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Notre Dame Football

Three Small Questions Marks Heading Into the Fall

July 3, 2020

The biggest concern entering the 2020 college football season is IF there will be a college football season this fall as hopes change almost daily due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Now, that the gloom and doom is out of the way, Notre Dame returns a veteran squad on both sides of the ball, but I have found three minor question marks that people aren't talking about just yet. 

The Fighting Irish used Chris Finke to return punts over the last couple of seasons and while he wasn't a game-breaker, the Ohio native was very reliable. Finke was consistent in fielding the ball and getting a few extra yards. 

Special Teams coordinator Brian Polian will now have to find a replacement. It might not be a bad thing because whoever will be fielding punts will be a better athlete than Finke, so there could be potential for big plays. 

The candidates would likely be a combination of Lawrence Keys III, Braden Lenzy, Joe Wilkins Jr. and possibly Kendall Abdur-Rahman. With the exception of Abdur-Rahman, the other three have at least worked on catching punts in practice previously. Chris Tyree's name also has to be mentioned here. 

One somewhat interesting name is Avery Davis. The Texas native has flashed his speed on a few occasions and also made guys miss. You don't have to have great speed to be a good punt returner, but you do have to make the first guy miss. Davis can do that. 

Another name is sophomore running back Kyren Williams. The St. Louis native did a little bit of everything in high school, so he's familiar with the role and could earn him more playing time at running back if he can show he can make plays. 

If you look at the defensive side of the ball, TaRiq Bracy, KJ Wallace and Isaiah Rutherford would come to mind, but I'd stick to the offensive side of the ball.

Notre Dame has a returning kicker and punter, but the four-year starter John Shannon has left the program to pursue a career outside of football. That means true freshman Alex Peitsch will step into the role. 

Long snapping is long snapping, but it's a high-pressure job and there won't be as much time dedicated to it as Notre Dame won't get three weeks of just football as classes starting two weeks earlier prevent a full fall camp. 

Peitsch was the nation's top long snapper and got rave reviews from those in the industry, including former Notre Dame kicker Justin Yoon. However, one lousy snap can change a game and Notre Dame hasn't had too many of those over Brian Kelly's tenure. 

Finally, outside of the world of special teams, it will be interesting to see how Notre Dame catches its freshman receivers up to speed along with Tyree. Xavier Watts got a bit of a headstart as he arrived in January, but only got one practice. 

Jordan Johnson and Tyree have the talent to play early, but it will be on Brian Kelly and Tommy Rees to develop a plan to get them to a point mentally where they can play. 

All three players are good enough to play early and want to play early. They didn't come to Notre Dame to take a redshirt and it will be interesting to see how quickly they are able to catch up. 

It will likely be a little easier for Tyree at running back, but Notre Dame needs at least two of them to be a factor. 

Yes, Notre Dame also brought in receiver Jay Brunelle, but it would be smart to let him focus on rehab and develop physically after shoulder surgery knocked him out for most of the offseason. 

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