Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2021

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

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36 PRESEASON 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED ROOKIE REPORT A few Notre Dame freshmen should be able to make an immediate impact Blake Fisher is projected to be Notre Dame's starting left tackle, which would make him the first true freshman offensive lineman to start a season opener for the Irish since Sam Young in 2006. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER BY MIKE SINGER N otre Dame entered the 2020 season with a trio of true freshmen who many pundits felt would see the field plenty. Wide receiver Jordan Johnson, tight end Michael Mayer and running back Chris Tyree were even dubbed the "Big Three." Johnson only appeared in two games, totaled 26 snaps and did not record a reception. His freshman season didn't go as planned, and the former five-star recruit entered the transfer portal after spring ball ended and landed at UCF. Mayer and Tyree were outstand- ing. Mayer was named to The Ath- letic's Freshman All-America first team for his efforts last season, after he caught 42 passes for 450 yards and two touchdowns. Tyree jumped three veteran running backs to be the No. 2 ball carrier behind Kyren Wil- liams and totaled 496 yards and four touchdowns on 73 carries. Notre Dame did have a third fresh- man who contributed in a big way in 2020, but it wasn't who we thought it would be. Cornerback Clarence Lewis wasn't invited to any major postsea- son all-star games as a recruit. He was ranked by Rivals as a three-star player. The Edison, N.J., native was primarily a receiver in high school and was seen as a developmental player at cornerback. But Lewis went on to play in all 12 games for the Irish and beat out returning field cornerback starter TaRiq Bracy. He's expected to keep hold of his job as well. Johnson's and Lewis' impacts last season were the opposite of what was originally expected, which is a good reminder going into this fall. There do seem to be a few freshmen who should see action this fall, but again, it's tough to gauge. POTENTIAL MAINSTAYS Of Notre Dame's 27-man recruiting class in 2021, the player most likely to see significant playing time this fall is offensive tackle Blake Fisher. Ranked as the No. 6 offensive tackle and No. 26 overall prospect in America, Fisher was expected to be a big-time player, but it's been a sur- prise how good he's been this fast. Tosh Baker and Michael Carmody — a couple of players from the 2020 class — are giving Fisher some com- petition for the all-important starting left tackle position, but Blue & Gold Illustrated is hearing that Fisher is likely to get the nod. With Zeke Correll and Cain Mad- den projected to start at left and right guard, respectively, rookie Rocco Spindler will be in a "next man up" situation this season. He received a lot of first-team reps at left guard in the spring, but the return of Jar- rett Patterson to the interior offensive line and addition of Madden made it much more difficult for the standout from Clarkston (Mich.) High to start as a true freshman. The Fighting Irish have a log jam of talented but unproven receiv- ers. Could Lorenzo Styles Jr. make an instant impact? He has worked out at punt returner in practices — something he did very well in high school — and could excel there. It also wouldn't come as a surprise if

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