Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 10, 2018

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

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Page 38 of 55 SEPT. 10, 2018 39 in yards allowed per rush (5.0) in 2017. To make matters worse, Ball State must replace its entire starting defensive line. Advantage: Notre Dame NOTRE DAME PASSING GAME VS. BALL STATE PASS DEFENSE No aspect of the Notre Dame offense has more pressure on it this season than the passing attack. When Notre Dame faltered late in the season, the lack of efficiency throwing the ball was a primary component. Wimbush was a dynamic player and at times he flashed his potential as a passer in 2017, but his erratic throwing served as a hindrance late in the season. He missed too many open targets and his inability to consistently make throws that should be relatively easy was frustrating. During the spring, Wimbush showed enhanced mechanics and the result was greater accuracy. He completed better than 60 percent of his passes during team periods at the open fall camp prac- tices, so there is optimism that he will be able to make the necessary improvements as a passer. Wimbush has a large group of pass catchers to work with, literally. Notre Dame's top two pass targets — senior Miles Boykin and junior Chase Claypool — both check in at least 6-4 and 227 pounds. They will be joined in the lineup by senior tight end Alizé Mack (6-5, 247) and sophomore tight end Cole Kmet (6-5½, 258). The unit was inconsistent last season and often struggled to win contested catches, but the sheer size of the unit should help turn around the group's fortunes. If the pass catchers can start coming down with more contested throws, it should serve as a confidence booster for Wimbush and the Irish quarterbacks. Notre Dame's line surrendered 29 sacks last sea- son, a number that must be improved this fall, especially against the better opponents on the schedule. Ball State returns all four starters from a second- ary that ranked 78th in passing yards allowed per game (233.6), 123rd in yards allowed per attempt (8.9) and 126th in yards allowed per completion (15.1) last season. The top defensive back for the Cardinals is fifth- year senior cornerback Josh Miller, who led the team with 14 passes defended (one interception and 13 passes broken up) in 2017. Advantage: Notre Dame SPECIAL TEAMS Based on last season's numbers, Ball State actu- ally enters this matchup with the statistical advan- tage over Notre Dame in most areas. The Cardinals ranked 45th nationally in punt return average (8.7), 46th in kick return average (21.7) and 49th in kick coverage. Notre Dame ranked between 83rd and 91st in those three categories, and its No. 84 national ranking in punt coverage is the only one that tops Ball State (which ranked 112th). Where Notre Dame holds the advantage is team speed and size, and the Irish specialists far out- shined the Cardinals players last season. Senior placekicker Justin Yoon currently owns Notre Dame's all-time field goal percentage record among players with at least 50 attempts (80.8) after going 14 of 18 a season ago. Ball State senior placekicker Morgan Hagee went just 9 of 16 (56.3 percent) last fall, although he did make 5 of 8 from 40-49 yards. Advantage: Even COACHING Ball State head coach Mike Neu was the Mid- American Conference Player of the Year in 1993 when he quarterbacked the Cardinals to a league title and the school's second-ever bowl appear- ance. After spending two seasons coaching NFL great Drew Brees with the New Orleans Saints, it was hoped that Neu would be able to get Ball State back on track following an 8-16 stretch the two years prior to his arrival. Things haven't gone well for Neu, who is 6-18 in two years at his alma mater, but with a promising group of skill players returning there is some hope in Muncie, Ind., this season. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly knows all about winning MAC championships. Kelly's first Football Bowl Subdivision head coaching job was at Central Michigan (2004-06). He inherited a pro- gram that went 12-34 in the four years prior to his arrival, but by his third season he led the Chippe- was to conference title. Four years later, Kelly became the head coach at Notre Dame. Advantage: Notre Dame INTANGIBLES There isn't much going in Ball State's favor head- ing into this matchup. Notre Dame is the bigger team, the more athletic team and the better team. Kelly has faced three MAC opponents during his tenure at Notre Dame, and the Irish are 3-0 in those games, outscoring the opposition 52.7-21.3. Ball State has gone 3-10 on the road during Neu's tenure, including 0-6 last season. Advantage: Notre Dame Offense Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Cl. WR 86 Riley Miller 6-1 196 R-Jr. 85 Yo'Heinz Tyler 6-3 189 Fr. LT 77 Kaleb Slaven 6-4 284 R-So. 72 Anthony Todd 6-3 302 R-So. LG 70 Alex Joss 6-4 300 5th-Sr. 71 Zac Ricketts 6-4 294 R-Jr. C 64 Andrew Poenitsch 6-3 280 R-Jr. 68 T.J. Beltavski 6-0 297 R-So. RG 62 Curtis Blackwell 6-5 305 So. 55 Chris Beech 6-1 293 R-So. RT 75 Danny Pinter 6-4 295 R-Jr. 63 Grant Williamson 6-3 285 R-Jr. TE 88 Nolan Givan 6-3 250 R-So. 81 Kyle Schrank 6-3 233 R-Jr. or 8 Cody Rudy 5-11 244 R-So. WR 12 Justin Hall 5-9 176 So. 16 Hassan Littles 5-10 176 So. or 89 Keyan Williams 5-10 195 5th-Sr. WR 11 Corey Lacanaria 5-8 167 5th-Sr. 1 Antwan Davis 5-11 212 R-Jr. QB 15 Riley Neal 6-6 225 R-Jr. 9 Drew Plitt 6-2 207 R-So. RB 34 James Gilbert 5-9 198 R-Jr. 36 Caleb Huntley 5-10 222 So. or 4 Malik Dunner 5-11 193 Jr. Defense Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Cl. DE 90 Sean Hammonds Jr. 6-1 250 R-Jr. 56 Shannon Hall 6-0 255 Jr. NT 42 Chris Crumb 6-0 274 Jr. 55 Tuni Ropati 6-2 280 Jr. DE 52 Fred Schroeder 6-2 273 5th-Sr. 35 James Jennette III 6-3 255 R-So. SLB 11 Ray Wilborn 6-4 224 Jr. 33 Michael Robinson Jr. 6-1 200 So. or 27 Jimmy Daw 6-3 233 R-Fr. MLB 2 Jacob White 6-0 230 R-Jr. 9 Brandon Martin 6-0 225 R-Fr. WLB 6 Jaylin Thomas 6-1 236 R-So. 32 Jeremiah Jackson 5-11 221 5th-Sr. OLB 51 Christian Albright 6-2 233 So. 13 Jordan Williams 6-4 240 R-Fr. CB 3 Josh Miller 5-11 180 5th-Sr. 25 Amechi Uzodinma 5-11 176 Fr. SS 5 Bryce Cosby 5-10 176 So. 29 Mitch Larsen 5-11 185 Jr. FS 10 Lamar Anderson 5-9 187 Jr. 23 Brett Anderson II 6-0 187 So. CB 7 Marc Walton 5-10 190 Sr. 21 Antonio Phillips 6-0 185 So. BALL STATE DEPTH CHART Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Cl. K 22 Morgan Hagee 5-11 175 Sr. 97 Ryan Rimmler 5-10 2048 Jr. P 38 Nathan Snyder 6-4 215 So. 49 Patrick LeCorre 6-0 200 Jr. H 38 Nathan Snyder 6-4 216 So. LS 45 Joseph Greenwood 5-11 215 So. Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Cl. KO 49 Patrick LeCorre 6-0 200 Jr. 97 Ryan Rimmler 5-10 204 Jr. KR 4 Malik Dunner 5-11 193 Jr. 12 Justin Hall 5-9 176 So. PR 11 Corey Lacanaria 5-8 167 5th-Sr. 12 Justin Hall 5-9 176 So. Special Teams GAME PREVIEW: BALL STATE

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