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Four Irish Freshmen Who Could See Early Playing Time

Updated: Feb 28

Written by Connor Regan ⏐ Senior Staff Writer ⏐ Twitter/X: @thatconnorregan

Photo by The Irish Tribune


The Irish secured the 10th-best recruiting class in the nation for 2024, adding a sizable crop of new talent to an already stacked roster with several returning starters. The 2024 spring game doesn’t come until April 20th, but a handful of Irish freshmen are already in prime position to carve out some playing time in the spring and possibly the fall. Playing time as a freshman is typically tough to earn, and while the Irish have used freshmen at thin spots like WR in 2023, this year’s competitive landscape offers seemingly fewer opportunities for freshmen to land any significant playing time. Despite this hurdle, the cream is sure to rise to the top. Add in injuries and transfers out due to position battles, and things begin to open up for a few of the younger guys.


Cam Williams

WIDE RECEIVER

Cam William’s name should come as no surprise to anyone. Williams has been one of the highlights of Notre Dame’s 2024 class, specifically on the offensive side of the ball. Known as “the complete package” by his high school coach, Riley Crissey, Williams offers a level of talent the Irish receiving core desperately needs after the 2023 exodus. Standing at 6’2 195lbs, Cam not only dominated in football but flexed his speed and explosiveness by running track in high school, posting a 10.86 in the 100-meter dash, a 21.98 in the 200, and a 24’ 3.75” in the long jump. His biggest weapons are, without a doubt, his breakaway speed, explosiveness off the line, and YAC ability, making him a 5-star recruit and the most significant WR commitment of the Marcus Freeman era. Cam joined a handful of other freshmen early on campus, giving him yet another leg up over his competition. 


His biggest areas for growth would be route running, and much like most freshmen, a need to hit the weight room and add some strength. Thankfully, Cam has a solid frame that gives him an excellent foundation to build off of. Obviously, a lack of talent won’t keep him off the field, but it’s the log jam in the WR room that may complicate his path to playing time. The Irish return experienced wideouts Jayden Thomas and Deion Colzie, breakout 2023 freshmen Jaden Greathouse and Jordan Faison, and senior transfers Kris Mitchell, Jayden Harrison, and Beaux Collins. 9 WRs saw playing time and caught balls in 2023, but only 6 of them pulled in double-digit receptions. With a fully healthy WR room, Williams would be competing for the 7th spot in the pecking order, but as we saw in 2023, one or two injuries or a possible transfer could quickly propel him into a significant role. Freeman and his staff know this and will prepare the three incoming freshmen, as well as the previously injured KK Smith, to step up when the time comes. This could be one of the areas where arriving on campus early puts Cam step ahead of the rest. Although Micah Gilbert and Logan Saldate are excellent freshman talents, Williams will presumably have the best shot at playing time, and KK Smith’s lack of playing time due to injury levels the playing field amongst this group.





WIDE RECEIVERS AND ELIGIBILITY

Kris Mitchell

Senior

6’1 - 175

Beaux Collins

Senior

6’3 - 210

Jayden Harrison

Senior

5’10 - 197

Jayden Thomas

Junior

6’1.5 - 221

Deion Colzie

Senior

6’5 - 209

Jaden Greathouse

Sophomore

6’1 - 204

Jordan Faison

Sophomore

5’10 - 182

KK Smith 

Freshman

6’0 - 168

Cam Williams

Freshman

6’2 - 195

Micah Gilbert

Freshman

6’2 - 205

Logan Saldate 

Freshman

5’11 - 185

Note that player class is based on eligibility not age*


HIGH SCHOOL STATS

Year

Grade

Games Played

Receptions

Yards

Avg.

Yard/Game

TD

23-24

Senior

7

32

710

22.2

101.4

10

22-23

Junior

9

44

882

20

98

13

21-22

Sophomore

1

2

38

19

38

1



Kedren Young

RUNNING BACK

Young joins arguably the most stacked backfield the Irish have had in years, even with Audric Estime’s departure. Speaking of Estime, Young gets compared to the all-time great Irish back, primarily due to his size. While there are similarities, Young has Estime’s bruising power and between-the-tackles style, but a solid balance of speed and agility to boot. His propensity to get downhill and hit game-breaking home runs evokes memories of Josh Adams, and his ability to rip 80+ yard runs off a simple draw. His power-focused game should fit in well with what the Irish already have. 


Young’s power and ability to punish defenders is so impressive, it tends to overshadow the rest of his game, which is just as polished. Despite being so large at such a young age, Young’s speed is nothing to knock, especially for a bigger back.

He ran track in high school, posting an 11.18 in the 100 and a 23.02 in the 200. Couple this speed with his ability to make quick moves and make defenders miss, and he’s a pretty unique addition to the new-look Irish RB room. Kedren’s speed is above average and he’s expected to break huge chunk plays with the right opening or broken tackle. His intellect seems ahead of its time, as scouts noted his advanced vision to allow blocks to fall into place, his patience to find the seam, and his ridiculous speed-changing ability.


During high school, Kedren often played out of a two-back set and showed a passion for blocking, giving him a leg up on working closely with other backs and finding ways to contribute and earn playing time without the ball in his hands. His size alone would make him quite the blocker. He has little receiving experience out of the backfield and could use more reps there, which will be something to watch as he brings his game up to the college level.


HIGH SCHOOL STATS

Year

Grade

Carries

Yards

Yards/Carry

TD

23-24

Senior

32

1,366

6

15

22-23

Junior

44

1,751

7.4

19

21-22

Sophomore


821


10


RUNNING BACKS AND ELIGIBILITY

Jeremiyah Love

Sophomore

6’1 - 197

Jadarian Price

Sophomore

5’10.5 - 206

Gi’Bran Payne

Sophomore

5’9 - 208

Devyn Ford

Senior

5’11 - 200

Kedren Young

Freshman

5’11 - 225

Aneyas Williams

Freshman

5’10 - 200

Note that player class is based on eligibility not age*


In 2023, the Irish offense played four running backs heavily, riding Estime as the primary back (210 carries),  Love as their secondary (71 carries), and an even split between Price (47 carries) and Payne (45 carries) for the remaining touches. As we can see, talent can quickly provide a sizeable bump big enough to supersede class rank/experience. Love is only a rising sophomore and took touches away from Price and Payne in 2023. A similar outcome is possible with Kedren Young, but unlike Love, he’ll face freshman competition with Aneyas Williams, who also joined him as an early enrollee, and unless there’s a sizable gap between the two, it's possible they split the remaining carries.

Estime provided the majority of the power, while Love provided the speed, and Price and Payne were a pretty even mix of the two. In the absence of Estime, the Irish will have a serious need for power and size. If everyone in the RB room sticks around, the big three in the running back room going into 2024 will obviously be Love, Price, and Payne. Love will bring the speed and agility like in 2023, Price and Payne will provide a nice mix of the two, and Young could step up to deliver a force in short-down situations. Although the sample size is small, Aneyas Williams is said to be a pretty even mix of power and speed like Price and Payne, which could mean an even more significant need for a back the size of Kedren.

Here is a possible breakdown of what the carry distribution could be in 2024 compared to 2023.

Carry Total 2023 (373)

Possible Carry Outlook 2024 (373)

Estime - 210 Carries

Love - 120 Carries

Love - 71 Carries

Price - 80 Carries

Price - 47 Carries

Payne - 80 Carries

Payne - 46 Carries

Young - 47 Carries


Williams - 46 Carries

The major question comes down to whether everyone in the room stays.





Kyngstonn Viliamu-Asa

LINEBACKER 

Kyngstonn has been a blue-chip recruit since his freshman year of high school. He’d become California’s top defensive prospect in short order, but sustained an ACL injury in the last game of his freshman season which kept him on the sidelines his entire sophomore year. Despite this setback, Kyngstonn returned with a vengeance for his junior and senior years, reclaiming his spot as one of the most sought-after defensive prospects in the country and making his mark as the complete package for an inside linebacker. His game is all about versatility: Viliamu-Asu explodes off the line to beat blockers, bullies his way past linemen, and shows off his speed by easily dropping into coverage on both WRs and TEs.


The complete package extends to the mental side of the game, where Kyngstonn excels at making quick reads to blow up plays, utilizing efficient angles to the ball, easily picking up receivers in space, and routinely interrupting passing lanes with his massive 6’3 230 frame. This enormous size so early on has made Kyngstonn an incredibly powerful hitter already. Kyngstonn continues Notre Dame’s trend upward in base talent level on the defensive side of the ball, and his versatility means we could conceivably see him pop up and any of the three LB positions, giving him a better chance at playing time, wherever that would be. As for the current depth chart, the Irish have nine scholarship linebackers on the roster. While that’s the kind of depth Freeman and his staff are looking for, there’s only two experienced starters returning in that of Kiser and Sneed, three players with minimal experience in Zinter, Ausberry and Bowen, and four players with no college playing time (Kia, Kahoun, Rezac, Viliamu-Asa). Freeman and Golden played seven LBs in 2023, five of which played 12-13 games. Kyngstonn will almost definitely see some playing time this fall, but his talent will likely be too great to keep his playing time limited. It’s very possible his presence overshadows Kia, Kahoun, and Rezac based on where he ultimately fits in and how ready he is for the next level. As always, even a single injury could spell significant playing time for any of the younger guys who are ready at the right time. Thankfully, Kyngstonn joined the other early enrollees and is already on campus and working with the team.


HIGH SCHOOL STATS

Year

Grade

Games Played

Total Tackles

Tackles/Game

Tackles for Loss

Sacks

INT

23-24

Senior

13

114

8.8

13

1.5

1

22-23

Junior

13

111

8.5

8.5

5.5

1

20-21

Freshman

6

28

4.7

1

1.5

0


LINEBACKERS AND ELIGIBILITY

Mike

Drayk Bowen

Sophomore

6’2 - 230

Kahanu Kia

Freshman

6’1.5 - 217

Bodie Kahoun

Freshman

6’3 - 215

Will

Jack Kiser

Senior

6’1.5 - 223

Preston Zinter

Freshman

6’3 - 233

Kyngstonn Viliamu-Asa

Freshman

6’3 - 230

Rover

Jaylen Sneed

Sophomore

6’1.5 - 217

Jaiden Ausberry

Freshman

6’0 - 215

Teddy Rezac

Freshman

6’3.5 - 185

Note that player class is based on eligibility not age*


Bryce Young 

DEFENSIVE END

Young is already a unit. He enters his Freshman year at Notre Dame as the tallest DE on the roster, and at 245, his frame stands to add quite a bit of weight in the future. His incredible length and explosiveness off the line make him a serious contender for playing time, as size and strength don’t appear to be an issue. Young was nearly unblockable during his senior year of high school, excelling at both the pass and rush games. Because of his impressive size so early on, there’s a chance he gets big enough to play inside, and we see him inside at the tackles. As has been a trend on this list, Young’s athleticism extended to track and field, where he ran an 11.45 100 and a 22.99 200 as a junior and triple-jumped 44-6.25. Young further honed his hand-play and agility on his high school wrestling team. 


Bryce is the son of Notre Dame all-American defensive tackle Bryant Young. Young had a prolific college career, continuing on to the NFL as the 7th overall pick, going to the San Francisco 49ers. Bryant Young won a Super Bowl with the 49ers in 1995 and was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2022. Bryce looks to further his family’s tradition at Notre Dame, and if his success is anything like that of his father, Irish fans are in for a real treat. While there are quite a few guys ahead of Bryce on the depth chart, a single injury would put him in regular game rotation, as 16 total players on the defensive line saw game action last year, with 11 of them playing in at least six games. Rising junior Josh Burnham is making the full-time transition from Vyper to DE, and incoming Duke transfer RJ Oben are the two front runners at the position, yet it’s unknown which will win the starting position. Because the Irish defense employs a variety of looks, namely the 3-3-5 and the 4-2-5, Bryce only needs to display his athleticism and ability to move around, and playing time will come even more quickly.





HIGH SCHOOL STATS

Year

Grade

Games Played

Total Tackles

Tackles/Game

Tackles for Loss

Sacks

Hurries

23-24

Senior

12

97

8.1

18

14

12

22-23

Junior

11

11192

8.4

6

3

11

21-22

Sophomore

4

2

0.5

0

0

0


DEFENSIVE ENDS AND ELIGIBILITY

Josh Burnham

Sophomore

6’3.5 - 248

R.J. Oben

Senior

6’4 - 260

Tyson Ford

Sophomore

6’4 - 274

Aiden Gobaira

Sophomore

6’5 - 256

Brennan Vernon

Freshman

6’5 - 259

Bryce Young

Freshman

6’5.5 - 245

Note that player class is based on eligibility not age*


Notre Dame’s 2024 draft class is deep and talented across the board and provides an excellent new crop of players for the future. Only time will tell how each of these four playing time battles shakes out, but Cam Williams, Kedren Young, Kyngstonn Viliamu-Asa, and Bryce Young have the best combination of talent and circumstances to force playing time. It’s what they do with that playing time in the spring that will determine how much if any, fall playing time they see.


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