Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2022

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

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12 MARCH 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED UNDER THE DOME JOE ALT EARNS FRESHMAN ALL-AMERICA HONORS Left tackle Joe Alt's impact freshman year earned him some national recognition. He was named a Freshman All-American by the Football Writers Association of America Jan. 18. He played in 11 of Notre Dame's 13 games last year and started the final eight. With Alt's help, Notre Dame's offensive line stabilized during the second half of the regular season and opened some needed room on the ground. In the last seven regular- season games, the Irish averaged 203.1 rushing yards per game and went 7-0. The pass protection improved, too, in no small part due to Alt. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed just two sacks and seven pressures in 505 snaps. The 2022 Notre Dame offensive line will have four returning starters, including Alt and fellow rising sopho- more Blake Fisher. The tandem started in the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma State. It was the first time in program history that two true freshman started on the offensive line in the same game. Alt is the seventh Notre Dame player to earn a spot on the FWAA Freshman All-America team since its inception. The Athletic and PFF gave him the same honor in December. — Ashton Pollard FIVE NOTRE DAME PLAYERS RANKED AMONG PRO FOOTBALL FOCUS' TOP RETURNERS Come April, Notre Dame football won't match last year's eight-player performance from the 2021 NFL Draft. That's in part because many of the Irish's best pro prospects are returning in 2022. In January, Pro Football Focus ranked five of Notre Dame's returning starters among the top 10 returning players at their respective position groups. Here's where they were slotted. Jarrett Patterson — No. 1 Returning Interior Offensive Lineman The graduate student center is the highest-ranked of the five players at his respective position. According to PFF's grading system, Patterson was the fifth-best pass blocker and 13th-best blocker in college football in 2021. Through 827 regular-season snaps, the California native gave up zero sacks and just one quar- terback hit. Michael Mayer — No. 2 Returning Tight End The 6-foot-4, 232-pound Mayer broke the Notre Dame single-season record for touchdown re- ceptions (seven) and receptions (71) in 2021, besting respective marks from Cole Kmet (six, 2019) and Tyler Eifert (63, 2011). Could Mayer break his own record in 2022? It is certainly plausible. Brandon Joseph — No. 4 Returning Safety According to On3's transfer portal tracker, the Irish landed the No. 1 safety and No. 16 overall player in the transfer portal in Joseph. In 2021, he made 80 tackles, broke up four passes and notched three interceptions. However, Joseph's best season came as a redshirt freshman in 2020. He was tied for first in the nation with six interceptions and earned consensus All-America status. Isaiah Foskey — No. 8 Returning Edge The most impactful stay-or-go-decision this offseason was Foskey's. He chose to return for his senior season, bypassing Day 2 draft projections. Foskey posted 11 sacks in 2021 and led the nation in sack yardage by nearly 20 yards, topping potential 2022 Heisman contender Will Anderson of Alabama. Blake Fisher — Sleeper Returning Offensive Tackle PFF included an 11th person — a "sleeper" — in every category. For offensive tackles, their extra player was Fisher. As a true freshman, Fisher was the opening-day starting left tackle at Florida State, but tore his meniscus two quarters into the game. He returned for the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma State and played the entire game — all 91 snaps — allowing one sack and one pressure. With a full offseason to prepare for next year, he is a young player to watch develop under of- fensive line coach Harry Hiestand and a likely starter in 2022. — Ashton Pollard FORMER NOTRE DAME DEFENSIVE LINEMAN ROSS BROWNER DIES AT 67 Notre Dame lost a legend in January. Former Fighting Irish defensive lineman Ross Browner died at the age of 67 on Jan. 4, his son Max Starks IV announced on Twitter. Browner was one of the most decorated defensive linemen in college football history during his career, which spanned from 1973-77. Browner, who later was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, bookended his career with the Irish by winning two national championships in 1973 and 1977. Browner holds the school record for career tackles by a defensive lineman (340), tackles for loss in a single season (28, 1976) and career tackles for loss (77). A unanimous All-American in 1976, Browner won the Outland Trophy as the nation's best defensive lineman and the United Press International Lineman of the Year award in the same season. He won the UPI Lineman of the Year honor again as a senior to become the only player ever to win it twice. Browner also won the Maxwell Award as the nation's top overall player and finished fifth in Heisman Trophy voting during his legendary 1977 season. Browner was selected No. 8 overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1978 NFL Draft. He was named team MVP as a rookie. Browner recorded 10 tackles in Super Bowl XVI against the San Francisco 49ers. He went on to play eight seasons with the Bengals. He started in 121 games and finished his career with 58 sacks. Browner began his Notre Dame career with a mes- merizing blocked punt in his first start as a freshman. According to, Browner applied so much force on the blocked kick he accidentally broke the punter's leg. "Ross had just arrived on campus, but he played like he had been there for years," former Notre Dame head coach Ara Parseghian said ahead of Browner's induc- tion into the Hall of Fame in 1999. "It was very appar- ent that this guy was going to be something special." Parseghian was obviously right. Browner finished his career under head coach Dan Devine's guidance by leading a stifling Notre Dame defense against Heisman Trophy winner Earl Campbell and No. 1 Texas in a 38-10 blowout win over the Longhorns in the Cotton Bowl. The Irish went 11-1 that year with a lone loss to Ole Miss in Week 2. Longtime Notre Dame fans will remember the Irish's 49-19 demolition of USC while wearing green jerseys. Notre Dame held a record of 49-8 during Browner's time in South Bend. "We had some great players on that team," Browner said of the 1977 team. "And we just pulled everybody together and kept them all pumped up. We knew what we had to do." Browner is survived by his wife, Shayla, and his sons Max Starks and Rylan Browner. — Tyler Horka BROWNER Alt allowed just two sacks and seven pressures in 505 snaps, per Pro Football Focus, while making eight starts and playing in 11 games in 2021. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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