Look, while we all love screaming “Tommy NO!” at the television regardless of who the quarterback is, and you will never persuade me that it’s not Clifford Jefferson or Preston Jackson when I see a DB jawing at the opposition, it’s (occasionally) enjoyable to know who is actually on the field too!
No need for fancy introductions. Here’s your guide for the players you’ll most likely see on Labor Day playing against L’ville.
#12 Ian Book – He’s good. Use the words I’m saving you from reading to think of new puns. Book’s a senior. The pun in your head has already been used.
#15 Phil Jurkovec – I am nothing, if not an optimist. Therefore, I’m including Phil assuming the Irish will get up by enough to get him some 4th quarter snaps. As many have alluded to, there’s likely to be a time this year that Jurkovec is needed so getting him right is more important than we might wish to believe. Similar to previous ND QB’s, the culprit assigned for many of his issues is being described as “a matter of confidence.” With that in mind, is there a way for Phil to get some reps inside the Backer at 2 AM after a few Long Islands and Bud Lights because I’ve never seen a dude lack confidence under those conditions.
#8 Jafar Armstong and #6 Tony Jones – It seems appropriate to lump these two together since the consensus coming out of fall camp appears to be a 1a/1b situation (Coach speak for “damned if I know who’s better”). With the injuries to receiving targets (Young and Kmet) and the lack of game snaps for basically everyone aside from Claypool and Finke, there’s a good chance Chip Long will continue some of what he was doing during the summer with multiple back sets. In particular, Armstrong’s ability as a pass catcher provides the offense some extra wrinkles where he can shift between the backfield and a wideout spot as necessary.
#34 Jahmir Smith – Power option near the goal line appears to be the preferred role for Smith.
#23 Kyren Williams – Williams has some of the same flexibility that Armstrong provides. Training camp reports focused similarly on his ability as a pass catcher and ability to split out wide when needed. If he’s getting a lot of snaps, things are either going really good or the team’s already experienced another not so great injury moment.
#83 Chase Claypool – He was supposed to be slowly eased into practices after some ankle issues. Instead, he departs camp with people making Michael Floyd comparisons. I’m for it.
#10 Chris Finke – Did you know Finke is a former walk-on?
After the top two, things get far more cloudy. At some point, this’ll be #87 Michael Young‘s place, but a broken collarbone has delayed that. And while Kevin Austin was highly unlikely to play versus Louisville anyways, the now confirmed season long suspension for Possession of John U. Bacon book has ensured some new faces will get more chances to shine. Soooo……
#13 Lawrence Keys – At 5’10”, 173 lbs, Keys is still much larger than me, but from my own college recruitment, I can tell you that’s not necessarily anything to be wowed by. By contrast, Keys’ stock’s been on the rise since spring practice and with Young’s injury, Keys is the clear third choice receiver. His inclusion likely slides Finke out wide with Keys playing the slot role more often. However, it won’t surprise me to see these guys interchange with one another a good amount. If your primary attribute is shiftiness, embrace it, man.
#25 Braden Lenzy and #18 Joe Wilkins – I’m placing these guys together as they’re both sophomores with more promise than known results. Lenzy came in with more fanfare and can (hopefully) be used to stretch the field with his speed. The staff wants to get both of these guys on the field, and my guess is will have a package or two that they’re apart of.
#88 Javon McKinley – The 6’2″ senior never made the impact for the Irish some thought he might, but he’s continued to work and has received positive reviews this fall. He’s more a possession guy, but I wonder if they might try to use him around the goal line in some capacity. Given the diminutive statures of Finke, Keys, and Lenzy, perhaps he finds his reps as a poor man’s Daniel Smith. Either way, happy to see his name being mentioned in a positive light this Fall.
#89 Brock Wright – Despite playing in 24 games over his first two years, including all 13 last year at tight end, Wright’s grand total of 2 receptions for 12 yards leaves a lot of mystery for how he can fill in during #84 Cole Kmet’s absence. Wright was also a highly regarded recruit coming out of high school but appears to be on more the Nic Weishar path than Kmet. The hope is that Kmet’s back sooner rather than later which would permit Wright to return to the second TE option where he slots in more naturally for this roster.
#24 Tommy Tremble – His name is Tommy Tremble. OF COURSE I WANT TO SEE HIM PLAY AND SMASH THINGS AND DRINK FROM THE SKULLS OF HIS ENEMIES.
The starting 5 seems set:
- LT – #74 Liam Eichenberg
- LG – #69 Aaron Banks
- C – #55 Jarrett Patterson
- RG – #78 Tommy Kraemer
- RT – #72 Robert Hainsey
A lot is expected of this group primarily based on normal progression and continuity. Four of the five are returning starters with Patterson moving in the center job left vacant by Sam Mustipher’s graduation. Banks had foot surgery over the summer. Everyone, understandably, was/is concerned about how a surgically repaired foot will hold up under the weight of a 325 pound man. However, the reports are that he is not limited in any way. Despite that optimism, Banks’ position along with the other interior positions will be backed up by #57 Trevor Ruhland. The graduate student Ruhland is his own medical mystery. Some thought he might have to take a medical retirement but here he is as the primary back-up for the interior positions.
The tackles feature captain Robert Hainsey and senior Liam Eichenberg. How Hainsey and Eichenberg can perform in the team’s biggest road battles at Athens and Ann Arbor is one of the most underwritten about super big storylines of this season. There were practices out of fall camp where both had apparent struggles versus the defense’s pass rush. While no one will fault them for struggling with the likes of Okwara and Kareem, the truth remains that ND’s perceived physicality has waned in the team’s big road matches. They need these guys to take that step forward from day one this year.
The other two linemen to know right now are #75 Josh Lugg and #60 Cole Mabry. Prior to Ruhland’s status working itself out, Lugg was thought to be the primary back up at perhaps all five positions. He spent a lot of the fall camp along with Mabry (when not resting) with the second team line. Ideally, the line depth is not tested more than these 8 guys. If it is, there are other posts to be written.
Alright, make your flash cards. I’ll be back with the defense and special teams later this week.
Survivor of the Davie, O'Leary, Willingham football eras. Southern. Charming and more often than not the wittiest person at his dinner table (he eats alone quite a bit).
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