Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 4, 2023

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

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38 NOV. 4, 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED GAME PREVIEW: CLEMSON line, while improved since the start of the year, is still the vulnerable part of the Irish front five. The strength of Clemson's run defense is its interior de- fensive line, as graduate students Tyler Davis and Ruke Orhorhoro have combined for 15 run stops (tackles that result in failures for the offense). Davis has a run defense grade of 90.3. Clemson's linebackers, juniors Jeremiah Trotter Jr. and Barrett Carter, are also terrific, combining for 29 run stops. Their strength is their athleticism, which Notre Dame is well equipped to handle be- cause that's the Irish O-line's strength as well. Still, the Tigers have a slight edge here. Advantage: Clemson NOTRE DAME PASSING GAME VS. CLEMSON PASS DEFENSE Here is the second-biggest mismatch, especially because football is a "what have you done for me lately" sport. Like Clemson, Notre Dame does not have a pass catcher over 400 yards. Its yards-per-attempt aver- age is 9.0, which ranks 18th in the nation, but that figure went down to 6.8 over Weeks 5-8. The Irish generally protect Hartman well, but there have been occasional lapses like a 5-sack outing against Louisville and a 4-sack outing against North Caro- lina State, both road games. Clemson's pass rush is not its strength, totaling only 15 sacks so far this season, but the Tigers rank just ahead of the Irish at 5.4 yards per at- tempt against, good for seventh in the nation. The middle of the field has been surprisingly vulnerable — Trotter has allowed 18 receptions on 20 targets for 208 yards which Notre Dame junior tight end Mitchell Evans could exploit. But cornerbacks Nate Wiggins (outside) and Andrew Mukuba (slot) are studs, combining for 3.5 yards per attempt allowed so far this season. Notre Dame will have trouble creating explosive plays on the perimeter. Advantage: Clemson SPECIAL TEAMS Clemson is a staggering 6 of 12 on field goals this season. Redshirt freshman kicker Robert Gunn III took over for Tigers legend B.T. Potter, and Gunn started his season 1 of 4. Graduate student Jona- than Weitz had retired, but he rejoined the team in late September and took Gunn's job after the early struggles. Weitz was 5 of 8 so far this season, so he has not exactly solved the problem. On Notre Dame's side, graduate student Spen- cer Shrader has improved during the past three games, going 6 of 7 against Duke, Louisville and USC after starting the season 3 of 7. Shrader is 4 of 6 on field goals of 50 yards or more, which makes him a weapon from distance. His big leg hasn't won the Irish a game yet and his inconsis- tency hasn't definitively lost them one (he missed against Ohio State and the Irish lost by 3), but both possibilities remain. Tigers graduate student punter Aidan Swanson averages 44.8 yards per punt, while Irish sopho- more Bryce McFerson's rate is nearly identical at 44.9. As far as coverage goes, Clemson sophomore linebacker Wade Woodaz (127 snaps, 80.2 PFF special teams grade) and the aforementioned DJ Brown (102, 82.1) are the ones to watch out for. In the return game, Clemson true freshman punt returner Tyler Brown has been much more suc- cessful than Notre Dame senior punt returner Chris Tyree (14.8 yards per return to 4.6), but the Irish have a return touchdown that the Tigers do not. Sophomore running back Jadarian Price went 99 yards for a kickoff return score against USC to ice the game, and graduate student running back Devyn Ford came close to breaking a couple against USC and Louisville. The punt return disparity is stark, but everything else leans Irish. Advantage: Notre Dame COACHING This season has not reflected well on Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and his coaching staff. He refused to dip into the transfer portal, which hurt a Tigers team that really could have used one of sev- eral No. 1 wide receivers who switched teams this offseason. Clemson had third-and-1 against Florida State in overtime after Shipley ran for 9 yards and did not run the ball on either ensuing play, failing to pick up the first down and losing the game. In Week 8, the Tigers blew a 10-point, late-third-quarter lead to Miami and lost in overtime again. However, Swinney has led Clemson to 12 straight seasons with 10 or more wins, a streak that is at risk right now but is a reflection on how well he's run his program in the past decade and a half. He turned the Tigers into a national powerhouse and made six consecutive College Football Playoff ap- pearances, reaching the national championship OFFENSE Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. WR 83 Jayden Thomas 6-1½ 221 Jr. 19 Jaden Greathouse 6-1 204 Fr. WR 4 Chris Tyree 5-9½ 192 Sr. 80 Jordan Faison 5-10⅛ 182 Fr. LT 76 Joe Alt 6-8 322 Jr. 79 Tosh Baker 6-8 317 Sr. LG 78 Pat Coogan 6-5⅛ 303 Jr. 74 Billy Schrauth 6-4½ 311 So. C 52 Zeke Correll 6-3 306 Gr. 70 Ashton Craig 6-4¼ 307 So. RG 50 Rocco Spindler 6-4⅝ 314 Jr. 73 Andrew Kristofic 6-5¼ 305 Gr. RT 54 Blake Fisher 6-6 312 Jr. 59 Aamil Wagner 6-6 288 So. TE 88 Mitchell Evans 6-5⅛ 251 Jr. 13 Holden Staes 6-4¼ 242 So. or 9 Eli Raridon 6-6¾ 250 So. or 87 Cooper Flanagan 6-5⅞ 262 Fr. WR 17 Rico Flores Jr. 6-0⅛ 205 Fr. 5 Tobias Merriweather 6-4 204 So. QB 10 Sam Hartman 6-1⅛ 212 Gr. 18 Steve Angeli 6-2⅜ 211 So. RB 7 Audric Estimé 5-11½ 227 Jr. 3 Gi'Bran Payne 5-9⅛ 208 So. or 24 Jadarian Price 5-10⅜ 206 So. or 22 Devyn Ford 5-11 200 Gr. or 12 Jeremiyah Love 5-11⅞ 197 Fr. DEFENSE Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. Vyper 12 Jordan Botelho 6-2½ 264 Sr. 44 Junior Tuihalamaka 6-1⅞ 254 So. 40 Joshua Burnham 6-3½ 248 So. DT 99 Rylie Mills 6-5⅛ 306 Sr. 47 Jason Onye 6-5 294 Jr. 41 Donovan Hinish 6-1⅝ 280 So. NT 56 Howard Cross III 6-0⅞ 288 Gr. 97 Gabe Rubio 6-5¼ 306 Jr. SDE 1 Javontae Jean-Baptiste 6-4½ 260 Gr. or 31 Nana Osafo-Mensah 6-3⅛ 264 Sr. Will 8 Marist Liufau 6-2¼ 239 Gr. 23 Jaiden Ausberry 6-0⅛ 224 Fr. Mike 27 JD Bertrand 6-1 233 Gr. 34 Drayk Bowen 6-2 234 Fr. Rover 24 Jack Kiser 6-1⅝ 232 Gr. 3 Jaylen Sneed 6-2 223 So. CB 5 Cam Hart 6-2½ 207 Gr. 7 Jaden Mickey 5-11½ 181 So. LS 2 DJ Brown 6-1¼ 202 Gr. or 4 Antonio Carter II 5-11¾ 207 Gr. or 13 Thomas Harper 5-10⅝ 195 Gr. RS 0 Xavier Watts 5-11¾ 204 Sr. or 11 Ramon Henderson 6-1 196 Sr. CB 20 Benjamin Morrison 6-0¼ 185 So. 29 Christian Gray 5-11¾ 189 Fr. or 6 Clarence Lewis 5-11½ 202 Sr. Notre Dame Fighting Irish Depth Chart Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. KO 32 Spencer Shrader 6-1⅜ 200 Gr. 92 Zac Yoakam 5-8 188 So. K 32 Spencer Shrader 6-1⅜ 200 Gr. 92 Zac Yoakam 5-8 188 So. P 14 Bryce McFerson 6-1½ 197 So. 43 Ben Krimm 6-1⅛ 204 Gr. LS 65 Michael Vinson 6-2 242 Gr. 51 Rino Monteforte 5-7 195 So. Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. H 14 Bryce McFerson 6-1½ 197 So. PR 4 Chris Tyree 5-9½ 192 Sr. 80 Jordan Faison 5-10⅛ 182 Fr. KR 22 Devyn Ford 5-11 200 Gr. 24 Jadarian Price 5-10⅜ 206 So. SPECIAL TEAMS

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