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Braden Lenzy, Brandon Joseph announce end of their Notre Dame careers, heading to very different next steps

Notre Dame v Navy

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - NOVEMBER 12: Braden Lenzy #0 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown in the first quarter against Mbiti Williams Jr. #7 of the Navy Midshipmen at M&T Bank Stadium on November 12, 2022 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)

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Two expected departures from Notre Dame’s roster became official just before the 2022 year ended, while most college football fans were busy spending their New Year’s Eve watching the College Football Playoff semifinals. Fifth-year receiver Braden Lenzy and Northwestern transfer safety Brandon Joseph separately announced their plans to move on with their careers on Saturday, though down very different paths.

Lenzy has one more season of eligibility available to him courtesy of the universal pandemic eligibility waiver, but he will instead retire from football and begin his post-playing career. He will apparently begin at Medasource, a healthcare consulting company, in less than two weeks.

Lenzy’s career ended with multiple Gator Bowl highlights, most notably a 44-yard touchdown catch to tie the game at 31 on the way to the 45-38 Irish victory on Friday. Lenzy finished the day with four catches for 89 yards, including a 20-yard catch on a successful fake punt.

His 2022 included 24 catches for 309 yards and three touchdowns, the latter figure tying a career-high.

On a per-touch basis, Lenzy’s peak came as a sophomore back in 2019, taking 11 receptions and 13 rushes for a combined 454 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 18.92 yards per touch. As concussions and hamstring issues plagued him, he never quite enjoyed that explosiveness regularly again.

In his career, Lenzy caught 74 passes for 976 yards and nine touchdowns while taking 23 rushes for 276 yards and two touchdowns.

This 2022 season saw Lenzy take a publicly leading role on name, image and likeness usage on the Irish roster, landing a couple deals that included other receivers and overall endorsing the new athletes’ rights’ practicalities.

Joseph, meanwhile, will head to the NFL after just one season at Notre Dame. The Northwestern transfer was always expected to spend only one season with the Irish, and while his year may have been somewhat underwhelming — 30 tackles in 10 games with one interception and one forced fumble — he remains a likely mid-round draft pick.

Joseph did not play in the Gator Bowl due to a balky ankle despite going through most of warmups in pregame.

It could be argued Joseph still changed the college football landscape in 2022 when he tackled Ohio State star receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba along the sideline in the season opener. Somewhat an awkward hit, albeit a clean one, Smith-Njigba injured his hamstring on the play, an injury he never fully recovered from this year. As a result, he did not play in Saturday’s Peach Bowl, a noticeable absence as the Buckeyes’ eventually lost Marvin Harrison Jr. to concussion protocols. Without its best two receivers, Ohio State’s offense fell just short of reaching the national championship game.

Without Joseph, Notre Dame will await a decision from fifth-year safety DJ Brown, with that same year of eligibility remaining as Lenzy hypothetically could have used. Aside from Brown, the Irish have only rising seniors Ramon Henderson and Xavier Watts returning with any experience.

Without Lenzy, Notre Dame currently has four receivers returning plus former walk-on Matt Salerno, along with four incoming freshmen and Virginia Tech graduate transfer Kaleb Smith. That total grouping of 10 would be along the bare minimum of a roster’s wants in modern college football, and that is assuming no one else departs between now and the Irish season-opening trip to Dublin on Aug. 26.

That is 238 days away if anyone has already started counting.

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