Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 25, 2023

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

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Page 35 of 55

36 NOV. 25, 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED GAME PREVIEW: STANFORD NOTRE DAME PASSING GAME VS. STANFORD PASS DEFENSE Stanford has the sixth-worst pass efficiency de- fense in college football, ranking ahead of only Massachusetts, Nevada, Temple, New Mexico and Southern Mississippi. That makes the Cardinal the worst pass efficiency defense in the Power Five. In terms of total yardage allowed through the air, Stanford is dead last in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 3,142. Part of that is because the Cardinal has played some very pass-happy Pac-12 offenses, but it's impossible to ignore. The Cardinal has holes all over the back seven, with the two starting outside corners (sophomore Collin Wright and fifth-year Zahran Manley) and the two starting off-ball linebackers (junior Ga- ethan Bernadel and fifth-year Tristan Sinclair) all allowing more than or close to 10 yards per at- tempt when targeted. Notre Dame's struggles in the passing game are well documented, but the Irish are still a top-20 team in the country with 8.9 yards per attempt. That is in large part because graduate quarterback Sam Hartman and a talented but inexperienced wide receiver corps has done very well against inferior competition or even a good-but-not-great team like Pittsburgh. As far as protection goes, Stanford's pass-rush- ing numbers are actually pretty similar to Notre Dame's, both in pressure and sack production. But pass rush and pass coverage go hand in hand, and the former doesn't matter much when the latter is as abysmal as it is. The Irish should have no problem going out with a bang in the passing game, either. Advantage: Notre Dame SPECIAL TEAMS Stanford has the kicking edge, and that's not a knock on Notre Dame graduate student kicker Spencer Shrader. The South Florida transfer has been rock-solid since starting the season 3 of 7, and he's on a streak of 9 straight made field goals since Sept. 30. But Stanford has senior kicker Joshua Karty, who was a 2022 finalist for the Lou Groza Award as the best kicker in college foot- ball. He went 18 of 18 as a junior, including 3 of 3 from 50 or more yards out with a long of 61. This season, Karty is 17 of 20. That's a more-than- respectable 85.0 percent, which puts him at 26th in the country. Notre Dame's core special teamers — namely graduate student linebacker Jack Kiser, graduate student safety DJ Brown and freshman linebacker Drayk Bowen — are graded higher by Pro Football Focus than Stanford's. Sophomore Irish punter Bryce McFerson has a higher punting average than Stanford's Aidan Flintoft (a freshman) and Connor Weselman (a junior), who split the job evenly for the Cardinal. As far as kick and punt returns go, disaster struck for Notre Dame against Clemson with a muff from senior punt returner Chris Tyree. However, the Irish have 2 return touchdowns to their credit (Stanford has none), and Notre Dame has been more efficient at returning both punts and kicks. Stanford's kicking advantage is not enough to make up for the rest of their deficiencies on special teams. Advantage: Notre Dame COACHING While Notre Dame head coach Marcus Free- man is unproven, so is Stanford head coach Troy Taylor. He was a head coach for three years before taking the Cardinal job, but at FCS Sacramento State. Turning the mess Taylor received into an instant bowl-eligible team was next to impossible in Year 1, but it certainly looks like he has the pro- gram on the right track. Freeman has lost some faith among Notre Dame fans, and he won't get any more honeymoon pe- riods. Still, it's important to remember what he does well: He's a very good recruiter and an excel- lent motivator. Coaches with that skill set need very good staffs, and Freeman has well-regarded assistants throughout. Defensive coordinator Al Golden is the best of the bunch and is a Broyles Award (nation's best assistant coach) nominee. The one exception is offensive coordinator Gerad 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. 70 Ashton Craig 6-4¼ 307 So. C 52 Zeke Correll 6-3 306 Gr. 70 Ashton Craig 6-4¼ 307 So. RG 74 Billy Schrauth 6-4½ 311 So. 73 Andrew Kristofic 6-5¼ 305 Gr. RT 54 Blake Fisher 6-6 312 Jr. 59 Aamil Wagner 6-6 288 So. TE 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. SPECIAL TEAMS 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. 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. Notre Dame Fighting Irish Depth Chart

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