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Notre Dame Football

Bowl Work Can Be Irish Springboard

December 27, 2019

Asmar Bilal knows well that the formula for success at Notre Dame, or most any premier college football program, requires as much patience as it does desire for success.

Bilal recently garnered the prestigious Father Lange Iron Cross Award as the Fighting Irish’s top offseason and in-season performer, a moment signaling a circuitous journey for a former scout team player of the year whose best season has been his final one.

It’s a snapshot of what Notre Dame’s younger players can study as they wrap up this 2019 season Saturday against Iowa State in the Camping World Bowl and begin to turn toward a potentially special 2020 campaign.

“The key? I don’t know, I would just say probably the team mantra and just trusting in the process,” Bilal told IrishSportsDaily. “Just following all the traits of excellence that we set up for ourselves. So that would probably be it for me.”

Bilal, like several other Irish elder statesmen, also is delivering a two-pronged message to the players polishing off their underclassmen seasons and getting a de facto bonus spring camp throughout the bowl process.

“I just tell them to have fun, take it in, it’s good to get rewarded with a bowl game for how we did this season,” said Bilal, third on the Notre Dame defense this season with nine tackles-for-loss and second with 72 tackles. “So I just say take it in, have fun and stick to the plan.”

Jarrett Patterson, another Irish award winner as the team’s offensive newcomer of the year, recalls the value of College Football Playoff practices a year ago and the role of that time as foundational for his leap forward this season.

It’s the message he’s sharing with players now in the same position Patterson was in just last December.

“Absolutely. They give the young guys chances in scrimmages to battle it, and I tried to take as much advantage of it as I could last year,” said Patterson, the Irish’s center. “So when these guys scrimmage again, they get after it.

“There’s pads popping, guys getting after it and tackling. It will be a fun time to see them battle.”

Though he won’t be around, Bilal believes in a direct approach for the Irish during this bowl preparation.

“Yeah, everything that we do should be building for next year and the goal to win a national championship,” he said. “Everything we do is in that direction.”

That mindset isn’t really a variance on how Bilal has worked to approach every game in his Notre Dame career, all 50 appearances that have resulted in 169 career tackles.

“I never looked at it that way; I treated every game the same,” Bilal said of the bowl being about an opportunity to gain added looks from the coaches. “Going into the game, it’s about winning. That’s our business, winning.

“I think they should treat it and approach it just like any other game this season.”

But even coach Brian Kelly hasn’t resisted the urge to look ahead to 2020 for his Irish program.

“We’re going to have a really good football team coming back,” Kelly said. “A really good one.”

A team that will rely even more on underclassmen in key spots next season; a team positioned to be much better because of the extra work it’s receiving this month.

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