Notre Dame 2020 Schedule Is Loaded With Talented Quarterbacks
In a recent podcast, the Irish Breakdown crew discussed the fact Notre Dame was facing a schedule filled with talented and dangerous offenses. The schedule is also filled with productive and dangerous quarterbacks, and how well the Irish defense plays against those signal callers will have a significant impact on the team’s 2020 success.
Let’s look at the top quarterbacks on the schedule:
TREVOR LAWRENCE, JUNIOR, CLEMSON
2019 Stats: 3,665 pass yards, 36 TDs, 8 INTs / 563 rush yards, 9 TDs
Career Stats: 6,945 pass yards, 66 TDs, 12 INTs / 740 rush yards, 10 TDs
I don’t get the big deal about Lawrence. All he’s done is go 25-1 as a starter, throw for 6,945 yards and rack up 76 total touchdowns in two seasons. I mean the guy only has one national championship so far!
Okay, that’s obviously sarcasm. Lawrence has been brilliant to start his career. The arm talent has been there from day one, but Lawrence added the run game to his repertoire last fall, rushing for 563 yards and nine scores.
Now a junior, Lawrence is arguably the best quarterback in the country. He’s certainly the most accomplished, and if Notre Dame is going to make a playoff run the defense will need to do a better job keeping him in check than it did in the 2018 playoff game. The defense battled against Lawrence, but he made three huge throws that did the Irish in.
KEDON SLOVIS, SOPHOMORE, USC
2019 Stats: 3,502 pass yards, 30 TDs, 9 INTs
Slovis benefits from playing in a pass-heavy offense, and he’s surrounded by an extremely talented group of pass catchers. As long as he stays healthy there is no doubt his numbers will be gaudy, that’s just how that offense works.
Slovis is more than just a byproduct of the system, he’s the ideal trigger man for that offense. He is a smart quarterback, a good decision maker and he’s an accurate throw. Slovis isn’t an overly mobile player, but he’s capable of beating the pressure with his quick release and decision making.
He completed 71.9% of his passes as a true freshman, but six of his nine picks came in two games, losses to BYU and Oregon. If he can clean up a few things the rising sophomore will put up monster numbers and fuel an explosive USC offense.
MICALE CUNNINGHAM, JUNIOR, LOUISVILLE
2019 Stats: 2,061 pass yards, 22 TDs, 5 INTs / 482 rush yards, 6 TDs
Career Stats: 2,534 pass yards, 23 TDs, 6 INTs / 979 rush yards, 11 TDs
Notre Dame didn’t face Cunningham last season as he recovered from a knee injury that he sustained in fall camp. When he returned, Cunningham provided a spark to the Cardinal offense. Now healthy, Cunningham is the most dangerous dual-threat quarterback on the Irish schedule this season.
Cunningham has improved as a passer, but what makes him dangerous in the throwing game is how much emphasis must be placed on protecting against him hammering you with his legs. Cunningham is a threat on designed runs and as a scrambler.
If he can become a better decision maker as a passer his game could explode in 2020 and he could end up as the second best quarterback on Notre Dame’s schedule.
SAM HARTMAN, JUNIOR, WAKE FOREST
2019 Stats: 830 pass yards, 4 TDs, 2 INTs / 89 rush yards, 1 TD
Career Stats: 2,814 pass yards, 20 TDs, 10 INTs / 364 rush yards, 3 TDs
Wake Forest lost quarterback Jamie Newman to Georgia, but the Deacons should be just fine at the position in 2020. Hartman started as a true freshman and passed for 1,984 yards and 16 touchdowns in nine games before going down with a season-ending injury.
Newman took over and held the job in 2019, but Hartman was thrust onto the field in three games after the starter was injured. Hartman came in against Louisville with the Deacons down 55-38, and he promptly led the offense on three touchdown drives in the fourth quarter, throwing for 172 yards and two scores in less than a quarter.
The following week Hartman passed for 308 yards to lead Wake Forest to a win over Florida State. In November, Hartman replaced Newman with the Deacons down 17-3 to Syracuse. Hartman passed for 350 yards and two scores, but the Deacons still fell 39-30.
Hartman has the talent to put up huge numbers this season if he can stay healthy.
DAVIS MILLS, JUNIOR, STANFORD
2019 Stats: 1,960 pass yards, 11 TDs, 5 INTs
Mills was a five-star recruit, but injuries and KJ Costello limited him to just two pass attempts during his first two seasons on campus. When Costello went down last season, Mills stepped into the lineup and played quite well … at least when he was healthy.
Mills passed for 293 yards in a win over Washington, 504 yards and three touchdowns in a loss to Washington State and his passing was a big reason the Cardinal jumped out to a 17-7 lead over Notre Dame. Mills completed 28 of 46 passes for 276 yards and a pair of scores against the Irish.
The southpaw averaged 307.5 passing yards per game in the six games where he played the majority of the game. If he can stay healthy in 2020 he should have a big season due to the fact he’s talented and he’ll be surrounded by a deep group of quality receivers.
FELEIPE FRANKS, SENIOR, ARKANSAS
2018 Stats: 2,457 pass yards, 24 TDs, 6 INTs / 350 rush yards, 7 TDs
Career Stats: 4,598 pass yards, 38 TDs, 17 INTs / 438 rush yards, 8 TDs
Franks transferred in from Florida after going down with a season-ending injury in just the third game of the 2019 season. He threw for 2,457 yards and racked up 31 total touchdowns as the starter in 2018 and competed 76.1% of his passes in the first three games of 2019 before dislocating his ankle against Kentucky.
Franks has a tremendous arm, but decision making has not always been his strong suit. He’s experienced and the Razorbacks have a few talented young players around him. His veteran leadership and experience playing in big SEC games should help what will likely otherwise be a young offensive football team.
JACK COAN, WISCONSIN
2019 Stats: 2,727 pass yards, 18 TDs, 5 INTs / 4 rush TDs
Career Stats: 3,278 pass yards, 23 TDs, 8 INTs / 5 rush TDs
Coan won’t blow anyone away with a big arm or top-notch athleticism, but he’s a smart decision maker that’s been part of some big wins at Wisconsin. Coan was outstanding in Wisconsin’s 38-17 victory over Minnesota last season, throwing for 280 yards and a pair of scores.
Coan is a game-manager, but he’ll occasionally make a big over the top throw that gives the offense a spark. If the run game can maintain its dominance after losing running back Jonathan Taylor and center Tyler Biadasz it will take a lot of pressure off Coan, and he’ll shine in that role.
The question is can Coan be more of a playmaker, and can he do that without Quintez Cephas?
KENNY PICKETT, PITTSBURGH
2019 Stats: 3,098 pass yards, 13 TDs, 9 INTs / 110 rush yards, 2 TDs
Career Stats: 5,576 pass yards, 26 TDs, 16 INTs / 423 rush yards, 7 TDs
Pickett is an intriguing player. As a true freshman he led the Panthers to a November win over then undefeated Miami. His sophomore season didn’t go as planned, as Pickett threw for just 1,969 yards and 12 touchdowns.
His junior season went better in some regards, with Pickett throwing for 3,098 yards while completing 61.6% of his passes. But he threw just t13 touchdowns passes, and the Pitt offense was wildly inconsistent.
Pickett finished the season off on a relatively strong note. He surrounded a poor game against Virginia Tech with games of 361 yards, 359 yards and 323 yards, all wins for the Panthers. If Pickett can carry that late-season surge into the 2020 season, which is year two of being in offensive coordinator Mark Whipple’s offense, he could shoot way up this list.
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