rankings

No. 25: Jonathan Doerer

No. 24: Marist Liufau

No. 23: Drew Pyne

No. 22: Braden Lenzy

No. 21: Jayson Ademilola

No. 20: Chris Tyree

No. 19: Avery Davis

No. 18: Josh Lugg

No. 17: Houston Griffith

No. 16: Cam Hart

No. 15: Zeke Correll

No. 14: Blake Fisher

No. 13: Kurt Hinish

No. 12: Jack Kiser

No. 11: Drew White

No. 10: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa

No. 9: Kevin Austin



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