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Notre Dame Football

6 Thoughts on a Thursday

August 27, 2020

I know I have written about the potential for college football “free agency” in 6 Thoughts before and the potential for that if players (not quarterbacks, apparently) did not have to sit out a season due to transfer rules. I don’t know the likelihood of that rule going away just yet, but with the NCAA allowing for players to not lose a year of eligibility this season, free agency is going to be alive in 2021.

It’s going to happen because of the amount of graduate transfers about to flood the market. Notre Dame is going to be involved with that in some way whether it’s players transferring in or players transferring out.

There are going to be many players who elect to go to the NFL. For some, that won’t be an option or they may feel they have a better shot at being drafted with one more year of college football. For individuals like Liam Eichenberg, Tommy Kraemer, and Ian Book, it’s far-fetched to believe they will be back for a sixth year at Notre Dame. For individuals like Jordan Genmark Heath or Brock Wright, a fifth year seems like an inevitability if they want to continue their football career after college.

Those two in particular stand out as guys who could possibly return to Notre Dame for an extra year if things work out for them. They also stand out because both would have been four game redshirts and had a fifth year option if that rule was in place when they were freshmen.

If they aren’t starting, which is a strong possibility for those two in 2020, they will have the option to transfer out to get one last shot at college football.

This kind of scenario is going to happen with a lot of teams. Players might want to stay, but may not be welcome back. Players may want to leave and now will have that opportunity elsewhere. If Notre Dame really wants a player to stick around for an extra year, they’ll now have that option or they can look around at the exponential amount of graduate transfers that this rule will create to potentially plug holes on the roster.

What’s the downside of this for both player and program? Some would say the mess it would create with scholarship math, but Mack Brown said yesterday that it’s his understanding that teams will not be limited with roster spots.

Think of it like a year without a salary cap. I’m sure SEC programs are already thinking of it this way.

Regardless of what happens this season, whether they are playing ball this fall or not, this is set up to be the most interesting offseason college football has ever seen. This NCAA rule essentially wiping out this season from the books when it comes to eligibility makes that a certainty.

2. If I had to pick two non-seniors on the roster who could really benefit from this rule, it would be Josh Lugg and Paul Moala.

Lugg is the sixth man up front for the Irish and may not start a game if everyone stays healthy this year. He would have only one year left to be a full-time starter without this rule. With it in place, he has a chance to start for two years and have a better shot at moving on to the league.

Moala isn’t beating out Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah for the Rover job. It’s going to be nearly impossible to take JOK off the field even if Moala continues to flash like he did briefly in 2019. But because Moala didn’t redshirt, he’d only have one year to be a starter once JOK leaves for the NFL.

With this rule he’ll have an opportunity for multiple years and it will also give Notre Dame a chance to build up their depth at Rover.

3. Lamar Jackson. Patrick Mahomes. Josh Allen. Russell Wilson. Baker Mayfield. Aaron Rodgers. Kyler Murray. Sam Darnold. Carson Wentz. Dak Prescott. Deshaun Watson.

The one thing that all of those quarterbacks have in common is that they can make gamebreaking plays outside of the framework of a play call. Darnold and Mayfield haven’t done it so much in the NFL yet, but they certainly did in college. The others have all shown they are capable of doing it in the NFL.

It takes more than just that to be a great quarterback, but outside of these quarterbacks, is there a great quarterback in the NFL under the age of 35 who can’t make these types of plays? It’s a rhetorical question because there isn’t one.

Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, and Joe Burrow can make those kinds of plays too. There’s a theme here.

Of course quarterbacks need to make plays from the pocket as well, but if you don’t have the ability to escape the rush and improvise on a play, chances are you aren’t going to be very successful in 2020.

This is a long way of saying that I loved reading in the intel that Mike dropped yesterday that the coaching staff likes that Brendon Clark is loose with his playing style and they like it.

They want him to just go make plays. They can fine-tune things if/when he becomes the guy, but it's important for him to show he can make plays and they're pleased in that regard

One of Clark’s biggest strengths in high school, and why he led his team to a state championship, was his ability to escape the rush and make big plays down the field after it. That’s part of the modern day quarterback and it’s why Clark has the potential to be a very good player for Notre Dame.

Tyler Buchner’s greatest strength is making athletic plays outside of the pocket. Both of the 2022 quarterback prospects Notre Dame recently offered, Steve Angeli‍ and Gavin Wimsatt‍, are both good at this as well.

Notre Dame hasn’t proven they have hit on the next Watson, Wilson, Darnold, etc. But they are at least targeting the right guys and not thinking they’ll find the next Peyton Manning or Tom Brady when the game has moved away from those types of quarterbacks.

4. It’s nice to see Chase Claypool receiving praise from teammates during the Pittsburgh Steelers’ training camp. Veterans Eric Ebron and Joe Haden have both gone on Twitter to announce that Claypool is going to be a problem for opposing teams to cover.

Claypool was clearly great as a senior and showed flashes of brilliance the previous two seasons, but he might be one of those players who ends up as a far better pro than college player.

Whether it was just him maturing personally or him needing time to develop after coming in from Canada, he could end up being the player many thought Michael Floyd was going to be in the NFL.

5. Maybe it’s just me, but part of the reason I would be so upset if Notre Dame doesn’t play a full-season in 2020 is that it would mean we see less of Kyle Hamilton in a Notre Dame uniform.

It’s no secret that if he continues on the path he is on, he’s gone after 2021 and should be a very high pick in the NFL Draft. That should leave anyone who follows or covers Notre Dame feel a bit cheated if they didn’t get to watch him play as many games as possible.

Notre Dame and every other program in America are always looking to add a Hamilton type of athlete to their secondary. There just aren’t many like him and the Irish aren’t often in contention to land the players who fit the profile.

They aren’t going to land anyone like him in the 2021 class, but they can hopefully land a similar chess piece type of defender in the 2022 cycle. If I had to single out one prospect, it would be Sherrod Covil Jr.‍, who will be in the ISD Fab 50.

He can play deep, cover man to man, and has great instincts. He also has fantastic ball skills and is a devastating wrap tackler.

6. With no access to fall camp and less information leaking out about the team than any typical year, we’re going to know way less about the 2020 Fighting Irish than any team in recent memory when they kick off against Duke. We have no idea how much we’ll know before they start playing.

How much of an impact can we realistically expect the graduate transfers to make in the secondary? Will those freshmen who created a buzz early avoid hitting the wall in camp? We won’t have any real idea about position battles or any of that.

We’ll learn so much in that first game which we would have known about weeks earlier in most years.

I’m not complaining about that because not getting access to practices is a minor thing in the long run. I’m just stating that we are really going to be in the dark about Notre Dame until they start playing games.

I certainly don’t hope this is the norm going forward, may actually add some intrigue to a season that has been harder to get excited about until we know it’s going to happen. Maybe some mystery can be a good thing?

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