Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2016

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

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Page 62 of 99 PRESEASON 2016 63 BY BRYAN DRISKELL TEXAS RUNNING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME RUN DEFENSE Notre Dame dominated Texas on the ground in its 38‑3 victory to open the 2015 season, holding the Longhorns to just 60 yards on 29 attempts. Over the next 11 games, Texas averaged 239.8 yards per contest, including a 313‑yard perfor‑ mance in its 24‑17 upset over College Football Playoff semifinalist Oklahoma. Texas finished the season with the nation's 17th‑ ranked rushing offense, averaging 224.8 yards per game on the year. The Irish run defense was wildly inconsistent last season, mixing in strong performances like it had against Texas with games in which it was gashed, like Ohio State ripping off 285 yards, Boston Col‑ lege rushing for 214 yards and Navy rolling for 318 yards. When it was all said and done, the Irish defense allowed opponents to rush for 175.6 yards per game, which ranked 72nd nationally. Improving its run defense is a must — but Notre Dame will have to do that without USA Today first‑team All‑ American defensive tackle Sheldon Day, who is now a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Notre Dame returns a veteran unit led by senior defensive end Isaac Rochell and fifth‑year senior nose guard Jarron Jones. The projected starting defensive line for the Irish averages 300 pounds, which should allow it to hold up well against a Texas line that will start three players that weigh 320 pounds and has two big backs in junior D'Onta Foreman (6‑1, 249 pounds) and sophomore Chris Warren III (6‑2, 252 pounds). Still, this figures to be a tough assignment for the Irish. Advantage: Texas TEXAS PASSING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE The Longhorns had an abysmal aerial attack in 2015, finishing the season ranked 117th nationally in pass offense at just 145.9 yards per game. Their inability to establish a legitimate passing game partly led to the hiring of new offensive coordina‑ tor Sterlin Gilbert. Gilbert spent last season as the offensive coordi‑ nator at Tulsa, and the Golden Hurricane offense ranked 11th nationally in pass offense at 333.2 yards per game. Texas will have weapons in the pass game, but it's a young group. Sophomore wide receiver John Burt is a big‑play threat (16.3 yards per catch in 2015) and is poised for a breakout season. He is expected to lead the Texas receiving corps. Veteran wideouts Lorenzo Joe, Armanti Fore‑ man, Dorian Leonard and Jacorey Warrick will look to fill out the depth chart. Texas will rely heavily on the emergence of 6‑6 freshman Collin Johnson and highly regarded newcomer Devin Duvernay. The big question in Austin is who starts at quar‑ terback. Senior Tyrone Swoopes struggled last fall, but reports from Texas are that he has been steady in fall camp after a productive spring pe‑ riod. Swoopes will be pushed heavily by freshman Shane Buechele, who will play this season and could very well win the starting spot. Notre Dame held Texas to just 103 yards on 8‑of‑23 passing last fall, and the Irish ranked 27th nationally in passing yards allowed (197.1 yards GAME PREVIEW: TEXAS On PaPer Texas sophomore wide receiver John Burt is a big-play threat that could present a matchup concern for the Irish defense. PHOTO COURTESY TEXAS

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