We continue breaking down the 25 best players for Notre Dame in 2020 by looking at the special teams, with placekicker and kickoff specialist Jonathan Doerer grabbing the #23 spot on this list.
This analysis for the Top 25 Irish players is a combination of talent, expected production, importance of that player’s role and also the value the player brings. The value aspect includes the position played and also the depth chart, meaning who can the Irish least afford to lose.
Let's look at why Doerer is a valuable player for Notre Dame:
MAKING THE CASE
Doerer was a major question mark for Notre Dame heading into 2019, but he was outstanding in many areas for the Irish last season. Now heading into his senior season, Doerer has a chance to emerge as one of the nation's top kickers.
The North Carolina native made 17 of his 20 field goal attempts last season and nailed all 57 of his extra point attempts. That was the most extra points in Notre Dame history, and his 108 points last fall also shattered the previous Notre Dame kicking record of 98 points.
Whether or not he gets enough field goal opportunities to compete for the Lou Groza Award remains to be seen, but there can be no mistaking how important he will be to the Notre Dame offense and defense this season.
His role on the offense is obvious, if Doerer is on his game it means points for the Irish. He has a powerful leg, which means the Irish offense doesn't need to get deep into the scoring zone to be in his range. Doerer was 7-9 on field goal attempts of at least 40 yards last season, which is tremendously effective. He was 2-2 on attempts beyond 50 yards.
If he's locked in it should give head coach Brian Kelly a great deal of confidence to give him chances at long attempts, and it should give offensive coordinator Tommy Rees a great deal of comfort calling plays. Having a kicker with Doerer's powerful leg means once the offense gets to the opponent's 35-yard line, Rees can still dial up big play opportunities knowing that if it misses they are still in Doerer's range. A kicker with a weaker leg, or a less accurate leg, would often force a coordinator into a third-down situation that is more conservative in some instances, knowing he needs to get a few more yards to get the kicker into range.
Doerer can be an asset for the defense as well. He can boot balls out of the end zone with ease, and if the Irish wanted to do so they could ensure that opponents never start beyond the 25-yard line thanks to his powerful leg. Going 75 yards on a consistent basis against the Notre Dame defense won't be easy for anyone this season.
NEED FOR IMPROVEMENT
There is room for improvement with Doerer when it comes to kickoffs. While he showed significant improvement over previous seasons, he will still miss his target more than I'd like.
Notre Dame special teams coordinator Brian Polian likes to ask Doerer to not boot it into the end zone all the time, and that's why only 40 of Doerer's 87 kickoffs went for touchdowns. Polian prefers to get the ball into a corner, inside the 5-yard line, and then allow his coverage unit to pin the return unit even deeper. Notre Dame's coverage unit ranked 18th nationally last season and gave up just 17.9 yards per return, so that makes this a smart strategy. That means if Doerer can pin the ball accurately inside the 5-yard line the odds are good the coverage team won't allow the opposing offense to even make it to the 25-yard line.
The better Doerer is with his placement and consistency in this area, the better it will be for the defense.
Doerer spoke with Sydney Sims after a recent practice. Give it a listen:
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We continue breaking down the 25 best players for Notre Dame in 2020 by looking at the special teams, with placekicker and kickoff specialist Jonathan Doerer grabbing the #23 spot on this list. Subscribe for full article
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