Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2022

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

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26 MARCH 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED season opener at Florida State. He would have had an opportunity for plenty of playing time in 2021 with Marist Liufau's injury, but the shoulder injury sidelined Simon for the duration of the season. He has two years of eligibility remaining to play for the Pitt Panthers. TE George Takacs: After initially indicating he would return to South Bend for a fifth season in an Instragram post in early January, he reversed course Feb. 7 and decided to use his remaining two years of eligibility elsewhere. Takacs served as the Irish's No. 2 tight end, played 407 snaps, and caught three passes for 36 yards and a touchdown in 2021. S KJ Wallace: He played 19 defensive snaps in 2021 and 67 over the past three years. He competed for the nickel back job in the spring and briefly saw time there in the fall. He logged 69 special teams snaps this season, mostly on punt return and kick return teams. RETURNING TO NOTRE DAME FOR FIFTH/SIXTH SEASONS DT Jayson Ademilola (5th): He had to have had decent evaluations from NFL Draft scouts but clearly he believes he can do better. His return is monu- mental for Notre Dame; he led the Irish in quarterback pressures (43) in 2021. DE Justin Ademilola (5th): He said he also returned to Notre Dame to fur- ther his draft stock. He ranked second on the team in sacks (5.0) in 2021 and said he's aiming for double digits in 2022. LB Bo Bauer (5th): The clear No. 1 option to replace White at middle line- backer, Bauer also has a chance to sur- pass Hinish's games played record. He has played in 51 games in a Notre Dame uniform. He needs to appear in 10 more to tie Hinish's all-time mark. S DJ Brown (5th): He had his share of ups and downs last season. He was surpassed by sophomore Ramon Hen- derson in the "who's replacing Kyle Hamilton" sweepstakes, but Brown was still a valuable player in terms of tackles and snaps logged in 2021. WR Avery Davis (6th): He tore his ACL in November. At the time, he won- dered whether that would be the way his Notre Dame career ended. He decided that couldn't be the case. Davis is aim- ing to be a full participant for the Irish's season opener at Ohio State on Sept. 3. DE Isaiah Foskey (4th): The only player on this list who is not a fifth- or sixth-year senior, Foskey deserves to be listed here because he could have easily entered the draft and been selected on the second day. Instead, Notre Dame's 2021 sack leader (11.0) is back for an- other go at it in blue and gold. S Houston Griffith (5th): He was Notre Dame's primary strong safety all season. Griffith had his moments on both ends of the spectrum, but Notre Dame can surely use him back in the fold at a position where the Irish aren't particularly deep. WR Braden Lenzy (5th): He is com- ing off a productive season in which he caught 32 passes for 350 yards and three touchdowns. Lenzy will have to be even better in 2022 without Austin around to be the unquestioned go-to wide re- ceiver on the roster. OT Josh Lugg (6th): He started 12 of 13 games at right tackle in 2021. A posi- tion switch might be in order to make way for sophomore sensations Joe Alt and Blake Fisher at tackle, but Lugg is still a valuable asset to have for a sixth season at such an important position group. OL Jarrett Patterson (5th): There's only one player who touches the ball on every single snap outside of the quarter- back, and that's the center. Notre Dame has its cerebral leader of the offensive line back for another season. The im- portance of that cannot be overstated. LS Michael Vinson (5th): The for- mer walk-on was put on scholarship at the end of the season. He'll be Notre Dame's starting long snapper for the third straight season. WR Joe Wilkins Jr. (5th): Another wideout coming off a knee injury, he tore his MCL in October. Wilkins is a month ahead of Davis in his rehab, so he should be ready to go against the Buckeyes as well. ROSTER ADDITIONS K Blake Grupe (Arkansas State): He is the all-time field goals made (86) and points leader (354) at Arkansas State and has the chance to start right away. S Brandon Joseph (Northwestern): He is a former consensus All-American and an immediate candidate to replace Hamilton as the starter at free safety. P Jon Sot (Harvard; walk-on): Make it a trio of transfers who could start immediately. With Bramblett gone, Sot only has to beat out true freshman Bryce McFerson for the starting job. OTHER ROSTER NOTES • Senior cornerback TaRiq Bracy did not an- nounce a decision to return to Notre Dame via social media like the rest of his aforementioned teammates, but he was listed on the official spring roster. Bracy has one more year of eligibility. If he decides to use it at Notre Dame, he'll likely play a similar role to the one he played in 2021; the Irish's primary nickel corner while also spelling the starters on the outside for a few snaps when necessary. • Blue & Gold Illustrated was informed senior of- fensive lineman John Dirksen will not return to Notre Dame. Dirksen, a common fixture on Notre Dame's punt-block team as well as field goal and extra point units in the last three seasons, decided to end his college career with two years of eligibility remaining. • Senior running back C'Bo Flemister also was listed on the updated spring roster on the official Notre Dame football website but made no public announcement about his plans. Flemister only played in two games this past season after rushing for over 450 yards and 10 touchdowns in the 2019 and 2020 seasons. He can still leave the program any time between now and the summer if he chooses to finish his college career elsewhere. He has two years of eligibility remaining. • Freshman vyper Kahanu Kia announced on Jan. 10 that he will be leaving to take on a two-year mission trip to Raleigh, N.C. Kia, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, thanked head coach Marcus Freeman and Notre Dame for allowing him to do so and stated that he planned to return to South Bend after his mission is completed. Kia played in eight games as a freshman and de- veloped into a special teams contributor, finishing the season with seven tackles. ✦ Blake Grupe, who was Arkansas State's all-time leader in both field goals made (64) and points (354), will compete for Notre Dame's starting kicker job in 2022. PHOTO COURTESY ARKANSAS STATE

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