Before Notre Dame gets ready for its first, and likely only, appearance in the ACC Championship game in two weeks, the Irish have some work left to do to prepare for what could be a historic postseason run. The Irish have just one game left thanks to the ACC canceling games on December 12 following Dabo Swinney’s week-long temper tantrum, and their opponent figures to offer little resistance making it a great opportunity to work out a few kinks.
Get the backup running backs going again
Kyren Williams only needs 99 yards to top 1,000 for the year in just the 10th game of the year. That said, this game feels like one where we’ll get a heavier dose of Chris Tyree and C’bo Flemister. Williams carried the load last week with 23 caries and he hasn’t had back toback 20 carry games this season. Notre Dame would be wise to give him a lighter loaded and get some more reps for the other backs.
After a hot start to his season, Chris Tyree has cooled down a bit. He only had 2 carries for 16 yards last weekend against North Carolina and the freshmen could use some work on Saturday. It’s been a little while now since we saw him get into the clear. We might not have to wait much longer.
Flemister got banged up against Boston College and then didn’t carry the ball last week despite dressing and making the trip. Lille Tyree, he could use some work this weekend as well. Kyren Williams will have at least three chances – hopefully four – to top 1,000 yards this season, including Saturday.
Solidify the secondary
It looks like there will be another change in the secondary with freshman Clarence Lewis listed as the starter opposite Nick McCloud. Tariq Bracy struggled early on against North Carolina and was replaced by the frosh for the rest of the game. Lewis has played a lot this year so he’s got some experience under his belt.
This is really the only weak spot on the Notre Dame defense at the moment. The defensive line has come alive the last two games. The linebackers have been a strength this year even if the BUCK position seemingly has a new standout backer each week.
Notre Dame needs to figure out how they are going to roll at corner for the ACC Championship and beyond this weekend.
Finalize plans for replacing Jarrett Patterson
Zeke Correll did a fine job blocking in his first career start last weekend, but the center struggled in one of the core responsibilities of a center – snapping the ball. Correll had some sloppy snaps to Ian Book that Book, the savvy veteran he is, was able to salvage and avoid disasters. Correll is also dealing with a minor injury from that North Carolina game ansd is questionable for tomorrow.
Assuming he plays, this weekend gives Correll a chance to show that those were just some minor hiccups in a first career start. If he plays and struggles again with snaps, Notre Dame might have to think about contingency plans heading into the postseason. If he doesn’t play, expect to see super-sub Josh Lugg in his place.
Tommy Kraemer probably could play this weekend if he was needed, but he is likely to sit again this weekend following his appendemctemy earlier this month. Brian Kelly said Dillan Gibbons would start in his place this weekend as opposed to Lugg, who started at RG versus UNC.
Correll is the center of the future and will probably start there in 2021 with Jarrett Patterson liking moving back to tackle, where he was originally recruited for, so the preference here would be for Correll to show improvement this weekend and head into the postseason.
There are still some moving parts on the reshuffled offensive line this weekend.
Incorporate Braden Lenzy and/or Lawrence Keys more
Notre Dame got Braden Lenzy back last weekend. While he was on the field a bit, however, he didn’t factor into the run or pass game. They did try again to Lawrence Keys involved again on one of those pop-passes that Lenzy is so good at with Keys coming this close to breaking it.
Keys is a half a step away from turning the corner with some beautiful blocking set up in front of him. It’s clear that Notre Dame wants these plays involved in the offense more, they just haven’t been able to hit on them much yet this year. Part of the reason has been the absence of Lenzy and his sprinter speed. This weekend Notre Dame will need to balance getting Lenzy some reps to see if he’ll be an asset in the postseason and not overdoing it and having that hamstring flare up again as it did against Pitt.
The speed element is really the one missing link in the Notre Dame offense right now. The Irish running game is bludgeoning people – including Clemson. Javon McKinley has developed into a downfield threat by winning 50/50 balls more than 50% of the time. Michael Mayer has developed into such a chain moving monster that Tommy Tremble has become almost an afterthought in the passing game. Bennett Skowronek has developed into the redzone target we all envisioned he would be when he transferred.
If Notre Dame can find a way to get either Keys or Lenzy going this weekend, this offense becomes even more difficult to defend. This is where the loss of the Wake Forest game actually hurts Notre Dame since they could have used the extra game to continue to work in Keys and Lenzy given the injury issues both have had this year.
Get either Keys or Lenzy going this weekend and LOOK out.