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

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BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM PRESEASON 2022 39 in two months to start repping in camp, which is a testament to his work ethic and a couple guys on our staff." The Notre Dame wide receiver room is depleted. Joe Wilkins Jr. was not a full practice participant in the first week of camp, even though head coach Marcus Freeman said on Aug. 13 Wilkins could be ready for the season opener at Ohio State. Colzie was held out of multiple practices with a knee injury, too. Merriweather is going to have to play out of necessity. But he might have been inserted into the rotation even if the Irish were at full strength. "He's a kid who's hungry for it," Rees said. "He's going to do more. That's innately who he is. He's going to want more, learn, ask questions and prepare the right way." Sticking with pass catchers, tight ends Eli Raridon and Holden Staes look college-ready from the start. And with Davis going down with yet another ACL injury on Aug. 12, in addition to the other ailments at wide receiver, the towering tight end duo might get chances to line up out wide early on. Davis is out for the entire 2022 season. Running back Gi'Bran Payne is another freshman who could be the benefactor of a thin position group, mostly because fel- low freshman Jadarian Price was slated to see some action this fall before rupturing his Achilles in June. With Diggs wearing a red non-contact jersey for most of fall camp, Payne is technically the No. 3 fully healthy tailback behind Tyree and Estime. He's ready for third-team reps — or more. "He has shown there isn't anything he can't handle," Rees said. "He has gone in mentally, been really sharp, made some plays, made a couple big runs, bounced one yesterday that scored. He's going to fit in great." WAIT UNTIL NEXT YEAR The big haul of offensive linemen Notre Dame acquired in the class of 2022 (five players including the medi- cally retired Joey Tanona) is going to have to wait at least a year to see the field for meaningful reps. The Irish are deep and experienced up front, led by two graduate student guards in Jarrett Patterson and Josh Lugg, two ultra-talented tackles in Alt and Fisher and a senior center in Zeke Correll who offensive line coach Harry Hiestand and his understudies believe will be the same sort of breakout player Alt was at tackle a year ago. Even if any of those five are injured, there are several multi-year players wait- ing behind them, eager for an oppor- tunity. Billy Schrauth, Ty Chan, Aamil Wagner and Ashton Craig will be well versed in the virtue of patience after this season, as is typically the case for fresh- men linemen — offensive and defensive. For instance, Tyson Ford and Aiden Gobaira might be prolific producers as edge rushers someday. But that day won't be in 2022. Good luck getting by Isaiah Foskey, Rylie Mills and Justin Ademilola on the depth chart. The same goes for the freshmen line- backers. The most ready-made of them is Junior Tuihalamaka, but there's not an easy spot for him to slide into Day 1 playing time. Jaylen Sneed has next-level improvements to make before he's con- sidered for defensive snaps, but he could be a special teams contributor from the beginning. Nolan Ziegler has a body-type at 6-3, 220 that could get him on the field in a special teams capacity right away, too. Unless your name is Tyler Buchner and you can run like the wind — or you're just a generational talent as a QB factory type of program — quarterbacks hardly ever play as freshmen. Steve Angeli is going to have to be patient. But some might have said the same about Buchner a year ago. Year of the freshman, Part 2? It's al- ways possible. ✦ Looking Ahead: Three Class of 2023 Commits Who Could Play As Freshmen None of these players have signed their national letters of intent, but once they do they instantly become options for Notre Dame to put on the field next year. These are the top three candidates from the class of 2023 to see significant playing time in their true freshman seasons. 1. S Peyton Bowen Bowen — who is listed as a five-star talent, the No. 2 prospect in Texas, and the No. 2 safety and No. 18 overall player nationally according to On3 — is a pure-bred football player. His natural position is safety, and it's probably the spot that best suits his size. But he's also a difference-making wide receiver at Denton Guyer. Notre Dame is set to lose Houston Griffith and DJ Brown at safety. If Brandon Joseph has a solid season, he could be off to the NFL. Bowen could walk into a favorable situation. He has the talent to make the most of that. No. 2: CB Christian Gray In the same vein as Clarence Lewis emerging as a cornerback option in his freshman year, Gray could be coming in at the right time to do the same. If senior Cam Hart has a solid season, he could be off to the NFL. That'll leave a cornerback spot open. Sure, Ryan Barnes could take it as a junior. But Gray could be talented enough to take it himself. Notre Dame's young corners have not come along particularly quickly, so Gray could at least work into a rotation with them as a first-year player. The 6-0½, 175-pounder out of St. Louis DeSmet is rated as a four-star recruit, the No. 2 player in Missouri, and the No. 10 corner and No. 79 overall prospect in the country by On3. 3. WR Jaden Greathouse Ironically, Greathouse and Bowen went head-to- head in a state championship game last December. Advantage: Greathouse. The Austin Westlake product caught 7 passes for 236 yards and 3 touchdowns in tandem with Clemson quarterback Cade Klubnik. The 6-2, 219-pound Greathouse is ranked as a four-star prospect, the No. 29 player in the Lone Star State, and the No. 23 wide receiver and the No. 154 overall recruit in the class of 2023 by On3. Notre Dame needs help at the position, and like Tobias Merriweather this year, Greathouse will provide immediate relief. — Tyler Horka Five-star class of 2023 safety Peyton Bowen has the talent to make an immediate impact in South Bend. PHOTO COURTESY BOWEN FAMILY

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