Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2016

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

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38 PRESEASON 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED Morgan possesses those traits, but a lack of schematic understanding kept the coaches from trusting him to run the defense. During spring and fall practices, Morgan has made it ob- vious he now has the defense down and is ready to allow his physical traits to take over. Lacking a weapon in the middle hurt the Irish defense the last two sea- sons, but Morgan is looking to change that during the 2016 campaign. 5. LG QUENTON NELSON In his first season as a starter, Quenton Nelson was graded out by Pro Football Focus as the 13th best guard in the country, despite miss- ing two games with an ankle injury, and better things are expected this year. The junior is a mammoth figure, checking in at 6-5 and 325 pounds. He pushes defenders off the ball, creating constant room for the Irish running backs. Nelson has also made strides as a pass blocker in fall camp, improving his ability to quickly read and react to movements and pressures. What makes Nelson a truly elite player is that he moves so well for such a big player. He is Notre Dame's best pulling blocker, which makes the misdirection run concepts so effective. Nelson has also shown an im- proved ability to get off combination blocks, quickly getting to the second level and taking out linebackers. These types of blocks are often the difference between a five-yard gain and a 50-yard gain, and Nelson has excelled at them all camp. 6. NG JARRON JONES There were times during the 2014 season when nose guard Jarron Jones was Notre Dame's most effective de- fensive lineman. His tremendous performance against defending na- tional champion Florida State comes to mind. Jones had three tackles for loss and a pressure against Seminole quarterback Jameis Winston that re- sulted in an interception. Losing him during fall camp prior to the 2015 season proved devastat- ing to the Irish defense, which went on to give up 175.6 yards per game on the ground in his absence. Jones has looked to be back at full speed throughout fall camp, showing off the nimble athleticism and power that made him such a force in 2014. His ability to throw off the timing of the opponent ground attack is a prime element to improving Notre Dame's run defense. Crucial for Jones will be staying healthy and playing with a more con- sistent motor. If he can do that, he will anchor a defensive resurgence. 7. WR TORII HUNTER JR. After losing all three starters at the wide receiver position, Notre Dame needed someone to emerge this offsea- son, and senior Torii Hunter Jr. did just that. Hunter Jr. is expected to follow in the footsteps of Will Fuller, TJ Jones and Michael Floyd, becoming the next wideout to flourish under Kelly. During spring practice, Hunter Jr. was virtually unguardable. His ability to run precise routes and use his speed to stretch the field made him a force in practice. He has carried that over into fall camp, showing leadership for an otherwise green receiving corps. Notre Dame's quarterbacks have developed a trust in Hunter Jr., going to him when they want to stretch the field, but even more important, turn- ing to him when they are in trouble. Putting up a 1,000-yard season like his predecessors is possible, although not required. What Notre Dame needs from Hunter Jr. is steady play, and the ability to make the clutch plays when the times arise. 8. DE ISAAC ROCHELL Strongside end Isaac Rochell has been a reliable player up front for Notre Dame over the last two sea- sons. He has made 25 career starts, stayed relatively healthy and Ro- Sophomore Shaun Crawford was sidelined by a knee injury during his rookie campaign, but is poised to make an impact at the nickel position or left cornerback in 2016. PHOTO BY JOE RAYMOND

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