Dear Deacons: We have to talk about Will Fuller

IRISH STEW

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

NOTE: The following is an imagined letter from ND football Insider Mike Vorel to Wake Forest's defensive secondary, drafted for your entertainment.

Dear Demon Deacons,

First of all, I want you to know that no matter what happens this weekend, you’re going to be just fine. Football isn’t everything. You’ve done plenty to be proud of this season, and you’ve got your whole life ahead of you. One game, one day, one roll of film to burn or bury — none of that defines you.

With all that said, I’m concerned.

You see, though you don’t know me, you should trust that I’ve seen too much. I’ve been witness to a vicious, cornerback-swallowing cycle. The victims pile up, but the story never changes.

It starts with Will Fuller, and it ends in the end zone. Points are scored and egos are mangled.

Fuller, Notre Dame’s elusive junior wide receiver, has 900 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns through his team’s first nine games. Eight of those touchdowns have spanned 30 yards or longer. Two of them were go-ahead fourth quarter scores.

I don’t say any of this to scare you, but you need to hear the truth. You need to know what your counterparts at Texas, Virginia, Georgia Tech and Navy apparently didn’t.

Take Avonte Maddox, for example. Poor, overmatched Avonte Maddox. Last Saturday, Pittsburgh’s sophomore cornerback was trapped in the torturous repetition of his own personal Groundhog’s Day, as Fuller beat him for two of the junior’s three touchdowns. First, there was the 46-yard seam in the second quarter, where Fuller caught the ball in stride around the 5-yard line, wore Maddox like a cape and dragged him doggedly into the end zone. The poor guy lay on his back like a corpse, motionless, perhaps hoping that if he didn’t move, no one would be able to see him.

That was hard to watch, sirs. It really was.

In the third quarter, Fuller struck again, ripping a jump ball out of Avonte’s desperate grip for another 14-yard score. He was greedy, and he was good.

This is what you’re dealing with.

What I’m saying, I guess, is that you don’t have to confront this challenge alone. All too often, the Avonte Maddoxes of the world have been left in man-to-man coverage, down the river without a paddle — or a boat. On Monday, Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi said that, if he had to do it all over, he wouldn’t have changed a thing. As far as we know, this wasn’t sarcasm. It also wasn’t smart.

While Narduzzi is all out of chances, you have one on Saturday. And don’t get me wrong, you’re good. I know, for instance, that junior cornerback Brad Watson is second on your team with 51 tackles and leads the unit with a whopping 10 pass break ups. I know, too, that your defense is better than your record, that you rank 21st nationally in pass defense and 10th in third down defense.

That’s great, fellas. Truly. But it might not be enough.

Come Saturday, don’t try to be a hero. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can leave Fuller 1-on-1. So many have tried, and nearly as many have stared feebly at the back of his fast-departing jersey.

When Fuller lines up outside, throw a safety over the top. Double him. Triple him. Heck, quadruple him. Whatever it takes. Make Chris Brown, Torii Hunter Jr. and Josh Adams beat you.

And to be realistic, they probably will. Notre Dame is really good, and your offense is really inept. It’s Senior Day in South Bend, and the Irish are surging towards Stanford. You're 1-56 all-time against top-10 teams, and I doubt you're feeling lucky.

But at least Will Fuller won’t be your downfall. That’s a good place to start.

(By the way, can you pass along your quarterback’s address? I want to talk to him about Jaylon Smith.)

See you on Saturday,

Mike

Notre Dame wide receiver Will Fuller hauls in one of his three touchdown catches Saturday against Pitt at Heinz Field. (SBT Photo/BECKY MALEWITZ)