Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2023

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

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18 PRESEASON 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY JACK SOBLE W hile graduate student Sam Hartman was technically in a quarterback competition during the spring, Freeman said, it was difficult for him to "truly lead" at Notre Dame. Over the summer, after junior quar- terback Tyler Buchner transferred to Alabama, that changed. "What you've seen, from the time that he's realized he's the quarterback, is his leadership amongst that offen- sive unit has continued to just excel," Freeman said. "And what that creates is what we call that unit string. It's that buy-in, it's that emotional factor, that I don't want to let this guy down. I don't want to let this leader down." At least in part as a result, Freeman believes this is possibly the closest group of players he's seen in his 13, go- ing on 14, years of coaching. Vibes are good in South Bend. An- ticipation for the season is building. To keep everyone focused, Freeman is try- ing out a new coaching tactic: after pre- practice warmups, he gathers his team together, has them take a knee and gives a short, more-fiery-than-usual speech. On Day 1 of fall camp, Freeman made sure his players knew that the next three and a half weeks wouldn't be perfect. "I want them to understand after practice that mistakes happen," Free- man said. "And we're going to improve from them. Don't let what happened in the last practice affect the next practice, because it is a bumpy road to Dublin, Ireland." THREE RECEIVERS EMERGE Eight of Notre Dame's nine scholar- ship receivers could play meaningful snaps in 2023. The lone exception is freshman KK Smith, who had shoulder surgery this summer and will spend the next couple months recovering. However, based on the full practice reporters saw July 26, the three start- ers look all but finalized. Junior Jayden Thomas, sophomore Tobias Merri- weather and senior Chris Tyree worked exclusively with the first team and will likely be the first three receivers on the field for Notre Dame in Dublin. Thomas was always going to start, be- ing the most experienced of the group. He caught 25 passes for 361 yards and 3 touchdowns this past season, and he followed it up with a great Blue-Gold Game in which he had 4 grabs for 71 yards and a score. Merriweather has looked like a good bet since the spring, too. Notre Dame thinks the world of his potential, and his size (6-foot-4) and track speed have been on display in camp. "If he just works, his talents and abilities are good enough to have a very successful year," offensive coordinator Gerad Parker said. "I believe that, and we believe that. And he knows that. If he just works and continues to improve his craft, his body will take over." Tyree, a converted running back, has looked more natural as a receiver than anyone could have imagined. He caught multiple touchdowns from Hartman in that July 26 practice. "It's early, but CT has done a good job investing in catching the football," Parker said. "There's not just one way to win a route. … He's learning, 'When do I use this method? When do I use this one?' "We really believe CT is learning how to do that." GOOD VIBES Marcus Freeman believes his 2023 Irish team could be the closest group of players he's seen Senior Chris Tyree has made a smooth transition from running back to wide receiver and appears in line to start in the slot when the season begins versus Navy Aug. 26 in Ireland. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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