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Notre Dame Football

Scouting Report | Oregon State

December 24, 2023
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Oregon State ended the regular season as a top-25 program for the second straight year. For a program that hasn’t experienced much consistent success, that normally would be something to be very excited about.

Unfortunately for them, it meant losing their head coach.

Former player Jonathan Smith arrived at Oregon State and had to start from the bottom. He built it up to 18 wins in the last two seasons and that led to him being pursued and eventually leaving for Michigan State.

That essentially started the transition to the 2024 season rather than finishing the 2023 season. Interim coach Kefense Hynson has taken over for this game and will eventually hand things off to defensive coordinator Trent Bray. This game will be coached by a makeshift coaching staff, especially on offense, and it will be played by a team that doesn’t resemble the same one who won eight games in 2023.

Oregon State still has some good ball players that Notre Dame will have to face. It just won’t be nearly as many as it would have been a couple of months ago. That team finished ranked 16th in F+ (combined FEI and SP+ rankings).

Transfers, Suspensions, Injuries, and Opt-outs

QB DJ Uiagalelei and QB Aidan Chiles have both elected to transfer. Uiagalelei had a good season after transferring from Clemson and Chiles was the next in line. With those two, the offense had a dual-threat option at the position that they won’t have now.

2nd team All Pac-12 TE Jack Velling also elected to transfer (eight touchdowns) and they will also be missing WR Anthony Gould (opted-out). Gould tied for the team lead in receiving and averaged 16.3 yards per reception.

Stud RB Damien Martinez was suspended after a suspected DUI. He was reinstated, but Hynson announced that he won’t play in the Sun Bowl. That’s a lot of production gone for this game.

Their offensive line is also going to look different with top NFL prospect RT Talise Fuaga (2nd team All-American) also opting-out and LT Joshua Gray expected to not play with an injury. Starting LG Heneli Bloomfield is also out with an injury.

They’ll be missing their best player. 1st team All Pac-12 LB Easton Mascarenas-Arnold is transferring.

The secondary has starting safety Akili Arnold (transfer) and starting CB Jermod McCoy (transferring) both out.

DT Isaac Hodgins was not listed on the depth chart. He’s a high-motor reserve player up front and also was their goal line fullback.

LB Calvin Hart was not listed on their depth chart either. That means both starting inside linebackers won’t be playing in this game for Oregon State.

Oregon State’s starting kicker and punter also both won’t be playing in this game. 

Offense

This was a very good offense. They finished 13th in OF+, 10th in points per drive, and 19th in yards per play.

Obviously it won’t be the same offense and they’ll have a new play-caller without Smith and former offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren in addition to the different personnel.

They relied on a successful zone running game and explosive plays in the passing game that came off of play-action. The quarterback run game shouldn’t be a big part of this game like it was for them this season.

Uiagalelei finished in the top-10 in average depth of target this season and they like to stretch the field with their receivers.

Expected Strengths

Expected is probably the wrong word for it based on the number of players on offense who won’t be playing, but the running game was good.

It started up front with them finishing 18th in EPA per rush. They were able to be consistent in the red zone as well finishing 2nd in red zone TD percentage. That was largely because of the offensive line and Martinez was a huge part of that as well.

They were 17th in explosive passing plays (20+ yards). Though they lose Gould and Velling, they still have plenty of speed to stretch the field and I’d expect them to take shots down the field.

Potential Weaknesses

Uigalelei was pressured on 37.7% of dropbacks, which is a high rate. With three starters out on the offensive line, that could be a big issue against Notre Dame’s pass rush. They’ve been fantastic with stunts and teams who have struggled to pick up the blitz have had a very difficult time against the Irish defense.

Personnel notes

QB Ben Gulbranson

- 6-3 215

- started 8 games in 2022, 3rd string in ‘23

- hot and cold as a passer

- accurate in the short game, 82.1% completions less than 10 yards

- high arching deep ball, inconsistent accuracy

- tends to hang on to the ball a bit long in the pocket

- not a dual-threat, but will take openings as a scrambler

- were a heavier run team with him and ran a lot more play-action

QB Dom Monteil

- 6-2 197

- 3-star recruit in 2022

- listed as the backup, has not played a snap in college

RB Deshaun Fenwick

- 6-2 222

- 6th year player

- 5.6 YPC, 500 yards in ‘23

- 4 games with double digit carries

- 16 missed forced tackles

RB Isaiah Newell

- 6-1 225

- 22 carries, 3.5 YPC

- mostly played in blowouts this season

WR Silas Bolden

- 5-8 187

- 11 receptions of 20+ yards

- primarily lines up out wide, 81.2%

- ran a 10.61 100m in HS, reported 4.45 40

- led the team with 51 receptions

- scored a punt return TD vs UC Davis

- broke a big play rushing TD vs Utah

WR Jesiah Irish

- 5-11 174

- 6th year player

- 18 targets in 5 years, 28 this year

- fastest player on the roster, reported 4.26 40

- primary slot receiver

WR Jimmy Valsin

- 6-2 195

- 3 catches and targets vs Oregon was season high

- 11.1 100m in HS

- listed as a starter on Sun Bowl depth chart

WR Jeremiah Noga

- 6-2 186

- was a PWO

- 8 catches, 14.1 per reception

TE Jermaine Terry

- 6-4 251

- Cal transfer

- only 5 targets

- primarily lines up in-line, was TE2

- below average blocker who struggles at POA

TE Riley Sharp

- 6-6 248

- flashed as a receiver, 16 per reception

- has mostly played in-line, should have expanded role in this game

LT Jacob Strand

- 6-5 283

- Started for Gray vs against Oregon

- had only played in garbage time before that

- gave up 3 pressures and had a holding penalty

OL Grant Starck

- 6-4 298

- Nevada transfer

- started at LG vs Oregon when Bloomfield was out

- sixth man on the OL, did play 44 snaps at RT vs Cal

- started at LT for Nevada

RT Tyler Morano

- 6-5 277

- 63 snaps on the season, 147 snaps in his career

- only played in garbage time in 2023

- listed as starter at RT

RG Tanner Miller

- 6-1 287

- 4 starts at center, 8 at RG

- Solid run blocker, has a tough time in pass pro

- did not play well vs Oregon

C Jake Levengood

- 6-4 294

- 6th year player

- 4 year starter

- steady for the last couple of seasons

Key for Notre Dame

Be disciplined vs play-action

They want to run the football and then take shots when they can off of play-action. They have receivers with the kind of speed that can make plays if defensive backs aren’t disciplined with their keys.

With three starters out up front, Notre Dame should be able to handle things pretty well at the line of scrimmage. They just don’t want to let these receivers get behind them.

Defense

The Beavers defense finished 36th in DF+, 45th in YPP, and 60th in points per drive. They faced a lot of great offenses in the Pac-12 this season and that had a lot to do with the difference in points per drive. Washington, Oregon, and Arizona were all ranked in the top-10 in OF+.

They run a ton of simulated pressure and Bray does a good job of confusing protections. The blitz rate goes way up for them on 3rd down.

It’s a 4-2-5 as their base and they drop the edge defenders frequently.

Expected Strengths

They really do a great job of getting after the passer. They finished 21st in sack percentage and made a ton of negative plays (16th in havoc rate).

I don’t see them being less aggressive in this game even without some key defenders.

Potential Weaknesses

They were 99th in red zone TD percentage. That’s partially because they are undersized up front. They are built to stop Pac-12 offenses, but teams in the Pac-12 don’t play heavy with multiple tight ends.

They finished 41st in EPA per attempt, but the pass defense could be a lot worse than that with the players they are missing.

Personnel notes

Edge Sione Lolohea

- 6-3 266

- 10.5 havoc plays

- 32 pressures, 9 came against Colorado

- high motor player, struggles to finish

Edge Andrew Chatifield

- 6-2 254

- Florida transfer

- 6th year player

- 40 pressures led the team, 9 sacks

- 15 total havoc plays, 2 INTs

- has abused bad tackles

- much more gifted pass rusher than run defender

- 20.2% win vs true pass sets

Edge John McCartan

- 6-5 258 -

6th year player

- 11 havoc plays

- 20 pressures

- recruited as TE, move to defense

Edge Corey Stover

- 6-6 248

- just a guy, rotation player

NT James Rawls

- 6-2 284

- multi-year starter

- below average player who can get moved in the run game

DT Joe Golden

- 6-5 290

- Northern Colorado transfer

- 25 pressures, 3.5 sacks

- moves well at his size, 3-tech

LB Melvin Jordan

- 5-11 225

- 143 snaps, likely starter in this game

- 17 tackles this season

LB Isaiah Chisom

- 6-0 219

- true freshman, only 27 snaps this season vs Stanford

- 3-star recruit

S Kitan Oladapo

- 6-1 217

- Senior Bowl invite

- 4th in PFF’s grades for safeties

- good blitzer

- 11 havoc plays

- versatile, can match up in man and be a chess piece

S Jack Kane

- 5-10 180

- expanded role at the end of the season

- 68 snaps vs Oregon was season high

- 3 PBUs

CB Noble Thomas

- 5-11 195

- played significant snaps in the back half of the season, played well

- RS frosh

- 3 PBUs

- split between nickel and outside corner

CB Andre Jordan

- 6-1 171

- freshman who played in last ¼ of the season

- 103 snaps

CB Jaden Robinson

- 6-0 190

- 8.5 havoc plays

- allowed five explosive pass plays this season

CB Tyrice Ivy Jr.

- 6-3 201

- JC transfer

- Hasn’t played since the middle of the season

- grabby, six penalties in limited snaps

- 127.7 NFL passer rating against

CB Josiah Johnson

- 5-10 183

- hadn’t played much since the middle of the season until Oregon

- gave up 7 for 137 as a slot defender

CB Ryan Cooper

- 6-0 187

- JC transfer

- nickel defender

- played mostly well this year, got cooked by top receivers

- good ball production, 9.5 havoc plays

- 91.7 NFL passer rating when in the slot

Key for Notre Dame

Help those new tackles Notre Dame has two new starters at tackle in this game and Oregon State has some pretty good edge rushers.

They also love to bring pressure. They don’t want to be in too many long yardage situations to put those tackles in bad situations because that also puts Steve Angeli in bad situations as well. Early down success will be important.

Special Teams

They lost K Atticus Sappington (13 of 14 on field goals) to the transfer portal.

The likely replacement seems to be Everett Hayes. He was 12 of 18 on field goals in 2021, but only six of 13 in 2022. Hayes will also likely take over the kickoff duties.

Josh Green was the punter, but he’s not listed on the depth chart for this game. AJ Winsor is a freshman who has not punted in college, but will be the punter for the Sun Bowl.

Gould was the main punt returner, but OSU should be more than fine putting Bolden there. He took a punt to the house this season against UC Davis. Bolden is also a dangerous kick returner. He finished 11th in kick return average in 2022.

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