Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 17, 2018

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

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34 SEPT. 17, 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED "In the summer, Vanderbilt said it would go with the hot hand here, so I think that's what you'll continue to see," Lee said. "Blasingame was hurt last year, but scored 10 touchdowns the year before as the short-yardage back, after he moved from linebacker. He's sure-handed and bright, but not as explosive as the others. "Vaughn is a legit home-run threat, and he can catch a bit. His combo of power and speed makes him one of the more talented backs Vanderbilt has had. Wakefield is a bit in between the two. He may have played the best of the three in the opener, but has issues holding onto the ball at times." On the outside, Shurmur will be without his top two targets from a year ago in Trent Shefield and C.J. Duncan, who both caught at least 50 passes. Junior Kalija Lipscomb will take over as the No. 1 target after finish- ing second in yards a year ago with 610 on 37 receptions, along with eight touchdowns. Fellow starter Chris Smith, a sophomore, did not record a catch last season, while senior tight end Jared Pinkney will be relied on to do more after notching 22 receptions for 279 yards and three touchdowns as a junior. "Lipscomb is a severely under- rated talent and a big-play threat who can burn teams deep and rarely drops balls," Lee explained. "[Sopho- more wideout Chris] Pierce has good hands, but lacks explosiveness. Fresh- man Cam Johnson is a sleeper, a for- mer four-star, whom I think will make dozens of big plays before he's done. "Pinkney is a 6-foot-3, 255-pound headache down the hash marks when he plays well, but consis- tency is always the issue. He's good enough to jump to the NFL early if it pans out." Shurmur will have plenty of pro- tection returning, thanks to four linemen with starting experience — senior left tackle Justin Skule (27 career starts), senior center Egidio DellaRipa (eight), senior right guard Bruno Reagan (27) and junior right tackle Devin Cochran (10). Sopho- more Cole Clemens joins the group at left guard. The Commodores allowed just 19 sacks in 2017, which was down 13 from the previous campaign. "Reagan will play a few years in the NFL," Lee stated. "Skule has a shot to make a roster, too, and only gave up one sack last year. Cochran has tons of potential and has started to come on. There's experience and depth outside them." Vanderbilt will likely be multiple- touchdown underdogs on the road against the Irish. Like most in a simi- lar situation, chunk plays on offense, pressure on defense and turnovers become the recipe. "I don't know that Vanderbilt has a decided edge anywhere, but I think its offense is maybe a little better than people think and Lipscomb, Vaughn and Pinkney are capable of generat- ing big plays," Lee said. "I'm not nec- essarily making a prediction that VU can do those things — a Vanderbilt win would shock me. "But if there's an upset, I think the script lies somewhere in those things." ✦ GAME PREVIEW: VANDERBILT Senior defensive end Dare Odeyingbo finished second on the Commodores defense with 6.5 sacks in 2017. PHOTO COURTESY VANDERBILT ATHLETICS 2018 NOTRE DAME SCHEDULE Date Opponent (TV) Result/Time (ET) Sept. 1 Michigan W, 24-17 Sept. 8 Ball State W, 24-16 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 VANDERBILT SCHEDULE Date Opponent (TV) Result/Time (ET) Sept. 1 Middle Tennessee W, 35-7 Sept. 8 Nevada W, 41-10 Sept. 15 at Notre Dame (NBC) 2:30 p.m. Sept. 22 South Carolina TBA Sept. 29 Tennessee State TBA Oct. 6 at Georgia TBA Oct. 13 Florida TBA Oct. 20 at Kentucky TBA Oct. 27 at Arkansas TBA Nov. 10 at Missouri TBA Nov. 17 Ole Miss TBA Nov. 24 Tennessee TBA

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