Blue and Gold Illustrated

BGI April 2019

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

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Page 32 of 55 APRIL 2019 33 It's somewhat the opposite with backup Phil Jurkovec, who is experi- encing the learning curve that Book did last year. "Some things I'm telling Ian I don't want Phil to hear," Long said with a chuckle. "I want to test myself, and I want to make those even harder throws in those smaller windows," Book said. "That's what it takes to be an elite of- fense and an elite quarterback. "I'm not going to go too crazy where I start to create bad habits … but I want to push the offense, push the guys, especially the receivers, and be able to show them I can make some of those throws." That might mean more mistakes or interceptions as well, but it's part of taking on a more risk-reward mentality. "It's part of the game," Book said. CATCHING ON In fifth-year senior Chris Finke and senior Chase Claypool, the offense possesses two veteran targets who combined for 99 catches last year. Finke is one of eight Spring/Summer Workout Accountability Team (SWAT) captains, and Claypool has moved to Boykin's boundary position. "I really don't talk numbers with Chase — because if Chase is focused he's going to dominate," Long said. "The focus in that room is as good as I've ever been around in a receiving group, top to bottom." The needed supplement to the aer- ial attack is a consistent stretch-the- defense figure. Junior Michael Young, whose 47-yard touchdown at North- western last year was the team's lon- gest scoring play via the pass, is one potential option. He's bulked up to 190 pounds to handle himself better against physical press coverage. "When we got back from the bowl game, I told our guys our offense next year starts in the weight room," said Long, especially noting the receivers. An X-factor is what the five-man sophomore class achieves after four of them redshirted last year. Accord- ing to Long, speedster Braden Lenzy had an outstanding first three days of spring practice after adding 14 pounds to the 170-pound frame he arrived with last year. He also bypassed track this winter and spring to concentrate solely on football. The one freshman who did play last year, Kevin Austin (five catches for 90 yards), had only 43 snaps the last seven games. "How you live life off the field is how you're going to play on it," Long said of why Austin's action became reduced as the season progressed. "You come to Notre Dame, there's an expectation to do things right and do it the right way all the time. I think he's figuring that out now." Last year, Notre Dame officially ran 954 plays on offense. Claypool was on the field for 846 (88.7 percent), Boykin 788 (82.6 percent) and Finke 646 (67.8 percent), with double tight end align- ments often taking up the snaps when "The Big Three" weren't on the field. Another reason the freshmen didn't play was not fully grasping the over- all or even tempo style yet. "The biggest thing in a tempo of- fense is you just can't have a lot of guys who are slow to get lined up," Long explained. "They become dis- ruptive and really hurt you as you try to move forward." Long also is working on the of- fense to use the middle, or the seam, more effectively, specifically with his position group, the tight ends. They caught 56 passes last year, but for just under 10 yards per grab. A year ear- lier, Alizé Mack averaged less than nine yards per catch. With junior Cole Kmet (15 catches for 162 yards), who was slowed by a high ankle sprain last year, Long is confident Notre Dame can improve this area. "He's a freak athlete," Long said. "He's a once-in-a-lifetime guy you get to coach. He seems a lot faster without 20 pounds of tape on his ankle. With his speed and size, he should abso- lutely dominate the middle of the field. "The tight ends were doing that, but none of them were breaking any tackles last year so I kind of got away from it a little bit. The amount of yards we left out there last year is absolutely embarrassing. "Being able to get yards after con- tact is one of our No. 1 emphases." ✦ "I don't think last year we really scared anybody. There were a couple of games where our physicality showed up but not consistently, and we weren't explosive. That caught up to us." OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR CHIP LONG ON HIS 2018 UNIT With both the left side and right side of the offensive line returning — and all have eligibility remaining in 2020 as well — a top priority on offense was finding a center to succeed three-year starter Sam Mustipher. While top candidates this winter included fifth-year senior Trevor Ruhland, sophomore Luke Jones and freshman Zeke Cor- rell, upon further review the coaching staff decided on 6-4½, 300-pound sophomore left tackle Jarrett Patterson, who boasts perhaps the team's best combination of skill, size and football knowledge/acumen. "Jarrett was one of our best O-linemen last year," offensive coordinator Chip Long said of the redshirt. "Putting him in there, we're 6-4-plus across the board. We look like a big, powerful offensive line the way I want it to be. "The way he can communicate with you tells you that he's on top of it. He's very rare and a special player." The overall line is led by junior right tackle Robert Hainsey, who "might have been our best player on offense," per Long, in 2018. "The way he executed game in and game out, and the level of consistency that he played with were outstanding," Long said. Senior right guard Tommy Kraemer, who lost his starting job to Ruhland for a few games last year, has shed some excess armor to improve his skills. "I like to pull our guard, and we were not very good last year — and we're not going to lose that part of our offense," Long said. "You see a much more confident guy out there; he's stronger." The left side with senior tackle Liam Eichenberg and junior guard Aaron Banks began developing chemistry in 2018. How- ever, Eichenberg at times was "too tentative," according to Long, while Banks sometimes went to the other extreme. Both should benefit from the year of experience together. "We don't necessarily have an alpha, but we have a lot of good leaders and good workers in that group," Long said. The same applies to the running game, which features junior Jafar Arm- strong, slowed in mid-season last year by injury setbacks, and senior Tony Jones Jr., whose film review in 2018 was better than what Long might have thought. "His focus and his grind, when he gets his mind right — which he is right now — he's a really good football player," Long said. — Lou Somogyi Jarrett Patterson Is A New Center Of Attention PATTERSON

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