Notes: Here comes USC QB Caleb Williams, Notre Dame's latest Heisman-worthy foe
SOUTH BEND ― USC quarterback Caleb Williams won’t be the first Heisman Trophy contender Notre Dame has faced this season, but the Oklahoma transfer might be the most dangerous.
The Irish started the year with a 21-10 road loss to second-ranked Ohio State and quarterback C.J. Stroud. Most recent projections have Williams and Stroud vying for the honor with other candidates such as North Carolina’s Drake Maye, who lost to the Irish on Sept. 24, falling back in the pack.
Chat transcript:Chat transcript: What's the formula for Notre Dame to knock off another top-5 opponent at USC?
Stroud went 24 of 34 passing (70.6%) for 226 yards and two touchdowns against Notre Dame. Maye passed for 301 yards and five touchdowns in a 45-32 loss but completed a season-low 53.1% of his passes (17 of 32).
Like Maye, Williams has the arm strength, mobility and creativity to extend plays, but at 6-1 and 215 pounds he also has the rare gifts of poise, processing speed and decision-making. Over his past 13 games, including his final two outings for the Sooners, Williams has passed for 39 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
“He’s really getting the ball out right now,” Notre Dame defensive coordinator Al Golden said after Tuesday’s practice. “He’s seeing the field really well. He can create on the run. His eyes are downfield even through the rush is telling him to move his feet, and he’s able to convert on the move.”
Williams has been sacked 20 times this season, including five times the past two weeks, but he still put together a 470-yard passing performance in the Trojans’ 48-45 win over UCLA. That included a pro-level throw across his body to the left sideline as he escaped pressure and threw off the wrong foot.
“The play he made on the scramble last week against UCLA is as good as anything I’ve seen ― and the arm strength to get it there,” Golden said. “He has the ability to contort and get out of it and obviously the moxie to do it. He’s got two hands on the ball and vision down the field. He can let it rip.”
The coverage concept of “plastering,” which Irish cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens has been stressing in recent weeks, becomes even more vital against Williams.
“It’s a little difficult, especially when you’re able to see the quarterback moving out of the pocket and he has some space to run,” fifth-year cornerback TaRiq Bracy said. “You’re thinking, ‘Is he going to run it? Is he going to pick up and throw it?’ We’re stressing being able to plaster first and then, when he crosses the line of scrimmage, being able to get him down.”
QB Kenny Minchey commits to Notre Dame
Subfreezing temperatures and a snow-covered field during Kenny Minchey’s official visit were no detriment to Notre Dame’s recruitment of the Tennessee prep quarterback.
The four-star prospect from the Nashville suburb of Hendersonville announced his nonbinding commitment via social media on Tuesday. Minchey, who had been committed to Pittsburgh for 6 ½ months before re-opening his recruitment on Nov. 14, joins a top-three recruiting class ahead of Dec. 21 and the opening of the early signing period.
Listed at 6-foot-1 ½ and 215 pounds, Minchey has climbed to 15th in the national rankings at his position and 254th overall, according to 247 Sports Composite. A shoulder injury caused Minchey to miss six games this fall at Pope John Paul II High School, the same program that sent star wide receiver Golden Tate to Notre Dame.
Minchey finished his prep career with a 16-9 record as the starter. He passed for 5,451 yards and 57 touchdowns with just 13 interceptions.
'I owe him one'
Ever since getting tripped up in Week 2 on a 32-yard kickoff return with open field ahead, Chris Tyree has been seeking redemption.
The junior speedster will bring up the subject regularly with special teams coach Brian Mason.
“Me and coach Mase talk about that all the time,” Tyree said. “I’ve been telling him since that Marshall game, I owe him one. There’s not that many games left, so hopefully I get another opportunity to break one for him.”
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Nearly 14 months have passed since Tyree’s 98-yard touchdown return on a fourth-quarter kickoff against Wisconsin at Soldier Field. He’s only had 20 chances to recreate that electric moment, with his two longest returns being a 51-yarder against Georgia Tech and a 33-yarder at Syracuse last month.
“You definitely can block it up just right,” Tyree said. “I still remember the one I had against Wisconsin last year. That was blocked perfectly. But it takes all 11, all the way from the front line back to me securing the ball and making sure I take the ball where it’s supposed to be.”
CFP committee ranks Irish 15th
Notre Dame (8-3) moved up three spots to No. 15 when the latest College Football Playoff committee rankings were announced Tuesday night.
USC (10-1) was sixth, one spot behind 2-loss LSU. The Tigers have overcome a slow start in coach Brian Kelly’s first season and will meet top-ranked Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.
The Irish already have wins over two teams that made the committee’s latest top 25: No. 8 Clemson and No. 17 North Carolina, who will meet in the ACC Championship Game. Florida State, which dealt LSU its first loss, is ranked 16th.
Notre Dame, as part of its ACC scheduling partnership, is considered along with the top league options for bowl tie-ins with the Gator (Dec. 30 in Jacksonville, Fla.,), Cheez-It (Dec. 29 in Orlando) and Holiday (Dec. 28 in San Diego) bowls.
Selection Sunday is Dec. 4 at noon.
Follow Notre Dame football writer Mike Berardino on Twitter @MikeBerardino.