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Next Man Up: Who Steps Up For The Irish This Week Despite All The Injuries?

Written by Cade Harper|Contributor|Twitter/X : @CadeHarperIT

Photo by ON3


Notre Dame battled this past week, battled so much that we have some significant injuries headed into our Top 20 match against Duke this coming Saturday night. Notable injuries include WR Jayden Thomas with a strained hamstring, who is listed currently as questionable. WR Deion Colzie is dealing with an issue in his knee that will require surgery and keep him out for multiple weeks. As far as leg injuries go, WR Matt Salerno is still looking to be out for "an extended period of time" per Marcus Freeman in a press conference. LB Marist Liufau was dealing with a lingering stinger in his neck last week but still managed to play this past Saturday, however he did not record any stats. Watch for him to be back somewhat more healthy this week but not quite at 100% just yet. Now with an even thinner WR core, who makes big plays this weekend in the passing game? On the defensive side, who takes care of business on the front seven of the Irish defense? Look for these guys to be a name heard quite often on Saturday.

Photo by ON3


Starting at the WR position, Rico Flores I feel will have a good game making some key plays taking care of Harman's passes. Flores recently just recorded his first career collegiate touchdown this past weekend in the biggest game of the year! He finished his stat line with 3 catches for 20 yards. Not the craziest stat line but he came through when we needed him most and it fired Notre Dame Stadium up when his touchdown put us up late in the game. Hartman targeted Flores 5 total times after Jayden Thomas went down with his injury. Safe to say he may step up in a big way, and we're looking forward to it.

Photo by The Observer


Someone that we have all wanted success so bad for this season and now finally has his chance to do so in this big game, is Tobias Merriweather. If Jayden Thomas ends up being ruled out, I truly believe this could be Hartman's second highest target choice this weekend behind Irish leading receiver Chris Tyree or Mitchell Evans. Merriweather has had an okay year but nothing we all expected. Just on the year, he has put up one touchdown on 7 catches for 147 yards. To most WR1's in college football, that's a stat line you can definitely have in a single game. This Blue Devil defense is none to be played around with as they rank top 5 across the league and lead the ACC in points allowed per game (8.8) as well as passing yards per attempt per game (4.4). Expect Tobias to get some targets this weekend and hopefully put the critics to rest.

Photo by Rivals


Another player that Hartman seemed to find a lot of success in and personally my favortie player from this weekend, was Mitchell Evans, and he should have another fantastic game. With the Blue Devils allowing an impressive league leading 4.4 yards per pass attempt, surely you'd think they use Evans' big body to throw some nice crossers, maybe some drags or delayed seam routes to draw some attention. I'm expecting Mitchell Evans to have an even bigger game or just as good of a game as he played this past Saturday. So far, Evans has 12 catches on the year, second most behind Jayden Thomas with 13. Notre Dame has a ton of weapons to use through the air this coming weekend despite being thin at the WR position, it's up to OC Gerad Parker and Sam Hartman to use them correctly to put points on the board and prove we still are the leagues best scoring offense. Who knows, maybe the Irish have an amazing game through the air that eventually open up the powerful run game we know and love.

Photo by Sports Illustrated


Onto the defensive side of the ball now, with LB Marist Liufau dealing with a stinger in his neck suffered from the Central Michigan game, expect Javonte Jean-Baptiste to be absolutely everywhere again this weekend. Against his former team, Jean-Baptiste managed to record a team high of 8 total tackles tied with Captain LB J.D. Bertrand. If you watched, you would notice JJB was all over the field on Saturday just about every snap he played. It didn't matter if he wasn't involved in the play itself but he somehow found himself in the action no matter what. If Liufau ends up playing but not at 100%, which we definitely would much rather have him out there with the rest of the defense, expect JJB to have another extraordinary game regardless.

Photo by Bleacher Report


Last but not least, I know this will draw some eyes and no it's not what you think. Sam Hartman did not play a bad football game at all despite what the media is saying he had a quiet game against a top opponent that has moved him backwards in the Heisman race. Unfortunately it probably has, Hartman managed to throw a single touchdown pass not until late in the game, but he still did. He made some "thread the needle" like throws all game long, he managed the game pretty well I thought overall. But, in a game where it took the running game forever to open it seemed like, the offense was almost dead. Notre Dame had the best offense statistically on paper coming into the Ohio State game averaging 46 points per game. If you saw, we finished with 17. You can't win a game with 17 points on the board unless your defense is the 1985 Chicago Bears unfortunately. Again, he did not play bad, some of this you can definitely blame Gerad Parker for, but they did not play bad. They just did not execute when they needed to. Hartman finished with 176 total yards with a touchdown completing on 68% of his throws. That's a solid outing, again credit to Ohio State's defense but this week's competition has an even better defense with an even better secondary already forcing 4 INT's total so far this season. Hartman has not thrown an interception just yet, but it will be just as tough as a test this week as it was last week so these guy's better tread lightly. With Hartman's favorite target, Jayden Thomas, out. Expect Hartman and the guys left on offense to put some points on the board as the Irish hope to keep their College Football Playoff hopes alive in what could potentially be another classic.






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