Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 19, 2020

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

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6 SEPT. 19, 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY PATRICK ENGEL E very college football coach's al- ready arduous challenge of roster management will be a bigger head- ache for the next few years. The NCAA Division I Board of Di- rectors ruled in August to add a year to the eligibility clock of every 2020 fall sport athlete. With football in particular, players who would have been out of eligibility after this year can come back and will not count against a team's 85-scholarship limit. The school is not required to renew scholarships for seniors, and seniors can move if they choose. Setting football rosters for the 2021 season should be fairly straightfor- ward, because any member of the senior class who returns won't be a countable player. But there will be reset expectations of playing time, future difficult decisions and pos- sibly further NCAA rules. "The real trick to this is the next recruiting class and how the NCAA is going to allow you to manage your roster," Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said. "Are they going to force you to go right back to 85 in 2021, or will they allow you to pare back from whatever that overage number is?" To Kelly's point, no one who will be out of eligibility after 2021 comes off the 85-scholarship count, because the only players who can be out of el- igibility in 2021 are seniors who will be exempt from the 85 that season. Furthermore, there will be three types of "freshmen" in 2021: regular freshmen (class of 2021), redshirt freshmen (class of 2020) who will still have five years to play four seasons, and players academically classified as juniors (class of 2019) who still have four years left to play because they redshirted in 2019. As of Sept. 10, Notre Dame had 18 committed players in its 2021 class and 13 players in their final year of eligibility. There will be changes be- tween now and next August, but here's a position-by-position look at scholarship numbers for the 2021 sea- son with the extra year. QUARTERBACK Name Eligibility Left Signing Class Ian Book 1 2016 Brendon Clark 4 2019 Drew Pyne 4 2020 Tyler Buchner 4 2021 Book can be a four-year starter if he and Notre Dame want it, though the 2021 season would be his sixth in college. If Book returned, perhaps Bu- chner, a top-100 player, would be a more serious challenger for a 2022 quarterback competition than he would be if one occurred after this season. RUNNING BACK Name Eligibility Left Signing Class Jafar Armstrong 2 2017 Jahmir Smith 3 2018 C'Bo Flemister 3 2018 Kyren Williams 4 2019 Kendall Abdur-Rahman 4 2019 Chris Tyree 4 2020 Logan Diggs 4 2021 With this year as a freebie, there's even more reason to use top-100 freshman Tyree. This season remains a career-defining one for Armstrong. He could find himself in an NFL training camp with a breakout senior year like Tony Jones Jr. had last year, or he could be a grad transfer candidate if he becomes a complementary piece behind Notre Dame's younger backs. WIDE RECEIVER Name Eligibility Left Signing Class Bennett Skowronek 1 2016 Javon McKinley 1 2016 Avery Davis 2 2017 Kevin Austin 3 2018 Braden Lenzy 3 2018 Joe Wilkins Jr. 3 2018 Micah Jones 3 2018 Lawrence Keys III 3 2018 Xavier Watts 4 2020 Jay Brunelle 4 2020 Jordan Johnson 4 2020 Lorenzo Styles Jr. 4 2021 The extra year is welcomed relief for Austin, whose foot fracture suffered in camp won't cost him eligibility. He is expected to return sometime in October. The short-term loss of Austin could be long-term benefit for Notre Dame. Skowronek, a graduate transfer, is a capable fill- in while he is out. And perhaps the injury makes UNDER THE DOME A FREE YEAR The NCAA extended 2020 fall athletes' eligibility clocks, ushering in new wrinkles for football roster management Brian Kelly and other college coaches must figure out how to oversee their rosters with all players earn- ing an extra year of eligibility. PHOTO BY MIKE MILLER

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