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Notre Dame Football

6 Thoughts on a Thursday

November 17, 2022

The first year I started covering recruiting as more than a hobby was 2014 (the 2015 class). I had my own site back then and wrote for various sites evaluating recruits. That recruiting cycle also happened to be a very strong one at the quarterback position.

Out of the 23 quarterbacks who were ranked as blue-chip recruits (4 or 5-stars), four ended up being first round picks. Two others were drafted, two switched positions and were drafted, and three others finished in the top-16 in pass efficiency at some point in their careers. There’s a few others who were solid college quarterbacks from that group, but to have 11 of the 23 be considered “hits” is a good year.

It seems wild to claim that less than half is a good year, but a quick look at the subsequent years shows how that’s true. The 2016 class produced only one blue-chip who was a first round pick and only three who ended up being drafted. The ‘17 class had one first rounder and only two drafted. The ‘18 class still has some quarterbacks playing, but none of them are projected to be a high pick other than Tanner McKee and the two outliers who were already drafted, Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields, feel so exceptional because the rest of the 4 and 5-stars would mostly generate a “Who?” reaction from an average college football fan.

It’s very difficult to evaluate quarterbacks. The recruiting industry misses more than it hits and the same goes for college football programs. Projecting how good a quarterback will be at Notre Dame or any Power 5 program can feel impossible. So much depends on the situation they are walking into.

What’s the level of skill talent like he’s playing with? How good is the offensive line that is protecting him? Does the offense have a running game so the burden doesn’t all fall on the quarterback’s shoulders? How good is the play-caller and the quarterback coach who is developing him?

The answer to those questions are going to be significant factors in determining the success or failure of any quarterback. I’ve seen Phil Jurkovec’s NFL hopes crumble behind a bad offensive line at Boston College. I’ve seen Hendon Hooker go from a mid-level ACC quarterback at Virginia Tech to a Heisman candidate running an explosive offense at Tennessee with Josh Heupel. I’ve also seen Brandon Wimbush be surrounded with plenty of talent at Notre Dame and then transferring to play under Heupel and showing that the circumstances weren’t going to lift him up no matter where it was.

I think there are other better situations for quarterbacks this year than the one at Notre Dame, but I do think this is a pretty good one. At least good enough for the right quarterback to come in and be a top-20 quarterback in the country and end up eventually playing in the NFL.

I think the situation is only improving with how they are recruiting on offense as well. This should be an attractive destination for quarterbacks whether that’s through the transfer portal or for recruits. It’s good to see that it looks like a 2023 quarterback recognized that.

2. Back in July when Notre Dame first offered Kenny Minchey‍, I tweeted this out about his potential as a senior.

A top-100 ranking isn’t likely to happen because he’s missed a lot of time this season with a shoulder injury, but I’m still very high on Minchey as a prospect and if Notre Dame does land him as expected, I think it’s a big win for Tommy Rees and Marcus Freeman.

His touch on the deep ball and accuracy in general are exceptional in my opinion.

Anyone who has watched Notre Dame knows that there are big plays in the passing game waiting to be made in this offense and there will be even more opportunities with the skill talent they have committed in this class. This class just needed a facilitator to get these receivers and running backs the football. Minchey fits the bill.

It had to be an easy sell for Notre Dame especially when they are going head to head with a team with a head coach who has actively campaigned to make their offense worse because he didn’t like the approach from the previous coordinator.

3. Nothing changes with Notre Dame and whether or not they take a transfer quarterback. It’s not a question of will they or won’t they. They have to. It’s no different than what I wrote about after Tyler Buchner was injured.

I’m not going to speculate on who they should target other than to say experience matters. If they haven’t had success making throws on a college football field, that should immediately disqualify them.

This roster needs someone who can be plug-and-play. The allure of potential can’t be enough when they have Ohio State, USC, and Clemson on the schedule next season.

4. It’s flip season in recruiting. Notre Dame could benefit from it with Minchey and Kaleb Smith‍. Who knows, maybe there will be some others who come into play.

I do wonder if it’s not going to be quite as crazy over the next six weeks as some would expect. I know NIL is in play for some players and there will be collectives that drop bigger bags than others and that is going to cause some disruption with some classes, but this feels like this could end up being the one of the least eventful coaching carousels in a while.

There’s just not a lot of big Power 5 jobs that look like they are going to open up. We already know that Nebraska, Auburn, and Wisconsin are open. Those don’t move the needle in terms of high profile recruits looking for other opportunities, though. The other ones we know are open are Arizona State and Colorado. Neither program has a recruit committed that is ranked in the top-600 nationally.

Maybe they’ll be looking for a new coach at West Virginia. If Syracuse loses six straight after starting 6-0, maybe that’s the end for Dino Babers as well. Outside of that, it doesn’t look like there will be any massive shake ups unless the money people at Texas A&M decide enough is enough with Jimbo Fisher or Auburn convinces another coach to leave their current program.

It’s probably going to be about coordinator movement this offseason and that can lead to some recruiting chaos, but it’s impossible to predict what coordinator is going to bolt for more money somewhere else or if a coordinator is going to get a Group of 5 head coaching job.

There will be flips. There have been flips. There are less prominent coaches on the hot seat this year, though, so it might not be as crazy as it has been previously.

5. I don’t think it’s insignificant that Prince Kollie had his best game of the season against Navy. When you make plays, coaches gain more trust in putting you out there. He made plays and it’s undeniable that he’s Notre Dame’s best athlete playing at linebacker right now.

It’s a different game playing against Navy than it is any other offense so I don’t know if the next couple of weeks he’ll see the field less or not, but he’s had 2.5 tackles for loss, a punt block, and returned a blocked punt for a touchdown this season. The player that most compared him to when he signed with Notre Dame, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, hadn’t even seen the field yet for the Irish by the end of his second year.

Maybe it won’t be this year, but I see him as the ideal type of player to spy the quarterback. He can hunt in open space. USC’s Caleb Williams is a threat to scramble and create outside of the framework of the play-call so I think Kollie could potentially play a bigger role in that game than he has this season.

6. Yes, college football message boards can be ridiculous. There are wild theories, needless rumors, and sometimes it can contribute to toxic fandom.

College football message boards have also helped propagate Boston College’s nickname “Fredo”, which is an undeniable gem of nickname for a rival program. (If you want to call BC a rival of Notre Dame’s. I think it’s fine to not include them in that category)

I know anyone who was a fan of the Irish for a long time will have bad memories of games against BC because of 1993. They also had a run where they beat the Irish seven out of eight times against Davie, Willingham, and Weis teams.

BC hasn’t beaten Notre Dame since 2008, though. Notre Dame has taken Fredo on a fishing trip the last eight games, even if a few of those games were closer than they should have been.

This Saturday’s game could be close, but it shouldn’t be. Al Washington, a former coach and alum at BC, should have his defensive line starving to dominate this game against what might be the worst Power 5 offensive line in the country. This team is last in yards per carry and 116th in sack rate. The Irish are 11th in the country in sack rate on defense and have to be licking their chops to get more than a handful of sacks on Senior Day.

BC also has a defense that is 109th in the country in EPA per rush. Navy came in as a stout defense against the run. BC’s run defense is not in the same league.

It’s fair to say that we don’t know what to expect from this Notre Dame team given how up and down they have been at points this season. There should be an expectation that Notre Dame dominates a team like BC, a team who plays hard, but should be overwhelmed by the Irish on Saturday.

Anything less than that should be a disappointment for Notre Dame fans.

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