Thursday, September 02, 2004

ND Football 2004

Issue 1: BYU

Ah, it's great to be doing football previews again. Here we go.

BYU Rush Offense vs. ND Rush Defense

BYU isn't exactly known for its running game, but the Cougars do return leading rusher Ray Brathwaite. Ty wants to start off by shutting down the run game, and he makes a good point. BYU is known for its passing, so they're bound to run 3- and 4- (and maybe even 5-) receiver sets. So, Notre Dame will be lining up with 5 or 6 inexperienced DBs, two new starters at tackle (Pauly and Landri), and two ends more known for their pass rushing abilities (Tuck and Abiamiri). Brandon Hoyte and Mike Goolsby (and to an extent, Derrek Curry) are our best bets against the run. If timed correctly, BYU can pull of some decent runs in key situations. They wont put up 200 yards, but if they're smart, they can keep some key drives alive.

ND Rush Offense vs. BYU Rush Defense

The Irish lost a great one in Julius Jones, but they still have an experienced fumbler... I mean runner in Ryan Grant. Grant is backed by a trio of young studs in Travis Thomas, Darius Walker, and Justin Hoskins. The O-Line is a year older and wiser, and besides, they should just dominate based on size alone - especially since the Cougars run a 3-3-5. Grant should dominate and play like a punishing runner. If he doesn't, Rashon Powers-Neal had better show him how to do it, or else it's going to be a long year.

BYU Pass Offense vs. ND Pass Defense

BYU is known for its passing game, and they return both of their starting QBs from last year - Matt Berry and John Beck. Beck will most likely get the start - I believe he was the starter at the beginning of '03 before the injury bug hit. Will Beck be experienced enough to pick apart a questionable secondary? Not if ND's defense as a whole can step up. Justin Tuck must continue his good work from last year, and Abiamiri and Kyle Budinscak must augment the pass rush. We can't get into situations where Derrek Curry is split wide in coverage (no offense to Curry). Preston Jackson and Dwight Ellick will start at the corners, with Quentin Burrell and Lionel Bolen at the safeties. Burrell I have no problem with, but the rest need to show they belong. Starting the senior Jackson is a good move in my eye. It's Ty's way of saying, "This is supposedly an easy game. Go out there and prove to me and to everyone that you can be a starting cornerback." This will motivate the undersized Jackson, and if he plays out of his mind, he may just stay there. If Jackson can't, and if Bolen also proves he doesn't belong, Ambrose Wooden and Tom Zbikowski are waiting in the wings, along with Freddie Parrish and Chinedum Ndukwe.

ND Pass Offense vs. BYU Pass Defense

In addition to the O-Line being a year older and wiser, Brady Quinn is as well. But, in the words of John Vannie, "Notre Dame must provide Quinn with competent receivers whose names are not Rhema or McKnight." Carlyle Holiday must prove he can do more than run screens and end-arounds, Maurice Stovall must be able to finally live up to his hype (and false praise), and Jeff Samardzija must continue to develop into a go-to first down guy. Ty wants his backs to be good receivers as well, but he'll need everyone besides Grant and Josh Schmidt to prove that they're competent at the whole "catching" thing. Fortunately, Anthony Fasano and a stable of tight ends are there, and they should be able to step up if the receivers fail.
The 3-3-5 defense is known to be a case of gimmicks pulling the train. These kind of gimmicks can be confusing to a still developing QB and his blockers. Notre Dame needs to be able to rely on a powerful rushing attack. If established, they will cut down on third-and-longs, and they can also utilize play action effectively (if someone can actually catch a deep ball, that is).

Special Teams

BYU's special teams are average except for kicker Matt Payne, who had a long FG of 53 yards last season. For ND, the newly scholarship-ed DJ Fitzpatrick (Ellen LOOOVES him) is joined by kickoff specialist Carl Gioia and punter Geoffrey Price. Price has apparently been inconsistent lately, so he hasn't completely taken that job from Fitzpatrick just yet.
Notre Dame must return to the special teams dominance of - I'll say it - Bob Davie. Fitzpatrick can't lead special teams in tackles again (ok, he didn't lead the team, but Setta might have done it hadn't he hurt himself trying to), If out young guys are hungry to play, they have to show they're hungry to execute on special teams. Rhema McKnight will be the key returner, with Carlos Campbell among others joining him on kickoffs. But, they'll need people to block for them. Matt Shelton as a holder is a good ideas, but throwing in a trick play is something for a big game down the road.

Look for a big game from

Tuck, Hoyte, Goolsby, Grant (I hope), Quinn, and Fasano

ND 30, BYU 17 Grant, [insert your favorite DB here], Fasano, and three by DJ.