Notre Dame doesn’t have too many major question marks heading into the 2019 football season, but at the top of their list is the special teams situation.
Justin Yoon- who is now Notre Dame’s all-time leading scorer- is gone, and there are two candidates to replace him, neither of whom are very intriguing options. The first is Jonathon Doerer who was specifically recruited to replace Yoon. He is heading into his junior year, and die-hard ND fans may remember him because he was supposed to be our kickoff specialist last year until he was benched for his inability to handle that role (three kickoffs hooked out of bounds, and two kickoffs misplaced so bad that they were returned for touchdowns). Doerer also got the chance to start against Navy when Justin Yoon sat out for rest purposes, but he looked like he wanted no part in playing in that game. Doerer shanked his first extra point attempt, and just barely squeezed his second one in. He did make his only FG attempt, but that was from just 30 yards. In addition, many beat writers have reported on his struggles during spring practice where he supposedly had a bad case of the yips and was repeatedly hooking and shanking balls. In the spring game, Doerer did make all of his extra points, but he went one for two on FG’s making one from 35 yards and missing from 39. Doerer should be the starting kicker for Notre Dame, but if he continues to struggle then we could see him replaced by freshman walk-on Harrison Leonard, and boy would that be a bad sign. Needless to say, kicking will be a fun thing to watch this year for ND, and it wouldn’t surprise me if we see Brian Kelley elect to go for it on fourth down a lot more often than normal this season.
Tyler Newsome is on to the NFL now after being a captain for Notre Dame and one of the best punters in school history. He will be replaced by Jay Bramblett, who is an early-enrollee freshman this year. Bramblett has looked good in practice, but as a true freshman who has never even suited up for a real Notre Dame game, no one knows how he will handle the spotlight.
In conclusion, special teams will certainly be a struggle for Notre Dame this season. I expect we will go for fourth downs (and maybe even two-point conversions) a lot this year, and I am hoping and praying that none of our games come down to a Doerer game-winning field goal attempt.