SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP)
Alize Mack had a simple answer on his preparation for Navy.
“Just the details, really. Tightening up all the screws in our game, not getting lazy,” he said. “It’s the little things, footwork, slants, position blocking, staying low. Can’t let those things slip later on in the season cause now the stakes are high.”
Notre Dame’s offense is averaging 248.6 passing yards a game, largely due to the quarterback change from Brandon Wimbush to Ian Book. Moving from a focus on the run game to the passing game has given the third-ranked Fighting Irish the chance to use more of their offensive weapons and that includes Mack, a senior tight end.
Through seven games this season, the 6-foot-5, 248-pounder has 25 catches for 240 yards and a touchdown. His last two seasons combined (2015 and 2017) totaled 32 catches for 356 yards and a TD. Mack sat out the 2016 season for being academically ineligible.
He said he took that year to grow mentally and recognized he needed to rely on his support system more than he thought.
‘You can’t be afraid to seek help. Find people that you trust within your school system,” he said. “For me, it’s my coaches. Once you seek help and develop daily habits, things start to work out for you.”
Though Mack did start his freshman season, he knew he had a long way to go as a tight end. The blocking, the communication with the offensive linemen — all of that on top of learning how to run routes. Heading into this season, the Las Vegas native wanted to be less timid on the field and build his confidence.
“I know for myself personally, blocking was the biggest thing that I wanted to make sure I improved on,” he said. “That’s just what comes with this position, especially in an offense where you play a big role. You have to commit to wanting to be a blocker and also be a route runner as well.”
His blocking game has helped the Notre Dame passing game be more dynamic, as three of the Irish receivers, Chris Finke, Chase Claypool, and Miles Boykin, all have over 200 receiving yards and average more than 10 yards per catch.
The Irish will have to get the passing game going quickly against Navy (2-5) on Saturday in San Diego. Navy averages over 35 minutes of possession per game; in 2016, Notre Dame only had six total possessions against Navy and last year the Irish had the ball for a total of 17 minutes.
Still, the Navy defense is ranked 96th overall and allows 253.7 passing yards per game.
“We’re opening up our playbook and we’re utilizing all of our threats out there,” Mack said. “With that, we’re a dangerous offense.”
Coach Brian Kelly said he was emphasizing to his team the critical need for possessions.
“They’re extremely efficient,” he said of the Midshipmen. “They’ve given us all we can handle, year in and year out. There has to be an incredible sense of urgency on the offensive side of the ball, by maximizing possessions, quite frankly every snap, because you just don’t know how many possessions that you will, in fact, get. Scoring points is absolutely crucial.”
Regardless of the outcome of the season, Mack just wants to appreciate his time here.
“Being in the locker room and being with these guys. Four years now, every year is a different team,” he said. “Just embracing these guys and just enjoy being here. The good days and the bad. Being able to look back on my time here and just be happy with my decision in choosing Notre Dame.”
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