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Ranking the Importance of Every Notre Dame Incoming Transfer

Written by Jhett Garrett Writer Twitter/X: @JhettGarrett

Photo by The Irish Tribune


It is no secret that the transfer portal has become one of the most important parts of building a championship team in college football. With the addition of NIL, coaches not only have to recruit high school players in the offseason, but also their own. While Notre Dame was on the losing end in regards to their in-house talent when the portal opened, they have worked hard to fill in the gaps and acquire players who will undoubtedly make a large impact in 2024. Here are my rankings of the 2024 Notre Dame transfer class, based on how important each piece is to the team.


1) Riley Leonard - QB (Duke)

This marks back-to-back seasons Notre Dame made a splash at the quarterback position through the transfer portal. After getting Wake Forest transfer Sam Hartman last season, the Irish went to a familiar opponent in Riley Leonard from Duke. Leonard entered the portal while former Notre Dame defensive coordinator and Duke head coach Mike Elko took the head coaching job at Texas A&M; Notre Dame’s first opponent in 2024. If you’re familiar with Leonard’s name beyond the national attention he received after entering the portal, you can look back to this past Notre Dame season where the Irish defeated Riley Leonard and the Duke Blue Devils on the road. After throwing for 2,967 yards, 20 touchdowns (along with 13 rushing), and 6 interceptions in 2022, Leonard started the 2023 season slowly. He entered the Notre Dame game with 778 passing yards, 2 touchdowns with 0 interceptions, as well as 238 rushing yards and 4 rushing touchdowns. In the game against Notre Dame, he went 12-27 with 1 passing touchdown, 1 interception, along with 88 rushing yards. However, Leonard suffered an injury at the end of the game, which impacted his season greatly. With Notre Dame’s addition of Mike Denbrock as offensive coordinator, fans should be excited about the leap that Leonard can take with the Irish in 2024. Although there is expected to be a quarterback competition between Riley Leonard, Steve Angeli, and Kenny Minchey, we can assume that Leonard will get the starting nod when the Irish travel to College Station for the first game of the year.





2) RJ Oben - EDGE (Duke)

Riley Leonard isn’t going to be the only former Blue Devil on the Notre Dame roster in 2024, as RJ Oben joins an already solid defensive line. An argument can be made that Oben will be more important to the team than Riley Leonard, as he will put the defensive line over the top in his final season of college football. After tallying five sacks with Duke last season, Oben will be alongside Jordan Botelho, Rylie Mills, and Howard Cross III on the defensive line, who had a combined 8.5 sacks in 2023. Oben has such a unique mix of speed, strength, and great footwork that allows him to apply pressure to the quarterback with ease. This is why he is set to have a monster year in 2024, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he totals 10+ sacks in his final season before entering the draft. Oben’s numbers will only go up being surrounded by such a powerful group of pass rushers.


3) Beaux Collins - WR (Clemson)

Spot number three was a toss-up between the top two receivers Notre Dame got out of the transfer portal. While both receivers are insanely talented and have a chance to take a massive leap with the Irish, it seems more realistic that Beaux Collins from Clemson takes a bigger step. He was second on the Tigers in receiving yards in 2023 with 510 yards, while also finding the end zone three times. In his three seasons at Clemson, he totaled 1,290 yards on 91 receptions and 11 touchdowns. What’s the main reason for me placing him above Kris Mitchell? Play style. Beaux Collins and Kris Mitchell play the receiver position completely differently, which is going to work in the Irish’s favor. Collins is a “death by a thousand cuts” type of receiver that will beat you underneath in the short game and make moves in space. When looking at a Mike Denbrock run offense, he is going to spread the ball out and have receivers running all different types of routes, but expect Collins to be the guy to catch the five-yard passes that turn into first downs. I believe that Collins has the footwork, frame, and speed to develop into a receiver who can hurt you in many ways, especially working with new wide receiver coach Mike Brown.


4) Kris Mitchell - WR (Florida International)

Beaux Collins isn’t the only new toy that Mike Brown and Mike Denbrock will have awaiting them in South Bend. Kris Mitchell, the 6’1 receiver from Florida International is coming off the best season of his career and is ready to take that next step at Notre Dame. The fifth-year senior put up 1,118 yards on 64 receptions, and 7 touchdowns last year as a junior. He is one of three receivers transferring in for the Irish, and has by far the biggest burst off the line of scrimmage. This has been an underrated pickup for Notre Dame that not a lot of people have paid attention to. While Collins is a strategic, find-the-hole type of receiver, Mitchell will beat you over the top of the field. His impact in open space, however, should not be overlooked. Mitchell has elite speed, and he can control his body at a very high level, allowing him to break away from defenders. Kris Mitchell will join a receiving room that was once thought to be destroyed by the transfer portal, but now looks like it can be one of the better rooms in recent memory for the Irish.





5)  Rod Heard II - DB (Northwestern)

Notre Dame’s pass defense was ranked as one of the best in all of college football last season. They finished first in passing touchdowns allowed, third in passing yards per game, and third in yards per attempt. But with the Irish losing both DJ Brown and Thomas Harper, this addition is extremely important for the team’s success next season. Like Harper, Heard is transferring for his final season of college football, and similar to former Notre Dame safety Brandon Joseph, Rod Heard II comes from Northwestern. He was second on his team with 54 solo tackles, second on the team with 4 pass deflections, and third on the team in total tackles with 85. Heard will immediately come in and make an impact on the Irish secondary.


6) Mitch Jeter - K (South Carolina)

After relying on a transfer kicker in Spencer Shrader last season, the Irish are going back out into the portal, this time from South Carolina. Mitch Jeter is the choice here for Marcus Freeman & co., and I can’t say I disagree with the selection. Shrader dealt with a lot of accuracy issues throughout the season last year, finishing 68.2% when kicking field goals. Jeter went 12-14 last season with the Gamecocks, with his only misses coming from 50+ yards away. His best game was a loss against Missouri last year, where Jeter was responsible for all 12 points scored by South Carolina, including going 1-2 from 50+, his lone 50+ yard field goal in the entire year. Because of the lack of reps from 50+, I would like to see a little bit more from range before deciding on a final opinion for how Mitch Jeter will perform. This is an upgrade for the Irish at the kicking position, and he will make an impact on day one.





7)  Jordan Clark - DB (Arizona State)

While it remains unknown whether Clarence Lewis will return for the Irish next season, this becomes a player that can easily have a bigger impact on the team than being ranked in the bottom 2 on this list. Jordan Clark from Arizona State can immediately slide into the nickel position and start game one against Texas A&M. Clark finished first on the Sun Devils in pass deflections with 9 and finished third in solo tackles with 30. He would fit in nicely alongside Ben Morrison and Christian Gray in the cornerback room and can be a solid depth piece.


8) Jayden Harrison - WR/KR (Marshall)

It isn’t expected that Jayden Harrison will play a huge role in the Notre Dame pass game, however, he will be the primary kick returner following the loss of Chris Tyree to Virginia. The Marshall product (yes, he was on the team) finished second nationally in kickoff return average at 30.7 yards on 23 attempts, taking two of them back for touchdowns. And while he might not initially have a huge role when it comes to catching passes, Harrison will be a nice depth piece that can play a high level. His best game came in his final game with Marshall against UTSA, where he put up 132 yards on 6 receptions. He finished the year with a career-high 28 receptions and 410 yards. Harrison will have a bigger impact on the Fighting Irish than most people expect.


While we are still over seven months away from Notre Dame’s first game, it is important to know what you have coming in. With these eight players, and potentially more in the spring, Notre Dame could make a legitimate title push in 2024.


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