Fans of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are often concerned about the team’s ability to hold up in the event of injuries to frontline players. Irish teams of the recent past have often shown star-caliber starting lineups, but lacked quality depth to back up those players in the event of an injury or other absence. But if the results in two games - against admittedly inferior competition - are to be believed, this team may be different. The story of the 2020 Irish season, thus far, is depth.
Freshmen Chris Tyree and Michael Mayer have immediately proven themselves ready on offense, with Tyree complementing fellow young backs Kyren Williams and C’Bo Flemister in a fearsome running attack. On the defensive side of the ball, the pass rusher we’ve heard the most about has not been Daelin Hayes or Adetokunbo Ogundeji, but Isaiah Foskey. We’ve seen Jack Kiser flying across the field making tackles, Clarence Lewis and Cam Hart breaking up passes and, in the result we would have expected the least, Jordan Botelho in the end zone. Whether through injuries, COVID-19 containment, garbage time or plain old outstanding play, young guys have been making their presence felt all over the field for the Irish.
In a year where the depth chart is likely to remain unpredictable from week to week, the readiness these young players have shown is an encouraging sign. Guys like Kiser, Lewis and Foskey who are right on the edge of the starting lineup will likely be called upon again against more-challenging opponents than Duke and South Florida. It’s reassuring to know that when they take the field against Pitt or North Carolina or Clemson, they at least won’t be doing so for the first time. On offense, having a stable of game-ready running backs with diverse skill sets is a luxury the Irish have not had in a couple years, and has been crucial as other parts of the offense - particularly the connection between Ian Book and his receivers - have gotten off to a slow start.
In a year full of surprises, the early results from these guys have been among the few pleasant ones.