What to watch on offense
Brian Kelly led rapid turnarounds at both Cincinnati and Central Michigan before taking over an underachieving Notre Dame program hoping to do the same. While it took longer than previous stops, Kelly now returns thirteen starters off of a team that produced an undefeated regular season, and a National Championship berth. Kelly largely serves as his own offensive coordinator, though he retains Chuck Martin as a major player in the game planning and preparation. Kelly earned his offensive reputation as a spread coach but has run a more traditional offense in South Bend.
One of the biggest stories of the off season was the dismissal of QB Everett Golson from the team for an academic violation. Golson, who led the Fighting Irish to an undefeated season, was the most dynamic member of the Notre Dame offense and represents a significant loss. Even with the loss of Golson, Notre Dame still returns a QB with game experience in Tommy Rees (18 career starts). The Irish return a pair of starting WRs in the speedy TJ Jones, who produced over 600 yds last year, and the physically imposing DaVaris Daniels. The Irish lost its leading receiver from a year ago in Tyler Eifert and the Irish will attempt to replace him with a committee approach led by Troy Niklas.
The Irish head into the season having lost its top two rushers in Theo Reddick and Cierre Wood. George Atkinson who saw averaged over 7 ypc a year ago has taken over the mantle at RB, though Amir Carlisle and Cam McDaniel will also see extended snaps
The top two returning linemen are Zack Martin and Chris Watt, both of whom play on the left side of the line. The interior of the line entered the season as a question mark, thanks to the Irish breaking in a new C and RG.
Best Offensive Player
DaVaris Daniels – Daniels is the most physically gifted of the Irish offensive players and has drawn comparison to former Golden Domer Michael Floyd. At 6’2 200lbs, Daniels is a large and physical target that presents major matchup problems for opposing defenses.
Head Coach: Brian Kelly-4th Year
Off Coor: Chuck Martin-2nd Year
Def Coor: Bob Diaco-4th Year
QB Everett Golson (suspended)
TE Tyler Eifert
RB Theo Riddick
RB Cierre Wood
OC Braxston Cave
DE Kapron Lewis-Moore
LB Manti Te’o
SS Zeke Matta
WR TJ Jones
WR DaVaris Daniels
QB Tommy Rees
OT Chris Watt
DT Louis Nix
DE Stephon Tuitt
LB Prince Shembo
CB Bennett Jackson
CB Keivarae Russell
What to watch on defense
Bob Diaco presided over a 2012 defensive unit that finished 2nd in the country in scoring defense, and 7th in total defense. 8 starters return to an Irish defense that has fully embraced the 3-4 schemes. Diaco lives to pressures the QB and control the line of scrimmage with his linemen, allowing the LBers to roam freely.
The Irish boast two of the best defensive linemen in the country in DE Stephon Tuitt and the insanely large Louis Nix at NT. While the Irish lose the services of Kapron Lewis-Moore who accounted for six sacks a year ago, they replace him with the highly touted sophomore Sheldon Day who saw action in all 13 games a year ago.
Manti Te’o put together one of the greatest defensive seasons in Notre Dame history and was a Heisman candidate a year ago. Left in his wake are seniors OLBs Prince Shembo and Dan Fox who both recorded over 50 tackles a year ago. Replacing Te’o at MLB is sophomore Jarret Grace who saw limited action a year ago.
The Irish return both starting CBs, including the physical Bennett Jackson who finished 3rd on the team in tackles a year ago. The Irish break in two new starting safeties in Elijah Shumate and Matthias Farely. While both players saw action a year ago, neither has played extensive minutes at the safety position.
Best Defensive Player
Stephon Tuitt/Louis Nix – It’s impossible to really say which of the Irish linemen is the best. Both Tuitt and Nix play major roles in Bob Diaco’s defense and both are expected to go in the first round of the NFL draft. Nix is a space eater that every team not named Alabama found impossible to move a year ago while Tuitt was a terror for opposing QBs, registering 13 sacks.
Michigan Rush Def vs. Notre Dame Off
The Wolverines were stout against the run against helpless Central Michigan, allowing under 70 yds on the ground. Stopping the run remains the focal point for the Michigan coaches and the Wolverines have their best defenders engaged in the run game.
Notre Dame had little trouble running the ball against Temple last week but questions remain concerning the overall ability of the Irish to run the ball when needed. The interior of the line and the loss of their two leading rushers leaves them with a stark disadvantage.
Advantage – Michigan
Michigan Pass Def vs. Notre Dame Off
The Irish boast two very talented WRs in Jones and Daniels, both of whom have the ability to keep opposing DCs up a night. Tommy Rees is capable passer who has seen his share of success against the Wolverines secondary in the past.
The Wolverines suffered several breakdowns a week ago against Central Michigan but return senior Thomas Gordon and Courtney Avery at safety. Along with the pass rush, the secondary remains the major question mark of the Michigan defense.
Advantage – Notre Dame
Michigan Rush Off vs. Notre Dame Def
Michigan has committed to a power running game and while the results a week ago were sometimes inconsistent, the Wolverines showed flashes of a brilliant rushing attack.
Unless your jersey colors are crimson and white, you don’t successfully run the ball on Notre Dame. Even with the loss of Te’o the Irish have one of the best rush defenses in the country
Advantage – Notre Dame
Michigan Pass Off vs. Notre Dame Def
Devin Gardner had his share of struggles a week ago, tossing two bad interceptions. Though he rebounded nicely, the Michigan passing attack is far from humming on all cylinders. The Wolverines continue to search for a playmaker to compliment Jeremy Gallon.
Aided by an outstanding front 7, the Irish secondary face little in the way of true pressure a year ago and through the first game that fact remains the same. Breaking in two new safeties leaves the Domers with vulnerabilities. Much will depend on the pass rush and taking pressure off the back 4.
Advantage – Push