Who's next in line at guard for Notre Dame? Teammates say it's '100%' Billy Schrauth

Mike Berardino
ND Insider

SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame defensive tackle Howard Cross III didn’t hesitate Saturday when asked which young interior offensive lineman had stood out during Gator Bowl practices.

Billy Schrauth, the four-star freshman guard from Fond du Lac, Wisc., was the clear choice.

“Billy – 100% Billy,” Cross said. “You ask anybody (who) on the offensive line they think is going to be a good player out of this class, it’s Billy.”

Schrauth, who grew up on a dairy farm, missed spring practice while going through a four-month rehab process after surgery on his left foot, but the 6-foot-5, 300-pounder is making up for lost time.

“He’s just strong, extremely fast and (has) hands like I’ve never seen,” Cross said. “He knows what he’s doing. The hands that he has is crazy.”

And that’s coming from a rising star known as “Fast-Hands Howard,” courtesy of defensive coordinator Al Golden.

In captain Jarrett Patterson and sixth-year senior Josh Lugg, 21st-ranked Notre Dame must replace both starting guards after the season. Patterson and Lugg enter the Dec. 30 meeting with No. 19 South Carolina with a combined 77 starts at various spots along the offensive line.

Redshirt junior Andrew Kristofic has eight career starts at left guard, including the season opener at Ohio State. Second-year guard Rocco Spindler is listed as the primary backup at right guard on the team-distributed depth chart.

Schrauth, rated by 247Sports as the nation’s No. 7 interior offensive lineman in the Class of 2021, waited until last Dec. 10, five days before the early signing date, to spurn Wisconsin and Ohio State in favor of Notre Dame.  

“He’s extremely smart in what he’s doing, too,” Cross said. “He’s kind of got that J-Patt effect, where if he’s not blocking, he’ll somehow end up blocking you on the other side of the field even though he was not near you five seconds ago. He’s very aware of everything going on. He’s going to be a great player.”

Notes:Matt Salerno plans to return for sixth year; Michael Mayer named Notre Dame team MVP

Manti Te'o still mentoring

Three months after their first in-person meeting, freshman linebacker/vyper Junior Tuihalamaka continues to draw inspiration from Notre Dame legend Manti Te’o.

“I talked to him before the (Cal) game and after the game,” Tuihalamaka said. “He’s one of the best linebackers — or the best linebacker — to do it in college football. Just being able to know that he has my back, I’m just thankful to know that a linebacker like him can always help me with anything that I need.”

A four-star product of Granada Hills, Calif., Tuihalamaka was committed to nearby USC for nearly a full calendar year before Notre Dame entered the picture soon after Marcus Freeman’s arrival as defensive coordinator in January 2021.

Notre Dame linebacker Junior Tuihalamaka (44) chases down Boston College wide receiver Joseph Griffin Jr. (2) during the Notre Dame vs. Boston College NCAA football game Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

Te’o, who also struggled with the USC-Notre Dame decision as a high school recruit, shared his experiences in a FaceTime call during Tuihalamaka’s official visit. Former Notre Dame recruiting coordinator Brian Polian (now at LSU) arranged the call.

“I was actually in shock,” Tuihalamaka said last February. “I was like, ‘Whoa, this is Manti.’ But when I got to talk to him, he was everything that a down-to-earth person is. He also chose Notre Dame from a very long distance … and he was able to make all his dreams come true.”

Tuihalamaka, who is of Tongan descent, grew up playing rugby but his pre-teen memories of Te’o are vivid. The freshman recalls “being able to watch him knock people on their butt and make a lot of interceptions as a big linebacker himself.”

Benjamin Morrison credits Cam Hart for his rapid rise

Cornerback Cam Hart’s recent announcement that he would return as a fifth-year senior was a relief to freshman protégé Benjamin Morrison.

“I don’t think people understand the relationship me and Cam have been able to build,” Morrison said. “I look up to him, to be honest with you. He doesn’t understand the influence he has on me, the impact he has on me. That dude — no one will understand.”

Morrison, who enrolled in June, blossomed into a freshman All-American after making five interceptions in November. Hart’s tutelage was vital, even as the upperclassman dealt with a left shoulder injury that would ultimately cause him to miss the regular-season finale at USC.

Hart, who has two interceptions in 20 career starts, will also miss the Gator Bowl as he rehabs from the third shoulder procedure of his career.

“Coming in he was a little harder on me because I think he saw potential,” Morrison said. “He was really hard on me. But then, as the year went on, it was more so, ‘Hey, little brother.’ I’m really grateful for him. I’m happy I get to spend another year with him.”

No. 21 Notre Dame (8-4) vs. No. 19 South Carolina (8-4) 

What: 78th Annual TaxSlayer Gator Bowl 

When: Friday, Dec. 30 at 3:30 p.m. EST 

Where: TIAA Bank Field (67,164), Jacksonville, Fla. 

TV/Radio: ABC, WSBT Radio (960 AM), WNSN (101.5 FM) 

Line: Notre Dame opens as a 4.5 -point favorite  

Series: Notre Dame leads 3-1 

Last meeting: South Carolina won 36-32 in South Bend (1984).   

Follow Notre Dame football writer Mike Berardino on Twitter @MikeBerardino.