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Notre Dame Football

Future Game Wreckers: Michigan

June 17, 2017

Everybody’s favorite is back on the schedule next season.

Yup, the Irish are playing Michigan again in 2018 and 2019. No matter if you wanted it to happen or hoped that they had to breathe in the foul stench of 31-0 for the rest of eternity, it’s happening. And the timing of it is not ideal for Notre Dame.

It will be year four and five of Jim Harbaugh’s tenure in Ann Arbor. Those teams will be all his players. They are the guys that he recruited and there are plenty of good ones. The ones they signed this year will be players that the Irish coaching staff will have to worry about and a bunch of them were at one time Notre Dame targets.

Like it was before

The Wolverines have had some productive receivers the last few years, but they haven’t had anyone that was the caliber of receiver that they used to have every season. There wasn’t a Derrick Alexander, Braylon Edwards, David Terrell, or Mario Manningham that was capable of taking over a game. It’s likely going to change to how it was before after signing 5 star receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones.

He is an athletic freak. It might take a year for him to become a focal point of their offense, but unfortunately he’ll have the next two years after where Notre Dame is forced to cover him. He has dynamic ability and I think it’s fair to say that Harbaugh has never coached a talent like him at receiver.

In addition to DPJ, they landed two other receivers that the Irish would have liked to have signed. Tarik Black was the teammate of current freshman running back CJ Holmes. He’s a big target (6’4” 210) and should end up being a nice complimentary piece for them.

I liked Oliver Martin more as a prospect and the Irish lost a closer battle with Michigan to land him. He could play on the outside or in the slot. Then there is Nico Collins, who is better big receiver than Black in my opinion. The Wolverines stole him out of Alabama even with everyone in the SEC going hard to try and sign him.

Those four standout as skill players the Irish are not going to have a fun time dealing with and even if only two of them end up panning out, that still is the foundation of a dangerous passing game with 4 star Dylan McCaffrey as the quarterback who will be slinging the football their way.

The building blocks for their future front 7

I know this all about the 2017 recruits that Michigan signed, but let this be a reminder that the Irish offensive line will have to block Rashan Gary next season. I think it will likely be just the one, though, and he will be off to the NFL by 2019.

Playing with Gary in 2018, and the ones who will be the foundation of the 2019 front seven, will mostly be the numerous blue chip recruits they just signed. It’s nine elite defensive lineman and linebackers that coordinator Don Brown is going to get to work with, a far cry from the kind of talent he helped groom to be a top five defense while at Boston College.

The physicality of linebackers Jordan Anthony (IMG Academy), Drew Singleton (Parasmus, New Jersey), and Josh Ross (West Bloomfield, Michigan) playing behind imposing dudes up front is a scary proposition. Most Notre Dame fans remember that they flipped one time commit Donovan Jeter (Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania) and he could end up being a big time factor for them, but he is nowhere near the best defensive lineman they are bringing in.

That would be 5 star Aubrey Solomon (Leesburg, Georgia). He has rare quickness for a nose tackle and could play end if they needed him to as well. There aren’t many guys who can dominate the middle on defense and play tight end on offense for their high school.

That group alone would be impressive. When you throw in Luigi Villain (Virginia via Canada) as an edge rusher with the size and athletic traits to compete from day one and a few other high level defensive line prospects then it’s downright scary. Michigan’s defense is going to be very, very talented. Which brings me to the back four.

A name to watch out for

The Irish were in pursuit of Detroit natives Ambry Thomas and Jaylen Kelly-Powell early in the process, but that pursuit died down as the record of the Irish got worse. Thomas was the biggest loss of the two as he could potentially develop into a shutdown man coverage corner or be used on offense. I would guess they will stick with defense considering the receivers they brought in, but he is talented enough to become a difference maker on both sides of the football.

However, I would not be surprised if he only becomes the second best corner they signed from this class. I became a big fan of Montreal’s Benjamin St. Juste after seeing him in person at The Opening Finals last summer and think he was massively underrated. Not many 3 stars are a long 6’3” with elite short area quickness and outstanding fluidity. He went from covering lesser talented players in Quebec to matching up with the top receivers in the nation and did a really good job.

I think he has a chance to be a high level starter for them and they’ve got several defenders in this class who have similar high ceilings. When the Irish face Harbaugh’s team in ‘18 and ‘19, they are going to be facing one of the most talented rosters in the nation.
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