Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2017

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

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Page 4 of 55 FEBRUARY 2017 5 N otre Dame's season of coaching staff upheaval could pay dividends for several returning players. After a 4-8 season that had several players fail to match expectations or unable to find a role, the additions of Chip Long as offensive coordinator, Mike Elko as defensive coordinator and Clark Lea as linebackers coach figure to spark a team that has the talent to return to prominence. Here are four players/duos on each side of the ball that have the most to gain from the staff changes: JUNIOR OFFENSIVE LINEMAN TRISTEN HOGE A 6-4, 310-pound reserve center/ guard in 2016 as a sophomore, Hoge has a skill set that could lend itself to success in the Long-coordinated offensive system. With the future of fifth-year se- niors Hunter Bivin and Colin Mc- Govern still in doubt plus sophomore Tommy Kraemer yet to play a college down, Hoge is a strong candidate for a starting role at right guard. The 2015 Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year while redshirt- ing, Hoge played just 23 snaps this past season — 18 of which came in a blowout win against Nevada. Hoge's skills did not translate to Notre Dame's scheme last season, but should the Irish use more outside zones, screens and pulling concepts, he could find success in the offense. JUNIOR TIGHT END ALIZÉ JONES After Jones sat out the entire 2016 season due to an academic suspen- sion, it's a good bet that no player on the roster will be more ready to go than the 6-4, 240-pound tight end from Las Vegas. Long has a history of coaching suc- cessful tight ends at Arizona State, and Jones figures to be the next in line. With the tight end production drop- ping off under the direction of former position coach Scott Booker, look for those numbers to climb again at Notre Dame with Jones leading the way. SOPHOMORE RUNNING BACK TONY JONES JR. AND JUNIOR RUNNING BACK DEXTER WILLIAMS With Long calling the plays on of- fense, look for the Irish to adjust the way they get running backs involved. Jones Jr., who redshirted, and Wil- liams, who played just 126 snaps in 2016, are two of the most likely can- didates to see increased playing time with a new vision on offense. At Memphis in 2016, running backs Doroland Dorceus, Patrick Taylor Jr. and Darrell Henderson all split time in the backfield, with some on the field at the same time. Dorceus had 132 at- tempts, Taylor 93 and Henderson 87. Compare that to the running back rota- tion at Notre Dame, where Josh Adams played 286 snaps more than the next closest back, senior Tarean Folston. JUNIOR SLOT RECEIVER C.J. SANDERS Sanders, maybe the most elusive among Notre Dame's returning re- ceivers, saw his playing time dimin- ish as the season progressed. The 5-8, 185-pounder is adept at catching the ball at or behind the line of scrimmage and making something out of it. With Long now running the offense — a coach who has utilized slot receivers of Sanders' build with suc- cess before — expect Sanders to get in- volved in the quick passing game with new quarterback Brandon Wimbush. SOPHOMORE DEFENSIVE END DAELIN HAYES The Irish lacked a dominant pass rusher this past season, and among the returning players, the 6-3, 257-pound Hayes has the best physi- cal traits to assume that role. Notre Dame's new defensive coor- dinator Mike Elko was able to get a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks during his time at Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons registered 37 sacks in 2016, which ranked 12th nationally. SENIOR LINEBACKER NYLES MORGAN With Elko and Lea now in place at Notre Dame, Morgan — a consensus top-100 recruit — could have a huge senior season under the new direction. Prior to his dismissal as defensive coordinator, Brian VanGorder uti- lized a defense that did not take ad- vantage of Morgan's strengths. Look for Morgan to replicate a season simi- lar to what Wake Forest's Marquel Lee had in 2016 — 105 tackles, in- cluding an amazing 20 for loss. JUNIOR DEFENSIVE TACKLE ELIJAH TAYLOR A little-used defensive lineman during his first two seasons on cam- pus, Taylor has a different skill set that could translate well to Elko's attacking defense. Undersized at 6-3, 285 pounds, Taylor played just 31 defensive snaps for the Irish in 2016. He made his biggest impact against Army's triple option, playing 14 snaps and pen- etrating into the backfield. Badly in need of a pass rush next season, Elko could use Taylor 's quickness to get to the quarterback. SOPHOMORE CORNERBACK DONTE VAUGHN One of the most impactful fresh- men to play in 2016, Vaughn could see an expanded role next season with the graduation of Cole Luke and the scheme Elko likes to use. Look for Vaughn, whose long 6-2, 200-pound frame is the largest among Notre Dame cornerbacks, to play more off-coverage and thrive under the new leadership brought by Elko. ✦ ON THE IRISH BEAT MATT JONES Staff writer Matt Jones has been with Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 2016. He can be reached at Who Has Most To Gain From Coaching Turnover? As a junior, linebacker Nyles Morgan led Notre Dame in tackles with 94. With Mike Elko run- ning the defense next season, Morgan could be a breakout star nationally. PHOTO BY ANGELA DRISKELL

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