Reminder: Notre Dame does not play a football game today. Thanks to the weird Monday night start to the season, the Fighting Irish have an even stranger week two bye today. Considering how they played on Monday night, the early bye is either a blessing or couldn’t come at a worse time since the Irish have a lot of work to do. Here’s what Notre Dame needs to be working on on their day off.
Don’t sit at home eating cheeseburgers
First thing Notre Dame needs to do this weekend is WORK. To quote the infamous Charlie Weis, they can’t just be “sitting at home eating cheeseburgers” this weekend while almost everyone else is playing football. Notre Dame was too sloppy, too undisciplined, and too sluggish on Monday not to be putting in as much work as all of their opponents who are playing this weekend.
Some of Monday could be chalked up to week-one kinks and the weird practice schedule (since none of them have ever played on a Monday night), but at the same time, this is a team saying publicly their goal is to put to bed the narrative that they don’t belong with the elite teams. Monday wasn’t a good start towards reaching that goal, so this weekend the Irish have work to do.
Find someone who can be a change of pace back
With the news that Jafar Armstrong is likely out for over a month, the Irish need to find a change of pace back to pair with Tony Jones Jr. Jahamir Smith is a nice back and can do good things, but he isn’t that change of pace back. He isn’t shifty or fast enough. If anything, he is more similar to Jones than complimentary.
That leaves Notre Dame without a lot of options right now. C’bo Flemister is the only back on the roster who looks like he has the top-end speed to take advantage of some of the holes the Irish line was opening early. Whether or not he is ready for a significant role in the offense with Armstrong sidelined is another story.
Don’t forget about Kyren Williams either. He is not a burner, but he is a complete back who could emerge here. Remember back in 2004, Darius Walker did not play as a true freshman in week one. He emerged as Notre Dame’s best back in week two against Michigan. Williams might not have the same trajectory, but it’ll be interesting to watch what Notre Dame does with him this week.
Make Ian Book uncomfortable in practice all week
Seeing Ian Book look skittish and nervous in the pocket against one of the worst defenses he will face this year on Monday night was discouraging, to say the least. Whatever Notre Dame did to make Book feel uncomfortable in practice over the off-season doesn’t look like it was successful. Brian Kelly and Chip Long have to find a way to make him feel that discomfort in practice or that trip to Athens in two weeks is going to be more than uncomfortable.
This team is going to go as far as Ian Book takes it. The defense is going to keep teams for scoring a lot of points, but to reach this team’s published goals, they are going to need Ian Book to play more like a Heisman candidate than a game manager. Teams with game managers at quarterbacks don’t win championships in today’s college football.
Notre Dame needs Ian Book to be a game-changer. He wasn’t on Monday.
Try to find more stability at linebacker
Notre Dame played a lot of linebackers on Monday, but there is still instability in the linebacking corps. It seems like the best group for the future is some combination of Drew White, Shayne Simon, Jack Lamb, and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. White showed the good and the bad with his game on Monday with some good instincts and then some limitations in coverage.
Is Shayne Simon ready to start at MIKE? After being recruited as a ROVER and still checking in at 230 lbs, that’s a tall task for a sophomore with the trip to Georgia on the horizon. After that game, it’s not as unrealistic since there are pass-happy teams on the schedule after Georgia.
Clark Lea needs to find a way to get some stability at linebacker that gets the best players on the field but doesn’t make Notre Dame too vulnerable to the run in the middle of the defense.
Practice some pressure kicking situations
Jonathan Doerer made every one of his extra points against Louisville, but he didn’t get a single field goal attempt. It would be wise of Notre Dame to end their practice today with a kick or two with some pressure applied. Does Notre Dame feel comfortable sending Doerer out for say a 42-yard field goal, down two points, in the final minute in Athens as of today? We don’t know that yet.
It was encouraging that Doerer did make all his PAT’s and that freshman Jay Bramblett looked pretty good punting as well on Monday, but both are still wildcards for Notre Dame right now. Hopefully, Brian Polian works in some pressure situations for the Irish this weekend.
Keep unleashing Kyle Hamilton
This one is for Greg, but Lea and Terry Joseph just need to keep doing what they are doing with Kyle Hamilton. He looked every bit as good as advertised on Monday night and it’s impossible not to be excited about his future.