Blue and Gold Illustrated

May 2018

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

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30 MAY 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY BRYAN DRISKELL I n the first year of offensive co- ordinator Chip Long's tenure at Notre Dame, the Irish offense developed into an explosive unit and one of the nation's top rushing teams. Notre Dame averaged 34.2 points and 448.4 yards per game, and 6.4 yards per play. The ground attack pounded out 269.5 rushing yards per game and set a program record with 6.27 yards per carry. It was a good start, but the offense will need to be even better — and more consistent — in 2018 if it wants to be part of the Fighting Irish having their first back-to-back double-digit win seasons in 25 years. In order to make that happen, Notre Dame will have to make im- provements despite losing a pair of All-American offensive linemen — left tackle Mike McGlinchey and left guard Quenton Nelson. In addition, the Irish have to replace running back Josh Adams, who rushed for 1,430 yards last season, plus leading receiver Equanimeous St. Brown and tight end Durham Smythe. Taking a leap forward will require improvements across the board, but the offense also needs some break- out performances. Here are our top five players who put together the upgraded performances this spring: SENIOR OFFENSIVE GUARD ALEX BARS Bars enters his third season as a starter, which makes him your atypi- cal "breakout" player. He began the spring at right guard and then shifted near the end of spring to the left side, which is where he made his first two career starts in 2015. There were times in 2017 that Bars was as good as any lineman on the roster whose last name wasn't Nel- son. Bars is agile and mobile with impressive size (6-6, 318), and when he's at his best he gets good move- ment in the run game and handles protection with relative ease. What held Bars back from being a true impact blocker last season was a lack of consistency. He could not repeat his high-level play snap after snap the way past standouts such as Nelson, Zack Martin (2009-13) and Ronnie Stanley (2012-15) did in their final seasons. TOP SPRING BREAKOUT PLAYERS: OFFENSE Several emerged to show they can make an impact in 2018 Senior wide receiver Miles Boykin followed up his breakout effort in the Citrus Bowl Jan. 1 — three catches for 102 yards, including the game-winning 55-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter — with a strong spring. PHOTO BY ANGELA DRISKELL

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