Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2020

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

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 35 of 67

36 PRESEASON 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI I n Blue & Gold Illustrated's count- down of Notre Dame Top 25 Most Important players for 2020 (pages 24-29), there was at least one conspicuous absence. Similar to the Associated Press poll, eight other Fighting Irish play- ers "also received votes" in our over- all survey— yet not enough overall points to crack the first 25. The most unusual case was senior kicker Jona- than Doerer, who was on all five of our ballots: as high as No. 21, but also No. 22, No. 24 and twice at No. 25. The seven individuals who fin- ished Nos. 19-25 in the cumulative ballots were not unanimous on all five like Doerer was, and numerous others who ranked in the teens and even higher, also were not on all five. One way or another, the placekick- i n g / s p e c i a l teams opera- tion often has an impact on several games each season, so Doerer re- mains a vital component. Last year, it included the close victo- ries over USC (30-27) and Virginia Tech (21-20) — the latter with then freshman punter Jay Bramblett saving a bad snap that enabled Doerer to kick the winning extra point with 29 seconds left — plus a dominant special teams per- formance in the 33-9 win versus Iowa State in the Camping World Bowl. As a 2019 junior, Doerer had the unenviable task of succeeding four- year starter Justin Yoon, the pro- gram's all-time scoring leader and most accurate field goal kicker with at least 50 attempts, connecting on 59 of 73 (80.8 percent) for his career. Despite a rough initial two years as the kickoff man, Doerer responded brilliantly, becoming the first kicker in Notre Dame history to compile more than 100 points in a season (108) when he converted all 57 extra point attempts (even Yoon missed six in his career), while also drilling 17 of 20 field goal tries (85.0 percent). The highlight came in the hard- fought 30-27 victory over USC in which Doerer 's three field-goal at- tempts from 43, 45 and 52 yards were all converted, and spelled the differ- ence in the conquest. It was only the second time ever a Fighting Irish kicker made three field goals in a game from 40 yards or be- yond (Dave Reeve was 3 of 4 during a 16-6 victory over Michigan State by the 1977 national champs). In the spring of 2019, the long- limbed, 6-3 Doerer shortened his stride to the ball, and it helped make an impact in his consistency and ac- curacy to complement possibly the most powerful kicking leg ever seen at Notre Dame. Chances are Doerer likewise will be in situations this year where his kicks could make the difference in Notre Dame becoming a College Football Playoff contender. As a freshman, Bramblett also had the challenge in 2019 of replacing a four-year starter in punter Tyler New- some, the first captain at Notre Dame who was strictly a kicking specialist. He too delivered, with only 18 of his 63 punts returned for merely 70 yards, the 10th-best figure among the 65 Power Five teams. Overall, Pro Football Focus gave Notre Dame special teams the third- highest grade in the nation, and the Fighting Irish were one of only four teams to finish in the top 20 (with Arkansas, Ohio State and Penn State) in both kick- o f f r e t u r n defense and punt return defense. For Notre Dame to con- tinue to have a "leg up," on special teams in 2020, not o n l y m u s t Doerer and Bramblett sustain their high level, but three other areas must be ad- dressed and resolved. • Three-year starting long snap- per John Shannon, the inaugural recipient of the Patrick Mannelly Award as the nation's top player at his position, must be replaced. The front-runner could be freshman Alex Peitsch, ranked as Kohl's Profes- sional Camps' No. 1 long snapper nationally. • Four of the top six tacklers on 2019 special teams — notably play- makers and current NFL players Chase Claypool and Alohi Gilman — must be replaced. This group will be led by junior middle linebacker Bo Bauer, whose 13 stops in the kicking game led the 2019 team and earned him the Special Teams Player of the Year Award at Irish Echoes. • Junior wide receivers Lawrence Keys III and Braden Lenzy might be the top candidates at punt and kick return, respectively, although sopho- more running back Kyren Williams could also find himself in the mix. ✦ In 2019, Doerer became the first kicker in Notre Dame annals to compile more than 100 points in a season (108). PHOTO BY ANDRIS VISOCKIS 2020 SPECIAL TEAMS SCHOLARSHIP CHART Kicker No. Player Ht. Wt. Cl./Elig. 39 Jonathan Doerer 6-3 205 Sr./1 Walk-ons: H. Leonard (98) and D. Goepferich (36) Punter No. Player Ht. Wt. Cl./Elig. 19 Jay Bramblett 6-1½ 193 So./3 Walk-on: Jake Rittman (30) Long Snapper No. Player Ht. Wt. Cl./Elig. 44 Alex Peitsch 6-1 205 Fr./4 Walk-ons: Axel Raarup (46) and Michael Vinson (65) SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP Jonathan Doerer and Jay Bramblett attempt to build on their successful 2019

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - Preseason 2020