Blue and Gold Illustrated

December 2019

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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6 DECEMBER 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI A mong Notre Dame's 22-man schol- arship freshman class signed in the 2019 recruiting cycle, three had major roles while the other 19 preserved a fifth season of eligibility by not play- ing in more than four games (if any). That doesn't mean all 19 will re- turn for a fifth season with the Fight- ing Irish in 2023. Chances are the total won't even reach half that, with Notre Dame gen- erally carrying four to eight fifth-year players on scholarship. This year it was slot Chris Finke, offensive lineman Trevor Ruhland, linebacker Asmar Bilal and cornerback Shaun Crawford. Here is the breakdown of the 22- man class in 2019 prior to the game at Stanford Nov. 30. PLAYED MAJOR ROLES (3) Punter Jay Bramblett, safety Kyle Hamilton and defensive tackle Ja- cob Lacey Bramblett started every game and responded well in his rookie season. Through 11 games, his 53 punts had only 65 yards in returns, and 16 times the opponent had to start inside its 20-yard line. Plus, the former high school star quarterback's best play came as a holder when he calmly handled a low snap and positioned the ball well for junior Jonathan Doerer to kick the win- ning extra point in the closing seconds of the 21-20 win versus Virginia Tech. In a part-time role, Hamilton not only led the team in interceptions with four — second most ever by an Irish freshman, behind Luther Brad- ley's six in 1973 — but was second in passes defended (five) and seventh in tackles (35). Everything about him spells future All-American. Lacey averaged 21 snaps per game in the 10 contests he appeared and was well advanced beyond his years physically and mentally. "He's so smart as a football player," head coach Brian Kelly praised. "Very rarely does he make a mistake in terms of his alignment in his as- signment. He was a very talented player coming in, and a lot of these guys usually are. "But some of the things that they can't translate early on are the com- plexity of what we're doing, moving the fronts, lining correctly. He's impec- cable in the assignment-related things that the defensive line has to do … There's a lot of trust with Jacob Lacey." PLAYED FOUR GAMES AND THEN SAT (7) Running back Kyren Williams, of- fensive linemen Zeke Correll and Andrew Kristofic, defensive tackle Howard Cross III, linebackers Jack Kiser and Marist Liufau, and corner- back KJ Wallace The goal was to get a taste of play- ing time that was earned without re- linquishing a season of eligibility. Williams played in the first four con- tests, carrying four times for 26 yards, catching one pass for three yards and returning two kickoffs for 35 yards. Kiser and Liufau were standouts in the preseason to the point that the coaching staff wanted them on spe- cial teams. Kiser started on special teams the first four games, and Liu- fau made such a strong impression that he was specifically used against four of the best foes on the schedule: Georgia, Virginia, USC and Michigan. Once Cross played his fourth game (Nov. 16 versus Navy), he was cut off from any more action. In the 40-7 win versus Boston College the next week, fellow freshman tackle Hunter Spears was used in his place because it was only the third game for Spears, who played 15 snaps versus the Eagles. PLAYED LESS THAN FOUR GAMES (8) Defensive end Isaiah Foskey (3), cor- nerback Cam Hart (3), defensive tackle Hunter Spears (3), safety Litchfield Ajavon (2), linebacker JD Bertrand (2), quarterback Brendon Clark (2), line- backer Osita Ekwonu (2) and defen- sive end NaNa Osafo-Mensah (2) Most of the game action came in the romps versus New Mexico (66-14) and Bowling Green (52-0). In the case of Foskey, injuries at defensive end to Daelin Hayes and Julian Okwara also resulted in him playing at Duke. The staff did not use him against run-oriented teams Navy and Boston College during blowouts because they wanted to use his fourth and final game against a passing team such as Stanford. "We think he can be a very special player," Kelly said of Foskey the week of the Stanford game. "We feel like the pass rush is going to be very, very im- portant. … We think he can influence the pass rush for us in a positive way." DID NOT PLAY THIS SEASON (4) Wide receiver Kendall Abdur-Rah- man, offensive tackle Quinn Carroll, offensive guard John Olmstead and cornerback Isaiah Rutherford Carroll tore his ACL in the first week of August training camp. ✦ UNDER THE DOME ROOKIE REPORT Freshmen playing time was used judiciously in 2019 to preserve eligibility Freshman safety Kyle Hamilton led the team in interceptions (four), was second in passes defended (five) and was seventh in tackles (35) through 11 games. PHOTO BY ANDREW VISOCKIS

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