Notre Dame Preview

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

2012 Record


Returning Starters



Key Losses

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

Key Returners

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

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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



Returning Starters



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 (February); 2011 Recap

Final 2011 Big Ten Recruiting Rankings

1Ohio State University BannerContinues its recruiting dominance.8University of Illinois BannerDecent class for the Zooker.
2University of Notre Dame BannerMade an amazing surge late.9University of Wisconsin BannerNot a great closing effort after a disappointing Rose Bowl.
3University of Nebraska BannerSolid season for Pelini.10Northwestern 3x5 FlagSmall in number, but good star average.
4University of Michigan BannerGreat final couple weeks by Hoke & company.11Indiana University BannerStarted off hot, coaching change hurt.
5Michigan State University BannerClosed with a strong January.12University of Minnesota BannerCoach Kill has his work cut out for him.
6University of Iowa BannerDarian Cooper was a nice get.13Purdue University BannerA small class in size and OK in quality.
7Penn State University BannerSolid finish after a very slow few months.   

I’m going to start the final adversary recruiting of the 2011 class with a few words on Michigan’s final group. On January 11th the University of Michigan had a total of 7 solid verbal commitments for its 2011 recruiting class. Brady Hoke was hired on this day and had the tough task of putting together a full class in three short weeks. During this short amount of time Hoke and the new staff held on to commits from Kellen Jones, Tony Posada and Blake Countess. They also added four star athletes Chris Bryant, Raymon Taylor, Chris Barnett and Antonio Poole; as well as three star kids Tamani Carter, Matt Wile, Keith Heitzman, Russell Bellomy, Thomas Rawls, and Frank Clark. I think they did a darn good job given the circumstances. I am very, very excited to see what this staff can do in 2012 with a full year to build relationships with these kids. I fully expect close to a top ten class in 2012.

LogoThe rich get richer, as the Ohio State Buckeyes closed out their 2011 campaign very strong. In the final month they wrapped up a top five cornerback in Doran Grant and one of the top linebackers in the nation, Curtis Grant. Doran is a great looking corner prospect. He is super fluid, has great hips and super ball skills. Doran chose OSU over Michigan State and had offers from many of college football’s powerhouses. He should make an impact rather quickly. Curtis Grant is an absolute stud linebacker. He has great size, speed and quickness. Curtis gets from sideline to sideline very well. He chose the Bucks over Florida, North Carolina and Virginia on signing day.





Cardale JonesQBGlenville (OH)ratingratingratingratingratingratingratingratingrating
Bryce HanesLSPinecrest Academy (GA)ratingratingratingratingratingrating
Curtis GrantILBHermitage (VA)ratingratingratingratingratingratingratingratingratingratingratingratingratingrating
Ejuan PriceILBWoodland Hills (PA)ratingratingratingratingratingratingratingratingratingratingrating
Doran GrantCBSt. Vincent St. Mary (OH)ratingratingratingratingratingratingratingratingratingratingratingrating

Brian Kelly closed out his first Notre Dame class with a bang, inking three of the best defensive ends in the country. Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt both re-committed to ND after thinking things over for a while. Aaron has a great motor and a fantastic frame for a defensive end. In 2009 Lynch had 52 tackles and 16 sacks and earned offers from powers like Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Miami and Ohio State among many others. Stephon Tuitt is a huge get. With offers from Auburn, 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 natural abilities, so he will have to work on his technique and strength in college. Rounding out ND’s crazy good defensive end class is New Yorker, Ishaq Williams. Standing 6’6”, Williams has the abilities to be an absolute freak of nature. He’s still a touch raw, but his ceiling is very high.


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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).

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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