Thoughts on Notre Dame football, its recruiting efforts and its matchup against North Carolina, beginning with the offense.
MUST SEE MATCHUP
C #52 Zeke Correll vs. NG #51 Raymond Vohasek — Notre Dame’s dominant line play has fueled a highly successful rushing attack this season, and this will be our first chance to see if that will continue now that starting center Jarrett Patterson is out for the season.
Redshirt freshman Zeke Correll takes over with Patterson out, and he’ll be immediately tested. UNC nose guard Raymond Vohasek is a quality interior defender, possessing good strength, quickness off the ball and he plays with a good motor. When I see North Carolina’s run defense making plays a lot of the time Vohasek is part of that success.
If Correll loses this battle it will make it hard for the run game to get going, and it will also make the pass game a problem. Vohasek is disruptive as a pass rusher, and his ability to win the leverage battle as he pushes his way into the backfield is impressive. According to Pro Football Focus, Vohasek has nine hits on the quarterback this season, which is more than all but one Notre Dame defender.
If Correll wins this battle it will be a very, very good sign for the future of the line.
Beyond concerns about how the offensive line gels with two new starters, the biggest concern is that the offense slips back into its pre-Clemson form. If Notre Dame moves the ball like it did the first four games this will be a shootout, and the Irish will struggle to win. If Notre Dame moves the ball like it did the last two games the Irish will roll.
So what does that look like? Poor red zone offense, inefficiency in the pass game, a lack of big plays down the field, and a quarterback that isn’t comfortable working through his progressions.
If that offense is a thing of the past and protects the ball better than it did the last two games and the offense will put up big numbers in this matchup.
STATS THAT MATTER
Notre Dame needs to be efficient with its pass game, punish North Carolina on the ground and turn red zone trips into seven points and not three.
The UNC offense is explosive and can score on anyone. Notre Dame controlling the football and keeping the Tar Heel offense off the field will be a big part of the game. That means the pass game must be efficient and effective, which means averaging at least 8.0 yards per attempt. The closer quarterback Ian Book gets to 9.0 yards per attempt the better.
Notre Dame needs to dominate the Tar Heels on the ground. Getting over 200 yards would be a great sign, and averaging over 5.0 yards per carry means the Irish will be ripping off chunk plays but also being efficient on the ground, which means moving the chains.
When the Irish get into the red zone they need touchdowns, plain and simple. The odds of being North Carolina with field goals are not great. Being at least 80% on touchdowns in the red zone is a must.
STEP UP TIME
This is all about Ian Book and the new starters on the offensive line. Book outdueled Boston College stud Phil Jurkovec, and when the game was on the line he outperformed Clemson star freshman D.J. Uiagalelei. He will be playing opposite one of the nation’s top quarterbacks in UNC gunslinger Sam Howell. If Book is the best quarterback on the field Saturday the Irish will win, plain and simple.
Correll and right guard Joshua Lugg don’t need to be Patterson and Tommy Kraemer, but they need to play hard, they need to play sound and they need to communicate well with the rest of the line. If they do all that they should be just fine.
There are a couple of offensive players left on the board for the Irish offensive staff in the 2021 class, but there’s really only one name that would move the needle; that player would be West Bloomfield (Mich.) High School star running back Donovan Edwards.
Notre Dame has made itself a player for Edwards, and closing on him would be huge for the Irish staff. I would argue that landing Edwards and Logan Diggs - who is already committed to Notre Dame - would give the Irish its best one-two punch at running back since sighing Armando Allen and Robert Hughes back in 2007.
I believe it would be better than the Josh Adams/Dexter Williams duo in 2015, Greg Bryant/Tarean Folston duo in 2013 and Cierre Wood/Theo Riddick tandem in 2009. A case could be made for those groups, but I absolutely believe the Edwards/Diggs duo deserves to be in the conversation, which speaks volumes about how good they would be.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
Notre Dame left tackle Liam Eichenberg has played like a first round pick this season. His Pro Football Focus grade is significantly higher than it was last season. As good as Eichenberg has played, it is right tackle Robert Hainsey that has the highest PFF grade on offense.
There is no doubt that Notre Dame has the nation’s best offensive tackle tandem, which is a big reason the Irish should be just fine without Patterson and Kraemer.
FILM TO WATCH
Here's a look at Donovan Edwards:
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