Blue and Gold Illustrated

January 2021

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

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20 JANUARY 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED 2. Clarence Lewis — One of the least heralded members of the 2020 freshman class, by the opener he was listed among a half-dozen other cor- nerback candidates as the co-starter at the field spot with junior TaRiq Bracy, who led the team in passes broken up last year. Lewis' emer- gence also helped prompt the move of Crawford to safety. By November, Lewis took over as the full-time starter, finishing second in passes broken up (seven) and fifth in tackles (33). His football acumen instantly prompted comparisons to 2012 Freshman All-American KeiV- arae Russell. 3. Matt Salerno — Back in August we could have given you 50 guesses on who would be Notre Dame's No. 1 punt return man in 2020 — and you probably still wouldn't have given the right answer with this junior walk-on. If that doesn't constitute a surprise, we don't know what does. MOST UNDERRATED 1. Ade Ogundeji — One of the best testaments to Notre Dame's develop- ment program, the former Western Michigan commit blossomed into a bona fide pro in his fifth season, pacing the Irish in sacks (seven) and quarterback hurries (seven) while also holding the point of the attack versus the run. He played the most snaps (483) among the defensive linemen. 2. Nick McCloud — The North Carolina State graduate transfer qui- etly provided a quality campaign at boundary corner, leading the team in passes broken up (eight) while sup- plying much-needed experience and leadership on the back end. 3. Ben Skowronek — As a North- western graduate transfer, he was the offense's version of McCloud. Side- lined early with a hamstring injury, the 6-foot-3 wideout emerged as a reliable target and blocker with his 220-pound frame, finishing with 526 snaps, a 15.1-yard average on his 29 catches and a team-high five scoring receptions. BEST 'NEXT OPTION' In the past we've titled this "top role player," but this trio played enough to be a level above with their specialties. 1. Tommy Tremble — Although the junior tight end did catch 19 passes for 218 yards, never has a television camera focused so much on a Notre Dame player 's crunch- ing isolation blocks. He relished and thrived in that capacity, helping forge the team's blue-collar tough- ness identity. 2. Isaiah Foskey — When the "eye test" is used to evaluate a player, this 6-5, 257-pound sophomore defensive end has future first-rounder written all over him once he complements his pass-rushing explosiveness with more consistent stoutness versus the run. In 282 snaps, he was second on the line in tackles (20), sacks (4.5) and quarterback hurries (five), with frequent momentum-altering plays. 3. Bo Bauer — A special teams ter- ror in 2019, the junior middle line- backer was a prime figure in the nickel or dime third-down packages thanks to improving the mental as- pect of the game. In his part-time role he finished seventh with 26 tackles, which included 4.5 for loss, while he added three QB hurries and inter- cepted a pass. FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR 1. Michael Mayer — Wow! Sel- dom have we seen a rookie at any position more physically advanced, technically sound, mentally mature and primed as a playmaker — and that goes back to future first-round picks and past standards such as de- fensive tackle Steve Niehaus (1972), defensive end Ross Browner, safety Luther Bradley (1973) and tight end Ken MacAfee (1974), when freshman eligibility was in its infancy. At an already well-stocked posi- Rookie tight end Michael Mayer tied for the team lead with 42 receptions and gained 450 receiving yards — both new Notre Dame freshman records at his position. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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