Blue and Gold Illustrated

BGI April 2019

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

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Page 28 of 55 APRIL 2019 29 SPECIALISTS 2019 SPRING FOOTBALL OVERVIEW G one are the school's most prolific placekicker and one of its most productive punters, who also happened to be the first football captain at the school strictly in a specialist role. Junior placekicker Jonathan Doerer was recruited to take over kickoff duties and eventually to replace Yoon, but con- sistency kicking off has been an issue for him. He lost his job to Yoon at mid-season after several directional kicks were misplaced (two returned for touchdowns) and three others went out of bounds. Now that he is top kickoff man and placekicker, Doerer will have to figure out a way to re- peat his mechanics kick after kick and become a dependable figure. Getting Jay Bramblett on cam- pus early was a plus for Notre Dame, and also for Bram- blett. The handpicked successor to New- some, Bramblett's football talent was evident while leading his Hillcrest (Ala.) High School squad to the state playoffs as their starting quarterback. A six- month head start in the weight room should prove beneficial. The one vital specialist that does return is senior snapper John Shannon. Heading into his third season as the start- ing short and long snapper, Shannon has been depend- able for the Irish. BY THE NUMBERS 9.8 Yards averaged on his 20 punt returns in 2018 by senior wide receiver Chris Finke, good for 23rd nationally. It also was an improvement from his 6.5 on 24 returns in 2017. Next on his dossier is a return for a touchdown. A total of 65 Football Bowl Subdivision teams — or half — had a punt return for a score in 2018, and 20 had two. The Irish have not scored off a punt return since the 2015 USC game when a blocked punt by Equanimeous St. Brown resulted in Amir Carlisle scooping up the loose ball and returning it for a touchdown. 13 Kickoff returns for Notre Dame last sea- son, which were the eighth fewest in the country. There were 30 touchbacks for the Irish and about a dozen fair catches to give automatic possession at their 25- yard line. It also helps that strong de- fense limits the opposition's scoring, and thereby results in fewer kickoff runbacks. 80.8 Percent of field goals (59 of 73) con- verted by four-year starter Justin Yoon the past four years, easily the best ever by a Fighting Irish kicker with at least 50 at- tempts. No. 2 is two-decade NFL star John Carney, who from 1984-86 was 51 of 69 (73.9 percent) at Notre Dame. If only a minimum of 40 attempts are required, the leader would be 2009-11 Irish kicker David Ruffer who was 33 of 40 for 82.5 percent. WHO'S GONE Justin Yoon Finished his career at Notre Dame's all-time leader in points, field goals converted and field goal percentage. Tyler Newsome Concluded his career with a 44.0-yard career per punt average, which ranks second all time at Notre Dame. WHO'S BACK Junior Jonathan Doerer Made his lone career field goal attempt and 5 of 6 ex- tra point tries against Navy last season while doubling as a kickoff specialist when Justin Yoon was injured. Senior John Shannon A two-year starter as the short and long snapper, he has been a consistent, relatively anonymous presence, which is exactly what you want at the position. TOP NEWCOMER Freshman Jay Bramblett Enrolling early gives him the chance to lock down the punting duties in year one. Brian Kelly's Take "There were no comments on special teams the first three days, and with most practices indoors there is limited work overall with the specialists. There aren't even any kickoffs in the spring game. "It would be a surprise if anyone other than [freshman Jay] Bramblett would be the starting punter this spring, but we doubt there will be much, if any, signifi- cant evaluation this spring." POSITION BATTLE TO WATCH None of the specialist positions are up for grabs this spring, although true freshman Jay Bramblett has to prove himself and earn the trust of the staff rather than just win the job by default. Even then, who knows how one responds to the bigger stage in the college game? Sophomore wideouts Braden Lenzy and Lawrence Keys III, along with sophomore running back C'Bo Flemister, could use successful springs to springboard them into a possible kick return role in the fall. JOHN SHANNON PHOTO BY ANGELA DRISKELL Returning Returning Year-End Year Starts TD Scored TD Scored 2018 76 0 0 2019 26* 0 — *All the starts have come the past two years from long snap- per John Shannon, not at punter or kicker

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