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Notre Dame Football

The Missing Piece on Notre Dame's Offense

May 17, 2022

The “defense wins championships” crowd got a big W when Georgia rode their elite group to a title last season. With eight (!) NFL Draft picks on that defense and more like Jalen Carter and Nolan Smith sure to follow, Kirby Smart finally got over the hump and beat his mentor.

Would Georgia have beaten Alabama if the Tide had a healthy Jameson Williams and John Metchie? It’s one of those unanswerable questions, but it would have been hard to pick against the Tide if their offense had all of their weapons.

Williams and Metchie both finished in the top-10 in the country in one key statistic last season: yards after the catch. That production is what made them one of the top offenses in the country despite losing a dynamic playmaker like DeVonta Smith. Alabama’s 2020 national championship team had Smith, first in YAC, and before he was injured, Jaylen Waddle, top-10 in YAC per reception.

The team that won the College Football Playoff the year before that was LSU. Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase, now dominating the NFL, both finished in the top-10 in the country in YAC. The year before that Clemson’s offense ignited in the later part of the season thanks to true freshman Justyn Ross. He finished that season top-10 in YAC per reception. Even Georgia had more than just their stifling defense. They also had a monster YAC producer in tight end Brock Bowers. He led all tight ends in YAC and finished 12th in the country for all receivers.

It’s been offenses that have won championships recently. CFP champions since 2014 have averaged 38.3 points per game in playoff matchups and they’ve always relied on explosive plays to help them put up that many points on the board. That can mean the deep ball, something Notre Dame fans have yearned to see more of, but the teams with receivers who can create big plays after the catch are the ones who have risen to the top.

The question then becomes whether or not Notre Dame has that player who can be a YAC monster and help elevate the Irish offense to a potential championship level. The answer is…maybe?

They have two prime candidates.

The first is Lorenzo Styles Jr., who would have finished in the top-20 YAC per reception last season if he qualified with enough targets. He has the kind of speed to turn screens and short passes into big gains.

He’s more than just a speed guy, though. The year two at Notre Dame version of Styles should be more of a tackle breaker. He showed that ability on this reverse he took to the house against Virginia (the points were taken off the board because of a hold down the field)

It’s easy to forget that a healthy Avery Davis could provide a big spark with YAC as well. He was top-20 in YAC per reception during the 2020 season and needs to be given more chances in the open field so he can do things like this.

Circling these two players as key pieces for Notre Dame’s offense is an obvious call. Michael Mayer will continue to be a beast on contested catches and he’ll feast over the middle as an intermediate target. The running game should be potent with what they have in the backfield and likely starter Tyler Buchner adding a consistent threat. What’s needed is the big play element after the catch, which both Styles and Davis have the potential to provide.

Having a YAC monster is a piece that has been missing from the Notre Dame offense. If they want to be a national championship contender, that piece needs to be added this season.

Men’s Notre Dame Slides

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