Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2016

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

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42 PRESEASON 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED Kelly said he likes both Hoge and McGovern at right guard, though for different reasons. The 6‑4¼, 310‑pound Hoge has become a can‑ didate as the starter because of his skills as a pulling guard, while the 6‑4½, 310‑pound McGovern offers more stability but less athleticism than Hoge. "This offense requires more of a puller, a guy that can get out in space, and Tristen can do that, Colin can do that," Kelly said of the right guards. "Even Hunter can do that, he's pretty athletic. We've changed the nature of the guard position. He's got to be a guy that can get out and run." 2. No. 2 wide receiver: With Torii Hunter Jr. the unquestioned No. 1 target for quarterbacks in the Notre Dame offense, the Irish have been looking for a player to emerge as the No. 2 option. Sophomores C.J. Sanders and Equanimeous St. Brown are the most likely wideouts to fill that role as Notre Dame loses a significant por‑ tion of its receiver production from 2015, with 327 career catches, 5,508 career receiving yards and 47 career receiving touchdowns either off to the NFL (most notably Fuller) or, in the case of Corey Robinson, gone with the decision to retire from the game due to concussion problems. Sanders and Brown combined for just two catches in 2015, and the Irish will likely move Hunter around the field to keep double coverage off him. "I don't know if there'll be one par‑ ticular player," Kelly said, "but I do think that we do have four or five guys that will elevate their game to a level that will give us the production that we're looking for from an offen‑ sive standpoint." 3. Top running back: Folston re‑ turns from a torn ACL that sidelined him for all but seven snaps in 2015, while Adams is looking to build on a strong rookie campaign. Sophomore Dexter Williams is trying to work his way into the rotation, but needs to overcome an Aug. 19 off‑campus ar‑ rest. Reportedly, he is still practicing with the team. How Notre Dame decides to split the carries with its running backs could change week to week. Folston rushed 175 times for 889 yards and six touchdowns in a break‑ out sophomore season in 2014, while Adams ran for 835 yards on just 117 carries to break Darius Walker 's Notre Dame freshman record of 786 yards. Williams carried 21 times for 81 yards and one touchdown. Running backs coach Autry Den‑ son, the school's all‑time rushing leader, has plenty of options. Who he calls on will likely depend on who has the hot hand. 2016 SURPRISES 1. C.J. Sanders: At 5‑8 and 185 pounds, Sanders is the roster's small‑ est player, a quarter inch shorter than safety Nicco Fertitta. Despite Sand‑ ers' lack of size, Kelly has shown he has big plans for the speedster who as a junior won the Tennessee Divi‑ sion II state title in the 100 meters (10.76) and 200 meters (21.88). "C.J. Sanders has got to be able to play more of a prominent role," Kelly said on the eve of the opening prac‑ tice. "He got his toes wet a little bit in the special teams game, and we saw his ability there. Now it's going Sophomore Tristen Hoge (above) is battling senior Colin McGovern for the starting spot at right guard. Hoge's athletic skills as a pulling guard could give him an edge in the competition. PHOTO BY JOE RAYMOND

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