PORTSMOUTH — It doesn’t take someone whose been around the Notre Dame football program in the last several seasons long to notice a sizable difference in this year’s Titans team as opposed to years past.
For perspective, longtime Notre Dame head coach Bob Ashley himself couldn’t remember the last time that the Titans needed two sets of bleachers to help take their team picture at media day last Friday.
Coming off last season’s 0-10 injury-riddled campaign, this year’s group of senior Titans led by captains Ethan Kammer, Caleb Nichols and Logan Emnett can’t wait to see what impact having a 31-man roster will have on both sides of the ball.
“It makes it way easier for us to have different looks. We can actually play against each other in practice to give us different looks,” Kammer said. “It also gives us time to take kids out and give them a break after a big play.”
“Makes us feel good especially after the year we had last year and all the younger guys we have coming back,” Nichols said. “If someone breaks a big run or needs out on defense, we can take them out and put someone else in until they’re ready.”
“It’s nice having 31 kids,” Emnett said. “We’ve always been a very good conditioned team, this will help out dramatically. Getting a lot freshmen and sophomores in who need the extra time for after we graduate.”
In a class-by-class breakdown, Notre Dame’s roster features 12 upperclassmen (seven seniors and five juniors) and 19 underclassmen (11 sophomores and eight freshmen).
In the Titans’ patented wing-T offense, a solid foundation of shifty skill-position players and guys up front who can hold blocks is more than important in turning losses into wins come this year.
“Our numbers are definitely going to be one of our strong suits,” Kammer said. “We’re not the biggest team, not the strongest, but we’re definitely a quicker team. Being able to give one kid a break and bring in a kid whose just as fast will make a big difference for us.”
“Numbers and speed definitely will be our strengths,” Nichols said. “We have some kids who are pretty built and can hit hard, but I think speed will definitely be a strong suit.”
Notre Dame is not alone in having to adapt from what a typical offseason and early practice format might be in order to comply with social distancing and the state of Ohio’s guidelines for contact sports.
Those changes include splitting up into groups to complete drills or weight-lifting sessions, as well as wearing masks when required during practice or in the locker-room.
“It’s been very different this season,” Kammer said. “Trying to get used to all the different guidelines that we’ve had to work with because they’ve changed multiple times. Having to go with those changes every week makes it hard, but we’ve done what we can with what we’ve got.”
“It’s been different this year with the coronavirus impacting everything,” Nichols said. “We’ve had to wear masks, split up into groups. Weight-lifting we weren’t able to all be in the locker-room at the same time; it’s been different.”
“It’s been very skeptical, not knowing if we’re going to have a season or not,” Emnett said. “We’ve all kept our heads high, kept putting in the work in the weight-room.”
Nichols — a 6-2, 190-pound quarterback — was sidelined on offense for the entire 2019 season after sustaining an injury during the prior baseball season.
Kammer’s impact is significant on both sides of the ball as an offensive lineman and linebacker in Coach Ashley’s system.
Emnett, while rushing for over 1,000 yards during his sophomore season in 2018, racked up over 600 yards on the ground a year ago.
If it goes their way, Nichols, Emnett and Kammer are each hoping to at least have the opportunity to play the six-game season approved by the OHSAA under the lights of Spartan Stadium.
“It’d be the greatest feeling ever,” Kammer said. “I’ve always been waiting for this.”
“It’ll mean a lot. I’ve been playing with my friends for four years, this being the fourth,” Emnett said. “Every game I’ve always looked forward to it.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved