Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 11, 2021

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

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6 SEPT. 11, 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY PATRICK ENGEL N otre Dame's 2017 class undeniably made its mark the last four years. Four 10-win seasons. Two College Football Playoff appearances. Ten start- ers. Four Day 2 NFL Draft picks. The five players from that group who returned for one more year can hang another banner for their class: five captains. Wide receiver Avery Davis, nose tackle Kurt Hinish, defensive end My- ron Tagovailoa-Amosa, linebacker Drew White and kicker Jonathan Doerer used their fifth years to come back for 2021. All but Doerer were named 2021 team captains, joining fellow 2017 signee Robert Hainsey in that club. It's possible none of the four (or Do- erer) adds to the Day 2 pick number. To reduce their impact to their NFL Draft status, though, is to overlook count- less on- and off-field contributions that helped launch Notre Dame to its current stability level. Allow Hinish to sum up his class' laurels. "Through the years at Notre Dame," Hinish said, "I feel our group and the group above us — the 2016 class — were the ones who changed the pro- gram around and did a 180-degree flip, along with all the new hires, [strength and conditioning coach Matt] Balis and Coach [Brian] Kelly." In many ways, he's right. The 2017 class was part of the wave of change ushered in when a messy 2016 sea- son sent the program off its moorings. Two new coordinators. A change in the sports performance program with Balis' arrival. An introspective Kelly. And a re- cruiting class that, at first, wasn't eye- catching on paper. It ranked 13th nationally — tied for the fifth-lowest of the 12 Kelly era sign- ing classes. It had just eight four-stars. Notre Dame assembled nearly a third of it at the buzzer. Six players, including Tagovailoa-Amosa, committed in the final week of the cycle. Four years later, it's hard to find a more impactful group when including on-field production and locker room effects. It's a case study in wholesome development. Five three-star recruits from the class became starters. Barring injury, all five will have started for at least two seasons. Four will have served as a captain. That's the impact level the class be- lieved it could make. Never mind its lack of relative fanfare. There were opportu- nities to play as freshmen, which Hin- ish, Tagovailoa-Amosa and eight oth- ers did. Moreover, there was a desire to foster change. The class stayed largely intact through the 2016 turmoil. It un- derstood the circumstances in which it arrived. Its constant hunger didn't wane. Not even after a successful six- win turnaround in 2017. "We were 10-3, which is great for some schools, but for Notre Dame, that's not something we want to do," Hinish said. "We want to go to the na- tional championship every single year. I remember sitting on the bus after losing to Stanford my freshman year, and in the 2017 group chat, we were texting, 'We're going to change this whole pro- gram around.'" UNDER THE DOME NEW LEADERS Notre Dame's 2017 class adds several team captains to its list of accomplishments Graduate student defensive end Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa is one of five members of Notre Dame's 2017 recruiting class to be named a captain at Notre Dame — joining three other graduate students, defen- sive lineman Kurt Hinish, wide receiver Avery Davis and linebacker Drew White this season, and offen- sive lineman Robert Hainsey in 2019 and 2020. PHOTO BY MIKE MILLER

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