Notre Dame handled last year's Conference USA champs, Rice, with relative ease last Saturday, averaging nine yards per play in a 48-17 win. Everett Golson returned from last season's suspension with a huge performance. What does it mean for this weekend's game? Read on to learn about the ND offense.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Spread-to-pass. This is Brian Kelly's offense, after all. Thanks to Seth, this section now also covers personnel in a handy diagram. Returning starters are highlighted in their team color, the player's bubble is smaller if he hasn't been on the team for three years, and a player's name is in bold if the returning starter at that position is available—in this case, RB Cam McDaniel is in bold because Amir Carlisle, who split starts with McDaniel and a couple other backs in 2013, has moved to the slot (click to embiggen):
As you can see, the Irish have an experienced line, but their skill position players are relatively green, especially when considering Golson wasn't on the team last year.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? The Irish ran mostly inside and outside zone, with a little bit of power tossed in to keep the defense off balance. They were at their best running behind the excellent RG/C combo of Christian Lombard and Nick Martin.
Hurry it up or grind it out? Notre Dame plays at a relatively slow pace, especially for a spread; they had an adjusted pace last year of 36.6% compared to the national average, per Bill Connelly. That number is slightly deceiving, as ND usually gets to the line with plenty of time on the play clock, then makes pre-snap adjustments from their formation; they can pick up the pace when it's necessary.
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): I'll give Everett Golson a solid eight on this scale. He did a stellar job of feeling and avoiding pressure in the pocket, he knew when to bail out and when to just step up, and he scored three touchdowns in the red zone, two on plays that weren't designed to be QB runs. Here's the designed run, a draw they ran a few times successfully:
Golson finished with 58 yards on 11 carries with sacks removed, and a few of those carries were marginal gains when pressure flushed him out of the pocket. Michigan is going to have to be very disciplined when they rush the passer or Golson will make some big plays on his own.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
Ryan under the microscope [Eric Upchurch]
Hello. As per usual, a game against a tomato can causes me to dig up something negative because I figure that the bad things that happen against weak teams are more likely to recur than the good ones. I'm not being negative, I'm being useful!
After this opening paragraph it may not surprise you that I didn't think Ryan had a particularly good game as Michigan's MLB. There were a couple of opportunities to contrast him with Desmond Morgan on similar plays that didn't come out well for Ryan. To the stillmobile!
Taking on blockers
App State had one drive of any consequence before Michigan started throwing third stringers on the field. That was a 75-yard march on which they ran an old Rodriguez staple, the "belly," repeatedly for good yardage.
Belly is designed to attack the soft underbelly of the backside of a defense facing inside zone. The end gets optioned off and then the goal of the defense is to use the backside DT's natural desire to shoot the gap to the playside against him. This usually sees the backside tackle get a free release on a linebacker on a quick-hitting play. (A quick google search indicates that this is Rodriguez-exclusive terminology, so your local guru's verbiage will vary.)
This was tough for Michigan to defend as aligned because the backside DT saw zone action and went GRRAAAH at it, driving himself way out of the play because he's Willie Henry and he is 1) strong and 2) not yet super disciplined. This put linebackers in bad spots, facing free OL while trying to shut down a ton of space.
Here's Morgan in that situation:
It feels like Michigan is a little misaligned here, with the linebacker shaded to one side against a formation that has no TE.
On the snap Beyer is let go and must respect the keep, so he flows upfield. Henry will get his own momentum used against him and get way out of the play, which I have designated by putting a frown at the end of his line. Morgan has an OT coming at him and a problem.
Beyer plays the mesh point well, inducing a give but forming up near the LOS so he can respond to a handoff. Henry is about to leave.
Here is the the key thing for Morgan on this play: he takes the contact. He in fact initiates the contact despite not having much forward momentum (which it is hard to get on a quick hitting play like belly). He impacts the OL and rocks him back:
Note that the guy next to him is Henry, who is trying to fight back to the play by giving ground. Also note that if Henry was anywhere near where the line would like him to be, Beyer is tackling as people wall up.
The back actually bounces off the OL…
And then a bunch of guys tackle him after six yards.
This is not a good result and I think Morgan's original alignment had something to do with that. He ends up taking the block to the inside instead of square and that gives the back room to the outside when otherwise this could have been a third down coming up. But: tough job in a lot of space. I gave him a half point for slowing down what could otherwise have been bad.
[After the JUMP: Jake Ryan tries his hand.]
Funchess, Gardner, Taylor
This one’s for Devin and Devin. That first half you came out and really made a statement. What was going through your mind? Especially, Devin, with that back of the endzone catch. What was one your minds in that first half?
Funchess: “The preparation and practice. We prepared from the later parts of camp and then the week before the game so it was just preparation and practice. We were just doing it just like we practiced. Pitch and catch, and that’s what you saw on Saturday.
Gardner: “We were just in really good sync and you could see the work we put in through the-
/Devin Funchess is told his mic isn’t on.
Funchess: “You mean I’ve got to repeat what I said? I told you it wasn’t on. I tried to check it.”
/laughter. The picture above is taken.
Gardner: “As I was saying, I feel like our preparation throughout camp, like you said. I feel like we were in really good sync and that’s pretty much it. Just focus on what we had to do one each play. Not look forward or look back.”
Raymon, Brady told us you played probably the best football game that you played. That’s pretty high praise because you know how coaches are, they don’t every want to come out and say that. Talk about your performance in that game and also look forward to Notre Dame and what your greatest concern is.
Taylor: “I’ve been working a lot on technique through fall camp. Just keep coming to work and keep working hard technique-wise. He said I did great technique[-wise]. They didn’t throw too much but my technique was great. For Notre Dame I just want to come out and compete and just keep working and just get the job done.
What about Everett Golson? What kind of problems does he create because he’s one of those quarterbacks like Devin who can beat you with the run?
RT: “He’s fast. He can get out of the pocket and sling the ball up. He can make plays and beat you deep if you get off your man so he’s an explosive player.”
After watching film, Ray, what was the best part of the defensive performance on Saturday?
RT: “The defensive backs pressing a lot. They said we were a defense that played off a lot so we came up to press. The technique was great on Saturday, but that was last week. We’re looking forward to Notre Dame week.”
This is for any of the players. When you look at the Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry what stands out about it for you and what does the rivalry going on hiatus take away from college football, or does it take anything away from college football?
DG: “I feel like it’s a great rivalry. You don’t really have to talk abut what kind of rivalry it is, everybody knows. The type of impact it has on college football and they type of implications it has around the country in the past so, yeah, that’s pretty much it.”
[After THE JUMP: Devin Gardner says the thing you probably saw on Twitter but should still read in context]
Mike Weber [Photo: Dave Nasternak/MGoBlog]
Yes, FBO is back after being mostly absent last year; if you're unfamiliar, this is the series in which I go to high school games involving Michigan commits/targets, get some video, and provide my best attempt at a scouting report. Helping me this year is MGoRightHandMan Dave Nasternak, who took all the photos and video for us at Friday's Prep Kickoff Classic at Wayne State.
The two featured games this week are Southfield vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary's and Cass Tech vs. Oak Park; despite our two spare batteries, the camera started running out of juice during the late game, so I've only included highlights from Cass Tech's offense for that one. Show? On with it.
Southfield vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary's
Overview: OLSM pulled out a 21-19 victory thanks to a big-time performance from soph. QB Kanye Harris (21-36, 303 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT) and long touchdowns by senior MSU commit Tyson Smith (60-yard receiving TD) and sophomore WR Kahlee "KJ" Hamler (47-yard punt return TD). Despite being at a major size disadvantage up front, OLSM dominated Southfield in the trenches, leaving no room to run for four-star 2016 RB Matt Falcon (5 carries, 5 yards), who missed a decent portion of the game with an apparent ankle injury.
[Hit THE JUMP for video highlights and scouting reports on Mike Weber, Josh Ross, Lavert Hill, Matt Falcon, and several others.]
Not like this [Bryan Fuller]
This is still in the not-gospel category but it looks like Desmond Morgan is going to be on the shelf a while.
This morning, the internet started rumoring about a linebacker out injured. This was vaguely confirmed (no name, no timetable) by Sam Webb. Now there are reports that Desmond Morgan has been spotted on campus with a cast on one arm. This confirms a report from our message board that I think is legit; I've followed up with the poster to get more detail.
Someone is hurt, and two different reports that it's Morgan, one eyewitness. I expect that he will be out for a bit; six weeks is the internet timetable, but I wouldn't put a ton of stock in that.
In Morgan's absence expect to see more James Ross. ND's offensive scheme will put Michigan in the nickel for most snaps, all but eliminating the WLB spot that Ross and RJS are occupying at the moment. Ross got some time at ILB against App State when Mattison was displeased with the starters. Michigan is going to need an option there if either starter doesn't live up to offseason hype.
file because I need to remember to shoot landscape
A number of players commented on the offensive side about how they enjoy having you on the sideline being able to communicate during the game. How did you think that went? Just talk in general about the pluses and minuses of being there.
“Well, you know, one of the biggest things when you’re down on the field you get a much better feel for the players, their state of mind. You can look them right in the eyes and get a feel for where you think you’re at from a mental standpoint and one of the things you do lose, you don’t get the visual effects you can see from upstairs. So, it is important and great communication from the guys in the box. Our staff did a great job, and that was something we talked about going in to the game and went back and talk about it yesterday. How we can do things better, what we did well just as far as a communication standpoint from the field to the box and vice versa.”
Against Appalachian State in the second quarter you’re already up by 35. Knowing that Notre Dame’s coming up do you kind of limit the playbook a little bit to save things for this week?
“As with any game we go in with a game plan and go in to execute the game plan as best we possibly can. Obviously we weren’t going to reinvent the wheel or do anything we hadn’t planned or talked about doing so we stuck with the game plan throughout.”
With coach VanGorder, you’ve gone against him before, you were at Alabama and he was at Auburn. Talk about that and obviously the personnel is different but how you might both be inside each other’s heads a little more than typical.
“Brian’s an outstanding coach. I have a great deal of respect for him. If you look at his track record and what he’s done throughout his career he’s an outstanding football coach sp obviously he presents a lot of challenges for you and that’s why we’ve been in the film room buried all day trying to find a nugget here or there to give us an advantage.”
What were your thoughts on the new look offensive line and especially Mason Cole and how he took his first college game in stride?
“I thought Mason did a nice job. Talked about it a little bit last week, nothing’s too big for him. He’s a young player and we knew that going into the game there were going to be some things that happened and obviously the one sack that occurred, but it’s not about the sack, it’s how you react to it. We talk to our guys a lot about ‘play the next play’ and it’s not about whether the play before was a great play or a bad play because it really doesn’t matter. It’s irrelevant now. Thought he did an outstanding job, very focused, very level-headed. Played a good football game.”
Brady said he wanted a little more precision out of the offense going into the Notre Dame game. What does need to be fine tuned or improved going into this weekend?
“What doesn’t need to be improved, I guess, would be the question. We’ve got a long way to go. I hit on it a little bit last week. Consistency in performance. Our ability to perform at a high level each and every day. We’re not there yet. We play well in stretches and at times we don’ do things the way we need to do them so we’ll get back to the practice field tomorrow and it’s important that we have another great work of practice and get better each and every time we go out.”
There was some talk in the preseason about maybe the defense holding things up while the offense developed. You didn’t want to hear that. Did you use that for motivation, and was the first game important in terms of your guys proving a point about being able to move the football on the ground?
“Every game’s important. Every play’s important. It’s about our players and we talked about our youth. Every time we go out it’s important that we focus and get better. I said it last week, we’re doing things better and some days it doesn’t look like it and you say, ‘wow, that was a tough practice’ or ‘that wasn’t the way we wanted things to go’ and then you go in and evaluate and you say ‘we did get better in this area.’ I talked about it, it’s going to be about us continuing to grow and developing that consistency to do it well on a day-to-day basis.”
[After THE JUMP: Devin Funchess hyperbole or just Devin Funchess eeeeeeeeee?]