Blue and Gold Illustrated

Dec 19, 2020

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

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Page 13 of 55

14 DEC. 19, 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI E arlier this year, it was noted how Michael Mayer was on the cusp of having the great- est freshman season ever for a Notre Dame tight end since the start of freshman eligibility in 1972. The standard belonged to Kyle Ru- dolph in 2008 when he started all 13 games, played almost every down and snared 29 passes for 340 yards (11.7 yards per catch) and two touchdowns in the 13 games of a 7-6 campaign. Mayer has become a mainstay there, leading the position in snaps each of the last six weeks (an aver- age of 51), and now has even more than junior Tommy Tremble over- all (442 to 432). With 30 catches for 337 yards (11.2 yards per catch) and two scores, he has been eclipsing Ru- dolph's marks, with hopefully three more games to play. So the next topic is Kyren Williams. Is he producing the best sophomore season ever by a Notre Dame run- ning back? Who would have thought in Au- gust there would be such a discus- sion after Williams debuted with 26 rushing yards as a freshman last sea- son while getting redshirted? At the outset of this season, when there were doubts that there even would be one, senior and projected starter Jafar Armstrong had more ca- reer rushing yards (505) and catches (27) than all of the other running backs combined, junior C'Bo Flemis- ter had the most touchdowns scored (five) among returning backs, and freshman speedster Chris Tyree ar- rived as the first Rivals top-100 re- cruit at the position in seven years. Yet Williams ended the regular- season second in the ACC with 1,011 rushing yards (101.1 yards per game in league play) — behind only Virginia Tech's Khalil Herbert's 1,020 — at 5.6 yards per carry with 12 touchdowns. Even Williams' childhood idol, NBA superstar LeBron James, has heralded him recently on Twitter. For good measure, Williams is third on the team in receptions with 24 for 268 yards (11.2 yards per catch) and one score, and his pass block- ing/blitz pickup, especially in the upset of then-No. 1 Clemson Nov. 7, earned the 5-9, 195-pound dynamo plaudits. On occasion, it has even overshadowed his running skills. "You have to have the bigger heart no matter how smaller or bigger you are," Williams said. "I really look at pass blocking like I'm guarding somebody in basketball. I just try to stay low, move my feet and not let them run through me — and you've got to work your hands too. "You've got to have really good hands and be able to lock on that person. It definitely takes practice, and confidence is the biggest thing." While acknowledging he would not have guessed he would be in this position so soon, Williams did of- fer that "no one's going to out-work me," which included running "gas- sers" in the preseason even after an arduous practice. Beyond the tangible on-the-field stats, Williams' greatest contribution Sudden Surge Kyren Williams has enjoyed one of the best sophomore seasons ever for a running back at Notre Dame

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