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

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38 PRESEASON 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY TYLER HORKA Q uietly, 2021 was the year of the freshman for Notre Dame. Tyler Buchner played much more at quarterback than even the coaching staff might have an- ticipated. He didn't play a single snap in the season opener because he didn't need to. Graduate student Jack Coan and the Irish passing offense were good enough to leave Buchner on the sideline. But the very next week against Toledo, Notre Dame wouldn't have won without Buchner. Outside of a hamstring injury that slightly hampered him in September and shockingly not playing at all in the Fiesta Bowl, Buchner was a fixture of the Irish offense as a run-first QB. He ran 46 times for 336 yards and 3 touch- downs in addition to 298 passing yards and 3 aerial scores. And he was still just one small piece of the freshman puzzle. Joe Alt emerged as arguably the team's most solid offensive lineman. He was a revelation at left tackle. Blake Fisher held that spot in Week 1 but was injured in the second quarter. He didn't play again until the bowl game, when he lined up at right tackle. Those two are slated to start at the tackle spots in 2022. Logan Diggs, who rushed for 230 yards and 3 touchdowns, emerged as a capable No. 2 running back behind NFL-bound Kyren Williams because of Chris Tyree's turf toe ailment. When he's fully healthy, Diggs might be the most complete back on the team. Fellow sophomore Audric Estime has something to say about that, though. He flashed as a freshman against Georgia Tech with 6 carries for 61 yards in that game alone. Lorenzo Styles stepped up in the wake of Avery Davis' ACL injury and caught 24 passes for 344 yards and 1 touchdown. Deion Colzie only caught 4 passes for 67 yards, but he did enough to position himself as the potential boundary receiver of the future. Convinced yet? Production on of- fense wasn't reserved for Notre Dame upperclassmen. The freshmen had their say in things. There was more of logjam defensively. The only two freshmen on defense that did not redshirt were linebackers Prince Kollie and Kahanu Kia, and those red- shirts came off only because those two were special teams staples. Everyone else did not see the field enough in any capac- ity to burn through at least eight games. Will the same be true in 2022? It's not too unlikely to see almost a mirror image of what transpired a year ago. READY FOR ACTION The Irish certainly boast a collection of offensive players who could be regu- lar contributors. The list starts with To- bias Merriweather for multiple reasons. At 6-foot-4, he's the second-tallest wide receiver on the roster behind Col- zie. He was hard to miss in the Irish's first fall camp practice Aug. 5. He's long, rangy and fast with good hands. The prototypical boundary wide re- ceiver. "You see him and think, 'This kid has a chance,'" offensive coordina- tor Tommy Rees said. "But it goes way deeper than that. He has an unbeliev- able work ethic. He got himself ready Freshman wide receiver Tobias Merriweather should see action right away because of his height (6-4) and a thin corps of Irish wideouts. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER FRESH FACES Notre Dame welcomed an eager crop of class of 2022 freshmen to campus, but only a few will make an immediate on-field impact

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