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2021’s Best and Worst Notre Dame Football Performances

Do PFF’s grades align with what you witnessed with your eyes?

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 20 Georgia Tech at Notre Dame Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Pro Football Focus has been grading college football games since 2014. Here is how their analysts summed up the 2021 season for Notre Dame. (If you’d like more stats — or to compare Notre Dame’s performance to other teams — consider a subscription.)

  • The Fighting Irish earned a 91.3 overall grade for the 2021 season. Their highest grade by subcategory was their overall defensive grade: 88.3. Their lowest season grade by subcategory was for pass blocking (76.7).
  • Notre Dame’s best team grade for a single game was 92.3 against Georgia Tech, a 55-0 win. Their lowest team grade for a single game was 60.7 against Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl, a 37-35 loss.
  • The Irish’s highest subcategory grade in any single game was 90.8 for their passing attack against Navy. Jack Coan and Tyler Buchner were a combined 24-for-30 for 280 yards and 1 touchdown in a 34-6 win.
  • The Irish’s lowest subcategory grade in any single game was 42.2 for their secondary coverage against Oklahoma State. Xavier Watts, Clarence Lewis, Jack Kiser and DJ Brown all scored 46 or worse, according to PFF. Lewis yielded 12 catches on 13 targets for 141 yards and two touchdowns.

OFFENSE

  • The top 5 offensive players throughout the season: Tight end Michael Mayer (82), quarterback Jack Coan (81.8), running back Kyren Williams (81.2), tackle Josh Lugg (81) and center Jarrett Patterson (79.6). The lowest graded players all played 186 or fewer snaps: Tackle Tosh Baker (45.3), tight end Mitchell Evans (50.8), tackle Michael Carmody (53.4), wide receiver Deion Colzie (53.6) and tight end Cane Berrong (54.3).
  • Thirty-six players participated in at least one offensive snap this season, led by Patterson (918 of 936 snaps); guard Cain Madden (902/936); Lugg (821/936); Mayer (776/936); and Coan (718/936).
  • Madden had the team’s best rush blocking grade for the season (83.9), while Patterson had the best pass blocking grade for 2021 (84.7).
  • Coan had the best passing grade of the three quarterbacks who attempted a throw this year: 80.4. The service said he had 23 “big time throws” and 11 “turnover-worthy plays.” Coan graded out best when his pocket was kept clean (88.2 on 309 such plays) and when he was blitzed (84.2 on 143 dropbacks). PFF analysts were most impressed when he threw balls 10-19 yards in the air and least impressed with his screen passes behind the line of scrimmage.
  • Williams had the best season rushing grade (80.0), while Coan unsurprisingly had the worst (61.3) among regular players. Chris Tyree had the lowest grade (70.2) among running backs with more than 4 snaps.
  • Mayer had the best receiving grade (83), while Colzie had the worst (53.5). PFF said Braden Lenzy had the most drops this season — 5 — while Mayer had the most contested catches (13). Williams forced the most missed tackles after catching a ball — 13 — according to the analysts.
  • Lugg had the best graded single game performance this season, earning a 91.4 grade from his performance against Stanford.

DEFENSE

  • PFF’s top graded defensive players this season were defensive end Isaiah Foskey (81.2), safety DJ Brown (77.4), linebacker Jack Kiser (76.9), defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola (76.9) and nose tackle Kurt Hinish (76.9). The lowest graded all played 20 or fewer snaps, with the exception of linebacker J.D. Bertrand. He was fifth-lowest at 56.9, with Will Schweitzer (20 snaps) at 51.3; Litchfield Ajavon (7 snaps) at 43.9, safety K.J. Wallace (19 snaps) at 36.4 and linebacker Shayne Simon (8 snaps) at 26.9.
  • Thirty-four players took at least one defensive snap this season. Those who played the most snaps this season were cornerback Clarence Lewis (832 out of 919 possible snaps); Bertrand (753/919); cornerback Cam Hart (739/919); Jayson Ademilola (592/919); and defensive lineman Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa (579/919).
  • Kiser had the best rush defense score (83.1). Linebacker Isaiah Pyror was graded as the surest tackler (90.6), while cornerback TaRiq Bracy had the best pass rush grade (90.8). Linebacker Drew White had the best coverage grade this season (90.3). White allowed 12 completions in 15 targets, but those only amounted to 48 yards.
  • Pryor missed one tackle in 287 snaps, while Bertrand missed 20 tackles in 753 snaps.
  • Jayson Ademilola and Tagovailoa-Amosa both registered 28 quarterback hurries on the season, with Ademilola earning 41 total pressures.
  • Foskey recorded the best single game performance this season, according to the analysts: His five pressures, two tackles and two forced fumbles against Georgia Tech was worth a 91.2 grade.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • Tagovailoa-Amosa earned a 90.1 grade for his 34 field goal block snaps and 3 punt return snaps. Long snapper Michael Vinson earned a 80.4 grade for 121 snaps (punt coverage and field goal kicks).
  • Linebacker Bo Bauer played the most snaps on special teams this year — 239. Pryor (211), Kiser (172), kicker Jonathan Doerer (148) and safety Houston Griffith (132) rounded out the top five.
  • Doerer earned a 80.4 grade after going 47-for-48 on extra points and 16-for-20 on field goals. He was 6-of-6 between 20-29 yards; 4 of 6 between 30-39 yards; 5 of 6 between 40-49 yards and 1-of-2 from 50 or greater.
  • Doerer’s kickoff grade was 72.4. Forty-six of his 86 kickoffs were returned, yielding an average field position of the 25 12 yard line. Of the unreturned, 30 were touchbacks and eight were fairly caught.
  • Punter Jay Bramblett received a 68.2 grade this season. He averaged 44 yards per attempt. His long was 72. His average hangtime was 4.04 seconds.
  • Williams was the team’s best graded returner at 70.9. He returned one kickoff for 29 yards and 15 kickoffs for 148 yards. He also had 21 fair catches.