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No. 4 Notre Dame, Ian Book hold on at Northwestern, reach 9-0

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EVANSTON, Ill. — Once again it took awhile, and once again Notre Dame rendered that angst unnecessary. The No. 4 Irish topped Northwestern 31-21 on Saturday thanks largely to two third-quarter touchdowns.

Those scores turned a 7-7 tie into a presumed 21-7 Notre Dame rout, even if a delayed one, but an Irish special teams gaffe gave the Wildcats late life until a perfectly-executed read-option fake by junior quarterback Ian Book yielded him a clear 23-yard path for a touchdown and the final score, his third on the day.

“We definitely wanted to put the ball out to the perimeter to our playmakers, and we wanted to take some shots,” Book said of the halftime adjustments. “We were able to hit some of those and help spring our offense.”

Northwestern (5-4) kept the Irish in check in the first half in nearly every regard, giving up only 55 rushing yards and 4.63 yards per play. Book, he of the completion percentage rates usually defying belief, had completed only 7 of 15 passes for 107 yards at halftime. He then nearly matched those numbers on a touchdown drive early in the third quarter, completing 7-of-9 passes for 77 yards, eventually finding senior receiver Miles Boykin for a 20-yard score.

In that period alone, Book went 11-of-14 for 195 yards and two touchdowns, also connecting with sophomore Michael Young from 47 yards. Book finished the game 22-of-34 for 343 yards and two passing touchdowns plus another 56 yards on 11 rushes.

Notre Dame senior receiver Miles Boykin’s twisting third-quarter 20-yard touchdown catch was part of his four receptions for 56 yards in the Saturday night win at Northwestern. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

“I didn’t sense a tightness with the [offense],” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said beneath Ryan Field. “… They played fast and free in the second half and that’s really the most important thing.”

Yet, a blocked punt early in the fourth quarter kept Northwestern around just long enough to keep things interesting. Only Book’s legs made his arm’s contributions enough.

While Notre Dame’s defense allowed a touchdown after the blocked punt — though the Wildcats needed five plays to cover the 17 yards and even then barely breached the goal line — it did not give up any points when the Irish offense fumbled on the first drive for the second consecutive week.

Immediately prior to the blocked punt, the Wildcats scored on a 27-yard touchdown pass, but that was their only play of more than 20 yards, gaining a total of 249 yards and averaging 3.6 per play.

“That’s the way we’ve won this year,” Kelly said. “We haven’t given up the big plays. We’ve been really effective and efficient. We played some different coverages that they hadn’t seen before, … which was obviously effective for us in some certain situations.”

Indeed, Northwestern senior quarterback Clayton Thorson completed only 16 of his 29 attempts for just 141 yards while getting sacked five times, including twice each by senior linebacker Te’von Coney and junior end Daelin Hayes.

“The key this week was to get pressure on [Thorson],” said Coney, who also had 10 tackles. “He’s a great quarterback who we knew we had to move him off his mark, get him out of the pocket and get him moving so he wouldn’t make accurate throws.”

As much as that is the way Notre Dame has won this year, both the bend-don’t-break strategy and the reliance on a pass rush, it was also the distinct game plan from defensive coordinator Clark Lea this week. Thorson typically relies on receiver Flynn Nagel. With Irish junior cornerback Julian Love focused on Nagel — former high school adversaries, in fact, both being from the Chicago area — Thorson needed to take to deep shots, unsuccessfully but for the one.

“We wanted to eliminate Flynn Nagel,” Love said. “… After that, if you do that correctly, they’re going to just take shots. We were prepared for that. They got that one on us, but I think we did a good job of handling deeper throws and getting off their rhythm. You could see they struggled because we game planned well.”

Up until the final minutes, every piece of that game plan was needed, but as Love said, the defense knew what the score was and knew what to do when the Wildcats got within three points halfway through the fourth quarter.

“Our defense is something like waking a sleeping beast really when games are close,” Love said. “… We knew if they didn’t score any more points, game over. And that’s what we did.”

PLAY OF THE GAME
Not only did Book’s late touchdown run give Notre Dame a two-possession lead with only two-plus minutes remaining, it also converted a third down. If not for it, the Irish may have attempted a field goal and given Northwestern a chance at a victory.

The first down, not the touchdown, was the intention.

“We certainly had held that play for an opportunity to end the game,” Kelly said. “It was an unbalanced situation. We got the numbers the way we wanted it.”

Like every read-option, Book had the choice of handing it off inside, but his one read indicated he should pull the ball and head around the edge, following sophomore tight end Cole Kmet. Book’s description made it clear the read was quite plain, and Kmet hardly had to do a thing as the lead blocker.

“We felt like we would be able to pick up the first down,” Kelly said. “We were going to run the football in that situation regardless. Just something we held onto and executed it well.”

If you are going to hold a play that can rip off a chunk gain, deploying it when a first down can ice the game makes plenty of sense. For Book, it may have been the best part of the game.

PLAYER OF THE GAME
That is saying something, considering Book completed 64.71 percent of his passes, averaged 10.1 yards per attempt and totaled 399 yards and three touchdowns.

That’s a day. Or, more precisely, a night.

Yet, this honor could also be claimed by junior receiver Chase Claypool. In fact, Kelly gave Claypool the game ball Saturday. He finished with eight catches for 130 yards.

Notre Dame junior receiver Chase Claypool said it has become a point of emphasis for him to gain yards after the catch after not doing so much in the season’s first eight games. (AP Photo/Jim Young)

Claypool set the table for others’ success. The drive that ended with the Boykin touchdown began with a 13-yard completion to Claypool. The one that culminated with the deep ball to Young started with a 31-yard catch by Claypool to get the Irish out of the shadow of their own goalposts.

“He has really ascended this year,” Kelly said. “… His maturity has allowed that growth. In everything that he has done. His work ethic, the way he practices. Anybody who has been around the game knows the great players are great practice players. The way he practices now carries over to the way he plays, and it’s showing itself in his maturity and the way he practices.”

Claypool said it was a point of emphasis for him to gain yards after the catch, and he did, inflating both his and Book’s stats. Those yards turned into Notre Dame success, even if Claypool himself did not reach the end zone.

TURNING POINT OF THE GAME
Fourth-and-2 and it would be a 47-yard field goal. The Irish had yet to find offensive success, and the game remained tied. Taking the likely three points would have made plenty of sense. Instead, Kelly went for it.

But offensive coordinator Chip Long did not call for a run up the middle. To that point, Notre Dame had rushed 22 times for 63 yards, an average of 2.9 per carry, including a return to the line of scrimmage by senior running back Dexter Williams on the previous snap. Instead, Long called for a quick screen to Boykin on the perimeter.

“We made a couple adjustments at halftime,” Kelly said. “[Book] picked up on them extremely well. We worked the ball back to the field and got some good looks.”

Boykin made the difficult touchdown catch three plays later. That did not end up being the winning score, but it was the one that finally got the Irish offense on track and rolling toward 24 second-half points.

STAT OF THE GAME
Those Notre Dame halftime adjustments were real:
First-half yards per play: 4.63
Second-half yards per play: 7.74

Much of that change came through the air, but the Irish run game did slowly find its effectiveness:
First-half rushing: 20 carries for 55 yards, 2.75 yards per attempt.
Second-half rushing: 17 carries for 77 yards, 4.53 yards per attempt.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
Usually a question like this would be met with an eye roll by a the discerning listener. It is fluff, little more. But sometimes, it is necessary fluff.

“How does it feel to be 9-0?”

Coney: “It feels great. We know we have a lot more in the tank, we have a lot ore that we have to do. We have accomplishments that we want to accomplish this year. It’s going to take a lot.”

A year ago, there was not a lot more in the tank at this point on the calendar.

SCORING SUMMARY
First Quarter
6:28 — Notre Dame touchdown. Dexter Williams 1-yard run. Justin Yoon PAT good. Notre Dame 7, Northwestern 0. (14 plays, 79 yards, 5:33)

Second Quarter
8:04 — Northwestern touchdown. Clayton Thorson 1-yard run. Charlie Kuhbander PAT good. Notre Dame 7, Northwestern 7. (18 plays, 73 yards, 8:36)

Third Quarter
7:28 — Notre Dame touchdown. Miles Boykin 20-yard pass from Ian Book. Yoon PAT good. Notre Dame 14, Northwestern 7. (11 plays, 80 yards, 3:51)
2:33 — Notre Dame touchdown. Michael Young 47-yard pass from Book. Yoon PAT good. Notre Dame 21, Northwestern 7. (6 plays, 98 yards, 2:09)

Fourth Quarter
13:05 — Notre Dame field goal. Yoon 43 yards. Notre Dame 24, Northwestern 7. (5 plays, 29 yards, 2:17)
11:16 — Northwestern touchdown. Riley Lees 27 yards from Thorson. Kuhbander PAT good. Notre Dame 24, Northwestern 14. (6 plays, 75 yards, 1:49)
7:05 — Northwestern touchdown. Thorson 1-yard run. Kuhbander PAT good. Notre Dame 24, Northwestern 21. (5 plays, 17 yards, 1:51)
2:45 — Notre Dame touchdown. Book 23-yard run. Yoon PAT good. Notre Dame 31, Northwestern 21. (10 plays, 89 yards, 4:16)

Friday at 4: Notre Dame brings back the most important NFL possibilities in Kareem & Okwara

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This is not to diminish the losses of receiver Miles Boykin and consensus first-team All-American cornerback Julian Love. Notre Dame will miss both of them, Love in particular. But looking at the Irish depth chart, there are avenues to survival without both.

Notre Dame will return two starting receivers in rising senior Chase Claypool and fifth-year-to-be Chris Finke (speaking of which, see below). A number of options exist to replace Love, though obviously none will match his shutdown abilities. Either rising sophomore TaRiq Bracy will put on the necessary muscle to compete with receivers at this level or rising senior Donte Vaughn will return reinvigorated with health after recent surgery to repair a torn labrum surgery or rising sophomore Houston Griffith will move from safety to get his talent on the field or fifth-year Shaun Crawford will recover from an ACL tear quicker than expected or … or … or … If one of those pans out, the Irish defense should be comfortable in its coverage, buoyed by the stalwart safety combination of Alohi Gilman and Jalen Elliott. (Imagine sincerely saying “stalwart safety combination” just six months ago.)

Look again at the depth chart, and such luxuries do not exist at defensive end. If rising seniors Khalid Kareem and Julian Okwara had not opted to return, Notre Dame’s 2019 dreams would have hit a lowered ceiling nine months before the season began. By no means were they certain high-round draft picks, but the allure of athletic and talented defensive ends may have easily led to some outsized draft hopes.

Their backups are certainly more than capable — rising seniors Daelin Hayes and Ade Ogundeji — but a talented second-unit is as important at defensive end as dangerous starters are. To replace the latter with the former is to diminish the entire enterprise outright.

The Irish could not have recovered from losing both Kareem and Okwara, at least not to the extent where Playoff talk would be viable again. Lose one and it would have still been dubious, at best.

Take a look at the teams expected to be in the mix for the Playoff. Using current championship odds … Clemson at 2-to-1, Alabama at just less than 3-to-1, Georgia at 6-to-1, Ohio State at 8-to-1, Michigan at 16-to-1 and then Oklahoma also at 16-to-1. Those first five have been known for their defenses more than anything else in recent years. Bookmakers put some faith in their ability to reload on the fly.

Notre Dame has not earned that trust, and its roster does not indicate it should have. As well as Justin Ademilola performed as a freshman in four games, inserting him into a pivotal role in 2019 would likely be a recipe for a mediocre season. He is another year of development away from being ready for that role, barring a Matt Balis-induced excellent offseason.

The Irish will need Kareem and Okwara to survive the losses of defensive tackles Jerry Tillery and Jonathan Bonner, but if they play as they did in 2018, that is a reasonable ask. If they continue to develop, it becomes a probability more than a Notre Dame leap of faith.

The Irish will miss Boykin’s back-shoulder reliability and everything about Love, but Brian Kelly and his coaching staff coaxed back the two most-pivotal pieces from NFL draft consideration.


Speaking of Finke, he confirmed his intent to return for his final year of eligibility Thursday evening. And he did it in a way only befitting a man comfortable in his own skin.


And for the sake of context: Notre Dame is currently listed at 25-to-1 for the 2019-20 national championship, tied with Florida and Washington, just behind Texas at 20-to-1.

Notre Dame’s defensive depth chart, a touch lighter with D.J. Morgan’s intended transfer

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With the Wednesday announcement of current junior linebacker D.J. Morgan’s intention to transfer this summer as a graduate with two years of eligibility remaining, Notre Dame’s roster drops to 87 scholarship players expected this coming fall. Included among them, at least 12, possibly 14 linebackers. Before explaining that …

Morgan finishes his Irish career with two tackles in two 2017 appearances as a safety. He moved to linebacker during 2018’s spring practices, but never came particularly close to playing time. It remained difficult to see him cracking into the rotation moving forward given the quality of recruiting classes at the position in the last two cycles.

“I would like to thank the University of Notre Dame for everything they have done for me,” Morgan wrote on Twitter. “When I decided to come here, my main goal was to get my degree from this prestigious University, and I am proud to see that I will be completing that goal this summer!

“During this time I will be searching for a new school to attend as a graduate transfer to finish off my last 2 years of eligibility.”

(@deundraymorgan)

Before facing Louisville on Labor Day, the Irish will need to be down to 85 scholarship players. At 87 now, that does not include incoming freshman J.D. Bertrand, who had a recruitment handled in a deliberate fashion so as to make him eligible for an academic scholarship. Notre Dame also continues to chase two defenders — consensus four-star linebacker Asa Turner and consensus four-star defensive end Isaiah Foskey — who could balloon the roster count further.

RELATED READING: Notre Dame’s offensive depth chart entering the 2019 offseason

Keep that necessary attrition in mind as realizing how many players are at certain positions.

DEFENSIVE END (9)
Julian Okwara — Senior in 2019-2020 — 1 year of eligibility remaining.
Khalid Kareem — Senior — 1
Daelin Hayes — Senior — 1
Ade Ogundeji — Senior — 2
Justin Ademilola — Sophomore — 4
Jamir Jones — Senior — 1
Kofi Wardlow — Junior — 3
NaNa Osafo-Mensah — Early-enrolled freshman — 4
Howard Cross — Incoming freshman — 4

If not for Ademilola’s impressive 2018, it would be easy to presume a four-man rotation next season, but appearing in the Cotton Bowl all-but guarantees Ademilola will be in the mix.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE (6)
Kurt Hinish — Junior in 2019-2020 — 2 years of eligibility remaining.
Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa — Junior in 2019-2020 — 3
Jayson Ademilola — Sophomore — 3
Ja’Mion Franklin — Sophomore — 4
Jacob Lacey — Early-enrolled freshman — 4
Hunter Spears — Early-enrolled freshman — 4

Lacey will need to be ready for at least four games next season, especially with three of these six returning from injury: Tagovailoa-Amosa with a broken foot, though he did at least take some snaps against Clemson; Franklin from a torn quad that will limit him through the spring; and Spears from a torn ACL that could conceivably cost him 2019.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (8)
Asmar Bilal — Fifth-year in 2019-2020 — 1 year of eligibility remaining.
Jordan Genmark-Heath — Junior — 2
Jonathan Jones — Senior — 2
Bo Bauer — Sophomore — 3
Jack Lamb — Sophomore — 4
Drew White — Junior — 3
Jack Kiser — Early-enrolled freshman — 4
J.D. Bertrand — Incoming freshman — 4

It was always going to be a long-shot for Morgan as soon as Bauer and Lamb arrived.

ROVER (5)
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah — Junior in 2019-2020 — 3 years of eligibility remaining.
Shayne Simon — Sophomore — 3
Ovie Oghoufo — Sophomore — 3
Marist Liufau — Incoming freshman — 4
Osito Ekwonu — Incoming freshman — 4

Owusu-Koramoah lost 2018 to injury, making this something of a toss-up between him and Simon for a spring competition chasing the starting role, presuming Bilal does indeed move inside as expected.

Alohi Gilman’s 18 tackles in the Cotton Bowl loss should set him up for an offseason of further development and possible captaincy. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

SAFETIES (8)
Alohi Gilman — Senior in 2019-2020 — 2 years of eligibility remaining.
Jalen Elliott — Senior — 1
Devin Studstill — Senior — 1
Houston Griffith — Sophomore — 3
Derrik Allen — Sophomore — 4
Paul Moala — Sophomore — 3
Kyle Hamilton — Incoming freshman — 4
Litchfield Ajavon — Incoming freshman — 4

CORNERBACKS (8)
Troy Pride — Senior in 2019-2020 — 1 year of eligibility remaining.
Donte Vaughn — Senior — 1
TaRiq Bracy — Sophomore — 3
Shaun Crawford — Fifth-year — 1, with possibly another after that if the NCAA grants a medical waiver.
D.J. Brown — Sophomore — 4
Noah Boykin — Sophomore — 4
Isaiah Rutherford — Incoming freshman — 4
K.J. Wallace — Incoming freshman — 4

Someone needs to be Notre Dame’s second cornerback, be that Vaughn, Bracy or a healthy Crawford. Someone also needs to be the Irish nickel back, perhaps Bracy, Crawford or a converted safety.

The questions at cornerback have multiple talented answers, if unproven or uncertain. They should prove to be the most pivotal to Notre Dame’s 2019 success or failure.

 

Leftovers & Links: Brandon Wimbush heads to Central Florida for his final season

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Former Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush will continue his career at Central Florida. Wimbush announced his graduate transfer destination Tuesday morning.

“The journey continues on …,” Wimbush wrote on Instagram. “A sincere thank you to Notre Dame for giving me endless opportunities on and off the field. Words truly can not (sic) describe what this incredible University and the PEOPLE mean to me and always will mean to me. I’m truly thankful. Cannot say it enough.

“With that being said, I am excited to announce that UCF has granted me an awesome opportunity to play my last year of collegiate football for their great University.”

Wimbush will enter into a starting opportunity, although an unfortunate one and a competitive one. The late November horrendous knee injury to three-year starter McKenzie Milton will almost-assuredly sideline him through the 2019 season. If not for the injury, Milton would either be starting 2019 for the Knights or headed to the NFL.

In his first year of any action, sophomore Darriel Mack played in 10 games for Central Florida, completing 51 of his 100 pass attempts for 619 yards and three touchdowns, including going 35-of-71 for 526 yards and three scores in the two-plus games Milton missed.

In other words, Mack put up Wimbush-esque numbers, despite Heupel’s high-scoring offense.

Wimbush finishes his Irish career with a 13-3 record as a starter, including four wins during 2018’s unbeaten regular season. After the Notre Dame offense failed to break 24 points in the first three games of the season, offensive coordinator Chip Long turned to Ian Book for a spark, one Book provided and then some.

Wimbush’s role became non-existent after that, aside from a Senior Day start in place of an injured Book, throwing for 130 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 68 yards.

RELATED READING: The quarterback Notre Dame needed, Brandon Wimbush

In the lead-up to the Cotton Bowl, word broke Wimbush would seek a graduate transfer, confirming what had long been obvious. It had been so clear, it did not faze anyone within the Irish locker room.

Mustipher and Co. will now have reason to keep an eye on the Knights in 2019. After going 25-1 in the last two seasons, Central Florida will want to keep the momentum rolling, particularly with Stanford arriving in Orlando on Sept. 14, a week before the Knights head to Pittsburgh. The Knights genuinely entering the College Football Playoff conversation remains unlikely, but topping those two before rolling through the American Athletic Conference would at least start the discussion, especially if a former Irish quarterback headlines the way.

A consensus three-star prospect out of Virginia, Mack held offers from eastern schools in the Big Ten (Maryland), Big 12 (West Virginia) and ACC (Virginia, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh).

Named 2018’s Next Man In, Wimbush finishes his Irish career with 2,606 yards on 193-of-382 passing with 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions along with 1,155 rushing yards and 16 additional touchdowns.

AS FOR NOTRE DAME’S QB IN 2019 …
Early Heisman odds came from an online sportsbook Tuesday, betonline.ag. Irish rising senior Ian Book was given 16-to-1 odds, tied for ninth on the listing. Given the names ahead of him, Book’s realistic chances of winning the Heisman Trophy are slim. Only Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa have odds lower than 12-to-1, at 7-to-2 and 4-to-1, respectively.

Then come two Notre Dame opponents — Georgia running back D’Andre Swift and quarterback Jake Fromm, both at 12-to-1. Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson checks in at 25-to-1, just ahead of Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello at 33-to-1.

If nothing else, Book can count on some early-season hype if the Irish top Swift and Fromm on Sept. 21.

INSIDE THE IRISH READING
Even the ‘way-too-early’ 2019 polls already respect Notre Dame
Notre Dame’s offensive depth chart entering the 2019 offseason
Claypool’s return welcome news for Notre Dame
Program-record 10 early enrollees mark the beginning of Notre Dame’s 2019
Autry Denson leaves Notre Dame to take over at Charleston Southern
Notre Dame’s Opponents: Early NFL departures hit Georgia, Michigan and Stanford hardest

OUTSIDE READING
Brandon Wimbush and UCF are a promising match for a pivotal 2019
The three biggest questions in college football for the 2019 season
2019 NFL draft underclassmen tracker: Who has declared?
Stanford’s Bryce Love ‘on the path to recovery’ from torn ACL
College football’s 100 best games 2018-19

Notre Dame’s Opponents: Early NFL departures hit Georgia, Michigan and Stanford hardest

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A sign of a strong program is one that loses players to the NFL before they exhaust eligibility. In that vein, Notre Dame lost a consensus first-team All-American cornerback, its leading receiver and a long-time tease of a tight end. The last of those (Alizé Mack) was never expected back for a fifth season; replacing Miles Boykin’s production is certainly within reason; and a consensus first-team All-American should be expected to take the route junior Julian Love has.

Even with that expectation, losing Love — and to a lesser extent, Boykin — alters the natural roster cycle, the inherent design intended during recruiting. Reloading is always the hope, the next intention, but very rarely is the young backup comparable to the near professional, even by the end of the coming season.

Nonetheless, the Irish got off easy this cycle compared to four of their 2019 opponents …

GEORGIA: Junior running back Elijah Holyfield, the Bulldogs’ second-leading rusher, departs after gaining 1,018 rushing yards with seven touchdowns on 6.4 yards per carry this season. Frankly, that is the least of Georgia’s losses. Three of quarterback Jake Fromm’s four favorite targets will leave eligibility on the figurative table:

— Junior receiver Riley Ridley: 44 catches for 570 yards and nine touchdowns in 2018.
— Junior receiver Mecole Hardman: 34 catches for 532 yards and seven touchdowns.
— Junior tight end Isaac Nauta: 30 catches for 430 yards and three touchdowns.

Without running back Karan Higdon, Michigan will presumably rely on its passing game more in 2019, quarterback Shea Patterson’s second season as a Wolverine. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

MICHIGAN: The Wolverines got good news when quarterback Shea Patterson opted to return for 2019, but losing leading-rusher Karan Higdon (1,178 yards, 10 touchdowns, 5.3 average) will be an issue head coach Jim Harbaugh undoubtedly hoped to avoid. Junior tight end Zach Gentry, Patterson’s third-most prolific target with 32 catches for 514 yards and two scores, will also head to the next level.

On the flip side, Harbaugh could have hoped linebacker Devin Bush (team-leading 80 tackles with 9.5 for loss including five sacks), defensive end Rashan Gary (44 tackles with seven for loss including 3.5 sacks) or linebacker David Long (17 tackles with one interception) might return, but no such luck for Michigan.

Duke junior quarterback Daniel Jones will head to the NFL after his third season as a starter, immediately lowering the Blue Devils’ 2019 expectations. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

DUKE: Junior linebacker Joe Giles-Harris paced the Blue Devils with 81 tackles, including seven for loss with one sack, doing so in only nine games. But losing Giles-Harris is hardly the concern for Duke. The decision to turn pro from quarterback Daniel Jones is.

In his third year as a starter, the junior fought through a broken collarbone to still play in 11 games in 2018, completing 60.5 percent of his passes for 2,674 yards and 22 touchdowns with nine interceptions. He added 319 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

Jones’ decision may come as a surprise, but it is one that should work out well for both him and Notre Dame. Some mock drafts project him as a top-10 pick. In a draft light on quarterbacks — partly because Oregon’s Justin Herbert returned for another season, yet already somewhat counteracted by the Monday draft entry from Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray — Jones could end up being the third or fourth passer picked.

BOSTON COLLEGE: The Eagles will say farewell to junior cornerback Hemp Cheevers after he notched seven interceptions this season, returning one for a touchdown, to go along with 39 tackles.

STANFORD: This will seem like the Cardinal lost a lot to the NFL draft, but it could have been worse: As the departures mounted, so did speculation junior quarterback K.J. Costello might follow them. He opted not to.

Stanford will be without running back Bryce Love after his prodigious two seasons as the starter. Consider that a loss akin to the Irish Love, the inevitable price of enjoying the success in the first place.

Junior receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside will capitalize on his breakout season of 1,059 yards and 14 touchdowns, depriving Costello of his favorite jump-ball threat.

Junior tight end Kaden Smith will also head to the next level, in large part thanks to his 47 catches for 635 yards and two touchdowns this past season.

Louisville, New Mexico, Virginia, Bowling Green, USC, Virginia Tech and Navy all did not lose anyone early or pseudo-early to the NFL draft.