Identifying strengths, needs of Notre Dame's offense and names to know in the 2022 class

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame has some holes to fill on offense.

The Irish lose the winningest quarterback in program history in Ian Book, leading wide receivers Javon McKinley and Ben Skowronek, four multi-year starters on the offensive line in left tackle Liam Eichenberg, left guard Aaron Banks, right guard Tommy Kraemer and right tackle Robert Hainsey, and versatile tight end Tommy Tremble.

Running back Kyren Williams, tight end Michael Mayer, center Jarrett Patterson and wide receiver Avery Davis are the four returning starters. Notre Dame also signed 26 recruits in the 2021 class in December and could add another next month via running back verbal commit Logan Diggs.

Below is an assessment of the current position strengths and needs on offense along with recruits they could add in the 2022 class.

Strengths

Running back: There is talent and depth at this position. The Irish return a 1,000-yard rusher in Williams and the rotation is likely to involve sophomore speedster Chris Tyree more next season. Senior C’Bo Flemister impresses in short-yardage situations. Notre Dame signed four-star running back Audric Estime, the Montvale (N.J.) St. Joseph Regional product who led his state in rushing last season.

Offensive tackle: There are several promising options to replace Eichenberg and Hainsey. Senior Josh Lugg and Patterson bring starting experience and could slide to tackle. Juniors Andrew Kristofic and Quinn Carroll and sophomores Tosh Baker and Michael Carmody are also intriguing. Then there’s incoming freshman Blake Fisher, a product of Avon (Ind.) High. All seven of those options held at least a four-star rating on 247Sports and Rivals in the recruiting process.

Tight end: Losing Tremble does not hurt much. The Irish have Mayer for at least two more seasons. Mayer looks destined to become an All-American after tying for the team lead in catches with 42 for 450 yards and two touchdowns. Senior George Takacs and sophomore Kevin Bauman should help Notre Dame continue to involve multiple tight ends in its offense. Incoming freshmen Cane Berrong and Mitchell Evans won’t have to play much in year one.

Needs

Wide receiver: Seniors Kevin Austin Jr. (foot) and Braden Lenzy (hamstring) reaching their potential after being slowed by injuries last season would greatly improve this position group. Sophomores Jordan Johnson and Xavier Watts impressing would help, too. The Irish also signed three promising receivers in the 2021 class: Lorenzo Styles Jr., Deion Colzie and Jayden Thomas. But until those options emerge, Notre Dame will lack proven experience and game-breaking speed at receiver. Davis (24 catches for 322 yards and two scores) is the only returning receiver who eclipsed 65 receiving yards last season.

Quarterback: Jack Coan may provide a short-term solution for Notre Dame at quarterback after committing to a graduate transfer from the University of Wisconsin. His eligibility is set to expire after this season. Beyond Coan, the Irish have four quarterbacks with freshmen eligibility and no starting experience in college: Brendon Clark, Drew Pyne, Tyler Buchner and Ron Powlus III. Quarterback recruiting is important every recruiting cycle for the Irish. It’s even more important in 2022 when considering their current situation.

Interior OL: If Patterson slides to left tackle, Notre Dame will have more questions than answers on the interior. Will graduate senior Dillan Gibbons and senior John Dirksen start at the guard positions? Will the Irish have enough depth, or will multiple offensive tackles need to move inside? Could talented incoming freshman Rocco Spindler start at guard? What about Lugg? Junior Zeke Correll, Patterson and Lugg are the only returning offensive linemen who have started at least two collegiate games. Correll might be the only one playing inside.

2022 class outlook

Quarterback: Steven Angeli received interest from Notre Dame before he became the full-time starter for Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic this season, landing a scholarship offer last August. The Irish are thought to be the favorite to land Angeli, who could improve his status as a three-star recruit with a strong senior campaign. Gavin Wimsatt, a four-star recruit from Owensboro (Ky.) High, is the only other 2022 quarterback who holds a Notre Dame offer. The Irish may offer more quarterbacks, including Gunner Stockton. The four-star recruit from Tiger (Ga.) Rabun County decommitted from South Carolina on Tuesday.

Running back: Shillington (Pa.) Governor Mifflin’s Nicholas Singleton, College Park (Ga.) Woodward Academy’s Damari Alston and Memphis (Tenn.) Christian Brothers’ Dallan Hayden are the three 2022 running backs Notre Dame currently has the best chance at landing. Singleton already has shown a lot of interest in the Irish. He attended two Notre Dame games in 2019 and planned to compete at an Irish football camp last June until the pandemic struck. Academics being a high priority for Alston partly explains why Notre Dame is one of his top schools. He also played for the same team as Irish safety signee Khari Gee last season. Hayden included Notre Dame in his top four schools list on Jan. 1, along with Tennessee, Ohio State and Oregon. He might play defense if he joins the Irish, though.

Wide receiver: Notre Dame has more work to do at receiver than any other position on offense in the 2022 class. There are still 11 months before the three-day early signing period in December, but the Irish are not the perceived favorite for any of the 18 receivers they offered. Bolingbrook (Ill.) Nazareth Academy’s Tyler Morris and Chicago St. Rita’s Kaleb Brown are two four-star receivers who make the most sense for Notre Dame. The Irish just need to push harder for them. Frisco (Texas) Liberty’s Evan Stewart and Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei’s C.J. Williams are two other four-star receivers who recently included Notre Dame in their top 13 and top 16 schools list, respectively. Kevin Coleman, a five-star receiver from St. Louis St. Mary’s, appears to be a top target. The Irish are still in contact with Kaden Saunders, a four-star receiver from Westerville (Ohio) South who verbally committed to Penn State last July.

Offensive line: There are a handful of four-star offensive linemen heavily interested in Notre Dame this cycle. The Irish already received verbal commitments from two of them: Zionsville (Ind.) High guard Joey Tanona and Groton (Mass.) Lawrence Academy tackle Ty Chan. Zach Rice will be the most important name to monitor. The Lynchburg (Va.) Liberty Christian Academy product is poised to finish this cycle as a five-star recruit. Ohio State, North Carolina and Notre Dame were listed as his top three schools earlier this month. Fond Du Lac (Wis.) St. Mary’s Springs’ Billy Schrauth and Las Vegas Bishop Gorman’s Jake Taylor are also strong possibilities. Schrauth named Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Notre Dame as his top four schools in October. Taylor appears to be leaning toward the Irish. There are other names to know, but Rice, Schrauth and Taylor are the three to watch for now.

Tight end: Does Notre Dame need to add another tight end this cycle? Milton (Ga.) High’s Jack Nickel, a three-star tight end, verbally pledged to the Irish in July. Notre Dame also signed two tight ends in each of the last couple recruiting classes and will be crunched for scholarship space in 2022. If the Irish want another tight end this cycle, they will likely need to extend more offers. Two 2022 tight ends hold Notre Dame offers beyond Nickel: Pilot Mountain (N.C.) East Surry’s Benji Gosnell and Dickinson (Texas) High’s Donovan Green. Gosnell committed to Ohio State in November. Brown excluded Notre Dame from his top six schools list in October.

Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic’s Steven Angeli, a three-star quarterback in the 2022 recruiting class, is showing plenty of interest in Notre Dame.

Below are the 2022 recruits who are verbally committed to Notre Dame.

OL Ty Chan

OL Joey Tanona

TE Jack Nickel

LB Nolan Ziegler