Notre Dame’s 2021 recruiting class is over half-gone

Just over two years ago Notre Dame put together a top-10 recruiting class nationally as they landed signed a National Letter of Intent from 27  different players.  Fast forward to late-April of 2023 and over half of those 27 players are no longer part of the Notre Dame football team.

In the modern era where the transfer portal has become something even bigger than ever imagined, the rise isn’t a surprise, but the degree of the rise certainly feels a bit much.

In just over the last week alone Notre Dame has seen four players from the heralded class enter the portal.  The chance there are more certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibilities.

Below are the 27 signees from the 2021 recruiting class and where they stand today.

The good news for the Irish is that despite the losses, more than a couple very key players remain.  Numbers indicate where they ranked in Notre Dame’s class according to the 247Sports rankings.

Blake Fisher – .9738 rating

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

After suffering a knee injury as the starting left tackle in his first college game at Florida State in 2021, Blake Fisher returned to play in the Fiesta Bowl loss against Oklahoma State.  He however switched to right tackle where he played all of 2022 for the Irish and will start at in 2023.

Rocco Spindler – .9713 rating

Rocco Spindler prepares for his announcement on where he would go to play football. Rocco announced he would be attending Notre Dame on August 8, 2020, in Clarkston, Michigan.  USA TODAY SPORTS

Rocco Spindler is entering his junior year and during the spring game showed off a lot of the physicality that made him such a highly regarded recruit.  Spindler is very much in the conversation to start at one of the guard positions this fall.

Tyler Buchner – .9684 rating

USA TODAY SPORTS

After spending his freshman year as a gadget quarterback used to help boost the run game, Tyler Buchner earned the starting spot in 2022.  He was injured the second game of the season and returned to win game MVP honors in the Gator Bowl victory over South Carolina.  Buchner announced shortly after the 2023 spring game that he was entering the portal and has since committed to Alabama where he’ll be reunited with former Notre Dame play-caller Tommy Rees.

Deion Colzie – .9570

USA TODAY SPORTS

Deion Colzie remains at Notre Dame and figures into the conversation to start at receiver in 2023.  In two seasons however he’s been able to record just 13 receptions to date.

Lorenzo Styles, Jr. – .9477 rating

Adam Cairns-USA TODAY Sports

Lorenzo Styles, Jr. was the first of the 2021 receivers o get substantial playing time and seemed primed for a breakout in 2022.  The quarterback situation clearly didn’t help in 2022 but the emerging talent at receiver likely played a factor as well as Styles entered the transfer portal just a day before the spring game in 2023 as he plans to play defense at his next destination. His Notre Dame career ended with 54 career receptions for 684 yards and two touchdowns.

Gabriel Rubio – .9472 rating

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Gabriel Rubio stood out on Notre Dame’s goaline unit in 2022 after playing only in the Fiesta Bowl as a true freshman.  He totaled 17 tackles in 2022 with four coming for a loss. The St. Louis product figures to have a more significant role as the defensive line is largely reworked entering the 2023 season.

Prince Kollie – .9366 rating

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020 high school Butkus Award winner as the nation’s top linebacker appeared to be headed towards significant playing time in 2023. Prince Kollie however entered the transfer portal shortly after spring practice concluded as one of the players with the highest potentials in the class is now looking for a new home.  Kollie played in all 13 games a season ago, recording 19 tackles and returning a blocked punt against Clemson for a touchdown.

Audric Estime – .9146 rating

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

“The Little Bus” as some call Audric Estime had a breakout year in 2022, leading Notre Dame with 920-yards while dashing for 11 touchdowns.  Estime figures to be Notre Dame’s top back in a talented room headed into his junior season in South Bend.

Cane Berrong – .9137 rating

Image courtesy of Notre Dame athletics

Injuries never allowed Cane Berrong to live up to the hype he came into Notre Dame with as a four-star prospect in 2021.  He played in four games over two seasons but entered the transfer portal following the 2022 campaign and is now part of the Coastal Carolina football program.

Philip Riley – .9033 rating

Notre Dame running back Logan Diggs (22) gets pushed out of bounds by defensive back Philip Riley (25) during the Notre Dame Blue-Gold Spring NCAA college football game on Saturday, April 23, 2022, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind. (Michael Caterina/South Bend Tribune via AP)

Philip Riley had a back-and-forth recruitment before ultimately ending up at Notre Dame.  Riley played four games as a freshman but saw the field only in the 44-0 blowout of Boston College in 2022.  Riley is no longer part of the Notre Dame football program according to Marcus Freeman but has not entered the transfer portal officially.

Caleb Johnson – .9000 rating

When you recruit the caliber of offensive tackles that Notre Dame did in 2021 there simply aren’t going to be enough rooms at the inn for all.  That was the case with Johnson who couldn’t get on the field in large part due to the successes of Blake Fisher and Joe Alt.  Johnson entered the transfer portal after the 2022 season.

Jayden Thomas – .8991 rating

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

By the end of the 2022 season Jayden Thomas was making strides and getting more targets as 16 of his 25 receptions on the year came either in November or the bowl game.  He was a favorite of Sam Hartman in the 2023 spring game and figures to be a key piece of Notre Dame’s new-look offense this fall

Khari Gee – .8911 rating

Khari Gee spent one season at Notre Dame but did not see any game action.  He transferred to Georgia Tech following his freshman season.

Joe Alt – .8901 rating

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

In a prime example of never relying fully on recruiting rankings, Joe Alt is the biggest success to date of Notre Dame’s 2021 recruiting class.  Alt went from a high school tight end to perhaps the best offensive lineman in college football ahead of the 2023 season.  Barring injury, Alt will start at left tackle for the Irish and 2023 and could very possibly be a top-10 draft pick in 2024 if he chooses to go that route.

Logan Diggs – .8815 rating

[Bob Self/Florida Times-Union]

Logan Diggs is another player who played above his recruiting ranking or rating.  Diggs was the second leading rusher for the Irish in 2022 and totaled over 1,300 yards in two seasons.  He entered the transfer portal right after the 2023 spring season concluded however.

Mitchell Evans – .8815 rating

Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports

Mitchell Evans has battled injury issues during his two seasons at Notre Dame but enters a 2023 year where assuming health, he’ll likely be the young man given the heavy task of replacing Michael Mayer as the top tight end for the Irish.

Ryan Barnes – .8763 rating

Photo courtesy of Notre Dame athletics

Ryan Barnes remains at Notre Dame after appearing in four games as a freshman and just one last year.

Justin Walters – .8759 rating

Image courtesy of Notre Dame Athletics

In two years at Notre Dame, Justin Walters played in seven games largely on special teams.  Before the 2023 spring season it was announced that Walters was medically retiring from football.

Chance Tucker – .8759 rating

Chance Tucker remains at Notre Dame after having played in just one game (2022 vs. Boston College) in his two years of college.

Devin Aupiu – .8752 rating

Edge defender Devin Aupiu transferred to UCLA after spring football at Notre Dame in 2021.  He has played in 14 games for the Bruins over the last two seasons.

Will Schweitzer – .8748 rating

Notre Dame junior tight end will medically retire due to heart condition

Notre Dame junior tight end will medically retire due to heart condition

Image courtesy of Notre Dame athletics

After appearing in three games for Notre Dame as a true freshman in 2021, Will Schweitzer did not see the field in game action in 2022. He retired from football with a non-medical issue entering the spring season of 2023.

Kahanu Kia – .8748 rating

As planned during his recruitment, Kahanu Kia is currently on a two-year mission trip for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Pat Coogan – .8737 rating

Interior offensive lineman Pat Coogan made his college debut in the 44-0 blowout of Boston College in 2022.  Coogan is vying for playing time on Notre Dame’s offensive line this fall.

Jason Onye – .8730 rating

Like multiple players in his class, Jason Onye saw his first college game action in the 2022 blowout win over Boston College.  Onye remains at Notre Dame and turned a lot of heads in a good way after a strong spring in 2023.

JoJo Johnson – .8685 rating

After spending 2022 at Notre Dame but not seeing the field, JoJo Johnson transferred and is currently at Iowa Western Community College.

Josh Bryan – .8226 rating

After being recruited as one of the nation’s top kickers in the 2021 class, Josh Bryan opted to enter the transfer portal after Notre Dame again chose to go the route of the portal to add a kicker for the 2023 season.

Ron Powlus III – .8159 rating

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

After spending two seasons as a member of Notre Dame’s scout team, Ron Powlus III retired from football ahead of the 2023 spring season opening.

Story originally appeared on Fighting Irish Wire

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