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

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BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM PRESEASON 2022 21 as important to the Irish's success as they have been lately. It's all hands on deck. 3. DEFENSIVE STABILITY As dire as things seem for the Notre Dame wide receivers, depth abounds across all position groups on the other side of the ball. If Stuckey was given a bunch of throwaway cards, defensive coordinator Al Golden lucked out with a royal flush. Up front, senior vyper Isaiah Foskey could contend for the nation's top indi- vidual sack total. Junior Rylie Mills could have a breakout year on the other end of the line. Inside, fifth-year tackle Jayson Ademilola returns after leading the team in quarterback pressures in 2021. The projected starters at linebacker — Jack Kiser at rover, JD Bertrand at Mike and Marist Liufau at Will — are all seniors. The starting strong safety, Brandon Jo- seph, is a former All-American. The pro- jected starting free safety, DJ Brown, is a graduate student. The cornerbacks, senior Cam Hart and junior Clarence Lewis, are the same two from last season. Experience is all over the field, everywhere you look. It's one thing to have a group of 11 that shines on paper. It's another for the play- ers to live up to lofty expectations and actually make plays on the field. They did just that during fall camp. Brown was a menace and welcome sight for Golden at safety. He looks to be better than he's ever been. Fos- key and Mills converged on the quar- terback on the same play multiple times this fall. That's not a bad spot for them to meet. The linebackers' different skill sets have worked in a complementary manner. It's all shaping up for a spectacu- lar season, even if Golden doesn't want to admit it. "I don't get into predictions or anything like that," Golden said. "I'm just talking about how blessed we are to have a group that has really good IQ, leadership and wants to do things the right way." 4. O-LINE SHUFFLING Harry Hiestand believes he has found his best combination of five offensive linemen to trot out against Ohio State Sept. 3. Left tackle Joe Alt (sophomore), left guard Jarrett Patterson (graduate student), center Zeke Correll (senior), right guard Josh Lugg (graduate student) and right tackle Blake Fisher (sopho- more). There they are. Those are the five. It's only a slight departure from the group many predicted just a few months ago. The assumption was when Pat- terson came back from rehabbing his torn pectoral muscle, he'd reassume the center spot he has held for the last three seasons. That assumption was incorrect. Correll has performed much better at center than he has at guard over the course of his career, so the only way it made sense to get him on the field was to leave him there. Hiestand said Correll was "built" to be a center anyway, so he didn't think twice about sticking him to that spot. Patterson didn't think twice about vacating it, either. He said guard is the only position he had never played in his football career, so he wanted to check the box on his way out the Notre Dame door. It could very well be the position he ends up playing at the next level. All in all, the position swap was in the best interest of everybody. And it gave the group a vision the players could all work toward in unison. Correll, once an afterthought after losing his starting left guard position to Andrew Kristofic midway through the 2021 season, is at the center of the collective grind. Quite literally. "He's embraced it," Patterson said. "He's taken a leadership role. Setting the huddle, telling the guys what to do up front, communicating. I'm just proud of the way he's come along. He's worked hard and been doing it for years now. "This is his opportunity. I know he's going to do everything he can to make the most of it." 5. KICKING CHAOS? The Blue-Gold Game opened some eyes to how shaky Notre Dame's kicking situation could be in 2022. Fall camp did not provide much evidence to assuage any of those fears. During practices open to the media, the kickers and punters did not work on their crafts. Perhaps that was inten- tional in an effort not to show where the group stood just a few weeks before the season opener. Arkansas State graduate transfer Blake Grupe is the favorite to win the place- kicking job. He missed one kick in the Blue-Gold Game while sophomore Josh Bryan missed two. The other kickers on the roster are walk-ons Chris Salerno and Zac Yoakam. No matter who wins the job, it might be an unsettling year in the field goal department. Jonathan Do- erer wasn't automatic, but he made a smidge better than 75 percent of his field goal attempts while at Notre Dame. Grupe and Bryan combined to go 1 of 4 in the Blue-Gold Game. The Irish had to bring in Notre Dame keeper Bryan Dowd from the soccer team for help in the punt- ing game, meanwhile. He's rostered alongside freshman Bryce McFer- son and Harvard transfer Jon Sot, and is part of the competition for the starting slot. He averaged 42 yards per boot in the Blue-Gold Game. At this time, Dowd also re- mains rostered on the Irish soccer team, where he was an All-ACC Tournament selection a year ago after helping lead the squad to the ACC title and advance to the NCAA College Cup semifinals. ✦ Notre Dame graduate student Jarrett Patterson is playing guard for the first time in his football career. He started at center the past three seasons. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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