Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 12, 2019

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

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Page 6 of 55 OCT. 12, 2019 7 UNDER THE DOME C'Bo Flemister Provides Boost To Backfield Entering the Virginia game Sept. 28, sophomore running back C'Bo Flemister's stats were … let's just say unflattering: 10 carries for three yards (0.3 yards per attempt). That would require 34 straight carries to pick up one first down. Yet in a backfield that was seeking help behind senior Tony Jones Jr. after junior Jafar Armstrong (torn abdomen) and sophomore Jahmir Smith (turf toe) incurred early season injuries, it was the 5-11, 200-pound Flemister who provided significant contributions in the 35-20 victory versus the Cavaliers. The highlight-reel moment of his six carries for 27 yards performance was his 11-yard touchdown run in which he shook off two would-be tacklers to give Notre Dame a 14-7 lead in the first quarter. "Great balance," said head coach Brian Kelly, who added that Flemister's confidence level has re- mained steadfast. "He's going to be a guy in a year or two that's going to have that thick lower extrem- ity and he's going to break through even more tackles." Equally important, if not more so, is that Flemister has been earning trust in other phases of the game as well. "He's shown himself now in a pass protection situation to go in there and stick his nose in there," Kelly said. "He's definitely capable now of being on the field in third-down situations." The 16 snaps he took against Virginia might not sound like much, but they were valuable to keeping Jones rested — and it paid off with Jones rushing for 97 yards on just seven carries and a score in the fourth quarter while finishing with a career high 131 yards on the ground. "He's got, right now, enough traits for us to count on him to give some carries and help us win," Kelly said of Flemister. "He's certainly not a finished product. He's one that has built trust amongst the coaching staff." Smith returned to the lineup for five snaps against Virginia, while the staff remains hopeful that Armstrong could be cleared by the USC game Oct. 12. — Lou Somogyi lar, offer the most difficult matchup situations for defenses, in terms of their ability to block, [and] catch the football down the field," Kelly said. "A multiple defense like Vir- ginia, [they've] really struggled to figure out how to defend us in those packages. "I think it's pretty safe to say that you'll continue to see that." It just might be the best solution to continue the upgrade on offense. LUXURY AND NECESSITY Relying on the tight ends a little more was born of necessity because of several reasons. First, beyond Claypool, the wide receiver position has been mainly in flux. Junior Michael Young was try- ing to regain a rhythm after com- ing back from his broken collarbone, fifth-year senior Chris Finke was ex- periencing his own on-field struggles while shifting positions in place of Young, and Javon McKinley is at- tempting to emerge as a senior. Meanwhile, the sophomore quin- tet was either dealing with injuries (Braden Lenzy and Lawrence Keys III), suspension (Kevin Austin) or has not been quite yet ready for ex- tensive action while in a develop- mental phase (Joe Wilkins and Micah Jones). Second, the running game also was thin after some early injuries to Jafar Armstrong and Jahmir Smith. The good news is Smith is now reac- climatizing while sophomore C'Bo Flemister (see the sidebar on this page) helped take some of the bur- den off Tony Jones Jr. (18 carries for 131 yards and one touchdown) ver- sus Virginia. Finally, both tight ends have pro- vided senior quarterback Ian Book a valued security blanket. The 6-6, 250-pound Kmet already is being discussed as a potential top NFL prospect following his junior season, while at the end of spring Long raved about the 6-3, 235-pound Tremble as possibly the young player who made the most progress. Much of Tremble's prowess was regarding his speed, but his physical- ity also has been a surprise from his H-back and/or detached role. It was Tremble who made a crucial kick-out block of Virginia cornerback Nick Grant that resulted in Jones' 30-yard fourth-quarter touchdown run, while Kmet sealed off the defensive end. "Because he just has great balance and natural strength, we like him a lit- tle bit better detached and in a move- ment position," Kelly said of Tremble. "He just has unique physical traits … he just won't quit. He's kind of got that demeanor. We just have to continue to work on his communica- tion skills and technique as it relates to end-line blocking." In the meantime, the tight end po- sition should continue to flourish. ✦ Flemister earned the trust of the coaching staff with his rushing performance against Virginia (six carries for 27 yards and a touchdown) as well as with toughness as a blocker in pass protection situations. PHOTO BY MIKE MILLER

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