With the Home Depot Awards Show behind us, and The Echoes going down tonight, the OFD staff took a few moments to vote on some of the best from the Notre Dame Fighting Irish this season.
FUNNIEST MOMENT OF THE YEAR
For most years, this is a pretty subjective topic — but not during a 12-0 season. The Infamous pic and ensuing meme battle afterwards wasn’t just brilliant, it was well timed. The Irish were 7-0, coming off of a bye and about to start their big travel month to end the season. Much like everything else this year... Well done BK.
SPECIAL TEAM SPECIALNESS
During his final year in South Bend, Justin Yoon broke just about every record kept for kickers. The biggest one was the Notre Dame all-time scoring leader. Justin Yoon has scored more points at Notre Dame than anyone else in history. Chew on that for a bit.
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
Without a doubt, the best “newb” on the team this season was safety Alohi Gilman, a transfer from the Naval Academy. Gilman lost his appeal last year to play right away for the Irish, but man did he unleash his fury this season. Gilman is currently the 2nd leading tackler on the team with 76, and he has 2 INTs. The biggest thing though, is the type of physicality he brings to each game. He’s a brutal hitter, and is the ultimate “try-hard.”
BEST MOMENT OF THE YEAR
There were several great moments this year, which usually happens on the path to a 12-0 season. The one that stuck out the most for the OFD Staff, was Notre Dame’s 24-17 win over the Michigan Wolverines (yes it was THIS year and the game actually counted). In particular, that one time when Chris Finke MOSSED the so-called “best pass defense” in the country. Or maybe... he OUTFOXED them all.
Notre Dame’s defensive front gets a lot of praise, but a big part of their success is the rotation along the defensive line. Kurt Hinish is one of those bodies that comes in on the line rotation and plays like a wrecking ball. Stats aren’t a big thing in this situation. What really matters is that the level of play stays the same during the rotation. He never gets enough praise — so here ya go.
BEST UNIFORMS OF 2018
With Notre Dame giving a few more options this year, this was a fairly split vote. In the end, the classic home blues won handily over the green jerseys (my pick) and the Pinstripe uniforms. With Notre Dame about wear another new uniform in the Cotton Bowl, maybe this vote changes on December 30th — but right now... tradition rules.
ASSISTANT COACH OF THE YEAR
Clark Lea, Defensive Coordinator
This was another close vote, but the first time DC ended up with the most marks in the tally sheet. You couldn’t go wrong here with Lea, Chip Long, Matt Balis, and even TOM REES (Tommy when he’s passing) but Clark has completed the turn around for this defense that Mike Elko started.
SUBWAY DOMER’S PEOPLES CHAMP
I usually award this myself in the spring, but I thought I’d start letting the staff chime in a bit. I hold a special place in my heart for players with great hair, quirkiness, and the ability to impact the team greatly without a ton of fanfare (as well as any number of other traits). Tyler Newsome hits the mark on all of these levels and then some. There were some great candidates this year, but the Punter People’s Champ takes the cake.
MOST IMPROVED OFFENSIVE PLAYER
This was another very close vote, but in the end, Miles Boykin rose to the top. He hit superstar status with fans after the Citrus Bowl, but rather than step back — he took several steps forward. Boykin led all receivers with 54 receptions for 804 yards and 8 TD’s. He has one more year of eligibility... BEG HIM.
MOST IMPROVED DEFENSIVE PLAYER
This one wasn’t even close. How could it be? No one thought that Elliott would end up being the starter at safety for the entire season, and not only did he do that — he was one of the best players on defense all season long. He was 4th on the team in tackles with 63, and had 4 interceptions. He and his partner in crime, took the weakest link of the defense and turned it into a great strength. No one is more deserving of a “most improved” title anywhere in the county than Jalen Elliott.
Julian Love just got screwed out of the Jim Thorpe Award despite having better stats than any of the other finalists. Notre Dame’s defense wouldn’t be nearly as dominant with out the junior shutdown cornerback. He has another year of eligibility... BEG SOME MORE.
Dexter Williams burst onto the 2018 season with a 47 yard TD run with his first carry of the year... in game 5. After serving a 4 game suspension, Dexter ended the season with 972 yards and 12 touchdowns. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? If Dexter wouldn’t have had to sit those 4 games, we would be talking about other major national awards like the Doak Walker, Maxwell, and yes... Heisman.
Drue Tranquill and Ian Book
It’s a tie, and it’s fitting. This Notre Dame team is so balanced, that it really couldn’t be any other way.
Ian Book was a breath of fresh air for an offense that had gone stale, and he made it work ridiculously better by the way he distributed the football, and by the way he used every tool the football gods gave him to help this team win.
Drue Tranquill was a warrior all season. He won the Herbie for that shit. He played hurt most of the season and still helped lead this defense and this team. He played in every game and provide the leadership needed from a captain to help guide a team to a 12-0 record and playoff berth.