2012 Game Preview – Notre Dame

Brian Kelly’s Michigan Week Press Conference

What to watch on offense

Head Coach Brian Kelly is known for his offensive prowess. After successful runs at Central Michigan and Cincinnati, Kelly has struggled to engineer the same level of offensive success at Notre Dame. Kelly is among the increasing list of coaches who have been labeled a “spread guru.” A master of the WR route tree, Kelly’s version of the spread favors the pass over the run. Kelly’s offense hinges on taking what the defense gives and exploiting one on one match ups in the passing game. 4 WR and empty sets are the norm for Kelly’s offense even when he has a talented RB on the roster.

Off the field issues sidelined Tommy Rees heading into fall camp, paving the way for redshirt freshman Everett Golson to take over at the QB position. While noted for his athletic ability, Golson is an underrated passer with a powerful arm who isn’t afraid to take shots down the field. The graduation of Michael Floyd left a huge gap at WR for the Irish who have been using multiple WRs to try to replace his production. Speedy sophomore George Atkinson has been used a variety of roles on offense, lining up at QB, RB, and WR. Look for the Irish to get Atkinson the ball in space, in one on one match ups, or on end arounds and reverses.

1,100 yd rusher Cierre Wood returns for ND and leads an Irish rushing attack that gashed a stout Michigan State rush defense for 123 yds. The offensive line returns 3 starters from last year and insert the talented Christian Lombard in at RT this year.

 

Best Offensive Player

Tyler EifeTyler Eifertrt – ND has produced 2 straight All-Americans at the TE position. Kyle Rudolph gave way to Eifert who accounted for more than 800 yds and 5 TDs a year ago. Eifert is a match up nightmare for opposing defenses, showing the ability to run away from LBs and outmuscle DBs in the passing game.

Head Coach– Brian Kelly -3rd year

Off Coor– Chuck Martin -1st year

Def Coor– Bob Diaco -3rd year

2011 Record

 

8-5

Returning Starters

Offense-7

Defense-7

Key Losses

WR Michael Floyd

RB Jonas Grey

OG Trevor Robinson

DE Aaron Lynch

LB Darius Fleming

SS Harrison Smith

CB Robert Blanton

Key Returners

RB Cierre Wood

OT Zack Martin

TE Tyler Eifert

LB Manti Te’o

DT Louis Nix

DE Stephon Tuitt

LB Prince Shembo

What to watch on defense

For years the Notre Dame’s defense has been the butt of jokes, and rightfully so. Slow, unathletic, and patently overrated, the Irish defense was easy to carve up via the run or the pass. The arrival and Kelly and DC Bob Diaco have put a sudden stop to the joke thus far this season. While ND has been known for its offense in the recent past, the current ND defense boast multiple NFL prospects in its front 7, something it has rarely enjoyed. Diaco is known for his 3-4 defenses but consistently played with a 4 man front against the Wolverines a year ago. Diaco is uber aggressive in most games but has largely refrained from his patented sell-out blitzes against Michigan after being torched by them in 2010.

The Irish have the best defensive front 7 they’ve enjoyed since the late 90s under Bob Davie. Considering the play of the Irish defense in recent years that probably doesn’t sound like much, but this unit is actually one of the most talented in the country. The strength of the unit is the defensive line where Kapron Lewis-Moore, Louis Nix, Stephon Tuitt, and OLB/DE Prince Shembo are all difference makers with NFL potential. The 6’6 295 Tuitt is the best of the bunch despite being a true sophomore. Tuitt is a terror inside and makes his living penetrating into the backfield.

The most well known Irish defender is Sr. Manti Te’o who earned 3rd team All-American honors a year ago and is the favorite for the Butkus award this season. Rated by many as the #1 MLB prospect in April’s NFL draft, Te’o brings a rare mix of size, speed, and power.

Notre Dame’s secondary has been decimated by injuries. Even before the injuries hit the Irish, the secondary was a major question mark. Injuries have turned an already shaky secondary into a disaster. Safety Zeke Motta remains the lone Irish DB with extensive experience. True freshman Elijah Shumate has turned heads with his play thus far but he has yet to be challenged by a WR with both size and speed outside.

Best Defensive Player

Manti Te’o/Stephon Tuitt – Te’o’s name will come as no surprise to most, but it is the play of Stephon Tuitt that has really turned around the Irish defense. Te’o played at an All-American level a year ago yet the Irish still surrendered a lot of yards and points against the talented offenses on Notre Dame’s schedule. Tuitt has been the real difference maker and he already has NFL scouts drooling over his potential

Michigan Rush Def vs. ND Rush Off

Rush defense has been the major cause of concern for Brady Hoke and the Wolverines. The Wolverines rank 107th in the country in rush defense and have yet to shut down an opposing rush offense.

While Brian Kelly will always favor the pass the run, he knows the importance of a semi balanced approach. The Irish rank 71st in the country with 155 yds per game on the ground.

Advantage- Notre Dame

Michigan Pass Def vs. ND Pass Off

Michigan currently ranks 12th in pass defense in the country and while they have yet to face a prominent passing attack, the Wolverines secondary remains the most experience unit on the Michigan defense.

The loss of Floyd coupled with having a young passer at QB has resulted in an average passing attack for the Fighting Irish. Notre is tied with Michigan as the 67th ranked passing offense in the country.

Advantage- Michigan

Michigan Rush Off vs. ND Rush Def

Notre Dame’s strength on defense is in its front 7, especially against the run. The Irish allow a paltry 96 yds per game and held a strong Michigan State rushing attack to 50yds on 2.2yds per carry

Michigan continues to struggle with its run blocking despite large gains on the ground by Denard Robinson. For the first time in the last 3 years Michigan heads into the match up with the Irish with question marks about the running game.

Advantage-Notre Dame

 

 

Michigan Pass Off vs. ND Pass Def

The emergence of Devin Gardner at WR and Devin Funchess at TE has changed Michigan’s fortunes in the passing game. Boy plays have showed the ability to make big plays in the passing and have combined with Michigan’s other pass catches to form a decently productive unit. If Denard Robinson can channel his excitement level, deal with pressure in his face and deliver consistently accurate passes the Wolverines will have the change to put up monster numbers in the passing game.

Simply put, the Irish secondary is a mess. The recent loss of safety Jamoris Slaughter has turned the Irish secondary into Armageddon.

Advantage- Michigan

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Adversary Recruiting (October & November)

Big Ten Recruiting, Football

2011 Big Ten Recruiting Rankings

1Ohio State University BannerStatus Quo.
2University of Nebraska BannerGreen was a monster get. Their gaining on the Buckeyes.
3University of Notre Dame Banner Falls behind Nebraska.
4Michigan State University BannerLeap frogs Iowa and Michigan.
5University of Michigan BannerDee Hart finally jumps in the mix!
6University of Iowa BannerNeck and neck with Michigan.
7University of Wisconsin BannerHuge October propels UW up a few spots.
8Indiana University BannerThe Hoosiers may be full.
9Northwestern 3x5 FlagNo verbals since August.
10University of Minnesota BannerJumps past the Illini, despite the firing of their coach.
11University of Illinois BannerPretty bad star average. Isn’t the Zooker
12Penn State University BannerNo action since July.
13Purdue University BannerSee above.

Notre Dame received four very solid verbal commitments in September. Stephon Tuitt is a huge get and is one of the top defensive ends in the country. With offers from Aubur n, Clemson, Florida, Georgia and LSU (among others) Tuitt is a great combination of size and speed. At this point he relies a bunch on his pure abilities, so he will have to work on his technique and strength in college. He could possibly end up a defensive tackle as well. Wide receiver DaVaris Daniels is a well rounded pass catcher. He has good hands, nice speed and runs pretty good routes. The 6’3” Daniels also has offers from Illinois, Iowa, Miami, Michigan and Michigan State among others. Joining Daniels in the Irish receiving corps will be George Atkinson III. Having offers from all over the country Atkinson also plays safety and running back, but his highest upside is at wide receiver. The best way that I can describe George is a more explosive version of DaVaris Daniels. These two will make for a very scary duo for years to come. Atkinson may also return punts and kicks as well. George’s twin brother Josh is a good looking cornerback prospect. He is a cover corner, who has been overshadowed by his brothers talents, but is a good get for the Domers. Josh has offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, Oregon State, and Washington.

Unfortunately for the Irish, they also had three decommits from Floridians Clay Burton (verballed to Florida), Aaron Lynch (now considering UF,FSU and Miami) and Jordan Prestwood (considering UF, ND and his childhood fav. FSU).

NamePositionHometownH.S.ScoutProfileRivalsProfileESPNProfile
DaVaris DanielsWide ReceiverVernon Hills, ILVernon Hillsratingratingratingratingratingratingratingratingratingratingratingrating
Stephon TuittDefensive EndMonroe, GAMonroe Arearatingratingratingratingratingratingratingratingratingratingratingrating
Josh AtkinsonCornerbackLivermore, CAGranadaratingratingratingratingratingratingratingratingrating
George Atkinson IIIAthlete (WR/S)Livermore, CAGranadaratingratingratingratingratingratingratingratingratingratingrating

WisconsinThe Wisconsin Badgers had a great month of October gaining seven verbal commits, five of which were on offense. Ohio wide out A.J. Jordan has a nice blend of size and speed to go along with really good hands. Jordan has offers from Cincinnati, Illinois, Michigan State, Michigan and North Carolina among others. In the end, Jordan chose Bucky over the Wolverines. Fellow receiver Kenzel Doe did not receive the same amount of attention as Jordan, but he has a chance to make a big splash in Madison. Doe is more of a quick twitch slot type receiver, who may come in and compete for both returner positions from day one. Huge offensive tackle Ray Ball is a perfect fit for what the Badgers do on offense. Ball needs to work on his foot quickness quite a bit, but he is the perfect “road grater” type of lineman. Tyler Marz is a bit of a sleeper OL, but again, he looks to fit the mold of the typical Badger offensive tackle as he stands 6’8” tall. Fullback/running back Trayion Durham could be the next John Clay for the Badgers. At 6’1” 230 Durham is a load to bring down, but also has good speed (4.56 40) to break the big run. During his junior season Trayion had 1,113 yards rushing to go along with 14 TD’s. Defensively Wisconsin added to nice looking defensive end prospects in James Adeyanju and Jesse Hayes. Both Adeyanju and Hayes are explosive pass rushers, who should make a great combo for years to come.

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