Notre Dame spring recreation: Time, TV protection and what to look at with new coach Marcus Freeman

First-year coach Marcus Freeman is among the main attractions at this year’s Notre Dame spring game.

The Fighting Irish open a new chapter in the program after Brian Kelly, the all-time winningest coach in program history, left to take the LSU job this offseason. The Notre Dame spring game is at 1 pm ET on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium. It will be televised and streamed on Peacock.

Freeman, who was the defensive coordinator in 2021, has a quarterback battle, several new playmakers and a retooled defense that will be in the spotlight Saturday.

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When is Notre Dame’s spring game?

  • Time: 1 p.m. ET
  • Date: Saturday, April 23
  • Location: Notre Dame Stadium

How to watch Notre Dame spring game

Three things to watch

Is there a QB controversy?

Jack Coan is gone, and that leaves a quarterback battle between Tyler Buchner (21 of 35, 298 yards, 3 TDs, 3 INTs in ’21) and Drew Pyne (15 of 30, 224 yards, 2 TDs). Buchner added a running dimension after totaling 336 yards and three TDs last season, but that won’t be a factor in the spring game.

Notre Dame retained offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, and Irish quarterbacks have completed 64.2% of their passes the last two seasons. Which quarterback is more accurate and on time with the football in the spring game? That is worth watching. Which one has a rapport with star tight end Michael Mayer?

“It is a great competition,” Freeman said after a scrimmage on April 9. “I’m going to sit down with Tommy and say, ‘Give me your grades’. It’s still going to be an evolving process until you name a starter I wouldn’t hesitate to put either in the game at this point because they are both really good football players and can help us win.”

Mayer is the focal point of the passing game. I have finished with 71 catches for 840 yards and seven TDs. That is another factor watching.

“This is what spring ball is for,” Mayer said via ND Insider. “We’re finding our quarterback right now. We get to see who can ball, and they’ve both been balling so far.”

Who are new skill players?

Second-team All-American running back Kyren Williams and top receiver Kevin Austin are also gone, but the Irish have some interesting playmakers returning.

The Irish had 551 total yards in Freeman’s debut in the 37-35 loss to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl. That included just 42 yards rushing. Chris Tyree and Logan Diggs are the top returning running backs, and both averaged more than 4.0 yards per carry last season. Which one stands out? Tyree’s ability to catch out of the backfield is a major plus in this offense, but we might not see that. He is listed as questionable for Saturday.

Sophomore wide receiver Lorenzo Styles, a five-star recruit, had a breakout performance in that loss to the Cowboys. He had eight catches for 136 yards and a TD and seems more than ready for an expanded role in the Irish’s offense. Braden Lenzy can be a solid No. 2, and Deion Colzie and Joe Wilkins will fight for targets.

Will the offense be a hit on a huge recruiting weekend? Braylon James, a four-star receiver from Stony Point High School in Round Rock, Texas, committed this spring. Will others follow?

Al Golden’s defense

Freeman hired Al Golden, the former Miami coach, as the new defensive coordinator. Golden has spent the last six seasons in the NFL with Detroit and Cincinnati, and it will be interesting to see how that impacts the Irish’s scheme. The spring game plan likely will be vanilla, but the Irish have four senior linebackers to build around in Isaiah Foskey, Marist Liafau, JD Bertrand and Jack Kiser. Notre Dame also added Northwestern safety Brandon Joseph via the transfer portal. He’s a stud that can help replace All-American Kyle Hamilton. It’s about developing confidence on this side of the ball knowing that the opener at Ohio State on Sept. 3 is against one of the best offenses in the FBS.

Freshman to watch

Jaylen Sneed, LB

Freeman played linebacker at Ohio State, and it’s fitting the top recruit is a five-star linebacker from Hilton Head High School in Hilton Head, SC Sneed will be on the gold team.

Josh Burnham, LB

Burnham, a more local four star recruit from Central High School in Traverse City, Mich., could challenge for early playing time. Burnham will be on the blue team. Four-star linebacker Nolan Ziegler, a four-star from Grand Rapids, Mich., will also be in the mix.

Jadarian Price, RB

We mentioned Tyree’s injury, and that could open the door for more carries for Price, a four-star freshman from Denison, Texas. Price is a 5-11, 180-pound cut-back runner who chose to go out of state.

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