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Notre Dame Football

Around the ACC | August 25

August 25, 2020

PFF released their preseason All-ACC team and it was strange to see that Notre Dame will be facing the three top quarterbacks in the conference this season.

It wasn’t entirely unexpected given the choices they made for the first, second, and third team offense (Trevor Lawrence, Sam Howell, and Micale Cunningham). It was mostly strange to see because Ian Book only made “honorable mention” behind that group.

Book certainly can be picked apart when examined as an elite college quarterback. However, most people would consider him to be a top-15 quarterback in the country heading into this season. Being the fourth best in the ACC seems a little off because of that.

No one would be taking him ahead of Lawrence and after the freshman season Howell just had for North Carolina, it’s completely understandable that he’d be ahead of Book. But Cunningham, for all of the impressive statistical accomplishments he had in 2019, is more of a bold choice from PFF.

The Notre Dame staff and Book himself can add it to his board of slights and use it as motivation for this season. He’s always seemed to play with a chip on his shoulder and embraced that. Even after being one of only five quarterbacks who threw for 3,000 yards, 30 touchdowns, and ran for 500 yards last year, he’s still viewed by some as a notch below the best at his position.

He’ll get another opportunity to prove people wrong in 2020 and could end up as the second leading passer in Notre Dame history in the process.

- Notre Dame had five players make the first team for PFF: Liam Eichenberg at left tackle, Aaron Banks at guard, Jarrett Patterson at center, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah at linebacker, and Kyle Hamilton at safety.

That’s more than any other program, including Clemson.

Jon Doerer and Tommy Kraemer made the second team. Drew White, Robert Hainsey, and Ade Ogundeji made the third team

- North Carolina resumed practice Monday after taking a break due to a Covid-19 outbreak on campus. I’m sure the staff there wants to play badly because the team they have should be the best one they’ve had since 2015.

This is a talented offense who really thrived under coordinator Phil Longo last season (jumped from 52nd in yards per play to 19th) and pretty much all of their skill talent is back. It’s led by Howell, who seems poised to be one of the best quarterbacks in college football now that he has a greater grasp of the offense.

Howell camped at Notre Dame for Irish Invasion, but the staff never offered. That was the class they offered Cade McNamara with him committing and then flipping to Michigan. They ultimately ended up with Brendon Clark in the class.

It’s probably not fair to compare Clark and Howell since one player has played a lot and the other has not, but I do wonder if Notre Dame will regret not offering Howell in that cycle. I don’t know if it was the Alabama connection, but Chip Long offered Paul Tyson and Howell was a far superior prospect.

I know Matt Freeman and I were big fans of Howell and liked what we saw from him at Invasion. When McNamara de-committed, I wanted them to target Howell.

- Florida State is one of the only programs I have seen that has given as much access to coaches and players as they would in a normal year. That means that there is at least a little bit of info that is leaking out about their team right now as opposed to not very much with most others in the ACC.

It’s unsurprising, but noteworthy, that FSU was having issues on offense with penalties killing drives during their latest scrimmage. They were dead last in the country in penalties per game in 2019.

They play Miami and Notre Dame in their first four games so they’ll need to get things cleaned up pretty quickly to have a good chance of winning those matchups.

- Boston College’s defense is considered to be the weak point of their team in 2020, but they’re trying to get a boost from a couple of graduate transfers.

Safety Deon Jones is a former 4-star prospect who played at Maryland. He has two years to play, but has only six career starts. Defensive tackle Chibueze Onwuka was a walk-on at Buffalo, but emerged into a productive starter there (8 tackles for loss).

I don’t see either of these late addition transfers as catalysts that turn BC’s defense into a good one, but they will make them better.

- Notre Dame is scheduled to play Georgia Tech late in the season and it will be interesting to see how big of a factor safety Derrik Allen will be. He’s in the rotation at safety, but GT returns all four starters in the secondary from last year.

Geoff Collins is a heck of a coach on the defensive side of the ball and the pass defense in his second year at Temple was second in the country in yards per attempt. They jumped 46 spots from the year before. GT was 74th in YPA in year one under Collins.

With everybody back and adding some other depth like Allen, we’ll see if they can make a significant jump in year two.

- Syracuse quarterback Tommy Devito was sacked more than anyone in the Power 5 last season. It’s not great news for them that they appear to still be working through a lot of issues on the offensive line.

They were 126th in Sack Rate last season and they better be a lot better if they are going to have a shot against the best defensive lines in the conference.

- Clemson is Clemson. They are always going to be loaded with talent. It is interesting to note that they aren’t as loaded with NFL Draft talent this season, though. They only have three in Dane Brugler’s top-50 prospects this season (Lawrence, Travis Etienne, and Derion Kendrick).

Notre Dame has one (Owusu-Koramoah).

Maybe that would be different if Xavier Thomas had a chance to play this season (out due to complications from Covid-19) and it would definitely be different if Justyn Ross was healthy (out with a serious neck injury).

They have a bunch of young talent, especially on the defensive line, who are going to eventually be high picks in the NFL Draft. They aren’t as seasoned throughout the roster as they have been in other years.

Will that matter with a generational quarterback and an abundance of raw talent in the sophomore and freshman classes? It might not, but it’s something to watch for with them potentially slipping up this fall.

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