2020 Notre Dame Football Preview

Digital Edition

Blue & Gold Illustrated: 2020 Notre Dame Football Preview

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Page 121 of 163

120 ✦ BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED 2020 FOOTBALL PREVIEW Offense Quarterback: Trevor Lawrence, Clemson The top prospect available in the 2021 NFL Draft according to ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay is a clear Heisman Trophy contender. He threw for 36 touchdowns in 2019 and is 25-1 as a starter. Running Back: Travis Etienne, Clemson The senior posted his second straight 1,600-yard season and has 62 total touch- downs with a career average of 7.8 yards per rush. He surprisingly put off the NFL for another year. Running Back: Javian Hawkins, Louisville Has top-end speed and broke out with 1,525 yards in Scott Satterfield's zone- blocking and option-heavy rushing attack. He earned the nickname "PlayStation" for his video game-like moves. Wide Receiver: Sage Surratt, Wake Forest Caught 66 passes for 1,001 yards and 11 touchdowns in only nine games before his 2019 season ended due to injury. Still was a first-team All-ACC selection. Wide Receiver: Amon-Ra St. Brown, USC The brother of former Notre Dame wideout Equanimeous St. Brown had 1,042 yards as a sophomore. With Michael Pittman gone, he is USC's top target. Tight End: Jake Ferguson, Wisconsin The Badgers' top returning receiver from 2019 caught 36 passes for 456 yards and four touchdowns. Without Quintez Cephus, he may start the season as Wisconsin's go-to target. Offensive Line: Jackson Carman, Clemson The Tigers' lone returning starter on the line is their left tackle, who was a third- team All-ACC pick last year as a first-time starter. Offensive Line: Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC Led all Football Bowl Subdivision left guards with an 88.6 pass-blocking grade and 1.1 percent pressure rate, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). Could move to left tackle to replace first-round pick Austin Jackson. Offensive Line: Cole Van Lanen, Wisconsin Top-level run blocker and above-average pass protector who shined as a sixth man in 2018, but didn't quite meet the expectations as Wisconsin's starting left tackle last fall. Still an all-conference caliber player. Offensive Line: Drew Dalman, Stanford Walker Little is the first Cardinal lineman who comes to mind, but he's coming off an ACL tear. Dalman was Stanford's center in 2019 and the steadiest lineman in run and pass blocking. Offensive Line: Jimmy Morrissey, Pittsburgh A first-team All-ACC selection, Morrissey enters his fourth year as Pitt's center. He allowed 10 pressures and zero sacks in 2019, per PFF. All-Purpose: Tutu Atwell, Louisville The ACC's leading receiver in 2019 (1,276 yards, 12 TD). He is 5-9 but as danger- ous as anyone after the catch and in the screen game. Also boasted a 50-yard punt return. Defense Defensive End: Carlos Basham Jr., Wake Forest Endless-motor pass rusher who had 11.0 sacks and ranked second in the ACC with 18.0 tackles for loss in 2019. Earned first-team all-league honors. A likely early round draft pick. Defensive End: Chris Rumph II, Duke Consistently disruptive edge presence who led the nation with a 31.6 percent pass-rush win rate and a 24.5 percent pressure rate against Power Five teams. He also compiled 13.5 tackles for loss. Interior Line: Jay Tufele, USC First-team All-Pac-12 player who was a bright spot on a porous defense and a steady disruptor from the interior, with 4.5 sacks. Interior Line: Jaylen Twyman, Pittsburgh One of college football's elite interior pass rushers, Twyman had 10.5 sacks from his defensive tackle spot and was a first-team all-conference selection. THE 2020 ALL-OPPONENT TEAM depth and high-end skill that has Clem- son's staff buzzing. Defensive tackle Tyler Davis had 48 tackles and 9.0 stops for loss as a true freshman. Former top-10 recruit Xavier Thomas flashed in his first season starting at defensive end and is a breakout candidate. What also stands out is depth. Clemson brings in two five-star freshmen, includ- ing No. 1 overall player Bryan Bresee, a tackle. Rising junior and former five-star K.J. Henry is a backup defensive end who hasn't snatched the starting job from Justin Foster (4.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss). 2. Pitt — The Panthers have a legiti- mate first-round prospect in tackle Jaylen Twyman, one of the country's best interior pocket-pushers and pass rushers. But that's not all. Pitt will have a strong three-man rotation at defensive end with second-team All-ACC pick Patrick Jones II (8.5 sacks), Deslin Al- exandre (10.5 tackles for loss) and a healthy Rashad Weaver, who missed all of 2019 due to injury. He had 14.0 stops behind the line of scrimmage and 6.5 sacks in 2018. Fifth-year senior Keyshon Camp is the expected starter at the other tackle spot. He has struggled with injuries, but has been dif- ficult to block when healthy. 3. Duke — Once again, the Blue Devils will field an underrated edge-rushing duo in Chris Rumph II and Victor Dimukeje. They combined for 88 tackles, 23.0 tackles for loss, 15 sacks and 21 quarterback hurries a year ago. Rumph didn't start a game but still led the Football Bowl Subdivision in pass-rush win rate and pressure rate versus Power Five teams, per Pro Football Focus (PFF). Dimukeje was a second-team All- ACC selection. The interior is thin after losing two starters and a key backup, but Derrick Tangelo was a solid rotation player and could get a larger role. The edge pair alone is enough to worry offenses. Best Linebackers 1. Clemson — No one on Notre Dame's schedule has a loaded group of linebackers, but Clemson's unit is in more than respect- able shape even after losing top-10 draft pick Isaiah Simmons. Fifth-year middle linebacker James Skal- ski is the leader of the group and was second on the team in 2019 with 105 stops (7.5 for loss). Jake Venables, the son of Tigers' defensive coordinator Brent Venables, is likely to slide into another linebacker job. He received positive PFF grades as a backup. Five-star incoming freshman Trenton Simp- son will also push for snaps. 2. Wisconsin — The Badgers lost two of the country's most productive linebackers in Zach Baun and Chris Orr, but return a lesser- known star in Jack Sanborn (a team-high 80

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