Monday, March 3, 2014
With Spring football just underway in South Bend, there is a lot of excitement on where the team can go in 2014. After a step back in 2013, Irish fans are hopeful of a return to being a national title contender. But there are three key areas that need to be worked on during the Spring.
Notre Dame fans might think that this area is fixed with the return of Everett Golson. However, if we learned anything last year, you can never have too much depth at quarterback. Yes, Golson had to spend a year away. He worked with a great trainer and will hopefully be better for it.
But Tommy Rees is gone. While his experience as the starter had it's ups and downs, he was very valuable in a back up role in the 2012 season. While last year, fans called for Rees to be benched on occasion, the reality is that Brian Kelly had nobody else to go to. Andrew Hendrix who was a major disappointment is also gone.
Red shirt freshman Malik Zaire is slated to be the back up. While Zaire does have the talent, he lacks experience at the college level. If Golson is ever out, he is the quarterback. So his development over the spring is huge.
This was an area last year that took almost the whole season to figure out. After being suspended for the Pinstripe Bowl, George Atkinson has left the team for the NFL. He was a disappointment to begin with. Amir Carlisle appears to be moving to wide receiver. that could be good because after a great first run of the season he did nothing the rest of the year. Maybe a position change is what he needs or maybe we should never trust a USC guy again.
The only guy who was consistent all year was Cam McDaniel. Then with the late season emergence of Tarean Folston, it became clear on who the two runners who should get the bulk of the carries are. Kelly hopes Greg Bryant can play a bigger role too.
But one thing is for sure. It needs to be settled in the spring and in summer camp. We can't have another year of going week to week with it.
Once the most feared defense in college football, Notre Dame has lots of reloading to do. Bob Diaco left for Connecticut and will be replaced by former Jets assistant Brian Van Gorder. He will have two huge holes to fill on the defensive line with Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt both gone to the NFL. Sheldon Day and Jarron Jones will both be expected to have huge roles in this area.
The linebacking unit does have for returning players to start in Jaylon Smith, Ishaq Williams, Kendall Moore, and Jarret Grace. The problem is depth though. The only other guy with any experience is Ben Councell but he is coming off injury. No other player has any significant experience,
In the secondary, KeVare Russell will have to go from being the underclassmen corner to more of a leader back there. This is a unit that does have talent but a lot of youth and little experience. Their development in the spring is also huge.
The Blue-Gold game is April 12. It will be fun to see how all these areas developed over the spring.
Sunday, January 5, 2014
But for now, it will be strange watching them compete against each other. I am sure they went against each other a lot in practice at Notre Dame so they are familiar with each other. So it will be interesting if they are ever matched up against each other during the game. I am not sure who I will root for but I look forward to watching.
Saturday, December 28, 2013
Yes the score was only 29-16, but that does not accurately give a picture of how dominant Notre Dame was. Mistakes really allowed Rutgers to stay in the game for longer than they needed to be. An early muffed punt return by TJ Jones led to a field goal. Then dropped touchdowns by William Fuller, DaVaris Daniels, and Jones kept points off the board.
But the running game took over in the second half thanks to a dominant line anchored by game MVP Zach Martin. Cam McDaniel led the way with 81 yards while Tarean Folston added 74 yards and a touchdown. Going forward, these two need to be the featured runners next season.
It was a nice game for Tommy Rees to go out on. He threw for 318 yards and more importantly no turnovers.
Defensively it wasn't really anything spectacular just another day at the office. They held the Scarlet Knights to just 16 points and only 3 after halftime. The Irish forced 4 turnovers. The most important stat was that they were able to get off the field. Notre Dame dominated in Time of Possession. The Irish had the ball for 35 minutes to 20 by the Scarlet Knights.
The game wasn't really all that exciting to watch but it is always nice to end with a win. I cannot wait until next season. The offense will be deadly with the return of Everett Golson and all the returning weapons he has. We just need to keep Coach Kelly away from the Detroit Lions.
Thursday, December 19, 2013
In the last year of the BCS and before the landscape of college football changes dramatically, from top to bottom there are some really good bowl match ups this year. Unfortunately the Pinstripe Bowl is not one of them. I am not talking just the BCS Bowls, there are some good match ups. Boise and Oregon State in the Hawaii Bowl is a nice match up. BYU and Washington in the Fight Hunger Bowl will be a good one.
Although Notre Dame does not have a good match up, there are two other bowls that day that will be worth watching. Miami-Louisville in the Russell Athletic Bowl and Michigan-Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl should be great match ups.
Oregon-Texas in the Alamo Bowl should be a great one. That is Mack Brown's last game. What about Duke-Texas A & M in the Chick Fil A Bowl? That will be an interesting one.
Then we get into the bigger bowls. As usual there is a Big Ten-SEC challenge on New Year's Day. Expect the SEC to dominate it again. But Michigan State can give the Big Ten some hope with a win over Stanford in the Rose Bowl. That will just be a tough physical game.
Then honestly all the BCS games are good match ups. It will be an exciting bowl season. It all kicks off this Saturday with 4 games. The headliner is USC-Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl. I honestly cannot think of a better way to start the bowl season than with a USC loss. And maybe another locker room fight occurs and Marqise Lee announces he is leaving minutes later like Robert Woods did last year. That would be great.
Thursday, December 12, 2013
I write this blog with mixed emotions. Bob Diaco came with Coach Kelly from Cincinnati. In his four years he has been one of the best defensive coordinators in the nation. Nobody will ever forget that defense he put together in 2012. There is no doubt that his departure leaves a huge hole on the coaching staff. He will certainly be missed and we are sorry to lose him.
At the same time, I am really happy for him. He has earned his right to be a head coach. While Connecticut may not be a big time program, it is a good opportunity for him to get his feet wet and it is one where he will have time to build it without immediate pressure to win.
The downside he is going into a conference that is really a rag tag league. The American Athletic Conference is leftovers from the Big East and former members of Conference USA. Two of those teams, Louisville and Rutgers are leaving. While that is bad for the league, it could put Connecticut in a more competitive spot.
Congratulations and good luck to Coach Diaco. I hope he sticks around for the bowl game but I will understand if he has to go now.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Not a lot needs to be said about Louis Nix. We all know how important he was to that defense. One thing that stands out was last season when Manti Te'o was asked if he had a vote for Heisman, who would it be? He said Louis Nix. Nix often took two blockers or even three which freed up not only Te'o but that entire linebacking crew.
It is a fact that in a 3-4 defense, if you don't have a good nose tackle your defense will not be that good. Nix was just a rock for so long. He will be missed.
Thank you Louis Nix for all you did for Notre dame. Get well and I will be rooting for you to do well in the NFL unless you get drafted by the Jets.
Monday, December 9, 2013
My last blog was how I wanted to see the team play at Yankee Stadium because of the history involved. But I was really expecting and hoping to play Houston. The Cougars haven't really played a tough schedule but they have a very exciting offense. It would have been fun to watch.
As it is, we are stuck playing Rutgers. Although Rutgers has been a good program lately, they struggled this season. They did get off to a pretty good start. They started the year 4-1 but their best game in that stretch was the loss. It was an overtime loss to Fresno State opening weekend. Their wins were against an FCS team in Norfolk State, a really bad MAC team in Eastern Michigan, an awful Arkansas team, and a SMU Team in overtime who did not make a bowl game.
Then the Scarlet Knights went on a stretch were they lost 5 of 6 games. That one win was against Temple whom they beat by just a field goal. We all remember how bad Temple was.
They needed to win their last game just to be bowl eligible and to their credit, they did win impressively. But it was against a South Florida team who not only won just two games but also had no offense all year.
Based on that, this is really a no win situation for the Irish. This is an opponent who they should not only beat but just destroy. It would be embarrassing if the Irish lose and even if they win in a close one it won't look good. But Notre Dame can't control who The Pinstripe Bowl picked for the opponent. What they can control is how they prepare and how they play. To build momentum for next season, Notre Dame needs to settle for nothing less than making Rutgers sorry they were ever born.