Blue and Gold Illustrated

June/July 2023

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

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26 JUNE/JULY 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY PATRICK ENGEL N otre Dame's 2021 signing class became a study in extremes within two years of all 27 mem- bers' enrollment. Already, it has yielded multiple stars, several starters and a few players who look like future draft picks. Not many Irish recruiting classes in recent memory can make such a claim. That is, though, only half this group's story. If you think of the 2021 class as a pie, Joe Alt, Blake Fisher and Audric Estimé make for one appetizing and aestheti- cally pleasing exterior. Think pristine glaze and thick crust. But cut through it, and you'll find a lack of filling — as if the chef only put enough to take up half the inside. The class, for all its star power, has fewer than half its members remaining less than two years from its full enrollment. No class' biography is complete af- ter two years. But right now, this one looks like it could be an exception to the late Lou Somogyi's one-third rule. Somogyi's postulation stated every class' member will fall into one of three buckets: starters or draft picks, fringe starters and backups, and deep reserves who rarely see the field or transfer. In the end, each bucket has about the same number of players. The 2021 class, though, has dumped most of its contents into the first and the third buckets. That middle one would barely tip a scale, at least right now. TALENT AT THE TOP A third of the 2021 class dodged a redshirt and saw meaningful action as freshmen. Fisher and Alt were the start- ing offensive tackles by the end of 2021. Running back Logan Diggs was elevated into the backfield rotation halfway through the year. Wide receiver Lo- renzo Styles ended the year as a starter. Tyler Buchner was a change-of-pace quarterback. Wide receiver Deion Col- zie and tight end Mitchell Evans were bit players. The contributions from the 2021 group have increased since, even if Bu- chner, Diggs and Styles are no longer around. As it stands, five juniors came out of spring drills as likely starters, with two more still challenging for jobs. The headliners are Alt and Fisher, who look like future pros and could be three-and-done draft picks if they maintain their trajectory. Alt became one of the country's best left tackles in 2022. He was Pro Football Focus' top- graded tackle and a first-team Associ- ated Press All-American. His election as a team captain feels inevitable. "Some guys just have amazing tal- ent, amazing athleticism, amazing size," Notre Dame offensive line coach Joe Ru- dolph said. "Some guys have a quality of a leadership and a grit and a way they're going to get it done in the moment. They're going to be a great leader and make guys around them better. "But you don't always find that all in one guy. He's as close as I've got to see- ing it all in one guy." Fisher settled in on the right side af- ter a couple bumpy September perfor- mances last fall. He allowed only 2 sacks and 6 quarterback pressures in his final seven starts after giving up 3 sacks and 11 pressures in the first six games. By the end, he looked like a player who won the opening day left tackle job as a fresh- man rather than one who had just six quarters of college football to his name entering 2022. Estimé heads into the summer as Notre Dame's top running back after Diggs' transfer. He might have been even if Diggs stayed. Estimé led the Irish in rushing yards (920), yards per carry (5.9) and rushing touchdowns (11) in 2022. A four-week bout with fumbles TOP HEAVY Notre Dame's 2021 class has produced several stars, but also double-digit departures Offensive tackle Joe Alt was an Associated Press first-team All-American as a sophomore. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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