Five Problematic Players for Notre Dame Football Against Wake Forest

WINSTON SALEM, NC - SEPTEMBER 13: Cade Carney #36 of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons runs between Brandon Sebastian #10 and Connor Strachan #13 of the Boston College Eagles during their game at BB&T Field on September 13, 2018 in Winston Salem, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
WINSTON SALEM, NC - SEPTEMBER 13: Cade Carney #36 of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons runs between Brandon Sebastian #10 and Connor Strachan #13 of the Boston College Eagles during their game at BB&T Field on September 13, 2018 in Winston Salem, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

Notre Dame football faces a fast-paced offense this week in Wake Forest. Here are a few names of players who will look to put up big numbers.

Notre Dame football takes its first road trip of the year to Winston-Salem, North Carolina to take on the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest. The Deacons are 2-1 on the year, including a 23-17 win over Tulane, a 51-20 win over Towson, and a 41-34 loss to Boston College.

Wake Forest gave the Irish all they could handle last year after Notre Dame got off to a hot start on the offensive side of the ball. But the Demon Deacons continued to chip away at the Irish lead on the back of John Wolford who picked apart the Irish defense. However, John Wolford is gone, and the Notre Dame defense is much improved.

This Notre Dame defense that has played so solid thus far will have to continue to do so against a fast-paced Wake Forest offense that averages 93.3 plays per game. After two back-to-back 3-9 seasons followed by a 7 win season in 2016 and a 8 win season last year, Dave Clawson’s crew looks to improve even more in 2018. With an upset at home on their minds, these are the five players who could give the Irish some trouble on Saturday afternoon.

Sam Hartman, Quarterback

Hartman was not the suspected heir apparent to the Wake Forest starting QB job coming into the season. However, after Wake Forestannounced the suspension of Kendall Hinton for the first three games of the season, Hartman was thrust into the starting role. Kendall is expected to make his return this week against the Irish. However, it seems like Hartman will continue as the starting QB.

Hartman is averaging 278 yards per game in the air and 64 yards per game on the ground in the first three games of the season. He has recorded 7 touchdowns, 6 passing and 1 rushing. Although he has been pretty effective to start the year, he is a freshman, and he has made some freshman mistakes with 5 interceptions and 1 fumble. The Notre Dame defense must pressure Hartman early and often to force him into making these kinds of mistakes. If the Notre Dame defense plays soft and gives Hartman the time he needs, he will utilize his talented group of receivers to pick apart the Irish like Wolford did last year.

Greg Dortch, Wide Receiver

There are two other receivers who are playing extremely well for Wake Forest this season. But Dortch got the nod here because of his receiving stats and his threat as a kick and punt returner as well. Dortch has 28 receptions for 336 yards this year with 1 touchdown. He has also accumulated 164 yards on 6 kick returns and 170 yards on 10 punt returns. In this way, he is not only the primary target for Hartman, but with an average of 27.3 yards per kick return and an average of 17 yards per punt return, he is Wake Forest’s best kick and punt returner. Look for Dortch to be explosive as both a receiver and on special teams. And for a Notre Dame team that has struggled on special teams at times, Dortch could cause some major problems for the Irish

Even though I am highlighting Dortch here, I would be remiss if I did not mention the two other receivers for Wake Forest who have the ability to make big plays as well. Sage Surratt has 18 receptions for 263 yards and 1 touchdown. Alex Bachman has 9 receptions for 116 yards and 3 touchdowns. Although Dortch gets a lot of the press, these other two receivers are nothing to bat an eye at and provide even more legitimate options for Hartman

Cade Carney, Running Back

With 63 carries for 232 yards last season and 2 touchdowns in 8 games, Carney was not one of the primary running backs for the Demon Deacons last year. However, he has exploded onto the scene this year, already eclipsing his 2017 season yards total. Carney has gained 300 yards on the ground on 53 attempts this year, averaging 5.7 yards per carry and notching two touchdowns. He is part of a dynamic duo of running backs for Wake Forest with the guy listed below.

Matt Colburn II, Running Back

With 904 yards yards on 166 carries, 6.1 yards per carry, and 7 touchdowns, Colburn was the workhorse of the Wake Forest run game last season. Colburn has 212 yards on 48 carries this season with a slightly lower average of 4.4 yards per carry. Although Colburn did not start as hot as he would have liked to, Carney has done a great job picking up the slack. This is a big reason for Wake Forest’s success on the ground this season and what makes these two running backs a dynamic duo. They seem to pick up the pieces left behind by their counterpart and complement each other extremely well. The Notre Dame defensive front will have to overpower the Wake Forest offensive front and stuff a running game that has been incredibly effective in the first three games of the season.

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Justin Strnad, Linebacker

The Wake Forest defense has struggled in recent years, but Strnad has been one of the brighter spots. Last season he was tied for the team lead in interceptions (3) and was second in sacks (4.5).Strnad was not the team leader in tackles last season, but he is leading the Demon Deacons defense in tackles this season with 17 and also leads the team with 1.5 sacks on the year. There are still some obvious question marks for the Demon Deacons defense this year, question marks made more problematic by injuries. Look for Strnad to do his best to carry the defense and disrupt a Notre Dame offense that likes to score early and rely on its defense to weather the storm.