Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2023

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

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38 PRESEASON 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY JACK SOBLE O ne player knows the place where Notre Dame opens the 2023 season better than most. Graduate student linebacker JD Bertrand's dad, Jim, grew up in Dub- lin, Ireland, and was a star secondary school rugby player for Blackrock Col- lege. According to The Irish Times, he was Blackrock's captain in the 1981 Leinster Schools Senior Cup — es- sentially the Irish rugby version of the NCAA championship — and won the final at Lansdowne Road in Dublin. The younger Bertrand has been to Dublin four times, first when he was 6 and most recently this past March. Lansdowne Road was torn down in 2007, and in its place rose Aviva Sta- dium. That's where Notre Dame will take on Navy at 2:30 p.m. ET on Satur- day, Aug. 26. One of Bertrand's visits was dur- ing his sophomore year of high school, when his Roswell (Ga.) Blessed Trinity team played a game at Donnybrook. His dad had played there as well. "I think just for our guys, it's really cool to get this opportunity that many teams don't get," Bertrand said. "Most guys maybe haven't traveled outside of the country. It's just an opportunity to learn about a new culture. I think that's the cool thing about Notre Dame. They give you these kinds of opportunities." Bertrand missed Blessed Trinity's game seven years ago due to injury, so his family friends in Ireland haven't seen him play there yet. He's expecting 15, along with 15 more from back home. T h ey ' l l j o i n t h e a p p rox i m a te ly 40,000 Americans expected to travel for the game, which will go down as the largest migration from the U.S. to an- other country for a sporting event ever. "I think there's gonna be a ton of en- ergy and excitement," Bertrand said. "That's the coolest thing." As the anticipation builds, so does the tension. Notre Dame enters the season with sky-high expectations, brought on by a proven quarterback in Sam Hart- man and a talented, experienced roster. Those expectations will be put to the test in a matchup the Irish have to win. And not only is it the first game of Notre Dame's season, it's the first game of the college football season in general, and a standalone game in its time slot on national television. Suffice it to say every college foot- ball-starved fan will tune in to see what this Notre Dame team is made of. Irish head coach Marcus Freeman, while dis- cussing younger players getting more reps in practice, put it best. "You can't simulate the pressure that's going to be on with the stadium packed in Dublin, Ireland," Freeman said. MYSTERY MIDSHIPMEN When Bertrand traveled to Ireland in March, senior wide receiver Chris Tyree, junior running back Audric Es- timé and graduate student defensive end Nana Osafo-Mensah joined him. Osafo-Mensah was asked if his trip, one of two he took this year, helped him and the other Irish veterans feel more com- fortable going there on business. " Fo r s u re ," Osa fo - Me n sa h sa i d . "Easily." What might not make Osafo-Mensah and company comfortable is a new-look Navy offense. The base will still be the triple option, but approximately two- thirds of the playbook is brand new. Most believe Navy's run-pass splits, which made them the second-most run-heavy team in the country behind Air Force, will move sharply toward the national average. "We're still a triple-option team," se- nior offensive lineman Lirion Murtezi said at a press conference July 29. "But being able to throw all the different, creative things around the triple option is gonna make us a very explosive team GAME PREVIEW: NAVY Facts & Figures NAVY VS. NOTRE DAME Date: Aug. 26, 2023 Site: Aviva Stadium at Dublin, Ireland Kickoff: 2:30 p.m. ET Television: NBC Radio: This game can be heard on Notre Dame IMG affiliates. Series Facts: Notre Dame is 79-13-1 all time against Navy, including an active five-game winning streak. In their last meeting, the Irish held off a second-half Midshipmen surge to win 35-32 in Baltimore on Nov. 12, 2022. Head coaches: Navy — Brian Newberry (0-0, 1st season); Notre Dame — Marcus Freeman (9-5, 2nd season). Noting Navy: The Midshipmen fired 15-year head coach Ken Niumatalolo after a 4-8 season in 2022 … Niumatalolo told ESPN that Navy athletics director Chet Gladchuk told him while he was sitting alone in the locker room after a 20-17 double-overtime loss to Army Dec. 10 … Navy's last winning season was an 11-2 (7-1 American Athletic Conference) campaign in 2019, but since then the Midshipmen have gone 11-23 (9-13 AAC) … Navy players do not redshirt or have an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so the Midshipmen do not play graduate students … Star edge rusher John Marshall had 11.5 sacks (1.5 against Notre Dame), 19.5 tackles for loss, 7 passes defended and 2 forced fumbles last season, but he has graduated … As a service academy, Navy does not take transfers in, but wing back Maquel Haywood (473 yards on 73 carries, 8 receptions for 137 yards) left for Appalachian State … Navy finished last season 88th nationally in scoring offense (23.3 points per game) and 51st in scoring defense (25.3). A SORT OF HOMECOMING For one Irish football player, Notre Dame's game versus Navy will be a return to a place with deep family roots First-year head coach Brian Newberry, who spent four seasons as Navy's defensive coordinator before being promoted, has four players vying for the role of starting quarterback heading into the first game of 2023. PHOTO COURTESY NAVY ATHLETICS

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