Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 12, 2019

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

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Page 35 of 55

36 OCT. 12, 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED At 6-4 and 220 pounds, senior wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. has been a reliable target for all the USC quarterbacks, averaging 100.2 receiving yards per game with four touchdown receptions. For Notre Dame, the eight sacks and two intercep- tions against Virginia were a bonus to what was al- ready a terrific pass defense that has ranked as one of the best coverage units in the country all season. After four games, the Irish ranked 20th in the coun- try in pass efficiency defense (110.80 rating) and 40th in passing yards allowed per contest (201.5). An elbow injury to all-purpose fifth-year senior defensive back Shaun Crawford temporarily thins out the Notre Dame secondary, but with terrific front-line talent and emerging depth, expect this unit to absorb his absence and continue to improve and excel. Advantage: Notre Dame NOTRE DAME RUNNING GAME VS. USC RUN DEFENSE After missing two games with a toe injury, sopho- more Jahmir Smith's return to the Notre Dame running back rotation gives the Irish some desper- ately needed depth in this stable. Smith's return was notable with junior Irish starter Jafar Armstrong still out, but the emergence of senior Tony Jones Jr. — and improved play from the Irish offensive line — were the top storylines coming out of Virginia week. Notre Dame hit a terrific Cava- liers defense, which entered the matchup ranked 12th in the country with an average of 75.0 rushing yards allowed per game, for 178 on the ground, a performance that could become the launch point to an improved ground attack the rest of this season. Jones went for 131 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries against Virginia, most of his produc- tion coming in a dominating fourth quarter when the Irish offensive line took over the game. The Trojans have already been outrushed by their five opponents 875 to 686, and were allowing 175.0 yards per contest after five weeks to rank a disappointing 93rd in the nation. In their 14-point loss to Washington, the Trojans surrendered 193 rushing yards, which included an 89-yard touchdown run. Advantage: Notre Dame NOTRE DAME PASSING GAME VS. USC PASS DEFENSE With eight touchdowns and two interceptions heading into the Bowling Green game, Irish senior quarterback Ian Book has been steady this season but not spectacular. The preseason challenge for Book from the Irish coaches was to take more deep shots down the field, which at least through the Virginia game hadn't necessarily happened. That said, Book's average of 13.9 yards per com- pletion has remained in the top 40 nationally this season. Yet, that's negligible improvement from his 12.0 average from last season, and Book has benefited this year from his receivers posting large yards-after-catch numbers. Having junior tight end Cole Kmet and junior wide receiver Michael Young back in the lineup together after recovering from collarbone injuries gives Book more big-play options moving forward. Kmet made an immediate impact in his first two outings of the sea- son, hauling in 13 passes for 173 yards and one score. Somewhat surprising, at least statistically speak- ing, USC's defensive rankings don't jump off the stat page in any category. The Trojans were only 62nd in pass efficiency defense (128.36 rating) through their first five games and allowed 236.4 yards per outing, which ranked 78th. Probably most troubling to USC fans is the of- fensive balance — 175.0 yards on the ground and 236.0 yards through the air — opposing offenses are averaging against the Trojans so far this season. Advantage: Notre Dame SPECIAL TEAMS When Brian Kelly talked about the special teams gaffes in the Virginia game — a muffed punt by Chris Finke that the Cavaliers recovered, a lost Irish posses- sion on an onside kick to start the second half and a missed field goal by junior kicker Jonathan Doerer — the head coach censored his words when asked if this shoddy performance was "just a hiccup?" Kelly said he would've chosen a different prefix to pair with the "up" part of the word "hiccup." "We just weren't very good," he said. Hiccup or otherwise, Kelly's assessment doesn't fully explain the otherwise quality work these units recorded this season in the four games before Bowling Green. There haven't necessarily been any glaring mis- takes — beyond Virginia — but there also haven't been any game-changing positive plays. USC has already enjoyed some memorable mo- ments on special teams. Velus Jones Jr. has a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and placekicker Chase McGrath is 4 of 4 on field goals, including a 52-yarder. The Trojans' kickoff and punt return coverage teams rank in the middle of the pack nationally, matching Notre Dame's performance heading into last weekend. Advantage: USC GAME PREVIEW: USC Offense Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Cl. WR 83 Chase Claypool 6-4½ 229 Sr. 88 Javon McKinley 6-2 220 Sr. WR 10 Chris Finke 5-9½ 184 5th-Sr. 18 Joe Wilkins 6-1½ 194 So. LT 74 Liam Eichenberg 6-6 305 Sr. 75 Joshua Lugg 6-7 307 Jr. LG 69 Aaron Banks 6-6 325 Jr. 57 Trevor Ruhland 6-3½ 292 5th-Sr. C 55 Jarrett Patterson 6-5 300 So. 61 Colin Grunhard 6-0½ 289 Jr. RG 78 Tommy Kraemer 6-6 319 Sr. 56 John Dirksen 6-5½ 309 So. RT 72 Robert Hainsey 6-4½ 295 Jr. 73 Andrew Kristofic 6-5 280 Fr. TE 84 Cole Kmet 6-5½ 250 Jr. 89 Brock Wright 6-4½ 246 Jr. or 24 Tommy Tremble 6-3½ 235 So. WR 87 Michael Young 5-10 190 Jr. 25 Braden Lenzy 5-11½ 180 So. QB 12 Ian Book 6-0 212 Sr. 15 Phil Jurkovec 6-4½ 227 So. RB 6 Tony Jones Jr. 5-11 224 Sr. 34 Jahmir Smith 5-11 205 So. or 20 C'Bo Flemister 5-11 200 So. or 4 Avery Davis 5-11 202 Jr. or 23 Kyren Williams 5-9 205 Fr. Defense Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Cl. DE 42 Julian Okwara 6-4½ 248 Sr. 19 Justin Ademilola 6-2 250 So. or 29 Ovie Oghoufo 6-3 230 So. DT 95 M. Tagovailoa-Amosa 6-2½ 286 Jr. 57 Jayson Ademilola 6-3 279 So. NG 41 Kurt Hinish 6-2 295 Jr. 54 Jacob Lacey 6-2 293 Fr. DE 53 Khalid Kareem 6-4 265 Sr. 91 Ade Ogundeji 6-4½ 253 Sr. Buck 22 Asmar Bilal 6-2 225 5th-Sr. 2 J. Genmark Heath 6-1 228 Jr. or 31 Jack Lamb 6-4 233 So. Mike 40 Drew White 6-0 230 Jr. 33 Shayne Simon 6-3 232 So. or 52 Bo Bauer 6-3 230 So. Rover 6 J. Owusu-Koramoah 6-1½ 216 Jr. 13 Paul Moala 5-11½ 216 So. CB 5 Troy Pride Jr. 5-11½ 194 Sr. 3 Houston Griffith 6-0 198 So. S 11 Alohi Gilman 5-10½ 201 Sr. 14 Kyle Hamilton 6-4 210 Fr. S 21 Jalen Elliott 6-0½ 210 Sr. 12 DJ Brown 6-0 198 So. CB 28 TaRiq Bracy 5-10 170 So. or 8 Donte Vaughn 6-3 212 Sr. NOTRE DAME DEPTH CHART Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Cl. KO 39 Jonathan Doerer 6-3 23 Jr. 98 Harrison Leonard 5-10 203 Fr. PK 39 Jonathan Doerer 6-3 203 Jr. 98 Harrison Leonard 5-10 203 Fr. P 19 Jay Bramblett 6-1 188 Fr. 98 Harrison Leonard 5-10 203 Fr. H 19 Jay Bramblett 6-1 188 Fr. 17 Nolan Henry 6-0 193 5th-Sr. Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Cl. LS 54 John Shannon 6-2 225 Sr. 65 Michael Vinson 6-2 224 So. PR 10 Chris Finke 5-9½ 184 5th-Sr. 11 Alohi Gilman 5-10½ 201 Sr. KR 23 Kyren Williams 5-9 205 Fr. 18 Joe Wilkins 6-1½ 194 So. Special Teams

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