Story Poster
Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

6 Thoughts on a Thursday

June 18, 2020

Competition is everything to a college football program. It’s much more than what happens from August to December. It’s an essential piece of what drives players all year long to get better and then have that translate to Saturdays in the fall.

Internal competition is huge whether it’s the weight room or the field. If a player isn’t competing to be better than the guy in front of him, then that player isn’t going to last long at Notre Dame or anywhere.

June to September is as competitive as any time of year with freshmen arriving and adding to the mix after the spring. From 7on7 to sprints to lifting, they are getting after it and it leads all the way to camp.

This year is different, though, for obvious reasons. There will still be competition, but it won’t quite be the same without a true camp and the coaching staff will likely need more time for installs than they would have if Notre Dame hadn’t lost spring practice.

I think that’s going to lead to less movement on the depth chart heading into the season with veterans taking the lead. Many of them would have won spots in the two-deep if things were normal, but we’ll also never know about some young players who might have made a leap before the season.

What it could lead to is more players making a move for playing time during the course of the 2020 season than we would normally see. It’s not unprecedented for someone to play their way into the starting lineup like Te’von Coney and Troy Pride did in 2017 or Julian Okwara did in 2018, but it’s also not that common without an injury forcing the issue. This is a scenario where we might see more than a handful of players jump the line during the season because they didn’t get a chance to in the summer.

Young pass rushers like Ovie Oghoufo and Isaiah Foskey are only going to get better with more reps. Jacob Lacey and Jayson Ademilola may be with the twos to start September, but are talented enough to be more than that by the time we reach November. Mike Mickens just had a true freshman earn his way into a starting position in week eight of last season at Cincinnati. There are some inexperienced corners on the roster who could do the same at Notre Dame this season.

Notre Dame’s roster is loaded with young, but unproven talent at several positions. They have less time to impress the coaches this off-season than they would have had in a normal year. It could hurt them when it comes to making a big impact early.

They’ll have opportunities to make a move as the season progresses and it would not be surprising to see a handful of underclassmen earn their way into more prominent roles by the time the Irish reach the home stretch.

2. Back in January of 2019, I wrote this about Notre Dame being a high-end developmental program:

I’m not saying the Irish can’t recruit better and land more top-50/5-star prospects than they do now, but I would be surprised if we saw them get to a point where they were signing four 5-stars in a single class like some of the programs I mentioned (Texas, Florida, Georgia, Ohio State, Alabama, Clemson).
Without the same amount of instant impact recruits as the teams they are competing with, they have no choice other than to be a developmental program. They can’t add water and have an All-American pop up from that. They have to find players with talent who have more work to do to get there and typically that means it will take two, three, or sometimes four years before we see great results.

I think that’s proven itself to be the case for Notre Dame even over the last three successful seasons. They rely on developing players who break out later in their career. Look at the latest NFL Draft as an example.

Cole Kmet, Chase Claypool, Troy Pride, Julian Okwara, and Khalid Kareem didn’t emerge as impact players until their third year at Notre Dame. They’ve had way more of those guys than they’ve had Kyle Hamilton types.

Obviously it would be nice for them to have more players like him and maybe that will be the case with a couple of freshmen this fall, but seeing Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah as the only Notre Dame player on any of the Athlon All-American teams (he was second team) says a lot about Notre Dame as a program.

It’s not that they lack talent that could be elite, but a JOK, who broke out in his third year in 2019, is more of a blueprint for them. They are a high-end developmental program and that’s what made them average 11 wins the last three years.

In addition to those players who were drafted this year, there are several others who needed time to develop into impact players. Jerry Tillery, Miles Boykin, Drue Tranquill, and Te’von Coney were the same.

Of course it would be better for Notre Dame to have seven players listed as pre-season All-Americans like Alabama, but what Notre Dame has shown in recent years is that they can get players to make that jump to be considered with the best in the country at the end of the year. They need certain players to break out and they’ve had that happen for three years in a row.

That’s not a fluke. That’s who they are as a program and it’s why they are going to win a lot of games again in 2020.

3. 247Sports sent out an update with their rankings and some Notre Dame fans were unhappy with tight end commit Cane Berrong‍ dropping in the rankings pretty significantly.

He went from a 4-star with a 91 grade to an 3-star with an 88 grade.

Being upset with the timing of it given the reasoning behind the drop is justifiable. The criticisms they had of him weren’t surprising given what I saw from him in person a year ago at Irish Invasion and what I wrote about when he committed to Notre Dame. He isn’t overly impressive as an athlete and his size (listed height and frame) is a question mark. So whether or not he can be more than move tight end and a dynamic one is something that is yet to be determined.

In my opinion he needs to show some strong physical development as a senior to maintain where I have him ranked (4-star, grade of 92) or move up. I’m giving Berrong more of the benefit of the doubt with my projection and they are not, which is fine. It’s just more about the timing of them changing that now rather than with an earlier update that is strange and I get why people don’t like it.

I will say that I do go back and re-evaluate film and change my grades because I learn something new about a prospect that I didn’t know before. So even though they aren’t seeing kids at camps, I don’t doubt that they are gathering more information, which is something that I believe is always important because rankings and grades should be fluid until the end of the process. Them updating their rankings right now won’t be all that important in the end.

He has a chance to go out and answer some questions over the next six months and his grade can change again.

4. The piece I wrote last week on identifying 3-star talent has more to it that I’ll continue to add to next week, but I wanted to share more background on it after diving deeper.

Out of those 100 3-star recruits who chose Power 5 programs and became day one or day two NFL Draft picks, 82 of them were either multi-position players for their high school teams or played multiple sports in high school. A good chunk of them were elite at another position or in another sport as well.

I already valued athletes who didn’t specialize at one position, but the more I think about it, I probably haven’t valued it enough in some of my grades on ISD.

5. Mike and I had a good question this week from an ISD subscriber about the possibility of not having bowl games at the end of the season. To be honest, it’s not something I had thought much about because I was more focused on if they were going to be playing games at all.

I would say that things look promising for games this fall. I would not say the same thing about bowl games, though.

Is travel going to be realistic for most people in December and January? Is a full stadium going to be a possibility at that time? I would lean no for both those questions today. Maybe that changes a few months from now and it very well could, but I can’t see them having as many bowls as they normally would have.

The financial part of it is another factor as well.

Can schools afford the trip if the payouts are smaller? Will sponsors be able to stay on board? Will they want to hold some games if they can’t sell all of the tickets? Will some schools opt out?

I can see the big bowls still happening regardless of these situations because of television contracts. I feel less confident about the Cheez-It bowl, the bowl (I made that up) or others on that level.

6. I used to be a devoted watcher of College Gameday. Back when I lived on the west coast, I would wake up at 6am every Saturday just to get hyped watching the cheesy Big and Rich song knowing that there would be a full day of college football ahead of me.

I don’t feel about it like I used to and it’s not just because Desmond Howard is bad at his job. Now that I have to work on Saturdays, I’d rather spend the morning getting stuff done so I can spend the rest of the day watching games.

There is still something special about the show, though.

It’s the atmosphere that the fans bring. It’s the signs. It’s Lee Corso making his pick and everyone reacting to it.

That’s what makes College Gameday special and if fans aren’t allowed and they end up doing it in a studio, it’s going to make Saturdays worse this fall.

I might not watch every moment like I used to or get up early to see the intro, but I still like that it exists and that it’s a part of college football. If it’s not there this year in the regular format, a college football Saturday is going to feel a little incomplete.

It’s become a tradition and that’s what makes college football different from every other sport. Tradition still matters. It won’t be the same without it.

subscribe Verify your student status
See Subscription Benefits
Trial only available to users who have never subscribed or participated in a previous trial.