Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 31, 2016

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

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40 OCT. 31, 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI SPECIAL K & K Not since the 2009 game versus USC will Notre Dame Stadium have two more esteemed NFL prospects at quarterback than this year's matchup with the "Special K" combo of Notre Dame junior DeShone Kizer and Mi- ami junior Brad Kaaya. In 2009 it was Notre Dame junior Jimmy Clausen and USC freshman Matt Barkley, both of who were No. 1-ranked QB prospects coming out of high school. Clausen was a second-round pick as a junior, while Barkley fell to fourth-round status after his senior year. Various 2017 mock drafts have listed both Kizer and Kaaya as first- round selections, including placing Kizer as the No. 2 overall pick and Kaaya at No. 26, with a chance to be among the top 10. Whereas Kizer 's stock has risen tremendously despite the 2-4 start through the first half of the season, Kaaya actually was rated higher at the start of September, being pro- jected as the No. 14 overall pick by ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. and No. 23 by ESPN's Todd McShay. "Kaaya is one of the toughest quar- terbacks I've ever graded," Kiper wrote of the 6-4, 215-pound Hurri- cane. "He has a big arm, touch and growing poise as he reads the whole field. But he does force some throws and take some chances, and he needs to be more aware of coverages." What makes the presence of Kaaya even more challenging for Notre Dame is two-fold. One, during its 2-4 start Notre Dame ranked 125th among 128 teams in sacks with three, none by a lineman, and it will go against a Miami offensive line that returned all five starters from last season that allowed only 16 sacks. Two, the Irish secondary is ex- tremely young, while Kaaya is a third- year starter and the most veteran quarterback the Irish will face in 2016. If Texas true freshman Shane Buechele (16-of-26 passing for 280 yards with two touchdowns and one interception) or Duke redshirt fresh- man Daniel Jones (24-of-32 passing for 290 yards with three touchdowns and one interception) could pick apart Notre Dame, Kaaya will be projected to do at least likewise. Either way, if both quarterbacks live up to their billing, scoring 30 to 35 points might not be enough in this contest. RECHARGING THE BATTERIES A crucial intangible is how Notre Dame returns from its bye week, which coincided with the fall semes- ter break. It has nothing to do with "extra game preparation" — Notre Dame needed a last-minute touchdown pass from DeShone Kizer to Will Fuller to squeak by Temple last season, 24-20, after the bye week — and everything to do with whether the time away helps the players and coaches recharge in the final month of the season. Notre Dame's bye came on Oct. 22, and the fall semester break was from Oct. 14-23. That meant that after the Tuesday morning practice on Oct. 18, players were able to travel back home for several days and get away from the football grind. The question is whether they become refreshed and newly energized from the time away, or does it reinforce their disappoint- ment about the losing record after having preseason College Football Playoff aspirations. Some of it might depend on the result against Stanford and the dif- ference between being 3-4 or 2-5. However, there are two cases in the past 20 seasons where the bye week helped provide a resurgence after a miserable start. The first came in head coach Bob Davie's first season in 1997, when the GAME PREVIEW: MIAMI Top STorylineS Junior quarterback Brad Kaaya, a projected first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, threw for 229.8 yards per game and 10 touchdowns during Miami's 4-1 start. PHOTO COURTESY MIAMI ATHLETICS

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