Story Poster
Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame Banking on Rise of Returning Players

August 17, 2020

Notre Dame's youth at the skill positions is exciting and intriguing, but for the Fighting Irish to get to the College Football Playoff, the veterans will be counted on to step up. 

The battle for the starting Buck centers around three upperclassmen, but all three lack game experience. 

Senior Jordan Genmark Heath is battling two juniors in Shayne Simon and Jack Lamb for the starting nod. Each brings a different skill set to the table and it's probably worth noting it creates some exciting sub-packages. 

"There's competition," Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly stated on Monday. "I'd say it's one where JGH is doing a nice job. "Shayne Simon is a very gifted player. Jack Lamb, obviously, we like him as well. 

"All three of those guys are getting some work. Jack Kiser. Just feel like a lot of really good players running around. Osita (Ekwonu) with his athletic ability. Just have a lot of really good, young athletic players in there. Clark (Lea) has got his hands full."

At Mike, there is little doubt Drew White will be the starter in 2020, but he is also getting pushed by junior Bo Bauer. 

"We just had a meeting here about 45 minutes ago about the depth of the position," explained Kelly. Drew is doing a really good job, like the camp Bo Bauer is having for us as well. 

"Again, where are we? Very competitive situation but one where we feel we have some good options and good depth at the position moving forward that it's going to be hotly contested going up to the first game we play."

On offense, Notre Dame lost a little depth at receiver with the injury to Kevin Austin Jr. and it opens the door for junior Lawrence Keys III. 

The Louisiana native flashed at times making big plays in 2019, but he also battled a nagging foot injury for most of the year. 

"Lawrence is a kid that we love, he certainly has a skill-set that we're going to take advantage of," Kelly said. "I think he's going to get a chance to also be involved in the punt return game. As you know, he was much more of a backup to Chris (Finke) last year. He's going to be given a chance to take that position over. We really like Lawrence."

Keys brings speed and the ability to get loose in the screen game and it sounds like the Irish will make an effort to get him the ball.

"You just never know who that guy is that's going to step up," said Kelly. "He's got that physicality and ability to do it. He just hasn't really had the chance to do it. 

"There's nothing we don't like about Lawrence. It's just getting the chance and when his number is called, going out and making some plays."

Sophomore running back Kyren Williams was featured on Saturday, ripping off a long run and Notre Dame fans were delighted. 

The St. Louis native dedicated himself in the offseason to change his body and Kelly has noticed. 

"We've always liked Kyren," stated Kelly. "Kyren is just maturing and physically getting to the point where I think he's transformed his entire body. He came in last year as a freshman, and there's a big transition, especially at the running back position where you're required to do so much more than in high school. He was the best player on his team, the best player maybe every night that he played. And then he gets to Notre Dame and there's a lot of really good players. 

"I just think the hard work and commitment has put himself in a position now where he's what we thought he would be. 

Williams brings a skill set offensive coordinator Tommy Rees can use in several ways. The 5-foot-9, 204-pounder can get the tough yards while being explosive, but Williams can also be a weapon in the passing game. 

"He can catch the football," said Kelly. "He's got really good vision, escapability. He's not afraid to block or run the ball between the tackles. He's going to be a really key piece for us moving into the season."

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