landing spot. will be interesting to see how he does.
New scoreboards. Some issues/complaints. Just not up to speed with scoreboard capability? No yardline or yardage. Replay capability much better than old scoreboard, obviously.
Offense vs. WMU. Only 39 plays on offense, was it enough? Brian worried about Denard accuracy, even before rain came. Was perfect against UConn last year, big difference to performance against WMU (9/13 where he got bailed out on 3-4 throws). About all you can take away from the offense.
Running backs. Vince Smith first guy to take power off-tackle. Brian likes Fitz a lot; speed where he bounced it outside on run near the end before game got called. Maybe he can make yards that aren't there. Shaw fast but inconsistent. Fitz made "maybe one dodgy read" but otherwise hit the holes he should. Will be an upgrade at RB just because top two guys are healthy, unlike last year.
Offensive line. Lewan graded out the best; Schofield OK but allowed the most pressure. Brian's grading system last year was very friendly to Molk due to reach blocks; wasn't asked to do that against WMU. Most plusses will go to Lewan and Omameh on the year probably, due to power running.
Shotgun. Being vanilla by doing the same things that ND has seen before. Didn't show a whole lot of power plays. Brian still skeptical of Denard under center compared to threat of running under shotgun.
Receivers. Grade: Incomplete? Only one guy caught two balls. Brian pleased; only drop was the Dileo "drop" on a bad Denard throw during the downpour. Several big grabs; Roundtree/Koger.
First email about the offense and how Borges will attack the ND defense. Brian curious about ND QB draw defense/adjustments; Denard showing QB draw, then passing. How will Borges adjust to their defense of that play?
Comparison of the game weather to Virginia '95, ND '98, UCLA 2001; all very hot. Then the rain just shifted everything...biggest weather change since Purdue '95.
Defense. First drive defense always seems bad throughout the years. Defense couldn't even get lined up correctly; Avery 1 vs 2. Crazy amount of rotation in the front seven with different batch of players every couple plays. Special circumstances due to heat? Defense vs. no huddle offense; shouldn't be an issue because they've seen it all the time. Fewer misalignments as game went on. Halfway through 2nd quarter, Mattison bringing a safety down in the box and blitzing; brought the house 3 times in a row. Carder chucking it off his back foot just so he wouldn't get hit anymore by Demens. Blitz packages got to QB "even more than you realize." Blitz packages vs. ND will probably be more expansive. Michigan only rushed 3 guys once vs. WMU, compared to all the time last year. ND will probably pick up blitzes better.
Defense UFR. Kovacks had a great day, period; more than just the two blitz sacks, but cleaning up other people's messes as well. Wait-and-see on Roh and Martin. Reason blitzes got home was because Martin was getting double teamed.
Punt game passable. Brian misses spread punt. Reason it's swept through college football; it's more effective.
First call. The last time the defense was in a QB's head and sped up a QB's internal clock. Brian thinks first time since Anthony Morelli in 2006. Blitz packages between Mattison and GERG night-and-day. Secondary really not that different from last year, but still able to get to the QB and force turnovers. Mental strain of being a QB and not knowing where the blitz is coming from.
Second call. Ball control game, possession offense, and how it effects the game vs. ND. With Denard, sometimes you just have a wide open TDs. Brian thinks any score is good whether it takes a long time or not; just take what the defense gives you. ND has undersized NT that's more of a quick guy; maybe power more effective than stretch running. See how ND adjusts this year to Denard.
Craig Ross is in.
First call. Inside College Football; ND TE guy mentioned that in the last six games the ND defense has only allowed 7 TDs. How will new offense work against that defense? Ira: Who are they playing? Garbage schedule at the end of last year. Brian doesn't think USF had a pulse once they got up 16-0; once lead got whittled down to 9, went right back and scored. Going back to Navy game where they made no adjustments and just got destroyed. ND defense is an open question; no consensus opinion. 3-4 base defense hard to run without space-eating NT. Ian Williams graduated, new guy undersized as well. Brian does like their safeties and thinks Te'o is good, but ND benched Calabrese and have new-ish OLBs. Craig: we're a lot better offense than USF; ND defense is a question mark.
Second call. Front four not getting penetration and requiring blitz against WMU. Craig: we got pressure with four guys. A lot of zone blitzing. BWC in coverage one time even. Pressure coming from all over. True that depending on the blitz is not necessarily good and opens up the possibility of getting exploited, but still way better than last year's defense. Craig concerned about run defense. Brian says that many of the bad things that happened Saturday were result of Beyer in DE/SAM spot he's not ready for (he'll get better; only a freshman). Fitzgerald a big downgrade from Demens. Worried about WILL; Herron had really poor day outside of the 2 TD plays; late reacting, did not fill holes, lost leverage. A lot of rotation at WILL likely.
Third call. Music at the game, PopEvil song while running out to the banner. Brian doesn't know if that was a screwup or not and if they cut it late. Brian rage about RAWK MUSIC and the overall stadium experience/tradtition. Don't want to be like everybody else. Ira: Michigan football is not the NFL/NHL; doesn't need gimmicks. Craig: Neil Diamond is wretched. Bodies hit the floor, etc.
What will happen on the field? Craig: a lot of questions with both defense. Michael Floyd is scary. Brian: Rees out there is good; sophomore and not mobile, lower ceiling than Crist. Craig: win by FG after listening to Brian. ND favored is good for us; favorites 3-19 against the spread. Key matchup: Floyd vs. Woolfolk. Floyd will get at least one deep pass, we need to break up a few.
Fourth call. Not worried about ND; ND needs to be worried about themselves with turnovers and penalties.
in this important diary, THE KNOWLEDGE shall discuss two items
1. BiG (Basking in Glory):
when the WMU horses took the opening kickoff and scored on a long touchdown drive, THE KNOWLEDGE started receiving notes that cast aspersions on the THE KNOWLEDGE's post on these very pages saying that Michigan will restrict WMU to less than 17 points
Well, THE KNOWLEDGE was obviously right, and the doubters wrong as usual
THE KNOWLEDGE has been basking in glory again as all of the review came to fruition (Michigan's score actually should be 37 points, as the referees incorrectly stopped the game before the field goal on that last drive)
2. THE CHALLENGE
this week marks the debut of night game at Michigan Stadium. An even more exciting debut for the readers of this blog is the debut of THE KNOWLEDGE CHALLENGE for this year
correctly predict the score of the M-ND game to receive the great honor of Protege of the Week
THE KNOWLEDGE shall provide pointers to the game as usual to help those currently unaware of the game results
- Michigan wins
- Notre Dame loses
- ND's offense is more effective than it was against USF
- Michigan's offense is better than last week, but ND's defense is better than WMU's
- Denard scores touchdowns
- The game is competitive
as you might note, these pointers are very generic and somewhat tough to base a score off of
but, THE KNOWLEDGE wants the first week of THE CHALLENGE to be a tough one
you can do great analysis, or try to fathom the methods of THE KNOWLEDGE. either way, make the correct prediction to be the POTS
Important note: some of the future editions of THE CHALLENGE will be posted as a forum topic instead of as a diary. hence, be vigilant and participate before it disappears from the front page
Pickerington (OH) Central DE Vidauntae "Taco" Charlton is a member of both the ESPNU 150 Watch List and the Early Top 247 for the class of 2013. The 6'6", 240-pound junior tallied over 40 tackles with 7 tackles for loss, 7 pass breakups, and 2 forced fumbles as a sophomore last year in just his second season playing defensive end. On top of early offers from Cincinnati, Purdue, Syracuse, and UCLA, Charlton has drawn interest from Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame, LSU, Iowa, Wisconsin, and several other schools as his recruitment gains some serious steam.
Taco will be one of several recruits at the Notre Dame game this weekend for an unofficial visit, and he took the time to answer a few questions about his recruitment, Michigan, and, yes, his name.
ACE: I know it's early on in the process, but which schools have been in contact with you so far? Do you have an early list of favorites?
TACO: Well I have offers from Cincinnati, UCLA, Purdue, and Syracuse. I've talked to all the Big Ten schools, Notre Dame, Kentucky, Virginia, N.C. State, and more. [My] early favorites would be the teams that offered me already because they showed me a lot of love.
ACE: What's your interest level in Michigan, and who from the coaching staff has been in contact with you? What will you be looking for when you visit this weekend?
TACO: I like Michigan a lot, it's somewhere close to home and the people there love their football and that is one thing that attracts me. The coach I've talked to is Coach Singletary. This weekend I'm just looking forward to enjoying the good game, seeing how crazy the crowd is, and geting to meet some of the coaches.
ACE: Have you been in contact with other recruits who will be at the Notre Dame game? If so, who?
TACO: Nope, I haven't really talked to anyone that I know that will be at the game recruit-wise but I'll probably meet some of them while I'm there.
ACE: For people who are unfamiliar with you, describe your game. What position do you think you'd fit at best in college, and what are you working on to improve as your recruitment picks up?
TACO: Well to round it up I'm a real big guy that's athletic and can move. I am still learning the position, I've only played it for two years. Most people say I am a great pass rusher but I believe I can stop the run also. In college I will most likely be a DE and I am just working on just dominating and taking over a game with my play.
ACE: I apologize in advance for asking the question that I'm sure you get from everyone, but I think the MGoBlog readers will revolt if I don't: How did you get the name Taco?
TACO: Yeah I get that a lot. It actually came from my grandma. My mom was having me real early so my grandma used to always send cards to the hospital [saying] don't let the baby come down south and sign it Taco. So once I was born my nickname became Taco and it stuck.
Thanks to Taco for taking the time to do this interview; he's definitely a player to keep an eye on for a potential offer, perhaps in the near future, as it looks like he'll be one of the top players in Ohio in the class of '13 -- Duane Long listed him as the #3 rising junior in the state back in April. He's looked at as a raw player (again, he's only played DE for two years) with a ton of athletic upside, he impressed over the summer at Ohio State's junior camp ($, info in header), and he should be a very hot commodity as the recruiting process wears on.
*edit: my embed-fu has failed, anyone know how to correctly embed youtube?
This week is going to be full of familiar faces. ND's two deep is overflowing with juniors and seniors, and I could probably just rehash last year's game wraps (ND vs us, ND vs MSU) and only have to change a few names. Well, let's do this:
ND on O
It's the passing spread. Look for lots of short routes, screens, crossing routes, and when they get you in man coverage, look out for the sideline fly or wheel route. If you play a soft zone, they'll leak out a late check down running back or tight end. They like to use their big tight end as a possession receiver, but he's got enough speed for skinny posts and such.
The running game is almost exclusively from one-back sets. If they need a lead blocker it'll be a TE, H-back, or pulling lineman. Most of the running plays are built into the the passing game, play action dives, shotgun mesh, draws, and the dreaded sprint draw. On obvious running downs, they tend to zone dive or counter. And there's the odd stretch play from the shotgun.
#11 Tommy Rees has been named the nominal starter, but between our blitzing and Brian Kelly's anger issues, I'd bet on seeing #10 Dayne Crist for at least a handful of series. Crist is the 5* golden boy and senior. But he's been plagued by injuries and only has about 10 starts to his name (and he sat behind Jimmah! Clausen for much of his career). Rees is the baby faced redshirt sophomore who led the team to a short winning streak last season.
Crist is a bit taller and heavier. But he's very athletic. Neither of them are very fiery, rah rah guys, but Rees is the cooler customer and if it were up to me, he'd be my starter and Crist would be a tight end that we could design a lot of trick plays around. Why? Just look into their eyes...
I used to think that Crist looked that way because of a series of concussions. But now I think it's like how your mom used to say, 'if you keep making that face, it'll stay that way.' Crist looks befuddled. He looks like he's got the weight of the world on his shoulders and he can't figure out what to do about it. Rees is calm and collected and gives the impression that he's focused on executing. Crist looks like he's focused on not screwing up.
Some people toughen up when you put them under pressure, some people crack. You want your QB to be more towards a wild stallion, a risk taking, confident gunslinger with the eyes of a tiger. As a coach, it's a better problem to have to keep reigning in the guy, than having to dig your spurs in deep to light a fire under his ass.
So which of these two looks like someone who can deal with what's coming for him, and which looks like a horse whose spirit has been broken?
And if you think I'm cherry picking, Crist stood in that pose nearly the whole time he was on the sideline (is there something wrong with his shoulder pads?), with no one really around him, and Rees looked like that on most snaps as he reads the defense.
If that furrowed brow looks familiar, you might be thinking of this guy:
#20. It's the Cierre Wood show for ND these days. Apparently Kelly likes to have one main workhorse. And sad to say, Wood is a more complete back than anyone we have. His pass blocking isn't all that great, you could probably bull rush him or jump over him if he goes low. But he's got everything else you want in a back. He's super fast, shifty, great vision, soft hands, and leg strength. You're not going to be pulling him down by tugging on his jersey.
He's not the biggest guy in the world, so ND will bring in #25 Jonas Gray for short yardage situations or as a battering ram to soften up the defense for a few plays. Folks around here will remember when Gray got passed over for Mike Cox (who has fallen off the face of the earth since the advent of Hoke). Gray has bulked up *cough*foundsteroids*cough*cough* since then, but he's still got great straight line speed, you know, when he's not being stood up and having the ball ripped from his hands for 99 yard fumble return touchdowns...
We're really going to have to focus on Wood, the front seven will have a huge task in following him around. Hopefully he'll get tired later in the game, stamina might be an issue for a guy who might still be getting acclimated to having full time starter duties. He didn't look winded last week, but there were all those weather delays... I'd have a guy tackle/hit him on every play just to try to wear him out, even if he doesn't have the ball. Make him block people. Big people, big angry people, big angry people who weigh more than him. And don't let him get into the endzone, because he's kind of a douche when he gets there.
This should be a penalty if he does it again.
#80 is the new starter, filling in for Rudolph. He's not as fast, but he's got very good hands and is a pass catching threat over the middle. He had one drop on a pass that was behind him, and a couple of passes were broken up by good coverage, but he's going to be a concern.
Here's Kelly showing him the finer points of catching a ball thrown to your back hip:
#83 is the other TE, who looks ok, if not spectacular.
Dear god, why is this guy still suiting up against us? #3 Michael Floyd should be off in the pro's or enjoying a redshirt year to think about the meaning of life and his DUI's. He's All-American material when he's not injured and will end up owning just about every meaningful receiving record in ND history. USF couldn't stop him, and they tried just about everything. They tried playing soft, so they threw him underneath stuff. They tried playing tight, so they threw him a sideline fade. They tried to beat him up with a LB and cover over the top with a safety, so he juked out the LB and ran a sharp slant.
The only thing that really stopped him, other than Crist's inaccuracy, was being bracketed by two DB's, but you just can't do that all they time or other people will start to kill you. The only bad thing I can say about his on the field behavior is that he's been known to take plays off in the past. If you can get into his head, and keep him frustrated, you might be able to limit his damage.
Mental problems are also rampant with the other WR's. #7 Jones was the guy that had the ball bounce off his helmet which almost caused Brian Kelly's head to explode
He's a little lanky with good speed and decent hands (when he's looking for the ball).
#6 Riddick is the slot receiver, converted rb, and his hands are not so good. He muffed two punts and had numerous drops. Both muffs were after he signaled for a fair catch but had a guy standing in front of him. I would be ordering our punters to practice high but short punts and figure the chances of getting a muff are worth 10 to 15 yards of punt distance, especially since we're no longer running the spread punt, and our gunners haven't been very good. With the ball in his hands, Riddick is a dangerous runner. So be wary of him on screens, and short routes.
Not much to say here. They're more on the large rather than nimble side of the spectrum. Good run blockers, decent pass blockers, but with Rees getting rid of the ball so quickly from the shotgun, they don't need to hold their blocks very long. Kelly still can't run his complete inside screen game with these guys, and didn't even call many (any?) during the USF game.
The right tackle #75 looks to be the most vulnerable. He doesn't have very good lateral movement. I suspect you could set him up for a few speed rushes. Otherwise, they're a pretty good veteran group. Boo.
ND on D
This will be one of the biggest and strongest D-lines we face all year. #9 is an especially large wide-body, he reminds me of Jerry Ball. They looked pretty tough in short yardage. This isn't the game where we should be grinding out 3 yards and a cloud of dust. Again, lots of upperclassmen on the two deep here. On the goal-line, the middle three will submarine allowing Teo and Co. to jump over the scrum.
What more can I say about #5 Teo? Get a body on him, and design your plays based on where he's gonna be. Don't let him use that killer speed. He will blow things up, although he did have a relatively quiet game against USF. Still had a bunch of tackles and a sack or two.
The OLB's are probably the weak link. They had trouble with contain, except for when the defensive play call sold out on the edges. ND likes to use the 4-3 and for early downs and even for shorter 3rd downs, so if we use many 3 WR sets, we'll likely see an OLB over one of our slot guys. We should take advantage of this.
These are the same guys that have failed to impress me for the last three years, and about the only thing that's changed is that they're a year older. They're pretty good in run support, the CB's are fairly athletic. But the safeties are very beatable with the talent we have at WR.
- They still run the spread punt formation, which I always think is ripe for a block. Send 3 men against the smallest upback and runover the punter. You might get a penalty once, but the odds of getting a block or even a TD might be worth it, depending on the situation.
- For a team that is full of upperclassmen, they looked really undisciplined. I wonder if Kelly's outbursts are falling on deaf prima donna ears. Turnovers, penalties, the whole team played tight. Sometimes it seems like they're so afraid of making mistakes, that they end up making a lot of mistakes.
- Crist played the first half, when it was dry, so you can't blame his problems on the rain. You might chalk it up to the heat, or first game jitters, but I tend to think he just doesn't have "it"
- By the same token, the field was pretty slippery in the second half when Floyd was doing most of his damage. So you might discount his production a tiny bit, if it weren't for the fact that we already knew he was a beast.
- 99 yards of ND's offense came on the final drive with less than 2 minutes when USF was playing pretty soft, already up by 10.
- Floyd didn't hustle on the final onsides kick. He had a chance to sacrifice his body and jump up for the ball, instead it was the USF guy flying through the air to end the game.
- I think Brian Kelly gets excited when he's angry.
[Ed-M: Bump. Keep it up, but one space after a period is plenty kthx /generation that never used a typewriter]
Last week I posted five games to keep an eye on for potential upsets/spread-beaters. I intended the post as a one-time thing, but the numerous responses made me re-think the approach. As long as there is interest, I’ll try to post this once a week, with five games I have my eye on, and a re-cap of the previous weeks picks (because I HATE it when prognosticators cannot admit when they are wrong).
@ Baylor +6.5 TCU. Result: Baylor 50 TCU 48. [Props to: Lets Get Denarded, AMazinBlue.]
James Madison OFF @ North Carolina. Result: North Carolina 42 James Madison 10.
UCLA +3.0 @ Houston. Result: Houston 38 UCLA 34. [EDIT Props to: dennisblundon, AMazinBlue for calling for Houston to cover as the favorite.]
Tulsa +25.0 @ Oklahoma. Result: Oklahoma 47 Tulsa 14.
Marshall +22.5 @ West Virginia. Result: West Virginia 34 Marshall 13. [Props to: cadmus2166.]
A couple MgoBlogeittes (?) mentioned South Florida over Notre Dame. Props to: Indiana Blue, Purple Stuff, hart20, PaperEater.
Unlike Week 1, Week 2 brings along some more “legitimate matchups.” In Week 1, FBS opponents were 36-2 against their FCS counterparts, with Duke and Oregon State being the FBS victims. This week there are only 20 games between FCS and FBS teams. Anyone have any thoughts on potential upsets (or at least teams to keep an eye on)? A couple potential upsets (or at least close games):
Florida International +4.0 @ Louisville. Louisville is 14-3 at home against non-conference opponents since 2005. Florida International is 1-8 in road openers, with the lone win being over Youngstown State in 2004. Louisville struggled against the Racers last week, failing to cover the 29 point spread. Darriet Perry and T.Y. Hilton looked impressive in an opening conference win over North Texas, combining for three touchdowns. Florida International will find it tough to put up 40+ points again this week, facing a much better defense in Louisville, but they shouldn’t need that many to get a win.
@ Georgia +2.5 South Carolina. Bulldogs have won two of the last three meetings and seven of the last nine. South Carolina last won Between the Hedges in 2007. South Carolina is coming off a 56-37 win over East Carolina, after starting down 17-0. Neither Connor Shaw nor Stephen Garcia were impressive against ECU. While Georgia is coming off a devastating loss to Boise, Georgia has a chance to win the SEC East, having South Carolina and Mississippi State at home. Opening 0-2 will make Coach Richt’s seat all the more warm.
Connecticut +2.5 @ Vanderbilt. Connecticut is coming off a BCS appearance. Vanderbilt is coming off a 2-10 season. Since 2001, Vanderbilt is 6-14 at home as a favorite against the spread. Connecticut is 22-19 on the road as an underdog against the spread over the same stretch. DJ Shoemate did not play against Fordham last week; Lyle McCombs ripped through Fordham for 141 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Utah +9.0 @ USC. Last meeting was in 2001, with Utah winning 10-6 in the Las Vegas Bowl. USC is coming off a 19-17 win over Minnesota in which USC led at halftime 19-3. Coach Kiffin lifted the suspension of RB Marc Tyler, who is expected to play this week. USC’s lack of depth, attributed to NCAA imposed probation, will be an issue in numerous games this season. Facing a veteran QB with plenty of WR depth will be no easy task for USC.
Boston College +7.0 @ UCF. Last meeting was in 2008, with Boston College winning 34-7. Boston College is 10-5 at home under Coach Spaziani, but only 5-5 on the road. UCF is 25-19 at home under Coach O’Leary and 25-13 at home since 2005 (UCF went 0-11 in 2004, O’Leary’s first season). UCF is 9-3 at home as a favorite against the spread since 2009, including a 62-0 win over Charleston Southern last week. With that said, Boston College has a solid defense, having averaged over 3 sacks per game against top 25 teams last year. Look for the Eagles to keep this one close.
Here is the other half of ND’s depth chart, well at least the 2nd half that I am going to post on. If you need a ST breakdown you will need to keep searching. I will try to answer any questions when I can.
DE: Sr. Ethan Johnson (LY 34T, 6TFL, 5sack) Fr. Aaron Lynch
Johnson came out of spring camp with a chip on his shoulder, like Crist, he was very business like going into game prep, he actually did lead by example in week 1 though. He finished with 6 tackles and 1 TFL which is double his average from last season. True freshman Aaron Lynch saw a few snaps as expected. He is still raw but has a lot of talent, he finished with 1 tackle and 1 TFL. Unless Johnson goes down with an injury, the staff has said they plan to ease Lynch into the defense as the year goes on.
NG: Jr. Sean Cwynar (LY 32T, 2.5TFL, 1 FF), Fr. Irish Chocolate (AKA Louis Nix)
Cwynar is undersized as a NG but his motor is what won him the position out of spring ball. He saw the majority of his time at the end of the year when Ian Williams went down after Navy’s chop block marathon, that put him against some of the stronger OL’s on ND’s schedule last year. ND fans are quite happy about this position. Nix didn’t play last season as he came into south bend very over weight, he has slimmed up considerably and is now co-starter on defense. He played more than Cwynar in week 1, Nix ended the game with 7 tackles including 1 TFL. Not bad for NG who gets a double team, Cwynar finished with 4 tackles.
DE: Sr. Kapron Lewis Moore (LY 62T, 2.5TFL, 2sack, 1 FF) So. Kona Schwenke (LY 2T) Fr Stephon Tuitt.
KLM was ND’s most productive Dlineman last year, as a senior ND will need him to continue to do well while teaching the 2 younger guys at the position. Schwenke played in 5 games last year but never for any drawn out periods of time, he has put the time into the weight room but didn’t record any stats in week 1. Tuitt is the other freshman Dlineman expected to be eased into the game more and more this season. He did see time in week 1 but didn’t record any stats, though it may have been on ST only. KLM carried the Dline with 8 tackles with 1.5TFL and 1 sack. He did a good job getting penetration and keeping contain on the QB.
OLB: Sr. Darius Fleming (LY 48T, 10.5TFL, 5.5sack), Jr Steve Filer (LY 14T), Fr Ishaq Williams
Fleming was counted on as the edge rusher last year at OLB, but the same complaint of actually getting to the QB when blitzing was still there to some extent. He received a lot of praise through summer camp, and in week 1 had a solid game. He recorded 8 total tackles, 1 TFL and a sack. Filer and Ishaq both backup Flaming. Williams is the 3rd freshman to see time in week 1, he didn’t record any stats but may have only seen ST duty, I haven’t seen a replay to get strong impression on him this early in the season. Filer has been a ST staple since coming to ND, he hasn’t seen many snaps but is a real hit with the fanbase for some reason.
ILB: Jr. Dan Fox (LY 19T), Jr. Carlo Calabrese (LY 62T, 5TFL)
Fox received the starting position at the end of summer camp but doesn’t have the experience Calabrese gained last season. Either could start, either could be in on a given snap but Fox’s emergence was a surprise during camp, a good or bad surprise its unclear. Calabrese was the guy next to Manti nearly every game last season he had a solid first year as a starter. The 3-4 defense seems to have been beneficial to both of these guys. I am not sure the difference in snaps but Calabrese and Fox finished with 5 and 4 tackles respectively which is in line with what ND saw from the position last season.
ILB: Jr. Manti Teo (LY 133T, 9.5TFL, 1sack, 1FF), Anthony McDonald (LY 11T)
No that is not a typo, Manti had a huge season last year recording 133 tackles; the lingering questions on how the change to the 3-4 would effect him seemed to be answered well before the end of the season last year. McDonald doesn’t see a lot of time as Manti’s backup as he doesn’t come off the field very often. Manti lead the defense in tackles week 1 with 9, including 1TFL and 1 sack. Some have said he had a bad game, I haven’t seen the replay, but USF plays to the edges of the defense they want the ball in space and in the flats, so I wasn’t necessarily expecting a huge game out of him anyway. Maybe I am wrong on what his responsibilities actually were though.
OLB: So. Prince Shembo (LY 15T, 5TFL, 4.5sack), Fr Danny Spond, Fr Troy Niklas
Shembo might be the best kept secret from last season, but when 2/3rds of your tackles are done in the backfield that secret won’t be kept long. He saw limited snaps last year as Brian Smith’s backup, I think the staff wants to use the same model for this year’s freshman in the 2 deep, I certainly can’t complain about the results yet. Spond and Niklas seemed to be relegated to ST for the most part at this time it will be interesting to see who emerges as the #2 guy this season. Niklas was expected to play DE or OT when he was recruited but has since been moved to OLB, hopefully that’s not a depth issue.
CB: Sr. Robert Blanton (LY 53T, 7.5TFL, 1.5sack), Jr. Lo Wood (LY 3T)
Blanton saw a diminished roll last year behind Walls and Gray but was still very productive playing in all 13 games. If there is someone running their mouth on the field, Blanton is likely the guy, hopefully he can continue to back it up this season. Blanton recorded 6 tackles and great TFL where he obliterated a WR screen. Lo battled some injuries last season and is currently the nickel back under the right circumstances, sometimes they go 3 safeties depending on the look. Lo recorded 1 tackle in week 1 which quadruples his average per game from last season, lol
S: Sr Harrison Smith (LY 91T, 1TFL, 1 sack, 7int), Jr. Dan McCarthy (LY 4T, 1FF) Harrison is mostly known as the guy who fell down when USC should have won that game last year. Most ND fans remember him as the guy who finished the season with 5ints in the last 2 games, the defense turns a corner when Harrison does plays well. He recorded 6 tackles in week 1, below average from what we saw last season. McCarthy saw limited time last season as he was injured most of the year, the safety position is much deeper this season.
S: Jr. Jamoris Slaughter (LY 31T, 1int), Zeke Motta (LY 50T, 1.5TFL, 1int), So. Austin Collinsworth (LY 7T)
Slaughter, what great name for a safety seriously how much better does it get? Anyway Slaughter and Motta round out what was the safety position last season with Harrison Smith. Motta and Slaughter both played hurt and missed games so the added depth this season should be great help at safety this season. Collinsworth (yeah that Collinsworth’s son) was strictly a ST player last season and has transitioned to DB this season. How much playing time he sees may hinge on how quickly he picks up the position. Motta and Slaughter equaled 7 total tackles week 1, which isn’t so concerning when the front 7 are playing well. Not sure how tested they were in game 1 though
CB: Sr. Gary Gray (LY 66T, 5TFL, 1int, 1ff), So Bennett Jackson (LY 11T)
Gray saw a lot of balls thrown his way last season as the option on the other side was 5th year senior Darrin Walls. Gray is a solid starter and the staff will expect a lot out of him this season if the secondary is going to be strong. Jackson is following the same path as Collinsworth, transitioning from ST gunner to DB. It may have only been 11T last season but I am pretty sure all 11 of those came on punt returns. Jackson recorded 2 tackles against USF while Gray tallied 5.
The front 7 should be fun to watch this year, the first half against USF wasn’t the defense ND fans were looking forward to seeing. It was the one that showed up in the 2nd half that ND needs this season. The stronger ND’s defense is this season the easier it will be on the offense, which appears to need all the help it can get coming out of the USF game. The secondary has added some much needed depth with veterans holding down the starting positions. They were not tested down field much though so how good they actually are is still a question to answer. This defense could be really really good this season and the expectations are high.