1. Ronnie Stanley is as good as advertized
Hyped up as a potential top-five pick in the 2016 NFL Draft before the season, Stanley had extremely lofty expectations to live up to this season.
Through four games, Stanley has yet to allow a sack, hit or hurry in 119 pass-block snaps
If there’s one area for Stanley to improve, however, it’s in the penalty department. He’s cost the Irish 30 yards on five penalties (four false starts, one hold) so far this season.
2. Stanley’s not doing it alone
As good as Stanley has been, Mike McGlinchey—their first-year starter at right tackle—has been every bit as dominant.
McGlinchey made his first career start against LSU in the Irish’s bowl game last season, and through five career starts he has yet to allow a single sack, hit or hurry.
As he’s only committed two penalties for 10 yards, a case could be made he’s been even more impressive than Stanley this year.
3. C.J. Prosise is the real deal
Take a look at these two running backs through four games:
RB 1 – 600 yards, 184 yards after contact, 25 first downs, six TDs, 20 missed tackles
RB 2 – 450 yards, 173 yards after contact, 23 first downs, five TDs, 13 missed tackles
Any way you slice it, these are two dominant running backs. RB2 entered the season as a heavy Heisman favorite and a household name to college football fans (Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott). RB1 is a former wide receiver turned backup running back turned starter just three weeks ago (C.J. Prosise).
There’s certainly luck involved in college football, and it’s fair to say the Irish coaching staff lucked into Prosise. Statistically, he’s been among the most dominant rushers in the nation, far exceeding expectations for Tarean Folston, let alone expectations for himself.
4. DeShone Kizer is still an unknown
It’s impossible not be impressed by what Kizer has accomplished since being forced into action, but let’s pump the brakes and saying the Irish won’t miss Zaire.
Through two-plus games, Kizer has been pressured on just 13 of his 72 dropbacks.
And while the Irish offensive line is dominant, they won’t keep up that production as the schedule difficulty increases. Maybe Kizer will handle pressure well, but at this point we simply don’t know.
Additionally, the coaching staff has been easing him in and it’s clear the playbook has changed slightly from when Zaire was under center.
Prior to his injury, Zaire was averaging 12.1 air yards per pass attempt, while Kizer has been scaled back to just 9.3—a drastic difference.
Kizer will be asked to asked to make some pressure throws down the field again this season, but at this point the sample size is just too small to guess how he’ll fare.