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Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 65 Chris Smith, defensive tackle, Harvard transfer

Listed measurements: 6-foot-2, 293 pounds, per Harvard’s 2021 roster.2022-23 year, eligibility: Smith has one season of eligibility remaining, having played in three seasons for the Crimson.Depth Chart: Smith was not on Notre Dame’s radar until the spring ACL tear suffered by junior Aidan Keanaaina. If that was the impetus to bring in Smith, then it is safe to presume he fits in at No. 2 or No. 3 on the nose tackle depth chart, behind senior Jacob Lacey and in competition with sophomore Gabriel Rubio, just as Keanaaina had fit.Recruiting: The Ivy League does not allow graduate students to play, so Smith was seeking a transfer as soon as Harvard’s season ended on Nov. 20. Initially, he committed to Minnesota in January, expecting to enroll there in the summer for the fall semester.

Then Keanaaina was injured and the Irish came calling. Smith flipped his transfer commitment in April.

In three seasons, Smith racked up a total of 72 tackles across 29 games, earning All-Ivy League first-team honors in 2021.

2018: 9 games; 11 tackles with half a sack.2019: 10 games; 21 tackles with two for loss including 1.5 sacks and one fumble recovered.2021: 10 games; 40 tackles with five for loss including 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. Ended his Harvard career with six tackles against Yale, annually the biggest game in Ivy League play. (Full disclosure: This reporter was actively cheering for Yale.)

The Ivy League did not play at all in 2020.

The Human Evolutionary Biology major from Harvard is likely not transferring to Notre Dame because he seeks lucrative NIL deals. Something about him — everything about him — suggests a focus on a quick graduate degree will set Smith up for worthwhile income within the next year.

Smith’s transfer could not have been easier from an admissions standpoint, given his undergraduate background. That played a role in the Irish so quickly and aggressively pursuing him after Keanaaina’s injury.

“We just needed a little bit more depth,” defensive coordinator Al Golden said in April, days after Smith’s commitment. “So when Chris became available — obviously, a kid that met our profile, so we thought the transition would be smooth for him. When he demonstrated he was interested, that obviously piqued our interest.”

Of course, Smith’s solid play at Harvard also played a role.

“Just a big, strong, physical guy,” Golden said. “We needed an inside guy. He played well for them both in his ability to anchor but also in the movement skills.

“He was looking to do this for one year and make an impact somewhere. We think he can help us.”

“At 6-foot-2 and a shade under 300 pounds, Smith may appear undersized to hold up at the next level of college football, but he sheds his first block quickly with clean hand action. He is disciplined in his pursuit of a quarterback, and on running plays, Smith absorbs his block, allowing the linebackers to track down the ball carrier.”

Smith may surprise anyone who dismisses him as an FCS-product. He will not be asked to play every snap of the game. Notre Dame needs 20-30 quality plays from him each week, and he has enough experience that it should not be a problem.

Smith is a quick-twitch player, quicker than the usual nose tackle. He may be undersized, but he is strong and fast. Especially against lesser offensive lines this season — so, anyone outside of Ohio State, BYU and Clemson, with the Tigers the weakest of those three — Smith’s stature will not be a concern.

Lacey was the backup nose tackle last season, making 12 tackles in 11 games with two for loss, though Howard Cross took some of his snaps, as well. Smith should add 15 or so tackles this season, and that will be the tangible measurement of the needed depth he provides.

RELATED READING: How ND and Harvard grad transfer Chris Smith found perfect fit
DL Chris Smith goes in-depth on transfer to Notre Dame

Smith will not rule anything out, but his chances of jumping to the NFL are slim. If more viable, he would have looked for a transfer opportunity where he could start. Barring multiple injuries, he will not start for the Irish.

But, as alluded to up top, something suggests he will be just fine down the road.

WHY NO. 65?
Simply enough, he wore No. 65 at Harvard, and as long as Smith does not line up on the punt or field goal coverage teams, not a usual waystation for a defensive tackle, there is no risk of him overlapping with long snapper Michael “Milk” Vinson, also sporting No. 65.

From Blake Grupe to Braden Lenzy, the offseason countdown begins anew
No. 99 Blake Grupe, kicker, Arkansas State transfer
No. 99 Rylie Mills, junior defensive lineman, a tackle now playing more at end

No. 98 Tyson Ford, early-enrolled freshman, a defensive tackle recruited as a four-star end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, sophomore defensive tackle, still ‘as wide as a Volkswagen’
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, a junior defensive tackle who tore his ACL in March
No. 91 Josh Bryan, sophomore kicker
No. 91 Aiden Gobaira, early-enrolled freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 90 Alexander Ehrensberger, junior defensive end, a German project nearing completion
No. 89 Eli Raridon, incoming freshman tight end with a torn ACL
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, sophomore tight end
No. 87 Michael Mayer, junior tight end, likely All-American
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, junior tight end
No. 83 Jayden Thomas, sophomore receiver, former four-star recruit
No. 80 Cane Berrong, sophomore tight end coming off an ACL injury
No. 79 Tosh Baker, one of four young Irish offensive tackles
No. 78 Pat Coogan, sophomore center, recovering from a meniscus injury
No. 77* Ty Chan, incoming offensive tackle, former four-star recruit
No. 76 Joe Alt, sophomore starting left tackle
No. 75 Josh Lugg, sixth-year offensive lineman, likely starting right guard
No. 74 Billy Schrauth, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard coming off foot surgery
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, senior offensive tackle-turned-guard
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, sophomore offensive tackle, former Auburn pledge
No. 68 Michael Carmody, junior offensive line utility man
No. 65 Michael Vinson, long snapper, ‘Milk’

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