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Things We Learned This Season: Notre Dame’s culture created progress, though inexperience begat losses Leftovers & Links: Transfer portal opens fast, but slow for Notre Dame … for now; Mayer & Foskey status TBD Notre Dame will face South Carolina in the Gator Bowl on Dec. 30 Drew Pyne to transfer from Notre Dame; Tyler Buchner reportedly a bowl possibility Notre Dame adds a fourth receiver commit to recruiting class, helping a roster need

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If the transfer portal window has really changed anything about college football, it’s when it seems like one season has ended and the next has begun. This move used to be delayed until mid-January, but now the transfer portal window opening on the Monday after the conference championship weekend kicks off the off-season to get the rookie spring training experience, obviously creating summer anticipation and then pre-season hype. So, before the portal leads to a new Notre Dame quarterback and a pair of receivers that create nine months of hopeful hypotheses, Let’s reflect on what we’ve learned in 2022…

A talented football team largely “driven” by its offensive and defensive lines, led by a new head coach not yet versed in the tasks of game management, and lacking the perimeter playmakers who raise college ceilings. football this decade.

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By the end of the 2022 season, Notre Dame was as expected, although its 8-4 record was a slightly disappointing way to reach that expected end. The No. 21 Irishman should never have taken the same spot as No. 5 in the preseason, not when he replaces the experience that comes with 22 career starts at quarterback and three decades of bad luck with the head coach. Drew Pinethe entrance to the transfer portal, but this can be solved with a modern shortcut.

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But in essence, Notre Dame was exactly what the head coach first did. Marcus Freeman wanted it not to be a one-star team, but “an O-line and D-line based program,” a phrasing he first articulated at the start of pre-season training that lasted until November, though the space never really got off the ground. found the right way to format it. The focus on the Irish made Freeman’s 38-27 loss last Saturday against USC even more disappointing for Freeman because the Trojans quarterback Caleb WilliamsRepeated evasions of Notre Dame’s line of defense ended up making the strongest line of attack, turn blocking, less of an advantage.

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“Like I just told the team, I’m sure everyone, starting with me, is disappointed,” Freeman said that evening. “You want to see how you compare to that team when you play at your best. We didn’t play well. …

“It’s a damn good football team, very good. We have a really good football team and it’s just disappointing. You want to see two really good football teams play really well, you want to see what the result is.”

The loss may have made Freeman a little more self-critical than he deserved, as the Irish forced Williams to become a headline-dominating star a little faster than the current season, a stand-alone star just a week before. A hamstring capped the Heisman Trophy finalist on Friday night in the Pac 12 title game against Utah. But Freeman’s point was correct, Notre Dame was not at its best at USC.

For that matter, American football fans have been denied that moment throughout the season when it comes to the Irish. “Two really good football teams, both playing really well” never showed up. Either Notre Dame’s game plan was too conservative to allow for superiority (a 21-10 loss at Ohio State), or the opposition was completely outgunned on both sides of the line (a 35-14 win over Clemson), or one star knocked the Irish out of the game. their perfect game (Williams). While Notre Dame fans enjoyed a win over archenemies the Tigers on Nov. rather because Testing Freeman’s resolve at the most important moments would be a welcome Irish luxury in this season of ups and downs.

Although this is in the coming years.

This year, Freeman’s naivety has caught up with him in one way or another, first against Marshall and then against Stanford, the kinds of games Brian Kelly excelled in wins in the last five seasons in South Bend. It’s not a very pleasant excuse, but such mistakes are common in the early years of coaches, especially those on the defensive side of the ball. The instincts needed to push the right buttons on a Saturday afternoon come with time and frustration.

The surprise of the Irish season may have been that these two disappointments at Notre Dame didn’t ruin the whole year.

Five-year-old left back, four-year starter and two-time captain. Jarrett Patterson expressed this disappointment immediately after the Irishman lost to Marshall, Patterson was playing on an injured leg, which no doubt added to his anxiety. When Notre Dame lined up to sing Alma Mater after the game, Patterson headed up the tunnel instead, having already removed his jersey and pads.

In his defense, the Irishman lost only once at home in Patterson’s entire career, what to do after a loss is not ingrained in his muscle memory. Besides, Notre Dame had just been smashed along both lines; his disappointment was well founded.

Nevertheless, the Irish rallied, apart from the inexplicable Stanford shock. They beat Clemson just as hard, if not worse, than Marshall had beaten Patterson & Co. two months earlier. USC needed Williams’ escapes because Notre Dame’s line of defense had been defeated by the Trojans’ line of attack. Freeman’s engines have arrived for the Irish this season, albeit a couple of weeks later than ideal.

“I’m proud of how our team has kept progressing, kept fighting, kept getting better,” Freeman said. “…Today we did not win, they played with all their heart, and I told them this in the locker room.

“I’m proud of the way you played because you never gave up, you keep getting better.”

Many teams lose that programmatic drive to progress after their season goes awry. Immediate examples have been seen this year in College Station, Chestnut Hill and East Lansing.

“Hell, after the second week, you could have gone in the opposite direction,” Freeman said. “After the sixth week, when we lost to Stanford, everything could go wrong. But these leaders and these guys continue to fight.”

Frustration has become the norm at Stanford, Wisconsin, and Florida. Only time will tell if the new coaches will change that. Freeman didn’t have that mandate thanks to Kelly’s resurgence after the 2016 debacle, and Notre Dame’s reaction to losing to Stanford suggests there shouldn’t be panic or permanent disappointment following the loss in Los Angeles. The No. 19 Gator Bowl matchup from South Carolina on Dec. 30 (3:30 pm ET; ABC) may be proof of this in some respects, but not definitively, given the growing exhibition nature of bowl games.

“They will fight after this,” he said. “It hurts because you gave it your all, but our leaders will keep us together.”

An early-season loss at Ohio State showed the Irish lacked enough playmakers to play college football’s top players in 2022, so some transfer portals are focused, and a poor two-minute practice against Stanford once again exposed the inexperience of two of Notre Dame’s most popular players. critical positions, but the Irish did not flinch on either occasion.

When Notre Dame director of athletics Jack Swarbrick promoted Marcus Freeman, he cited a desire to develop culture in the Irish locker room. His reaction to these losses may have confirmed that there is more to culture than victory. Patterson’s public disappointment embodied this, but the victories that followed proved it.

Sticking to that culture and even building it into the offseason will be Freeman’s next challenge, starting with the idea of ​​importing a starter into the position he’s most focused on on any given Saturday. Not only in the Gator Bowl, but also for 2023.

The transfer portal is open.

The difference between this year and several previous years is that there is a set window for undergraduate students to enter a better and more sinister database known as the portal. And that window started today, December 5th.

There was uncertainty about how this opening day would go. Like the first moments of National Signing Day, with announcement after announcement after announcement? A trickle throughout the day and week? Will players exit the portal (again, it’s just a database) as quickly as they enter it?

After half a day, the answers are all somewhere in between.

As for Notre Dame, only two players jumped into the portal today: the young defender Drew Pineas expected since its announcement on Friday, and the freshman quarterback Jayden Bellamy. New ones will surely follow next month, most likely this week, if not even on Monday evening.

“We had individual meetings with many of our players,” said the head coach of Ireland.


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