Blue and Gold Illustrated

January 2021

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

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Page 20 of 47 JANUARY 2021 21 tion, the premier tight end recruit seized the alpha role with 564 snaps, tied for the team lead with 42 recep- tions, which went for 450 yards — both Notre Dame freshman records at tight end — and supplemented the unit's physical identity. 2. Clarence Lewis — Already noted in the top surprise category, he could become a "cornerstone" on defense in the future. 3. Chris Tyree — In most years this speedster at running back would be the top selection with his 496 yards and 6.8 yards per carry, plus a 20.7 average on his 22 kick returns. ✦ Five Notre Dame Players Enter Transfer Portal In the two days after Notre Dame's loss to Alabama in the College Football Playoff, four Fighting Irish student-athletes entered their names into the NCAA transfer portal: senior wide receiver Jafar Armstrong, senior center Colin Grunhard, junior running back Jahmir Smith and sophomore cornerback Isaiah Rutherford. When BGI went to press on Jan. 4, junior safety Houston Griffith became the fifth, per Yahoo! Sports' Pete Thamel. • Wide receiver recruit Armstrong shifted to running back as a sophomore in 2018 due to the graduations, suspensions and dismissals at the position. He debuted with two touchdowns in the season-opening 24-17 victory versus Michi- gan in 2018, but injuries and the return of Dexter Williams, who served a four-game suspension in the first month, limited his action thereafter. He still finished as the third-leading rusher with 383 yards, had the second-most rushing touchdowns with seven and also snared 14 passes for 159 yards. After Williams' graduation, Armstrong was the starter in the 2019 opener, but suffered an abdominal injury on the opening series and never quite regained full strength. He finished with 122 rushing yards, 2.7 yards per carry and 13 catches for 97 yards. This year, sophomore Kyren Williams, freshman Chris Tyree and junior C 'Bo Flemister all opened the season ahead of him. In his limited action, Armstrong had 17 carries for only eight yards (0.5 yards per carry), caught three passes for 38 yards and returned one kickoff for 36 yards. He had been moved back to his natural wideout spot mid-season after injuries sidelined juniors Kevin Austin Jr. and Braden Lenzy, but Armstrong seldom played. • Grunhard arrived as a walk-on center, but his contributions earned him a scholarship in December 2019 before he entered his senior year. He played 12 snaps this season while working behind starter Jarrett Patterson, who suffered a season-ending foot injury in the 45-31 win at Boston College Nov. 14. In Patterson's place, sophomore Zeke Correll and senior Josh Lugg were the centers, with Correll getting the call in the Rose Bowl loss versus Alabama. • Smith was an early enrollee in the spring of 2018 and had six carries for 28 yards as a freshman. In 2019, he scored the team's first touchdown of the year in a 35-17 victory at Louisville and finished the campaign with 180 yards on 42 carries with two scores. Like Armstrong, Smith was bypassed this year in the lineup by younger players. He had five carries for 15 yards in the season opener versus Duke Sept. 12, but did not play thereafter. In mid-October, he announced on social media he was leaving the team to concentrate on his mental health. Wrote Smith: "I am directing my focus towards completing my studies and working on my well-being with the support and resources from university health services." • Rutherford, a four-star recruit and Rivals' No. 110 overall player in the 2019 class, played in three games, with his action coming in blowouts or on punt teams. He took a redshirt as a freshman. • A top-50 recruit in 2018, Griffith played nickel as a freshman, auditioned at corner as a sophomore and was favored to win a safety spot this August. When the opportunity wasn't seized by Griffith, sixth- year senior corner Shaun Crawford became the starting safety instead. Griffith was credited with 14 tackles this season, one for loss, with starts against South Florida and Florida State. To enter the transfer portal, which has become the collegiate version of free agency with players now immediately eligible after transfers, the individual must provide a written notification to a designated administrator at his university. That administrator then compiles the pertinent information to enter the name into the portal website that can be accessed by NCAA coaches and administrators. Prior to the advent of the portal, a student-athlete had to get permission from the coach to be re- leased from his scholarship. — Lou Somogyi Aaron Banks Declares For Draft Senior left guard Aaron Banks, a first-team Associated Press, ESPN and Pro Football Focus (PFF) All-American, announced Jan. 3 via social media he has declared for the NFL Draft and will bypass a fifth season at Notre Dame. Banks started all 12 games this season and 31 in his career. In his final college campaign, he allowed zero sacks and was credited with just 10 pressures against, per PFF, both the fewest among the Irish starters. "Though we could not bring a national cham- pionship back to Notre Dame during my time here, I am proud of what we accomplished these last four years and am ready to pursue my lifelong dream of playing in the NFL," Banks wrote in an Instagram post. The 6-5, 330-pound Banks moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore in October 2018, replacing an injured Alex Bars, and never left. Banks joins left tackle Liam Eichenberg and right tackle Robert Hainsey as pro declarations along the offensive line. Right guard Tommy Kraemer's departure would leave current ju- nior center Jarrett Patterson as the lone return- ing starter there. Blue & Gold Illustrated projects at least seven to return for a fifth season in 2021. On offense it would be at least three: slot re- ceiver Avery Davis, and offensive linemen Josh Lugg and Dillan Gibbons. The wild card is tight end Brock Wright, who could be a feature per- former at a number of schools if he wanted to be a graduate transfer. The standout is current freshman Michael Mayer, and junior Tommy Tremble would also be a co-starter if he opts to not turn pro. Defensively there would be four: interior linemen Kurt Hinish and Myron Tagovailoa- Amosa, middle linebacker Drew White and rover Isaiah Pryor. Kicker Jonathan Doerer indicated earlier in the fall that he likely will use his fifth season as well. — Lou Somogyi Senior wideout/running back Jafar Armstrong was one of five Irish players that entered his name in the transfer portal in the days after Notre Dame's loss to Alabama in the College Football Playoff. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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