The culmination of the spring football season is upon us, the Blue and Gold game is set to be on our screens and for some of us, in the stands of Notre Dame Stadium. For the most part all the work these players have put in has been behind the scenes, but now, they emerge from the shadows of Irish Athletic Complex and give us a sneak peak of what’s to come this fall. Here are five outcomes we’d love to see come out of the spring.
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A quarterback set up and take the #1 spot
Notre Dame’s Tyler Buchner, center, stands with Ron Powlus III, left, and Steve Angeli during Notre Dame’s spring NCAA college football practice on Thursday, March 17, 2022, inside the Irish Athletic Complex in South Bend, Ind. (Robert Franklin/South Bend Tribune via AP)
The Irish played three quarterbacks last year and while Jack Coan did a great job, once again heading into the season, there will be a new starter at the position. The best bet is Tyler Buchner, but he will need to show that he has taken positive steps in the passing department. Drew Pyne decided to stick around and fight it out of the starting position, which really helps with depth. He’s not a throw away either, having played fairly well last fall. There is excitement to see what Steven Angeli brings to the table as well, but he’s clearly the dark horse in the race. It would be great to see one of them emerge from the spring as the number 1, and if I had to bet, my money is on Buchner.
Playmakers taking the next step on offense
Jan 1, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish wide receiver Lorenzo Styles Jr. (21) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the first half during the 2022 Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Gone is Kevin Austin Jr. to the NFL and while Michael Mayer does return, the focus of many defenses will be to stop the star tight end. In order for Mayer to have another big season, other players will have to emerge from the wide receiver room. Braden Lenzy has always shown flashes but injuries have held him back. Will he have the senior, last dance type season? Avery Davis returns, but he’s more of a solid yet unspectacular receiver. A big-time deep threat needs step up, with eyes on a pair of sophomores to take up the mantle. Lorenzo Styles Jr. has the potential to be a game-breaker and really come up big in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl. The momentum most likely carries into the season. Deion Colzie played but didn’t record many stats last year, he’s got the body type to make plays in the red zone. A big leap in year two is expected from Colzie.
Freeman more comfortable in his surroundings
Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman watches spring NCAA college football practice on Thursday, March 17, 2022, inside the Irish Athletic Complex in South Bend, Ind. (Robert Franklin/South Bend Tribune via AP)
This experience is new for Marcus Freeman, not being on the sidelines for a spring game, but being the lead during a the glorified scrimmage is. His debut against Oklahoma State was great for a half, but unfortunately Freeman’s inexperience hurt during the second half. The good news is that no matter what, this will be a win for the Irish but getting comfortable being the head coach is key going forward. This should be a first step for Freeman in doing so.
Defensive lineman step up
Like Mayer, Isaiah Foskey is a very know commodity heading into the season and will have many offensive coordinators eyes after his 11-sack 2021 season. Teams will move protection to his side, start chipping him more with running backs and double-teams as well. For Foskey to create havoc for opposing offenses once again, someone else needs to step up. The Ademilola twins are super solid, Justin (5.5) and Jayson (3.5) each had multiple sacks last year, but having a deep pass-rush is key to any defense. Two players stick out in my mind, Alex Ehrensberger and Tyson Ford. The German import Ehrensberger is entering his third-year and has shown flashes of dominance, getting better every time he steps out on the field. Ford, although a true-freshman, has immense potential and gets a head start by being on campus already.
The transition for Brandon Joseph
Jul 22, 2021; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Northwestern Wildcats safety Brandon Joseph speaks to the media during Big 10 media days at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports
The former All-American has moved a bit east from one high level academic institution, Northwestern, to South Bend. Learning a new defense can sometimes be tricky, but for Joseph, he should be able to handle the new terminology and scheme. This will be our first look at what Joseph brings to the table and although he most likely won’t play much, it should still be nice to see the Irish replacing one All-American (Kyle Hamilton) with another.
Bonus: No injuries
Notre Dame pensive coordinator Marcus Freeman, left, next to defensive line coach Mike Elston during the Blue-Gold NCAA spring football game on Saturday, May 1, 2021, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
This is key to any team but especially for the Irish. Game one of the 2022 season is a tough one, traveling to Columbus to face a very good Ohio State team. For Freeman to no start his career off to an 0-2 start, the Irish need to be fully healthy for their tilt against the Buckeyes. To leave the Blue and Gold game with no injuries would be the ideal scenario and let’s hope for good health in fall camp as well.