2020 Notre Dame Football Preview

Digital Edition

Blue & Gold Illustrated: 2020 Notre Dame Football Preview

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Page 122 of 163

BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED 2020 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ✦ 121 tackles and three interceptions last fall) and a steady presence in Noah Burks (7.0 tackles for loss). Wisconsin is light on game experience at the position, but two of its backups in 2019 are entering their third year on campus. Two younger players who could find themselves in the mix are Leo Chenal (20 tackles as a freshman) and four-star freshman Nick Herbig. 3. Louisville — The Cardinals defense allowed an ACC-worst 33.4 points per game in 2019, but return the bulk of their defensive starters. The squad's linebackers were one of the better units, though, and offer some intrigue with three senior starters. Ex-Ohio State defensive back Rodjay Burns was a starter at cornerback in 2018, but bulked up and moved to the hybrid line- backer spot. He had 11.0 tackles for loss, and used his natural coverage skills on tight ends and slot receivers. Inside linebacker Dorian Etheridge (8.0 tackles for loss) is the defensive leader. Both starting outside line- backers are back, too, including C.J. Avery (team-high 93 tackles). Best Secondaries 1. Wisconsin — This should be the strength of what is usually a sound defense. Everyone who played an important role in 2019 is back in 2020. Safety Eric Burrell is one of the best in the country in coverage at his position. He allowed 10 receptions on 25 targets, per PFF. Fellow safety Reggie Pearson (3.5 stops for loss) is more of a box threat. Caesar Wil- liams is the top corner. Wisconsin could find itself legitimately six deep at cornerback and four deep at safety. 2. Pitt — Seventh-round draft pick Dane Jackson is the lone major loss for a unit that took major steps in 2019. Each starter broke up at least 10 passes. Safety Paris Ford is a hard hitter against the run and a skilled cover man. His running mate, Damar Hamlin, enters his third year as a starting safety. Damarri Mathis (11 passes broken up and 2.5 tackles for loss) is the primary corner. Hamlin, Mathis and Ford combined to break up 32 passes and grab six interceptions a year ago. 3. Duke — The Blue Devils were 24th in pass defense and allowed the eighth-lowest completion percentage nationally. Every- one important is back. Starting cornerbacks Leonard Johnson and Josh Blackwell re- turned; so did safeties Michael Carter II and Marquis Waters. Carter will enter his fourth year as a starter. Other names enter the picture, too. Former All-ACC cornerback Mark Gilbert missed nearly all of 2018 and 2019 with injuries. He was healthy before spring practices shut down. Michigan safety transfer J'Marick Woods is eligible after sitting out 2019. ✦ Linebacker: Treshaun Hayward, Western Michigan The MAC Defensive Player of the Year was third in the country with 142 tackles in his first year as a starter. He had 10.5 tackles for loss and 5.0 sacks. Linebacker: Jack Sanborn, Wisconsin Returns as the Badgers' top tackler and had 5.5 sacks from his inside linebacker spot in 2019. He is next in the line of standout Wisconsin linebackers. Linebacker: Diego Fagot, Navy The former three-star recruit is Navy's defensive leader and had 100 tackles, 12.0 stops for loss and 5.5 sacks in 2019. The Midshipmen should have a strong defense once again. Cornerback: Paulson Adebo, Stanford Adebo regressed a bit from his standout 2018, but the former Notre Dame commit was still a first-team all-league player and had four interceptions. Cornerback: Damarri Mathis, Pittsburgh Standout cover man who broke up 11 passes in 2019. With Dane Jackson now in the NFL, Mathis is Pitt's top corner. Safety: Paris Ford, Pittsburgh The former top-60 recruit has lived up to his billing. Was Pitt's leading tackler and a first-team All-ACC pick last year. Tough in run support but also broke up 11 passes. Safety: Eric Burrell, Wisconsin Rangy safety with top-notch coverage ability and can play either spot or even slot corner. He had five take- aways in 2019. Special Teams Kicker: Nick Sciba, Wake Forest Third-team Associated Press All-American was 24 of 25 on field goals and made all 47 extra point attempts. His NCAA record of 34 straight field goal makes ended in late November. Punter: Austin Parker, Duke Averaged 45.7 yards per kick, downed more than a third of his 66 punts inside the 20-yard line and had 26 attempts travel 50-plus yards. Kick Returner: Damond Philyaw-Johnson, Duke Averaged 32.3 yards on 17 kickoff returns, including a pair of touch- downs, and was a second-team All-ACC pick. Punt Returner: Treylon Burks, Arkansas The former top-150 recruit was Arkansas' leading receiver as a true freshman and averaged 10.2 yards on his 12 punt returns. — Patrick Engel Carlos Basham (11.0 sacks in 2019) leads a Wake Forest defense looking to make a big jump in 2020. PHOTO COURTESY WAKE FOREST ATHLETICS

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