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It’s the season for preseason All-America teams.

They’re trickling out across the college football interwebs and in print magazines – and with Notre Dame players included. Junior safety Kyle Hamilton is a near-unanimous first-team selection.

Lindy’s Sports 2021 preview magazine, Athlon Sports’ season preview and the Walter Camp Football Foundation have named him a first-team preseason All-American. Lindy’s also named him its top safety in college football for this season.

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Kyle Hamilton was a consensus All-American in 2020 and led Notre Dame in tackles.
Kyle Hamilton was a consensus All-American in 2020 and led Notre Dame in tackles. (AP Photo/Tony Tribble)

“Hamilton played injured most of the 2020 season and had offseason surgery,” Athlon’s preview reads, “but he still led the Irish in tackles and roamed sideline-to-sideline for the nation’s 14th-ranked scoring defense.”

In 11 games last season, Hamilton posted 63 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, six pass breakups and an interception. He enters 2021 as a projected top-10 NFL Draft pick. He did not practice this spring while he recovered from offseason ankle surgery.

Walter Camp’s second-team preseason All-America honorees included one of Notre Dame’s newcomers: grad transfer guard Cain Madden. The former Marshall guard has started 31 career games and was a second-team AP All-American in 2020. Pro Football Focus gave him the highest run-blocking grade (93.0) of any guard in 2020. In pass protection, he allowed zero sacks and six quarterback pressures.

Madden, a sixth-year senior, chose Notre Dame over Florida State in June as his grad transfer destination.

Athlon tabbed three other Notre Dame players on its other preseason All-America teams: offensive lineman Jarrett Patterson (second team), running back Kyren Williams (third) and tight end Michael Mayer (third).

Patterson is listed as a center, but he is likely to play elsewhere on Notre Dame’s offensive line in 2021. He started 21 games at center from 2019-20. Williams ran for 1,125 yards and 13 touchdowns in a breakout sophomore year. His 35 catches ranked third on the team. Mayer posted the best statistical season by a freshman tight end, with 42 receptions for 450 yards and two touchdowns. He tied for the team lead in catches.

Momentum Building For Adding BYU Game?

Notre Dame and BYU’s contract to play six games in the 2010s has yielded just two meetings, and none since 2013. It has since been trimmed to three games, a move prompted by Notre Dame’s partial ACC schedule.

Momentum for finally scheduling the third game has picked up, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe said recently.

“There’s been some really good discussions with Notre Dame,” Holmoe said on BYUtv. “In years past, it’s been crickets on the set. But I would say that there are good discussions. I think we’re getting close to being able to put together a game that would benefit both of our schools.”

Notre Dame and BYU played the first two games of the agreement in 2012 and 2013, both in South Bend. The Irish won each game and hold a 6-2 edge in the all-time series.

The teams have one opening each on their 2022 schedules. Notre Dame has 11 opponents set for 2013 and 10 scheduled games for 2024-26. BYU has no openings in 2023 and two in 2024.

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A Look Into The Future

Notre Dame is ranked between sixth and 15th in most preseason top 25s for 2021.

Its outlook for the next few seasons is right in that range, according to ESPN’s future power rankings. The outlet’s annual exercise is a personnel-based projection that aims to assess a team’s outlook for the upcoming three seasons.

When evaluating Notre Dame’s 2021-23 potential, ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg expects more double-digit win, top-10 seasons like the last four. The Irish are No. 9 in the future power rankings, one spot above LSU and below Florida (eighth), Oregon (seventh) and Texas A&M (sixth). They’re 16th in future quarterback ranking, 14th in future offense and ninth in future defense.

“The Irish have five AP top-11 finishes in the past six years,” Rittenberg wrote. “But the biggest stages haven’t brought out the best in them. Notre Dame still lacks the volume of elite offensive playmakers to win it all. [Brian] Kelly always is upfront about what matters most at Notre Dame, but his program needs a nudge in recruiting. New defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman is the type of coach to provide one.”

Of the three seasons weighed as part of the rankings, Rittenberg sees 2021 as the one with the lowest ceiling.

“The reality is Notre Dame should take a step backward in 2021,” Rittenberg wrote, “as the team loses several mainstays — quarterback Ian Book, linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, four All-ACC offensive linemen — and plays a tougher schedule (sorry, ACC). The key for 2022 and 2023 is maintaining the trajectory on defense under Freeman and getting significant upgrades at wide receiver.”

There are some offensive weapons in place for those seasons, even if receiver is presently lacking sure things.

“The Irish have their quarterback of the future in Tyler Buchner, an ESPN top-50 national recruit who practiced this spring,” Rittenberg wrote. “Running back projects well with Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree, and Notre Dame is the epicenter for tight end recruiting and development — Michael Mayer already is a star, and others are set to follow him.

“A short-term dropoff at offensive line is likely, but Notre Dame continues to attract top prospects such as [top-100 freshmen] Rocco Spindler and Blake Fisher.”


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