Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2021

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

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38 FEBRUARY 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED T here are two recruiting classes signed by college football pro- grams every year: the one on paper and the one that performs on the field. Only in about three or four years does one truly know how good a class is. Now that it is three years later, it is quite a testament to the program's strength on how well Notre Dame has achieved from 2018-20 (33-5) despite the setbacks in the 2018 class. Ten of the 27 signed in 2018 were ranked among Rivals' top 250 play- ers, with four among the top 100: safety Houston Griffith (No. 43), line- backer Jack Lamb (No. 77), quarter- back Phil Jurkovec (No. 87) and wide receiver Kevin Austin Jr. (No. 88). For 35 years I've generally used the "one-third rule" regarding recruiting classes at Notre Dame: • One third will be two- or three-year starters with bona fide NFL aspirations. • One third will be solid depth fig- ures/special teams contributors. • One third will be beset by inju- ries, transfers, academics, discipline issues, personal problems, etc. Looking at the 27-man class in 2018 that was ranked No. 11 nationally by Rivals, the latter one-third is a little larger than usual, with possibly 11 not here for the 2021 season as seniors. Final analysis is premature, but here's an overview of how volatile a class can be: Quarterback: Phil Jurkovec Transferred to Boston College last January and competed well for the 6-5 Eagles in 2020, passing for 2,558 yards (18th in the nation) and 17 touch- downs (tied for 30th) in 10 games. Jurkovec was in line to be Notre Dame's starting signal-caller in 2021-22, so with him gone the Irish landed Wisconsin graduate transfer Jack Coan to man the job in 2021. Running Backs: C'Bo Flemister and Jahmir Smith Smith left the program in October and is in the transfer portal. Flemister has developed into a solid No. 3 op- tion, finishing with 299 yards (127 in the 52-0 win versus USF) and five scores this past year. Wide Receivers: Kevin Austin Jr., Micah Jones, Lawrence Keys III, Braden Lenzy and Joe Wilkins Jr. This is why fifth-year seniors Javon McKinley and Ben Skowronek, a graduate transfer from North- western, and senior Avery Davis, a former quar- terback recruit, were leaned on so much during the past season. Last fall as juniors, the promising quintet of 2018 receivers combined for only 20 catches, 195 receiv- ing yards and two scores. Austin was ranked as the No. 88 player in the country and Jones No. 192. However, Austin has five career catches and Jones — who graduated in three years — has none. Health remained a primary issue for Lenzy, as it did with Keys, this past season. Two of these five will need a McKinley-like emer- gence as 2021 seniors. Tight Ends: Tommy Tremble and George Takacs Tremble became the fourth tight end under head coach Brian Kelly to turn pro after his junior year. Four-star recruit Takacs took a back seat his first three years, but will have an opportunity to shine as a 2021 senior. Offensive Linemen: John Dirksen, Luke Jones, Cole Mabrey and Jarrett Patterson Former left tackle Patterson has started at center the past two years before a foot injury Nov. 14 ended his 2020 campaign. With four offensive line starters departing, he will be the anchor of the 2021 line, although maybe not at center. Mabrey had to retire from football because of medical issues. Jones transferred to Arkansas after his freshman year and was a reserve guard in 2020. Dirksen was listed as a backup right guard and will vie for a starting role as a senior. Defensive Linemen: Jayson Ademilola, Justin Ademilola, Ja'Mion Franklin and Ovie Oghoufo A severe quadriceps injury his freshman year hampered Franklin. In December he announced he will transfer to Duke. Oghoufo entered the transfer portal Jan. 5. The Ademilola twins provided quality depth in 2020, with Jayson (11 tackles this year, 1.5 for loss) at tackle and Justin (17 tackles, 2.5 for loss) at strong-side end. Linebackers: Bo Bauer, Jack Lamb and Shayne Simon Beset by a litany of injuries since his senior year in high school, top-100 recruit Lamb fell behind this season with more health setbacks after a promising debut in 2019. He is in the transfer portal. Bauer was a productive third-down figure at mid- dle linebacker this year behind senior Drew White. Simon shared time at the Buck spot with sopho- mores Marist Liufau and Jack Kiser. It will remain a wide-open battle in 2021. Safety: Derrik Allen, Houston Griffith and Paul Moala Griffith was the highest-ranked Irish recruit in the haul at No. 43, while Allen was No. 135 and local product Moala a bonus. Allen transferred to Georgia Tech prior to his sophomore season and finished with 13 tackles as a 2020 reserve. Griffith entered the transfer portal in January, but at last report the Irish were attempting to convince him to stay in South Bend. Shifted to rover, Moala incurred a season-ending Achilles injury Oct. 3, but will vie for the starting rover role in 2021 with Isaiah Pryor. Cornerback: TaRiq Bracy, Noah Boykin and DJ Brown The relatively unheralded Bracy made significant strides as a 2019 sophomore when he led the team in passes broken up (seven), but he was sup- planted in the lineup this November by surprising freshman Clarence Lewis. Boykin transferred to Massachusetts after his freshman year. Brown shifted to safety and will compete for a starting spot opposite All-American Kyle Hamilton in 2021. ✦ The 2018 Class: We Hardly Knew Ye … So Far THE FIFTH QUARTER LOU SOMOGYI Senior Editor Lou Somogyi has been at Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 1985. He can be reached at Braden Lenzy and four other promising wide receivers from Notre Dame's 2018 class com- bined for only 20 receptions, 195 receiving yards and two touchdowns this past season, and the Irish might need at least two of them to break out as seniors in 2021. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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