Keep an eye on these 4 (or more) when Notre Dame and Navy meet

Tom Noie
ND Insider
Notre Dame's punt-block squad has been beyond effective - and ridiculous - the past few games under special teams coach Brian Mason. Can they continue their punt-block trend against Navy?

No. 20 NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (6-3)

PUNT BLOCK UNIT

(All for one, and all that)

If the previous three weeks are any indication, they’re coming. The Notre Dame punt block unit is coming after the Midshipmen punter and odds are, they’re going to get one. At least one. It might be Isaiah Foskey again or Clarence Lewis again or maybe this time, Houston Griffith or Ramon Henderson’s turn. But this special teams unit is special. 

Chat transcript:Is Notre Dame at risk of another letdown against Navy?

Notre Dame has blocked a school record six punts. That includes four in the last three weeks. The one against Clemson (thank, you, Jordan Botelho) set the tone for an upset of an evening. It’s reached a point where you’re surprised when the punt block team, led by special teams coach Brian Mason (pictured), doesn’t at least get a hand on a punt. 

Just when you think you’ve seen enough of them, there they are again. 

So, who’s it going to be? You know it’s going to be someone. This unit has been too good for the last few weeks to let the opposing punt coverage team relax now. Watch out. They’re coming. 

Notre Dame running back Chris Tyree (25) runs the ball during the Notre Dame vs. Stanford NCAA football game Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

Notre Dame Vs Stanford Football

(25) CHRIS TYREE

Running Back

Offensive coordinator Tommy Rees has figured out the last two weeks how to best turn loose the tailback tandem of Logan Diggs and Audric Estime. Diggs ran for 85 yards against Syracuse, 114 against Clemson. Estime went for 123 and 104. It’s time to add a third guy to that mix. 

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Diggs and Estime have handled the heavy lifting, so now let Tyree do a little more. Maybe not between the tackles, which is where the other two back have lived in wins over Syracuse and Clemson, but get the 5-foot-9 1/2, 197-pound junior out in open space against defenders he can run past. 

Swing passes. Seam routes. A run wide when the Navy interior defense is worn down by the bigger, more physical Irish offensive line. Tyree has more to show than what he’s offered to date – 348 rushing yards, 122 receiving, three total touchdowns. This is a game where Diggs and Estime can kind of ease off from the pounding they’ve given out and taken. Save them for the final two weeks. 

It’s Tyree’s turn. 

Navy quarterback Xavier Arline is still settling into the position after taking over in late October.

NAVY MIDSHIPMEN (3-6)

(7) XAVIER ARLINE

Quarterback

Everything about this option offense hinges on the quarterback and the decisions he has to make every single play. Keep it? Tuck it into the belly of the fullback to grind out tough yards up the middle? Swing it to the outside and then go or flip it to the tailback? Decisions, decisions. 

Arline still is figuring out how to best run this attack after jumping in for starter Tai Lavatai, who was lost for the rest of the season after suffering a knee injury Oct. 29 against Temple. A 5-9, 176-pound junior, Arline has run for 191 yards and thrown for all of three in six games this season. He finished with 87 yards on 12 carries in Saturday’s loss at Cincinnati. Backup Maasai Maynor also will play. He’s more of the thrower. 

Arline also plays lacrosse at Navy, where he scored five goals with three assists in the spring. He ran eight times for eight yards and completed one pass for 18 yards last season against Notre Dame. He’ll have to do way more than that Saturday. 

Navy striker John Marshall has to make a lot of plays for the Midshipmen to have any chance on defense.

(1) JOHN MARSHALL

Striker

The quintessential Navy football player on defense – maybe a little undersized at 6-2, 209 pounds who seldom plays overmatched. He finds himself in the middle of everything from his striker position, which is a hybrid linebacker/safety spot in Navy’s scheme. 

A senior from Highland, Maryland, Marshall already has a career high 72 tackles this season, tops on the team. He also has 13 tackles for loss, seven sacks, seven pass breakups and six quarterback hurries. He’s tallied double-digit tackles in each of the last two games and made a career high 15 earlier in the year against Memphis. 

Notre Dame gets another chance at another undersized defensive front, which means Marshall must make his way to the point of attack and make some tackles. 

A team tri-captain, Marshall made 10 tackles with a sack, three tackles for loss, one pass breakup and one hurry Saturday against Cincinnati. He’ll find the football and you, and he’ll make sure you remember. That’s what guys like Marshall do. Undersized? Overmatched? Don’t tell him. He'll make a play, and make you pay. 

Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI. Contact: (574) 235-6153.