Dec 29, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong during the game against the Arkansas Razorbacks in the 2014 Texas Bowl at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Notre Dame Faces Texas On Saturday
Finally. It’s time to pack the parking lots, wipe the dust off of the cornhole boards and stuff our faces with brats and burgers. The 2015 college football season is just a few days away, and Notre Dame is ready to start their campaign off on the right foot against the Texas Longhorns.
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The summer has been more than a whirlwind of ups and downs for the Irish with the departure of graduate quarterback Everett Golson and the loss of several key players. Senior defensive lineman Jarron Jones was recently lost for the season due to a knee injury. Defensive end Ishaq Williams’ career is over after being ruled ineligible by the NCAA, and junior running back Greg Bryant decided to continue his eligibility elsewhere.
Despite the losses, there’s much to be optimistic about when you look at what this year’s squad has to offer. The freshmen class looks to make an impact immediately on the offensive side of the ball, the offense is loaded with experience and the defense is returning all of its injured players from a year ago along with adding top cornerback Keivarae Russell.
In a primetime matchup against the Long Horns, Notre Dame should play well against a young roster led by second-year coach Charlie Strong.
This group is going to be what makes or breaks the offense for Texas. True freshmen Connor Williams and Patrick Vahe will get the nod as first-time starters on Saturday. Williams is manning the left tackle spot and Vahe will start at right guard. It’s obviously a large responsibility for a couple of players whose last games were in high school. If these two freshmen fail to hold their own, Notre Dame’s defense will have a field day in Texas’s backfield.
Last season, the offense ranked 101st in rushing yards per game and 91st in passing yards per game. With two freshmen in the starting five, it’ll be difficult for Texas to do much better statistically than last year. However, we can’t disregard the remaining three lineman on offense.
Senior left guard Sedrick Flowers is the anchor on the line. He’s the only player to start all 13 games last season at the same position on the line. He’s also been named a contender in the race for this season’s Lombardi Trophy. Taylor Doyle is a fifth year graduate who played guard and center last season. He started 11 games last season, which was enough to convince Rimington Trophy committee to place Doyle on the preseason watch list this season. Senior Kent Perkins will man the right tackle as the third upperclassmen on the offensive line.
Despite a couple of studs on the line, I don’t think Texas can handle the talent and experience of Notre Dame’s front seven.
Texas loses Malcolm Brown to the NFL, but his lack of production at the end of his career lessens the blow. Jonathan Gray, a standout at the high school level (really, check out his stats from his senior year), is expected to be the featured back. Last season, Gray ran for 637 yards and scored seven touchdowns. His stat line isn’t mind blowing, but that’s attributed to his lack of meaningful carries. If Texas wants to win Saturday, they’ll have to utilize Gray as much as possible. In space, Gray is elusive, powerful lightning fast. If he gets enough of a push from the offensive line, Gray can make this game a lot more interesting.
Next: Preview: Wide Receivers, Quarterback