Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2022

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

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Page 26 of 99

BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM MARCH 2022 27 BY PATRICK ENGEL I t's time to dust the cobwebs off an annual summer project and exam- ine it in hindsight. Back in the summer, the Blue & Gold Illustrated staff unveiled our preseason ranking of Notre Dame's 25 most valuable players for the 2021 sea- son. The goal was to highlight indi- viduals that needed to emerge, remain a centerpiece or break out to help get Notre Dame back to the College Foot- ball Playoff. Talent and impact were factors, but these questions were the primary con- siderations when filling out ballots: 1) How much of a setback would los- ing this player be? 2) If this less proven player emerges, how much does that raise the ceiling (or lower it, if a break- out does not happen as expected)? After an 11-2 season that featured a home loss, a seven-game win streak, a coaching exit and ended with a loss to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl, we're revisiting our list from the sum- mer to see how it held up in hindsight. 25. Jonathan Doerer, K This feels about right for Doerer, who had a fine season but not an elite one. He was 16 of 21 on field goals (76.2 per- cent) with a long of 51 yards. There were clutch kicks, like his two game-winners on the road and that 51-yarder against Wisconsin. There were costly misses, like an extra point in a 24-13 loss to Cincinnati and a 41-yard try in the 37-35 loss to Oklahoma State. 24. Marist Liufau, LB A late August lower leg injury side- swiped Liufau's season, but before it he was putting forth a training camp performance that suggested he would have shamed this ranking. He looked like the breakout star on the team, not just the defense. 23. Drew Pyne, QB Pyne made the preseason list largely because our Tyler Horka ranked him No. 8. His reasoning: Notre Dame's quarterback stability isn't what it was with Ian Book, and given that, Pyne would see the field at some point. He was right on that. Starter Jack Coan was benched twice and left an- other game with an ankle injury. Pyne relieved him twice and led three total touchdown drives against Wisconsin and Cincinnati's sturdy defenses. But that was it. Pyne didn't play another snap. Still, Tyler was onto something when thinking the No. 2 quarterback would be involved. It just happened to be a different player than Pyne, save for those two games. 22. Braden Lenzy, WR Lenzy played a full season for the first time in his career, and had 32 catches for 350 yards and three touchdowns. Staying healthy in a year where an al- ready thin receiver room suffered mul- tiple season-ending injuries shouldn't be overlooked and makes No. 22 a de- fensible spot, but the post-hype break- out envisioned when ranking him didn't quite materialize. 21. Jayson Ademilola, DT Ademilola appeared on all five ballots, but the depth at defensive line likely led to him being ranked lower. However, he proved someone can be important despite strong depth. He led Notre Dame in quarterback pressures (43) and was fifth on the team in tackles (49). He averaged 45.5 snaps Senior wide receiver Braden Lenzy played a full season for the first time in his career in 2021, and notched 32 receptions for 350 yards and three touchdowns. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER REVISITING RANKINGS A look back at the BGI preseason top 25 most valuable Notre Dame players

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