Notre Dame Football Stock Report: Week 5

I’ve never been more confused. Notre Dame is so good at running the ball, and so bad at throwing the ball. I guess this is what it was like in the late 80’s. I feel like people were happier then. There wasn’t an expectation of good quarterback play, at least as it related to the passing game.

We should be over the moon right now. The numbers are incredible. 7th in rushing at 302 yards a game. 3rd in yards per carry. 2nd in rushing touchdowns. 20 out of 22 in touchdown conversions in the red zone. It’s all happening.

But, we looked like a JV team throwing the ball. And for as good as the running game is, Notre Dame isn’t doing anything this year if that doesn’t get cleaned up. It isn’t 1988 anymore, you can’t just ignore one part of the offense. And it is sitting in the back of our minds like a test you know is coming and you know you’re totally unprepared for. So, we are not over the moon. As silly as it is, we are worried. Welcome to Notre Dame football in the 21st century!

And it’s ok to be worried, we’ve been burned too many times. I was a guy who was yelling at the TV because Nick Watkins gave up another long pass with Notre Dame up 45-14. And if that was you too, I understand. Let’s just try to remember there is growing evidence this team is good, and maybe a strong running game with an average passing game is going to get the job done this year, instead of the other way around.

Lets take stock after the first month of football has come and gone.


Josh Adams

I should probably say a few words here, because he’s been amazing. He started high, is currently high, and the only thing that looks to slow him down is a balky ankle. He’s 7th in nation in yards per game and he has missed six quarters due to blowout or injury or both. For some reason he’s been labeled as someone who only benefits from a line that opens huge holes, even as he took a hand off with an unblocked middle linebacker right in his face and escaped the situation with nary a finger being laid on him. He’s good everyone, it’s ok to say it.

He’s on pace for 1,579 yards over 12 games, and currently averages nine yards a carry. NINE yards a carry. And again he’s done all of this over the course of 3 1/2 games played in terms of total quarters. That’s quality. We should appreciate what he’s doing more than we are right now.

Chase Claypool

He continues his upward trend, catching a 4th and 11 crossing route for 21 yards and securing his first career touchdown on a 7 yard fade that Doug Flutie still wants reviewed. As his confidence continues to grow, look for his role to continue go up as well. He’s bought himself a little more margin for error with the plays he’s made the last couple of weeks, something he is no doubt aware of and that can lead to even better play. He knows he belongs now and he knows he’ll have a role. He no longer has to press.

Brandon Wimbush played his best game when Claypool played his biggest role and I don’t think that is an accident. He’s the type of guy that gives quarterbacks options as far as where to put the ball. Wimbush doesn’t have to be perfect with him. Notre Dame needed a second receiver to step up and it looks like they found their man.


Nick Watkins

This is going to be thing for the rest of the season with Watkins. He’s now given up multiple jump ball receptions, across multiple games, to the point where every team is going to try it, even when it’s covered. I don’t know if he’s being taught to face the receiver, while also trying to locate the ball, but it hasn’t worked out for him and I wonder if he’d do better if turned and ran with the receiver on his hip as we saw from Shaun Crawford against Boston College  and Julian Love against the Cardinals.

In a way he’s succumbing to the same thing as Brandon Wimbush; lack of confidence. As a former defensive back, I can see it in the body language with the ball in the air. He’s not sure whether to turn and run, look back, or watch the eyes. He doesn’t have a good feel for how much contact he can make, which allows the receiver to handle him a little too much, as we saw on the second touchdown of the day. That’s offensive pass interference, but the refs never call that because they always let receivers clear space to receive a pass, even when the same action by the defender would draw 15 flags. Confident defenders with the ball in the air know where the line is, and Nick Watkins isn’t in a good place with that right now.

Luckily, he’ll have plenty of chances to develop it later, because it’s going to happen every game now. It’s always easy for the offense to just throw the ball up. And now they have good reason to.

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  1. Better tell Nick Saban and Alabama that power football won’t win Championships. Taking advantage of matchups In the secondary and accurate passing with power football and a top 25 defense is what gets most teams to the CFP. Wimbush could get his timing perfected by game 7. Let’s hope.

  2. The only defense to worry about the rest of the way is Miami. They are no Georgia, but they probably have the speed to cause ND some problems on offense. Like those Miami teams of old, Georgia had incredible speed on defense. Wimbush is still trying to get over it.

  3. It is frustrating. I recent years we had great passing games but we couldn’t run the ball to save our lives. In 2012 we had a great defense, save for the NC game (still wondering where the defense disappeared to in that game) but the offense wasn’t the greatest. Now this year we finally have a defense that seems on the mend, and a killer rushing attack and the passing game disappears. Can we please have a year where we have a good defense, and a good, balanced offense….at the same time. We fix one thing and another goes bad.

    As others have noted, this isn’t the 1980’s. You can’t have running without passing. Right now, as I see it, ND is a 9-3 team. They will definitely beat lesser opponents, and more than likely beat decent teams. But without a solid passing game they won’t beat the better teams out there. Teams with better defenses will just stuff the run, force ND to pass and if we can’t pass we can’t win those games. Wimbush doesn’t need to put up gaudy passing numbers. If he could just be an average passer, that would be enough to keep defenses honest and allow ND to run the ball more.

    Maybe Wimbush’s problem is he keeps trying to make the home run passes. Maybe he just needs to keep it simple with the passes. He has the makings of an elite QB if he can just get the passing game down.

  4. I think Watkins plays better press-man. With that said, he was never burned, just didn’t turn around as many have mentioned.

    1. So far BK hasn’t said anything. Book took more reps with the first team at practice but that may be precautionary. Scans came back negative so it shouldn’t be long term. He is wearing a boot this week though. If I had to venture a guess though, I’d say we’ll probably see Book for more of the game against UNC then Wimbush. Wimbush relies so much on his feet, and with some tough games coming up after the bye, I don’t think the coaches will want to take chances of losing him for the season. But that’s just my guess.

  5. Greg , you covered the problem of what a D-back goes through in your explanation–and nice job doing that. It’s hard to argue that the D-back position is one of the most difficult. They start out by back pedaling against their opponent receiver– then try to stay with opponent receiver’s cut or stay with him on a fake cut/go long. This job of a D-back requires lot’s of speed and recovery speed on an opponents fake. I think Watkins has the speed to stay step for step — hopefully he learns when to turn his head back for flight of ball. There are instincts on when to do that—like after opponent receiver has already cut — and going in straight line. Yeah , I’m just talking as an arm chair guy . What do I know. But , I’d say keep Watkins where he’s at — and don’t shift Crawford around.

  6. Nick Watkins was getting extra reps against a 6-4 NFL-bound receiver who was pushing off almost every pass. I don’t think that’s much cause for concern.

  7. I can’t believe the dismissive insults Tony Rice has received lately. Tony Rice was a great college quarterback. He ran a completely different type of offense which relied on the triple option. Nonetheless, he had a rocket arm and had his best passing performances in the biggest games. In the Fiesta Bowl, for example, he was 7 out of 11 for 213 yards and two touchdowns. When you talk about Brandon Wimbush, lay off Tony Rice.

    1. Well, reasonable minds differ on Rice. He was a great college OPTION RUNNING quarterback.

      He was random and uncertain as a passer. (Sure, EJS you data-mined for the Fiesta Bowl, but, in statistical terms, that was an outlier.)

      But I blame Holtz. Holtz was the head coach and knew or should have known, in 1989, that Rice would have to throw the ball at some time during the season. Sure the Irish had a great rushing attack,. and pounded Paterno and the Nits in Happy Valley for over 400 yards rushig.

      But it was no secret that Miami, right there in Little Havana in the Orange Bowl, was the last regular season game.

      And Holtz had enough staff to see that the Miami ’89 D was not the one the Irish squeaked by, with Walsh fumbles (forced by Stams, I concede, a stuffed punt fake ((you weren’t the slickest Arkansan in the Stadium Jimmy!) and two transcendent defensive plays from Pat Terrell.

      Miami had added a defensive tackle from a Junior College and his name was Cortez Kennedy.

      Miami simply stuffed the ND running game, and Holtz, all year, had neglected developing the passing game (a Mortal Sin which Long and Kelly refuse to commit).

      So Notre Dame and Rice failed in the Orange Bowl, despite a great defensive effort. But I blame Holtz.

      It was negligence by omission. Go ahead, look up ND’s passing ATTEMPTS in ’89.

      1. I was at the 1989 Fiesta Bowl and remembered Tony Rice’s great performance, but you make good points. I think Brian Kelly will be willing to take the blame for a single loss after he wins 23 in a row and a National Championship.

  8. Ha I see the confusion as his name is linked similar to Claypool. We put links to players that lead their player profiles on the site. Wimbush was part of the Claypool write up, but no, not a riser.

    1. Give NW a chance there at North Carolina. Coach him up to watch the hips turn, or the eyes to go up, then turn to scrimmage and get up or whatever Todd thinks he should be doing to see and go after the ball…he has every right to go after that ball, though the refs are one-sided for receivers. If they successfully throw his way in Carolina (because they ARE throwing at him)…maybe make some partial or even total switch. But not with Crawford.

      BGC ’77 ’82

  9. I have to respectfully question Wimbush as rising. He has the yips in a big way and doesn’t seem to be able to pull the trigger fast enough. The first play of the game is a walk in TD if he doesn’t hold the ball too long. He is a huge concern and I hope they get it figured out. We have no shot against athletic defenses (USC, Miami, Stanford) if he does not figure this out.

  10. So how long before Crawford and Watkins change positions as every down vs. fifth DB? When the Bears changed D’ scenes with their blitzes and pressure, they did so with two very mediocre DBs. The best way to prevent long passes is for their QB not to have time to set, look and throw them. Having more sacks/pressures than recent years is better; maybe we’ll see more of it when it’s more needed vs. SC, Miami, Stanford and other better teams ND will be playing.

    1. Let’s not be giving up on NW prematurely like some gave up on Tillery and Martini. Also, and more importantly, Crawford is doing just fine where he is. For God’s sake, don’t make him switch positions mid-season! If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

      One thing I like about this “D” is that there is more than one guy with a big nose for the ball – always an ND trademark, especially for ARA teams. NW actually has a nose for the ball…he just needs to learn to finish. And there are other things I like about this “D” too.

      BGC ’77 ’82

      1. BGC , yeah Watkins has been in on numerous tackles — helping to snuff out running plays. More nose for the football indeed compared to BVG reign. Morgan and Coney are in the mix on every running play—whether they make solo tackle or not — they are 1st responders to finish things off. Martini and Tranquill were two players under radar last couple of years due to injury or under performing. Irish really need these guys playing in their final season — to make their careers count. So far , they are doing pretty darn good. What I like is improvement of this 2017 squad from game to game. Some of you will disagree , stating Wimbush passing inaccuracies / stats is going to determine outcome of this season. I see your’e concerns — but other top team’s Qb’s are not exactly doing so great either. Georgia is not relying on Fromm , Alabama not relying on Jalen Hurt , USC’s Sam Arnold is struggling –as is Rosen from UCLA , Jarrett from Ohio State playing sub par —can anybody name the QB from Michigan , Penn State , Clemson ? Lamarr Jackson of Louisville and Mayfield of Oklahoma are doing well. Will these two Qb’s lead their team to playoffs by themselves—I don’t think so. The Alabama’s , Clemson are going to reach playoffs because of a whole team effort. So , lay off Wimbush — and look to the whole of of an Irish team on O and D –improvements. This is what wins games each week. USC will be first test. I’m not concerned about Wimbush — to beat USC , Irish need whole team involved to kick Trojan Ass.

  11. Can just see Orville and Wilbur do a fly by and excite the crowd. Hopefully Tarheels will be just as slow.

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