Notre Dame Notebook: Houston Griffith, Red Zone Success, Recruiting Advantage

News and notes about Notre Dame football include Houston Griffith and Notre Dame's red zone woes
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News and notes about Notre Dame in advance of its season-opening matchup against Florida State

RED ZONE ALERT

Notre Dame needs to improve in that area. According to the NCAA, Notre Dame ranked 102nd in the country last season in the red zone, scoring on just 76.7% of their possessions that reached inside the 20-yard line

There were 25 rushing touchdowns on 60 attempts and 10 passing scores.

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said the Irish were “extremely efficient at scoring in the red zone running the football, we were probably one of the best in the country.”

That’s debatable.

Notre Dame was good enough at rushing for scores but there were plenty of teams, like Army, Stanford and North Carolina that were better. Army scored 28 red zone touchdowns out of 39 attempts, Stanford scored at a 56% clip and North Carolina was at 50%. There were others that were higher than ND.

In 2019, the Irish ranked 14th in red zone scoring, getting in the end zone at a 93% clip. Notre Dame was 58th in 2018 and 14th in 2017.

Overall, it’s an area of concern, according to Kelly. For Kelly, it’s about the overall passing game. The running game is going to be solid.

Perhaps great.

With a slew of receivers looking to breakout, those efficiency numbers in the red zone should drop to a number that is closer to the 2019 ratings.

“We got to throw it better in the red zone and we have to be more effective when we do have those opportunities," Kelly said. "When those situations arise, we've got to catch it, we've got to throw it and we've got to be on the same page in terms of doing it. What I want to see more than anything else is a higher efficiency in throwing the football and maybe a little bit more balance there. We were stubborn, but we were good at it. We were good at running the football down there, but we weren't as balanced as I would like to be. There has to be more balance and that balance comes from throwing it more efficiently in the red zone. We have more targets and I think from an offensive structure, we'll put ourselves in a position where we'll have a little bit more balance going through it.”

RECRUITING ADVANTAGE

There is more than one reason that Notre Dame likes the Sunday night game against Florida State on national TV.

It’s the only college game that night and it gives the coaches a chance to get out and recruit on Friday.

It’s hard to measure intangibles that come with getting an extra night at home to recruit and how the solo exposure plays out in actually getting players to come to Notre Dame.

But long term it helps.

Kelly pointed out the downside of playing the game in a short week and arriving home at 4 a.m. on Labor Day.

Still, it’s worth it.

“Our schedule is a mix of ACC games as well as national rivalry games. Plus we put some Big Ten games in there and we're playing at different geographical NFL sites across the country," Kelly explained. "That in its entirety entices student athletes to look at Notre Dame. That’s where we get a bit of a bump by playing on Sunday night as the only nationally televised game. Those are the kinds of things we look for in scheduling.”

HOUSTON GRIFFITH WILL BE TESTED

Senior safety Houston Griffith should have some opportunities to make some plays against FSU, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said.

Griffith is starting opposite Kyle Hamilton at strong safety. Hamilton is a preseason all American candidate. KJ Wallace, a 5-10 sophomore, will rotate in with Griffith.

“I think it's pretty apparent, right? Where Kyle Hamilton is going to be, most people are not going to be,” Kelly said. “That position is crucial relative to getting the ball on the ground and so that's a tackling position for us. Those guys have to tackle the football. They both had really good camps. You're going to see them both playing. They're going to be on notice because most teams know where Hamilton is and they're going to attack both those guys and I think they're up for the task."

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