We have hit the stretch where every game (on paper) is very winnable. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have a very legitimate shot at the College Football Playoffs, and a clear path to get there.
What may get lost in the path to the playoffs are the players that are going to need to elevate their games. I am not talking about Julian Love, Ian Book, or the Miles Boykin type of players, but some who have not solidified themselves as, “go to players” or “playmakers”. I am going to limit this to skill position players, as the Defensive line has a wealth of playmakers, and the entire Offensive line needs some growth. I want to provide a couple of players who can and should step up if we expect Notre Dame to be successful in their run at the playoffs.
Tony Jones Jr.
Jafar Armstrong will be the change of pace back and Dexter Williams is the every down explosive back. Tony Jones Jr. will need to embrace a role of being the short yardage downhill back. He has elevated his game coming out of the backfield and as a pass blocker, but has been hit or miss on the downhill short game. He is powerful and has strong legs, and will need to be a guy who always seems to fall forward in the face of contact. There will be multiple times this year where we can put a game away by these types of grinding runs. His progression back from his ankle injury is just as crucial.
He needs to kick the ball through the back of the end zone every time. His ability to do this preserves Justin Yoon and puts our defense in a great position every time.
We have seen slow progress over the last few weeks and he has been getting closer and closer. The clear gap in our defense thus far has been at the nickel. If things can click for Griffith, our defense becomes even better, which is pretty neat. He has fallen short in man coverage, getting beat by the first move of the slot receivers. It will take him making a great break on the ball and going to the game, as opposed to the game coming to him.
I would love to see Mack make some strides in getting the ball downfield. His YACs have been very low, which is not totally his fault. Ideally, Ian Book will hit him up the seam in a quick RPO play. He also needs to develop his redzone presence. It seems that the offense has given him short crossing routes in that area, as opposed to finding matchups with him posting up on the outside. He has the strength and size to become a nightmare there, but we’ve yet to see it come to fruition. If he starts clicking, the offense becomes terrifying.
Finke is someone who is very very close. He has dropped a couple of key crossing routes in some key moments. Finke has been great in the open field with the ball in his hands, but sometimes runs before he secures the catch. His ability to becomes the go to check down route and crossing WR out of the slot will allow things to develop over the top for the other bigger receivers.
As always, Vote below and Comment if there are other candidates that you think should and could be the difference makers as the Irish begin their playoff push.
Who Will Step Up?
This poll is closed
Tony Jones Jr.
Other-Please comment below
Bonus Step Up FIRE from Channing Tatum