Brandon Joseph having flashbacks as Notre Dame prepares for Ohio State and C.J. Stroud
SOUTH BEND — The signature play of Brandon Joseph’s college career thus far was his one-handed interception in the end zone against former Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields in the 2020 Big Ten Championship.
As the Northwestern transfer binge-watches game tape of current Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud ahead of Notre Dame’s Sept. 3 season opener, the self-described “ballhawk” at safety finds himself having flashbacks to Fields.
“They look the exact same on the field,” Joseph said after Monday’s practice. “I was looking at C.J., and it looks like I’m watching Justin Fields in their demeanor, their size. I don’t know if he’s as big as Justin — Justin was huge — but they look the exact same.”
Both Fields and Stroud are 6-foot-3, but at a listed 228 pounds the Chicago Bears starter is 13 pounds heavier than his Buckeyes successor. Stroud finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting last season, his first as the starter.
Fields finished third and seventh in the Heisman voting in his two years as the starter.
“Justin was probably more of a runner and C.J. throws a little bit prettier, in my opinion,” Joseph said hours after he joined Stroud as a second-team preseason Associated Press All-America selection. “I’ve had way too much time to watch Ohio State. I probably could tell you so many things about the way I think C.J. thinks.”
Stroud completed 72% of his passes last season while passing for 44 touchdowns against just six interceptions. Fields, who had two seasons at the Buckeyes helm after transferring from Georgia, was a 68.4 % passer at Ohio State and finished with 63 touchdown passes and nine interceptions.
“C.J. just throws a really pretty ball,” Joseph said. “It’s really on the money. Almost every throw he makes, it seems like it’s just exactly where he wanted it to be. I have to be that much more correct on my end so that I can stop the perfect ball.”
Brandon Joseph:Notre Dame's outspoken star
Patterson, Foskey named preseason All-America
Jarrett Patterson (sprained right foot) is questionable for the season opener at Ohio State, but the recently converted left guard still made the Associated Press Preseason All-America first team.
Defensive end Isaiah Foskey also made the first team, while tight end Michael Mayer and Joseph were second-team selections.
Patterson was listed at center, where he started 34 of Notre Dame’s past 38 games until switching positions before August training camp.
Joseph, who transferred in January, was named a first-team All-America after his freshman season at Northwestern.
The second-ranked Buckeyes placed three on the preseason first-team and had five selections overall. Running back TreVeyon Henderson, wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba and offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr. were first-team selections, while quarterback C.J. Stroud and offensive tackle Dawand Jones were named to the second team.
Notre Dame has finished the year with multiple consensus All-Americans three times since 1994: 2015 (Jaylon Smith and Ronnie Stanley), 2017 (Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson) and 2020 (Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Liam Eichenberg).
Notre Dame had four consensus first-team All-Americans in 1990: Todd Lyght, Michael Stonebreaker, Chris Zorich and Rocket Ismail.
DJ Brown challenges teammates
One of coach Marcus Freeman’s first-year initiatives has been giving the seniors more of a vocal platform. Each senior, according to safety DJ Brown, has had a chance to speak to their teammates at some point during fall camp.
Brown was one of the first senior players to speak when it was his turn about a week ago. He said he didn’t jot anything down, but knew he had a message from his personal Notre Dame career experience he wanted to share: It was time for the Irish to finish what they started.
“I feel like the difference is when I was younger and we’d get to the playoff, my mindset was we would get it again,” Brown said. “We would get it again and beat them next year. I told the team that it was a problem with our team —why we couldn't finish these big games. Everyone had this mindset of, ‘We will go get it next year,’ and I basically said, ‘We can't have that.' Our time is now. Our schedule is set up for us. We control our own destiny. ‘ ”
Brown, who debuted in 2018, has been part of two College Football Playoff qualifiers. Including the 2020 ACC Championship loss to Clemson and a New Year’s Day loss to Oklahoma State, Notre Dame is 1-4 in the postseason during Brown’s tenure.
Brown hopes his message resonates with his teammates and the Irish can finally break through on the big stage.
“It means a lot for me with this being my last year, and I am hungry for it,” Brown said. “I think the whole team is hungry for it.”
Irish safeties coach Chris O’Leary offered his public condolences to the Indiana State University community after Sunday’s tragic auto accident that claimed the lives of three students, including two freshmen members of the Sycamores football team.
The football players were Christian Eubanks, 18, a linebacker from Waukegan, Ill., and Caleb VanHooser, 19, a defensive back from Liberty Township, Ohio. Indiana State student Jayden Musili also was killed in the single-vehicle accident in Riley, Ind., close to the Terre Haute campus.
Two other football players in the vehicle, redshirt freshman running back Omarion Dixon (Lafayette, Ind.) and redshirt freshman linebacker John Moore (Wheaton, Ill.), were hospitalized in serious condition.
“I didn’t know the players personally, but my prayers go out to the entire program and university,” said O’Leary, a Sycamores wide receiver from 2011-14. “It’s a tragic situation. I told my guys about it. It’s a real tragedy and they’re linking together. The community is praying, and our prayers go out to them.”
Mike Berardino covers Notre Dame football for NDInsider.com. Staff writer Justin B. Frommer contributed to this report.