Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 27, 2020

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

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Page 35 of 55

36 NOV. 27, 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED 67.0-percent completion rate and 297.3 passing yards per game with 17 touchdowns and five in- terceptions through seven games. In 2019, Howell set a school record with 38 touchdown passes plus was second in the ACC in passing yards (3,641) and passing efficiency (160.25 rating) en route to ACC Rookie of the Year honors. As far as preferential target options, Howell has plenty to choose from, but his favorites are junior wide receiver Dyami Brown and senior wideout Dazz Newsome. Both of the explosive receivers recorded more than 1,000 yards and 10 touchdown receptions last season, and Brown entered play on Nov. 14 leading the ACC in both receiving yards per game (95.14) and touchdown catches (six) while averaging a robust 18.0 yards per catch, easily the best mark among all ACC receivers with more than 30 grabs. Newsome contributed 24 grabs for 266 yards and two scores in the first seven contests. For the Irish defense, even as it tries to pile up better sack (19) and interception (four) numbers, an ability to limit big downfield passing plays — and to get off the field by dominating opposing offenses on third down (fifth nationally with a 24.7 percent conversion rate) — leaves this unit strong but not spectacular for coordinator Clark Lea. Advantage: North Carolina NOTRE DAME RUNNING GAME VS. NORTH CAROLINA RUN DEFENSE The Notre Dame rushing attack cooled some before the offensive line and sophomore tailback Kyren Williams hit top-ranked Clemson with 208 yards — 140 of those from Williams, the sopho- more's fourth 100-yard rushing game this season. Fifth-year senior quarterback Ian Book is increas- ingly becoming a prominent and dangerous com- plement to Williams, routinely providing a timely, athletic and often an ad-lib option on the ground when passing plays break down. Against Clemson, in particular, he had 67 rushing yards. Notre Dame remains one of only three ACC teams averaging more than 200 rushing yards a game (227.7), while North Carolina ranked seventh in the ACC at stopping the run (148.3 yards allowed per contest). Fifth-year senior linebacker Chazz Surratt and junior linebacker Jeremiah Gemmel are adding to their standout 2019 seasons. Surratt — who led the Tar Heels in tackles with 54 through seven games — became a revelation in 2019, evolving from a backup quarterback into a first-team All-ACC line- backer and a defensive playmaker all over the field. Advantage: Notre Dame NOTRE DAME PASSING GAME VS. NORTH CAROLINA PASS DEFENSE Following weeks of worry and criticism over the lack of production Book was getting from his wide receivers, those pass catchers are providing some steady and necessary improvement. The trio of fifth-year seniors Javon McKinley and Ben Skowronek and senior Avery Davis combined for 13 catches, 213 yards and one touchdown against Clemson. All three players are showing consistent improvement and an added confidence level from Book. Freshman tight end Michael Mayer continues building his case for first-team Freshman All-Amer- ica accolades, and perhaps even some postseason All-ACC honors. With 20 catches, 235 yards and two touchdowns through the Clemson game, Mayer already had more individual production in a rookie season than the dozens of other freshman tight ends have combined during the Kelly era. The Tar Heels' secondary struggled last season with injuries but still tied for second in the ACC with 14 interceptions. They remain on a similar pick pace this season with seven interceptions in seven games. The North Carolina secondary doesn't provide much to talk about, though a couple of UNC line- backers — senior Tomon Fox and fifth-year senior Tyrone Hopper — have protected well against the pass, combining for 6.5 sacks, 10 quarterback hur- ries and five passes broken up through seven games. Advantage: Notre Dame SPECIAL TEAMS After finishing 11th in the 14-team ACC in net punt- ing last season and with no scores on kick and punt returns, North Carolina placed an improvement em- phasis this preseason on these units by hiring former Nebraska assistant Jovan Dewitt as its new special teams coordinator. Little has changed. The Tar Heels rank in the bottom half of the NCAA in nearly every special teams category, including field goal percent- age, where fifth-year senior placekicker Grayson At- kins is converting only about half of his attempts. Two blocked punt returns for touchdowns this season, excellent coverage and strong kicking by senior Jonathan Doerer lead the Irish. Advantage: Notre Dame GAME PREVIEW: NORTH CAROLINA Offense Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Cl. WR 11 Ben Skowronek 6-3 220 5th-Sr. 18 Joe Wilkins Jr. 6-1½ 190 Jr. WR 3 Avery Davis 5-11 202 Sr. 18 Joe Wilkins Jr. 6-1½ 190 Jr. LT 74 Liam Eichenberg 6-6 302 5th-Sr. 73 Andrew Kristofic 6-5 292 So. LG 69 Aaron Banks 6-6 330 Sr. 76 Dillan Gibbons 6-4 309 Sr. C 55 Jarrett Patterson 6-4½ 305 Jr. 52 Zeke Correll 6-3 295 So. RG 78 Tommy Kraemer 6-6 317 5th-Sr. 56 John Dirksen 6-5 306 Jr. RT 72 Robert Hainsey 6-5 290 Sr. 75 Josh Lugg 6-7 310 Sr. TE 89 Brock Wright 6-4½ 255 Sr. 24 Tommy Tremble 6-3 242 Jr. or 85 George Takacs 6-6 245 Jr. or 87 Michael Mayer 6-5 235 Fr. WR 88 Javon McKinley 6-2 215 5th-Sr. 8 Jafar Armstrong 6-1 220 Sr. QB 12 Ian Book 6-0 206 5th-Sr. 7 Brendon Clark 6-2 212 So. RB 23 Kyren Williams 5-9 194 So. 25 Chris Tyree 5-9½ 188 Fr. or 20 C'Bo Flemister 5-11 195 Jr. Defense Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Cl. Vyper 9 Daelin Hayes 6-4 270 5th-Sr. 29 Ovie Oghoufo 6-3 240 Jr. or 7 Isaiah Foskey 6-5 257 So. DT 95 M. Tagovailoa-Amosa 6-2½ 282 Sr. 57 Jayson Ademilola 6-3 279 Jr. NT 41 Kurt Hinish 6-2 296 Sr. 54 Jacob Lacey 6-2 293 So. SDE 91 Ade Ogundeji 6-4 268 5th-Sr. 19 Justin Ademilola 6-2 248 Jr. or 7 Isaiah Foskey 6-5 257 So. Buck 33 Shayne Simon 6-3 228 Jr. or 35 Marist Liufau 6-2 226 So. or 24 Jack Kiser 6-1½ 227 So. Mike 40 Drew White 6-0 227 Sr. 52 Bo Bauer 6-3 230 Jr. Rover 6 J. Owusu-Koramoah 6-1½ 215 Sr. 10 Isaiah Pryor 6-1½ 204 Gr. CB 4 Nick McCloud 6-0½ 192 5th-Sr. 5 Cam Hart 6-2½ 207 So. CB 28 TaRiq Bracy 5-10 180 Jr. or 26 Clarence Lewis 5-11½ 192 Fr. SS 20 Shaun Crawford 5-9 180 6th-Sr. 3 Houston Griffith 6-0 204 Jr. FS 14 Kyle Hamilton 6-4 219 So. 12 DJ Brown 6-0 194 Jr. or 10 Isaiah Pryor 6-1½ 204 Gr. NOTRE DAME DEPTH CHART Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Cl. KO 39 Jonathan Doerer 6-3 197 Sr. 38 Dawson Goepferich 6-2 200 5th-Sr. K 39 Jonathan Doerer 6-3 197 Sr. 38 Dawson Goepferich 6-2 200 5th-Sr. P 19 Jay Bramblett 6-1½ 193 So. 38 Dawson Goepferich 6-2 200 5th-Sr. LS 65 Michael Vinson 6-2 226 Jr. 44 Alex Peitsch 6-1 208 Fr. Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Cl. H 19 Jay Bramblett 6-1½ 193 So. 14 J.D. Carney 5-10 180 Sr. PR 32 Matt Salerno 6-0½ 196 Jr. 13 Lawrence Keys III 5-10½ 173 Jr. KR 25 Chris Tyree 5-9½ 188 Fr. or 8 Jafar Armstrong 6-1 220 Sr. Special Teams

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