(Notre Dame Football News | The Rock Report) – Notre Dame’s offense in 2012 will have a different look and a lot of looks if you listen to coaches Kelly and Martin. Likely starting quarterback Everett Golson is a passing and running threat and he mentioned that if teams “drop 8” in coverage against ND as teams did to Rees late last year, he’s been instructed to run against their three man lines. You can also count on seeing some read option to keep defenses honest, a skill Rees simply doesn’t possess. The other crucial asset Golson brings to the offense is the ability to throw down-field and attack the “deep thirds”, an essential part of the spread that opens up the field vertically.
With star Michael Floyd gone, Tyler Eifert will become the focus of the passing game and Notre Dame plans to use multiple look two tight end sets to force defenses into make choices about whether to put a linebacker or a defensive back on the preseason All-American. The other focus Kelly has talked about is getting a lot of play-makers on the field at the same time. Players like Wood, Atkinson, Carlisle, Neal and Brown all have big play potential and putting them on the field at once should force defenses to defend more of the field. In theory, that will present match-up problems for linebackers and defensive backs and loosen up run defenses for Wood and Atkinson.
With just a few weeks before the season opener in Ireland, Notre Dame’s first string is beginning to become solidified. Here’s a quick look at each position and the likely starters.
Quarterback – Projected Starter: Everett Golson
Golson is the presumptive starter for 2012 and anyone frustrated by the lack of ability of Notre Dame Quarterbacks to make plays when the protection broke down, will enjoy Golson’s style. He has a very strong arm, was very accurate in high school and threw few interceptions. That’s usually a good combination for future success. If the staff incorporates him into the offense in a way the will allow him to run the offense without having to carry the offense, Golson could have a surprisingly strong sophomore year. His ability to buy time in the pocket and avoid the rush while scanning the field for open receivers gives him a very big advantage in Kelly’s offense which calls for quarterbacks to be able to “extend plays.” Kelly will now have a proven backup in Rees if Golson should falter, a strong running QB with some experience in Hendrix and the most highly recruited quarterback in the country (during his year) in Gunner Kiel. Kelly has made it clear that he won’t be afraid to put Kiel in the game if necessary.
Conclusion: The quarterback position will likely be shaky this year at times as very few sophomore quarterbacks excel in that year (see Quinn/Clausen), but by mid-season Irish fans should finally begin to see what this offense can produce with a quarterback who can run the full offense. On the flip side, the limitations of the offense should also become apparent.
- 5 Golson, Everett 6-0/185 SO Myrtle Beach, SC/Myrtle Beach
- 12 Hendrix, Andrew 6-2/220 JR Cincinnati, OH/Moeller
- 1 Kiel, Gunner 6-4/210 FR Columbus, IN/Columbus East
- 11 Rees, Tommy 6-2/210 JR Lake Forest, IL/Lake Forest
Running Back – Projected Starter: Cierre Wood.
Unless he’s injured, Wood will likely become the 5th Irish running back to run for 1,000 yards in back to back seasons. Wood played very well last year averaging just over 5 yards per carry. He hasn’t been as explosive as last year’s partner Jonas Gray, but his consistent ability to gain yards in the open field and catch passes out of the backfield combined with his third year in the offense make Wood a lock to start the season. The interesting call will be when/if the staff chooses to use George Atkinson who is not only the fastest man on the team, but the among the most elusive. Atkinson showed his talents as a freshman in taking back two kickoffs for touchdowns, the same number of kickoffs that Rocket returned for touchdowns his freshman year. Theo Riddick would likely slide back to running back if Wood couldn’t play and is listed on the Notre Dame roster as a running back. Amir Carlisle is an intriguing player. He was one of the most impressive running backs at USC’s fall camp last year and has excellent speed, but he also has an ongoing foot issue has held him back. Freshman Will Mahone has some quick feet for a power back and Sophomore Cam McDaniel appears to have been moved back from corner to add depth.
Conclusion: Running Back should be a strength of the team with a proven runner in Wood, a potential game breaker in Atkinson and Theo Riddick available to fill in.
- 4 Atkinson, George 6-1/210 SO Stockton, CA/Granada
- 3 Carlisle, Amir 5-10/185 SO Santa Clara,CA/Kings Academy
- 32 Mahone, Will 5-10/211 FR Austintown, OH/Fitch
- 33 McDaniel, Cam 5-10/195 SO Coppell, TX/Coppell
- 49 Plantz, Tyler 5-9/202 JR Frankfort, IL/Providence Ca
- 20 Wood, Cierre 6-0/215 SR Oxnard, CA/Santa Clara
Wide Receivers – Projected Starters: John Goodman, TJ Jones, Theo Riddick
There is a lot of concern across NDNation about the effect losing Michael Floyd will have on the offense. It was noted by many that Notre Dame often threw to Floyd even when he was covered and other wide receivers appeared open. No one will replace Michael Floyd, but that doesn’t mean the offense can’t be more effective by spreading the ball around. 6 of the top 7 receivers return to the team. TJ Jones showed excellent ability last year and at times I thought it was Floyd making the catch. Theo Riddick is a proven if not dynamic receiver. Riddick has to have a breakout year ala Jonas Gray and Harrison Smith for this offense to be able to move the ball. Kelly’s spread seeks to exploit one-on-one matchups and Riddick has to be able to win his fair share. The enigma is John Goodman who reportedly ran a 4.45 40 this winter. Goodman has speed, he has size and the has decent open field moves, but his consistency (and Floyd) have prevented him from becoming a big part of the Irish attack . Like Riddick, Goodman needs to have a breakout senior campaign. If Riddick and Goodman don’t rise to the occasion, players like Robby Toma and 6’4” Daniel Smith may get a shot as well as some talented wide receivers who have the skills to succeed if not the experience. Toma was a favorite of Mike Mayock last year and is every quick with good hands. Smith is a big kid with leaping ability. Davaris Daniels owned the tag, “most athletic wide receiver” coming out of the spring, but he has yet to show he can be the type of playmaker ND needs in the spread. He’s tall and fast with great leaping ability, but he still wears the potential label.
That also describes freshman Chris Brown (10.51 100m) who’s a bit faster than fast (his 100m time is faster than Atkinson’s coming out of high school.) Brown has turned many heads this summer and fall with his speed, leaping ability and his nose for the ball. Brown is likely the only reason fellow freshman Davonte Neal hasn’t stood out more in fall practice. Neal consistently looks like the quickest player on the team and is expected to compete for punt return duties (assuming we’re going to return punts this year.) Justin Ferguson arrived as the most physically ready to play freshman wide receiver and has also been active in fall camp. Kelly has said he expects to distribute the ball around a lot this year, and given their talent and the fact that he’s involved them heavily in practice, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the freshmen receive a lot of balls their way.
Conclusion: Other than quarterback, wide receiver is the biggest question mark on offense. If Riddick and Goodman don’t evolve into true threats, then the younger players will have to fill that role, if they can’t it could be a long year as teams will be able to shorten the field against the Irish.
- 33 Anderson, Josh 5-9/180 FR Chatsworth, CA/Notre Dame
- 2 Brown, Chris 6-2/172 FR Hanahan, SC/Hanahan
- 10 Daniels, DaVaris 6-2/190 SO Vernon Hills, IL/Vernon Hills
- 15 Ferguson, Justin 6-2/196 FR Pembroke Pines, FL/Flanagan
- 81 Goodman, John 6-3/215 GS Fort Wayne, IN/Bishop Dw.
- 7 Jones, TJ 5-11/190 JR Roswell, GA/Gainesville
- 14 Massa, Luke 6-4/225 JR Cincinnati, OH/St. Xavier
- 19 Neal, Davonte’ 5-9/171 FR Scottsdale, AZ/Central
- 6 Riddick, Theo 5-11/200 SR Manville, NJ/Immaculata
- 84 Smith, Andre 6-2/190 SO Davie, FL/North Broward Prep
- 87 Smith, Daniel 6-4/215 JR South Bend, IN/Clay
- 9 Toma, Robby 5-9/185 SR Laie, HI/Punahou
Tight End – Projected Starter: Tyler Eifert
Not much more can be said about pre-season All-American Eifert, but behind him are two very talented tight ends in Ben Koyack and giant, Troy Niklas at 6’7”. Koyack is more of a wide receiver/tight end in the mold of Eifert while Niklas is a massive tight end who can run extremely well. The main concern with this unit is their ability to block, especially if ND moves to a two tight end offense. Jake Golic has entered the mix with the loss of Alex Welch for the season.
Conclusion: Tight End, with the All-America, Eifert, is a strength of the team, but the loss of Alex Welch is a big hit for this unit. Welch was the strongest blocker at the position and without him, Koyack, Golic and Niklas will have to improve their blocking skills immensely to make a two tight end offense effective.
- 80 Eifert, Tyler 6-6/251 SR Ft. Wayne, IN/Bishop Dwenger
- 88 Golic, Jake 6-4/245 SR West Hartford, CT/NW Catholic
- 18 Koyack, Ben 6-5/253 SO Oil City, PA/Oil City
- 85 Niklas, Troy 6-7/260 SO Fullerton, CA/Servite
- 82 Welch, Alex 6-4/250 JR Cincinnati, OH/Elder
Offensive Line – Projected Starters: Zack Martin, Chris Watt, Braxston Cave, Mike Golic, Christian Lombard
Watt, Martin and Cave will form a seasoned trio that Notre Dame should be able to exploit in the running game. All three have a legitimate shot at the NFL. Cave’s injury last year was one of the smaller story lines that may have had a major impact on the end of the season. Zack Martin is the two time Guardian of the year winner and one of the best players in the country. Watt is noted for his nasty streak and may be the team’s best run blocker. Mike Golic played for Cave last year and showed some growing pains, but is reportedly playing very well this fall. Lombard is an unknown at this point, but overall the staff seems pleased with their progress. After those five Nick Martin, Conor Hanratty and Tate Nichols form an inexperienced and thin back line of support. Staying healthy will be crucial to a good season.
Conclusion: Watt, Cave and Martin give the Irish a great core strength on one side of the line, all three have talent and experience. Whether Golic and Lombard can play at their level or at a USC/Michigan State/Oklahoma level is far from certain. ND may look “one-handed” much of the year if they don’t play at a high level.
- 52 Cave, Braxston 6-3/304 GS Granger, IN/Penn
- 77 Hegarty, Matt 6-5/296 SO Aztec, NM/Aztec
- 51 Heggie, Bruce 6-5/285 JR Sorrento, FL/Mount Dora
- 57 Golic Jr., Mike 6-3/300 GS West Hartford, CT/NW Catholic
- 65 Hanratty, Conor 6-5/305 SO New Canaan, CT/New Canaan
- 66 Watt, Chris 6-3/310 SR Glen Ellyn, IL/Glenbard West
- 74 Lombard, Christian 6-5/309 JR Inverness, IL/Fremd
- 72 Martin, Nick 6-4/290 SO Indianapolis, IN/Bishop C
- 73 Furlong, Dan 6-7/250 FR Livonia, MI/Orchard Lake St. M
- 75 Harrell, Mark 6-4/287 FR Charlotte, NC/Catholic
- 78 Stanley, Ronnie 6-6/304 FR Las Vegas, NV/Bishop Gorman
- 71 Mahoney, Dennis 6-7/294 SR Baltimore, MD/Boys Latin
- 70 Martin, Zack 6-4/304 SR Indianapolis, IN/Bishop Ch.
- 64 Nichols, Tate 6-8/320 JR Walton, KY/Ryle
Other Top Story Lines: Chuck Martin and Harry Hiestand
In Martin, Kelly is giving the reigns to his most trusted advisor. I anticipate he’ll be a substantial upgrade from Molnar who seemed in over his head and overly consumed with the pass. Martin believes in having four base passing and running plays and disguising them in multiple ways in an effort to create favorable match-ups through the air or on the ground. Though he hasn’t been an OC in years, Martin knows the offense well and I think will bring much needed perspective to an offense that seemed far too predictable last year. His talk of running a two-tight end offense is encouraging, though it resides in the “I’ll believe it when I see it” category. While Martin’s teams ran 60% of the time when he was a head coach, Martin professes not to worry about what the run/pass mix looks like. Hiestand has purportedly wowed the troops early with his passion and knowledge (and citing Joe Moore doesn’t hurt fan perception. ) All of this is just hopeful speculation at this point, but Martin and Hiestand could have a far greater impact on the offense than any one player. ~ SEE