Revisiting The BGI Top 25 Most Important Notre Dame Players, Nos. 25-16
Time for a game of old takes exposed and pats on the back.
Back in the summer, in need of some pandemic content and eager to start prognosticating, the BlueandGold.com staff unveiled our preseason ranking of Notre Dame’s 25 most valuable players for the 2020 season. The goal was to highlight individuals that needed to emerge, remain a centerpiece or significantly elevate their production to get Notre Dame to the College Football Playoff.
Much was based on talent and impact, but also these questions: 1) How much of a setback would losing this player be? 2) If this less proven player emerges, how much does that raise the ceiling (or lower it, if a breakout does not happen as expected)?
After a 10-2 season, a win over then-No. 1 Clemson and College Football Playoff appearance that ended in a 17-point loss to Alabama, we’re revisiting our list from the summer over a three-day span to see how it held up in hindsight.
Up first, the players we ranked No. 25 through 16.
25. NT Kurt Hinish
The senior appeared on four of the five ballots, but this was too low. Hinish went from a space-eater in 2019 to a legitimate disruptor in 2020. He was third on the team in tackles for loss, with 7.5.
Per Pro Football Focus, he upped his quarterback pressures from five to 17 and posted four more run stops in about 60 fewer snaps. Our Todd Burlage was the only voter to rank him inside the top 20, at No. 16. That proved astute.
24. Rover/Special Teamer Isaiah Pryor
Back when we did these rankings, Pyror was an interesting name in the competition at safety opposite Kyle Hamilton. Since then, he moved to rover after Shaun Crawford claimed the safety spot and played mostly on special teams. An injury to rover Paul Moala gave him the backup rover role behind Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.
Notre Dame’s special teams were better with Pryor on them, but not to the point where this ranking aged well. It’s worth noting, though, he appeared on only two of the five ballots, but inside the top 20 on both.
23. RG Tommy Kraemer
Seems like we got this one about right. Kraemer was above average and even earned third-team Associated Press All-America honors. I’m not sure he was All-American good, but he still made Notre Dame’s steady rushing operation better.
He was the lowest-ranked of the five offensive linemen, which also holds up. His three sacks allowed were the most among the five, but his 13 total pressures in 11 games is a fine number.
22. WR Ben Skowronek
Another one it seems was correct. I might even argue this was a couple spots too low. Skowronek didn’t catch a pass until the fourth game, but when he was healthy, he was Notre Dame’s best contested-catch weapon and had a team-high five touchdown grabs.
His speed and run-after-catch ability were pleasant surprises. Without him, Notre Dame’s receivers would’ve been worse off and lacking a jump-ball weapon.
21. LG Aaron Banks
Too low for arguably Notre Dame’s best lineman. Banks was the only offensive line starter to allow fewer than one pressure per game. He was charged with no sacks and provided high-level run blocking as well.
He’s a guard, and those aren’t as crucial as some other positions, but it’s hard to ignore his play and maintenance of top-tier performance.
20. RB/KR Chris Tyree
It’s reasonable to me to include him in a postseason top 25, though perhaps a couple spots lower than this. Tyree’s speed and explosiveness was an important complement in the run game, and he ended the season with 1,017 all-purpose yards.
This ranking was based on the assumption he would raise the ceiling of the run game if he got the chance. He did. Where we whiffed in hindsight was putting him above sophomore Kyren Williams, who was not ranked. More on that later in the week.
19. S Houston Griffith
Before you laugh, I think this is still defensible to a degree. Hear me out.
Crawford was productive, ending fourth on my individual defensive wins leaderboard. But he also had a team-high 16 missed tackles, per PFF, and was bumpy in coverage. Griffith lost the job to him, but in making this back in June, we identified a potential breakout from him as a ceiling-raiser for the defense given his upside.
Even now, that’s true. Had he emerged, the defense would’ve almost assuredly better. Outside of Hamilton, safety was not a strength. His ascent didn’t happen. He won’t be on a postseason list, but the effect a breakout would’ve had made him a fine preseason choice.
18. WR/PR Lawrence Keys III
Well, somebody at wide receiver was going to catch passes for Notre Dame. It wasn’t really clear who until a couple games had passed. Keys was a common pick among our staff as the presumed starting slot receiver with a clean bill of health. He had the most career catches of any returning wide receiver.
Anyway, an emergence never happened. Keys missed a few games with a concussion and finished with only five catches.
17. S Shaun Crawford
Crawford was up and down, yet still the best Notre Dame had. This is a bit high in hindsight — though we had him here as a field corner and nickel at the time — but Crawford patched up a problem when Notre Dame didn’t love its other options at an important position. That’s still worth something.
And his production (57 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, five passes broken up and one interception) correctly reflects some impact.
16. DT Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa
One of the more under-appreciated starters on the team. The senior had 19 pressures, third-most on the team, to go with 6.0 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. His increased disruption was a difference-maker.
This feels like a spot-on ranking, if not a couple spots too low.
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