Since the last seconds ticked off the clock of the Rose Bowl, Notre Dame’s roster has seen a lot of movement between NFL decisions and transfers in and out of the program. The 2021 roster was already expected to look quite different than the one we saw against Alabama so most of this hasn’t come as much of a surprise. Still, there were a ton of moving parts over the last two weeks, so here’s a quick recap of everything that’s happened.
Leaving Early for NFL (3)
Let’s start with some NFL decisions for players who would have had extra eligibility even if the NCAA hadn’t granted a free year to everyone who played or opted out this fall.
- Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (LB) – Least surprising news of the off-season. JOK’s trajectory pointed to the NFL ever since his breakout performance in the Camping World Bowl last year. Paul Moala, Isaiah Pryor, incoming freshman Prince Kollie, and possibly even BUCK Marist Liufau should challenge for the role.
- Aaron Banks (OL) – Banks had a year left even without the free year from the NCAA, but after just missing out on consensus All-American status this year he’s headed to the NFL. With his departure, Notre Dame will have four new opening day starting OL in 2021.
- Tommy Tremble (TE) – Despite not having big receiving numbers, Tremble decided to leave after his true junior season with two years of eligibility remaining. His departure opens up a much larger role for senior to be George Takacs and sophomore Kevin Bauman and could impact Notre Dame’s offensive identity in 2021.
Using Fee Year of Eligibility (1)
When the NCAA announced that every player on football scholarship would get a free year of eligibility this year, there was some hope that Notre Dame could have potentially gotten some unexpected returnees back in 2021, but so far only one player has announced he’s returning.
- Kurt Hinish (NT) – Pressed into action as a true freshman in 2017, Hinish should have had a 5th year of eligibility if Notre Dame had a reasonable defensive line depth chart then. They didn’t and Hinish played a lot as a true frosh. He got a 5th with the free year and is using it. He’ll return to anchor the Notre Dame defensive line.
Not Using Fee Year of Eligibility (4)
Several players accepted bids to the Senior Bowl during the season, signifying they had no intentions of returning in 2021 weeks/months ago. They include: Robert Hainsey, Bennett Skowronek, Ian Book, Daelin Hayes, Ade Ogundeji, Liam Eichenberg. Outside of them, the following players all have announced they will not be returning.
- Brock Wright (TE) – With Tremble leaving for the NFL, Wright could have had a much larger role for the Irish in 2021 to enhance his own draft stock.
- Nick McCloud (CB) – After transferring from NC State and locking down a starting role, McCloud returning would have been huge for the Irish. Instead, there will be an open battle in spring and fall camp to start opposite Clarence Lewis.
- Javon McKinley (WR) – There wasn’t serious thought that McKinley could use a 6th year after breaking out this year, but it would have helped the Notre Dame wide receiver room nonetheless. Notre Dame will have at least two receiver positions up for grabs.
- Shaun Crawford (S/CB) – Crawford was already laying on a 6th year for medical hardship. A 7th year would have been pretty much unheard of. Crawford will pursue an NFL career.
Still Awaiting Decisions/5th Years
There are five noteworthy player from 2020 who might return in 2021 who have not yet announced their intentions, but at this time, all are generally expected back. Reminder: Notre Dame usually doesn’t confirm 5th year players until closer to spring ball.
- Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa (DT) – Getting MTA back would give Notre Dame one of the deepest and most talented interior defensive lines in the country. MTA will be fighting with Jayson Ademilola for the starting role if he does return.
- Josh Lugg & Dillan Gibbons (OL) – Both are expected back as both already had 5th years available. Neither has publicly announced anything and Notre Dame hasn’t announced any 5th year decisions. Lugg seems a lock for the starting lineup and Gibbons should have a beat on another starting spot.
- Drew White (LB) – White had a 5th year already and could return for a 3rd season as Notre Dame’s starting MIKE.
- Avery Davis (WR) – He emerged as Notre Dame’s starting slot receiver and made some big plays for the Irish this year. He had a 5th year available even without the free year from the NCAA.
Transferred to Notre Dame for 2021
So far, Notre Dame has only picked up one transfer in the transfer market this year, but that figures to change. Notre Dame added four last year: Isaiah Pryor, Nick McCoud, Bennett Skowronek, and Trevor Speights. Two were huge successes (McCloud and Skowronek), one the jury is still out (Pryor), and the fourth (Speights) ended up having to go on medical scholarship.
- Jack Coan (QB) – Notre Dame picked up a huge transfer at quarterback last week when the Wisconsin graduate transfer announced he committed to Notre Dame. He should be considered a lock to start for Notre Dame opening day.
Entered Transfer Portal After Season
With new transfer rules expected to be announced imminently, we are about to enter an era of “free agency” in college footbal. Off-season roster movement will reach new heights for all programs. It hasn’t been announced just yet, but we’re starting to see an uptick in transfers.
Seven different Notre Dame players entered the transfer portal after the completion of the season. Before the end of the season, though, six other Notre Dame players either already announced they were transferring or transferred already. They include John Olmstead (OL), Jamion Franklin (DT), Kofi Wardlow (DE), Isaiah Robertson (WR), Jordan Genmark Heath (LB).
Here’s a brief rundown of the seven players who have announced they are entering the transfer portal so far.
- Houston Griffith (S) – Started as a true freshman in 2018 but hasn’t been much of a factor since. It was believed he would challenge for a starting role in 2021, but he reportedly had already decided on transferring during the season. (graduate-transfer)
- Isaiah Rutherford (CB) – Former 4-star recruit couldn’t crack the two-deep the last two seasons even with a need at corner. True freshman Clarence Lewis had already passed him this year. (NOT a graduate-transfer)
- Ovie Oghoufo (DE) – Would have had a role in 2021 as a pass rusher at DROP. He wouldn’t have started over Isaiah Foskey but likely would have had plenty of snaps. Jordan Botelho figures to assume those snaps. (graduate-transfer)
- Jahmir Smith (RB) – Left the program earlier this year to focus on his mental health. Would have been buried on the depth chart next season. (graduate-transfer)
- Jafar Armstrong (RB) – Injuries derailed his Notre Dame career. He was the starting running back at times in 2018, but since then, he fell down the depth chart and was a non-factor in 2020. He’s looking for a fresh start at wide receiver with another program. (graduate-transfer)
- Colin Grunhard – After earning a scholarship last year, the former walkon played sparingly in mop up duty this year. Even with injuries at center, Grunhard did not factor into the depth chart. (graduate-transfer)
- Jack Lamb – Another player whose injuries derailed his career. He had some moments over the last two years but could never secure a permanent place in the two-deep. He was a stalwart on coverage units this year though. With Shayne Simon, Marist Liufau, and Jack Kiser all back in 2021, Lamb had a lot in his way of playing time. (graduate-transfer)
There will likely be even more roster movement for Notre Dame over the next few months. I expect Notre Dame to be very active in the graduate transfer market again this year as well. Landing Marcus Freeman to replace Clark Lea will make Notre Dame an enticing destination for defensive transfers too.