Notre Dame Football ’17 Stock Report: Week 8

Julian Okwara - Notre Dame DE

I believe we have finally reached the point where we can alter our expectations. Following the big win against USC, I didn’t want to get too ahead of myself. Beating USC, in such dominating fashion, was great. Like, really great. And I wanted to enjoy it for what it was, because wins don’t come around like that very often. And lets be honest, we didn’t really expect much this year, and we couldn’t have dreamed our boys would wax our hated rivals so thoroughly. I think most fans spent the majority of last week just basking in the glow of what happened.

But, there was the thought in the back of my mind, just sitting there to be pondered: if Notre Dame gets by NC State, who many saw as the biggest threat left to Kelly’s troops, we might really have something here. It was a dare to dream matchup, where if Notre Dame won, the path to 11-1 was very real.

Well, we have an update: it’s time to dream.

11-1 is no longer something that could happen, it should happen. Notre Dame has shown itself to be superior to everyone remaining on the schedule. This guarantees nothing of course; while the Irish are better than all the remaining teams on the schedule, by wider margins than USC or NC State, no one would call any of them bad. Miami is overrated, but undefeated is undefeated. Wake Forest and Stanford aren’t great, but they’ve played good football at various points this season. And Navy is Navy.

Notre Dame is good. Really, really good. They’ve shown it time and time again over the last five weeks. It’s time to alter expectations. As Charlie Weis once said “9-3 isn’t good enough.”

Rising

Player Development

This point has been made indirectly throughout the season when discussing the depth of this team, but I wanted to focus on it directly here. What we’ve seen from a development standpoint has been remarkable, and it’s been going on since day 1. And it could also lead them to great things this year.

One of the reasons I picked 9-3 prior to the season was I thought Notre Dame would fall apart, particularly on the defensive line, as the season wore on. I didn’t think they would be the same team to end the year as they were to start the year. That turns out to be correct, but in the opposite direction. This team will be superior to the one who took the field against Temple and Georgia.

Notre Dame has used a TEN player rotation along the defensive line this season, with little drop off between the first and 10th player. This assures a fresh group series after series, and it saves legs as the season goes on. Key stalwarts like Jerry Tillery, Jay Hayes, Daelin Hayes, Jonathon Bonner, et al have seen a much lower percentage of snaps as this position group in seasons past and it allows them to play at their max, all the time. This group is entering it’s ninth week, but their snap counts are way down. This is a relatively fresh unit.

It isn’t just the defensive line. They’ve been rotating linebackers, corners, and safeties throughout the year, and even the young right tackles rotate series to series every week.

The obvious dividends are a fresh team, a team gaining in experience throughout the roster, and of course quality depth. One that isn’t talked about enough, especially as it relates to week to week excellence, is what it means for the teams focus.

When you have a core group of guys who receive most of the snaps on offense and defense, those players are more susceptible to complacency. Football is hard and a physical grind. Up and down weeks are normal. But when you have a roster of 50-60 guys who know they are going to play key roles in every game, it drives practice intensity, and it maintains focus. When people talk about culture, this is it what they are referring to.

Troy Pride

This is an under the radar development and it goes hand in hand with that I discussed above. Brian Kelly mentioned Pride last week in his NC State preview presser as having been improving and to expect to see more of him. See more we did. He often replaced Nick Watkins in the nickel defense throughout the game against the Wolf Pack and his presence also brought on a previously unseen defense: the dime. Pride was joined by Watkins, Love, Crawford, Coleman, and Elliot on the back end on passing downs. This just adds another layer of diversity for Mike Elko’s troops and it’s all a credit to Pride, who has worked his way into the corner rotation.

Falling

Special Teams

There was finally a calamity with one of these units, a blocked punt for a touchdown, and it really was a long time coming. It’s been an inconsistent season for all the units so far in 2017. They gave up a long return on kickoff, Newsome offered several poor efforts when he wasn’t getting blocked, and the blocking on punt return wasn’t great.

Notre Dame has been utterly dominant on offense and defense, so special teams ails seem like small potatoes. But, some time soon it’s going to matter and Brian Polian’s group needs to clean up its act.

Also, Justin Yoon hasn’t attempted a field goal in two straight games, so that’s just something to keep an eye on.

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20 comments

  1. Rayjay 2 years ago

    I think Yoon is our only worry. He just can’t kick the ball deep on kickoffs. Field goals? I am holding my breath if or when we need him to make a key one. So far he has looked ok on those.

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    1. Damian 2 years ago

      Yeah, for the most part ST’s have done just enough. Haven’t been awful overall, but they aren’t making the big plays like the offense and defense. It’d be nice now that the passing has been improving to get ST’s to at least above average.

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  2. EJS 2 years ago

    Miami is winning games like ND won in 2012, narrowly, with good defense. No one should take them lightly because they’re “overrated.”

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    1. Damian 2 years ago

      I agree. I think ND can beat Miami, but they are not to be taken lightly. They’re still undefeated so they’re by no means a bad team. And it’s a rivalry, not as hostile as it once was, but still a game they will prepare for. Plus, if still undefeated at that point they too will be fighting for a playoff spot.

      But the coaches have done a good job keeping the teams eye on the ball. They won’t overlook Miami (or Wake Forest this week either).

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  3. Jack 2 years ago

    When you talk about depth it got me thinking…I haven’t seen Asmir Bilal lately. Is he injured? Don’t know if I spelled his name correctly.

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  4. jimbasil 2 years ago

    The real issue now as the team looks ahead, Wake Forest actually dominated UL and were much
    more confusing to UL on both D and O than was NCState’s D and O. This could be an issue for ND.
    WF played as a team with nothing to lose – that’s scary. Sure they lost Dorcth for the season but they still have players on O who can be a nightmare for our D especially their QB who reminds me of NCState’s QB. I don’t see Wake’s OLine as able to stand up to ND’s DLine but then their coach didn’t
    seem to care UL’s line was much bigger and faster than theirs. Coach called plays which confused
    the hell out of UL. On O I see ND just bludgeoning WF’s DLine and running all day long with power runs up the middle but then our D could be in for a long night with all the youth in the secondary.
    Anyway, I can’t see ND losing to WF but it may not be as easy as we the fan think it will be.
    I’m hoping ND 55 WF 7 but then ND would need to play a great game with no let down or looking
    ahead to Miami.

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  5. Damian 2 years ago

    Defense is definitely a force to be reckoned with. Offense continues to improve. Special teams is the one are that needs work. Newsome is usually reliable on punts, not sure what happened last week. But it’s lots of little things on Special Teams that they can work on that can make more improvements to the team.

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    1. Bob Rodes 2 years ago

      Special teams certainly hasn’t been a source of extra offense, but that punt block was the first time this season they were a defensive liability. Much better than last year, and good enough for now. Still, as you say, needs work.

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  6. david 2 years ago

    If Josh Adams gets hurt, ND looks like NC State did on Sat., sans Hines.

    But hey….bring on Alabama! Good times!

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    1. Damian 2 years ago

      Um, did you watch the game? Adams was hardly the only player that contributed to the win.

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      1. david 2 years ago

        No, I didn’t. And won’t until Kelly’s gone. Read the game summary.
        I plan to watch other, more entertaining games until Kelly is replaced by a real coach who adequately respects the job of being ND head coach.

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      2. Damian 2 years ago

        I’m not sure what earned BK your special ire. I wasn’t thrilled he was kept after last years record, but he was, made some changes in coaching, in his philosophy and in his relationships with his players. It seems to be paying off. I mean, if he ran over your dog or something, maybe I’d understand it.

        In a way I feel sorry for you. You are missing some great games. Also, I find it sad that you want the players to fall flat on their face just so some personal vendetta you have against BK can be satisfied.

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      3. ndcrazymike 2 years ago

        so we kept BK and are having a great season as KELLY has admitted his mistakes as coach and person. we are now #3 and have a top 10 if not 5 recruiting class! Guess dave wont be watching ND games for a few more years! TOOO BAD!

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    2. Greg Flammang 2 years ago

      Or they’ll look like they did against Michigan State. Either way.

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    3. Bob Rodes 2 years ago

      I don’t think so. Williams, McIntosh and Jones have shown that they can play, too.

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    4. Josh 2 years ago

      I think they have plenty of depth at rb is Josh Adams gets hurt

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      1. Josh 2 years ago

        if

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    5. Bruce Gregory Curme 2 years ago

      Wrong. ND is hip deep in running backs that can (and will) do the job. Are they as talented as Josh? No, but they don’t have to be as good as Josh since our second, third and fourth running backs are as good as anyone else in the country.

      BGC ’77 ’82

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      1. david 2 years ago

        Really?! Then that’s truly amazing. Because before this season, any running back signing on for Kelly at ND was one stubborn, blindly optimistic dude.

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  7. Big jay 2 years ago

    Hey can you do something on Myron tagavailoa
    And how you think he’s been helping. I mean he looks
    Pretty good for a freshman

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