Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 10, 2022*

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

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BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM SEPT. 10, 2022 9 UNDER THE DOME that to the Irish in last year's Fiesta Bowl. Notre Dame used just three cor- nerbacks (and three snaps of a fourth) in an 89-play, 51-pass game. The emergence of freshmen corners Jaden Mickey and Benjamin Morrison should help prevent a repeat of last sea- son's depth issues that wore down the trio of Cam Hart, Clarence Lewis and TaRiq Bracy. Those three snaps sopho- more Ryan Barnes earned in the bowl were the only non-garbage time plays given to a cornerback other than Bracy, Hart or Lewis. "As far as the freshmen, they came in and showed us they could be counted on at this level between [Jaden] Mickey and Ben Morrison," Freeman said. Mickey and Morrison were two of the three freshmen to appear on the Week 1 depth chart. That was expected. The listing of Hart and Lewis as co-starters at one cornerback position and Hart and Bracy atop the chart at the other was less so, but it shouldn't be viewed as some massive shakeup. All three will be heavily involved just like before. "Cam, TaRiq, C-Lew have all played meaningful football for us and they all can play meaningful football for us," Freeman said. "We believe the ability for those three guys to rotate and stay fresh is important for us." That might mean rotating positions on the field as well as allowing a fresh- man to give them a few plays off. In the preseason 11-on-11 sessions available for media viewing, Bracy manned an outside spot in the 4-3 base defense but moved inside when Notre Dame went to nickel. Hart and Lewis started last season as the boundary and field corners, respectively, but switched sides early in the year. Notre Dame clearly feels Hart can play either side simply by listing him there. Corner- backs coach Mike Mickens has made his players learn boundary and field corner. Moving from one corner spot to an- other is a form of rest, too. It's a way to get one player away from a particular receiver for a few plays and therein give that receiver another look. It's a cruel assignment to stick one player with a receiver like Ohio State's Jaxon Smith- Njigba, North Carolina's Josh Downs or USC's Jordan Addison for an entire game. Notre Dame feels like it has play- ers who can handle multiple secondary roles and backups it can trust to give them a break. A season opener against arguably the nation's best passing of- fense won't alter that. "We've been working on verti- cal depth, which is natural — ones, twos, threes," defensive coordinator Al Golden said. "But the other part of it is just trying to make sure guys are playing with different guys all the time so that we don't just get locked in." ✦ Graduate student safety Houston Griffith (3), senior safety Brandon Joseph (16) and freshman corner- back Benjamin Morrison (20) are expected to be season-long contributors in the Irish secondary. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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