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Notre Dame Football

Scouting Report | Georgia Tech

October 29, 2020
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It’s going to be difficult this week for Notre Dame to not look ahead to the game against Clemson, but they have to find a way to focus when they face Georgia Tech this week.

Ranked 64th in SP+, this is a Jekyll and Hyde team that has beaten Florida State and Louisville, but has been destroyed in their other four games this season. Geoff Collins had a tough rebuilding job on his hands and it appeared he may have been ahead of schedule with a veteran defense and young talent on offense giving GT fans optimism heading into the season. 18 turnovers and one of the most penalized teams in the country isn’t going to help a rebuild, though.

This is an undisciplined football team that doesn’t have the talent to make up for that.

Injuries and Opt Outs

Running back Jordan Mason had missed four games with an injury, but he is back and they need him. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry last season.

With teams pretty tight lipped about injuries these days, it doesn’t appear that any other significant players are projected to be out of the lineup.

Offense

This is an offense that has had some exciting flashes this season under coordinator Dave Patenaude, but has yet to find anything close to consistency. A lot of that has to do with playing a freshman quarterback.

They are averaging 5.69 yards per play and are 60th in SP+.

Expected strengths

A 4-star recruit, Jeff Sims is a dual-threat quarterback who is averaging 5.5 YPC as a runner (minus sack yardage). He’s big and isn’t the easiest guy to bring down. He has an arm that can make every throw that’s needed and it’s clear that he has the potential to be a big time player in the ACC.

Freshman Jahmyr Gibbs has been the primary running back with Mason out. Gibbs can make defenders miss (29 forced missed tackles) and is a weapon as a receiver. He split carries with Mason last game and I would expect it will be a split between both of them this week as well.

They have produced explosive plays and have six receivers with receptions of 30 yards or more. Jalen Camp (6’2” 220) and Malachi Carter (6’3” 200) are big targets who can be a problem with their size and Ahmarean Brown is a smaller, faster option.

Sims is really good with the deep ball when throwing to his right. That will be something to watch in this game.

Potential Weaknesses

Sims is playing like a freshman. His completion percentage is the worst of the starting quarterbacks in the ACC and he’s thrown 10 interceptions and fumbled seven times. That last number leads the nation.

He only completes 44.2% on 3rd downs and they are near the bottom in the country converting on the money down. A big reason for that is the amount of time he is pressured. Though they are 15th in sack rate, Sims has been pressured on 43.5% of drop backs.

This line is still adjusting from being a triple option offense under Paul Johnson and there has been serious growing pains. Tackle Jordan Williams is a true freshman starter and he commited six penalties this year. Tackle Zach Quinney has struggled at left tackle giving up 14 pressures. Center Mikey Minehan has been overwhelmed at times giving up double digit pressures and committing four penalties.

The offense has big numbers running the football in the first few games, but that has taken a huge dip the last two weeks. They’ve averaged only 2.97 YPC vs Clemson and Boston College.

They’re converting only 61.9% of their red zone possessions into touchdowns. They need the big play to put up a lot of points.

Scheme

Patenaude is someone who will adjust to his personnel and their primary personnel group is 11 (one back, one tight end). They try to spread teams out and run a lot of inside and outside zone with a read.

They are 57.6% run overall and I would have thought they would be more of a deep passing team, but they don’t take as many shots as I would expect given their personnel. I know Patenaude likes to create plays where his receivers and running backs to win after the catch. It’s a pretty standard offense in terms of the passing game and not something Notre Dame hasn’t seen a lot over the last few years with a lot of mesh (crossers).

Key Players

RB Jahmyr Gibbs - 15 catches and three touchdowns as a receiver. He’s also a dangerous kick returner.

QB Jeff Sims - 8.0 YPA is a number that is atypical for a freshman. It’s the decision-making that hurts him.

WR Ahmarean Brown - Had his best game of the season against Boston College with four catches for 75 yards.

WR Jalen Camp - Had a 59-yard yard touchdown against Clemson. He’s more than a big body.

Key Matchup for Notre Dame

Notre Dame’s linebackers vs Gibbs and Mason-

Gibbs averages 13.7 yards per reception. He’s a matchup problem with four catches over 20 yards. Mason can do damage as a receiver as well and they like to work angle routes with them both. The ND linebackers will always have to be alert with them in the passing game.

Defense

Collins has coached plenty of good defenses, but this group has the worst level of talent compared to the competition for him as a coach. At Temple, they had guys who could compete with the best in the AAC. He doesn’t have that yet with this Tech team.

They are 60th in SP+ and are giving up 6.1 YPP. They’ll need to start much better than they have this season. Tech is one of the worst in the country in the first quarter and have allowed 12 points per game. Notre Dame is giving up 9.8 over four quarters.

Expected strengths

This is an attacking group. They have eight forced fumbles (second) and have forced 11 turnovers. It’s the one thing they do really well and it’s not a surprise. Collins’ defenses at Temple, Florida, and Mississippi State were good at forcing turnovers too.

They have two edge rushers that can disrupt games. Antonneous Clayton is a Florida transfer and a former 5-star recruit. He was a bust for the Gators, but has looked good for the Yellow Jackets, especially in the Louisville game.

The other edge is Jordan Domineck. He hasn’t finished enough at the quarterback, but has been one of the best in the nation at generating pressure and he’s solid against the run.

Potential Weaknesses

The run defense has been bad. 4.62 YPC and had just a brutal game against Boston College. They hadn’t had one game over 100 yards rushing before they played GT. They rushed for 264 and 6.0 YPC.

They are 99th out of 101 teams in runs of 20 yards or more so this is likely a game where things will look closer to how they did before Pitt for Notre Dame.

They haven’t exactly lit it up in coverage either. They are giving up 7.9 YPA and have allowed a ton of big plays in the passing game too.

The situational defense has been bad. They are allowing touchdowns 75% of the time in the red zone and opponents are averaging over four red zone trips per game. 3rd down has been a struggle with coverage busts as well.

This was supposed to be a veteran group ready to take the next step, but the eye discipline has been very poor and the tackling has not been very good.

They only have a 13.8% Havoc Rate, which would put them near the bottom of the country.

The linebackers are a liability in coverage. Notre Dame should be able to exploit them with play-action.

Scheme

They run a 4-2-5 scheme, which is the same that Collins and coordinator Andrew Thacker ran at Temple. They are known for running quite a bit of man coverage and that was a reason why Phil Jurkovec was able to scramble for big yards against them. Ian Book could have another productive day running the ball.

The scheme is aggressive and sometimes too much as they have been burned on counters and misdirection. They are missing the “dudes” necessary to be the kind of defense Collins wants to be at all three levels and have to play more zone than he has at previous stops.

Key Players

Edge Antonneous Clayton - 17.8% pressure rate and two sacks against Louisville.

Edge Jordan Domineck - 17.1% pressure rate and emerging as one of the better young pass rushers in the ACC. Leads the team in Havoc plays and has two forced fumbles.

CB Zamari Walton - Big (6’3’) and has been very good for the most part, but has given up some plays. Has two interceptions and three pass breakups.

Key Matchup for Notre Dame

Kyren Williams vs LB David Curry -

Curry is a veteran, but he has not played well this season. He’s been bad when isolated in coverage and has missed far too many tackles. Both of those things aren’t good going up against Williams who breaks tackles like my son breaks toys.

Special Teams

Gibbs is a threat as a kick returner. He has taken one back to the house, but it was called back on a penalty. Pressley Harvin III is a good punter and is averaging 48.5 yards per punt.

Those are the bright spots. It looks pretty bad after that.

They are 1 for 5 on field goals and have missed three extra points. They can’t rely on anyone to make a kick when they need it and they have had six kicks blocked. Notre Dame has to be prepared for them to go for it on 4th down often withe how bad the kicking game is. 

 
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