Even while traveling abroad, Isaiah Foskey does his part for Notre Dame football

Mike Berardino
ND Insider
Notre Dame's Isaiah Foskey prior to Notre Dame Fall Practice on Friday, August 12, 2022, at Irish Athletics Center in South Bend, Indiana.

SOUTH BEND — Should four-star recruit Cooper Flanagan ultimately sign with Notre Dame, Isaiah Foskey deserves an assist.

Not only did they both play tight end for coach Justin Alumbaugh at De La Salle High School in Concord, Calif., but Foskey interrupted his visit to Florence, Italy in late May to speak for 20 minutes by phone with Flanagan.

“I texted him,” Alumbaugh said. “I said, ‘Hey, can you talk to Cooper?’ Foskey was like, ‘I’m sitting down to dinner in Florence, coach. Give me a call now.’ ”

It was about noon Pacific time, and Alumbaugh knew Foskey was nearing the end of his Italian experience after taking a 12-day Design Thinking course in Milan through Notre Dame. Did the coach hesitate to bother his famous former player at such a time?

“Not one iota,” Alumbaugh said. “Cooper wanted to just ask a couple questions about the (Notre Dame) program and stuff like that. I knew Foskey was out there and I was talking to him. He was sitting down to eat some pasta, and I was pretty jealous.”

Committed to the Irish since early last September, Flanagan is a top-125 four-star recruit rated as the nation’s eighth-best tight end in the Class of 2023. After LSU, Alabama and Miami extended scholarship offers this spring, Flanagan (6-foot-5 and 228 pounds) had more to consider as he prepared to slot in behind 2022 tight end signees Eli Raridon and Holden Staes.

“It meant a lot to him to have another DLS Spartan making him feel comfortable about the decision he made to go to Notre Dame,” Alumbaugh said. “(Flanagan) felt good about it. I was there for most of it, but I let those two talk amongst themselves a little bit too.”

More:Notre Dame's Isaiah Foskey set to study abroad: 'Oh, Milan is pretty cool'

Flanagan took his official visit to Notre Dame on June 10 and remains part of the second-rated recruiting class in the 2023 cycle. For now, Flanagan is the only tight end in that group of Irish commitments.

Foskey, meanwhile, was mostly known as a tight end in high school until his senior year. A starter since his sophomore year, Foskey had chances to play at the FBS level as a tight end.

“He can catch,” said Alumbaugh, entering his 10th season as head coach and 23rd overall with the Spartans. “He was a good physical blocker, a good route runner. A lot of schools were recruiting him as a tight end. He could have played major Division One, but I think the future was a little better for him as a defensive end or outside linebacker. Just a bit more of a natural fit for him.”

Damage done

Al Washington beamed like a proud parent Friday as he recounted the latest act of destruction by his defensive line group.

“We actually broke a new sled, which I’m proud of,” Washington said. “I don’t know which person (broke it), but on one of the reps the screws jolted out of it. I was proud, but I’m like, ‘Dang, now we’ve got to fix it.’ We just got it. They’re working on it now.”

Irish defensive linemen have three versions of the sleds, including a five-man, a slide and a shiver.  Costs can range from the mid-four figures and up, depending on the manufacturer.

“Those three sleds back there, I love them,” Washington said. “Those three things are the best tools in life. We touch that sled up.”

Rylie Mills is Herculean

Even for an All-America candidate like left guard Jarrett Patterson, blocking Rylie Mills every day in practice is quite a chore.

“Rylie, he’s a big man,” Patterson said this week of the junior from Lake Bluff, Ill. “He’s built like Hercules. He’s strong. I think he’s going to be a force this year for sure along that defensive front.”

Notre Dame defensive lineman Rylie Mills (99) during the Notre Dame Blue-Gold Spring Football game on Saturday, April 23, 2022, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

Listed at 6-foot-5 and 292 pounds, Mills can play both strongside defensive end and defensive tackle, depending on the alignment. Signed as a four-star recruit at 275 pounds, Mills has maintained his quickness even as he’s added muscle under the direction of fellow Chicago-lander Matt Balis, Irish director of football performance.

“(Mills) is an absolute machine in the weight room,” Patterson said. “You could ask coach Balis. (Mills) put up some crazy numbers in the weight room this summer. He’s really matured. I’m excited to see what he’s going to look like this fall.”

Walking wounded

Injuries are starting to pile up in a Notre Dame receiving room that is already thin.

Sophomore wideout Deion Colzie did some light rehab work on the side Friday after walking gingerly into practice with a left knee brace. Colzie, who was in street clothes, had just four catches last season but is expected to move into a larger role.

A few hours later, at least 20 minutes before the end of practice, graduate senior Avery Davis was spotted walking slowly across the street to the football building with a team trainer in tow.

Davis, a returning captain and the likely starter in the slot, had 27 catches and four touchdowns last season before undergoing season-ending knee surgery in November.

Mike Berardino covers Notre Dame football for and the South Bend Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBerardino.