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Notre Dame Football

The Best ND Will Face in 2019

July 17, 2019

Notre Dame’s schedule in 2018 didn’t end up being nearly as tough as it was expected to be. Five teams were ranked in the pre-season AP top-25 poll, but of that group, only one finished in the top-25.

It looked like a brutal schedule on paper, but it wasn’t the case after they played the games.

The Irish did go up against several outstanding individual players, though. One position which was just as strong on the field as it appeared on paper for the opposition was defensive end.

Liam Eichenberg and Robert Hainsey didn’t get many breaks from week to week having to go up against the likes of Chase Winovich, Rashan Gary, Rashad Weaver, Brian Burns, Kendall Coleman, and Alton Robinson. Three of those players were already drafted into the NFL and the other three should dominate the ACC in 2019.

That list doesn’t include Clemson’s two starting ends who were drafted by the NFL and the 5-star stud who’s a pre-season All-ACC pick this fall. Seriously, it doesn’t get much tougher than that.

The Irish are going to face some top talent again this season at several different positions, but fortunately for Eichenberg and Hainsey, the gauntlet at defensive end won’t be nearly as daunting. Here’s a list of the top guys at each spot (with one team dominating the list):

Quarterback: Jake Fromm (Georgia)

Honorable Mention: KJ Costello (Stanford), Shea Patterson (Michigan), Bryce Perkins (Virginia)

There are three senior quarterbacks who deserve to be mentioned, but Fromm is the best of the group. This is not the same player Notre Dame saw make his first start back in 2017. Fromm has progressed nicely finishing 5th last season in quarterback rating and 3rd in total QBR behind only Kyler Murray and Tua Tagovailoa.

He rarely makes mistakes and is one of the more accurate throwers in the country. When he has a clean pocket, he’s almost perfect. His NFL passing rating in those situations is 134.1 according to Pro Football Focus.


With his offensive line, he gets a lot of clean looks too. Pressure from Notre Dame’s pass rush will be the key to slowing him down.

Running Back: D’Andre Swift (Georgia)

Honorable Mention: AJ Dillon (Boston College), Deon Jackson (Duke)

A healthy Dillon is very good, but Swift is in a different class because he is much more versatile. He’s already caught 49 passes in his first two years at Georgia and he’s just as dangerous as a receiver as he is as a runner.

He’s one of the most explosive backs in the nation and should be a top pick in next year’s NFL Draft. Even when he doesn’t have much space, he can create more with his lateral agility. Over 60% of his yards came after contact as well.

Good luck to the first guy attempting to tackle him.

Wide Receiver: Amon-ra St. Brown (USC)

Honorable Mention: Tyler Vaughns (USC), Michael Pittman (USC), Damon Hazelton (Virginia Tech)

I could have chosen any one of three USC receivers and it wouldn’t have been a bad pick. I chose St. Brown because he was only a freshman and he’s only going to be better in his second season in college. Plus, he should be a great fit in the Trojans’ new Air Raid attack.

Over half of his catches resulted in first downs or touchdowns last season and I would expect those numbers to go up. Having a good option in the nickel will be crucial when playing USC with St. Brown doing work from the slot.

Tight End: Colby Parkinson (Stanford)

Honorable Mention: Dalton Keene (Virginia Tech)

Similar to Cole Kmet for Notre Dame, I think we could see Parkinson explode now that he is the top target at tight end for Stanford. He averaged a ridiculous 16.7 yards per reception last season and all of those red zone jump balls that KJ Costello would throw to JJ Arcega-Whiteside are now going to go to Parkinson.

Alohi Gilman and the Notre Dame linebackers have to be extremely physical to give themselves a fair chance in this matchup against Parkinson.

Offensive Lineman: Andrew Thomas (Georgia)

Honorable Mention: Walker Little (Stanford), Ben Bredeson (Michigan)

Thomas is the best lineman the Irish defensive linemen will face because he’s elite as a run and pass blocker. They’ll run behind Thomas plenty at left tackle and he has proven to be a great player in pass protection as well.

With Thomas and Little, Julian Okwara and Khalid Kareem will get their chance to make plenty of money off of these matchups. Those are first round NFL prospects at left tackle and getting the better of them would be huge in the eyes of NFL scouts.

Defensive Lineman: ?

Honorable Mention: Jordan Davis (Georgia)

Looking at it before the season, I’m not sure the Irish offensive line will face one guy who is on the level of FSU’s Brian Burns as an edge rusher or Stanford’s Solomon Thomas as an interior disruptor. They may not go up against any player who is an All-American candidate in 2019.

Davis didn’t put up prolific numbers when it comes to tackles for loss, but the true sophomore is an ascending players. Davis is a beast at 6’6” 330 and he could be a difference maker for them after a strong freshman season. There are some others who might emerge, but none that stand out like the other positions. It’s one more reason to feel better about the Notre Dame offensive line.

Linebacker: Monty Rice (Georgia)

Honorable Mention: Josh Ross (Michigan), Dax Hollifield (Virginia Tech), Charles Snowden (Virginia)

Rice is not on the level of former UGA stud Roquan Smith, but he’s not that far from being a Te’von Coney type in the middle for the Bulldogs. He missed four games last season, but led the team in tackles and had the lowest missed tackle percentage out of any player in the SEC according to PFF.

Safety: JR Reed (Georgia)

Honorable Mention: Talanoa Hufanga (USC), Richard Lecounte (UGA), Josh Metullus (Michigan)

Notre Dame fans will remember Reed as the player Quenton Nelson picked up on the blitz and made infamous. It turns out he survived that block and ended up being a very good player.

His teammate Lecounte may be a more flashy athlete, but Reed is a better player than him. He’s outstanding coming downhill to play the run and has good instincts in coverage. He’s Georgia’s version of Alohi Gilman and who wouldn’t want to have an Alohi Gilman on their roster?

Cornerback: Bryce Hall (Virginia)

Honorable Mention: Tyson Campbell (Georgia), Paulson Adebo (Stanford), Mark Gilbert (Duke), Lavert Hill (Michigan)

Notre Dame’s strongest position on offense is wide receiver and the best position group on defense they will face in ‘19 is cornerback. They say iron sharpens iron so we should get some great battles with all of these players.

It’s surprising Hall stayed in school with how productive he was last season. He gets his hands on the football a lot (24 passes defensed) and doesn’t have any obvious weaknesses. He’s the highest graded cornerback returning in college football this season according to PFF and is one of the few corners in the country with the potential to take away one side of the field.

If Chase Claypool has a day against Hall, then we’ll know that Claypool is for real as a top target this season.

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