The Notre Dame Fighting Irish went into fall camp with a long list of questions. Just about everywhere on offense besides running back and tight end had multiple questions, and although there were fewer on the defensive side of the ball, it was enough to be concerned about another possible run to the college football playoff.
There were a lot of questions, but over the last couple of weeks we have started to get a few answers. Pete Sampson said it best (because when doesn’t he — the eloquent bastard) when he stated that Notre Dame has a real chance to fall on the right side of all of these questions.
Judging by the commentary and notes from the last open practice of fall camp — it’s coming together.
Here’s a quick rundown of things as the Irish are now done with the fall camp portion of their preseason training.
Despite the on the surface quarterback competition with Drew Pyne, we were all super confident that Jack Coan was going to be QB1 in 2021. There were mixed reports early on about his accuracy, but after Thursday’s practice reports surfaced about an accurate and poised Jack Coan — I think we can feel very good about what he brings to the offense. A 17 yard run on a read option is the cherry and the nuts.
After an incredible amount of speculation dating back to winter, we know who the starters are on the offensive line. LT Blake Fisher, LG Zeke Correll, C Jarrett Patterson, RG Cain Madden, and RT Josh Lugg. Michael Carmody is the first guy in at tackle — but I’m not entirely sure about first guy in at guard — I don’t currently believe it will be true freshman Rocco Spindler.
So this is our group, and they have a couple of weeks to get their house in order. Of all of the groups in camp, the offensive line seemed to have the most trouble (not saying terrible, just the one with the most issues). Without question the line still needs to work on being a UNIT out there.
Notre Dame has five senior wide receivers that, by most accounts, are ready to blow up this year. While singularly they may not become All-Americans — this is an old group that is hungry for success. Kevin Austin, Braden Lenzy, Joe Wilkins, Avery Davis, and Lawrence Keys will gobble up most of the playing time and have had a really good fall camp. The playmaking ability and speed available here is something we haven’t seen at Notre Dame as far as a collective group is concerned, and Tommy Rees is cooking up ways to get these guys in space.
Freshman Lorenzo Styles also adds to the mix here, and should be in the 2-deep:
- Braden Lenzy — Lorenzo Styles
- Kevin Austin — Joe Wilkins
- Avery Davis — Lawrence Keys
I’m more than intrigued — I’m pretty excited.
Michael and Friends
Michael Mayer is probably a legit demigod. That’s great news, but news we were 1000% expecting. Notre Dame isn’t going to run two tight sets this year nearly as much as they did last year, but they still need a solid “number two” and Kevin Bauman is the guy — which is great.
The most solid position group on the offensive side is clearly the running backs. Kyren Williams is primed for an All-American type of year, and Chris Tyree might be the most dangerous Irish player with the ball in his hands. One of the bigger questions is what to do with the other three (C’Bo Flemister, Logan Diggs, and Audric Estime) but I’m not convinced it matters all that much. Hearing that Tommy Rees is toying with more and more two-back sets DOES matter quite a bit, and I can’t wait to see it in action.
The Rotation is King
The Jordan Botelho “rumors” caused a stir, and made us examine the depth at Vyper a little closer. The real key here is Isaiah Foskey. All camp reports aside (good and bad) he’s absolutely going to be relied upon as a key contributor (listed starter) at Vyper alongside Jordan Botelho. Justin Ademilola is technically the #2 at Vyper right now, but I expect more work at SDE behind Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa. The middle of the line is stout with Kurt Hinish and Jayson Ademilola, and it looks ridiculously deep as you rotate in Howard Cross and Rylie Mills.
Mills received high praise from just about everyone that attended Thursday’s scrimmage. The sophomore from Illinois is a massive individual, and is playing like a man possessed. He’s going to need a nickname — like a really good one.
Backing Up the Line
Notre Dame is playing with a double handful of good linebackers in 2021. The most likely trio of starters will probably be Drew White, Marist Liufau, and Jack Kiser — with Bo Bauer, JD Bertrand, and Isaiah Pryor backing them up. While it’s nice and cozy to talk about a two deep, Marcus Freeman will move LBs in and out as he mixes up looks in the front seven. Basically, I would just say that these are the six that will likely see the most playing time. None of those six included Shayne Simon or Paul Moala, which just feels weird.
A Solid Secondary?
If people can believe that the shitty offensive line play by the North Carolina Tar Heels can improve in 2021, why can’t a solid Irish secondary get even better? There is a Kyle Hamilton on this team, and that should count for — whatever number you like. Houston Griffith has really come on as the safety opposite Mr. Hamilton, and this year is shaping up to be that “senior season” we may talk about in a few years... “who is going to be this year’s Houston Griffith”?
Cam Hart told you on his podcast that he was the starter at the boundary corner, and that’s NO CAP. Clarance Lewis appears to have “won” the job back at the field corner, but TaRiq Bracy is the nickel, and is also a part of the new “Dollar” package (Freeman’s version of the dime).
Depth is the main concern here. It’s not that there isn’t any, but most of it is young or very unexperienced. Pray for good health back there.