Blue & Gold Reactions: Hot Takes Or Deep Fakes?
Spring Football is a blessing for fans of teams all over the country. It provides a chance to observe some low-pressure football before the long summer layoff period. Spring ball is a beacon of football in a time when there is none. But this thirst for football can also lead to some over-reactions by observers.
Most coaches prefer to run low-key camps with very limited viewing access for fans and media. This though often results in rumors, tidbits, and small looks into practices that then may end up aligning with or diverging from what presents itself fully in the single public practice game.
Let’s examine some popular narratives that have emerged post Blue & Gold and try to determine if these are hot takes or deep fakes.
There Is Still A QB Competition
SOUTH BEND, INDIANA – APRIL 22: Tyler Buchner #12 of Notre Dame Fighting Irish passes during the Notre Dame Blue-Gold Spring Football Game at Notre Dame Stadium on April 22, 2023 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
In the vein of competitive spirit and respect for Tyler Buchner, I completely understand why Notre Dame will not be naming an official starting QB until Summer camp. That being said, the competition last Saturday, albeit in a unique Spring setup, was lopsided.
Hartman seemed to command the offense with ease, flow, and efficiency while Tyler Buchner struggled in these areas. I felt that what I was witnessing was the difference between a 6th-year player and a player still trying to find his comfort level at the college level.
Editor’s Note: Since this was written, Buchner has entered the transfer portal and announced he’ll be continuing his career at Alabama
WR Group Is Ascending
SOUTH BEND, INDIANA – APRIL 22: Jayden Thomas #83 of Notre Dame Fighting Irish catches the football for a first down against Clarence Lewis #6 during the Notre Dame Blue-Gold Spring Football Game at Notre Dame Stadium on April 22, 2023 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
When analyzing this group in particular, it’s important to consider the point it was starting from when Freeman took over the program. This group was woefully behind in terms of frontline talent, overall depth, a pipeline of recruits, and development.
In the span of 1 calendar year, WR Coach Chansi Stuckey has done an excellent job reshaping this group. Along with an emerging group of players with some experience like Tobias Merriweather, Deion Colzie, Jayden Thomas, and Chris Tyree, it appears that there is also a true freshman that can make an impact as well, most notably Jaden Greathouse who has an exceptional Blue & Gold game.
It also must be mentioned that this group will be aided greatly in their development by the major upgrade made in the QB room as well. Trending up indeed.
Notre Dame's Defense Will Be Strong In 2023
SOUTH BEND, INDIANA – APRIL 22: Jaden Mickey #7 of Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates after his interception during the Notre Dame Blue-Gold Spring Football Game at Notre Dame Stadium on April 22, 2023 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
DEEP FAKE-(JUST FOR NOW )…
As we sit today, I feel confident that the 2023 Notre Dame offense, assuming reasonable health, will take a major step forward. The defense? I’m simply unsure of what to expect. And that isn’t meant to be an insult or undue negativity. They are simply an unknown. 4/6 top tacklers up front on defense have moved on from Notre Dame. As have over half of the sacks. There are also questions about LB play as a group and the secondary depth as well. This is legitimate reason for pause if not concern.
Without a body of work from which I can fairly confidently know what level of play to expect week in and week out, I must err on the side of “prove it”, before I can fully buy-in. The good news? We will have the answer by game 5. Can Notre Dame remain undefeated and then play stout defense against the Buckeyes? Irish fans sure hope so.
Fair To Raise Expectations After Blue & Gold
SOUTH BEND, INDIANA – APRIL 22: Sam Hartman #10 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rushes for a touchdown during the Notre Dame Blue-Gold Spring Football Game at Notre Dame Stadium on April 22, 2023 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
The efficiency with which Sam Hartman operated his Irish offense in the Blue & Gold game even with a split team, a new system to learn, and extremely poor weather makes me feel as though what has recently been the general weakness of the team when in the biggest games of the year, the offense, may soon become a strength.
Even when taking into consideration the worries I have about the defense, a sizeable jump in offensive productivity will be enough to move the needle in 2023. Think to yourself about how much recent Notre Dame teams have accomplished almost despite the offense. Working around the offense. What could things look like if this weren’t the case and the offense was truly more capable?
RB Room Is Elite
Oct 29, 2022; Syracuse, New York, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back Audric Estime (7) runs over Syracuse Orange defensive back Alijah Clark (5) in the second quarter at JMA Wireless Dome. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
Notre Dame has a terrific stable of backs that all have certain overlapping traits as well as unique ones they bring to the table. Estime, Diggs, Price, Payne, and Love is a deep, deep room. So much so that Chris Tyree was able to slide into the WR room to everyone’s benefit.
If used wisely and uniquely, this group should cause nothing but headaches for opposing defenses. And unlike previous years, teams will not be able to sell out to stop the run game without risking being burned by a newly capable Irish pass attack.
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