Blue and Gold Illustrated

BGI April 2019

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

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 7 of 55

8 APRIL 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED UNDER THE DOME Sophomore William Howells has been a key figure for the Notre Dame men's tennis program since arriving on campus, helping the Irish to a top-30 finish a year ago and the No. 13 spot in the Oracle Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) rankings through Feb. 26 this season. Howells, who was rated as the No. 17 prospect nationally by the Tennis Recruiting Network, had compiled a 21-10 career record in singles and a 13-11 career mark in doubles through the end of February this year. In the most recent ITA singles rankings (Feb. 20), he was listed as the No. 111 player in the country. BGI: What was your primary motivation as a young tennis player? Howells: "I wanted to earn a scholarship at a top Division I program that had great academics. Notre Dame fit that goal the best in the end. I felt I wanted to take it to that level, and my parents kept pushing and pushing me to be my best in tennis. "As it continued, I set bigger and bigger goals for myself, which led me to here." BGI: What was the feeling when you had the opportunity to fulfill your goals and be part of the Irish program? Howells: "It was amazing. I honestly thought it was a very easy decision. Notre Dame was eas- ily the best fit for me. The situation I have here is great. I was considering a few Ivy League programs and Illinois at that time. "I wasn't aware of Notre Dame much tennis wise, but my parents are huge into aca- demics. They wanted me to go to a good school, so they were always talking to me about those types of schools. I eventually saw they are a big tennis program, which really helped in my decision." BGI: Tennis is kind of viewed as a warm-weather sport on the collegiate level … what made Notre Dame a better choice than finding a program in a warmer climate? Howells: "The team culture at Notre Dame really clicked in. I like the coaches a lot, and I actually knew a lot of the guys on the team. "My teammate Connor Summers is from Virginia Beach and I'm actually from Richmond, Va., so I grew up playing with him since I was around 10 years old. He had a huge impact on that as well." BGI: How did you get into the game and what do you love about tennis? Howells: "No one played tennis actually. My par- ents, grandparents or anyone like that really did [not play]. My sister did clinics at our lo- cal club, and I kind of picked up a racket and started hitting against the wall when I was around 4 or 5. "I started eventually getting lessons and it continued from there. I'm very competitive in everything that I do. I hate to lose." BGI: How has this year gone for you on the court? Howells: "We had a really strong start. We've had some hiccups in matchups we could have won, but all the teams we have played are really good. We've had a tough schedule. Hopefully we can build on those and keep getting better throughout the rest of the year to end. "I've had some really strong matches person- ally, but I've definitely had some I wish I could have played better. I just need to keep my focus and my goals in check. That's the biggest thing for me to make sure I do everything every day on a routine basis. I've found when I do that I'm able to play my best." — Corey Bodden Five Questions With … NOTRE DAME MEN'S TENNIS SOPHOMORE WILLIAM HOWELLS Cole Kmet Is Primed To Excel At Tight End U. By Lou Somogyi The word "breakout" can take on various definitions. It can be sophomores such as Houston Griffith (cornerback) and Shayne Simon (rover) taking on starting roles, but still needing more seasoning. It also might be a 13- game starter like senior left tackle Liam Eichenberg potentially developing into an All-American this season. My choice last spring was former Navy star Alohi Gilman helping elevate the play at safety — which he did in 2018 — and this time it is junior Cole Kmet as the heir to Notre Dame's marvelous tight end tradition. Last year Kmet started seven times in double-tight-end sets and took 357 snaps in the 11 games he was healthy (about 32 per game). His 15 receptions netted 162 yards, and several were of the spectacular variety in traffic. Offensive coordinator Chip Long also happens to be the tight ends coach, and he has incorporated that position group significantly into the structure, with the unit combining for 56 catches last year and three different players (starter Alizé Mack, Nic Weishar and Brock Wright) combining for six scores. With Mack and Weishar both gone, and Wright used primarily as a blocker, the opportunities for Kmet could put him in the 40-catch category, the first Irish tight end to do so since Mackey Award winner Tyler Eifert in 2012 (Mack caught 36 last year), and definitely more scoring opportunities. One way or the other, the two-sport athlete who also excels as a baseball pitcher should make his skill sets and impact felt much more in 2019. Jafar Armstrong Is Ready For A Backfield Breakout By Bryan Driskell Notre Dame enters the offseason with an explosive but unproven and oft- injured running back, and a depth chart of young and inexperienced players. Sound familiar? That was the story of the Notre Dame running back depth chart heading into the 2018 season, and it's the same story entering the 2019 offseason. It took four games, but Dexter Williams broke out last fall, rushing for 995 yards and 12 touch- downs in nine games. Williams was the explosive but unproven and oft-injured running back head- ing into last season, and rising junior Jafar Arm- strong is that player heading into the spring. Armstrong is actually bigger (6-1, 220) than Williams, but he brings the same kind of first-step burst that made Williams a dynamic weapon. A converted wide receiver, Armstrong carried the ball 47 times for 245 yards and five touch- downs in the first four games. In the opener against Michigan, he looked more like a wide receiver trying to learn to run the football. During his eight carries for 98 yards and two scores against Wake Forest, Armstrong looked far more comfortable running the ball and seemed poised for a breakout. He missed the next three games with a knee injury and returned to add 52 rushing yards and 64 receiving yards in a win against Navy, but he never got rolling. Armstrong now has a year of seasoning in the backfield, and he'll be running behind a more experienced offensive line. That combination has the rising junior in position for a season in which he could become a household name. Point ✦ Counterpoint: WHO WILL BE NOTRE DAME'S BREAKOUT PLAYER THIS SPRING? COLE KMET JAFAR ARMSTRONG Through the end of February this year, Howells boasted a 21‑10 career record in singles and a 13‑11 career mark in doubles for the Fighting Irish. PHOTO COURTESY FIGHTING IRISH MEDIA

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - BGI April 2019