Notre Dame is likely to be active in the transfer market this off-season – or at least as active as they can be given some of the challenges transfers pose for Notre Dame. The first nugget of news we got regarding Notre Dame’s transfer intentions came on Thursday when Allen Trieu of 247 Sports reported that the Irish will host Western Michigan DT transfer Braden Fiske.
Fiske (6’5″, 300 lbs) is an interior lineman that would give Notre Dame a bit more size inside, as the Irish have lacked bulk on the interior. He was able to enter the portal ahead of the December 5 official opening of the portal because Western Michigan had a coaching change. Penn State, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss have all reportedly offered Fiske already. Michigan State, Nebraska, and Iowa are reportedly interested as well.
In 12 games this year, Fiske tallied 58 tackles, 12 TFL, and 6 sacks. He also added 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, and 3 passes defended. For comparison’s sake, Howard Cross led Notre Dame’s interior linemen with 33 tackles, and Jayson Ademilola led all interior linemen with 5 TFL and 3 sacks. Fiske’s 58 total tackles would have ranked second on the Irish in 2022 as well. While the level of competition is a bit different for Western Michigan, Fiske’s production makes it easy to see why the Irish and other big-time programs are interested.
Notre Dame added Chris Smith from Harvard for depth on the inside of the defensive line last year, and with or without Fiske, the Irish need help via the portal here again. Smith ended up playing 240 snaps this year but is out of eligibility. Jacob Lacey decided to transfer from Notre Dame in the middle of the season and has since committed to Oklahoma.
Howard Cross played nose tackle despite lacking the ideal size for the position out of need, and played well. In 430 snaps this season, Howard was the highest-rated defender for Notre Dame, according to PFF (among players with at least 50 snaps). Still, it would be more ideal if Cross could slide over and take over for Jayson Ademilola if the Irish can add more bulk via the portal. Notre Dame has some younger players who project to be interior players long-term in 2023, but it’s unclear who among them will be ready for a prominent role.
The defensive line, in general, could be a focus of Notre Dame’s portal efforts. Notre Dame asked Justin Ademilola back, but it’s unclear if he will return for a 6th season. Jordan Botelho found a niche as a pass rusher towards the end of the season, but still played just 79 snaps all season. Impact pass rushers are very few and far between in the portal though – at least the ones that are legit options for Notre Dame that is.
With other major programs in pursuit already, getting an official visit for Fiske lined up already is a nice start for what figures to be one of the most active, if not the most active, off-season of roster movements for Notre Dame that we’ve ever seen.