Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Notre Dame Football 2008
Issue 1: San Diego State

San Diego State Rush Offense vs. Notre Dame Rush Defense

SDSU lost their top passer and rusher when QB Kevin O'Connell graduated. Against Cal Poly in week one, the Aztecs passed twice as much as they ran, with only 23 recorded rushes - two of those being sacks. Running back and new starter 23 Brandon Sullivan had the bulk of the carries - 15 - and finished with 43 yards, for a 2.9 average. Small (5'9", 180 lb) freshman 30 Davon Brown added one carry for 2 yards. WR 3 Mekell Wesley had one rush for -2 yards, but without seeing the game I couldn't tell you wether that was an end-around or a backwards pass. Quarterback 14 Ryan Lindley had four non-sack rushing attempts for -2 yards.

Notre Dame will have a variety of looks along their front seven this year. Their biggest set features 94 Justin Brown, 95 Ian Williams, and 96 Pat Kuntz along the line and 41 Scott Smith and 90 John Ryan at outside linebacker, although most expect the Irish to shift to a 4-3 look with Ryan in. Notre Dame has lost their top two tacklers from last year (Trevor Laws and Joe Brockington). But the above front seven, including inside linebackers 40 Maurice Crum and 59 Brian Smith, did combine for 21 tackles for a loss last year. Safety 27 David Bruton was also a force in run support, picking up 4.5 TFL in 2007.

Notre Dame Rush Offense vs. San Diego State Rush Defense

Notre Dame had a very poor 2.1 yard per carry average last year. But that number was brought down by numerous sacks and poor years from players who won't be back in 2008. The three main returners - 34 James Aldridge, 5 Armando Allen, and 33 Robert Hughes, all put up solid numbers. Aldridge averaged 3.8 yards per carry, Allen 4.0, and Hughes 5.5. Notre Dame plans to run the ball more this year, and they have the horses to do it. One thing to watch this season is Aldridge's quest for his first rushing touchdown. Aldridge and Hughes are both considered power backs, but who will be the goal line back? Aldridge has the experience, which is always a plus, but Hughes had four of the team's 11 rushing scores last year. Armando Allen is also looking for his first career rushing touchdown; he did have one receiving TD last year.

Cal Poly ran all over the Aztecs in week one, netting 263 yards on 51 carries - a 5.2 average. Defensive end 90 BJ Williams led Aztec tacklers with 9 against Poly. Williams had 45 tackles, 4.0 for a loss, in 2007. 56 Jonathan Soto, who plays next to Williams on the line, had 8 tackles against Cal Poly, 2.0 for a loss. Linebacker 35 Luke Laolagi and lineman/Ohio State transfer 98 Ryan WIlliams added 7 tackles apiece.

San Diego State Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense

Ryan Lindley threw up 45 passes in his college debut, completing 27 (60%) with 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Brandon Sullivan was his team's leading receiver in week one, with 9 catches for 64 yards and a touchdown. WR 80 Vincent Brown added 7 catches for 98 yards and a touchdown. 20 Matthew Kawulok, at 6'2", is on the shorter side for a tight end, but caught 3 passes last week. Wide receivers 18 Robert Wallace and 4 Darren Mougey are big targets for the Aztecs, at 6'4" and 6'6" respectively. TE 86 Waika Spencer is also a contributor in the passing game, as SDSU often uses dual tight end sets. Backup tailback Davon Brown had a 36-yard reception against Cal Poly last week.

Notre Dame's secondary is supposed to be the strength of this defense. That secondary will be tested early and often by this San Diego State team. San Diego State likes two tight end sets, and has a young quarterback who will be looking to dump the ball off to his running back often. That puts pressure on the linebackers and safeties. Safety 22 Harrison Smith is slated to play outside linebacker against multiple receiver sets. Will he be called on to cover the larger tight ends? Or will outside linebackers Scott Smith and 56 Kerry Neal be trusted to cover them? Or will that task fall to safeties 27 David Bruton and 28 Kyle McCarthy? The other position to watch is nickel corner. With Darrin Walls out for the year, 8 Raeshon McNeil has moved into the starting lineup. Will his nickel position go to sophomore 4 Gary Gray, or freshman 12 Robert Blanton? Both have come in highly praised, and surely will be up to the task.

Notre Dame Pass Offense vs. San Diego State Pass Defense

Sophomore 7 Jimmy Clausen and his receivers are all a year older and wiser. But the latest depth chart has revealed some surprises. TE Mike Ragone is out for the season, but that wasn't enough for 84 Will Yeatman to reacquire his starting job. Instead, freshman 9 Kyle Rudolph has taken that job. 18 Duval Kamara and senior 11 David Grimes are the starters, as they were coming out of spring. But 82 Robby Parris and 19 George West, who each started several games last year, were not listed on the latest two-deep. They have been passed by speedster 23 Golden Tate and freshman super-talent 3 Michael Floyd.

San Diego State gave up a respectable 220 yards passing last week. Corners 7 Vonnie Moore and 21 Aaron Moore each had three pass breakups, but no Aztec recorded an interception. Defensive tackle Jonathan Soto recorded 1.5 sacks.

Special Teams

88 Lane Yoshida, a junior college transfer, is the new place kicker for SDSU. He did not attempt a field goal last week, but was perfect on three PAT attempts. 14 Brandon Walker returns for his second year as Notre Dame's kicker. Walker was 6-12 on field goals last year, but only 1-7 from 30 yards or more.

Freshman 14 Brian Stahovich made his San Diego State debut last week with 4 punts. He averaged 39.5 yards per, with a long of 49 and two kicks inside the 20. 43 Eric Maust will be Notre Dame's full-time punter this year. Last season, Maust averaged 42.1 yards per punt with a long of 53.

Mekell Wesley and defensive back 10 Davion Mauldin return kicks for the Aztecs. Wesley averaged 21.8 yards per return with an 89-yard touchdown in 2007. Mauldin is a new returner who had 49 yards on two tries last week. 39 Ryan Burkhart is the Irish kickoff specialist this year, a position he did not play last season.

Armando Allen and Golden Tate again will be back deep for the Irish on kickoffs. Allen averaged 21.3 yards per return in 2007; Tate, 21.7. Lane Yoshida also handles kickoffs for San Diego State. Last week he averaged just over 60 yards per kick. Add to that 16.5 yards per return given up, and SDSU's opponent had an average start on the 27 yard line.

Davion Mauldin also returns punts for the Aztecs. He had a rough go in his debut, gaining only 4 yards on 2 returns. Armando Allen will be the new Notre Dame punt returner this season.

Notre Dame Players to Watch

Jimmy Clausen, James Aldridge, Kyle Rudolph, Brian Smith, and David Bruton


Notre Dame 27, San Diego State 13