Notre Dame impact players can be ranked and sorted in all kinds of different ways. Going through and ranking them on some standardized scale of how much they’ve impacted the Irish felt boring. And it is. But how about a new, timely and seasonal approach? Comparing some of Notre Dame’s biggest impact players down the stretch to Thanksgiving dinner options. Every player has their own role, much like every dish on Thanksgiving plays its own role in satisfying your palate. And tacking on some holiday weight.
Here’s how the top Notre Dame impact players line up as a Thanksgiving meal.
Kyren Williams: Turkey
The centerpiece of the offense. Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without turkey, and Notre Dame’s offense doesn’t run right without Kyren Williams. The Irish’s offensive attack hinges on the success of their junior running back. It has greatly improved since Williams got untracked this year. He averages 115 all-purpose yards per game and has notched 15 touchdowns. If a turkey isn’t the main dish at your Thanksgiving dinner for some reason, then substitute whatever primary option sits in the middle of the table. When considering Notre Dame impact players, Williams has to be the first to come to mind – he’s the most important player on this offense.
Logan Diggs: Gravy
You simply have to have some gravy with your turkey, and Logan Diggs has stepped up as a reliable second running back. The true freshman has upped his game in a big way, running for 5.2 yards per carry and four all-purpose touchdowns. He’s also allowed Williams’ workload to be reduced. After 25 and 22 carries a game versus USC and UNC, Williams has averaged 14 carries per game over the last three contests. Partially this is the game script, but it also is the result of such a reliable secondary back. Like gravy to turkey, Diggs is a fantastic complement to Williams.
Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and Kurt Hinish: Stuffing
One of the best dishes at every Thanksgiving dinner, this Notre Dame impact player honor could not go to just one player. Graduate students Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and Kurt Hinish have been lynchpins of Notre Dame’s stellar defense. Hinish has received multiple game-balls for his leadership and dominance in the trenches, and Tagovailoa-Amosa is an absolute force. Just last week, he returned a strip-sack for a touchdown and blocked a field goal to preserve a shutout. As the offense struggled to gel in the early going, these two captains stepped up for the defense. So if the turkey is overcooked…look to the stuffing because it’s a classic favorite and a must-have on the table.
Bo Bauer: Mashed Potatoes
This just feels right. Bo Bauer’s contribution just always feels bigger than his stats. Bauer doesn’t receive a ton of attention in the defense, with Tagovailoa-Amosa and Hinish starring on the defensive line, captain Drew White leading the linebacker corps, and All-American safety Kyle Hamilton captaining the secondary. But whether it’s hyping up the crowd after a big play, his key presence in third-down packages, or his timely tackles and takeaways – Bauer is always there. When listing off those seasonal Thanksgiving food items you can’t wait for, mashed potatoes are not necessarily atop the list, but it’s present on almost every table and dinner would be far worse without them.
Jack Coan: Canned Cranberry Sauce
To be clear, this is a compliment – canned cranberry sauce is the superior cranberry sauce. Canned cranberry sauce has possibly the best preparation time to taste ratio on the table. It’s store bought – much like the Irish swooped in and landed Jack Coan from the transfer portal. Coan has adapted rapidly to a tempo offense and led the Irish to five straight games of 28+ points since returning as the starter. They’re averaging 39.4 over the past three contests.
Cranberry sauce also feels right for what the quarterback position has been for the Irish. It’s not been the centerpiece – Coan has won the Irish some games with the two-minute drill offense. But, for the most part, he’s asked to not lose their games. Whereas the defense may need to win the Irish games, or Kyren Williams has to be the biggest Notre Dame impact player in several games, Coan just needs to be dependable. With efficient play and veteran leadership, Coan is deserving of one of the more classic Thanksgiving menu items.
Drew Pyne and Tyler Buchner: Homemade Cranberry Sauce
The Irish run deep in the quarterback room, with three signal-callers who could get the job done. And really, all three have at some point or another. Drew Pyne stepped in against Wisconsin and led a critical scoring drive in the big fourth quarter comeback. He then nearly resurrected the Irish against Cincinnati. Tyler Buchner has played key roles in several games, and he handled most of the snaps against Virginia Tech.
Both Pyne and Buchner have handled an unorthodox quarterback situation with the utmost professionalism, and the Irish quarterback room is in good shape for the future. Coan’s the guy, which is why he gets the canned cranberry sauce designation. But you would rather have some cranberry sauce than no cranberry sauce, and there’s no question that both Pyne and Buchner could get the job done, if for some reason you can’t your favorite store-bought cranberry sauce.
Jayson Ademilola: Green Bean Casserole
Green bean casserole. It’s there. Rarely is it considered anyone’s favorite dish. But you also won’t frequently hear anyone passionately professing their dislike for it either. A steady presence across America on Thanksgiving, green bean casserole is simply always there. It plays a crucial role in your dietary fulfillment but doesn’t receive standout recognition as a Thanksgiving classic.
Jayson Ademilola has been a force on the defensive line. Hinish gets a lot of credit for his run defense, Tagovailoa-Amosa is a fearsome pass-rusher. But Ademilola is a versatile asset, with 3 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss, but also a pass breakup and a forced fumble this year. He’s stepped up in a big way for the Irish defensive line, filling in one of those preseason question marks on Notre Dame’s defense. What would one do without green bean casserole on Thanksgiving Day? The Irish can ask themselves the same question about where they would be without Ademilola.
Michael Mayer: Dinner Roll
No one ever says ‘no’ to one of those warm, buttery dinner rolls. They’re so good, so dependable, and honestly, you could probably eat like a dozen if it wasn’t for all the other great food. The same can be said for Michael Mayer. The sophomore tight end has looked the part of a veteran this year, one of the top Notre Dame impact players. He’s a fearsome blocker, and he’s the Irish’s leading receiver with 663 yards and five touchdowns. When it’s third down, Mayer is the go-to guy to move the chains, and he’s a big red zone target. When all else fails, that buttery dinner roll is never going to disappoint, and you’ll probably want more than one. No matter how many targets Mayer gets, it doesn’t feel like enough.
Isaiah Foskey: Pumpkin Pie
It was hard to find the right food item to quantify – in a culinary sense – Isaiah Foskey’s massive contributions. The team leader in sacks (9) and tackles for loss (8.5), Foskey is an absolute monster. He brings together the defense in the way that pumpkin pie does. However you eat it – with whipped cream, plain, or some vanilla ice cream, pumpkin pie is the perfect, classic ending to your Thanksgiving indulgences. You could substitute apple pie here if that’s your preferred crusted delicacy. For the purposes of this article, pumpkin felt like the all-time classic and the right designation for Foskey.
There were other considerations, but there’s only so many thanksgiving foods. Wide receiver Lorenzo Styles and safety DJ Brown get shoutouts as apple pie – the perfect, filling finish to a day of feasting. Both Styles and Brown have stepped up in major ways for the offense and defense, respectively. Neither were starters at the beginning of the year, but they’ve elevated the Notre Dame squad in a way that apple pie really elevates your experience on Thanksgiving day.
Wide receiver Kevin Austin, who has been the best deep threat, but also used as a runner on the Irish’s handoff sweep play, or a lead blocker, has been by far the most dependable wide receiver. Maybe sweet potatoes fit Austin’s role? There’s plenty to consider, but as the Irish head to their final game, they’ll hope that this well-assembled Thanksgiving meal has enough to power Notre Dame to the College Football Playoff.
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