Blue and Gold Illustrated


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

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BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM PRESEASON 2022 27 On The Cusp These five players didn't make the top 25 but have a chance to either establish themselves or remain important pieces in 2022. 1. DL Howard Cross III Cross started two games at nose tackle in 2021. His preferred position is three-technique defen- sive tackle, and he played it well during spring practices, but that spot is occupied by graduate student Jayson Ademilola. Cross' role is murky as a result, but murky doesn't mean he's not going to play. He will, and often. He'll either start at nose tackle or serve as Ademi- lola's backup at three-technique. Both options yield plenty of playing time. Cross' physical nature yields plenty of playing time on its own. He's a frequent disruptor, using a combination of violent hands and quick feet to invade the backfield. There's always a spot for someone like that along the defensive line, even if he's only 6-1 and 276 pounds. 2. OL Andrew Kristofic The reshuffling of the offensive line has left Kristofic as the odd man out after he started the final seven games of the 2021 season at left guard. Consider the junior for Gibsonia, Pa., a sixth man of sorts. If Notre Dame needs help at either guard posi- tion for whatever reason, Kristofic will likely be the first to be of assistance. Sophomore Rocco Spindler is another intriguing option, but Kristofic played in all 13 games last season while Spindler only saw action in two. Experience cannot be discounted. 3. CB TaRiq Bracy Nickel defenses are incredibly important in this era of college football. When Notre Dame puts a fifth defensive back on the field, it'll be Bracy. He played in all 13 games in 2021 with five starts. He intercepted a pass against Virginia Tech and recovered a fumble against USC. He always seems to be in the right spot at the right time, which is a staple for playing slot corner. The graduate student came back for another year because he felt like he was finally getting somewhere as a senior. This extra season could be Bracy's best in blue and gold. 4. DE Justin Ademilola Ademilola finished second on the team with 5 sacks in 2021. He pulled that off without starting a single game. He likely won't start one in 2022 with Isaiah Foskey ahead of him on the depth chart at vyper, but the graduate student is as dangerous a defensive line weapon who comes off the sideline as there is in the country. If Foskey sits, Ademilola isn't much of a break for opposing tackles. 5. WR Braden Lenzy Lenzy might have had his starting spot wrestled away, but like Ademilola he's a grizzled fifth-year veteran who could make the opponent pay for sleeping on him coming off the sideline. Lenzy caught 32 passes for 350 yards and 3 touchdowns last season. It was his best year yet at Notre Dame. If he matches those numbers, it will be a win for the Irish. If he exceeds them, the season will have been a resounding success. — Tyler Horka Graduate student TaRiq Bracy started five of 13 games in 2021, finishing with 38 tackles and his first career interception. He is expected to line up at slot corner in Notre Dame's nickel package. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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