While the NFL Draft may not have been as successful for Notre Dame football this year, it only took a few hours after the conclusion for a vast majority of former Irish players in the 2022 class to sign with their new teams. Kyle Hamilton (No. 14, Baltimore Ravens) and Kyren Williams (No. 164, Los Angeles Rams) were the two Notre Dame players to come off the board during the draft. Now, six former Irish players have signed as undrafted free agents: Kurt Hinish, Drew White, Kevin Austin Jr., Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, Jack Coan, Isaiah Pryor.
Kurt Hinish – Houston Texans
Kurt Hinish played 45 games career games for Notre Dame, where he was a captain, made two College Football Playoff appearances, and was part of several 10-win seasons. Hinish was the anchor of the Irish defense the last two seasons, wreaking havoc for opposing running backs and quarterbacks. During his time with the Irish, Hinish recorded 83 total tackles, 20 TFLs, 7.5 sacks, and a forced fumble.
Measuring at 6-foot-1 and 296 lbs, Hinish is a bit undersized for a defensive tackle. But he ended up with a Houston Texans team that will most likely run a four-man front. If Hinish cracks the roster, he must have his career in Houston mirror what he did in South Bend.
Hinish was dependable, disciplined, a leader by example, and ultimately made plays when the Irish defense needed them most. As a Bears fan who grew up watching Lovie Smith defenses, I love this signing and hope to see Kurt Hinish in Week 1 for the Texans as they are by far the worst team that any Notre Dame draft-eligible player signed with. Houston is currently in a transformation phase, which bodes well for a player like Hinish’s prospects of cracking the roster.
Drew White – Washington Commanders
Another former Notre Dame linebacker has found his home at the next level after a stellar career in South Bend. Drew White is headed to the Washington Commanders as an undrafted free agent.
White finished his career at Notre Dame with 199 total tackles, 21.5 TFLs, five sacks, one interception, and one touchdown. Slightly undersized for the NFL at 6-foot-0, 227 lbs, he should be looking to bulk up upon his arrival as long as it does not slow him down on the field. White is a sound tackler that plays downhill and is extremely physical at the point of attack.
He often breached the backfield and created problems for opposing rushing games. White held his own in coverage as well, even recording a pick-six against the Wisconsin Badgers that all but sealed that game for the Irish. Similar to Hinish, White leaves Notre Dame as a former captain, a two-time College Football Playoff participant, and a cog of several 10-win teams.
Just two seasons ago, Washington had a top defensive unit in the league. But last year was a different story. The Commanders are not overly talented at the linebacker position, but they did use a first-round pick in 2021 to add Kentucky’s Jamin Davis, who is an athletic freak.
Alas, White is not a lock to make Washington’s roster. But his hard-working mindset and technical abilities — despite his lack of size — will give him an opportunity to make the team during the preseason. He will be playing under another great linebacker in Commanders’ head coach Ron Rivera, which is an ideal situation for any incoming linebacker.
Kevin Austin Jr. – Jacksonville Jaguars
Among Notre Dame’s 2022 draft-eligible players, nobody has more raw athletic ability or untapped potential than Kevin Austin Jr. His Relative Athletic Score was off the charts and he tested well at the Combine and Pro Day.
It’s a mystery to me why Austin Jr. went undrafted, as Mel Kiper Jr. ranked him as one of the top 10 available players throughout Day 3 of the NFL Draft. But going undrafted allows a player to have a choice regarding their destination. Austin Jr., a Florida native returns to his home state for his first professional contract, a strong trend during this year’s NFL Draft.
The former Irish wideout will join a stacked Jaguars receiver room. But coming off an outstanding 2021 campaign, Austin Jr.’s highly competitive nature plus size and necessary intangibles set him up for success at the NFL level. Having 2021 No. 1 overall draft pick Trevor Lawrence throwing to him also helps matters.
During his career at Notre Dame, Austin Jr. finished with 54 receptions for 996 yards and seven touchdowns — a vast majority of which came last season. If he can stay healthy and get on the same page as his quarterback early on, this could end up being a nice signing for the Jaguars. No ifs, ands, or buts about it, Austin Jr. is an athletic freak.
Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa – Las Vegas Raiders
One could argue that Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa is in the best situation of all Notre Dame UDFA’s due to the influx of new talent the Raiders brought in this offseason. Because of those impactful moves, Las Vegas projects to contend for the AFC West or at the very least a wild card spot.
Tagovailoa-Amosa racked up 81 total tackles, 17 TFLs, 5.5 sacks, four fumble recoveries, 2 forced fumbles, and the all-important big-guy touchdown during his time at Notre Dame. He has an interesting skill set that allows him to occupy various spots on the line, but he works best rushing from the edge in an ideal world. Tagovailoa-Amosa comes in at 6-foot-2, 282 lbs, which is great size for an EDGE. But he also has an opportunity to put on a few more pounds if he wishes to play nose tackle at the next level.
Yes, Tagovailoa-Amosa is related to Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The former Irish defensive lineman will surely seize any opportunity to record a sack on his cousin. But for now, he is focused on doing everything in his power to make the Raiders roster in the fall.
Jack Coan – Indianapolis Colts
The Indiana connection holds true again as yet another Notre Dame player is offered their first professional opportunity by the team they share a state with.
While Jack Coan only had one season at Notre Dame, it was arguably his best season in college football. He recorded 3,150 yards, 25 touchdowns, and a 151.8 QBR with only seven interceptions. Coan previously played for the Wisconsin Badgers in a run-heavy offense. Notre Dame also likes to run the football frequently, but the Irish offense offered Coan an opportunity to expand his game and put his best foot forward to get an opportunity at the next level.
Coan likely won’t be a star quarterback in the NFL, but he can develop into a serviceable backup or at the very least a practice squad player. He made the most of his opportunity in South Bend, and in my eyes, he exceeded expectations.
The preseason will be a pivotal time for Coan. Throwing to the Colts’ young talent at the receiver position, such as Alec Pierce, will be a prime opportunity to prove his worth. If Coan is able to make the active roster or practice squad, he will be able to learn from a savvy veteran quarterback in Matt Ryan.
Isaiah Pryor – New Orleans Saints
Rounding out the list is safety/linebacker Isaiah Pryor, who signed with the New Orleans Saints.
Pryor transferred to Notre Dame after spending a few seasons at Ohio State but didn’t quite catch on the way Irish fans would have anticipated. His most productive season came in 2021 after a position change to linebacker. Pryor finished the season with 42 total tackles, three TFLs, and one sack.
But Pryor always performed well on special teams, as the linebacker and secondary rooms were hard to latch on for the transfer. He held his own in the third phase of the game, and I would expect more of the same from Pryor if he is to make the Saints roster. He will likely have to revert to playing safety at the NFL level as he checks in at 6-foot-1 and 204 lbs. The fact of the matter is that many more 204 lb safeties roam the secondary as opposed to linebackers.
Signing with New Orleans will allow Pryor an opportunity to reunite with former Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book if he cracks the roster. I will be interested to see which type of role he is used in, but the Saints need safety help. Due to Pryor’s size, he is limited to special teams and safety roles despite higher production from the linebacker position at Notre Dame.
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