Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 10, 2018

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

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36 SEPT. 10, 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED "They will be critical to opening up holes for an of- fense that would like to be run first," O'Gara noted. "Danny Pinter at right tackle is one to watch. The coaching staff be- lieves he has pro potential in a few years after he made the move from tight end. "Alex Joss is slated to start at left guard, but he is still in the process of returning from a torn ACL in last year's season opener." Unlike the offense, there is a lot more work to be done on the defensive side of the ball. The Cardinals allowed 40.7 points and 421.6 yards per game while ranking 123rd na- tionally in defensive efficiency per the Fremeau Efficiency In- dex (FEI). Neu has switched the team's base defense in hopes of allowing the team's talent to be utilized more ef- fectively. "I think they will be better, but just how much better remains to be seen," O'Gara said. "Ball State switched to a 3-4 defense this season, and that best suits their personnel. "I was very impressed with how the defense performed in the preseason scrimmage. It is probably the fastest defense they have had in the last four years." Ball State ranked 70th nationally in sacks with 24 in 2017, but lost defen- sive end Anthony Winbush and his 11.5 QB takedowns. The Cardinals will need a committee to compensate for that production. "The defensive line is a bit of a mys- tery," O'Gara said. "At times Ball State played four seniors there last year, and the best pass-rushing backups have since moved to outside linebacker. "I'm curious to see how a starting group of senior defensive end Fred Schroeder, junior nose tackle Chris Crumb and senior defensive end Sean Hammonds Jr. — with 11 combined career starts — fares." Linebacker is expected to be a strength with leading tackler Jacob White, a redshirt junior who registered 72 stops a year ago, and sophomore Jaylin Thomas, who made 38 stops as a freshman, returning to go with junior college transfer Ray Wilborn and for- mer defensive end Christian Albright, a sophomore, moving to the position. "Ray Wilborn is the one to watch," O'Gara said. "He has the speed and length to give opposing quarterbacks fits, and he should lead the team in sacks. "Jacob White was a team captain last year and is steady at inside line- backer." Both starting cornerbacks — seniors Josh Miller and Marc Walton — are back while sophomore Bryce Cosby, who started all 12 games as a freshman in 2017, will anchor the safety unit. Even with the returning starters, the group will need to take the next step after last year's 233.6 passing yards allowed per game. "There is more experi- ence in the secondary," O'Gara said. "The coaching staff loves the depth at cor- nerback with some of the underclassmen like soph- omore Antonio Phillips pushing for playing time. "Bryce Cosby is the leader at safety, with junior Lamar Anderson, junior Romero Wade and sopho- more Brett Anderson III also in the mix. "The secondary will be under the microscope. While the defensive line is untested, the secondary is of greater concern just be- cause of how poor it has been the last few years. The defensive staff has main- tained that all of the second- ary spots are up for grabs, and you may see a few true freshmen out there at vari- ous points." Notre Dame will likely be a multi- touchdown favorite over Ball State, but the Cardinals think they can sneak up on the Irish. "I'm not sure Ball State's receivers will be able to get separation from the Notre Dame secondary," O'Gara said. "Playing in front of a sellout crowd, I think Mike Neu will keep the offense simple. Maybe, just maybe, Notre Dame will have a Michigan hangover. "No matter how Notre Dame comes out of the Michigan game in terms of injuries, the Irish will have superior athletes at every position. Ball State will need to force a few turnovers to make this a competitive game, and that's an area they struggled in last season." ✦ GAME PREVIEW: BALL STATE Redshirt junior Jacob White started 11 games at middle linebacker and made a team-high 72 tackles in 2017, playing the final nine contests while wearing a cast to protect a broken bone in his right hand. PHOTO COURTESY BALL STATE ATHLETICS 2018 NOTRE DAME SCHEDULE Date Opponent (TV) Result/Time (ET) Sept. 1 Michigan W, 24-17 Sept. 8 Ball State (NBC) 3:30 p.m. Sept. 15 Vanderbilt (NBC) 2:30 p.m. Sept. 22 at Wake Forest TBA Sept. 29 Stanford (NBC) 7:30 p.m. Oct. 6 at Virginia Tech TBA Oct. 13 Pittsburgh (NBC) 2:30 p.m. Oct. 27 vs. Navy* (CBS) 8 p.m. Nov. 3 at Northwestern TBA Nov. 10 Florida State (NBC) 7:30 p.m. Nov. 17 vs. Syracuse^ (NBC) 2:30 p.m. Nov. 24 at USC TBA * at SDCCU Stadium in San Diego; ^ at Yankee Stadium in Bronx, N.Y. 2018 BALL STATE SCHEDULE Date Opponent (TV) Result/Time (ET) Aug. 30 Central Connecticut State W, 42-6 Sept. 8 at Notre Dame (NBC) 3:30 p.m. Sept. 15 at Indiana (BTN) 12 p.m. Sept. 22 Western Kentucky TBA Sept. 29 Kent State TBA Oct. 6 Northern Illinois TBA Oct. 13 at Central Michigan TBA Oct. 20 Eastern Michigan (ESPN+) 3 p.m. Oct. 25 at Ohio (ESPN2 or CBSSN) 7 p.m. Oct. 31 at Toledo (ESPN2) 7:30 p.m. Nov. 13 Western Michigan (ESPN2) 6 p.m. Nov. 20 at Miami (Ohio) (ESPNU or ESPN+) 7 p.m.

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