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CBS Sports: Notre Dame has five of the top 100 players in college football

IMG_9992by:Tyler Horka04/16/24


Five of the top 100 players in college football in 2024 belong to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish according to Blake Brockermeyer of CBS Sports. Here is where those five players checked in on the list.

25. Junior cornerback Benjamin Morrison

CB ranking: No. 3

CBS Sports: “Morrison is one of the best returning corners in the country. He’s great in zone but excels in press coverage. Why? Morrison is not only excellent in matching routes and playing the ball in the air but does a nice job using the sideline as an extra defender. The three touchdowns he gave up last year were all in the lower red zone on scrambles where the play got extended.” 

Blue & Gold: Once you get into the top three, you’re splitting hairs in saying who’s better than who. Morrison only being behind Colorado’s Travis Hunter and Michigan’s Will Johnson is not so bad. This and every other mention of Morrison this offseason is a reminder he needs to get his shoulder right as quickly as possible, though. He had surgery on it a few weeks ago, putting his status for Aug. 31’s season opener at Texas A&M at risk.

45. Graduate student safety Xavier Watts

DB/S ranking: No. 4

CBS Sports: “Watts took home the Nagurski Award as the nation’s best defender, leading the country with seven interceptions. His biggest plays (47 tackles, 11 PBUs) tended to come in the clutch, too. Watts is one of two Notre Dame defensive backs in my top 50 rankings.”

Blue & Gold: Pretty much the same principle used for Morrison applies here for Watts. Top three, top five, you’re receiving your flowers as one of the best players at your position in the country. Watts proved he is that last year.

90. Graduate student defensive end RJ Oben

EDGE ranking: No. 18

CBS Sports: “Oben arrives from Duke this offseason. He’s got a lot of experience with him and profiles as a very useful, high-motor player for Notre Dame. Oben is an active rusher with a nice outside swat and spin move and some really nice counters as a rusher. Oben does not play with much power but pursues the ball on every snap.”

Blue & Gold: If you told Notre Dame it could get a top 20 defensive end in college football via the transfer portal from Duke, the Irish would sign up for that every time. Good pickup.

95. Graduate student defensive tackle Howard Cross III

DT ranking: No. 7

CBS Sports: “Cross showed his stuff in helping Notre Dame close out a tight road win at Duke last season. Clutch player who’s disruptive along the interior. Cross notched 64 tackles last year, including six TFLs and 45 generated pressure. He excels in movement and has a great get-off and understanding of offensive line blocking schemes.”

Blue & Gold: Cross has been one of Notre Dame’s best defensive players for the last two seasons. He’s getting well-deserved national recognition for it now.

99. Senior quarterback Riley Leonard

QB ranking: No. 14

CBS Sports: “Leonard is a dual-threat quarterback who’s better than you think (the three passing TDs in 2023 were a matter of injury and circumstance, not skill). He has a bigger spotlight on him after transferring from Duke to Notre Dame. Leonard was beat up for almost half of the season and was probably a better runner than passer when he played. He’s poised for a big season if he can stay healthy.”

Blue & Gold: If Leonard actually plays like a top 15 quarterback in the country, Notre Dame would likely take that. Top 10 would be nicer, and there is potential for that, but there is also potential to crash and burn like Sam Hartman did at times. Give the Irish one of the best 15 quarterbacks in America and they’ll probably be just fine with that.

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