Notre Dame vs. LSU: Irish run game ready to roll in bowl game
The Notre Dame passing attack is already short-handed for today’s Citrus Bowl game against LSU with the injury to wide receiver Chase Claypool and the suspension of tight end Alize Mack. Now it is the running back position that has been hindered with a couple of suspensions – to a degree.
Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly suspended freshman C.J. Holmes following his being arrested in a shoplifting incident earlier this month, while more recently, it was sophomore Deon McIntosh that got sent home for violating team rules. However, rest assured, LSU hasn’t stopped worrying about the Irish run game.
The Irish (9-3) and Tigers (9-3) will battle in Orlando at 1 p.m. (ABC).
“They keep going over the left tackle,” Tiger coach Ed Orgeron said of what he noticed about the Notre Dame offense. “I can’t keep my eyes off of them.”
Orgeron said that the left side of the Irish offensive line (tackle Mike McGlinchey and guard Quenton Nelson) is “the best combo that I’ve ever gone against,” which leads to a potent rushing attack that can eat up an injury-riddled LSU defense.
“The precision with how they block,” Orgeron explained, “and the precision with how Josh runs the football, and their quarterback (Brandon Wimbush), he’s dangerous with the ball in his hands… this is a good football team.”
“Josh” would be Notre Dame’s powerful and talented junior runner Josh Adams, who according to Irish coach Brian Kelly is healthy for the first time in a long time. The health of Adams, along with junior Dexter Williams and redshirt freshman Tony Jones Jr. also getting back to 100 percent, alleviates the worry of losing McIntosh, who had an effective season in limited opportunities.
“Josh looks really good,” Kelly said following a recent practice. “He’s got his speed back, he looks healthy, and he’s running very effectively.”
“I expect him to play really well in this game.”
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Adams was hampered often by injuries that proved more annoying than troubling, but that didn’t prevent him from being productive.
Adams finished the season as the eighth most productive back nationally in terms of yards per carry (7.26) and 13th in total yards (1,386).
“I think Josh is a unique back,” first-year Irish offensive coordinator Chip Long said. “He’s one of the hardest working superstars that I’ve ever been around. He gets everything that he deserves by the way he prepares, by the way he practices. He’s just a product of what he does each and every day.”
The effectiveness of Adams and the rest of the Notre Dame run game will be paramount, because of the positive impact that it will have on Wimbush.
If the Irish can gain yardage early in a series on the ground, that will limit the number of forced pass plays that Long will have to call for Wimbush, who has struggled with his accuracy this season.
“They’re obviously an extremely well coached and disciplined football team,” McGlinchey said, “especially on the defensive front. They have playmakers all over the field, great defensive linemen, and great linebackers.”
“They are not going to try and trick you. They do a lot of things very well and they line up across from you and see if you can beat them.”
JONES JR. IS BACK
A lot of attention was given to Jones Jr. early in the season because of his potential; however, he battled an ankle issue throughout the season and only finished the year with 232 total yards. However, Long said the young runner has looked very good leading up to today’s game.
“Tony Jones is finally healthy,” Long said recently. “People forget, he was one of my explosive players, especially when I first got here in the spring and fall camp.”
“To see him coming to practice now with a great balance, his smile is back.”
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