Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 24, 2020

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 37 of 55

38 OCT. 24, 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED becomes a looming threat as his physical condition improves. The Notre Dame pass defense has had numerous health setbacks with both injuries and COVID-19, but its work in the secondary has been beyond respectable and plenty reliable. Versatile sixth-year senior captain Shaun Craw- ford — capable of starting at either cornerback or safety — provides valuable roster insurance as a plug-and-play option at any position in the defensive backfield. Advantage: Even NOTRE DAME RUNNING GAME VS. PITTSBURGH RUN DEFENSE Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly celebrated his depth at running back in the preseason, and understandably so. Working behind what has been graded the best offensive line in the country after three games, sophomore Kyren Williams and freshman Chris Tyree are emerging as the headliners on a rushing offense that ranked No. 5 in the country heading into the Louisville game Oct. 17, with plenty of reli- able reinforcements behind. Through its first three contests, Notre Dame already had three different running backs — Wil- liams, Tyree and junior C'Bo Flemister — enjoy 100-yard rushing outings. The team's average of 6.28 yards per carry ranked fourth in the coun- try and it already had 12 rushing touchdowns after tallying 20 ground scores in all 13 games last season. As expected, Pittsburgh relies on its defense for success under sixth-year head coach Pat Narduzzi — a former defensive coordinator at Michigan State — and its rushing defense is one of the best, allowing an average 52.0 yards through five games. End Rashad Weaver leads a veteran front seven. Sophomore linebacker SirVocea Dennis and ju- nior defensive back Paris Ford are both enjoying quick starts for Pitt. Dennis remains among the team leaders in tackles for loss (6.5 through five outings) and Ford, a third-team All-ACC selection last season, led the team with 31 stops and two interceptions. Advantage: Even NOTRE DAME PASSING GAME VS. PITTSBURGH PASS DEFENSE Fifth-year senior quarterback Ian Book was criti- cized after just two games for relying too much on tight ends and running backs in a dink-and-dunk passing approach instead of targeting his wide receivers downfield. Fifth-year senior wideout Javon McKinley's five- catch, 107-yard performance against Florida State helped calm those concerns, and so did Kelly pro- claiming that the best is yet to come as his group of burgeoning wide receivers gain game experience and a quarterback's confidence. With more rushing touchdowns through three games than passing scores, Book isn't necessar- ily showing the aerial success most expected for an accomplished third-year starter. But with the Notre Dame running game enjoying one of its best seasons since the Lou Holtz era, the Irish coaches are undeterred in their strategy on offense. Pass defense, especially up front, is the adver- tised strength of the Panthers. The nation's best sack team from 2019 lost star defensive lineman Jaylen Twyman — who led Pitt with 10.5 sacks as a sophomore last season but opted out in 2020 to prepare for the NFL Draft — but returns standout fifth-year linemen Patrick Jones and Weaver. Through five games, these two playmakers had already combined for 14.0 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks. Advantage: Even SPECIAL TEAMS Notre Dame has excelled with its kickoff return unit and overall coverage, but reliable senior placekicker Jonathan Doerer has cooled recently with multiple misses. Beyond a blocked punt by the Irish that went for touchdown against South Florida, their special teams units remain solid but not spectacular. Pittsburgh senior placekicker Alex Kessman has failed to convert in critical situations this season. His struggles are best illustrated by a missed extra point in overtime against Boston College that lifted the Eagles to a 31-30 upset win and dropped Pitt to its second straight heartbreaking loss. Panthers junior running back Todd Sibley scored a touchdown on an 11-yard return after a blocked punt in the season opener against Austin Peay. Advantage: Notre Dame COACHING With 15 returning starters and riding an 8-5 fin- ish in 2019 alongside a 3-0 start in 2020, early expectations for Narduzzi cooled after his Panthers lost by one point in consecutive games to NC State (Oct. 3) and Boston College (Oct. 10). Closing out close games remains a challenge for GAME PREVIEW: PITTSBURGH Offense Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Cl. WR 0 Braden Lenzy 5-11½ 181 Jr. 11 Ben Skowronek 6-3 220 5th-Sr. WR 3 Avery Davis 5-11 202 Sr. 13 Lawrence Keys III 5-10 173 Jr. LT 74 Liam Eichenberg 6-6 302 5th-Sr. 73 Andrew Kristofic 6-5 292 So. LG 69 Aaron Banks 6-6 330 Sr. 76 Dillon Gibbons 6-4 309 Sr. C 55 Jarrett Patterson 6-4½ 305 Jr. 52 Zeke Correll 6-3 295 So. RG 78 Tommy Kraemer 6-6 317 5th-Sr. 56 John Dirksen 6-5 306 Jr. RT 72 Robert Hainsey 6-5 290 Sr. 75 Josh Lugg 6-7 310 Sr. TE 89 Brock Wright 6-4½ 255 Sr. 24 Tommy Tremble 6-3 242 Jr. or 85 George Takacs 6-6 245 Jr. or 87 Michael Mayer 6-5 235 Fr. WR 88 Javon McKinley 6-2 215 5th-Sr. 18 Joe Wilkins Jr. 6-1½ 190 Jr. or 4 Kevin Austin Jr. 6-2 215 Jr. QB 12 Ian Book 6-0 206 5th-Sr. 7 Brendon Clark 6-2 212 So. RB 23 Kyren Williams 5-9 194 So. 25 Chris Tyree 5-9½ 188 Fr. or 34 Jahmir Smith 5-11 207 Jr. or 20 C'Bo Flemister 5-11 195 Jr. or 8 Jafar Armstrong 6-1 220 Sr. Defense Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Cl. Vyper 9 Daelin Hayes 6-4 270 5th-Sr. 29 Ovie Oghoufo 6-3 240 Jr. or 7 Isaiah Foskey 6-5 257 So. DT 95 M. Tagovailoa-Amosa 6-2½ 282 Sr. 57 Jayson Ademilola 6-3 279 Jr. NT 41 Kurt Hinish 6-2 296 Sr. 54 Jacob Lacey 6-2 293 So. SDE 91 Ade Ogundeji 6-4 268 5th-Sr. 19 Justin Ademilola 6-2 248 Jr. or 7 Isaiah Foskey 6-5 257 So. Buck 33 Shayne Simon 6-3 228 Jr. or 35 Marist Liufau 6-2 226 So. Mike 40 Drew White 6-0 227 Sr. 52 Bo Bauer 6-3 230 Jr. Rover 6 J. Owusu-Koramoah 6-1½ 215 Sr. 10 Isaiah Pryor 6-1½ 204 Sr. CB 4 Nick McCloud 6-0½ 192 5th-Sr. 5 Cam Hart 6-2½ 207 So. CB 28 TaRiq Bracy 5-10 180 Jr. or 26 Clarence Lewis 5-11½ 192 Fr. SS 20 Shaun Crawford 5-9 180 6th-Sr. 3 Houston Griffith 6-0 204 Jr. FS 14 Kyle Hamilton 6-4 219 So. 12 DJ Brown 6-0 194 Jr. NOTRE DAME DEPTH CHART Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Cl. KO 39 Jonathan Doerer 6-3 197 Sr. 38 Dawson Goepferich 6-2 200 5th-Sr. K 39 Jonathan Doerer 6-3 197 Sr. 38 Dawson Goepferich 6-2 200 5th-Sr. P 19 Jay Bramblett 6-1½ 193 So. 38 Dawson Goepferich 6-2 200 5th-Sr. LS 65 Michael Vinson 6-2 226 Jr. 44 Alex Peitsch 6-1 208 Fr. Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Cl. H 19 Jay Bramblett 6-1½ 193 So. 14 J.D. Carney 5-10 180 Sr. PR 4 Kevin Austin Jr. 6-2 215 Jr. 32 Matt Salerno 6-0½ 196 Jr. KR 25 Chris Tyree 5-9½ 188 Fr. or 8 Jafar Armstrong 6-1 220 Sr. Special Teams

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