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Fall camp is all about exposure.

For college football players across the country, it’s a time to show coaching staffs how much better they’ve gotten since spring ball. It’s an audition for the regular season. Plenty of Notre Dame Fighting Irish players aced their auditions.

These five were particularly impressive.

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1. Kevin Austin Jr. 

Notre Dame’s fall camp may have well been titled the “Kevin Austin Jr. Show.” The senior wide receiver has simply been that much of a standout.

Austin Jr. certainly had competition to make this list, too. Fellow senior wideouts Braden Lenzy and Avery Davis, the other two receivers who seem poised to round out Notre Dame’s starting trio at the position, have excelled in camp too.

Austin Jr., though, has been on another level.

Irish defensive backs have had a hard time covering the 6-2, 215-pound boundary target. He has proven to be un-guardable at times. Notre Dame already has an offensive player who fits that description in sophomore wide receiver Michael Mayer. If Austin Jr. stays consistent and gives Notre Dame a second all season, then the offense elevates to another level.

2. JD Bertrand 

This is a Notre Dame defense full of household names, and Bertrand isn’t necessarily one of them. The junior linebacker has been noticeably impressive in camp, though.

At times, it’s easy to mistake Bertrand for junior linebacker Jack Kiser. That’s not a bad thing. Both are built well for the position; Bertrand is 6-1, 230 pounds ans Kiser is 6-1 5/8, 222 pounds. They both have an edge about them on the field, too. They’re ball hungry. Willing and able tacklers.

Those are things Kiser has already shown flashes of. That’s why he’s slated to start at defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman’s version of rover. Bertrand, meanwhile, has been plugged in mostly at will linebacker but could easily play all three based on what he has shown in camp. A linebacker with that sort of versatility is bound to receive plenty of playing time.

3. Jack Coan 

It might be cliche to include the starting quarterback, but there are camps all over the country where it can’t be done. Florida State, for example, still has not decided on who will start against the Irish in Sept. 5’s season opener.

Notre Dame does not have that same problem. The Irish’s graduate transfer from Wisconsin has been good to the point of deserving documentation.

Sophomore Drew Pyne and freshman Tyler Buchner have thrown multiple interceptions during the media’s viewing portions of practice over the last two weeks. Coan has thrown fewer than either of them — which is exactly what to expect and want out of the starter.

Coan’s confidence in the pocket is palpable. He throws with accuracy and conviction, too. When he decides to let it rip, he doesn’t hesitate. Many of the incompletions he has thrown while the media has been able to watch have been drops or good plays by defensive backs. Coan does not misfire often. Pyne and Buchner have not been able to say the same.

It’ll be interesting to see how getting hit in actual games affects Coan. That hasn’t happened to him since 2019, after all. He sat out the 2020 season after getting surgery on his right foot in October. So far, so good in South Bend for the former Badger.

4. Houston Griffith 

Notre Dame Fighting Irish football senior safety Houston Griffith
Notre Dame safety Houston Griffith has shined during fall camp. (Chad Weaver)

When a team has a preseason All-American like junior Kyle Hamilton, there is no need to worry about half of the starting safety situation. But what about that other half? Senior Houston Griffith has given Notre Dame far less — if anything — to worry about in that regard.

Eight months after entering the transfer portal and flirting with leaving the program, Griffith has been everything Freeman told him he could be if he stayed. Of course, proving that in games is a whole different issue. But Griffith can’t do anything about that until the time comes.

Like Austin Jr. and Coan and even Bertrand, all Griffith can do is continue to be excellent in practice until the season starts. Once it does, he has to draw on what made him so effective in fall camp and continue to hit on those details when the lights are on.

5. Marist Liufau

It’s no coincidence two linebackers are on this list. Freeman has a ton of depth at the position, and it has shown up in fall camp. Liufau took the starting will linebacker position and ran with it.

Liufau and senior Shayne Simon couldn’t separate from one another on the depth chart in that spot last year. This year has been a different story. Liufau has won the job with his athleticism and nose for the football. He’s a dangerous pass rusher and has gotten better at run stopping and in coverage.

Teaming up with Kiser and senior Drew White as starting linebackers, Liufau provides the most dynamic potential of the three. Freeman needs someone who can cover ground and make plays while still playing soundly within the scheme. Liufau has emerged as his best option to do so.



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