Blue and Gold Illustrated

May 2018

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

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Page 34 of 63 MAY 2018 35 passes over the middle of the field — a zone largely avoided during the 2017 season with an inexperienced quarterback suffering through bouts of shakiness. His spring improve- ments have given the staff greater confidence to attack that part of the field. "We didn't throw many in cuts, we didn't have many crossers with digs over the top," Kelly explained, referencing a number of routes that work the middle of the field. "We didn't have the post combinations, we just didn't feel like we were high percentage there. "So everything that's ever been in my passing game, we've really kind of opened up to our quarterbacks and said we have to be efficient in these areas. What you saw [in the Blue-Gold Game] may not reflect what you'll see in the fall, but we needed to know that we're capable of throwing it 50 times, if that is what was needed, so we opened up the playbook this spring to get that." Wimbush was challenged all spring, by Book and by his coaches, but he responded with an improved performance and a sense of urgency. It was a performance that sends his head coach into the offseason feeling far more comfortable with his man behind the center. "Last spring, I told him I went home, I didn't feel so good about the way he played," Kelly noted. "I think I'm going to go home feeling a lot better today." EXPECTATIONS HIGH FOR IRISH TIGHT ENDS From 2010-13, the Irish tight ends averaged 56 catches and 751 receiv- ing yards per season. Over the next three seasons (2014-16), the average dipped down to 21 catches and 239 receiving yards per year. Chip Long's arrival as offensive coordinator and tight ends coach put the position back on track, with the 2017 tight ends hauling in 45 passes for 476 yards and four scores — a number that is expected to jump in 2018 thanks to the emergence of sophomore Cole Kmet and the maturity of senior tight end Alizé Mack. "Probably the most consistent he's been since I've been here," Long said of Mack. "He hasn't had a bad day yet. … As long as he concentrates on daily devotion to his craft, all the things he wants will come his way. "You don't get another senior year. It's time to decide what kind of player he wants to be and [his] leg- acy and what is important to him." FINDING BACK DEPTH Notre Dame entered the spring with only two running backs re- turning from the 2017 depth chart: senior Dexter Williams and junior Tony Jones Jr. The early arrival of freshman Jahmir Smith helped, but Notre Dame was forced to cross- train sophomores Avery Davis (quarterback) and Jafar Armstrong (wide receiver) in hopes of finding further answers at the position. The trio of young players com- bined for 109 rushing yards on 22 carries and 67 receiving yards on six catches in the Blue-Gold Game. "They are definitely pieces to the offensive system that we missed at times last year," head coach Brian Kelly said of Davis and Armstrong. "I think it gives us … the ability to go with some split backs, which gives us a lot of options." ✦ Quarterback No. Player Ht. Wt. Cl./Elig. 7 Brandon Wimbush 6-2 225 Sr./2 12 Ian Book 6-0 200 Jr./3 3 Avery Davis 5-11 203 So./4 Walk-Ons: Nolan Henry (17) and J.D. Carney (14) Running Back No. Player Ht. Wt. Cl./Elig. 6 Tony Jones Jr. 5-11 220 Jr./3 or 2 Dexter Williams 5-11 203 Sr./1 34 Jahmir Smith 5-11 200 Fr./4 8 Jafar Armstrong 6-1 213 So./4 Walk-Ons: Cameron Ekanayake (18) and Mick Assaf (32) Wide Receiver (Z) No. Player Ht. Wt. Cl./Elig. 83 Chase Claypool 6-4 229 Jr./2 11 Freddy Canteen 6-0 192 5th-Sr./1 Wide Receiver (X) No. Player Ht. Wt. Cl./Elig. 87 Michael Young 5-10 192 So./3 10 Chris Finke 5-9½ 179 Sr./2 Wide Receiver (W) No. Player Ht. Wt. Cl./Elig. 81 Miles Boykin 6-4 227 Sr./2 88 Javon McKinley 6-2 215 Jr./3 80 Micah Jones 6-4½ 208 Fr./4 Walk-Ons: Arion Shinaver (85) and Patrick Pelini (9) Tight End No. Player Ht. Wt. Cl./Elig. 10 Alizé Mack 6-5 244 Sr./2 84 Cole Kmet 6-5½ 255 So./3 89 Brock Wright 6-4½ 250 So./3 82 Nic Weishar 6-5 245 5th-Sr./1 85 George Takacs 6-6 245 Fr./4 Walk-Ons: Jack Henige (49) and Xavier Lezynski (48) Left Tackle No. Player Ht. Wt. Cl./Elig. 74 Liam Eichenberg 6-6 303 Jr./3 69 Aaron Banks 6-6 320 So./4 Left Guard No. Player Ht. Wt. Cl./Elig. 71 Alex Bars 6-6 318 5th-Sr./1 57 Trevor Ruhland 6-4 295 Sr./2 Center No. Player Ht. Wt. Cl./Elig. 53 Sam Mustipher 6-2½ 304 5th-Sr./1 61 Colin Grunhard 6-0 ½ 274 So./4 Right Guard No. Player Ht. Wt. Cl./Elig. 78 Tommy Kraemer 6-6 315 Jr./3 76 Dillan Gibbons 6-4 307 So./4 Right Tackle No. Player Ht. Wt. Cl./Elig. 72 Robert Hainsey 6-5 291 So./3 75 Josh Lugg 6-7 308 So./4 Walk-On: Logan Plantz (62) Notes: Tight ends Weishar (shoulder) and Takacs (knee) were withheld all spring … Center/guard Ruhland (pectoral) missed the last two weeks. BGI 2018 Post-Spring Scholarship Depth Chart Updated heights and weights are from the Notre Dame media relations office. The number next to the class year represents years of eligibility remaining. Mack has 32 career receptions for 356 yards and one score, but an excellent spring could be a harbinger for a stronger senior year. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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