Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 19, 2020

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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16 SEPT. 19, 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED packages. As a senior at Providence Day High in Charlotte, N.C., the four-star recruit carried 114 times for 765 yards (6.7 yards per carry) and 12 touchdowns. In his junior season, he was credited with 600 yards on the ground and 13 touchdowns. There are no secrets with Ekwonu's style. "He has given us a physical presence," Kelly said. "He's a big, strong kid that can go in there and really mix it up for us." Meanwhile, the 5-11½, 195-pound Abdur-Rah- man starred as a run-first quarterback at Edwards- ville (Ill.) High his junior and senior seasons. He was shifted to slot re- ceiver at Notre Dame, but did not see game ac- tion in 2019. In his senior year, Ab- dur-Rahman rushed for 1,135 yards and 19 touchdowns — with 10 of them coming on runs of 40 yards or more. As a junior, he racked up 1,399 rushing yards with 26 touchdowns. "He has been a pleasant surprise with his ability to see things, hit the hole with some vision and break some big plays," Kelly summarized. Previous receivers under Kelly who moved to running back include 2016 third-round selection C.J. Pro- sise and current senior running back Jafar Armstrong. Both Armstrong and junior Jahmir Smith had setbacks in August — al- though they returned later in the month — that helped prompt the shifts. Armstrong was listed as the fifth running back even though he has the most career rushing yards (505). ROOKIE RISERS While most of the attention on Notre Dame's 16-man 2020 freshman class has been on "The Big Three" com- prised of running back Chris Tyree, tight end Michael Mayer and wide re- ceiver Jordan Johnson — all top-100 recruits — two defensive linemen who were early enrollees in January left an impression during preseason work. Neither is on the two-deep like cornerback Clarence Lewis, but both have demonstrated advanced skills to possibly see action. Defensive tackle Rylie Mills has al- ready developed physically into 6-5, 273 pounds after having been listed at 250 last winter. "He's ready to play this year," Kelly said of Mills. "Really good pass rusher at his size. He has some unique traits to him. He can make an impact." At vyper end, Jordan Botelho is vying with ju- nior Ovie Oghoufo and sophomore Isaiah Foskey for action behind starter and fifth-year senior Dae- lin Hayes. "Really twitchy, closes well, has a good IQ for the game," Kelly said of Botelho. SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES • B ro w n g r a d u a t e transfer Dawson Goep- ferich is listed behind incumbent Jonathan Do- erer as the placekicker and kickoff man. Goepf- erich last year converted 7 of 10 field goals, with a long of 35 yards, plus 33 of 37 extra points. • Replacing graduated three-year starting long snapper John Shannon is junior Michael Vinson, who will be backed up by freshman Alex Peitsch, the top-ranked prep player at his position last year. • Freshman running back Chris Tyree is listed as the top kick re- turner with senior Jafar Armstrong, while junior slot receiver Lawrence Keys III will be returning punts with sophomore running back Kyren Wil- liams the next option. ✦ Jordan Genmark Heath Leaves Team, Set To Graduate Senior Buck linebacker Jordan Genmark Heath announced via Twitter Sept. 7 he is leaving the team. He will remain in school to graduate in November. Earlier that same day, the first-released Notre Dame depth chart from the school revealed that junior Shayne Simon "or" sophomore Marist Liufau were basically the co-starters at Buck. Meanwhile, junior Jack Lamb also saw regular action there last year in sub packages before a hip injury sidelined him the final five games. Lamb continued his rehab this August but fell a little behind on the depth chart. The position remains highly competitive for playing time, even with Genmark Heath's departure. Simon and Lamb were both top-100 recruits by various outlets, while Liufau has been making huge inroads as one of the program's rising figures. After giving thanks to the coaching staff, support members and teammates, Genmark Heath concluded by writing, "making this decision wasn't easy, but I believe that it's the right decision, and I look forward to earning my degree in November. I will determine what my next chapter looks like when that time comes." Genmark Heath signed as a safety from San Diego in 2017 and enjoyed a strong freshman season, leading the team with 11 tackles on kickoffs and playing extensively, and well, in the 21-17 defeat of LSU in the Citrus Bowl. He shifted to linebacker the ensuing spring and received his first career start in a 31-21 win at North- western when captain Drue Tranquill was sidelined with an injury. He finished with 16 tackles that year, just as he did as a freshman. Last season he made a start in the opener at Louisville but that was his last, although he did appear in all 13 games and was credited with 10 tackles (one for loss). — Lou Somogyi Junior Shayne Simon (above) and sophomore Marist Liufau were listed as the co- starters the week of the Duke opener at Buck linebacker. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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