Eight days from now, Notre Dame will offer a public viewing in the Blue-Gold Game, your last glimpse of the Irish until they face Louisville on Labor Day (151 nights from now). With that in mind, a set of reader questions that would usually be ignored can instead serve as something of a varied spring exhibition preview …
How many touchdowns do Book and Jurkovec get?
To quote a nihilistic Louisiana homicide detective, start asking the right questions. The right question would be …
Who catches a touchdown in the Blue-Gold Game?
Book and Jurkovec will each throw a touchdown, perhaps a couple. Whom they target will be more revelatory. The success of rising sophomore Braden Lenzy may depend on how his balky hamstring fares this week, but if he could separate himself from his classmates, that would echo well into Notre Dame’s offseason.
Fifth-year Chris Finke, rising senior Chase Claypool and rising senior Michael Young are set to be the starters. To some degree, each of Lenzy and his classmates Kevin Austin and Lawrence Keys fits well behind a particular starter (Lenzy-Young, Austin-Claypool, Keys-Finke), but one will undoubtedly get more chances than the other two.
“It’s Kevin and Lawrence and Braden, those three guys are certainly adding to the depth, as well as the tight ends,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said Saturday.
While they may not take too many snaps away from the young trio, those tight ends — namely rising juniors Cole Kmet and Brock Wright, but perhaps also rising sophomore Tommy Tremble — could steal red-zone targets. Hence their inclusion in this touchdown discussion.
A Blue-Gold score could be written off as a one-off in a small sample size, but it will be as good an indicator as any as to who may compliment the starters in the fall.
Who gets the first interception?
The logical answer is rising senior Jalen Elliott, coming off a four-interception 2018 and having notched an interception in last year’s Blue-Gold Game, one that in retrospect was quite foreshadowing. But his reps may be limited. Elliott and Alohi Gilman have proven themselves. If any defenders take just a smattering of series, it should be those two (followed by starting defensive ends Khalid Kareem and Julian Okwara).
Instead, let’s nod toward the answer of …
Which cornerback lines up opposite Troy Pride?
There seem to be two candidates, both rising sophomores: TaRiq Bracy and Houston Griffith (pictured above). The latter, a converted safety, gets the starting gig in this conjecture, if only because Bracy recently sprained an ankle.
“Houston has made really good progress,” Kelly said. “He’s being challenged by a really good player in Chase Claypool, so you may look at it and think, ‘Wow, he got beat 2-3 times today.’ But I’d like to have that kind of competition going against a kid that is playing corner at the collegiate level for the first time. He’s doing some good things for us. He’ll continue to improve.
“We’re going to see a player like Houston continue to grow as it relates to the technique because he has the physical tools to play the position.”
The other name to throw into the mix for this wondering would be rising junior Avery Davis, yes the quarterback-turned-running back-now at cornerback. He understandably has a ways to go in his most-recent position switch, but an interception heading into the spring would do wonders for his momentum.
“Avery is starting to feel more comfortable every day,” Kelly said. “We’re seeing a little bit of improvement in his play each and every day. It’s really more the nuances of the position than it is knowledge at the position.”
And here we get to the interesting and pertinent part of Kelly’s quote, referring to Saturday’s practice.
“We saw that today. He was able to break on an underneath route and almost pick it off.”
Davis is not yet ready for meaningful action, but it is a distinct possibility he is a viable backup by the time Notre Dame faces genuine competition in mid-September.
What is the final score of the Blue-Gold Game?
There is no way to reasonably guess this until knowing the scoring system. It changes so often in such unexpected ways. For example, it would not be absurd for the Irish to grant points on punts next weekend. On the surface, that may sound idiotic, but it could serve as a motivational ploy for early-enrolled freshman punter Jay Bramblett in his first action in front of a crowd.
As always, questions and comments are welcomed at email@example.com. The summer fast approaches; they might provide some variety to the annual countdown series.
On a separate note, for those frustrated by troubles replying to comments below in recent weeks, Thursday sparked renewed optimism the issue may be fixed. A summary of why the problem persisted: It was not one problem, but two. The first was remedied very quickly. No one bothered to think two glitches arose in the coding to effect the exact same issue. The second was detected this week.