Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bruton Fake Punt Run One of Many Big Plays For Former Irish Players

BY: Elliott Carwile

The casual NFL fan may have caught a glimpse of Kyle Rudolph – TE – Minnesota Vikings – catching nine passes for 97 yards and a touchdown in the 35-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Or Michael Floyd’s – WR – Arizona Cardinals – five receptions for 44 yards and a touchdown in a 32-20 loss to San Francisco. Maybe even the stat line of the week, Joe Fauria – TE – Detroit Lions (Transferred to UCLA) –three grabs for 34 yards and three touchdowns in the 31-17 win over the Cleveland Browns. None of these were the most electrifying play for an ex Notre Dame player in week six however.

That honor goes to David Bruton – S – Denver Broncos –the special team’s captain took a direct snap on what appeared to be a punt attempt and raced down the left sideline gaining 34 yards and firing up the home crowd in the 35-19 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Minnesota Vikings are the NFL team with the most former Irish players on their roster. Besides Rudolph four more ex Golden Domers played for the Vikings on Sunday.  John Carlson – TE – caught two passes for 10 yards in the 35-10 loss to Carolina. Robert Blanton – DB –recorded one tackle. Harrison Smith – S –had four tackles before being injured and leaving the game. And John Sullivan – OL –started at the center position along the offensive line. J.J. Jansen – LS – Carolina Panthers – saw action in the game as well.

The New York Jets fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers 19-6. Darrin Walls – CB –started at defensive back and registered three tackles. Brady Quinn – QB –did not see any game action.

Tyler Eifert – TE – Cincinnati Bengals – caught two passes for 13 yards in the 27-24 overtime win over Buffalo. Trevor Robinson – OL – did not see game action. In the same contest Sam Young – OL – Buffalo Bills – saw game action.

The Houston Texans got destroyed Sunday by the St. Louis Rams 38-13, maybe they should have used Cierre Wood – RB – who did not see any game action. Teammate Ryan Harris – OL –started at tackle in the loss.

The Thursday night game saw Justin Tuck – DE – New York Giants – record three tackles and a pass deflection in a 27-21 loss to the Chicago Bears.

Theo Riddick – RB – Detroit Lions – saw action in the 31-17 win over Cleveland.

Golden Tate – WR – Seattle Seahawks – caught five passes for 33 yards in the 20-13 win over the Tennessee Titans.

Ronald Talley – DL – Arizona Cardinals (Transferred to Delaware) – saw game action in the 32-20 loss to San Francisco.

Former Irish players who were on active rosters this but did not see action were:

Will Yeatman – OL – Miami Dolphins (Transferred to Maryland) – BYE WEEK

Sergio Brown – S – Indianapolis Colts – MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL

Anthony Fasano – TE – Kansas City Chiefs – was inactive in 24-7 win over Oakland

Manti Te’o – LB – San Diego Chargers – MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL

Zeke Motta – S – Atlanta Falcons – BYE WEEK

Derek Landri – DL – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – did not see game action in 31-20 loss to Philadelphia

Ian Williams – DL – San Francisco 49ers – did not play (injured – broken ankle) in 32-20 win over Arizona.

Injured Reserve.:

Kapron Lewis-Moore – DL – Baltimore Ravens

Eric Olsen – OL – New Orleans Saints

Darius Fleming – LB – San Francisco 49ers

Practice Squad:

Jonas Gray – RB – Baltimore Ravens

Jamoris Slaughter – S – Cleveland Browns

Braxston Cave – OL – New England Patriots

The Irish had bye week Saturday and will welcome the Trojans of USC to South Bend this week.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Big Week Five For Ex Irish Players

BY: Elliott Carwile

Week five in the National Football League saw several former Golden Domers have impressive games. Starting with Golden Tate – WR – Seattle Seahawks – Tate caught five passes for 61 yards and a touchdown in the Seahawks 34-28 loss to Indianapolis. Tate has emerged as a big time play maker and deep threat and his stat line would have been even better had quarterback Russell Wilson not over thrown him on a deep ball that would have been another touchdown.

Tate’s former pass catching partner at Notre Dame Michael Floyd – WR – Arizona Cardinals – led the team with five catches for 61 yards in a 22-6 win over the Carolina Panthers. 

Tyler Eifert – TE – Cincinnati Bengals – caught five passes for 53 yards in a 13-6 win over the New England. Trevor Robinson – OL – Cincinnati Bengals – did not see game action.

Cierre Wood – RB – Houston Texans – carried once for five yards and had one kick-off return for 20 yards in the 34-3 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Ryan Harris – OL – Houston Texans – started at tackle in the loss.

Robert Hughes – RB – Indianapolis Colts – one catch for six yards in the 34-28 win over Seattle. Hughes saw his first game action of the season after being signed this week to the Colts active roster. Sergio Brown – S – Indianapolis Colts – also saw game action in the win over the Seahawks.

Manti Te’o – LB – San Diego Chargers – registered five tackles in a 27-17 loss to the Oakland Raiders.

Justin Tuck – DE – New York Giants – recorded three tackles in the 36-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Several other Ex-Notre Dame players saw the field in week 5.

Sam Young – OL – Buffalo Bills – saw game action in a 37-24 loss to the Cleveland Browns.

Will Yeatman – OL – Miami Dolphins (Transferred to Maryland) – saw action in a 26-23 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

David Bruton – S – Denver Broncos – saw action in a thrilling  51-48 win over the Dallas Cowboys to keep the Broncos season perfect at 5-0.

Theo Riddick – RB – Detroit Lions – saw action in a 22-9 loss to the Green Bay Packers. Joe Fauria – TE – Detroit Lions (Transferred to UCLA) – also played in the game.

J.J. Jansen – LS – Carolina Panthers – saw game action in a 22-6 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. In the same game Ronald Talley – DL – Arizona Cardinals (Transferred to Delaware) – recorded one tackle.

Here is the list of former Irish players who were on active rosters but didn’t play.

Brady Quinn – QB – New York Jets – MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Notre Dame-Michigan St. Preview

Notre Dame QB's: The Irish come in with the 16th ranked pass offense that averages 326 yards a game and starting quarterback Tommy Rees is 7th in the nation in terms of total passing yards. Rees has thrown for 969 yards and has a 60.7 completion percentage and has completed 65 out of 107 passes with 7 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Backup quarterback Andrew Hendrix has appeared in all 3 games so far this season but has only completed 1 of 5 passes for 9 yards this season.

Notre Dame QB's vs. Michigan St. Pass Defense: The Spartans have the 5th best pass defense in college football and have done an amazing job against opposing quarterbacks by only allowing 34.7 percent of passes to be completed and have intercepted 4 passes this season. They allow only 126.7 yards a game and they have intercepted 4 passes this season. Tommy Rees bounced back from throwing 2 interceptions against Michigan to throwing zero interceptions against Purdue. Rees needs to be accurate and to not force the ball or get into turnover situations. He has done well this season, but is going to need to be at his best against one of the top pass defenses in the nation.

Edge: Even

Michigan St. QB's: The Spartans have used multiple quarterbacks this season in Andrew Maxwell, Connor Cook, and Tyler O'Connor. The pass offense overall is only 107th in the nation in passing yards with 160 passing yards per game. Connor Cook will most likely be the quarterback face as he is coming off a win over Youngstown St. where he completed 15 of 22 passes (68 completion percentage) for 202 yards and 4 touchdowns. Overall this season he has completed 27 of 49 passes for a 55.1 completion percentage with 276 yards and 4 touchdowns. In addition, Cook has ran for 70 yards on 15 attempts for a 4.7 yard average and a long of 20 yards. Andrew Maxwell has completed half of passes this season on 15 completions to 30 attempts for 114 yards and zero touchdowns. Tyler O'Connor has thrown for 90 yards on 9 completions to 14 attempts and a 64.3 completion percentage. The Michigan St. quarterbacks have not thrown any interceptions this season but the longest pass by any quarterback has only been for 26 yards (Done by both Cook and Maxwell).

Michigan St. QB's vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense: The pass defense for the Irish has been very inconsistent this season. The Irish come in with the 91st ranked pass defense that has allowed opponents to complete 57 percent of their passes for 259.3 yards per game and have allowed 7 passing touchdowns. The Irish have intercepted just 2 passes this season but both went for touchdowns for Notre Dame. While Connor Cook is the likely quarterback that Notre Dame should face, the Irish need to account for the possibility of the Spartans using more than one quarterback in the game. Consistency is extremely important here and Notre Dame needs to prevent the Spartans from completing their passes and prevent long gains. Since Cook is the teams 4th leading rusher, that also must be accounted for as well as preventing plays from being extended is also important. The Spartans may have one of the lowest ranked pass offenses, but they are not to be underestimated at all.

Edge: Even

Notre Dame RB's: Amir Carlisle leads the Irish in terms of rushing yards with 148 yards on 30 carries for a 4.9 yard average. Cam McDaniel is second with 125 rushing yards and 1 touchdown and a 4.3 yard average. George Atkinson III has 98 yards on 18 carries with a 5.4 yard average and 1 touchdown. Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston each have 14 rushing yards for the Irish. Will Mahone has yet to have any rushing yards yet but had missed the first game of the season with injury. The unit overall gives Notre Dame the 92nd ranked rushing offense with 125 rushing yards a game.

Notre Dame RB's vs. Michigan St. Rush Defense: Michigan St. is also strong against the run as well as they are the 4th ranked rushing defense that has allowed just 50.3 yards a game and only 1 rushing touchdown and for opposing ball carriers to have just 1.8 rushing yards per attempt. Notre Dame may be talented, but no single running back has emerged to be the main ball carrier. Cam McDaniel closed out the game for the Irish in the win over Purdue and could potentially be the starter for this game, but Notre Dame has a variety of running backs to play and it might be time for Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston to start getting more carries. This might be the best run defense the Irish face this season, but quite a few Notre Dame opponents have high-ranked rush defenses at this time.

Edge: Even

Michigan St. RB's: Michigan St. comes in with the 44th ranked rush offense that averages 209.6 yards per game and has averaged 4.8 yards per rush and has 5 rushing touchdowns. The top player for the Spartans in the ground game is Jeremy Langford who has 200 rushing yards on 44 carries for a 4.5 yard average and a team-leading 4 rushing touchdowns. Nick Hill has 179 rushing yards on 25 attempts and a 7.2 yard average with 1 rushing touchdown and the longest run on the team at 35 yards. Riley Bullough has 82 rushing yards on 21 attempts and a 3.9 yard average.

Michigan St. RB's vs. Notre Dame Rush Defense: Notre Dame has the 26th ranked rushing defense that has allowed 112.6 yards a game, 3.8 yards per rush, and 2 rushing touchdowns. Containing Langford, Hill and Bullough will be important, but Notre Dame shut Purdue down on the ground and allowed only 38 yards on 21 attempts and zero rushing touchdowns. The Irish need to build upon that and contain the Spartans running game.

Edge: Even

Notre Dame WR's and TE's: This has been one of the best units on offense for the Irish. DaVaris Daniels has a team-leading 299 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns on 17 receptions and a 17.6 yards per catch average. TJ Jones has been the leader in receptions and makes many key plays with 19 receptions for 289 yards, a 15.2 yard average and 1 touchdown. Tight end Troy Niklas has done well with the loss Tyler Eifert and has 8 catches for 151 yards and 2 touchdowns and a team-leading 18.9 yard average per reception. Chris Brown has 7 catches for 125 yards and a 17.9 yard average. All four of the top receivers for the Irish have caught a pass of 40 or more yards this season with the long being 82 yards by Daniels. CJ Prosise has made 2 catches for 28 yards and Corey Robinson has 1 catch for 12 yards. Quite a few players have seen playing time at the receiver position. DaVaris Daniels and TJ Jones are 16th and 21st in the nation in terms of total receiving yards this season.

Notre Dame WR's vs. Michigan St. DB's: Michigan St. had an experienced unit coming into the season despite the loss of Johnny Adams (1st team Big 10 last season). The best player in the secondary is senior cornerback Darqueze Dennard who was also 1st team Big 10 last season. Dennard will most likely be matched up against DaVaris Daniels who made quite a few plays for the Irish and has the lead on receiving yards and touchdowns for the Irish this season. Dennard has done a great job in defending the pass with 5 pass breakups and has been able to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks with 2 quarterback hurries even. Even though Michigan St. has a talented secondary they have a significant amount to account for in the passing game with Daniels, Jones, Brown and Niklas all capable of making big plays for the Irish.

Edge: Notre Dame

Michigan St. WR's and TE's: Macgarrett Kings has been the top player in terms of receiving yards and is tied for first in receptions and receiving touchdowns. He has 8 catches for 99 yards and 1 touchdown with a 12.4 yard average. Aaron Burbridge has 8 receptions as well with 80 yards and a 10 yard average per reception. Bennie Fowler has 5 catches for 73 yards and 1 touchdown along with a 14.6 (team-high) average and Tony Lippett has 4 catches for 41 yards and a 10.2 yard average. Keith Mumphery has 6 receptions for 47 yards and tight end Josiah Price has 3 catches for 28 yards.

Michigan St. WR's vs. Notre Dame DB's: The main targets for the Spartans are Macgarrett Kings and Aaron Burbridge who have 16 of the teams 51 receptions. However the ball has been spread around extremely well with a combined total of 15 different players having at least one reception and 4 players that have a touchdown reception which also ties all 4 players for the lead in touchdown receptions. Notre Dame won't be able to focus on one specific player as the ball has been spread around well. Consistency is extremely important here and the Irish need to improve on that if they want to shut down the passing game.

Edge: Even

Notre Dame OL: The offensive line has been doing a decent job in the pass protection area as they have allowed just 3 sacks, which is tied for 23rd in the nation in sacks allowed. The opponents they have played are tied for 28th in the nation for sacks (Purdue) and two are tied for 51st (Michigan and Temple) However, they have also allowed 15 tackles for loss and the running game is averaging 4.1 yards per rush and 125 yards per game.

Notre Dame OL vs. Michigan St. DL: Michigan St. has been great in the sack department with a tie for 10th in the nation in sacks with 9 sacks and getting into opposing backfields has been easy with 18 tackles for loss this season. The defensive line has 7 of the Spartans 9 sacks this season as well. Keeping Tommy Rees protected is important as the Irish will need to be able to get passes off quick as the quarterback pressure is also a strong point for Michigan St. with 27 total quarterback hurries. The battle in the trenches is once again one of the most important battles Notre Dame must win.

Edge: Even

Michigan St. OL: Run blocking has been solid for the Spartans who average 209.7 yards a game on the ground and 4.9 yards per rush. They have done a great job in containing opposing defenders as they have allowed just 2 sacks and 12 tackles for loss. They have also allowed only 9 quarterback hurries as well.

Michigan St. OL vs. Notre Dame DL: The Irish haven't done as well at getting to the quarterback with only 3 sacks, but have 12 quarterback hurries. Part of this could be attributed to facing quarterbacks who are capable of extending plays on the ground and make it easier to avoid sacks. Notre Dame does have 14 tackles for loss. The Irish have done well in run defense, but this is going to be an even matchup considering the Irish have a strong defensive front led by Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix III.

Edge: Even

Notre Dame DL: Louis Nix III leads all defensive lineman in tackles with 8 and 1 tackle for loss. Sheldon Day has 7 tackles and 1 tackle for loss and Stephon Tuitt has 4 tackles, 1 for loss, 1 sack, 2 quarterback hurries, and an interception touchdown. Issac Rochell has 3 tackles as well and has appeared in all three games this season. The unit has had solid losses due to injury in the offseason as well. Sheldon Day had been injured vs. Purdue and is coming along, but should play against the Spartans. Considering injuries, the Irish can't afford to lose anyone.

Notre Dame DL vs. Michigan OL: The Spartans have done well in the blocking and protection departments. This is one of the most interesting matchups between the two lines. Louis Nix III will most likely be double teamed when playing. The Irish need to able to stuff the run and pressure the quarterback to win this matchup.

Edge: Even

Michigan St. DL: The Spartans may have lost William Gholston and Anthony Rashad White, but the defensive front remains strong once again. Tyler Hoover has 9 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 2 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble and 1 quarterback hurry. Marcus Rush has 7 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 pass breakup, 1 forced fumble, and 1 quarterback hurry. Shilique Calhoun has been the best lineman for Michigan St. this season so far with 5 tackles (all solo tackles), 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 interception return (that went for a 56 yard touchdown), 8 quarterback hurries, and 3 fumble recoveries (2 of which have gone for touchdowns). Calhoun is the 2nd leading scorer for Michigan St. and is a major impact player on defense to keep an eye on. Micajah Reynolds has 10 tackles and 3 quarterback hurries.

Michigan St. DL vs. Notre Dame OL: The defensive line that Notre Dame will be facing is possibly one of the best the Irish face all season. Shilique Calhoun has been absolutely dominant for the Spartans with 3 defensive touchdowns on returns. Tyler Hoover and Marcus Rush will also pose problems. Blocking is going to be important in preventing turnovers and keeping Rees protected. As it has been all season, the battles in the trenches are most important for either team.

Edge: Even

Notre Dame LB's: Three inside linebackers make up the top 3 tacklers for the Irish defense in Dan Fox, Jarrett Grace, and Carlo Calabrese. Fox leads with 24 tackles and 2 tackles for loss, while Grace has 20 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and a pass breakup. Carlo Calabrese has 18 tackles and a team-leading 3 tackles for loss and 1 fumble recovery. Prince Shembo has 10 tackles and 6 quarterback hurries (leads team) and Jaylon Smith has 7 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 1 pass breakup. Ishaq Williams has 6 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 1 sack.

Notre Dame LB's vs. Michigan St.: The Irish have seen quite a bit of impressive play out of Jarrett Grace and Jaylon Smith. Grace has been better suited for pass coverage and could wind up starting over Dan Fox or Carlo Calabrese by seasons end if he continues to play as well as he has this season. Jaylon Smith is continuing to improve week after week and looks to be another 4 year starter after the graduation of Manti Te'o. The Irish will need to contain the run-first Michigan St. as the running game has been a stronger area on offense.

Edge: Even

Michigan St. LB's: Denicos Allen is tied for 1st on the team with 3 tackles for loss and has 15 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 pass breakup, and 3 quarterback hurries. Max Bullough also has 15 tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss, 1 pass breakup, and 3 quarterback hurries as well. Taiwan Jones has 9 tackles, 1 tackle for loss and 1 quarterback hurry. Jarius Jones has 11 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 2 interceptions.

Michigan St. LB's vs. Notre Dame: The starting unit features all upperclassmen in seniors Max Bullough and Denicos Allen, along with a junior in Taiwan Jones. They give the Spartans one of the top linebacker units in the country that that had returned the 1st and 3rd tacklers overall from a season ago. Notre Dame has some talent they will have to account for, as Troy Niklas will be a matchup nightmare with his size and strength. The front seven of Michigan St. might be one of the best in the country with the experience and the play making ability.

Edge: Even

Notre Dame DB's: The secondary has been a step down from the unit a year ago that rarely allowed opponents to pass for 200 or more yards, but has been made a couple of plays in recent times that had impact. Bennett Jackson has 17 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception (that went for a touchdown), and 1 quarterback hurry. Matthias Farley has 13 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 2 pass breakups. KeVarae Russell has 8 tackles and a pass breakup and Austin Collinsworth has 3 tackles and 2 quarterback hurries. Cole Luke has seen extensive amounts of playing time as a true freshman with appearances in all 3 games this season along with 3 tackles and 1 pass breakup.

Notre Dame DB's vs. Michigan St. WR's: The Spartans certainly have options at receiver, but not a single player is dominant at this position as the total numbers per player might look like what one gets in a single game compared to three games into the season. Either way, the Irish secondary will need to be at their best in coverage and prevent any deep passes and short gains turning into long ones. No matter what stats a player has so far on the stat sheet, all must be accounted for.

Edge: Even

Michigan St. DB's: Kurtis Drummond leads the Spartans in tackles with 17, has 1 interception (went for a touchdown), and has 2 passes broken up. Isaiah Lewis has 11 tackles, 1 pass breakup, and 1 quarterback hurry while RJ Williamson has 11 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 1 pass breakup. Darqueeze Dennard has 9 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, 5 passes broken up, and 2 quarterback hurries. Trae Waynes has 5 tackles and 2 pass breakups.

Michigan St. DB's vs. Notre Dame WR's: The Michigan St. defensive backs may have experience on their side, but they face the best receiving unit so far this season in Notre Dame's unit that has a trio of receivers who can all catch long passes and turn short passes into long gains. Trying to account for DaVaris Daniels, TJ Jones, and Chris Brown will also be a challenge. Tight End Troy Niklas will also be a factor as he can catch the ball too, but might get used for blocking with how great the Spartans pass rush is.

Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame Kicking Game: After missing his only attempt of the Temple game, Kyle Brindza has hit 4 field goals in a row and has shown steady improvement with a long of 44 yards. He also handles punting duties with a 39.5 yard average with a long of 47 yards, 2 touchbacks, 3 fair caught, and 2 inside the 20. Alex Wulfeck has 1 punt for 38 yards that was also fair caught and inside the 20. Kyle Brindza is at his best generally in kickoffs with a 64.2 yard average on 18 kickoffs, and has 10 touchbacks as well.

Michigan St. Kicking Game: Kevin Muma has made 4 of 5 field goals with the miss being for 25 yards and has a long of 30 yards. Mike Sadler handles punting duties with a 41.2 yard average, a long of 54 yards, 2 touchbacks, 4 fair caught and 11 inside the 20. Kevin Muma has a 63.2 yard average on 18 kickoffs with 10 touchbacks. Kevin Cronin has 2 kickoffs for 125 yards for a 62.5 yard average and 1 touchback.

Stronger Unit: Even

Notre Dame Return Game: While not to the level of his freshman year, George Atkinson III has done well with 8 returns for 235 yards, a 29.4 yard average, and a long of 50. TJ Jones has returned 4 punts for 41 yards with a 10.2 yard average and a long of 18.

Michigan St. Return Game: Nick Hill has returned 4 kickoffs for 87 yards for a 21.8 yard average and a long of 27 yards. Andre Sims has returned 14 punts for 121 yards, an 8.6 yard average, and a long of 33.

Stronger Unit: Even

Everything Else: The Irish return home after a road win over Purdue and a loss at Michigan. Michigan St. has one of the best defenses in college football. However, the level of competition is quite suspect as they have played a Division 1-AA team, South Florida who might be the worst BCS-Conference in the nation (0-3 with a blowout loss to a Division 1-AA team and a non-BCS Conference team), and a winless non-BCS team in Western Michigan. Michigan St. has had issues with quarterback, but it looks like it is Connor Cook that will start. Notre Dame will need to pass the ball and run the ball on the highly ranked Spartans defense. The defense accounted for 4 of the 6 touchdowns in Michigan St.'s first two games against Western Michigan and South Florida. This will be the first road game of the season for Michigan St. who opened with 3 straight home games this season. The offensive line will need to protect Tommy Rees and the running game from the strong pass rush and front seven of Michigan St. Notre Dame's defense will need to improve and be consistent as well. The battles in the trenches are going to be important as well. The Irish receiving unit does give them a big edge in the passing game and limiting turnovers along with field position will be big as well.

Prediction: Notre Dame 24, Michigan St. 13

Friday, September 13, 2013

Notre Dame-Purdue Preview

Notre Dame QB's: Despite Everett Golson being gone for this season due to a suspension, Notre Dame has the 17th ranked pass offense nationally. While Tommy Rees did throw 2 costly interceptions in the loss to Michigan, he still has done a decent job this season with 60.8 completion percentage on 45 completions and 74 attempts. In addition, he has thrown for 660 passing yards and 5 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Andrew Hendrix has appeared in both games as well this season and has only completed 1 of 5 passes for 9 yards, but appeared in the final drive in the first game and for one play against Michigan when he attempted a long pass in the closing seconds of the first half.

Notre Dame QB's vs. Purdue Pass Defense: Purdue has the 71st ranked pass defense that has allowed 3 passing touchdowns and opponents to complete 65.7 percent of their passes. Purdue has allowed 46 completions on 70 attempts. They have allowed 460 passing yards total or 230 yards per game, and a 10 yard per catch average as well. Considering the options that Tommy Rees has in Troy Niklas, TJ Jones, DaVaris Daniels, Chris Brown and more, this gives the Irish a considerable advantage and a great opportunity for Tommy Rees to bounce back from throwing 2 interceptions.

Edge: Notre Dame

Purdue QB's: Rob Henry has been the only quarterback to have any passing numbers this season with a 55.9 yard completion percentage and has completed 33 out of 59 passing attempts. He has thrown for only 311 yards, has thrown 2 interceptions, zero passing touchdowns, and has a long of just 29 yards. Henry also has 8 rushing yards and 1 rushing touchdown as well. His backups are young with Austin Appleby and Danny Etling who are redshirt freshman and true freshman, respectively and neither have any game stats so far.

Purdue QB's vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense: The Irish are ranked 89th in pass defense and haven't done as well as the 2012 unit thus far. They have allowed an average of 261 passing yards and opponents average close to 12 yards per completion and 4 touchdowns. Rob Henry hasn't looked good this season at all and this could look well for the Irish to have their best game of the season when it comes to defending the pass.

Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame RB's: Amir Carlisle has the lead in terms of rushing yards with 132 rushing yards on 19 carries and has a 6.9 yard average per rush, and also has the team's longest running play with it being a 45 yard run. George Atkinson III has 71 rushing yards on 13 carries with 1 rushing touchdown and a 5.5 yard average. However, he has struggled a bit with catching the ball and had quite a few missed receptions in the loss to Michigan. Cam McDaniel has 69 yards on 13 carries as well with a 5.3 yard average. Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston only appeared against Temple so far and have 14 and 12 yards so far. Will Mahone missed the Temple game with injury and did not play against Michigan, but could see playing time against Purdue.

Notre Dame RB's vs. Purdue Rush Defense: Purdue's rushing defense is ranked 50th in the nation and has allowed 130 yards per game and only 3.8 yards a rush. However, they have allowed 4 touchdowns on the ground. Notre Dame comes in with just the 79th ranked rush offense, but does have a 5.2 yard average a rush and 1 rushing touchdown overall. Notre Dame should try to run the ball more and be balanced, and should try to play each of the running backs so they are able to get some playing time and experience as well.

Edge: Even

Purdue RB's: Akeem Hunt is the leading rusher for the Boilermakers with 103 rushing yards on 29 attempts and a 3.6 yard average. Dalyn Dawkins has 61 rushing yards, a 4.1 yard average, and on 15 carries. Receiver B.J. Knauf has made his contribution to the running game with 43 yards on 7 attempts with 1 rushing touchdown and a 6.1 yard average per rush.

Purdue RB's vs. Notre Dame Rush Defense: Purdue's rushing offense is ranked 104th overall with 99.5 yards per game, and the team is averaging just below 3 yards a carry. Notre Dame is ranked 62nd in rushing defense and has allowed 150 yards per game. The Irish should be able to have their best showing in the run defense department of the season so far against Purdue, who is one of the lowest ranked teams in rushing yards per game. Containing the ground game will be crucial and the Irish should be able to keep Purdue below 100 rushing yards.

Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame WR's and TE's: This has been one of the strong spots for the Irish. TJ Jones leads the Irish in receptions and yards and so far has 15 receptions for 232 yards. He also has a 15.5 yard average per catch and 1 receiving touchdown. Troy Niklas has been a real surprise for the Irish with 7 catches for 142 yards and a team-leading 20.3 yards per catch, and he also has 2 touchdowns as well. DaVaris Daniels has been great too with 7 receptions, 132 receiving yards, and 2 touchdowns. Chris Brown had improved on his 2012 numbers against Temple alone and has 6 catches for 85 yards. C.J. Prosise and Corey Robinson had their first career receptions against Michigan for 16 and 12 yards, respectively.

Notre Dame WR's and TE's vs. Purdue DB's: Purdue's most experienced members of the secondary are cornerback Ricardo Allen and safeties Landon Feichter and Taylor Richards. The unit has allowed a 10 yard per catch average and 3 passing touchdowns. Despite the experience the Boilermakers have, they have a challenge in handling Notre Dame's deep receiving unit that has four players as the main targets and others who can step up.

Edge: Notre Dame

Purdue WR's and TE's: Not a single player has caught a touchdown amongst the receiving unit of Purdue. Gabe Holmes, a tight end, has a team-leading 9 catches for 69 yards. However, Gabe Holmes was injured in practice this week and that will have a major impact on the Boilermakers offense. Shane Mikesky has 4 catches for 43 yards, Gary Bush has 4 catches for 14 yards, and B.J. Knauf has 2 catches for 25 yards. The top two running backs have actually had a couple of the most important contributions to the receiving game with Dalyn Dawkins having 4 catches for 52 yards and Akeem Hunt with 3 receptions for 43 yards.

Purdue WR's vs. Notre Dame: With the unremarkable numbers by Purdue's receivers, things look better for the Irish secondary that should be able to bounce back from allowing 4 passing touchdowns. Gabe Holmes had been the main target and the next receiver after him had less than half the amount of receptions as he does. Notre Dame needs to be prevent the large chuck plays and the deep ball to win this matchup. Consistency is major need out of the Irish secondary for this game and for the rest of the season. Look for the Irish to also bounce back and contain this unit.

Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame OL: The offensive line has done well in giving Tommy Rees time to pass and has allowed only 2 sacks and 9 tackles for loss. The run blocking has been good with a 5.3 yard average. The unit has also been one of the stronger areas for the Irish this season so far.

Notre Dame OL vs. Purdue DL: The front four of the Purdue defense is a strength and all 6 of the Boilermakers sacks were by defensive lineman. Purdue is able to get into the backfield as well with 10 tackles for loss this season. The battle in the trenches might be the most important matchup in this game between these units. The Irish need to have their best pass and run blocking while keeping opposing defenders out of the backfield.

Edge: Even

Purdue OL: The offensive line came into this season with a combined 52 career starts and had 3 starters. Run blocking has been poor with 2.9 yards per rush, and they have allowed 3 sacks and 9 tackles for loss this season so far. The unit is primarily seniors starting with 4 of 5 starters being a senior.

Purdue OL vs. Notre Dame DL: Purdue will have more trouble when it comes to running the ball with the poor average per rush (107th overall). Pass blocking could be an area they fare better in as the Irish have 2 sacks this season. The Irish have been able to get quarterback pressure with 12 quarterback hurries and also have 10 tackles for loss this season.

Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame DL: Louis Nix III has a defensive line-leading 5 tackles and 1 tackle for loss. Nix did well against the Michigan offensive line. Stephon Tuitt added another touchdown to his career with an interception in the endzone on what originally might have been a safety had Devin Gardner not tried to throw the ball away. Tuitt now has a fumble recovery touchdown and an interception touchdown for his career. He also has 3 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss, and 2 quarterback hurries this season. Sheldon Day and Issac Rochell have 3 tackles each so far.

Notre Dame DL vs. Purdue OL: The Irish need to constantly put pressure on Purdue's offensive line so that they can stuff the run game and force Purdue into turnovers. The Irish have a great edge on containing the run game in particular.

Edge: Notre Dame

Purdue DL: One of the best strengths of Purdue is in the defensive line, despite the loss of Kawann Short, who was a 2nd round draft pick, 2nd team All-American, and 2-time first-team All-Big 10. Bruce Gaston might be the best player on the line and possibly the defense and he leads the team in tackles with 12 and has 3.5 tackles for loss (team-leading) and 2 sacks. Like the offensive line, it has quite a few seniors starting on it. Greg Latta has 9 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, and 2 pass breakups. Ryan Russell has 8 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks. Jalani Phillips has 3 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 sacks and a pass breakup. Ryan Issac has 2 tackles and 1 interception.

Purdue DL vs. Notre Dame OL: This is one of the biggest matchups in the game. All 6 of Purdue's sacks have come from defensive linemen and it is a unit that has quite a few seniors on it. Notre Dame needs to keep Tommy Rees protected and give him opportunity to pass. Preventing Purdue from getting into the backfield is key for the Irish. If the offensive line can handle Purdue's front four, then everything else will be significantly more easy.

Edge: Even

Notre Dame LB's: Starting inside linebackers Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese are the top 2 tacklers for the Irish and they have 20 and 14 respectively, and they both have 2 tackles for loss as well. Jarrett Grace has done quite well and could potentially be starting over one of them by the season's end. Grace has 10 tackles and 1 tackle for loss. Prince Shembo has 6 tackles and 6 quarterback hurries this season and Jaylon Smith has 6 tackles as well with a pass breakup. Ishaq Williams had his first career sack against Michigan and has 4 tackles as well.

Notre Dame LB's vs. Purdue: The Irish face one of the worst rushing offenses in Purdue who are 104th overall in the nation. While the inside linebacker play outside of Jarrett Grace hasn't been as great with the loss of Manti Te'o, this is an opportunity to improve.

Edge: Notre Dame

Purdue LB's: Sean Robinson leads the linebackers in tackles with 9 tackles and 1 pass breakup. Joe Gilliam has 8 tackles and 2 pass breakups. Will Lucas has 6 tackles and 1 pass breakup and Armstead Williams has 3 tackles. This unit also has quite a few upperclassmen in it as well.

Purdue LB's vs. Notre Dame: The Boilermakers have quite a bit to handle in a deep running game that the Irish have and Troy Niklas who has been quite impressive for the Irish so far this season. Purdue has an upperclassmen-heavy unit at linebacker, but the Irish could easily be a major challenge for them.

Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame DB's: The secondary has been a step down for the Irish this season as they are 89th in the nation in pass defense and have allowed 261 yards per game and 4 passing touchdowns. This is a prime opportunity to improve against a Purdue unit that doesn't have many top players in the receiving unit and inconsistent quarterback play. The defensive backs haven't deflected many passes with only 3 (4 overall if the entire defense is factored in).

Notre Dame DB's vs. Purdue WR's: The loss of Gabe Holmes is a big one for the Boilermakers, but the defensive backs for the Irish must be consistent and improve on their play against Michigan last week. Preventing big chunk plays and short gains turning into long ones is as important as preventing the deep ball here.

Edge: Notre Dame

Purdue DB's: The most important play in the Boilermakers secondary is senior cornerback Ricardo Allen. Allen will likely be lined up opposite of TJ Jones and that will be a big matchup to watch. On the season, Allen has 7 tackles and 1 interception this season so far. The other important player is Landon Feichter who had 4 interceptions last season and this season has 8 tackles. Frankie Williams accounts for 1 other interception made by the defensive backs.

Purdue DB's vs. Notre Dame WR's: Ricardo Allen vs. TJ Jones will be major matchup here, but the Purdue secondary has to also account for DaVaris Daniels and Chris Brown as well. If Tommy Rees spreads it around and avoids turnovers, then the Irish will win big in this area.

Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame Kicking Game: Kyle Brindza really improved between game 1 and game 2. After missing 2 field goals against Temple, he hit all 3 attempts with 2 of the 3 being for 40 or more yards. He did better at punting and has a 40.9 yard average with a long of 47, 2 touchbacks, 2 fair caught, and 2 inside the 20. Brindza also has a 64.3 yard kickoff average and has 6 touchbacks on 12 kickoffs.

Purdue Kicking Game: Paul Griggs has made 2 of 4 field goals, but is 2 of 2 after starting out 0-2. Cody Webster has a 49.9 yard average and a long punt of 73 yards and has been able to pin it deep with 4 touchbacks and 3 punts of 50 or more yards. Thomas Meadows is the kickoff specialist and has a 64.3 yard average and has 1 touchback on 7 punts.

Stronger Unit: Even
Notre Dame Return Game: George Atkinson III has returned 4 kickoffs for 116 yards and a 29 yard average and has a long of 50 yards on a return. Punt returns have already looked better than the previous season with TJ Jones returning 4 punts for 41 yards and a long of 18.

Purdue Return Game: Akeem Hunt has 3 returns for 143 yards and an impressive 47.7 yard average and a return for a touchdown. Frankie Williams has 1 punt return for 14 yards.

Stronger Unit: Purdue

Everything Else: The Irish are coming in off a loss at Michigan and Purdue is coming in off a close win over Division 1-AA Indiana State. The Irish are considerably stronger at numerous positions over the Boilermakers. The big thing is to limit turnovers on offense, establish the run and to try and contain the front four of Purdue. Look for more balanced showing on offense and opportunities for younger players such as Greg Bryant, Tarean Folston and other freshmen to get playing time.

Prediction: Notre Dame 35, Purdue 6

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Notre Dame-Michigan Preview

Notre Dame QB's: Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees got the season off to a great start with an accurate and impressive passing performance against Temple. Rees completed 70 percent of his passes for 346 yards (career-high) and 3 touchdowns. He did this on 16 completions out of 23 attempts and was throwing the ball pretty far to show heavily improved arm strength. Passes short and long were completed with a pair of 32 yard touchdowns, a 66 yard touchdown, and a pass that went for 51 yards. Rees spread the ball out well with TJ Jones, DaVaris Daniels, Chris Brown, and Troy Niklas all making a big impact in the passing game against Temple. It was easily the best game in Tommy Rees's career at Notre Dame, and Andrew Hendrix played the final drive with 1 completion out of 4 attempts for 9 yards.

Notre Dame QB's vs. Michigan Pass Defense: Michigan allowed 144 yards in the air in its opener against Central Michigan while also getting an interception as well. Notre Dame gives Michigan stronger competition and with an improved Tommy Rees makes things quite challenging. Rees will need to build upon his performance against Temple and continue to be accurate, efficient, and spread the ball around to his receivers. If he does so, then the passing game will continue to be seen as a strength for the Irish.

Edge: Notre Dame

Michigan QB's: Denard Robinson was the starter over the previous three seasons with Devin Gardner starting the last few games of 2012. Gardner had been used in a few different ways last season, but is the starting quarterback this season. Garder completed 10 of 15 of his passes for 162 yards and 1 touchdown, but threw 2 interceptions against Central Michigan. He also ran for 52 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground. Backup Shane Morris had 4 completions on 6 attempts for 59 yards and 1 interception.

Michigan QB's vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense: Devin Gardner had an average day against Central Michigan in the air, but did well on the ground. For the Irish defense, he is not to be underestimated in this case. Michigan having a total of 3 interceptions is also a concern considering that interceptions were an issue in last years game against Notre Dame when many interceptions were thrown. Shutting down Gardner on the ground and in the air is top priority and also preventing him from moving the chains is extremely important. Notre Dame's pass defense allowed 228 yards to Temple but prevented the long passes well with the longest pass allowed at just 26 yards.

Edge: Even

Notre Dame RB's: The running back unit for Notre Dame combined for 193 yards on 34 carries for a 5.6 yard average (Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees had -5 yards from a sack so the total rushing yard numbers are actually 188 yards). Amir Carlise opened the game and his Notre Dame career with a 45 yard run and finished the day with 67 yards on 7 carries. Cam McDaniel had the majority of the carries with 12 for 67 yards and a 5.4 yard average. George Atkinson III wasn't as impressive with 8 carries for 34 yards (4.2 yard average per carry), but had a rushing touchdown at the goal line and a key reception that went for a first down. Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston combined for 26 yards on 7 carries and Folston had a 9 yard reception as well with their playing time happening on the final drive.

Notre Dame RB's vs. Michigan Rush Defense: The Wolverines did well in shutting down Central Michigan with only 66 rushing yards allowed. Notre Dame doesn't have a feature back to rely on yet, but is able to divide up the carries and keep Michigan guessing. Establishing the run early is key for Notre Dame in this game and helps keep the offense balanced. All five backs that played against Temple should get playing time against Michigan. The status of running back Will Mahone is still unknown as of writing, but if he is healthy enough to play, he will see playing time too.

Edge: Even

Michigan RB's: Fitzgerald Toussaint and Derrick Green had a majority of the rushing yards by running backs. Green had 58 yards on 11 carries and 1 touchdown and starter Toussaint had 57 yards on 14 carries and 2 touchdowns. Drake Johnson, the 2nd running back on the depth chart, is going to out for the season after an ACL injury. He had 2 carries for 9 yards in the win over Central Michigan. Thomas Rawls had 12 yards on 2 carries and 1 touchdown. De'Veon Smith had 12 yards on 7 carries and Justice Hayes had 7 yards on 1 carry for the Wolverines.

Michigan RB's vs. Notre Dame Rush Defense: The Irish allowed 134 yards on 29 carries in their opening win over Temple with a majority of it coming on quarterback Connor Reilly's 65 yards on 12 carries. If that is taken away, then Temple ran for 69 yards on 17 carries for a 4 yard average. The longest rush overall was for 18 yards. Notre Dame needs to keep quarterback Devin Gardner in check on the ground and take care of the running game of Michigan while preventing conversions into first down.

Edge: Even

Notre Dame WR's and TE's: Notre Dame had big games out of the receiving unit. TJ Jones had a career-high 138 receiving yards on 6 receptions and Chris Brown exceeded his 2012 totals in this game alone with 3 receptions for 57 yards. DaVaris Daniels had his first 2 career touchdowns on a pair of 32 yard touchdowns and overall had 3 receptions for 69 yards and 2 touchdowns. Daniels had an injury but is fine to play against Michigan. Troy Niklas had 1 reception for a 66 yard touchdown late in the first half for the Irish. In addition, many freshmen got in playing time including Corey Robinson, C.J. Prosise, James Onwualu, and Will Fuller. The depth here and at running back really shined against Temple.

Notre Dame WR's vs. Michigan Pass Defense: Michigan faces a much stronger receiving unit that is able to catch short and long passes and also has the ball spread around well to them. The longest pass Michigan allowed was for 43 yards in the Central Michigan win. Look for TJ Jones, DaVaris Daniels, Chris Brown, and Troy Niklas to be the primary targets. However, the younger players will also see playing time and could have an impact against the Michigan secondary. Tommy Rees needs to be able to get the ball to his receivers efficiently as well.

Edge: Notre Dame

Michigan WR's and TE's: Jeremy Gallon led the way for Michigan with 4 catches for 47 yards and 1 touchdown. Tight end Devin Funchess had 2 receptions for 47 yards and Drew Dileo had 2 receptions for 43 yards. Dennis Norfleet had 2 catches for 15 yards and Joe Reynolds had a 45 yard catch on 1 reception.

Michigan WR's vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense: While a single player never exceeded 47 receiving yards in Michigan's first game, at least 4 players had 40 or more yards. The Irish will need to keep a strong eye on all 4 players. The secondary of Notre Dame is a deep unit and will need to shut down the Michigan's receiving unit.

Edge: Even

Notre Dame OL: Notre Dame did a solid job with the offensive line and pass protection was great with the only downfall being a sack allowed. Run blocking was solid as the Irish had nearly 200 rushing yards on the day.

Notre Dame OL vs. Michigan DL: The interior of the Michigan defensive line has seniors in Quinton Washington and Jibreel Black leading the way. The Irish have a new center this season in Nick Martin who did well in his first career start against Temple. The defensive lineman for Michigan didn't record much in the start chart, but the defense was able to get into Central Michigan's backfield with 4 sacks and 8 TFL's. Notre Dame's offensive line is going to need to protect Tommy Rees very well and open up lanes for run blocking as well.

Edge: Even

Michigan OL: The offensive line allowed only 1 sack, 6 tackles for loss, and did a great job in run blocking with a 5.1 yard average, 6 rushing touchdowns, and 242 rushing yards. The best player is senior left tackle Taylor Lewan and the unit has the most experience with the offensive tackles, while having underclassmen on the interior part of the line in Jack Miller, Kyle Kalis, and Graham Glasgow

Michigan OL vs. Notre Dame DL: Michigan will have a bigger challenge in Notre Dame down in the trenches with defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt, Louis Nix, and Sheldon Day. While the defense of Notre Dame had just 1 sack, it should be able to build on that and improve. The best thing for the Irish defense is to attack the interior part of the offensive line and the matchup of Taylor Lewan and Stephon Tuitt will be the key matchup here.

Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame DL: The defensive line wasn't at its best against Temple, with Louis Nix III getting 2 penalties most notably. However, some backups were able to play at least, Stephon Tuitt had a sack, and the unit escaped injury-free. Considering the losses during the offseason with Kapron Lewis-Moore (NFL), Chase Hounshell and Tony Springmann (Injuries), Notre Dame cannot afford to squander opportunities for the backups to play and to help establish depth.

Notre Dame DL vs. Michigan OL: Stephon Tuitt vs. Taylor Lewan is going to be the big matchup between first-team all-American candidates. Louis Nix III will likely be double or triple teamed, which can open things up for Sheldon Day and the remainder of the front seven. However, the interior line for Michigan is still inexperienced overall and the defensive line is one of the big strengths of Notre Dame.

Edge: Notre Dame

Michigan DL: Michigan has experience in the interior line with seniors Quinton Washington and Jibreel Black, but had lost starters on the outside from last season in Craig Roh and William Campbell. The unit didn't do much in the stat chart, but they were able to handle Central Michigan's offensive line so other defenders could get into the backfield and get 4 sacks and 8 tackles for loss.

Michigan DL vs. Notre Dame OL: Notre Dame has a strong area on the left side of the line in Zach Martin and Chris Watt. The unit did a great job in pass protection and run blocking that allowed Tommy Rees to get career-high passing yards and for the running backs to get close to 200 rushing yards. Considering that Notre Dame was putting in two new starters and another lineman moved from right tackle to right guard, it was still an impressive way to start the season.

Edge: Even

Notre Dame LB's: The lack of Manti Te'o on the inside was noticed for the Irish linebacker unit, but Jarrett Grace did well in a backup role, while Prince Shembo had an amazing 5 quarterback hurries for Notre Dame. Even with the offseason losses of Manti Te'o and Danny Spond to injury, the unit is still a deep one overall.

Notre Dame LB's vs. Michigan: Prince Shembo is the impact player for the Irish in this area. His 5 quarterback hurries is impressive and he needs to continue to put pressure on Michigan and get to Gardner and anyone else in the backfield. Jarrett Grace is another key player who finished with the third most tackles.

Edge: Even

Michigan LB's: Desmond Morgan led Michigan with 7 tackles and had .5 tackles for loss and a pass breakup. Cameron Gordon had a strong game for the Wolverines with 4 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1 pass breakup and 2 sacks. Brennen Bayer had 3 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble, and 1 sack. James Ross had 3 tackles and .5 tackles for loss.

Michigan LB's vs. Notre Dame: The linebacker unit of Michigan had a good amount of sacks and tackles for loss and keeping them contained will be key. The Irish have a lot of skill position players that they will have to account for and will make this an interesting area to keep an eye on.

Edge: Even

Notre Dame DB's: The defensive backs prevented the long ball from Temple and there was some decent play and freshman Cole Luke garnered a considerable amount of playing time as the third cornerback and could easily be starting in Bennett Jackson's spot when the 2014 season happens. However, the defensive unit as a whole was stronger in the second half with zero points allowed, only 131 yards overall, and only one long drive that was the first drive of the second half.

Notre Dame DB's vs. Michigan WR's: Devin Gardner was able to spread the ball around in the season opener with 8 different players catching passes, but none exceeded 47 receiving yards, but Joe Reynolds had a 45 yard reception. Jeremy Gallon and Drew Dileo had 47 and 43 receiving yards each, but are both shorter receivers at 5'8 and 5'10 respectively. The defensive backs of Notre Dame are a great unit that surprised many last season and will need to shut down the receivers and keep them contained. They prevented the deep ball against Temple and will need to keep doing that and avoid allowing short passes to get yards after catch. Devin Gardner did throw 2 interceptions and that could also be a factor in this area as well.

Edge: Even

Michigan DB's: Raymon Taylor had the only interception for Michigan with it being returned for 54 yards. The longest pass the unit allowed was 43 yards by Central Michigan's Andrew Floyd who finished with 4 receptions for 79 yards. None of the other Central Michigan players had more than 28 receiving yards and overall only 3 players had double-digit receiving yards. Central Michigan did play 2 quarterbacks as one was injured early on and were forced to use a backup who had zero playing experience.

Michigan DB's vs. Notre Dame WR's: Michigan gets a significantly harder challenge for their defensive backs with DaVaris Daniels, TJ Jones, Troy Niklas and Chris Brown of the Irish. All 4 were able to catch deeper passes or get yards after catch on shorter passes. Tommy Rees was quite accurate and those 4 will be the main focus of the receiving game for the Irish. If Tommy Rees is able to get passes off quick and spread the ball around, it will be extremely difficult on Michigan's secondary.

Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame Kicking Game: Kicking was a definite weak point for the Irish against Temple. Notre Dame missed both field goal attempts and Brindza hit touchbacks during punting and clearly helped give Temple solid field positioning. However, Brindza did get 2 touchbacks on 5 kickoffs.

Michigan Kicking Game: Michigan kicked only one field goal and it was a 30 yarder by Brendan Gibbons. Kenny Allen had a 51 yard punt that was fair caught. And Matt Wile had 5 touchbacks on 10 kickoffs. The Irish did create a turnover on a Temple punt return which was one of the highlights of the special teams for Notre Dame.

Stronger Unit: Michigan

Notre Dame Return Game: The return game wasn't able to show much with George Atkinson III having 2 kickoffs returned for 40 yards and TJ Jones returned 3 punts for 23 yards, but had a 12 yard return and did more than the non-factor unit of the previous season.

Michigan Return Game: Dennis Norfleet had 4 kickoff returns for 106 yards for a 26.5 yard average and a long of 39. Joe Reynolds had a 30 yard blocked punt return early in the win over Central Michigan and punt returns were basically a non-factor with the longest return being 9 yards and Norfleet having 2 returns for -1 yards.

Stronger Unit: Michigan

Everything Else: Notre Dame and Michigan are both coming off blowout wins to open the season. The Irish are deep in many areas, particularly at running back where they will likely use 5 players, wide receiver, linebacker, and the secondary. Notre Dame needs to establish the run early and keep the offense balanced to keep things going. The offensive line has to keep Rees protected and prevent Michigan players from getting into the backfield. Considering that a solid amount of freshmen played for the Irish in the previous game, we can expect to see that continue as some were quite impressive in the offseason. The defense needs to prevent long plays and yards after catch. Louis Nix III will need to avoid penalties that can prove to be costly as well. Look for another balanced effort on offense for the Irish.

Prediction: Notre Dame 26, Michigan 10  

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


 The man with the Golden Gun, and I am not talking about Roger Moore and his role in the 1974 James Bond Movie, I am talking about Notre Dame QB Tommy Rees. The Irish QB silenced the skeptics by an almost perfect performance this past Saturday versus Temple as he threw for 3 TD'S and completed 16 of 23 of his passes to lead the Irish in their home opener.

             Rees leads Irish in opener

Going into the 2013 season many thought due to the loss of so many skilled players such as Tyler Eifert, Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood to name a few offensively, the production would no doubt suffer. This was not the case Saturday as T.J. Jones, DaVaris Daniels, Amir Carlisle, and yes Tommy Rees all stepped up in the Irish's opener. Balance was the key as 5 running backs had the chance to rush the football, and 7 offensive players were recipients of completed passes by Rees. This balance is something that Brian Kelly talked about to reporters before the game saying, sometimes you build your offense around one guy too much. He likes the fact he has more options instead of that one, "go to guy".

In our first episode we are going to take a deeper look, more of an analytical look at the things that were present to help the Irish QB  achieve those numbers, but first it is Important to understand the key elements which are vital for a successful passing attack.

All starts with protection, the Irish offensive line did an outstanding job of protecting Rees allowing only one sack in Saturday's contest. Zack Martin, the heart and soul of that offensive line, and only the 18th two-time Co Captain at Notre Dame, along with the rest of the Irish  front did their job of recognizing the Owl's fronts and intentions. Communication is the key, and the offensive line need to be commended for their efforts.
    Zack  Martin is the anchor of the Irish Offensive Line.

The second key element is a sound running game so that balance is present. Once the run game is established, the Play Action Pass becomes an element of an offense's scheme that can prove deadly. The Irish proved this throughout the game versus Temple, most notably during their first possession of their opening drive. On the first play from scrimmage Notre Dame's Amir Carlisle rambled 45 yards that got the crowd buzzing early. This was Carlisle's first run in a Notre Dame uniform. On the second play George Atkinson lll gets the same play but different direction as he plows his way for 5 yards. Then on the third play, Rees gives the same run action as the two previous plays which forces the Owls defense up, and executes a beautiful well designed Play Action pass that resulted in a 32 yard TD pass to DaVaris Daniels. The fact that Notre Dame could run the football only enhanced the passing game through play action.

The third element is the fact you have to have receivers that will go up and get the football, make the bad ball catch, have the ability to extend plays after the catch, make plays. As I stated earlier 7 Irish offensive players were at the receiving end of Tommy Rees 's completions. T.J. Jones averaged 23.0 yards per catch as did DaVaris Daniels. Chris Brown caught 3 passes for 57 yards averaging 19.0 yards per catch, and Tight End Troy Niklas's 66 yard TD scamper before the half  shows the versatility and what these guys can do after they catch the football. Yards after catch (YAC) is vital in building that successful passing game, and the Irish showed they are very capable with this element.

What about our Golden Gun? Our Quarterback? How does he fit into this mix? Tommy Rees did 3 things Saturday that impressed me more than anything. Two of which you will not find in any box score or stat. First, he was efficient as can be seen by his completing 16 of 23 passes for 346 yards and ZERO TURNOVERS! Secondly, and you saw this multiple times against Temple, was his ability to throw the "bad ball", throwing to the back shoulder of his receivers, throwing the ball to a location where his receivers can make the adjustment to catch the football but the defender cannot.

Tommy does this well, and he has done so throughout his career at Notre Dame. Finally, his ability to scan the defense, checkout of the bad plays and audible to the correct ones for those specific situations is another element of the game  Rees does very well, and he did so on numerous occasions against the Temple Owls. Remember, Tommy is the son of a football coach and you can see that while he is on the field. His game management and clock management, coupled with his composure that he exhibited Saturday, are all key components to becoming a complete QB.

So, can Rees continue this Golden Gun stature? Can he give Coach Brian Kelly the consistency that is needed at the QB Position? Only time will tell.  I believe he can, and I believe the big key is what I talked about earlier with the elements that make up a successful passing game, protection and the threat of a running game. He has the receivers to make plays, he has the football knowledge.

Join me next week with episode 2 of "The Irish Coaching Corner" when we take a deeper look at the strategies employed either offensively or defensively that made a difference. Next week it will be the Michigan Wolverines at the big house! See you then, and remember.....

Eddie Ganim (irishfbfan1)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Notre Dame-Temple Preview

Notre Dame QB's: Going into this season, Notre Dame's quarterback situation was a non-factor with starter Everett Golson returning after a 12 win season, and having backups who have had playing time in Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix. However, in late May, Everett Golson was suspended for the season and Tommy Rees would be named starter. Tommy Rees has started 18 games over 3 years with a majority of the starts being in the 2011 season. Rees appeared in every game in 2012 with the exceptions of Navy (due to suspension) and Alabama, with notable amounts of playing time against Michigan, BYU, and the final drive against Purdue. Rees completed 34 out of 59 passes for 436 yards with 2 passing touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Backing Rees up will be Andrew Hendrix, who only completed 5 of 7 passes for 55 yards. Hendrix is also capable of running the ball as well. True freshman Malik Zaire enrolled early and had significant playing time in the spring game with a touchdown pass. Zaire and Hendrix both could see a lot of playing time this season depending on how things go, regardless it is important for both to get playing time and game-time experience.

Notre Dame QB's vs. Temple Pass Defense: The Temple Owls had one of the worst secondaries in college football last season with a unit that only had 4 interceptions all season and allowed 237 passing yards a game. The Owls graduated both starting safeties from last season and are expected to have a true freshman starting at one of the safety spots going into the season opener. Considering that the Temple pass defense is one of the worst units on the team it would be ideal for Notre Dame to pass early on in the game and allow the backup quarterbacks to get playing time.

Edge: Notre Dame

Temple QB's: Temple quarterback Connor Reilly will be making his first career start against the Irish, Reilly has been the holder on extra points. The starter from the previous season, Chris Coyer moved to H-Back and is actually the teams returning leading rusher as well and had 444 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground. Backing up Connor Reilly will be Juice Granger who passed for 370 yards and also completed 31 passes out of 55 attempts with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Granger is the teams second returning leading rusher with 206 yards and 1 touchdown.

Temple QB's vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense: Connor Reilly has the task in his first career start of going against a veteran Notre Dame secondary that returns 3 starters. Notre Dame's pass defense was a surprise last season and allowed only a few opposing teams to pass for 200 or more yards all season. Even with the loss of Zeke Motta to the NFL, look for the Irish to keep improving in the pass defense and keep Temple below 200 passing yards all game.

Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame RB's: Although the Irish lost Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick, who both had significant stats last season, there is still plenty of depth at the running back position. George Atkinson III is the top returning player with 51 carries for 361 yards and 5 rushing touchdowns and had a few 50+ yard runs and a team-high 7.1 yards a carry. Cam McDaniel had 23 carries for 125 yards and 1 touchdown last season. Amir Carlisle and Will Mahone will both see playing time as well along with true freshmen Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston. Will Mahone had an injury and will be out against the Owls.

Notre Dame RB's vs. Temple Rush Defense: The run defense for Temple isn't any better than their pass defense. The Owls allowed 199 rushing yards a game which was the teams worst since 2006 (allowed 244 yards per game on the ground) and lost most of their starters on the defensive line and return only 1 starter this season. Rotating in running backs will be important to wear out their defense and also get in playing time as well. Look for a strong effort by the Notre Dame running game and for most to potentially all available running backs getting in playing time.

Edge: Notre Dame

Temple RB's: Temple lost nearly half of their returning rushing yards in Montel Harris, a Boston College transfer who had 1,054 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns last season. His backup last season, Matt Brown also graduated and had 372 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns. The starter, Kenny Harper had only 65 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns last season. Also, his backup Jamie Gilmore only had 94 rushing yards last season.

Temple RB's vs. Notre Dame Rush Defense: Notre Dame has what may be the best defensive line in college football that is headlined by juniors Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt. With Temple being heavily inexperienced at running back, look for the Irish to have a strong showing on defense against the run and keep Temple well below 100 rushing yards for the game.

Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame WR's and TE's: The Irish lost their top guy in tight end Tyler Eifert who set numerous records for a Notre Dame tight end and is now in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals. The Irish do return TJ Jones and DaVaris Daniels, TJ Jones was named one of the team captain and had 50 receptions for 649 yards and 4 touchdowns. Daniels had 31 catches for 490 yards and missed 2 games late in the season due to injury. Also returning of note are Chris Brown and Daniel Smith. CJ Prosise moved over from the secondary and the Irish have quite a few incoming freshmen. Corey Robinson in particular has done well in preseason practice and was an early enrollee as well. Troy Niklas is the new starter at tight end with the loss of Tyler Eifert and is expected to carry on the legacy of Notre Dame producing great tight ends recently and historically. Also, the backups at tight end will be Alex Welch and Ben Koyack.

Notre Dame WR's and TE's vs. Temple DB's: The Temple secondary is one of the weakest units on the team and is breaking in new starters at both safety spots as well. Tommy Rees will need to get the ball to his receivers and spread it out as well. While TJ Jones, DaVaris Daniels, and Troy Niklas will be targeted, look for others to see playing time as well. The Notre Dame receivers should have a great game and look for backups to get meaningful minutes in as well.

Edge: Notre Dame

Temple WR's and TE's: The top returnee at receiver for Temple is Jalen Fitzpatrick who had 30 receptions for 363 yards and 2 touchdowns. The only other players who return with 10 or more receptions are Cody Booth (who has moved to the offensive line) and Kenny Harper (a running back), as Temple was more of a run based team in 2012 (201 rushing yards per game and 121 passing yards per game).

Temple WR's and TE's vs. Notre Dame DB's: Jalen Fitzpatrick is the only player the Irish have to worry about significantly with Temple being more of a run based team, which will help with the defense as it may mean that the Irish don't have to drop as many players into coverage and still be able to commit to both the pass and the run.

Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame OL: The Notre Dame offensive line is headlined by Zach Martin and Chris Watt on the left side. Martin was named captain for the second season in a row and the unit will feature a couple new starters with Braxston Cave and Mike Golic Jr. having graduated. Early enrollee Steve Elmer has been drawn quite a bit of praise from Brian Kelly and also is capable of playing multiple spots on the offensive line as well.

Notre Dame OL vs. Temple DL: The Temple Owls only return one starter in senior Levi Brown for their defensive line. Even with Notre Dame having a couple new starters, this shouldn't be an issue as the Irish should be able to open lanes up for the running game and keep opposing defenders out of the backfield.

Edge: Notre Dame

Temple OL: The Temple OL returns quite a few starters including 6th year player Sean Boyle. The line did a solid job in run blocking as Temple had 1000 yard rusher last season. The Owls offensive line is easily the strength of Temple offense this season with the Owls having new starters at QB and RB most notably.

Temple OL vs. Notre Dame DL: While the Temple offensive line is their best offensive unit, they face one of the very best defensive lines in Notre Dame's. While Notre Dame has a little bit of the depth issue due to injuries, they should be able to play backups as needed against Temple.

Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame DL: The defensive line for Notre Dame is the strength of a really great Notre Dame defense. Even with the loss of Kapron Lewis-Moore, the Irish have Stephon Tuitt, Louis Nix III and Sheldon Day starting. Day has earned a lot of praise after playing a solid amount as a true freshman while Tuitt and Nix are All-American candidates. Tuitt had a strong season in 2012 with 12 sacks and a defensive touchdown, and Nix is a force in the middle. Sheldon Day is a rising star and could a strong presence in opposing backfields with the main focus on Nix and Tuitt.

Notre Dame DL vs. Temple OL: While Temple returns the core of its offensive line, the Irish have two players in Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix that will attract double coverage and give more opportunities for Sheldon Day and other defenders. The Irish will need to stay healthy and avoid injuries with Tony Springmann and Chase Hounshell out for the season.

Edge: Notre Dame

Temple DL: Levi Brown is the only starter returning from the Temple defensive line from last season and he had 27 tackles and 3 tackles for loss last season. The unit allowed 200 or more rushing yards in 5 games in the 2012 season.

Temple DL vs. Notre Dame OL: With Temple having only 1 returning starter from last season, the new starters will be put to a test right away with an experienced Notre Dame offensive line that features a strong left side. Temple's defense also had trouble getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks with the most out of a single player being 2 quarterback hurries. Look for Notre Dame to contain the inexperienced Temple defensive line.

Notre Dame LB's: The loss of Manti Te'o will be felt, but the linebacker unit is still deep even with Danny Spond having to retire early. Jaylon Smith will start at outside linebacker opposite multi-year starter Prince Shembo. The inside has veterans with Carlo Calabrese and Dan Fox, but is deep with Jarrett Grace and Kendall Moore as well. Shembo could build upon his strong junior season with a potential of a double-digit sack season as well.

Notre Dame LB's vs. Temple: For the Notre Dame linebackers, the biggest focus for them will be supporting the defensive line. Look for Prince Shembo to make his presence known in the backfield and put pressure on Temple. Jaylon Smith will need to be able to make an impact as well with it being his first career start.

Edge: Notre Dame

Temple LB's: The linebacker unit is the strongest unit of Temple's defense that returns to tackler in Tyler Matakevich who had 101 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and 3 pass deflections last season. He also was the Big East Defensive Freshman Player of the Year last season. Another returning starter is Blaze Caponegro who had 30 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 tackle for loss, and 1 pass deflection last season. Nate D. Smith returns with 75 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, 2 pass deflections and 1 quarterback hurry.

Temple LB's vs. Notre Dame: Containing Temple's linebackers will be the most important thing to do for the Irish, especially Tyler Matakevich. This could mean more double tight end sets on offense for the Irish. If Notre Dame keeps the linebacker unit contained and out of the backfield, then that will make things significantly easier on offense for Notre Dame.

Edge: Even

Notre Dame DB's: What was a big question mark going into last season wound up significantly exceeding expectations and helped keep numerous teams below 200 passing yards last season. The unit returns nearly intact with the only notable losses being Zeke Motta and Jamoris Slaughter (both in the NFL now). The unit welcomes back Austin Collinsworth and Lo Wood who missed last season due to injury. Bennett Jackson was named captain and is the teams top returning tackler and interception leader with 65 tackles and 4 interceptions. KeiVarae Russell was a big surprise after being put into the other starting cornerback spot and and had 2 interceptions and was first team freshman All-American as well. Matthias Farley stepped in when Jamoris Slaughter and had a solid season as a redshirt freshman.

Notre Dame DB's vs. Temple WR's: The only receiver Notre Dame must really worry about is Jalen Fitzpatrick as he is the only returning receiver to have made an impact last season. Fitzpatrick had 363 receiving yards last season which was 226 more yards than the no. 2 receiver last season. Considering all of this, Notre Dame won't have to have as many players playing in coverage and should be able to focus on the run.

Edge: Notre Dame

Temple DB's: Temple is starting new safeties this season but returns both starting corners in Zamel Johnson and Anthony Robey. The pass defense was horrible last season with Temple allowing 237 yards per game and only allowed below 200 yards 3 times (and one of those was a run-based team that only attempted 9 passes in the entire game). The unit only had 4 interceptions all season which was one of the lowest among Division 1-A teams last season.

Temple DB's vs. Notre Dame WR's: The Irish have experienced receivers in TJ Jones and DaVaris Daniels and can pose problems for the Owls secondary. If Tommy Rees is able to get the ball to the receivers and spread it around, it will make committing to the pass harder for Temple, especially with a unit that was weak against the pass last season and having a couple of new starters.

Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame Kicking Game: Kyle Brindza made 23 out of 31 field goals with the most notable being the game winner against Purdue last season and also was the kickoff specialist last season with 26 touchbacks. Wake Forest transfer Alex Wulfeck is expected to take over on punts with Ben Turk having graduated, but it is possible that Brindza could handle punting duty as well in addition to being the kicker and kickoff specialist.

Temple Kicking Game: The unit is getting a big drop off with the kicker and punter from last season being gone. Albany transfer Paul Layton will be handing the kicking and punting duties and was 2-time All-NEC while at Albany.

Stronger Unit: Notre Dame

Notre Dame Return Game: George Atkinson III didn't have as great of a season as he did in 2011 when he returned 2 kickoffs for touchdowns. In 2012, he had just a 20 yard average and only a long of 39 yards. Punt returns were a non-factor as most needed to be fair caught.

Temple Return Game: The return game also suffered a huge hit with the loss of Matt Brown who averaged 25.5 yards per return and had a kickoff return for a touchdown. He also also averaged 14.2 yards per punt return with a long of 45. Jaen Fitzpatrick also returned kickoffs and had a 24 yard average and a long of 43.

Stronger Unit: Even

Everything Else: The offseason for Notre Dame was an interesting turn of events with the suspension of Everett Golson and injury issues as well. However, the team has it's depth and experience, and returns most of the starters on defense while having a strong left side on the offensive line. New starters and first year players will need to establish themselves. Tommy Rees has the experience and needs to cut down on turnovers that were an issue most notably in 2011. The running back unit will need to be consistent with the losses of Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood. While George Atkinson III is the starter, the backups need to establish themselves to prevent reliance on Atkinson. Troy Niklas will need to be able to make plays and help make up for the loss of Eifert. The defensive line must stay healthy and get in backups as needed for experience. Temple is playing under a first year head coach, a new starter at quarterback who was buried on the depth chart the last couple of seasons. Temple had major losses in the running game and on the defensive front. Look for a strong balanced effort on offense to open the season for the Irish.

Prediction: Notre Dame 45, Temple 0