Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2020

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

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38 PRESEASON 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI I n last year 's 22-man freshman class, it was perceptible from the outset who "The Big Three" would be with regard to instant playing time. • Punter Jay Bramblett was signed as the immediate replacement for four-year starter Tyler Newsome, and had a quality debut. • Nose tackle Jacob Lacey, who en- rolled early that January with Bram- blett, displayed advanced strength and technique in the spring that be- lied his years. He quickly established himself as veteran Kurt Hinish's backup, played in 12 contests and was credited with 247 snaps (about 20 per game), second in his class to … • In the initial preseason practice at Culver Academies, newly arrived safety Kyle Hamilton intercepted three passes, and in several other practices open to the media his playmaking skills were consistently conspicuous. Although not a starter, Hamilton went on to earn Freshman All-Amer- ica honors while finishing first in in- terceptions (four), tied for second in passes broken up (six) and seventh in tackles (41) for the Irish. They were the lone three members in their class to burn their freshman year of eligibility. Most of the other 19 ei- ther saw mop-up time in several blow- outs or were utilized judiciously in the four-game allotment permitted by the NCAA so they would still have a fifth year of eligibility in 2023, if wanted. More than ever in 2020, preserving a fifth year for the freshmen likely is inconsequential because this August the NCAA Board of Governors ap- proved granting an extra year of eligi- bility to all fall sports athletes because of the current COVID-19 pandemic. THIS YEAR'S MAINSTAYS Despite the landmark measure by the NCAA, the 17-man freshman class signed by Notre Dame this year won't be inserted into action indiscriminately or without having earned their time. What appears fairly evident is "The Big Three" from the 2020 haul should be part of the rotation, although how much is far less clear. That trio is comprised of those who were ranked among Rivals' top 100 players: wide receiver Jordan Johnson (No. 28), tight end Michael Mayer (No. 36) and running back Chris Tyree (No. 78). Johnson is Notre Dame's first five- star wideout recruit since Michael Floyd in 2008, and Mayer the high- est-rated tight end for the Fighting Irish since Kyle Rudolph in that same year. Tyree is the first Rivals top-100 running back landed by Notre Dame since Greg Bryant in 2013. Because practices are closed to the media, lone video clips (which have been a couple minutes' worth) have been offered by Notre Dame's Fight- ing Irish media relations office. Per- haps it's not been by accident that the aforementioned triumvirate has been included, most prominently an ap- proximately 75-yard catch-and-run touchdown by Johnson on a middle screen pass from reserve quarterback Brendon Clark. "They're at high-profile positions, and they're extremely skilled," head coach Brian Kelly summarized on Aug. 17, after five practices. With no alpha figures returning at running back and wide receiver, especially with junior wideout Kevin Austin sidelined through at least September, the door for playing time is ajar for Tyree and Johnson. "I don't know that we've had a freshman like Tyree that can come in and carry the football," said Kelly, perhaps forgetting that three-star re- cruit Josh Adams romped for a fresh- man school-record 835 yards in 2015. "That doesn't happen quite a bit. Jor- dan Johnson has made some plays for us. That doesn't happen a lot." Especially pertinent is back in December, the recruiting weights of Tyree and Johnson were listed at 179 and 180, respectively. They pur- portedly are getting into the 190-195 range, and Tyree in particular graded out well in performance testing. ROOKIE REPORT The "Big Three" recruits from the past cycle are projected to provide some impact in 2020 Chris Tyree (No. 25), the first Rivals top-100 running back landed by the Fighting Irish since Greg Bryant in 2013, impressed head coach Brian Kelly during training camp. PHOTO COURTESY FIGHTING IRISH MEDIA

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