The Royal Heffernans

Quite possibly the best family ever

Thursday, February 16, 2012

We're Due

It's mid-February, so just about the right time for our first Notre Dame football post of the year. Here are the big items that have happened since the Irish gave one away to Florida State.
  1. Manti Te'o decided to return for his senior year, meaning Notre Dame will have it's most formidable front seven in decades.
  2. An already solid recruiting class was lifted by a last minute gift enrollment of top QB recruit Gunnar Kiel, who only weeks before had committed to Louisiana State after previously decommitting from Indiana.
  3. Tons of shake-up in the coaching staff, most notably on the offensive side of the ball where no coaches will be returning to the roles they had last season.
Item 1 is as much a blessing as Michael Floyd's decision to return last year. Te'o's return is vital to a defense that will be completely overhauling the secondary. The potential in that front seven with Lynch, Tuitt, and Nix compounded with Te'o's return will make things much easier on the young secondary.

Item 2 should provide 99% of the ND fodder through spring practice and into the summer. Do the Irish go with the 2-year starter with a 12-4 record as starter, but who has been wildly inconsistent and hasn't shown much growth (Rees)? Do they go with the guy who showed flashes at the end of the year, is mobile, and has the cannon arm (Hendrix)? Do they go with the red-shirt that Kelly intimates is the best fit for his offense and looked most polished of all QBs in last year's Blue-Gold game (Golson)? Or do they go with the hotshot recruit that has a family legacy at ND QB (Kiel)? The coaches seem to indicate this battle will be wide open, and it will be interesting as spring practice starts how they divvy up snaps to give each a fair chance. Less interesting? The repetitive storylines for the next 8 months if no one locks down the position.

Finally, the coaching shake-ups ensure that there will be competition at every spot, particularly on the offense. The biggest mover is unquestionably Chuck Martin, who goes from safeties coach to QB coach and offensive coordinator. It's not a new role for Martin, who filled the same for 5 years as head coach at Grand Valley State. He seems to be on the same page philosophically with what Kelly wants to do, so I'm optimistic. I also just really like the guy, so I hope he succeeds. He seems genuine and funny in the pressers he's done so far this spring, and I really love this quote:
Everybody knows how I feel about Notre Dame. Everybody knows how I feel about Brian Kelly. So he could tell me to coach any position on the team and I'd go to work the same way.
That guy's the tits. Go Irish!


Colin and Liz said...

i think golson is the way to go. hopefully kelly is smart enough to bring the rees era to its much needed end. my big worry is WR. we have nothing there. i think people will quickly realize how dependent our offense has been these last few years on throwing the ball deep to floyd and hoping something happens. we were just lucky enough that floyd was so good something great usually happened. although i can't tell you how many times i yelled at rees through the tv to "just give floyd a chance!"; rees could barely get the ball to floyd half the time!

hopefully the new qb will have a little better accuracy and more importantly improved decision making abilities. however, they still need someone to throw the ball to. eifert is good, but a TE can't be the go-to guy in a college offense, unless gronkowski has some eligibility left. that leaves us with tj jones (inconsistent), toma (low ceiling), and goodman (no thank you). i don't think you can really throw theo riddick, daniel smith, or davaris daniels in the mix because we have seen so little of them. maybe we pick up davonte neal as a recruit, but i don't know if he can be a game changer immediately like floyd was. even floyd took some time to warm up his freshman year.

in the end i think we will again be a pedestrian offense unless one of these receivers steps up, but unfortunately i don't see it happening. i see a lot of dink and dunk passes, few plays that gain big yards, and sadly a lot of what we have seen in the past, absent the presence of floyd.

i guess you can't call me optimist about nd football in 2012.

Kevin said...

I don't know Colin, Floyd was out for a year and a little WR named Golden Tate came on huge! He wasn't a big WR, and his speed was at best above-average, but he seemed to make a big difference and made Jimmy Clausen a 2nd-round draft pick (and look how good he isn't in the NFL).

I think Riddick or Jones could be the next Tate. Obviously, with both being at or under 6' they will not be Floyd. But ND usually makes due with unknown WRs and makes something of them (Reema McKnight, Golden Tate, Jeff Samarzdja, etc.). Eifert will make a bigger difference than you think, because safeties have to cover him, enabling 1-on-1 coverage for WRs, which opens up a lot of options.

I'm always optimistic that we'll do well. With a defensive Front 7 that will shut down the run and harass the QB, we'll be able to win some games that normally we wouldn't. I definitely want to see Golson or Hendricks as QB, because I think a highly mobile QB is death to most defenses in college football. Teams win conferences and National Championships because of mobile QBs and a good defense (Newton/Auburn, V. Young/Texas, Troy Smith/OSU, Vicks/Va. Tech, Crouch/Nebraska, Luck/Stanford, etc.). My thoughts are that a mobile QB alone will win you 8 games. And a mobile QB that can throw will win you 10 games. On those final drives, when you have 2 minutes to go and defenses are dropping into the Prevent (the win), having a QB that can take off and scramble for 10-20 yards destroys the morale of the defense. College defenses are typically not fast enough and don't react quick enough to stop that from happening. That, and because we don't have a go-to-WR like Floyd, are why Golson or Hendricks should be starting.

ian said...

Two quick thoughts:

1. On QB, Rees almost has to be the odd man out because the other three have very similar skillsets. With Hendrix, Golson, and Kiel you can plug-and-play and you keep the exact same playbook. With Rees, it's an entirely different offense because of his lack of mobility. I think that - Kelly needing to have two drastically different gameplans - will ultimately be his downfall.

2. Quick - what do Houston, Arizona, Baylor, and West Virginia have in common? They were all in the top 5 in passing offense last year. Now, name me 1 WR on any of those teams. You can't. But I bet you can name all four QBs. We don't need a big play WR, we need a decent QB and consistent WR play. Hopefully, with a QB that can put the ball on target someone will emerge in the WR corps.

Teddy said...

My $0.02...

WR will get a boost as superstar NEAL ends up signing with us on Feb 21. I think we got him locked up. In addition, my #1 biggest pet peave of 2011 will be instantly solved as NEAL is an elite punt returner.

It doesn't matter who is QB in 2012. We are gonna get ROLLED with that schedule. I'm already giving Kelly a pass on the season. 2013 will be our year.