Not to relive an unpleasant day but in the CFP-Rose Bowl semi-final last season, as Alabama rolled over the Irish 31-14, team speed was clearly in the Crimson tide’s favor.
Brian Kelly, when pressed post-game described Alabama’s speed advantage this way, “When they’re on the perimeter, nobody has shut them down. Tell me who has tackled those guys. Everybody has the same problem I do.”
Bama also looked a whole lot faster than Ohio State 10 days later as they bombed the Buckeyes in the national title game, 52-24.
Last Saturday newly minted team Captain Avery Davis, who is known for his speed, weighed in on how fast he is and who the fastest players are on the 2021 Irish.
Such an impression is a clue as to what the prospects are for the 2021 Fighting Irish, because in today’s game, and as Alabama proved last year, speed wins championships.
Of course, speed has been a major component of the game since it was invented.
The immortal George Gipp had speed. According to Knute Rockne, the Gipper could run 100 yards “in 10 and one fifth seconds”. That is fast, particularly for a man the size of Gipp.
It is likely that the fastest athlete in Notre Dame history was the aptly nicknamed Raghib “Rocket” Ismail. In preparation for the 1991 NFL draft at his pro day, Rocket, who did not run at an NFL combine, clocked a 4.28 40-yard time.
The fastest time ever clocked at the NFL combine by a Notre Dame player was posted by Will Fuller in 2016, at 4.32. Fuller continues to this day to torture NFL defensive backs with that speed. Last year cornerback Nick McCloud, currently on the roster with the Buffalo Bills, paced the Irish on pro day with a 4.37 time.
So who are the fastest players on the 2021 Irish?
When asked that question, Davis thought and responded, “I’m top five. Number 1 is definitely Chris Tyree, he is explosive, Braden (Lenzy) is a close second, but Chris’s speed is ridiculous.” Also near the top according to Davis, “Kevin (Austin) is really fast and (Lawrence) Keys is really fast”.
Turning his attention to the defense, Davis singled out Kyle Hamilton and Cam Hart.
It would seem that recruiting raw speed has been an ND priority the last several years, and in 2021 the Irish are loaded with fast players.
So, is there enough of it to attack and tackle on the perimeter well enough to win it all?
After going 43-8 the last four years and making the College football playoffs twice, that is about the only question left that Brian Kelly needs to affirmatively answer.