2019 Notre Dame Football Preview

Digital Edition

Blue & Gold Illustrated: 2019 Notre Dame Football Preview

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Page 111 of 163

110 ✦ BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED 2019 FOOTBALL PREVIEW SPECIALISTS T he 2019 football season at Notre Dame is the year of succession on special teams. Four-year starting kicker Justin Yoon departs holding the school records in most points scored (367), field goals converted (59) and field goal percentage (80.8). Beyond raw numbers, Yoon possessed the "clutch gene" and repeatedly was at his best in tight games or even inclement conditions. Also, four-year starting punter Tyler New- some's 44.0 career mark was only 0.1 behind Craig Hentrich, who played 18 years in the NFL, for the best average per punt in school history. Newsome also was the first kicking specialist ever at the school to be elected a team captain. The mainstays returning this year on special teams are senior long snapper John Shannon, fifth-year senior punt return man Chris Finke — in his fourth season of start- ing there — and seniors Alohi Gilman (safety) and Chase Claypool (wide receiver), the top tacklers on the coverage units last year. Freshman Jay Bramblett enrolled early this January as Newsome's successor, and his debut in front of an audience in the Blue- Gold Game April 13 had several mis-hits — many into a decent gust of wind — with a modest 34.9 average on eight punts. As for placekicks, junior Jonathan Doerer was signed in 2017 to handle kickoffs so Yoon could concentrate exclusively on field goals and extra points. He had lost that role to Yoon last year after three kickoffs hooked out of bounds and two others (versus Michi- gan and Pitt) were returned for touchdowns, with some of the blame put on Doerer for not placing a directional kick to the intended area. The Irish were one of only four teams to allow two kickoff returns for touchdowns last season. However, in the final two weeks of spring practice, Doerer began to find a rhythm and consistency that heretofore had been absent. "He's coming on, he's definitely finding a better rhythm," head coach Brian Kelly said April 6 after Doerer converted eight of nine kicking attempts in a practice at Notre Dame Stadium. "We were able to adjust his steps to the point where we feel like we've got some- thing now of consistency in his approach to the football. "… This is the nature of kicking — the ability to repeat that over and over again. We're seeing some light there at the end of the tunnel for him." The Blue-Gold Game saw Doerer convert all five extra points and drill a 35-yard field goal, but his final attempt from 39 yards hit the left upright. "I felt that was the best ball I hit all day," Doerer said of his lone miss. "I felt like I did everything I could to make that kick. Sometimes it's a windy day out there and it doesn't go your way. "At Notre Dame, odds are you're going to be taking after a player that played really well in front of you, so it's no different for me." ✦ SUCCESSION PLAN Replacing four-year starters Justin Yoon and Tyler Newsome will be a crucial component for the Irish in 2019 Junior Jonathan Doerer served as the understudy to graduated record-setter Justin Yoon the past two years. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA SCHOLARSHIP PLAYERS (3) Listed after the class year is the years of eligi- bility remaining. Kicker 39 Jonathan Doerer (6-3, 200), Jr./2 Punter 19 Jay Bramblett (6-1, 189), Fr./4 Long Snapper 54 John Shannon (6-2, 238), Sr./2 Kick Returner 87 Michael Young (5-10, 190), Jr./2 10 Chris Finke (5-9½, 180), 5th/1 Punt Returner 10 Chris Finke (5-9½, 180), 5th/1 87 Michael Young (5-10, 190), Jr./2

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