Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Notre Dame Football 2010
Issue 13: Sun Bowl vs Miami

Miami Run Offense vs. Notre Dame Run Defense

Miami has found a great deal of success on the ground this year, averaging 39 carries and 190 yards per game. Their two main backs are 20 Damien Berry and 6 Lamar Miller, who both average over 10 carries per game. Berry is averaging 79 yards per game to Miller's 63, but Miller has the advantage in yards per carry at 6.1 to 4.8.

5 Mike James splits time between halfback and fullback, and is averaging five carries and 32 yards per game. Starting fullback 30 Patrick Hill has carried the ball only once, for five yards. Senior tailback 2 Graig Cooper has also seen decent playing time, averaging four carries and 18 yards per game.

Wide receivers haven't contributed much to the running game, combining for only four carries and 38 yards on the season. The quarterbacks have combined for just 38 non-sack carries for 224 yards. That is 5.9 yards per carry, but only amounts to three carries and 19 yards per game.

Notre Dame is giving up 147 yards per game on the ground, but those numbers may still be somewhat tainted by their early season struggles in the run game. Manti Te'o leads the team with 127 tackles, more than 10 per game. He'll again be joined by Brian Smith at inside linebacker. Yes, Carlo Calabrese is healthy enough to play. But Smith has just been spectacular in his past few games inside - especially at USC - so that's where he'll stay for the final game in an Irish uniform.

Sean Cwynar has filled in admirably at nose tackles these past few games, but Ian Williams is back from injury and expected to start at that position. That also means Hafis Williams will move back to defensive end. All in all, that means the defensive line is much deeper than it looked at the start of the season.

Notre Dame Run Offense vs. Miami Run Defense

Notre Dame's run game as of late has featured the slashing of Cierre Wood and the smashing of Robert Hughes. Both have had decent success as of late, so much so that their season averages (44 and 18 yards per game, respectively) don't do them much justice.

Other than a possible cameo by Jonas Gray, Wood and Hughes have been the whole run game for Notre Dame. Quarterback Tommy Rees has not been a threat to run, and Irish receivers have combined for only five carries on the year.

Miami's 4-3 defense has struggled against the run, giving up 171 yards per game. Linebackers 44 Colin McCarthy and 31 Sean Spence lead the team in tackles, with each collecting over 100 total stops.

Spence leads the team with 17 tackles for a loss, and he's one of three Miami players with double digits in that category. Ends 57 Allen Bailey and 35 Oliver Vernon are the other two. (McCarthy would probably be in this category as well hadn't he missed a game this season - he has nine TFL.) As a team, the Hurricanes have made 103 stops in the backfield this season, an average of almost nine per game.

Miami Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense

Miami's base package is a traditional set with two receivers plus a running back, fullback, and tight end. The pass protection has been very good this year, as the Hurricanes have given up just 15 sacks on the season.

It appears that 12 Jacory Harris will be healthy enough to start this game. Harris has a healthy 119.28 passer efficiency rating, but his other numbers betray that rating. Harris has completed just 55 percent of his passes, and his 14 touchdowns are offset by 12 interceptions.

If Harris can't go, freshman 17 Stephen Morris will take his place. Like Harris, Morris has a good passer rating (117.48) that doesn't quite correlate to his completion percentage (50) or his touchdown-interception ratio (5 to 8).

As a team, Miami passes the ball 34 times for 232 yards per game. The leading receiver is 85 Leonard Hankerson, who averages 5-6 catches and 90 yards per game. The 6'3" receiver has also accounted for 12 of Miami's 19 receiving touchdowns on the year.

Across from Hankerson are 3 Travis Benjamin and 47 LaRon Byrd, both averaging around three catches per game. The small, speedy Benjamin is averaging 58 yards per game to Byrd's 33. Fellow wideout 4 Aldarious Johnson is the only other Miami player averaging at least one catch per game.

Running backs Berry, Miller, and James are all averaging just under one reception per game, as is tight end 82 Asante Cleveland. Starting tight end 84 Richard Gordon has not been much of a threat in the passing game, with just five catches in 11 games.

Notre Dame gives up 206 passing yards per game, a respectable total. The team has registered 26 sacks, which is just over two per game, and an additional 30 quarterback hits. Darius Fleming leads the team with six sacks, followed by Ethan Johnson with five. That may come as a small surprise for Irish fans, as both players have had seemingly quiet seasons.

The Irish have combined for 14 interceptions, led by Harrison Smith with four and Darrin Walls with three. Smith, once thought to be a defensive liability, is easily a candidate for most improved player on the defense. The safety hopes to be back for a fifth year next season, and now may Notre Dame fans would welcome him back.

Notre Dame Pass Offense vs. Miami Pass Defense

Since taking over for the injured Dayne Crist, Tommy Rees is averaging 207 yards passing per game. On an average day, he'll attempt 17 passes and complete 10. He has 10 touchdowns to eight interceptions.

Michael Floyd is Notre Dame's leading receiver, averaging over six catches and 83 yards per game. He has 10 of the team's 26 touchdown receptions on the year.

Theo Riddick is second on the team in receptions, despite missing a quarter of the season. Riddick, who averaged five catches and 52 yards per game, is expected to be back in the starting lineup for this game.

Tyler Eifert and TJ Jones are the only other healthy Irish players averaging at least two catches per game. Eifert is averaging 32 yards per game to Jones's 26. Jones, however, has found himself slipping down the depth chart as of late, and may not even see the field in this game.

Duval Kamara has just 11 catches on the season, but three have gone for touchdowns. The senior has shined as of late, and will look to end his Notre Dame career on a high note.

Miami has been downright stingy against the pass this year. The Hurricanes are giving up just 146 yards per game in the air, and have combined for 37 sacks on the season. That's over three sacks per game! Miami's three top defensive ends, 57 Allen Bailey, 97 Adewale Ojomo, and 35 Olivier Vernon, have accounted for 18 of the team's sacks.

Of course, maybe it's this aggressiveness in the passing game that has cost them in the run game. If that is the case, look for a healthy dose of draws and counters from the Irish.

Miami's secondary has dubbed this game "Operation Number 3." Notre Dame's Number 3 will likely be marked by cornerback 13 Ryan Hill, who has three interceptions - tying him for the team lead with safeties 26 Ray-Ray Armstrong and 7 Vaughn Telemaque. As a team, the Hurricanes have intercepted 16 passes and broken up 42.

Special Teams

Miami Kicker 25 Matt Bosher has converted 12 of 16 field goal tries, with a long of 51. He's perfect from inside 30 yards. For Notre Dame, David Ruffer has been perfect from everywhere, converting all 15 attempts with a long of 50.

Matt Bosher also punts for the Hurricanes, averaging 44 yards per kick with a long of 62. Miami yields a respectable nine yards per punt return. Ben Turk has had an up-and-down season punting for the Irish. Turk is averaging 38 yards per punt with a long of 56. Notre Dame is giving up six yards per punt return.

Running backs 24 Storm Johnson and Graig Cooper will return kicks for Miami, although fellow backs 23 Eduardo Clements and Lamar Miller have seen time at returner in the past as well. Johnson, Cooper, and Clements are all averaging about 20 yards per return with longs around 30. Miller has had the most success, averaging 33 yards per return including an 88-yard touchdown. David Ruffer is averaging 65 yards per kickoff for the Irish. Notre Dame is giving up just 19 yards per return, meaning opponents start at the 25 yard line on average.

Bennett Jackson is Notre dame's kick returner. Since taking over that position, Jackson has averaged 22 yards per return with a long of 43. It's no surprise that Miami's strong-legged Matt Bosher also kicks of for the 'Canes. Bosher is averaging 64 yards per kick, with 19 touchbacks on 64 attempts. Miami's kick coverage yields 22 yards per return, giving opponents an average start on the 27.

Travis Benjamin returns punts for the Hurricanes. Benjamin is averaging just five yards per return, but he does have a 79-yard touchdown to his credit. John Goodman is Notre Dame's punt returner. Normally a fan of the fair catch, Goodman has returned just 11 punts on the year, averaging one yard per return with a long of 13.

Notre Dame Players to Watch

Robert Hughes, Duval Kamara, Brian Smith, Harrison Smith


Notre Dame 27, Miami 24

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It's Ballot Time Again!

Once again, it's time to vote for the KankaNation Hall of Fame.

List up to 10 people you think should be in the KankaNation Hall of Fame, and email to kanka@kankasports.zzn.com by 5 pm Eastern on December 31.
Those who receive a certain percentage of the vote (depends on how many ballots are received; usually 66-75%) will join the Classes of 2004-2010. Those who received multiple votes last year will receive one carryover vote this year.

To view past inductees and voting results, click one of the links below:
Class of 2004
Class of 2005
Class of 2006
Class of 2007
Class of 2008
Class of 2009
Class of 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Notre Dame Football 2010
Issue 8: Navy

An abbreviated preview for a hectic week....

Navy's offense runs through 4 Ricky Dobbs, who has given the Irish fits in the past. Dobbs is averaging 22 carries and 63 yards rushing per game. But the Middies are also leveraging Dobbs's throwing ability, as he's averaging 13 attempts, seven completions, and 111 yards per game. Dobbs has five rushing touchdowns to four passing, which has to be the best ratio for any recent Navy QB.

This year, Navy has two players sharing time at the fullback spot. 39 Alexander Teich and 47 Vine Murray are both averaging nine carries per game. Murray has had a little more success, averaging 57 yards per game and five yards per carry to Teich's 38 and four.

The slot backs are 20 Andre Byrd and 21 Gee Gee Greene, both small and speedy. Byrd is averaging three carries and 24 yards per game; Greene six and 46. Both are averaging an impressive seven yards per carry.

Navy's fullbacks may have more trouble running the ball than in past years, as Notre Dame's middle defenders - Ian Williams, Manti Te'o, and Carlo Calabrese - have been stout against the rush. The concern for the Irish all season has been discipline on outside runs, which could mean big days for Dobbs, Byrd, and Greene.

In the passing game, both Gee Gee Greene and senior wideout 84 Greg Jones are averaging two catches and 36 yards per game.

Navy's defense is giving up 163 yards per game on he ground and 160 in the air. Their 3-4 defense is heavy on the left side, led by linebackers 29 Aaron McCauley and 54 Tyler Simmons and defensive end 98 Jabaree Tuani. McCauley is first on the team in tackles and TFL, while Simmons is second in the former and Tuani is second in the latter.

McCauley also leads the team in sacks with two, followed by Tuani and fellow DE 90 Billy Yarborough. Middle linebackers Simmons and 44 Max Blue, safety 7 Emett Merchant, and rover (strong safety) 8 Wyatt Middleton.

On special teams, wide receiver 83 Gary Myers is averaging seven yards per punt return, 217-pound fullback Teich is averaging 26 yards per kick return, 16 Joe Buckley has made five of eight field goal attempts (long 42), and 35 Kyle Delahooke is averaging 39 yards per punt with a long of 61. The Midshipmen are giving up 12 yards per punt return and 29 yards per kickoff return. Opponents' average start on kickoffs is the 33 yard line.

In injury news for the Irish, both Theo Riddick and Jamoris Slaughter are having MRIs on their ankles this week. If Riddick can't go, TJ Jones will take his position in the slot with John Goodman starting on the outside.

Notre Dame Players to Watch

Michael Floyd, Cierre Wood, Ian Williams, Harrison Smith, Bennett Jackson, John Goodman


Notre Dame 28, Navy 21

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Notre Dame Football 2010
Issue 7: Western Michigan

Western Michigan Run Offense vs. Notre Dame Run Defense

Western Michigan is averaging a respectable 103 yards per game on the ground, although they are achieving that number through quantity, not quality. The Broncos are averaging 35 carries per game, but just three yards per carry.

23 Aaron Winchester, small but strong at 5'6", 181 lbs, is averaging 29 yards per game on just under 11 carries per game. Quarterback 14 Alex Carder is the next leading threat. Discounting sacks, Carder is averaging just under eight carries and 46 yards per game.

WMU has cornered the market on diminutive running backs, as 5'4", 160 lb freshman 22 Dareyon Chance is Winchester's backup. Chance is averaging just under five carries and 26 yards per game. He's had the most success of any of the regular backs, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Fellow backs 20 Brian Fields and 21 Antoin Scriven are averaging three carries for under 10 yards per game.

Western Michigan did take the redshirt off of prize freshman 21 Tevin Drake last week. The 6'1", 210 lb beast carried the ball eight times against Ball State for 63 yards.

Notre Dame's run defense is still giving up 146 yards per game, but they've steadily improved against six very good rushing teams. Bob Ross-devotees Manti Carlo (that's Te'o and Calabrese) lead the way - Te'o with 69 tackles and four tackles for loss, and Calabrese with 46 and five.

Notre Dame Run Offense vs. Western Michigan Run Defense

Armando Allen is averaging 16 carries and 75 yards per game, but is a bit banged up. One wonders if the Irish will save Allen and instead employ co-second stringers Cierre Wood (four carries/18 yards per game) and Robert Hughes (one and three) more. Jonas Gray (two and nine) has also been cleared to play for this game.

Western Michigan essentially employs a 4-2 defense, with a "rover" who's listed as a safety on the roster, but who can drop down as a third linebacker when necessary. 34 Jamall Berry, WMU's starting rover, has done it all for the Broncos, sacking the QB, breaking up passes, and forcing fumbles. Berry is also second on the team in tackles to mike linebacker 47 Mitch Zajac.

Will linebacker 42 Dex Jones and defensive end 99 Paul Hazel lead the team in tackles for a loss, with seven and six respectively. The team as a whole has been pretty disruptive on defense, averaging six TFL per game.

Of course, playing what is essentially a nickel package at all times has had its cost for the Broncos, who are holding opponents to just 195 yards per game in the air, but giving up 168 yards per on the ground.

Western Michigan Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense

Western Michigan runs a one back, one tight end, three wide receiver spread similar to Notre Dame's. Quarterback Alex Carder has seen mixed results as a first-year starter. On average, he's completing 25 of 42 passes for 258, a rate of 60 percent. But at the same time, he has almost as many interceptions (seven) as touchdowns (10) this year.

Carder has two main targets averaging five catches per game, wideouts 83 Jordan White and 81 Juan Nunez. White is more of a big play threat, averaging 107 yards per game to Nunez's 59.

8 Ansel Ponder is the first receiver off the bench, and is averaging three catches and 24 yards per game. Running back Aaron Winchester, starting slot receiver 12 Robert Arnheim, and tight end 85 Blake Hammond are all averaging at least one catch per game.

Jordan White leads the team with three touchdown catches, with Nunez, Ponder, and Hammond right behind with two apiece.

Notre Dame's pass defense, giving up 252 yards per game, is starting to pile up the interceptions. The Irish now have eight picks, led by Harrison Smith and Darrin Walls with two apiece. Darius Fleming and Prince Shembo lead the way with three sacks apiece.

Notre Dame Pass Offense vs. Western Michigan Pass Defense

Theo Riddick and Michael Floyd lead the Irish with six catches per game. Riddick is averaging 66 yards per game to Floyd's 78. Look for Floyd to pick on WMU's smaller corners, and Riddick to just run around them.

Kyle Rudolph is out for the year with a hamstring injury, leaving Mike Ragone, Tyler Eifert, and Jake Golic to pick up the slack. However, it's John Goodman who has picked up most of Rudolph's slack recently. Goodman is now averaging two catches and 16 yards per game. Armando Allen and TJ Jones are also averaging a pair of receptions per contest.

As mentioned above, WMU likes to use what is basically a permanent nickel set to limit opponents' passing. They're registering just under three sacks per game, led by the aforementioned Paul Hazel and Dex Jones. The team also has six interceptions on the season, led by cornerback 24 Lewis Toler with three.

Special Teams

17 John Potter has connected on four of five field goals for the Broncos, with a long of 38. David Ruffer remains perfect on the season for the Irish, now converting all 11 attempts. His long is 50, but he says his range is 52.

37 Ben Armer is averaging 43 yards per punt for WMU, with a long of 65. The Broncos are giving up 10 yards per punt return, but the longest return they've given up so far has been for 20 yards. Ben Turk is averaging just 38 yards per punt, but has been booming the ball as of late. Irish opponents have only returned three of his punts for an average of less than one yard per return.

Ansel Ponder returns kicks for Western Michigan. He's averaging 20 yards per return with a long of 31. Nick Tausch is now kicking of for the Irish by virtue of his hang time. Tausch is averaging 55 yards per kick, and ND's coverage team is giving up 21 yards per return. That's an average start on the 26 yard line.

Bennett Jackson is averaging 24 yards per kick return for Notre Dame, with a long of 43. John Potter kicks off for the Broncos. He's averaging 65 yards per boot with five touchbacks in 28 tries. Western Michigan is giving up 21 yards per return, leaving opponents with an average start on the 25.

WMU's punt returner is Jordan White, who's averaging just six yards per return with a long of 14. John Goodman is averaging just four yards per punt return for the Irish, with a long of 13.

Notre Dame Players to Watch

Cierre Wood, Jonas Gray, Harrison Smith, Darrin Walls, Bennett Jackson, John Goodman


Notre Dame 38, Western Michigan 14

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Notre Dame Football 2010
Issue 6: Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Run Offense vs. Notre Dame Run Defense

It shouldn't be surprising by now that Pittsburgh's offense is led by a small but powerful underclassman running back. What is surprising is that that leader is 1 Ray Graham, not returning starter 28 Dion Lewis. Both Graham and Lewis have played three games and are averaging 16 carries per game, but the former has had much more success than the latter. Graham is averaging almost 10 yards per carry and 164 yards per game to Lewis's three and 48.

Quarterback 12 Tino Sunseri averages two rushes per game, excluding sacks, for three yards. So he's not much of a concern in the running game. Fullback 27 Henry Hynoski is averaging two carries and seven yards per game. Wide receivers 82 Jon Baldwin and 5 Cameron Saddler each have one rush to their credit on the season.

Notre Dame has faced some tough run offenses this year, and the numbers reflect it. The team is giving up 153 rushing yards per game.

The Irish have been stout against the inside run, but have had trouble with outside contain. Manti Te'o is averaging almost 13 tackles per game, but many of those have come from chasing down the ballcarrier after the original defender missed. Fellow inside linebacker Carlo Calabrese and safety Harrison Smith are also sure tacklers, averaging over seven tackles per game.

Calabrese leads the team with five tackles for a loss. It was exciting during the Boston College game to watch him wait in a gap and then pounce on the running back at the right moment. Te'o and Darius Fleming have added four TFL apiece.

Notre Dame Run Offense vs. Pittsburgh Run Defense

Notre Dame's run offense has been up and down this year, averaging 111 yards per game. Armando Allen is the clear leader, averaging 16 carries and 78 yards per game.

Robert Hughes is once again listed as the number two tailback, although he still hasn't been given much of a chance to shine on offense. Hughes has only four carries on the year for 12 yards, and is used mostly for his blocking abilities.

Jonas Gray is once again questionable with a quad injury, leaving Cierre Wood as the lone man left in the rotation. Wood is averaging just three carries and 15 yards per game.

Quarterback Dayne Crist has been used sparingly in the Notre Dame run game as of late, although he now has two of the team's four rushing touchdowns. Allen has the other two.

Pitt's 4-3 defense has been predictably stout against the run, giving up three yards per carry and 97 yards per game. Linebackers 55 Max Gruder and 38 Greg Williams lead the team in tackles, and have combined for 45 overall. Excluding sacks, however, the team is averaging just two tackles for loss per game.

Pittsburgh Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense

After a rough few years for Bill Stull and 19 Pat Bostick, the Panthers may have found a quarterback in 12 Tino Sunseri. Sunseri is completing 63 percent of his passes, completing 16 of 25 attempts per game for 172 yards. On the season, Sunseri has four touchdowns to two interceptions.

Wideouts 82 Jon Baldwin and 87 Mike Shanahan (not related, as far as I'm aware) are averaging around 50 yards per game on close to four catches per game. Baldwin has two of the team's four receiving touchdowns.

Running backs Ray Graham and Dion Lewis are averaging three catches per game, and receiver Cameron Saddler two per game. Receiver 15 Devin Street, tight end 85 Mike Cruz, and fullback Henry Hynoski are each averaging one catch per game.

Notre Dame is giving up 248 yards per game in the air. The pass rush has generated just 13 sacks and 12 quarterback hits through five games. Carlo Calabrese leads the team with 2.5 sacks, while Darius Fleming, Ethan Johnson, and Prince Shembo are right behind with 2.0. Fleming and Brian Smith lead the team with three quarterback hits each.

The Irish have seven interceptions on the year, led by Darrin Walls with two. ND has 28 official passes defended, including 21 breakups. Walls leads in both categories, with five and three respectively. Predictably, fellow corners Gary Gray and Robert Blanton have put up similar numbers to Walls in defenses and breakups.

Notre Dame Pass Offense vs. Pittsburgh Pass Defense

On an average Saturday, Dayne Crist completes 23 of 39 passes (58 percent) for 272 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. For what it's worth, his efficiency rating is 129.9.

Theo Riddick is now the leading the Irish with 30 catches (six per game) and three touchdowns. Michael Floyd is still the big play threat, hauling in 28 catches and averaging 82 yards per game. Kyle Rudolph has been hampered by injuries as of late, but still has made 23 catches and three touchdowns.

Armando Allen is averaging three catches per game and TJ Jones two. Jones also has two touchdown catches, matching Michael Floyd. John Goodman has played well as of late, picking up Rudolph's slack as a reliable outlet option. That performance has caused Goodman to be named a co-number one with Jones on the depth chart. Goodman is now up to eight catches on the year.

Pitt has been all-or-nothing against the pass. Even without the injured 91 Greg Romeus, the line has gotten into the backfield a bunch. 97 Jabaal Sheard, 98 Chas Alecxih, 94 Myles Caragein, and 35 Brandon Lindsey have made 15.5 stops in the backfield, including 10 sacks. Sheard has 11 quarterback hits, almost three per game.

Despite all the pressure from the line, the Panthers are still giving up 244 passing yards per game. The team does have four interceptions, three by free safety 17 Jarred Holley.

Special Teams

30 Dan Hutchins kicks field goals for the Panthers. He's converted eight of 11 attempts. Hutchins is perfect from inside 40 yards but has yet to make one from longer than 40. David Ruffer remains perfect for the Irish, converting all eight attempts with a long of 46.

Dan Hutchins also handles Pittsburgh's punting duties. He's averaging 46 yards per kick with a long of 59. Opponents have returned five of Hutchins's 16 punts for a combined two yards. Ben Turk continues to be inconsistent for the Irish. Turk is averaging 37 yards per punt with a long of 53. Fortunately for Turk, the Irish punt coverage is holding opponents to just two yards per return.

Cameron Saddler is Pitt's primary kick returner. He's averaging 20 yards per return with a long of 27. David Ruffer is averaging 65 yards per kickoff with three touchbacks in 26 tries. Notre Dame opponents are averaging 22 yards per return, giving them an average start on the 26.

Bennett Jackson's performance against Boston College has propelled him to the top kick return spot. Jackson is averaging 28 yards per return with a long of 43. 39 Kevin Harper kicks off for the Panthers. He's averaging 66 yards per kick with six touchbacks on 22 tries. Pitt is giving up just 13 yards per return, leaving opponents with an average start on the 22.

Cameron Saddler also returns punts for Pittsburgh. He's averaging 11 punts per return with a long of 29. John Goodman will again return kicks for the Irish. Goodman has shown reliable hands but not much return ability so far, averaging just six yards per return with a long of 13.

Notre Dame Players to Watch

Robert Hughes, John Goodman, Carlo Calabrese, Ethan Johnson, David Ruffer, Bennett Jackson


Notre Dame 27, Pittsburgh 22

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Notre Dame Football 2010
Issue 4: Boston College

Boston College Run Offense vs. Notre Dame Run Defense

2 Montel Harris is Boston College's feature back this year. He's averaging 22 carries and 102 yards per game.

Outside of Harris, there hasn't been much to BC's run game. Second string running back 21 Sterlin Phifer is averaging just four carries 23 yards per game.

Notre Dame's run defense is giving up 190 yards per game, and its leading tacklers tell the story of those numbers. Linebacker Manti Te'o is averaging 14 tackles per game and safety Harrison Smith nine, largely because they're the ones cleaning up other people's missed tackles.

Te'o leads the team with 3.5 tackles for a loss, and Darius Fleming is right behind with 3.0. But Fleming and the rest of the outside linebackers continue to be disappointing. As good as their outside contain was in the Purdue game, it's been nearly nonexistent in the games since.

Notre Dame Run Offense vs. Boston College Run Defense

Armando Allen leads an Irish rushing attack gaining 111 yards per game. Allen is averaging 15 carries and 76 yards per game, and has one of only two team rushing touchdowns on the year.

Robert Hughes has been moved up to the number two running back spot, largely because of his pass blocking abilities. That in and of itself may indicate how much the Irish plan to run this week. Hughes himself has not had a single carry in very limited action this season.

Cierre Wood has struggled since Purdue, but still maintains a 4.4 yards per carry average. Jonas Gray is doubtful for this game witha groin and knee injuries.

Dayne Crist has not had a designed run since the Michigan game, and the debate remains as to when the coaching staff will trust themselves to let him run again.

Boston College's run defense has been stifling this year, giving up just two yards per carry and 71 yards per game. The linebackers are leading the way in tackles, with starters 40 Luke Kuechly, 32 Kevin Pierre-Louis, and 94 Mark Herzlich combining for 76 stops through three games. Kuechly's 4.5 tackles for a loss is just 0.5 behind defensive end 98 Alex Albright for the team lead.

Boston College Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense

After a disappointing start by incumbent 15 Dave Shinskie, freshman 7 Chase Rettig will be making his collegiate debut as the Eagles new starter. Rettig did however enroll early to participate in spring practices. 16 Mark Marscovetra, who has had mild success as Shinskie's backup to this point, gets the "OR" designation next to Rettig on the depth chart.

Boston College runs a base pro set (running back, fullback, tight end, two receivers). Receivers 17 Clyde Lee and 80 Johnathan Coleman and back Montel Harris are leading the way, each averaging about three catches per game. Coleman is the yardage leader, averaging 58 per contest.

Four other BC players are averaging at least one catch per game - receivers 3 Ifeanyi Momah and 86 Bobby Swigert and tight ends Chris Pantale and Lars Anderson. At 6'6", 240, Momah is a matchup problem for any defensive back, and in fact outsizes tight end Anderson.

Notre Dame's defense is giving up 244 passing yards per game and allowing opponents to complete 66 percent of their passes. That first number isn't very good, but the second is much worse. Part of that comes from an inability to generate a pass rush. The Irish are averaging just two sacks per game. Darius Fleming and Ethan Johnson lead the team with two sacks apiece on the season, with Carlo Calabrese right behind at 1.5.

The secondary is still showing signs of bad habits from last year, but their pass defense is improving. The team is averaging six passes defended and five pass breakups per game. Darrin Walls has two of the team's five interceptions on the season.

Notre Dame Pass Offense vs. Boston College Pass Defense

Dayne Crist is up to 289 passing yards per game. On an average day, he'll complete 22 of 35 passes, for a rate of 59 percent. He's also averaging two touchdowns and one interception per game.

Michael Floyd is Notre Dame's leading receiver, an impressive feat considering the coverages he's faced. Floyd is averaging six catches and 85 yards per game.

Kyle Rudolph and Theo Riddick are right behind at five catches per game. Rudolph's hamstring limited him to one catch against Stanford, but he should be back to full strength this week.

Armando Allen and TJ Jones are averaging two catches per game, and John Goodman one. Jones, Floyd, Riddick, and Rudolph each have two touchdown catches apiece, to account for all of Notre Dame's receiving TDs.

Boston College's 4-3 defense has struggled to get pressure on the quarterback, registering only four sacks in three games. Still, their defense ends can do some damage. In addition to Alex Albright's five tackles for a loss, 47 Brad Newman leads the team with two sacks.

That lack of pressure has allowed opponents to average 238 yards per game in the air. Yet the Eagles have given up only two passing touchdowns while collecting five interceptions. Still, it looks like once again the Irish offense will need to lean heavily on the passing game in this one.

Special Teams

85 Nate Freese is Boston College's field goal kicker. He's five-for-six with a long of just 33. Freese's lone miss came on a 47-yarder last week. David Ruffer has remained perfect on the season, now converting all seven of his attempts. His long is 46 yards.

46 Ryan Quigley is back once again as BC's punter. Quigley has been booming the ball this year, averaging 45 yards per punt with a long of 71. Four of his 14 punts have gone over 50 yards. The Eagles punt coverage has been equally impressive, giving up four returns for a combined -17 yards. Ben Turk has been struggling as of late for the Irish, averaging just 36 yards per punt. To his credit, most of his punts have been unreturnable. Irish opponents have returned just two of Turk's 21 punts for four total yards.

Cornerbacks 9 DeLeon Gause and 25 Chris Fox return kicks for the Eagles. Both are averaging around 20 yards per return with a long around 30. Gause does have a 66-yard interception return to his credit, though. David Ruffer kicks off for Notre Dame. He's averaging 66 yards per kick with three touchbacks on 20 tries. Notre Dame's kick team is giving up 20 yards per return, leaving opponents with an average start on the 24 yard line.

Cierre Wood is averaging 20 yards per kick return for the Irish, but has struggled as of late. With those struggles and Jonas Gray's injuries, Bennett Jackson should see some time returning kicks. After channeling Mike Anello on kick coverage, let's see if the speedy, undersized freshman can now channel a 2009 version of Theo Riddick on returns. Nate Freese also kicks off for the Eagles. He's averaging 63 yards per kick with one touchback on 14 tries. He has also kicked the ball out of bounds twice. Boston College is giving up a respectable 18 yards per return, giving opponents an average start on the 30.

DeLeon Gause also returns punts for Boston College. He's averaging just four yards per return on six tries. John Goodman has been officially promoted to starting punt returner after taking over those duties in the Stanford game. Goodman is averaging nine yards per return with a long of 13.

Notre Dame Players to Watch

Robert Hughes, Kyle Rudolph, Darius Flemming, Carlo Calabrese, Bennett Jackson, John Goodman


Notre Dame 22, Boston College 19

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Notre Dame Football 2010
Issue 4: Stanford

Stanford Run Offense vs. Notre Dame Run Defense

The main concern facing Stanford's offense this season was replacing Toby Gerhart. So far, the running game hasn't missed a step, averaging 242 yards per game. The Cardinal are led by the two-headed running back combination of 33 Stepfan Taylor and 25 Tyler Gaffney. Taylor is averaging 10 carries and 52 yards per game, while Gaffney is averaging eight for 46. Gaffney also leads the team with three rushing touchdowns.

Quarterback 12 Andrew Luck has also been productive with his legs. Discounting sacks - of which the Stanford offense has only given up one this year - Luck is rushing four times per game for 47 yards. Those numbers are aided by a 52-yard run, the longest on the team this year.

Fullback 48 Owen Marecic, who doubles as a starting inside linebacker, will also get into the act on offense. Marecic is averaging two carries for six yards per game.

Rounding out the Stanford rushing attack are running backs 15 Usua Amanam and 32 Anthony Wilkerson, both averaging five carries per game. The small, shifty Amanam is averaging 30 yards per game; big back Wilkerson, 18. Yes, when your team averages 42 rushing attempts per game, there are a lot of carries to go around.

The story of Notre Dame's run defense, and the team as the whole, is that they're making fewer mistakes - but the mistakes are bigger. Despite seemingly better tackling, the Irish are giving up 199 yards per game on the ground. Manti Te'o leads the team in tackles with 33 (11 per game) and tackles for a loss with 3.5. He and fellow inside linebacker Carlo Calabrese (23 tackles) will face a tough test against Stanford's run game. As will nose tackle Ian Williams, who Brian Kelly recently described as "dominant."

Conversely, the outside linebacker play has been disappointing at best. Darius Fleming, Brian Smith, Kerry Neal, and Steve Filer all have the ability to be starters at this level, yet have combined for just 37 tackles on the year - four more than Te'o has by himself.

Notre Dame Run Offense vs. Stanford Run Defense

Despite a pass-happy attack in the Michigan State game, Notre Dame is still averaging 31 carries and 133 yards per game. Armando Allen, as expected, has established himself as the feature back, averaging 15 carries and 84 yards per game. Cierre Wood saw limited action against the Spartans, but still has his coaches' confidence. Wood is averaging five carries and 24 yards per game. Jonas Gray has only four carries on the year, and most of that was due to Allen's hand injury last week. Allen, by the way, should be at full strength for this week's game.

Quarterback Dayne Crist is averaging five carries and 20 yards per game. Slot receiver Theo Riddick has two carries on the year, both in the Michigan game.

Stanford's run defense is giving up a less-than-stellar 138 yards per game on the ground, but are still maintaining a respectable 3.8 yards per carry against. Apparently Stanford opponents have been trying to mimic Stanford's offense by running 38 times per game.

Stanford's leading tackler is free safety 3 Michael Thomas. Irish fans are well aware of the red flag that is having a safety as your leading tackler. Yet, Thomas does have a team-leading three tackles for a loss, so that total could be an indication of how much he is moved around and used in run suport.

Inside linebacker 57 Max Bergen and outside linebacker 44 Chase Thomas are next on the team in tackles with 14 and 12, respectively. The Cardinal team is averaging over six tackles for a loss per game, so they do like to get into the backfield.

Stanford Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense

Quarterback Andrew Luck is being hailed as a future Heisman candidate. So far, he hasn't disappointed. Luck is averaging 23 pass attempts per game, which may not seem like much compared to the 42 running plays per game for the team. But Luck does make the most of those chances, completing 64 percent (15 completions/game) for 224 yards. He also has 10 touchdowns to zero interceptions, and an efficiency rating of 192.3.

The Cardinal are expected to be without receiver 8 Ryan Whalen, who was the team's leading receiver in each of the past two year, and tied for the team lead in catches this year. Whalen has a dislocated elbow. In his absence, 89 Doug "This is war!" Baldwin becomes Luck's primary target. Baldwin is averaging three catches, 65 yards, and one touchdown per game.

In Whalen's absence, 81 Chris Owusu steps back into the starting lineup. In his lone appearance this season, Owusu had three catches, two for touchdowns.

Stanford has done a good job of spreading the wealth in the passing game. Thirteen Cardinal have receptions, but no one other than Whalen, Baldwin, and Owusu are averaging more than one catch per game.

On the season, 10 balls have gone to tight ends, led by old friend (and starter) 88 Konrad Reuland with five catches. Six passes have gone to running backs, led by Stepfan Taylor with four. The fullbacks have yet to make a reception.

Notre Dame is giving up 246 yards per game in the air. More concerning is that Irish opponents have completed 68 percent of their passes. Despite this, the Notre Dame corners have gotten better at breaking up passes, recording 15 official passes defended and 13 official breakups. In addition, Darrin Walls, Zeke Motta, and Ian Williams have interceptions.

Motta has been praised for his effort, but Coach Kelly said that the safety needs to work on being in the right place at the right time. The good news for Motta and fellow safety Harrison Smith is that Jamoris Slaughter should be back for this game, returning this thin unit to full strength.

The Irish are averaging just under three sacks per game. Darius Fleming and Ethan Johnson lead the team with two apiece.

Notre Dame Pass Offense vs. Stanford Pass Defense

Dayne Crist's numbers won't win him the Heisman, but he's been effective for a first-year starter. Crist is averaging 21 completions on 35 attempts per game, a 60 percent rate. Dayne is averaging 284 yards per game, and has seven touchdowns on the year to two interceptions.

Kyle Rudolph has been Crist's main target, averaging seven catches and 96 yards per game. Michael Floyd and Theo Riddick aren't close behind, averaging five catches per game (with Riddick's numbers helped largely by his performance against Michigan State). Floyd is averaging 76 yards per game, but has two key fumbles against his name. Riddick is averaging 60 yards per contest.

TJ Jones and Armando Allen are averaging three catches per game. Jones, Rudolph, and Floyd are leading the team with two touchdowns apiece.

Despite three new offensive linemen (including both tackles) and a new starting quarterback, the Irish have given up only five sacks through three games.

The Cardinal have switched to a hybrid 3-4 look, and it's been quite productive so far. The team has recorded 11 sacks in three games, led by outside linebacker Chase Thomas with 3.5. Thomas is one of seven linebackers or lineman who has recorded a sack for Stanford this year.

Cornerback 9 Richard Sherman is fourth on the team in tackles (nine), first in passes broken up (four) and defended (five), and has one of the team's three interceptions. It sounds like he's in charge of covering opponents' top receivers, and at 6'3", he's more than capable of giving Michael Floyd all he can handle.

Stanford is holding opponents to a measly 90 passing yards per game. Of course, that number is skewed by the fact that Cardinal opposition has attempted only 68 passes (and completed only 34) on the season.

Special Teams

Another old friend, 39 Nate Whitaker, is Stanford's placekicker. He's a perfect three-for-three on the year, although all of his attempts have come from 23 yards or less. Notre Dame's David Ruffer is also perfect, connecting on all five of his attempts with a long of 46.

36 Daniel Zychlinski punts for the Cardinal. Two of his six punts have gone over 50 yards, with a long of 64. He's averaging 48 yards per kick. Stanford is giving up 28 yards per punt return, a number marred by a 70 yard touchdown. Notre Dame's Ben Turk is averaging just 37 yards per punt, but Turk is all about hang time rather than length. None of Turk's 16 punts have been returned.

Usua Amanam and Doug Baldwin return kicks for Stanford. Amanam is averaging 35 yards per return with a long of 60; Baldwin 21 with a long of 24. David Ruffer also kicks off for the Irish. He's averaging 66 yards per kick with three touchbacks in 17 tries. Notre Dame is giving up 20 yards per return, giving opponents an average start on the 26.

Cierre Wood is Notre Dame's primary kick returner, although he's "on notice" to step up his performance. Wood is averaging 20 yards per return with a long of 38. Nate Whitaker has been booming kickoffs for the Cardinal. His 26 kicks have averaged 68 yards, with eight going for touchbacks. Stanford is giving up 25 yards per return, giving opponents an average start on the 35. Notre Dame should definitely win the hidden yardage battle in that regard.

Doug Baldwin also returns punts for Stanford. He's averaging only eight yards per return with a long of 22. Armando Allen should be back to returning punts for Notre Dame. He's averaging an impressive 24 yards per return with a long of 38.

Notre Dame Players to Watch

Michael Floyd, Carlo Calabrese, Darius Fleming, Jamoris Slaughter, Cierre Wood, Armando Allen


Notre Dame 31, Stanford 28

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Notre Dame Football 2010
Issue 3: Michigan State

Michigan State Run Offense vs. Notre Dame Run Defense

Michigan State has started the season by beating up on two lesser opponents. As has been their M.O. this decade, the Spartans are doing so with a multi-faceted running game. 4 Edwin Baker (5'9", 208) is averaging 16 carries and 150 yards a game, while 24 Le'Veon Bell (6'2", 240) is averaging 10 carries and 95 yards. That's right, both backs are averaging 9.5 yards a carry. Each have also cashed in three touchdowns.

22 Larry Caper adds a third weapon to the MSU running game. Caper, who scored two touchdowns against the Irish last year, has however missed the first two games with a hand injury. He's listed as questionable for this Saturday.

Quarterback 8 Kirk Cousins has had five non-sack rushing attempts for 18 yards. In addition, two Spartans receivers have each seen individual carries. Michigan State does employ a fullback in a base pro set, but he has yet to see a touch on the grouns

The Irish defense's rushing stats are no doubt tainted by Denard Robinson's performance from last week. However, the positive is that it is the middle linebackers, and not the safeties, who lead the team in tackles. Manti Te'o has 22 stops, and Carlo Calabrese has 19. A somewhat concerning stat is that Notre Dame has only three tackles for a loss, with one coming from Te'o and one each from cornerbacks Gary Gray and Robert Blanton.

Notre Dame Run Offense vs. Michigan State Run Defense

Armando Allen and Cierre Wood have been the primary ballcarriers for the Irish, with Allen getting the bulk of the carries. Armando is averaging 16.5 carries and 91 yards per game, while Wood is averaging 6.5 and 34. Both are over five yards per carry, a very positive sign.

Irish quarterbacks have had 13 non-sack rushing attempts for 60 yards, while the only receiver to run the ball so far is Theo Riddick. Riddick had limited success in two attempts against Michigan, running for zero and three yards.

MSU's 4-3 defense is led by an experienced set of linebackers. 53 Greg Jones is the star, and so far 43 Eric Gordon and 10 Chris Norman have been able to match his production. The trio have combined for 57 tackles in two games. As a whole, the Spartans defense has held opponents to just 65 yards per game on the ground.

Michigan State Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense

Kirk Cousins returns for his second season as Michigan State's starting quarterback. Thanks to the effectiveness of the running game, Cousins has only needed to attempt 19 passes per game so far. On average, he will complete 11 of those passes for 164 yards.

Cousins' favorite target so far has been wideout 2 Mark Dell, who is averaging 3.5 catches and 50 yards per game. After Dell, no one is averaging more than one catch per game.

Cousins does like to use his tight ends, as three Michigan State TEs have two catches apiece this year. That may not seem like much, but remember it accounts for over one-fourth of all MSU completions. Of the remaining 16 passes, 15 have gone to wide receivers (including Dell) and only one to a running back.

Due to nagging injuries to Jamoris Slaughter and Dan McCarthy, Harrison Smith and Zeke Motta were the only safeties available to play for Notre Dame last week. Slaughter does hope to be back this week though. Speaking of depth in the secondary, Notre Dame stayed in its base 3-4 set for the entirety of the Michigan game, although it's unclear whether that was because of the lack of defensive backs or because they wanted extra linebackers in against Robinson.

The Irish are giving up 232 passing yards per game. Ethan Johnson leads the team with two sacks, while Ian Williams, Kapron Lewis-Moore, and Kerry Neal have one apiece.

Notre Dame Pass Offense vs. Michigan State Pass Defense

Dayne Crist has been an effective, if not flashy, passer so far, completing 62.7 percent of his passes. Crist is averaging 25 attempts, 16 completions, and 241 yards per game.

Kyle Rudolph has been Crist's favorite target so far, due to his ability to get open in almost any situation. Rudolph is averaging 6.5 catches and 103.5 yards per game.

Michael Floyd is averaging five catches and 74 yards per game, yet the team thinks he isn't getting involved enough. Against Michigan, Floyd primarily played as the lone receiver on the short side of the field, and Michigan was able to shut him down with double coverage. The Irish will look to move Floyd around this week to get him more opportunities.

All the attention paid to Floyd has given a chance for TJ Jones to show his ability. Jones is averaging three catches and 57 yards per game, and leads the team with two touchdown catches.

Theo Riddick is averaging two catches per game, while backs Armando Allen and Cierre Wood are averaging one apiece.

Opponents have gone to the air often against Michigan State, but that may be a result of the leads the Spartans have been putting up. MSU is giving up 247 passing yards per game, while recording only three sacks on 90 passing attempts.

Defensive end 89 Colin Neely leads the team with 1.5 sacks and 4.0 tackles for loss overall. Strong safety 11 Marcus Hyde has recorded the team's lone interception.

Special Teams

The strong-legged 4 Dan Conroy takes over as MSU's full-time placekicker this year. He's a perfect 4-for-4 on the season with a long of 50. For the Irish, David Ruffer has also converted all four of his field goal attempts. Ruffer's long is 46 yards.

18 Aaron Bates, a four-year starter, is one of the best punters in the nation. On eight tries, he's averaging 46 yards per kick, with a long of 57. But he's not outkicking his coverage, as the Spartans are holding opponents to six yards per return. Eric Maust is averaging 36.8 yards per punt with a long of 47. The good news is that Irish opponents have yet to be able to return a punt.

Receiver 82 Keshawn Martin and starting free safety 39 Trenton Robinson have been returning kicks for the Spartans, although Le'Veon Bell has been bumped ahead of Robinson on this week's depth chart. Martin is averaging 22 yards per return, Robinson 21. David Ruffer is averaging 62 yards per kickoff for Notre Dame, with two touchbacks on 12 kicks. Irish opponents are averaging 22.6 yards per return, giving them an average start on the 26.

Cierre Wood has been ND's primary kick returner, averaging 23.5 yards per with a long of 38. Theo Riddick has added one return for 19 yards. 17 Kevin Muma kicks off for the Spartans. He's averaging 62 yards per kick with two touchbacks on 14 tries. MSU is surrendering 22 yards per return, giving opponents an average start on the 30.

Keshawn Martin also returns punts for Michigan State. He's averaging a modest 13.4 yards per return with a long of 47 yards. Armando Allen has returned two punts for the Irish this year, one for nine yards and one for 38. That's an average of 23.5 yards.

Notre Dame Players to Watch

Dayne Crist, Michael Floyd, Ian Williams, Jamoris Slaughter, Eric Maust, Cierre Wood


Notre Dame 23, Michigan State 20

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Notre Dame Football 2010
Issue 2: Michigan

Michigan Run Offense vs. Notre Dame Run Defense

The Wolverines lost running backs Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown, but that didn't stop their ground game in week one. Led as always by a veteran offensive line, Michigan ran 61 times against Connecticut for 287 yards.

Michigan was led by quarterback 16 Denard Robinson, who had nearly half of the team's carries (29) and finished with 197 yards and a touchdown. Michigan's top two running backs, 2 Vincent Smith and 20 Michael Shaw, saw 14 and 15 carries respectively, and each finished with a touchdown and over 50 yards rushing.

Slot receiver 19 Kelvin Grady also had a carry in the game. So as if containing Robinson and the backs weren't hard enough, the receivers also need to be accounted for.

Inside linebackers Carlo Calabrese and Manti Te'o tied for the team lead in tackles against Purdue. That's great news for the Irish defense, as most of those tackle opportunities would have slipped to the safeties last year.

Gary Gray also tied for the tackle lead, and fellow corner Darrin Walls was just two behind. Most of those tackles came in run support as part of a very good overall effort to keep contain. The corners, outside linebackers, and ends will need more of that this week if they want to beat Michigan. Of course, the corners can't creep up too much and let Robinson pass over their heads at the last second.

The Irish run defense looks pretty sound despite a limited showing. Notre Dame played without Steve Filer and Prince Shembo for most of the game due to cramping, but still showed solid depth at linebacker. Anthony McDonald should also see increased playing time this week, and Manti Te'o will no doubt be ready to make up for all the missed opportunities he made last week.

The key for the Irish defense will be to win first down, and force Robinson and the Wolverines into passing situations in the quarterback's first road start.

Notre Dame Run Offense vs. Michigan Run Defense

Armando Allen and Cierre Wood both made impressive season debuts, with Allen running 18 times for 98 yards and Wood going seven times for 63 yards.

Allen and Wood were aided by exceptionally coordinated pull blocking by the line, and by determined downfield interference from Michael Floyd. Of course, for some refs any blocking done by a wide receiver is immediately called a hold, so the Irish may not always be able to rely on Floyd to help them get to the second and third level.

Michigan's defense is led by its three starting linebackers, 88 Craig Roh, 45 Obi Ezeh, and Jonas Mouton. The three combined for 22 tackles against UConn, but the team as a whole did give up 138 yards on the ground.

Michigan Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense

Denard Robinson certainly was impressive running on UConn, but he was equally effective in the air. Robinson completed 19 of 22 passes for 186 yards and a touchdown against the Huskies.

Of Robinson's 19 completions, 12 went to wideouts, four to running backs, and three to tight end 86 Kevin Koger. 22 Darryl Stonum led all Michigan Receivers with five catches.

Robinson had only one completion go for over 16 yards; that was a catch by 8 Terrence Robinson for 43. Understandably, the Wolverines were probably trying to keep things simple for their quarterback's first start.

Notre Dame's gameplan versus Purdue was to stop the run and the big pass, and allow the underneath pass. So while Robert Marve completed 31 of 42 passes, the Boilers only finished with 12 points and 220 passing yards. Of course, interceptions by Darrin Walls and Ian Williams helped.

Notre Dame Pass Offense vs. Michigan Pass Defense

Dayne Crist at times looked like a seasoned passer, and at times like a kid a little too excited to be making his first career start at Notre Dame stadium.

Crist finished 19 for 26 despite missing a few open receivers in the end zone. Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph did their parts in keeping Crist's confidence level high, each making five receptions. TJ Jones added his first career touchdown, and backs Cierre Wood and Armando Allen combined for three catches.

Michigan switched to a 3-3-5 defense this year, a somewhat puzzling move considering the relative lack of experience in the secondary. Cornerbacks Donovan Warren (who led the Wolverines in interceptions and pass breakups in 2009) and Boubacar Cissoko are no longer with the team. 13 Carvin Johnson and 29 Troy Woolfolk are expected to miss this game due to injuries, although Johnson - who plays a hybrid safety/linebacker role - is still listed as a starter on the most recent depth chart.

That being said, Notre Dame shouldn't put itself in a position where it needs to pass to win the game. But if the Irish can get a ground game working early, they can use their talented receivers to put this game away.

Special Teams

Michigan is breaking in new placekicker 34 Brendan Gibbons, who missed from 43 and made from 24 last week. After Nick Tausch's success last year, it was somewhat surprising when David Ruffer was named the starting placekicker for Notre Dame last week. After a perfect day with makes from 22, 46, and 37, Ruffer will retain his position against the Wolverines.

The Wolverines also have a new punter in 43 Will Hagerup. Hagerup punted only once last week, and it covered 51 yards. Ben Turk did not get off to a great start for the Irish, averaging just 31 yards per punt on three tries with a long of 35. On a positive note, none of his punts were returnable.

Darryl Stonum and 9 Martavious Odoms return Kicks for the Wolverines. Both had a 19 return last week. David Ruffer kicked off seven times for the Irish last week, averaging 61.6 yards with one touchback. The Irish gave up 13.7 yards per return, for an average start on the 22. That was largely thanks to freshman receiver Bennett Jackson, who made four tackles on 10 special teams appearances.

Cierre Wood is averaging 25 yards per kick return with a long of 38. Brendan Gibbons also kicks off for Michigan. He had six kicks last week, averaging of 54 yards with two touchbacks. Michigan gave up 12 yards per return, for an average start on the 28.

10 Jeremy Gallon is Michigan's punt returner. He had one chance last week and ran for seven yards. Armando Allen returns punts for Notre Dame. He had one return for 38 yards in the opener.

Notre Dame Players to Watch

Dayne Crist, Michael Floyd, Manti Te'o, Steve Filer, Ben Turk, Bennett Jackson


Notre Dame 28, Michigan 24

Monday, August 30, 2010

Notre Dame Football 2010

Purdue Run Offense vs. Notre Dame Run Defense

Purdue's offense, which was already replacing its quarterback and three lineman, took another major blow when Ralph Bolden, last year's leading rusher, went down with an ACL injury in the spring. Bolden will be replaced by 5 Al-Terek McBurse and 1 Keith Carlos, two players short on experience but long on athletic ability. McBurse had just four rushes for 10 yards as a freshman in 2009, while Carlos was moved from wide receiver following Bolden's injury. But both players saw success as kick returners in 2009, so they do know what to do in open space.

Quarterback 9 Robert Marve ran 59 times for 119 yards and two touchdowns at Miami in 2008. So while he may not be a major threat with his legs, he's certainly not afraid to try. Purdue's fullbacks and wide receivers only saw a handful of rushing attempts in 2009, but they will still need to be accounted for.

The Irish will again move to a 3-4, mostly due to the relative depth at line and linebacker. The move will also hopefully reignite 95 Ian Williams, who had his most success in that scheme in 2007.

Unfortunately, the linbacker depth has already taken a hit with injuries to 54 Anthony McDonald and 40 Steve Paskorz. 5 Manti Te'o and 44 Carlo Calabrese will start on the inside, backed up by 48 Dan Fox and 36 David Posluszny. Both Te'o and Calabrese are hard-hitting run stuffers.

On the outside, 56 Kerry Neal, 58 Brian Smith, and 46 Steve Filer are all fighting for the spot opposite 45 Darius Fleming. With the injuries on the inside, it will be interesting to see if Brian Smith returns to that position at some point this season.

Notre Dame Run Offense vs. Purdue Run Defense

5 Armando Allen is now in his fourth season as a starter, and has blossomed into a Doak Walker Award semifinalist. He'll be joined by a trio of talented backs in 33 Robert Hughes, 25 Jonas Gray, and 20 Cierre Wood. Interestingly enough, Wood didn't even see the field last year due to the depth at this position. But the talented recruit has impressed in fall practice, and has quickly moved to the primary backup on the depth chart.

It will be interesting to see how the other positions play into the running game. Quarterback 10 Dayne Crist was a mobile threat before his knee injury. While the team will no doubt be cautious with its starting QB, all the effects of Crist's injuries are basically gone.

Most spread offenses rely on end-around runs to varying degrees. 3 Michael Floyd started the spring game with such a run, but his physical abilities may not be the best match for such a game. Former tailback and current slot receiver 6 Theo Riddick seems to be an obvious choice for such plays. The Irish will also employ the wildcat, with anyone from Allen to 9 Kyle Rudolph running the show.

Brian Kelly's spread doesn't call for the fullback much, but the position is used when the situation calls for a traditional under center formation. Notre Dame's roster only lists two fullbacks, and for each player (running back Hughes and tight end 41 Bobby Burger) it is his second position.

The good news for Purdue's defense is that they return six members of their front seven. The bad news is that that front seven was torched for 173 rushing yards per game last year. Linebackers 30 Joe Holland, 24 Jason Werner, and 47 Chris Carlino combined for 229 tackles in 2009. Werner added a very impressive 14.5 tackles for loss.

Purdue Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense

Purdue's new starter is Robert Marve, a University of Miami transfer who completed 54.5 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions as the Hurricanes starter in 2008.

Marve's primary target will be 8 Keith Smith, who accounted for one-third of Purdue's receptions in 2009 and six of their 23 receiving touchdowns. Purdue distributed the ball to a variety of receivers in 2009; tight end 85 Kyle Adams is the only other returning player to average more than two catches a game last year.

Notre Dame's 3-4 lets both 90 Ethan Johnson and 89 Kapron Lewis-Moore play their natural position of defensive end. Normally 3-4 lineman do little more than occupy opponents' lineman to create gaps for the linebackers. But Johnson and KLM are talented players who should be able to get pressure on the passer despite a numbers disadvantage. That's especially true against a Purdue offensive line that is replacing three starters.

If Notre Dame's line can get pressure on Marve, it will allow the linebackers to stay back in pass coverage, where they can help a very thin Irish secondary. Purdue's base set uses three wide receivers, while Notre Dame only has four cornerbacks on scholarship - not counting former receiver/running back Barry Gallup.

Notre Dame Pass Offense vs. Purdue Pass Defense

Dayne Crist steps into the starting role for Notre Dame after mixed success in an abbreviated audition last year. But the knee is healthy and Coach Kelly's offensive schemes appear to be forgiving on a young passer.

Of course, it helps that Crist has no shortage of qualified targets. Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph are the big names who will get everyone's attention. But Crist will need a reliable checkdown when those two are covered, and that role hopes to be filled by senior 18 Duval Kamara.

Theo Riddick moves from running back to slot receiver, and is already looking like a natural. Talented freshman 7 TJ Jones has practiced both in the slot and in Kamara's X wideout position. Jones has shown both the shiftiness needed by the former position and the downfield ability needed by the latter.

There's more good news, bad news for Purdue in its pass defense. The good news is that they return defensive end 94 Ryan Kerrigan and his 13 sacks from 2009. The bad news is that they'll be breaking in four new starters in its defensive backfield against a pass-happy Notre Dame offense.

Special Teams

37 Carson Wiggs returns for his third season as Purdue's placekicker. The strong-legged Wiggs hit just 14 of 21 field goals in 2009, but only one of those misses came from inside 40 yards. He also had a long of 59. 40 Nick Tausch returns for the Irish after an impressive freshman campaign that saw him hit 14 of 17 attempts.

Carson Wiggs will also be taking over punting duties for the Boilermakers. Wiggs did have four punts last year, averaging 36 yards with a long of 51. 35 Ben Turk returns as the Irish punter. In 2009 Turk averaged 38 yards per punt with a long of 53.

Sophomore wide receiver 13 Antavian "Beeze" Edison steps in as Purdue's punt returner this year. He'll be backed up by 3 Waynelle Gravesande, who averaged 4.6 yards on 11 punts last year. Armando Allen will return punts for the Irish in 2010 after taking a year off from all return duties. He'll be backed up by "hands" man 81 John Goodman, who had five returns for 56 yards last season.

Al-Terek McBurse and Beeze Edison will return kicks for the Boilers. McBurse averaged 25 yards per return in 2009, including an 87-yard touchdown.

Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick are scheduled to return kickoffs for Notre Dame. Riddick averaged 23 yards per return last year.

Notre Dame Players to Watch

Dayne Crist, Cierre Wood, Ian Williams, Carlo Calabrese, Ben Turk


Notre Dame 31, Purdue 21

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Notre Dame Position Previews: Defense and Special Teams

Defensive Line

Spotlight: Kapron Lewis-Moore

Also Returning: Sean Cwynar, Ethan Johnson, Brandon Newman, Emeka Nwankwo, Martin Quintana, Christopher Skubis, Hafis Williams, Ian Williams
Lost: Paddy Mullen, Morrice Richardson, John Ryan, Kallen Wade (graduation), Kerry Neal (position change - linebacker)
Gained: John Belcher (walk-on), Tyler Stockton (DNP as freshman), Bruce Heggie, Louis Nix, Kona Schwenke (freshmen)

The Irish back to the 3-4 for the second time in four years, mostly due to depth issues on the line. The good news is that the change gets Notre Dame's three best lineman on the field in their best positions. Ethan Johnson struggled as an undersized defensive tackle, but now he and Kapron Lewis-Moore get to settle in as oversized defensive ends, perfect for the 3-4. Their pass rushing ability will also take pressure off the linebackers, as the Irish should be able to drop an extra 'backer or two into coverage and still get pressure on the opposing QB.

KLM is my favorite defensive lineman, and he may soon be yours, too. Lewis-Moore played his way onto the field in 2009, and finished sixth on the team in tackles and third in sacks. Ethan Johnson struggled in 2009, but again the move back to end should help him repeat the success he saw in 2008. Speaking of past success, Ian Williams' best year in an Irish uniform came as a 3-4 nose tackle in 2007, and he'll now be returning to that role in 2010.

The second team features Hafis Williams and Emeka Nwankwo at end and Sean Cwynar at nose tackle, although Cwynar has the ability to play all three line positions. Everyone on the two-deep at line is at least a junior (Williams and Nwankwo are seniors), so while depth is an issue, experience is not.

Freshman Louis Nix and Kona Schwenke have been working hard and may be able to crack the rotation by the end of the season. Nix especially has been working to remove the stigma of showing up to fall practice overweight.


Spotlight: Steve Filer

Also Returning: Darius Fleming, Anthony McDonald, David Posluszny, Sean Oxley, Brian Smith, Manti Te'o
Lost: Tom Burke, Scott Smith, Toryan Smith (graduation)
Gained: Kerry Neal (position change - defensive end), Steve Paskorz (position change - fullback), Steve Botsford (walk-on), Carlo Calabrese, Dan Fox (DNP as freshmen), Kendall Moore, Derek Roback, Prince Shembo, Danny Spond, Justin Utopo (freshman)

Only two spots in the linebacking corps appear to be settled: Manti Te'o on the inside, and Darius Fleming on the outside. Watching the two play, there's no doubt as to why that's the case.

The other inside and outside jobs are up for grabs. Senior mainstay Brian Smith was unseated from his position on the outside recently, and will have to fight to get it back. It was originally thought that Smith would be sharing time with Steve Filer.

Filer, known until now more for his ability to jump out of an inground pool than for his ability on the gridiron, has finally gotten his football priorities in order - or so says Coach Kelly. Of course, as soon as that happened, Kerry Neal joined the battle.

Neal broke out as a freshman outside linebacker in 2007, then struggled as he bounced between linebacker and defensive end the next few years. Neal was originally scheduled to be Darius Fleming's backup, but now his motor and consistency have him slated to start opposite of Fleming.

And people thought the battle for the inside linebacker job would be the most interesting in the front seven. Of course, the inside competition has not been without its drama. The main players were originally Anthony McDonald - a coverage guy who needed to improve his run support, and Carlo Calabrese - a hulking run stopper who needed to improve his coverage skills. McDonald is doubtful for the Purdue game with a knee injury, which moves Calabrese into the starting spot and also forces Dan Fox to slide over from outside to inside for the time being. Calabrese and Fox have yet to play college ball, but both had their names called quite a bit during the spring game.

Te'o's backup is linebacker-turned-fullback-turned-linebacker Steve Paskorz. Paskorz is also dinged up at the moment, which could mean playing time for David Posluszny on the inside as well.

Among the freshman, Prince Shembo and Danny Spond are closest to making the dress list, with Spond getting an added boost for his special teams abilities. Justin Utopo has some trouble with the NCAA clearinghouse, but those issues are expected to be resolved shortly.


Spotlight: Jamoris Slaughter

Also Returning: Dan McCarthy, Zeke Motta, Harrison Smith, Thomas Smith
Lost: Chris Bathon, Sergio Brown, Leonard Gordon, Ray Herring, Kyle McCarthy (graduation)
Gained: Chris Salvi (walk-on)

Notre Dame has seen quite a bit of turnover at safety lately, and this year the Irish will have to replace both of their starters. ND is thin at the position, dressing only four scholarship players. But all four are expected to be in the rotation this season.

Harrison Smith, whose struggles at safety forced him to move back to linebacker last yearyear, will again take his chances in the secondary. Smith has had a good camp, and of all four safeties he is expected to be on the field the most.

Tom Zbikowski saw time as a hybrid linebacker/third safety on passing downs towards the end of his Notre Dame career, and Zeke Motta continued in that role last year. The new coaching staff must have liked what they saw out of Motta in that scheme, because he will continue in that role this year - in addition to seeing time as a more traditional safety, of course.

The spotlight goes to Jamoris Slaughter, who quietly moved from cornerback to safety last year to help with depth. You didn't hear much about Slaughter last year, but that's not always a bad thing for a safety. He's expected to start alongside Smith this season.


Spotlight: Lo Wood
2008 (HS Jr)-3858

Also Returning: Robert Blanton, Michael Garcia, Gary Gray, Nick Lezynski, Andrew Plaska, Ryan Sheehan, Darrin Walls
Lost: Mike Anello, Raeshon McNeil, Joshua Stull (graduation), Jamoris Slaughter (position change - safety), Kael Anderson (former walk-on is not on the roster this year), EJ Banks (still in school, but no longer on the team)
Gained: Barry Gallup (position change - wide receiver), James Redshaw (walk-on)

The loss of EJ Banks made a thin position even thinner. Thankfully, freshman Lo Wood has stepped up in fall practice and looks to be ready for opening day.

The two starters, Gary Gray and Darrin Walls, are very good in their own right. But opponents will be eager to test the depth of the Notre Dame secondary (only nine scholarship players), which is where Wood and Robert Blanton come in. Blanton has shown his ability and desire to make the big play, but needs to improve his consistency in coverage.

To help the numbers game at DB, Barry Gallup has moved to cornerback. The selfless senior is now playing his third position, after bouncing between halfback and wide receiver for the start of his career (in addition to returning kicks).

Given the depth in the secondary, it's surprising that Austin Collinsworth stayed on the offensive side of the ball after seeing time at both receiver and defensive back in high school. That's especially so given the praise Collinsworth has received as a special teams player. But the coaching staff obviously likes what it sees in Collinsworth as a wideout, and is comfortable (for the time) with the depth they have at defensive back.


Spotlight: Ben Turk

Also Returning: David Ruffer, Nick Tausch, Brandon Walker
Lost: Ryan Burkhart (graduation), Eric Maust (graduation/not offered fifth year)
Gained: Mike Greiko (walk-on)

Believe it or not, Notre Dame may have its best kicking game since the Nick Setta/Joey Hildbold days. Nick Tausch returns from a near-perfect season to find himself a preseason Lou Groza Award semifinalist. Tausch will again be backed up by David Ruffer, the walk-on who is said to have a cannon for a leg. Ruffer will likely be the kickoff specialist again this year.

Punting the ball, both Ben Turk and Eric Maust had consistency issues last year. But the coaching staff - or perhaps the administration - is putting their faith in Turk, as Maust was not offered a fifth year of eligibility. If Turk does falter, he'll be backed by Brandon Walker. Walker, the former placekicker, did also punt in high school.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

2010 Fans Scouting Report

Once again, TangoTiger is crowdsourcing his defensive scouting reports. If you follow baseball closely enough to have an educated (or semi-educated) opinion on players' defensive talents, be sure to stop by and enter your thoughts.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Notre Dame Position Previews: Offense


Spotlight: Dayne Crist

Also Returning: Brian Castello, Matthew Mulvey
Lost: Evan Sharpley (graduation), Jimmy Clausen (NFL)
Gained: Nate Montana (transfer), Andrew Hendrix, Luke Massa, Tommy Rees (freshmen)

In the last 10 years, Notre Dame has had nine starting quarterbacks. Of those nine, seven were playing there first year of college football, including three (Matt LoVecchio, Brady Quinn, and Jimmy Clausen) were true freshmen. So Dayne Crist's experience, although limited, is somewhat impressive in comparison.

Of course, like the true freshmen (and Pat Dillingham in 2002), there's the added challenge of learning a new system. The good news is that Crist's knee is (knock on wood) essentially a non-issue at this point, with the brace remaining only as a precautionary measure.

Plus - if the spring game is any indication - it appears that system has been simplified for the new starter. The Blue and Gold scrimmage featured a bevy of simple patterns on repeat. The most popular play may have been a middle screen/shovel pass. Also popular was a traditional playaction rollout, where the field is cut in half and the quarterback has three receivers at different levels right in front of him.

Nate Montana, coming off a Community College stint and a spring game that impressed the fans in attendance, was scheduled for the backup spot. But he may have already been passed by early entrant Tommy Rees. Behind Montana and Rees are two more talented freshman in Andrew Hendrix and Luke Massa.

With three quarterbacks in the same class, and with Coach Kelly's propensity to recruit first and figure out positions later, it will be interesting to see which freshman will stick around to supplant Crist in 2012. But let's worry about that when the time comes.

Running Back

Spotlight: Robert Hughes

Also Returning: Armando Allen, Bobby Burger, Jonas Gray
Lost: James Aldridge, Mike Narvaez (graduation), Steve Paskorz (position change - linebacker), Theo Riddick (position change - wide receiver)
Gained: Patrick Coughlin (walk-on), Derry Herlihy (position change - wide receiver), Cierre Wood (DNP as freshmen), Cameron Roberson (freshman)

The running back rotation for 2010 consists of Armando Allen and four guys fighting to be his backup. Each of those four has something to prove as well.

Hughes wins the spotlight because, as a senior, this is his last chance to prove himself. Bigger backs can succeed in the spread offense, pinballing off of the opposition's extra defensive backs. Hughes has shown he could do that in 2007 and 2009, and will look to do the same in 2010.

Jonay Gray is looking to get over his reputation for fumblitis, and to redeem himself for losing minutes to then-freshman Theo Riddick in 2009.

Speaking of players who lost minutes to Riddick in 2009, Cierre Wood will look to get on the field for the first time in his college career. Brought in with a great deal of hype, Wood sat out the entirety of his freshman campaign. Of course, that may have just been a move to preserve his eligibility. Either way, we'll finally be able to see what all the fuss was about.

Cameron Roberson is this year's version of Cierre Wood. Although the way he's been praised in recent press conferences, it sounds like it will be hard to keep Roberson out of the rotation this year.

Wide Receiver

Spotlight: Duval Kamara

Also Returning: Shaquelle Evans, Michael Floyd, Dan Franco, John Goodman, Christopher Gurries, Robby Toma, Deion Walker
Lost: Brian Coughlin, Robby Parris, Kris Patterson, Sam Vos, George West (graduation), Golden Tate (NFL), Barry Gallup (position change - cornerback), Derry Herlihy (position change - running back)
Gained: Theo Riddick (position change - running back), Austin Collinsworth, Bennett Jackson, TJ Jones, Daniel Smith (freshman)

Not many teams can lose their Biletnikoff winner to the NFL and still be able to brag about their wide receiver depth.

Michael Floyd is the proven quantity, of course, provided he stays healthy. He has a God-given talent for catching the ball in (and above) traffic). However, that doesn't necessarily mean he should be running end-arounds (ends-around?), as seen in the spring game, or returning kicks, as is wanted by many an Irish fan. Floyd is a very talented receiver, but not exactly in Golden Tate make-people-miss mold.

Opposite of Floyd on the outside will be Duval Kamara. With all the attention going to Floyd and Kyle Rudolph, Dayne Crist will need have a reliable set of hands as a checkdown option to rely on. It's up to the senior Kamara, who has had cases of the dropsies in the past, to be that option and keep Crist's confidence up.

In the slot, Theo Riddick and TJ Jones are 1 and 1A right now. Jones earned praise from coaches and fans alike in the spring, but Riddick tops the latest depth chart. No doubt both will see plenty of playing time, especially if and when the Irish go with four wideouts.

Riddick, the shifty converted running back, is ideal for running plays and screens out of the slot - especially the shovel pass/middle screen the team fell in love with in the spring game. Jones is more of an all-around receiver with the ability to go downfield, although the staff has been harping on his consistency.

The rest of the unit is a good mix of playing styles. Freshmen Austin Collingsworth and Bennett Jackson could both see playing time this year, which speaks to their talent and development, as they are fighting against seven players who saw collegiate action last year. In fact, Collingsworth is rumored to already have a spot "on the bus" for his special teams play. On top of that, it speaks to the freshman's abilities as a pass catcher that he's stuck at wideout and not been moved to defensive back (his other high school position), considering the relative depth situation at each position.

Tight End

Spotlight: Bobby Burger

Also Returning: Kyle Rudolph, Mike Ragone
Lost: (none)
Gained: Tyler Eifert, Jake Golic (DNP as freshmen), Alex Welch (freshman)

Yes, part of the reason I spotlighted Burger is because he's a personal cheeseball. But the H-back will play a vital role in this offense, even if he doesn't catch a single pass. Both tackle positions on the line are still in flux, but whoever wins those positions will be getting assistance from a proven blocker in Burger. That assistance, of course, translates into more time in the passing game for the new starter at quarterback, Crist.

Kyle Rudolph, like Michael Floyd, is a known quantity. He's been called the most complete tight end in recent Notre Dame history, an impressive compliment considering the NFL factory the position has become.

Behind Rudolph, Mike Ragone will fight to get his career back on track after it was derailed by injury and then legal trouble. If he cannot, Eifert, Golic, and Welch will be more than happy to get their Notre Dame careers started in his place.

Offensive Line

Spotlight: Trevor Robinson

Also Returning: Braxston Cave, Lane Clelland, Jordan Cowart, Taylor Dever, Bill Flavin, Mike Golic, Mike Hernandez, Andrew Nuss, Matt Romine, Chris Stewart, Dan Wenger
Lost: Paul Duncan, Eric Olsen, Jeff Tisak, Michael Turkovich, Sam Young (graduation), Tom Freeman (former preferred walk-on is not on the roster this year)
Gained: Dennis Mahoney (walk-on), Alex Bullard, Zach Martin, Chris Watt (DNP as freshmen), Christian Lombard, Tate Nicols (freshmen)

With so many question marks along the offensive line, the spotlight goes to the one constant this unit has seen over the past few years. Trevor Robinson may not have gotten the same fanfare given to Sam Young and Ryan Harris when he cracked the starting rotation as a freshman in 2008, but he's been a steady force on the line ever since.

Robinson's counterpart at guard is again Chris Stewart, who's gotten a lot of attention for his improved chin-up numbers. But let's see how well Stewart's new combination of size and strength translate to the playing field.

The remaining three positions each have a pair of players competing for reps. That may not be what you want with a new quarterback, but it is the reality nonetheless.

At center, veteran Dan Wenger is trying to fight off sophomore Braxton Cave. Cave's work ethic may lead to both seeing snaps this fall.

The two tackle spots are seeing competition from three career reserves and one talented sophomore. Taylor Dever and Andrew Nuss will fight for the right tackle spot, while Zack Martin (the underclassman) and Matt Romine will battle for the right to protect Dayne Crist's blind side.