Notre Dame Offensive Line Starting To Show Dominance
Notre Dame is expected to be anchored in 2020 by a dominant offensive line, but the first time we saw the line it certainly didn’t look like one of the nation’s best. In looked more like the unit that struggled to establish the ground game in 2019.
The Irish offense sputtered through the first 30 minutes of the Duke win, scoring just 10 points in the first half. Notre Dame’s ground game was especially ineffective, with the Irish racking up just 39 yards on 13 designed runs, which went for just 3.0 yards per carry. The Irish failed to get a push up front, there was little room to run and the offensive line gave up two seconds in the early going.
The Irish started to clean things up in the second half against the Blue Devils, and the line was brilliant in the 52-0 victory over South Florida in week two. Over the last six quarters we’ve seen the Irish line start to play like the unit that was expected to be one of best blocking groups in the country.
Just look at Notre Dame’s run efficiency rating in the first half of the Duke game compared to the last six quarters. An efficient run is one that is considered a win for the offense based on yards gained/result relative to down-and-distance, whether the run gets a first down or reaches the end zone.
A 50% or better run efficiency rate is quite good based on my metrics, and anything over 60% is elite. Here’s how the first two games have gone for the Irish run game.
Duke First Half - (4-13) - 30.7% efficiency
Duke Second Half - (9-17) - 52.9% efficiency
South Florida - (29-39) - 74.4% efficiency
Here’s another way to look at it:
First 2 Quarters (4-13) - 30.7% efficiency
Last 6 Quarters (38-56) - 67.9% efficiency
A 67.9% run efficiency rating is beyond elite, regardless of the level of competition. Against Duke it was more about being assignment correct, but against South Florida we saw the line start to exert physical dominance in a way you'd expect from an elite line.
Let's look at the raw rushing numbers:
Duke First Half - 13 carries, 39 yards, 3.0 yards per carry
Duke Second Half - 20 carries, 115 yards, 5.8 yards per carry
South Florida - 42 carries, 270 yards, 6.4 yards per carry
First 2 Quarters - 13 carries, 39 yards, 3.0 yards per carry
Last 6 Quarters - 62 carries, 385 yards, 6.2 yards per carry
Note: These numbers refer to called running plays only, not scrambles
Pro Football Focus gave junior center Jarrett Patterson the best run blocking grade of his career in the win over South Florida, and I noted in my post-game grades that I felt it was the best game of his career. Left guard Aaron Banks also earned the best run blocking grades of his career from PFF in the USF win as well, and left tackle Liam Eichenberg’s Duke and South Florida run blocking grades are the second and third best of his career.
Notre Dame has also allowed just one sack in the last six quarters.
The Irish line has also benefitted from outstanding early season blocking from tight ends Tommy Tremble, Michael Mayer and Brock Wright.
When Notre Dame gets back out on the field Oct. 10 against Florida State it will face arguably the best line it will see all season, so we'll see if the unit is ready to take that next step and become a consistently dominant group.
But the tests will continue; two weeks later it will face an extremely talented defensive front when it heads to Pittsburgh. Of course, the Clemson defensive line will present an extremely difficult challenge.
We have a lot to learn yet about this unit, but if the physicality we saw in the South Florida game becomes the norm there is little doubt this unit will live up to expectations and drive the offense all season long.
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