Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2018

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

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12 FEBRUARY 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED UNDER THE DOME Finding the end zone was not an is- sue for junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush in 2017. He became the first Notre Dame signal-caller to account for at least a dozen touchdowns via both passing (16) and rushing (14) in a single season. Mechanics and efficiency through the air are the areas head coach Brian Kelly and quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees will look to trouble shoot. At the end of the regular season, Wimbush ranked 87th in passing efficiency (122.3 rating) among 114 signal-callers in the Foot- ball Bowl Subdivision that qualified with enough attempts. When the Irish stumbled to a 1-2 fin- ish in the regular season, Wimbush con- nected on only 30 of 67 passes (44.8 percent) and tossed four interceptions. More significantly, instead of footwork, mechanics, field vision, progressions, etc., improving as the season contin- ued, they remained stagnant. "He has struggled in the last couple of games throwing the football, but he has not struggled mentally at all," Kelly said during Citrus Bowl preparations for LSU. "… If you're a great [baseball] hitter, if you're a really good golfer and you're duck-hooking it off every tee, it starts to affect you. If you're swinging and missing and you're used to hitting the ball all the time, it affects you, right? "His issues are mechanical issues, they're not mental issues. He doesn't have this weakness that is not allowing him to be the player that he can be. We need to fix the things in the offsea- son mechanically that will allow him to throw the ball more consistently. "His traits in terms of all the things a quarterback needs in his makeup, he has those. That's pretty exciting, but we've got to clean up some mechanics." Questions arise about whether a junior should still have such glaring issues in his third season with the pro- gram. Maybe not, but Wimbush was redshirted in 2016 and appeared in only two games for mop-up duty as a 2015 freshman. "This is his first year of playing, it's the first year he's really been under the spotlight," Kelly said. "When you step into the batting box it's a little different than being in the batting cage. Things change a little bit. You have to move a lit- tle quicker, decisions need to be quicker, and sometimes those mechanics don't hold up under those bright lights. "Although he is a junior, he was on scout team last year. There is no analy- sis on scout team." Kelly also believes his starting quar- terback might have been overcompen- sating some while going through some paralysis by analysis. "He's so strong-willed to try to fight through this," he said. "… He's trying to fight through this and he knows he has some mechanical flaws he's got to get fixed. "And we'll get them fixed because he has all the other makeup that is necessary." Wimbush finished the regular season ranked 87th in passing effi- ciency (122.3 rating) among the 114 signal-callers in the Football Bowl Subdivision that qualified with enough attempts. PHOTO BY ANGELA DRISKELL Passing Mechanics Prime Focus With Brandon Wimbush Sophomore wide receiver Chase Claypool and freshman tight end Brock Wright suffered shoulder injuries during Citrus Bowl preparation for LSU that required surgery and precluded them from playing in the game. During a one-on-one session in practice Dec. 12, Claypool landed awkwardly on his shoulder while competing for the football, necessitating surgery on his right A/C joint. It was the same shoulder Claypool had injured earlier in the year. "We considered harnessing it and playing him in the game, but with it being just one game and then getting him fixed right away instead of waiting, and getting him full go for spring ball, we opted for the latter," Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said. "… This happens in the middle of the season he misses five, six, seven games. "On the positive side he misses one game and can come back for the spring." Claypool finished the regular season second on the team in receptions with 29, and had 402 receiving yards and two touchdown catches. With Claypool sidelined, Kelly moved junior Equanimeous St. Brown, the team's top pass catcher with 31, from the boundary to the X (field) position, while junior Miles Boykin took most of the reps at St. Brown's spot. Fifth-year senior Cam Smith, juniors Chris Finke and C.J. Sanders, and freshman Michael Young also will play at various spots. Wright's A/C joint injury to his right shoulder was deemed more severe, and how much he will be able to partake in spring drills is uncertain. The rookie found a niche as a blocking fullback in short-yardage situations, where he had 30 snaps this season. Wright's absence plus the suspension of junior Alizé Mack left the Irish with three scholarship players at tight end for the bowl game: fifth-year senior starter Durham Smythe, senior Nic Weishar and freshman Cole Kmet. Claypool, who notched 29 catches for 402 yards and two scores during the regular season, suffered an injury to his right A/C joint during Citrus Bowl prepara- tion that required surgery. PHOTO BY ANGELA DRISKELL Chase Claypool And Brock Wright Undergo Surgery

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