Blue and Gold Illustrated

January 2020

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

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Page 21 of 55

22 JANUARY 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI F or the 14th time in its history, a Notre Dame football team reached the 10-victory mark during the regular season when the 2019 unit posted a 10-2 result. However, this season also marked the first time a double-digit output in victories — even prior to play- ing a bowl game — did not result in any Fighting Irish player receiving first-team All-America recognition beyond just freshman teams. In fact, none received recognition even on the second and third teams of long-standing outlets such as the Associated Press or Walter Camp All- America teams. That is only the second time in head coach Brian Kelly's 10 seasons with the Fighting Irish it occurred. The first was following the 8-4 regu- lar season in 2013, despite the pres- ence of offensive tackle Zack Martin, who received Walter Camp Founda- tion third-team honors the year prior when Notre Dame produced a 12-0 regular season and No. 1 ranking. The Fighting Irish offensive line coach back then, Harry Hiestand (2012-17), was baffled by Martin's omission, stating to Blue & Gold Illus- trated that a better offensive lineman than Martin in college football did not exist. Since then, the first-round draft pick Martin has been a Pro Bowl selection every year since his rookie campaign in 2014, and he even received NFL "All Decade" recogni- tion from The Athletic (see page 51). Interestingly, despite a 4-8 record in 2016, both guard Quenton Nel- son and tackle Mike McGlinchey, also mentored by Hiestand, received second-team AP All-America notice, and a year later Nelson would be a unanimous All-American and Mc- Glinchey a consensus before they became the No. 6 and No. 9 picks, respectively, in the 2018 NFL Draft. This season, safety Kyle Ham- ilton did earn first-team Freshman All-America notice from both The Athletic and Pro Football Focus (see page 7), but that is specific to a class group. Meanwhile, senior John Shannon was honored with the inaugural Pat- rick Mannelly Award as the nation's top long snapper, but that position is not recognized on All-American teams. No one on Notre Dame's 2019 roster had jaw-dropping stats, and the lack of a defining performance in a marquee setting that grabbed the nation's atten- tion are at least a couple of reasons that could be attributed to the omissions. Regardless, here are our own person- nel assessments from the season. MOST VALUABLE 1. Chase Claypool — Remarkably consistent get-out-of-jail-card for the offense, he snatched one acrobatic catch after another while making 50-50 balls more like 90-10. He had to be accounted for and game-planned around by the defense on every play. His 26-yard grab on fourth-and-10 during the game-winning 87-yard drive versus Virginia Tech helped salvage the regular season. During the 12-0 regular season in 2018, we raved about the impact of Miles Boykin with his 54 catches for 803 yards (14.9 yards per catch) and eight scores. But he had Claypool (50 catches) and Chris Finke (49) as well. This regular season, Claypool nabbed 59 catches for 891 yards (15.1 yards per catch) and 12 touchdowns — and his yardage was one short of the next two receivers combined: tight end Cole Kmet (482) and Finke (410). BRAND-NAME VOID Despite a 10-2 regular season, All-America honors eluded Notre Dame players Junior tight end Cole Kmet (center) was one of Notre Dame's most improved players in 2019. His pro- duction jumped almost threefold from a year ago, finishing with 41 catches for 482 yards and a school- record-tying six touchdowns by a tight end. PHOTO BY ANDRIS VISOCKIS

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