Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 21, 2013 Issue

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

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the fifth quarter lou somogyi Co., had better get Bryant on the field pronto, otherwise he would be bidding adieu, a la other projected instant impact superstars such as quarterback Gunner Kiel and defensive end Aaron Lynch, whose issues were homesickness, matters of the heart and climate, more than playing time. The reality was Bryant was going through an adjustment phase like 99 percent of the other true freshmen in college football. I've interviewed hundreds of Irish players over the years, and in almost each case they confessed initial doubts about their ability, homesickness or a desire to depart. Recruits today are far more publicized than ever, with players now getting hyped even as high school sophomores or freshmen. So when they don't make an instant impact in college, they are ridiculed as potential busts or overrated, or there must be something wrong with the coaching staff. And how easily it's forgotten the other hyped recruits from previous classes are vying for action as well ahead of them. We aren't always aware of personal matters or injuries, information that coaches will withhold to protect the player. Think about the last two Notre Dame running backs who were first-round picks, Jerome Bettis and Greg Bell. As a 1990 freshman, Bettis — who donned an "All-World" jacket — had 18 carries (including the bowl game), while Bell had five attempts as a rookie in 1980 (five more than USA Today first-team All-American Wood as a 2009 freshman). It was a relatively tamer time back then regarding expectations for freshmen. If you didn't play back then, you were adjusting. If you don't play today, the perception is something is wrong somewhere. • What if today a quarterback arrived as one of a handful of elite recruit recruits at his position, yet is seventh team as a freshman? That was Joe Montana in 1974. No way it could be tolerated today. • Notre Dame had a 2007 receiver, Duval Kamara, who set a school record for most catches by a freshman. A classmate of his, Golden Tate, caught only six. Guess which one would win the Biletnikoff Award and turn pro as a junior two years later? • Tight end Mark Bavaro, a future All-Pro, barely played as a sophomore, never mind a freshman, and didn't catch a pass until his junior year in 1983. That's not to say freshman gamechangers can't come along. Defensive end Ross Browner and safety Luther Bradley had profound impacts during the 1973 national title run, as did wideout Raghib Ismail and tight end Derek Brown during the 1988 title march, although both caught a modest 12 passes apiece during the regular season as freshmen. More often than not, though, instant gratification sometimes gets delayed for a year or two, or even longer. ✦ Senior Editor Lou Somogyi has been at Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 1985. He can be reached at

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