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The 2023 Observer sports mailbag, edition #1

| Thursday, August 31, 2023

For the first time (at least in my time at the Observer), we’re doing a mailbag! You have questions about Irish athletics. I, in my infinite wisdom (and attendance record), will hopefully have answers. One disclaimer: All questions have been edited for clarity and brevity. And with that, off we go …

Is Sam Hartman good enough to win big games with a still-unproven receiver core?

Meghan Lange | The Observer
Irish graduate student quarterback Sam Hartman (10) delivers a pass to freshman wide receiver Jaden Greathouse (19) during Notre Dame’s 42-3 defeat of Navy at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland on Aug. 26.

More on this in this week’s Irish Insider! In short, my answer is yes. Notre Dame’s receiving core showed promise last Saturday. But it comes with the important caveat that Navy’s pass defense is a far cry from a high-level benchmark. This is a secondary unit that ranked 98th in passing yards allowed per game last season. Tennessee State probably won’t provide that test, but North Carolina State won’t be a pushover. We’ll probably have a better idea of where the Irish passing attack stands on September 10th. 

However, the flashes shown against Navy do matter for a unit that struggled to generate buzz over the summer. Sophomore wideout Jayden Thomas is a unique weapon that can be used in a variety of roles by new offensive coordinator Gerad Parker. The value of a receiver who looks comfortable both in the slot and on the outside shouldn’t be understated. Junior wide receiver Deion Colzie carried over his strong end to the 2022 season with multiple key catches. Freshman Jaden Greathouse did as well with eight snaps as could have been reasonably asked (and then some)! Senior Chris Tyree had strong moments in his new slot role. The only receiver who didn’t chip in was sophomore Tobias Merriweather, who struggled for involvement after an early drop and a long pass break-up.

Merriweather remains the key to the group. Thomas will likely lead the group in both targets and catches. Greathouse should only get better as the year goes on. But neither of those players are traditional vertical threats. Tobias Merriweather could be just that for the Irish — the player that really opens up the passing game underneath. If teams have to account for Merriweather, that’s less attention they can give to the likes of Thomas and Tyree.

Expect Merriweather to garner targets early and often against Tennessee State for this exact reason.

At what fictional sport would Notre Dame athletics most excel?

In the Harry Potter canon universe, Ireland does have a quidditch World Cup, so let’s go with that. Plus, the concept of interhall sports plays so well into the idea of competition between houses.

Would Stanford joining the Big Ten sway Notre Dame to join a conference in full?

This was one of multiple questions from the mailbag concerning Notre Dame’s independence, but it took the most interesting (in the mind of this writer, at least) angle. Stanford joining the Big Ten would certainly create an enticing offer for the powers-at-be for the Irish to consider. 

Almost all of Notre Dame’s yearly rivalry games would neatly align into one potential conference slate. Traditional rivalries with the likes of Michigan State, Purdue and Michigan could be revived as well. And the money would be lucrative, to say the least. 

Notre Dame clearly thinks exceptionally highly of Stanford as a school and athletic program (justifiably so, with the Cardinal running a Directors’ Cup dynasty), highly enough to leverage any sway they have with the ACC to try and find them a home. But would they shed their treasured independence for them? I’d have to imagine it would be a step too far. As long as Notre Dame remains financially capable of staying independent and able to do so with a path to the College Football Playoff, they’ll stand pat.

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The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About J.J. Post

J.J. Post is a senior in Fisher Hall. Hailing from Mountainside, New Jersey, he's currently working his way towards being the nation's foremost expert on college soccer. Whether via the button below or his overly active Twitter (@JayJayPost), feel free to reach out and talk about Notre Dame soccer, football, basketball, volleyball, baseball or softball. Or any other Notre Dame sport you can think of. Odds are he watches it as well.

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