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Notre Dame Football

The Top Quarterbacks Notre Dame Will Face this Season

April 3, 2020

Notre Dame’s pass defense was elite last season, even without an All-American at cornerback. They were disciplined on the back end, though, giving up the least amount of passing plays of 20 yards or more (25) and they finished in the top-five in both opponent passer rating and yards per attempt.

So much of that had to do with the pass rush. Even after losing two of their top pass rushers at different points in the season, it never relented. They finished 13th in Sack Rate and harrassed opposing quarterbacks all season.

They’re going to need the pass rush to be close to the same level or better in 2020 if they hope to continue to play elite pass defense. That’s because they are set to face some great quarterbacks who are right up there with the best in college football.

The drop off between the top guys and the next group of quarterbacks is steep, but it’s not a coincidence that the best teams they will play have great players at the most important position in football.

Trevor Lawrence (Clemson)

The projected number one pick in the 2021 NFL Draft is outstanding in just about every category. He got off to a slower start in 2019 (for him), but took off during the season grading behind only LSU’s Joe Burrow according to PFF after week four.

He finished in the top-five in pass efficiency in October and November and finished top-five overall in QBR. He’s lost one game as a starter during his career and it happened on the biggest stage, but let’s not forget what he did against Ohio State before that or what he did against Notre Dame and Alabama as a freshman.

The last number one overall pick Notre Dame played against was Jameis Winston in 2014 and Lawrence is a superior player when compared to Winston.

Kedon Slovis (USC)

Slovis was a revelation for USC as a true freshman. He finished seventh in the country in pass efficiency and 11th in QBR. What he showed for someone his age is not normal.

Even when he struggled, he found ways to bounce back. It took him a long time to have success against Notre Dame, but he finished 11 of his last 13 (11.2 yards per attempt) on his way to almost pulling off a comeback.

JT Daniels will compete with him for the starting job, but I just don’t see Slovis not winning it with how poised and accurate he was in 2019.

Micale Cunningham (Louisville)

The Irish were fortunate that Cunningham was injured during camp and they got Jawon Pass to start the season. If it was Cunningham, that game could have looked a lot different with how sloppy things were on defense.

He’s an explosive runner (averaging 6.3 yards per carry) and took a huge leap as a passer as a sophomore. He was a run-first player in 2018, but transitioned to more of a dual-threat in 2019. His 11.5 YPA would have led the nation ahead of Jalen Hurts and Joe Burrow if he threw enough passes.

He needs to be better in the pocket, but his overall game is what makes him so tough to defend. If he makes the same kind of leap he did the previous year, then he could be a top-10 quarterback in the country.

Jack Coan (Wisconsin)

There is no flash with Coan and he is far from a dual-threat like Cunningham, but he proved to be an exceptional game manager for Wisconsin finishing 9th in QBR and 19th in pass efficiency.

If Wisconsin gets into a situation where he has to carry them, I don’t think he can be that guy. But he’s accurate and makes very few mistakes. He’s exactly the type of guy who thrives in the offense that they run.

Davis Mills (Stanford)

There was more than one reason why KJ Costello transferred, but near the top of the list was Davis Mills. He played well for Stanford last season, especially in four of his final five starts.

Of course, the fifth start was against Notre Dame and it was the worst one of the five. When things tightened up and the pass rush got to him, it went downhill with him managing only 2.6 YPA after a very hot start.

But that was only his sixth career start and his line was made up of mostly freshmen. They should be better and Mills should be as well. He would have finished as a top-25 passer if he played enough games in 2019 and is expected to be around that range this season.

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