After the annual Notre Dame football Spring Blue and Gold game, there are a few things we can take away. Here are our grades for each position.
The annual Notre Dame football Blue and Gold game is something we look forward to every Spring. It’s a chance to see the team at game speed — and see some new faces. Those new faces have some huge shoes to fill after many Notre Dame players from the 2017 team graduated or opted to declare for the NFL Draft.
Because it’s more of just a glorified practice, head coach Brian Kelly won’t show too much about his team. That said, we were able to pull some knowledge about the team before this fall.
Here are your grades for each position group after the 2018 Notre Dame Football Blue-Gold game.
Coming into the Blue-Gold game, many said that Brandon Wimbush had looked good in the limited spring practices. Be that as it may, we can’t look past what we saw last year — a Wimbush who needed saving by Ian Book in the Citrus Bowl.
Wimbush might not have won everyone over, but he certainly made many feel much more comfortable.
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He looked like he was in near mid-season form, going 19-for-33 for 341 yards and two touchdowns. At times he looked extremely sharp. Whether it was a quick slant or hitting a receiver in stride, Wimbush proved his talent. There were still signs of last season with Wimbush blindly throwing off his back foot into triple coverage, or simply missing a cutting receiver. Yet, there were still more positives than negatives.
Ian Book also had an efficient day. His 17-for-30, 292 yards, one touchdown performance showed he could once again play at the level we saw last season.
A lot can change over the next few months, but for now, it seems that Wimbush has the skill and athleticism to earn the starting position this season.
Running backs: B+
There have been questions as to how this running back corps would do now that Josh Adams is gone. Overall, they looked good.
The main reason why they looked good was because of Dexter Williams. On 11 rushes, Williams came away with 117 yards and a touchdown. He proved that he could quickly fill the shoes of Adams.
He exploded for a 72-yard run in the third quarter that showed how quickly he could get freed from the line.
Someone else to watch will be Jafar Armstrong. The wide receiver converted running back should provide a relief to Williams. Armstrong averaged 9.6 yards on five attempts. He could make some serious noise in Fall camp.
Wide Receivers: A+
The wide receivers have made huge strides compared to last season. There was no question that the group would be led by Chase Claypool and Miles Boykin. The two showed out in the spring game. Claypool led all receivers with 151 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 25.2 yards per catch. Boykin also looked good in the game, putting up 132 yards and a touchdown of his own.
Michael Young and Chris Finke will also provide some major weapons for the Irish. Finke made some big plays with 81 yards on five receptions. Young just edged Finkes’ performance with 82 yards of his own.
Even after losing Equinamious St. Brown, Notre Dame might have even more explosive, dependable targets in its arsenal.
Offensive Line: B-
Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey are expected to be high first-round picks in the draft next week. That means they are no longer opening up holes large enough to drive a truck through for Notre Dame.
The new offensive line is talented. They are skillful and powerful, but they are young in some spots and lacking experience. There will be a learning curve when it comes to getting this group used to playing alongside each other.
Liam Eichenberg had a couple of false start penalties that just won’t cut it this fall. There are a few things to clean up, but this line should still be solid this season.
Defensive Line: B+
It’s always hard to break down the defense in a spring game. The system is set up to help the offense and quarterbacks are protected. What we saw from the defensive line seemed encouraging.
Despite the large offensive numbers, it seemed like the line was placing a decent amount of pressure on the quarterbacks. There were a few occasions where they forced Wimbush to throw off his back foot. One of those times it resulted in an interception.
The unit seems to be strong and quick. With the redshirts, it’s impossible to tell if they will be able to use that pressure to force sacks, or if quarterbacks will be able to power there way through. Grading with what we could see, the line passes the eye test!
The secondary was at fault of a lot high scores last season. There were times where they looked sharp and times were they looked beat.
In the Blue-Gold game, the secondary seemed to be able to run with the receivers step for step during the majority of the game. There were a few instances where the height of the offense’s receivers was too much to handle. That will be an issue for any defense that the Irish will face.
This unit held its own. The defense will be led by Drue Tranquill once again after his move to linebacker. Tranquill is not only a standout leader, but he bulked up even more – something we didn’t think was possible. The senior led the team with nine tackles, a tackle for a loss and a sack. He will continue to anchor the Irish in 2018.