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)