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Bye week grades: Special teams

SPECIAL TEAMS

Grade: B

Summary: Notre Dame is averaging four punt return yards per game. This qualifies as massive progress after last season, when the Irish netted three punt return yards on the year through 12 regular-season games before Michael Floyd brought one back 38 yards in the bowl game. Davonte' Neal's best days are ahead of him, and he has shown shiftiness and confidence you don't see too often from true freshmen. The punting game, meanwhile, has been strong, especially when needed most. Ben Turk had a standout performance at Michigan State, a game in which the field position battle was crucial in the second half. George Atkinson III, like most prominent kick return men, has been limited by the new kickoff rules. The kick-coverage unit has room for improvement after surrendering more than 26 yards per return through four games (109th in the nation). Kyle Brindza, meanwhile, has filled in nicely for the injured Nick Tausch, kicking the game-winner against Purdue. Overall a good, not great, showing from the Irish's special teams units.

Previous report cards:

Quarterbacks

Defensive line

Offensive line

Linebackers

Running backs

Wide receivers

Tight ends

Secondary