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Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 5 Cam Hart, junior cornerback, expected boundary starter

Cam Hart spring

Listed measurements: 6-foot-2 ½, 207 pounds.2021-22 year, eligibility: Like most current juniors, Hart has four seasons of eligibility remaining.
Depth Chart: Hart will start for Notre Dame as the boundary cornerback, his length and past life as a receiver helping him at that more physical position. Sophomore Ramon Henderson emerged as Hart’s backup in the spring.Recruiting: The consensus three-star prospect and Maryland native received offers from most of the Northeast, choosing the Irish over Virginia, Virginia Tech and Boston College.

Hart has joined with a few other defensive backs to launch a podcast that has already found a home with Colin Cowherd’s Volume Sports.

Recruited as a receiver, Hart flipped to defense early in his freshman year, before the season even started. He then saw action in three games in the first half of the year before a shoulder injury cut short his debut campaign.

2019: 3 games.

Hart backed up North Carolina State transfer Nick McCloud as the boundary cornerback in 2020, somewhat a rapid rise for the former receiver given no one had seen him play defense in more than 2019’s few blowouts. Hart logged 88 snaps, all in mop-up work, during the pandemic, but he was very much on the second-string.

2020: 8 games; 3 tackles with two passes broken up.

Irish head coach Brian Kelly did not hold back in his praise of Hart’s development this spring. To go from a receiver with shoulder issues to a starter in only 20 months warranted notice.

“The guy that’s really standing out for me is Cam Hart,” Kelly said in early April. “He was very raw last year, as you know he was playing with a bad shoulder so there were some limitations. He had the shoulder repaired in the offseason.

“He’s really coming into his own. He’s elite in terms of his length, he’s got a really strong skill set, and to play the corner with that kind of size and athletic ability, he can be a really, really good football player. He’s still learning, there are still parts of his game that he’s got to clean up, but as I sit here today and six practices in, he’s making really good progress at that position.”

Just two weeks later, Hart had made some of that progress.

“A lot of this is a combination of technique and being much more of an aggressive mindset instead of a reactive, defensive mindset,” Kelly said. “That’s coming together with Cam. He’s got the skills, he’s got the length, he’s strong physically. He’s one of our strongest, if not our strongest defensive back.

“Really pleased with his progress. What we’ll continue to build on is, he’ll continue to get stronger, continue to work on technique. Now it’s mindset. Go get the ball, it’s yours. He is going to be in a plus match-up physically with a lot of guys he goes against.”

Notre Dame’s recruiting woes in 2017 and 2018 left the Irish desperate for a cornerback years later. Between the two recruiting cycles, they signed exactly one cornerback who would play in multiple seasons, TaRiq Bracy in 2018. Otherwise, Notre Dame created a massive vacuum on its defensive depth chart.

So it sought out McCloud and moved Hart from receiver. The Irish put together a defensive backfield with tape and little else, and it worked in 2020. McCloud played very well.

For it to continue to work, Notre Dame will need Hart to remain healthy through all of 2021 and never become a liability on the perimeter. Then, and only then, the Irish may have found enough cornerback depth in years to come to have navigated those past recruiting lapses.

For Hart, a healthy and productive 2021 would include not getting exposed by USC’s talented receivers as Bracy was in 2018; it would include matching the physicality of Wisconsin’s receivers; it would include knocking down a few Sam Howell deep balls at the end of October.

That is asking a lot, but the Irish have little elsewhere to turn, so Hart will need to deliver for Marcus Freeman’s first defense to hold up.

RELATED READING: Home is where the heart is, and for Cam Hart, that’s at cornerbackHart & Houston answering Notre Dame’s two biggest defensive questions

DOWN THE ROADIf Hart manages those tall tasks, then he should be entrenched as Notre Dame’s starter for a few years. Using up all four seasons of remaining eligibility would be a stretch, simply in terms of roster construction, but Hart could have the longevity of a traditional fifth-year player, making him a possible three-season starter on the boundary.

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. 29 Khari Gee, freshman safety, former LSU commit
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. 24 Audric Estime, freshman running back, former Michigan State commit, four-star
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. 20 JoJo Johnson, freshman cornerback, former Cincinnati commit
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
No. 13 Paul Moala, senior linebacker coming off an Achilles injury
No. 13 Lawrence Keys, senior receiver
No. 12 Tyler Buchner, early-enrolled freshman quarterback, former four-star recruit
No. 12 DJ Brown, senior safety mired in a starting competition
No. 11 Ron Powlus III, early-enrolled freshman quarterback
No. 11 Ramon Henderson, sophomore cornerback with sprinter’s speed
No. 10 Drew Pyne, sophomore quarterback, likely No. 2
No. 10 Isaiah Pryor, graduate linebacker, 2020 Ohio State transfer
No. 7 Brendon Clark, junior quarterback with a knee worry
No. 7 Isaiah Foskey, star junior defensive end, Vyper

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