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Florida State Head-to-Head

, , , , and | Friday, September 3, 2021

Notre Dame Passing

There are a lot of question marks surrounding Notre Dame’s passing game ahead of Sunday’s opener. Quarterback Jack Coan hasn’t played since 2019, and it remains to be seen if he can replicate the success he had at Wisconsin. He will have tight end Michael Mayer to throw as well, who will be huge problem for the Florida State secondary. Aside from Mayer, the Irish will look to Avery Davis, Braden Lenzy, and possibly Kevin Austin Jr. and Lawrence Keys. Florida State has a young but talented secondary that will play against the Irish. In fact, all the starters listed on the current Florida State depth chart are freshmen or sophomores. Although there aren’t many proven wide receivers on Notre Dame, look for them to exploit the young Florida State secondary on Sunday night.

EDGE: Notre Dame

Notre Dame Rushing 

FSU worked an entire overhaul of their defense this offseason. Recruiting looked for defensive linemen and pass-rushing linebackers. Now add two stellar transfer defensive ends in Jermain Johnson and Kier Thomas and it will be a tough line to breakthrough. Tough, however, does not mean impossible. Chris Tyree and Kyren Williams combined for 1621 rushing yards last season, with Williams achieving a season-high of 185 yards against Florida State. The pair have only gotten stronger over the off-season. Additionally, with Williams’s blocking capabilities and George Tackas filling the blocking roll Tommy Tremble took on, the options for run protection and runner themselves are entirely rotational. Add C’Bo Flemister into the mix and the run game has room to spare. 

EDGE: Notre Dame

Notre Dame Offensive Coaching

In 2020, second-year offensive coordinator Tommy Rees had the benefit of an all-purpose back in Kyren Williams who was an impact player in every situation and was able to take advantage of Ian Book’s ability to pick defenses apart with short and intermediate throws. In 2021, Williams will once again be the focal point, and quarterback Jack Coan can zip the ball between the numbers as good as anyone in the nation. The true test for Rees will be expanding the offense to unlock the dynamic playmaking ability of five-star athletes like Chris Tyree and Braden Lenzy. The offensive fireworks will be on full display Sunday night against an inexperienced FSU secondary. Defensive coordinator Adam Fuller has developed NFL cornerbacks in the past, but his unit isn’t ready yet to contain the Irish speed barrage that’s about to be unleashed. Coan will have to check it down often against a strong FSU pass rush, but Rees will be ready with play calls that will get his athletes in space, forcing cornerbacks and safeties to make solo tackles. They will struggle mightily to bring down the combination of shiftiness and physicality the Irish skill position players possess. Don’t be surprised if this one turns into a track-meet early before the Irish impose their will at the line of scrimmage late.    

EDGE: Notre Dame

Notre Dame Offensive Special Teams

This position group remains relatively unchanged heading into the 2021 season, which is a plus for the Irish. Punter Jay Bramblett has been a steady force on the field, and the introduction of Chris Tyree to kickoff returns proved beneficial. It is kicker Jonathan Doerer that will be the deciding factor in the success of the special teams unit. Doerer faltered last season, making only 15 of 23 field-goal attempts (65.22%). As he returns for his fifth season, he will seek to redeem himself and prove his worth, hopefully going from a source of uncertainty to a constant success. Freshman Lorenzo Styles Jr. has received high praise in fall camp, and adding him into the mix can elevate this position group to a force to be reckoned with.

EDGE: Notre Dame

Florida State Passing

This is a tough position to grade. Notre Dame has a lack of experience in their secondary, with two cornerbacks who are yet to record an interception in their collegiate career. Clarence Lewis and Cam Hart are promising but largely unproven commodities, while Houston Griffith becomes the second safety after nearly transferring. Junior safety Kyle Hamilton is the stabilizer, as he figures to be his All-American self. However, the Irish won’t face a lethal passing attack. The Seminoles have two starting quarterbacks right now, as Jordan Travis and McKenzie Milton figure to get snaps. Travis was shaky and inconsistent as a redshirt sophomore last season, but Milton hasn’t played since suffering a gruesome injury in 2018. It’s either rust or inconsistency under center for Florida State against Notre Dame’s lack of experience. In a matchup this close, a star player like Hamilton makes the difference. 

EDGE: Notre Dame (slight)

Florida State Rushing

The Irish should have a strong run defense this year that is anchored upfront by graduate students Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and Kurt Hinish, senior Jayson Ademilola, and junior Isaiah Foskey. Although the Irish lost linebacker Marist Liufau to injury this past week, he has a solid replacement in JD Bertrand, and graduate student Drew White will be there to lead the linebacker group. The Seminoles will likely play two young running backs in Jashaun Corbin and Lawrence Toafili. Although they are both young, both backs proved to be very successful in their first season with the Noles. While the Florida State offensive line is improved from last season, that is not saying much considering how much they were pushed around. Notre Dame should be able to stop the Florida State run defense in their tracks on Sunday. 

EDGE: Notre Dame

Florida State Offensive Coaching

Florida State offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham enters his second year, and there are not many reasons to be optimistic. Given that McKenzie Milton and Jordan Travis are still battling for the QB1 spot, it’s safe to say Milton isn’t back to his pre-injury self, given Travis’s inconsistencies and struggles last season. It’s been a quarterback carousel under Dillingham, and the receivers and running backs haven’t done much either. Meanwhile, Dillingham goes up against Marcus Freeman as his coaching counterpart. Freeman has one of the best defensive players in the nation at his disposal, a few key veterans at the linebacker position and on the defensive line, and he can scheme his deep defense in a number of ways. His prowess as a defensive coordinator and the players he has to work with makes this a clear Irish advantage over an inexperienced FSU coordinator with a mess of an offense. 

EDGE: Notre Dame


Florida State Offensive Special Teams

With punter Alex Mastromanno, the Seminoles have a strong leg with the potential to corner the Irish just outside their own endzone. As for the kickoff and punt returners, special teams coordinator John Papuchis named Keyshawn Helton, Travis Jay, Jakhi Douglas, Corey Wren, and incoming transfer Jammie Robinson as possible players to fill the role. This doesn’t mean Notre Dame won’t have an answer. Chris Tyree and Lorenzo Styles Jr. will put pressure on the FSU coverage. As for kicker Ryan Fitzpatrick, he was 4-7 on field goals (long 42) and 12-13 on PATs in 2020. With those percentages, he’ll be difficult to trust.

EDGE: Notre Dame


About Mannion McGinley

Mannion McGinley is an American Studies and Sociology major with a Journalism minor in Notre Dame's class of 2023. She is a member of the Glynn Family Honors program and currently serves as an Assistant Managing Editor at The Observer.

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About Aidan Thomas

A senior marketing and ACMS major at Notre Dame, I've countered the success I've enjoyed as a New England sports fan with the painful existence of a Notre Dame football fan.

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About Jimmy Ward

Jimmy is a senior at Holy Cross College, where he studies English and sports management. He is originally from Westfield, Indiana. Currently, Jimmy serves as an associate sports editor at The Observer. You can find him at @jimmyyward on Twitter.

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About Colin Capece

Colin is a senior at Notre Dame, majoring in political science and minoring in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. He hails from the great state of New York and currently serves as an Assistant Managing Editor at The Observer for the 2021-2022 academic year. You can sometimes find him on Twitter at @ColinCapeceND

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About Emily DeFazio

Emily is a senior at the University of Notre Dame majoring in History and minoring in Italian and Digital Marketing. She serves as an Associate Sports Editor at The Observer.

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About Nate Moller

Nate is a junior majoring in chemical engineering. He is originally from a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota and is currently living in Siegfried Hall. Some of his passions include running, cross country skiing, and getting too worked up about Notre Dame and Minnesota sports teams.

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