1 – LSU’s Leonard Fournette and FSU’s Dalvin Cook, and, in deference to his performance on the main stage last January, OSH’s Ezekiel Elliott. Let’s allow for the sake of argument that trio is the cream of the crop among running backs in America.
C.J. Prosise is, for my money, next in ine. To put that in perspective, the last such Irish ‘back to attain that mythical status was Reggie Brooks in 1992 (Marshall Faulk and Garrison Hearst ahead of him).
Why is this relevant? Because Brooks was the best single-season runner I’ve ever seen at Notre Dame (1981-present) and Prosise enters Notre Dame’s bye week on his level. His ascent after switching positions in THE SPRING is remarkable.
Which brings me to my point: What if Prosise had never played running back? And why was he never a running back in high school or on a Notre Dame team that featured, well, not much, at the position (aside from Tarean Folston) since Prosise first switched to the offensive side of scrimmage in bowl preparations 2012?
In this case: WAY better late than never.
2 – Awaiting Prosise and the Irish running game are rush defenses ranked No. 1 (Boston College), No. 8 (Temple), No. 36 (Pittsburgh), and No. 40 (Stanford). Even Wake Forest (4.19 yards per carry against) is equipped to compete against the run.
When the words “Stanford” and “Defense” coupled together rank fourth among five remaining foes in any regard, a challenge is afoot…
3 – A hound’s tooth, Walter White’s blue crystal, or the average pocket provided by DeShone Kizer’s offensive line this season? Discuss…
4 – Will Fuller’s dusting of Adoree’ Jackson on Notre Dame’s first play from scrimmage Saturday illustrated something we’ve discussed often throughout the off-season, spring, and summer months:
On a college football field, nobody is faster than Fuller.
He and Jackson, (an Olympic hopeful in the long jump) doing battle one-on-one made for good theater Saturday night, with Fuller hitting the sophomore for another 45-yard gain (an NFL throw by DeShone Kizer on the USC sidelines) as well as an end zone pass interference penalty.
Jackson did most of his damage away from Fuller, authoring an 83-yard sprint and score through Notre Dame’s flailing defensive back seven, and defensively, forcing a goal line fumble that seized the game’s momentum when it looked like the Irish might run away and hide.
5 – Corey Robinson: check. Max Redfield: check. Who’s next on the Irish player redemption list? I’d say a pair of fifth-year senior captains could use a strong November if the Irish are to win out.
6 – Aliz’e Jones has to go get that slightly underthrown end zone corner route from Kizer (broken up by USC’s Marvell Tell). Jones let the ball come to him with a defender trailing, an absolute no-no for any pass catcher.
That type of toss will be a touchdown four out of five times for the ultra-talented Jones in 2016 – who Pete Sampson and I witnessed practicing (remarkable) one-handed catches along the backline, pre-game – but it’s nonetheless encouraging that the Irish play-caller(s) are attempting to integrate Jones more each week into the downfield attack.
If I could relay one message in that regard: what about Nic Weishar in the red zone?
7 – Jaylon Smith and Sheldon Day rank No. 1 and 1A among the defense’s top performers through seven contests. Still, ranking junior Isaac Rochell “third” seems too low. Let’s settle instead on “No. 2 and rising.”
Rochell posted 4.5 stops within two yards of scrimmage or for loss Saturday against USC and added a season-high three QB pressures including one on third down. I have the undervalued Big End for 15.5 total Stuffs (includes TFL), No. 1 on the defense ahead of Smith (14). Sitting next to me at Saturday’s game,
He and Day make for an interesting comparison to an interior Irish duo (I consider Rochell more of an interior player despite his DE listing) of the not-so-distant past: Derek Landri and Trevor Laws, 2006. (Check out their stats).
8 – Against USC Saturday, Notre Dame scored the second touchdown of a football game for the 34th time in the Brian Kelly era. They’ve won 29 of those 34 contests. Touchdown No. 2, as explained in “Who, and What, to Watch?” Saturday morning is a competitive football game’s most important moment.
9 – I’m a Jim Harbaugh backer (unabashed life-long 49ers fan here), and after a Mid-March musing in this space seven months ago that posited Harbaugh’s Michigan squad would take down undefeated Ohio State on Thanksgiving Saturday this season, I admit to be vested more than usual in this remarkable turnaround directed by one of the best football coaches on the planet.
That said: To the Michigan Stadium official that intentionally sent Anna Hickey and myself on a wild goose chase around the outside of the Big House to pickup a credential in 2013, I have one thing to say to you, sir…
We’ll be back with a special edition of The Musings on Friday…