It’s finally game week so it’s time to start getting into some Notre Dame specific content. Scott Satterfield has a huge task in front of him to try to upset Notre Dame with a team that went 2-10 last year. He has the opportunity to show college football fans how much coaching matters to the sport and he will get to do it in front of a crowd that is in desperate need of some positivity. But, it doesn’t all fall on the coach. He will need players to step up and make plays for him. I took a look at six players that will have the most important roles if Louisville is to pull off the upset.
T.J. MCCOY - CENTER
The official depth chart hasn’t been released yet but I feel pretty confident in my belief that McCoy will be the starter at center. McCoy brings a lot of experience after starting at Florida a couple of years ago. He also has shown the ability to handle the snap while also being able to get to his block on time. That’s an area that Louisville has struggled in for a handful of years now.
The other aspect that McCoy helps with is making all of the calls for the line. Getting everyone on the same page is important with so much of the offense being dependent on how the line plays. The last thing they need is guys not working together as one unit when they’re going against a defense that will bring pressure from different angles.
The middle of this line will also be so important if they hope to take advantage of Notre Dame’s new guys in the middle of their defense. The Irish will have new starters at both defensive tackle spots as well as two new guys lining up at their two interior linebacker positions. Louisville will need to establish their running game and McCoy will be key in that endeavor.
G.G. ROBINSON - NOSE GUARD
The Louisville defensive line will be asked to do so many things this year that they haven’t been asked to do before and the biggest change will come for G.G. Robinson. He will be lining up at different spots from an alignment standpoint and he will be asked to slant and stunt to crate havoc. It’s a thankless position in this new defense but it’s the most important position when it comes to defending the run. If he doesn’t do his job, nothing else works.
Robinson will be taking on Jarrett Patterson a good amount on Monday and he could cause some serious issues if he plays his role well. Patterson is a true sophomore that was a backup left tackle last season. He wasn’t a center and I don’t think he played center in high school, either. At the very least, he’s inexperienced and he will only have reps against scout team players to even get a feel for how this odd scheme will be coming at him. Robinson has an advantage and he needs to exploit it.
DEZ FITZPATRICK - WIDE RECEIVER
I’ve spoken a lot about how the running game will open things up for the passing game but Scott Satterfield saw it the other way around. He mentioned this summer that he thinks that the receivers being able to stretch the field could open things up in the running game. Either way, Fitzpatrick will play a huge role in this game. This offense is run-first but they use the short passing game as an extension of the running game very well. Quick slants and stop routes will be featured as well as the throws down the field off of play action.
We will also see RPOs in this offense which is something we didn’t see with Bobby Petrino. On those plays it’s important for receivers to separate from defenders and find open holes in the coverage. Think about what Wake Forest did with Greg Dortch for the last few years. You need a crafty route runner that can get open as well as make a play after the catch. Dez is the most complete receiver on the team and he’s the best route runner. He needs to provide an option that Jawon Pass can be confident in.
CORNELIUS STURGHILL - CORNERBACK
To be honest, this could just read “Whichever Louisville Cornerback is Covering Chase Claypool”. Notre Dame lost their top receiver from last year and they also lost their top returning tight end as well as the player that would have been taking over the as the number two receiver. That leaves Claypool as the top receiver and he is the only option Ian Book has that has shown the ability to be an explosive player.
That’s where Sturghill comes in as he’s the most veteran player on the entire roster and he was the one guy that seemed to be able to stay on the field last year for Louisville. Sturghill is one of the fastest players on the team if he’s not the fastest and he has enough size to be able to handle bigger receivers. Louisville needs to find a way to keep the ND passing game in check and the corners are the main guys to do that. Sturghill is a guy that has made some plays and he also has the ability to take a turnover back for a touchdown.
HASSAN HALL - RUNNING BACK
The most important person in the Louisville backfield on Monday won’t be Jawon Pass. Hassan Hall is the most important player and I’m not sure it’s really close. This offense only go as far as the running game can take it and the offensive line will have some issues at times. Hall needs to be able to break off some chunk runs in this game to build momentum for the offense and to force the defense to adjust.
Hall has “home run” ability as a runner. He has great speed and hits seams very hard with great burst. One aspect that I want to see improvement in is his ability to make guys miss in the open field. He talked this summer about how the added weight he’s put on has allowed him to shed tacklers and my hope is that we see him slip out of leg tackles and guys diving at his waist. He will likely get a handful of opportunities to hit cutback lanes and end up with just a safety ahead of him. He will have to take advantage of those moments and be the feature of the offense.
AMONTE CABAN - DEFENSIVE END
Louisville needs to generate a pass rush this year and it would go a long way if they could do that without having to blitz extra guys. Bryan Brown’s scheme calls for the fourth rusher to come from just about anywhere but the three down linemen also do some things that are out of the ordinary. Those different looks and rush angles lead to some one-on-one pass rushing situations that you don’t always get in a 3-4 and they need Caban to win those battles.
Notre Dame has starters returning everywhere but center but they gave up 25 sacks last year and Ian Book has a little bit of gunslinger in him that leads to him holding onto the ball for too long. Caban is a high energy, high motor player that showed really good closing speed last year. As bad as the defense was, he still found a way to make 7.5 tackles behind the line. App State didn’t get a ton of sacks last year but it always stood out how often put pressure on the quarterback. While Book is an experienced player and tends to stay pretty cool under pressure, rushing him can lead to a mistake or two and Louisville needs any help it can get.