Blue and Gold Illustrated

June/July 2023

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

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4 JUNE/JULY 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED Q uarterback Tyler Buchner, line- backer Prince Kollie, running back Logan Diggs, wide receiver/ cornerback Lorenzo Styles: this isn't a list of potential starters or key Notre Dame players to watch in 2023. Not hardly. Instead, this is a list of four impact- ful players who entered the transfer portal in the span of only one week late last month. It's a high-profile list, a troubling development and a sign of the times. • Styles was the team's leading wide receiver last season with 30 catches for 340 yards. He had 54 receptions and 684 yards in his two seasons at Notre Dame. He had converted to cor- nerback this spring, which is where he will look to play at Ohio State now. • Kollie was the team's best and most reliable special teams player, earning 231 snaps in those roles in 2022, and 375 during his two seasons at Notre Dame. Kollie also scored a touchdown on a blocked punt against Clemson last November. • Buchner won the opening-day starting job last season and later became the Gator Bowl MVP after accounting for 5 touchdowns last December in a comeback win over South Carolina. And less than 48 hours after entering the portal, Buchner reunited at Alabama with his former Irish quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, meaning both of Notre Dame's top two quarterbacks from last season (Bu- chner and Drew Pyne) transferred after the 2022 regular season. • And finally, Diggs, who with 822 yards last season was the team's sec- ond-leading rusher. He scored 6 touch- downs and recorded a team-high 165 carries in 2022. Diggs also led all Irish tailbacks with 211 receiving yards. For his career, Diggs recorded 1,052 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns. In all, 12 Irish players have entered the portal since the 2022 regular sea- son ended. While on the other side, the Irish coaches have brought in only five scholarship transfers during the same time frame. So, the numbers don't jive. Notre Dame is not alone with its ros- ter management challenges in this new landscape. First-year Colorado head coach Deion Sanders' arrival forced 56 departures to the portal, which the Buffaloes offset by adding 33 incoming transfers and 20 signees. Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher saw 31 players exit while adding only six newcomers via the portal. That said, most other programs don't hold their inbound transfer candidates to the same scrutiny that Notre Dame does, and many of those schools don't worry much about the "student" part of the student-athlete equation. Notre Dame has also demonstrated a reluc- tance to welcome in undergraduate transfers, creating more disproportion between incoming and outgoing players. Head coach Marcus Freeman and his staff have proven to be solid recruiters but have yet to show they are elite recruiters. When four key players transferred away in the span of one week — including three former top-100 recruits in Styles, Buchner and Kollie — Notre Dame doesn't have the deep talent base in place to absorb these losses in the same way an Alabama, Georgia or Ohio State would. "The degree from Notre Dame is truly something special," Freeman said while addressing Styles' transfer. "I want that for every one of my players because I believe an education from Notre Dame and a degree from Notre Dame will take care of the rest of your life." Freeman's message is a noble one. But in this era of transfer ease and NIL dollars, the tried-and-true four years for 40 years recruiting pitch doesn't carry the same clout it once did at Notre Dame. DEFENSIVE DOMINANCE Given the different dynamics the Irish offense and defense worked under this spring, the obvious ad- vantages the defense demonstrated throughout the spring football season and the Blue-Gold Game were more expected than concerning. Let's start with the defense. The entire coaching staff is intact from last season. A group of veteran and versatile linebackers provided Irish defensive coordinator Al Golden the confidence to be ultra-aggressive with his schemes and play calls during the spring season, something he was unable to consider last April during his first year on the job. On offense, Notre Dame spent the spring searching for a starting quar- terback, while at the same time, it was breaking in a new quarterbacks coach, a new offensive coordinator and a new offensive line coach. Given the ongoing coach and player acclimation on offense, it would've been of greater concern if the defense didn't win the spring season. "You're talking about the defense being in Year 2," Freeman explained. "Maybe there's success on defense be- cause we haven't installed [something] offensively. But can we teach and get better from it?" And that's the challenge moving forward. ✦ Running back Logan Diggs was one of four high-profile players who exited via the transfer portal this spring, join- ing Tyler Buchner, Prince Kollie and Lorenzo Styles. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER Transfer Portal More Of A Black Hole For Irish UPON FURTHER REVIEW TODD D. BURLAGE Todd D. Burlage has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 2005. He can be reached at

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