The missing piece of the Notre-Dame attack

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The “defense wins championships” crowd got a big W when Georgia led their elite squad to a title last season. With eight (!) NFL draft picks on this defense and more like Jalen Carter and Nolan Smith for sure, Kirby Smart finally got over the hump and beat his mentor.

Would Georgia have beaten Alabama if the Tide had a healthy Jameson Williams and John Metchie? It’s one of those unanswered questions, but it would have been hard to pick against the tide if their attack had all their weapons.

Both Williams and Metchie finished in the top 10 nationally in a key stat last season: yards after catch. That production is what made him one of the best offenses in the nation despite losing a dynamic playmaker like DeVonta Smith. Alabama’s 2020 national championship team had YAC No. 1 Smith and before he was injured, YAC top 10 pick Jaylen Waddle by reception.

The team that won the college football playoffs the previous year was LSU. Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase, who now dominate the NFL, both finished in the top 10 in the nation at YAC. The previous year, Clemson’s offense ignited in the latter part of the season thanks to true freshman Justyn Ross. He finished that season in the YAC top 10 by reception. Even Georgia had more than their stifling defense. They also had a monster YAC producer in tight end Brock Bowers. He led all tight ends for the YAC and finished 12th in the nation for all receivers.

These are offenses that have won championships recently. The CFP champions since 2014 have averaged 38.3 points per game in playoff games and they’ve always relied on explosive plays to help them rack up that many points on the board. That may mean the deep ball, something Notre Dame fans have longed to see more of, but teams with receivers that can create big plays after the catch are the ones that have risen to the top.

The question then becomes whether or not Notre Dame has that player who can be a YAC monster and help elevate the Irish offense to potential championship level. The answer is… maybe?

They have two prime candidates.

The first is Lorenzo Styles Jr., who would have finished in the YAC top 20 by reception last season had he qualified with enough goals. He has the kind of speed to turn screens and short passes into big wins.

He’s more than just a speed guy, though. The second year at the Notre Dame version of Styles should be more of a tackle breaker. He showed that ability on that backhand that he won at home against Virginia (the points were taken off the board due to holding ground)

It’s easy to forget that a healthy Avery Davis could also provide a big spark with YAC. He was in the YAC’s top 20 by reception in the 2020 season and needs to have more chances on the open court to be able to do things like that.

Surrounding these two players as key pieces in Notre Dame’s offense is an obvious decision. Michael Mayer will continue to be a beast on contested catches and he will feast on the middle as an intermediate target. The running game should be strong with what they have in the backfield and probably starter Tyler Buchner adding a constant threat. What’s needed is the big game element after the catch, which Styles and Davis have the potential to provide.

Having a YAC monster is a missing piece to Notre Dame’s offense. If they want to be a national championship contender, that piece needs to be added this season.

Men’s Notre Dame Slides

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