...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
*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.