2020 Notre Dame Football Season Preview: Offense

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2019 for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish ended on a high note. The team finished the season 11-2 with a dominant 33-9 victory over Iowa State in the Camping World Bowl, and ranked 11th and 12th respectively in the final AP and Coaches polls.

The 2020 season for Notre Dame will be a strange one. The peculiarity of only 20% capacity being allowed in to the stadium, the mandatory face coverings and social distancing guidelines required for the lucky few in attendance and the lack of tailgating on campus this autumn will pale in comparison to Notre Dame joining a conference for the first time in 42 years. 2020 will be the year of coronavirus and the Fighting Irish of the ACC.

2020 Notre Dame Season Preview: Defense

2020 Notre Dame Season Preview: Depth Chart, Projected Record

The Irish have lost twelve players from last year’s team to the NFL including starting wide receiver Chase Claypool and starting tight end Cole Kmet. The current receiving corps is inexperienced – leading returning receiver, Braden Lenzy caught just eleven passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns last year.

Head coach Brian Kelly has a reputation for swapping quarterbacks mid-season but he’ll likely find it difficult to do so this year. Four-star recruit and starting quarterback in waiting Phil Jurkovec has transferred to Boston College.

If starting quarterback Ian Book struggles early, there’s not much depth behind him in redshirt freshman Brendon Clark and true freshman Drew Pyne.

Offense

The Irish averaged 431 yards and 37 points per game last year going 10-2 during the regular season. Heading into their 2019 matchup against Iowa State in the Camping World Stadium bowl, Tommy Rees, the 28-year old former Irish quarterback and former quarterback coach filled in for outgoing offensive coordinator Chip Long.

Notre Dame rewarded Rees by making him the youngest offensive coordinator in college football this year.

Ian Book has returned; forgoing the NFL draft and bringing back 6,000 career passing yards, 57 touchdowns and 17 interceptions during his time as the starter.

However, he has yet to show up in big games for the Irish.

Against #2 Clemson in the 2018 CFP semifinal, Book was 17-34 for 160 yards and one interception in a 30-3 loss; 29-47 for 275 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions against #3 Georgia in a 23-17 loss, and 8-25 for 73 yards and one touchdown against #19 Michigan in a 45-14 loss.

With games against #1 Clemson and #18 UNC this year, he will look to dispel the notion that he underperforms in the big games. 

ian book notre dame

At running back, redshirt freshman Kyren Williams appears to be the starting running back as coach Kelly said he has “emerged as somebody we feel right now has gained an advantage as the top back right now,” Kelly went on to say “he’s [Williams] going to require, obviously, some assistance at that position from a number of other guys.”

“We’re not just going to feature one back. But Kyren’s done a great job.”

Kelly also made note of junior C’Bo Fleminster whom he said improved his pass protection and “runs hard and low to the ground.” True freshman Chris Tyree who was awarded the legendary number 25 jersey previously worn by Rocket Ismail, and was described as “electric” and “tougher than advertised.”

The running back position might be a rotating door as Kelly mentioned that they’re using seven running backs right now (Jafar Armstrong, Cameron Ekanayake, Jahmir Smith, and converts Kendall Abdur Rahman and Osita Ekwonu).

Wide receiver coach DelVaughn Alexander will have his work cut out for him after the Irish lost Chase Claypool to the NFL draft, Chris Finke to graduation and projected WR1, junior Kevin Austin, to a fractured foot. Teams can expect to see senior Avery Davis and junior Lawrence Keys III in the slot and junior Braden Lenzy on the perimeter at the “X” receiver position.

joe moore award notre dame football

The second wide receiver position appears to be a combination of Ben Skowronek, Javon McKinley, and Joe Wilkins. Kelly emphasized that while inexperienced, the team’s wide receivers aren’t rookies. They know the offense.  They just need more game reps.

 

In the 2010s, Notre Dame has become “offensive line university.” In the mold of current NFL stars Zack Martin, Quenton Nelson, Ronnie Stanley, and Mike McGlinchey, offensive tackle Liam Eichenberg looks poised to be a franchise NFL tackle in the years to come.

notre dame pro day

Graduate student Tommy Kraemer, sophomore Jarrett Patterson and junior Robert Hainsey are also NFL prospects in their own right.

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