Blue and Gold Illustrated

January 2020

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

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Page 24 of 55 JANUARY 2020 25 BY LOU SOMOGYI N otre Dame's All-Decade Team for the 2010s (we won't call it the "tenties") in the Grego- rian calendar is in essence the All-Brian Kelly Team. Not since Knute Rockne in the 1920s has a Fighting Irish head coach in football been in office for an entire decade that began with 0 and ended in 9. Kelly began his Notre Dame career in 2010 and has remained for the duration entering the Camping World Bowl on Dec. 28, 2019. Choosing our 25-man All-Decade Team — 11 on offense, 11 on defense, utility man, kicker and punter — was fairly clear in most areas, although a couple of other positions also could be disputed. Our criteria was based on impact (especially during the better seasons), production, leadership and pure talent. QUARTERBACK Ian Book (2017-19) Right off the bat this is the most de- batable choice. Current quarter- backs coach Tom R e e s ( 2 0 1 0 - 1 3 ) started in the most wins (23) this de- cade, not including three clutch saves off the bench in 2012, and passed for the most yardage (7,670) and most touchdowns (61). When Everett Golson (2012, 2014) was on his game, he was electric, but it was a checkered career, and like- wise for Brandon Wimbush (2017-18). If the criteria had been narrowed to best physical skills and NFL poten- tial, the easy choice is DeShone Kizer (2014-16), who became a second-round NFL Draft pick following his junior season. Plus, his 2015 campaign where he helped lead a 10-1 start was the best in the decade by an Irish quarterback. However, the choice is Book be- cause of several factors. • He didn't quite match Rees' yardage total while passing for 5,876 so far, and his 56 touchdowns (prior to the bowl) is just five behind him. However, Rees also threw 37 in- terceptions compared to Book's 17. Furthermore, whereas Rees finished with minus-127 rushing yards, Book joins luminaries Tony Rice, Tom Cle- ments and Joe Theismann as the lone Irish quarterbacks to eclipse 1,000 career rushing yards. • Wimbush and Kizer were more dynamic runners than Book, but Wimbush wasn't nearly as accurate a passer while Kizer's leadership was called into question during the 4-8 season in 2016. • Book also has had impact in mul- tiple years. In the 2017 campaign he came off the bench to rally the Irish to the 2018 Citrus Bowl win over LSU with a pair of fourth-quarter touch- down passes, otherwise the season would have ended with three losses in the final four games instead of a 10-3 outcome. In 2018, he finished 17th nationally in passing efficiency — the best in the Kelly era — while helping the Irish into the College Football Playoff. • This year he guided clutch fourth-quarter drives in which he scored the winning touchdowns against USC and Virginia Tech, and did the same versus Pitt in 2018 and LSU in the aforementioned bowl. Critics abound that "Notre Dame hasn't defeated anybody" with Book, but not everyone has gone 19-3 as a starter either (not including the Cit- rus Bowl win that he did not start). He also is the lone QB captain of the decade. Others might have been physically stronger, taller and more gifted, but Book was the most accom- plished overall. RUNNING BACK Josh Adams (2015-17) This too was a dif- ficult pick between Adams and Theo Riddick (2010-12), but a comprise was made by making Riddick our "util- ity" player. A d a m s s e t a Notre Dame freshman record with 835 rushing yards during the 10-win season in 2015, and during another 10-win campaign as a junior he to- taled 1,430 (fourth highest at the school when including bowl games for others), although he was running on empty at the end of the season before turning pro early. Still, his 3,198 yards on the ground were the most in this decade by an Irish player — and is fifth on the all- time chart. His 6.7 yards per carry also ranks third all time for backs who had at least 150 carries, behind Reggie Brooks' 7.6 from 1989-92 and Four Horseman Don Miller 's 6.8 from 1922-24. UTILITY Theo Riddick (2010-12) As an all-purpose b a c k — i n s i d e , outside, blocking, catching — Rid- dick is the standard in the Kelly era. He was the slot in 2010-11, and during the march to the BCS National Championship Game The All-Decade Team: 2010-19 Quarterback is the most debatable position among several during the Brian Kelly era Teammates Quenton Nelson (2014-17; left) and Mike McGlinchey (2013-17) comprise two of the five offensive line spots on our All-Decade Team. PHOTO BY ANDREW IVINS

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