Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2021

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

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Page 21 of 67

22 PRESEASON 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED 1. S KYLE HAMILTON All-American. Potential top-10 pick. Top NFL safety prospect of the past few drafts. The leading tackler on Notre Dame's 2020 defense. Ham- ilton has all eyes on him heading into his junior season. He's Notre Dame's best individual talent. It might be odd for a safety to oc- cupy this spot, but Hamilton's im- pact and omnipresence combined with a year of transition at quar- terback make him worthy of the ranking. With linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah now in the NFL, Hamilton is the centerpiece of what looks like another strong defense. He has a chance to be one of the nation's premier defenders in 2021. 2. TE MICHAEL MAYER Mayer is the most reliable receiving option returning from last year's ros- ter. It's that simple. He has more career receptions (42) than anyone in Notre Dame's 2021 receiving corps, and only senior slot receiver Avery Davis has more career receiving yards (476) than the 450 Mayer posted as a true freshman. At 6-4½ and 251 pounds, the soph- omore's physi- cal tools speak for themselves. Notre Dame has s e n i o r G e o r g e Takacs on the roster as well, but behind Mayer and Takacs is a sophomore, Kevin Bau- man, and two true fresh- men. Mayer has a lot of pres- sure to produce at tight end with far less proven players man- ning the position with him. 3. QB JACK COAN Notre Dame may not have a re- turning starter at quarterback, but with Coan, it still has an experienced one. He led Wisconsin to a 10-4 re- cord, a Big Ten West title and a Rose Bowl appearance in 2019. With Coan in the fold, the Irish quarterback room won't head into 25 To Watch If Notre Dame reaches the College Football Playoff again, these players will be the biggest reasons why BY PATRICK ENGEL AND TYLER HORKA N otre Dame's developmental ability and depth have produced what looks like an- other talented roster. Blue & Gold Illus- trated decided to take a swing at ranking it and identifying the 25 most important play- ers on the roster who need to either emerge, remain a centerpiece or significantly elevate their play to help the Fighting Irish return to the College Football Playoff — and advance in it. Much is based on talent and impact, but a pre- mium is also placed on these questions: 1) If you subtracted this individual from the roster, how much of a setback would it be? 2) If this less-proven player emerges and makes an impact, how much does that raise the ceiling (or lower it, if a breakout does not hap- pen as expected)? The players and their ranking were deter- mined by vote from five BGI staff members. Here is the annual top 25 countdown of Notre Dame's most important players for the upcoming season. Junior safety Kyle Hamilton is Notre Dame's most talented player and a projected top-10 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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