Blue and Gold Illustrated

January 2018

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

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Page 24 of 55 JANUARY 2018 25 BY BRYAN DRISKELL N otre Dame recovered from its disappointing 2016 season with a 9-3 campaign that saw it climb as high as No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings as late as Nov. 11. The Irish lost two of their final three games, but plenty of reasons for optimism remain for them head- ing into the offseason. The Irish offense set a number of records this regular season, includ- ing the program's best-ever yards per carry average (6.4). Defensively, Notre Dame improved in 23 significant stat categories over last season. It ranked 20th nation- ally in defensive efficiency according to the Fremeau Efficiency Index, the program's highest mark since 2012. On top of the team success, there were plenty of strong individual performances. Here is a look at the individuals who stood out the most this season. MVP OFFENSE Senior Left Guard Quenton Nelson Notre Dame was named a final- ist for the Joe Moore Award, which goes to the nation's top offensive line. That can't be done without a strong five-man unit, and the Irish had that this season. Fifth-year se- nior left tackle Mike McGlinchey was named a first-team All-American by Pro Football Focus and the Walter Camp Foundation, but Nelson was without question the team's best football player this season. Pro Football Focus graded Nelson out as the nation's top guard and the top run blocker regardless of po- sition. He had three of the highest graded line performances of the sea- son according to Pro Football Focus. No other guard had more than one. Nelson was named a first-team All- PLAYMAKERS ABOUND The emergence of standouts on both sides of the ball helped Notre Dame bounce back in 2017 Notre Dame senior guard Quenton Nelson earned first-team All-America honors from Pro Football Focus, Sports Illustrated, Sporting News and the Walter Camp Foundation. PHOTO BY ANGELA DRISKELL

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