Blue and Gold Illustrated

June-July 2022

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

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24 JUNE/JULY 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY TYLER HORKA I t's hard to watch 13 scholarship players vanish from a roster via the transfer portal year-over-year and say, "Well, that wasn't so bad." But if any school walked away from the most hectic period of the offseason able to do so, it was Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish lost a full baker's dozen worth of scholarship players from the 2021 roster. And yet, as it stands, the team still has one too many scholarship players heading into the 2022 season. Notre Dame currently has 86, one more than the maximum of 85 allowed by the NCAA. That rule is back in effect after a COVID-19-induced hiatus. Somehow, someway, head coach Marcus Freeman and company are going to have to shed somebody to get on the hard-cap line. It shouldn't be too dif- ficult. These things usually have a way of working themselves out, whether that be by way of another transfer out, a personal decision on behalf of a player to not play — as already seen with rising sophomore defensive end Kahanu Kia serving on a two-year mission trip — or something else unforeseen. It happens all the time. A team enters the summer with more than 85 scholar- ships players but somehow gets right on the number by the fall deadline, like a racecar drastically decreasing its speed right before entering pit row. The 13 outbound transfers were offset by seven "super" seniors who decided to use the extra year of eligibility granted to them by the NCAA as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, three incoming scholarship transfers and a fresh class of 2022 first-year players ready to hit the ground running with their new head coach — 12 so eager, they enrolled early and went through the slate of spring practices. "No matter what, if you need any- thing you can reach out to him and he'll be there," early enrollee freshman line- backer Josh Burnham said. "Just know- ing someone like that is the head coach, that's the kind of guy you want to play for." Ah, the sweet sound of stability. Of course, much was lost to the NFL via the draft and undrafted free agent signings. Last season's starting quar- terback Jack Coan, running back Kyren Williams and first-round All-America safety Kyle Hamilton were among the departed players who have a future at the next level. The slogan "graduating champions" seems to have followed Brian Kelly on down to Baton Rouge. Yes, Freeman wants his players to earn their degrees. But he also wants them to pursue all their dreams. If that includes leaving school early to get selected in the NFL Draft like Williams and Hamilton did this spring, then so be it. They can always come back to get that highly coveted piece of paper to hang on the wall. Look at Jerome Bettis. He did it some three decades later. Many of the 13 transfer portal defec- tions earned their degrees before go- ing on to their next destinations, too. Litchfield Ajavon is headed to Rice with paper in hand. Same with fellow safety KJ Wallace going back home to Atlanta to play for Georgia Tech. They're not alone. Freeman is just as proud of all of them as he is of Hamilton and Williams. "You got your degree from Notre Sweet Serenity During an era of confusing roster shuffles and noisy exits, Notre Dame moves cautiously through the chaos Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman navigated his first offseason with relative ease, replacing 13 players departing through the transfer portal via a combination of "super" seniors, incoming transfers and early enrollee freshmen while conducting a slate of spring 15 practices. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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