Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 29 Khari Gee, freshman safety, former LSU commit
Listed measurements: 6-foot-3, 185 pounds.2021-22 year, eligibility: A freshman, Gee has all four seasons of eligibility ahead of him.Depth Chart: Gee arrives at Notre Dame with some vague hopes of playing time right away given the Irish do not yet have an established starter at safety opposite star junior Kyle Hamilton. Seniors Houston Griffith and DJ Brown will continue to compete for that role in the preseason, but as long as a competition is afloat, Gee could join it with impressive play.Recruiting: Gee committed to LSU in May of 2020 and held firm in that commitment until the last moment, despite offers from Clemson, Florida and his homestate Georgia. But the Tigers kept adding high-profile safety recruits to its class, and Notre Dame did not.
Come December’s early signing period, Gee flipped his commitment and joined the Irish class. It was not quite out of nowhere when he did so that Friday, as Brian Kelly said that Wednesday he expected to add a defensive back, but up until that pivotal week, Gee had been on few Notre Dame radars.
A four-star recruit, rivals.com considered Gee the No. 28 safety in the class.
NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
Maybe Gee is just a big fan of the 1996 World Series …
No. 29? NOW?
Projecting the incoming freshmen’s uniform numbers is an exercise in making mistakes. With no idea what Gee’s number would be — he wore No. 23 in high school, currently held by junior safety Litchfield Ajavon and junior running back Kyren Williams — slotting him late in the programming gave a greater cushion to get it right.
But yours truly failed to routinely check 18-year-old’s Instagram posts throughout the summer, thus missing that Gee will be No. 29 until an updated profile page recently appeared on the University’s website. Better diligence in monitoring teenagers’ social media profiles would have allowed this post to run at a time that would not have been as confusing.
WHAT WAS SAID WHEN GEE SIGNED“Unfairly so, the next few safeties with height to commit to Notre Dame will be compared to the current 6-foot-4 star and possible All-American, sophomore Kyle Hamilton. Gee does not arrive with the unfathomable praise Hamilton did, but his frame alone should position him for that duty in the future. However, if his frame fills out, rather than remaining relatively lanky, it is conceivable Gee moves up a level on the defense.
“Gee’s ceiling will include some aspect of coverage, as he is comfortable both running downhill in the proper angle on a run fit and dropping back tracking a pass.”
Kelly praised Griffith and Brown throughout spring practices, but he also mentioned Gee as a summer arrival that could immediately impact the depth chart.
“We want to see what he can do at the safety position,” Kelly said in late April. “That’s a position we would like to continue to build depth at, certainly.”
Gee leapfrogging at least one of Griffith and Brown would bode well for him, and possibly well for the Irish, but it could also be a concerning sign. A star freshman often gets a chance as much because of lackluster upperclassmen as his own excellence.
Notre Dame would rather Griffith finally capitalize on his natural abilities with Brown providing depth and versatility. In that scenario, Gee could play in mop-up moments and see enough action to make a 13-game slate worthwhile, but not be truly leaned upon.
Gee is not Hamilton, and no such comparison should be made. But when Hamilton arrived in 2019, he became the third safety in a three-man rotation, behind two seniors in Alohi Gilman and Jalen Elliott. Gee could have a similar, albeit smaller, role in 2021. While Hamilton will not come off the field short of a blowout, taking 10-15 snaps off Griffith and Brown each week would benefit the Irish defense in November.
DOWN THE ROADThat reserve, yet used, role would set up Gee to challenge for a starting gig as soon as 2022. Notre Dame will need to replace at least Hamilton, and though both Griffith and Brown could return, each will need to earn that invite. Gee proving reliable in 2021 would lessen the Irish need to use a scholarship spot on a fifth-year safety with few starring moments to date, especially with the 85-scholarship maximum expected to be reinstated in 2022.
Notre Dame has that much unknown at safety. A freshman yet to partake in a single practice could be a viable starter in 13 months and it would surprise no one. That reality may have played a part in Gee’s December flip.
NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
Let’s try this again
No. 99 Rylie Mills, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 98 Alexander Ehrensberger, sophomore defensive end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, early-enrolled freshman defensive tackle the size of a Volkswagen
No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, fifth-year defensive tackle-turned-end
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 91 Joshua Bryan, incoming freshman kicker
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, early-enrolled freshman tight end, a former high school quarterback
No. 87 Michael Mayer, star sophomore tight end and lead offensive weapon
No. 85 George Takacs, senior tight end, ‘152 years old’
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, sophomore tight end
No. 83 Jayden Thomas, freshman receiver, four-star prospect out of Georgia
No. 82 Xavier Watts, sophomore receiver
No. 81 Jay Brunelle, speedy sophomore receiver
No. 80 Cane Berrong, early-enrolled freshman tight end
No. 79 Tosh Baker, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 78 Pat Coogan, incoming freshman center
No. 77 Quinn Carroll, junior offensive lineman
No. 76 Joe Alt, incoming and towering freshman offensive lineman
No. 75 Josh Lugg, fifth-year right tackle, finally a starter
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, junior offensive tackle, possible backup center
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, early-enrolled offensive tackle, former Auburn commit
No. 70 Hunter Spears, junior offensive guard, former defensive tackle
No. 68 Michael Carmody, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 62 Marshall guard Cain Madden transfers to Notre Dame, likely 2021 starter
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, senior defensive tackle
No. 56 John Dirksen, senior reserve offensive lineman
No. 56 Howard Cross, junior defensive tackle
No. 55 Jarrett Patterson, the best Irish offensive lineman
No. 55 Kahanu Kia, freshman linebacker, Hawaiian, LDS member
No. 54 Jacob Lacey, junior defensive tackle
No. 54 Blake Fisher, early-enrolled freshman left tackle, starter?
No. 52 Zeke Correll, junior, starting center
No. 52 Bo Bauer, senior linebacker, #BeADog
No. 50 Rocco Spindler, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard
No. 48 Will Schweitzer, early-enrolled freshman defensive end
No. 47 Jason Onye, incoming and raw freshman defensive end
No. 44 Devin Aupiu, early-enrolled freshman defensive end
No. 44 Alex Peitsch and No. 65 Michael Vinson, Irish long snappers, both needed
No. 41 Kurt Hinish, fifth-year defensive tackle, eventual record-holder in games played
No. 40 Drew White, fifth-year linebacker, three-year starter
No. 39 Jonathan Doerer, fifth-year kicker, using the pandemic exception
No. 35 Marist Liufau, junior Hawaiian linebacker
No. 34 Osita Ekwonu, junior defensive end
No. 33 Shayne Simon, senior linebacker
No. 32 Prince Kollie, freshman linebacker, Butkus Award winner
No. 29 Matt Salerno, senior punt returner, walk-on
No. 28 TaRiq Bracy, senior cornerback, possible nickel back
No. 27 JD Bertrand, junior linebacker
No. 26 Clarence Lewis, sophomore cornerback, second-year starter
No. 25 Philip Riley, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 25 Chris Tyree, speedy sophomore running back
No. 24 Jack Kiser, junior linebacker, onetime pandemic hero
No. 23 Litchfield Ajavon, junior safety
No. 23 Kyren Williams, junior running back
No. 22 Logan Diggs, incoming freshman running back
No. 21 Lorenzo Styles, early-enrolled freshman receiver
No. 21 Caleb Offord, sophomore cornerback
No. 20 C’Bo Flemister, senior running back, coming off an offseason with a smirch
No. 20 Justin Walters, early-enrolled freshman safety and likely early special teams contributor
No. 19 Jay Bramblett, junior punter
No. 19 Justin Ademilola, senior defensive end
No. 18 Joe Wilkins Jr., senior receiver, team favorite
No. 18 Nana Osafo-Mensah, junior defensive end, coming back from a knee injury
No. 18 Chance Tucker, freshman cornerback
No. 17 Jack Coan, graduate quarterback, Wisconsin transfer
No. 17 Jordan Botelho, sophomore defensive end, full-speed at all times
No. 16 Deion Colzie, incoming freshman receiver with both speed and leaping height
No. 16 KJ Wallace, junior safety, possible starting nickel back
No. 15 Ryan Barnes, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 14 Kyle Hamilton, junior safety, preseason All-American, top 2022 draft prospect