"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
Word on other message boards (Scout, Rivals, NDNation) is that Dayne Crist is going to transfer to Wisconsin. Not as big as a get for Wisconsin as Wilson was but Crist is probably better than any other QB on that roster after Wilson leaves. Crist has 1 year of elgibility and will be able to transfer and play immediately just as Wilson did. He'd be able to play in ND's bowl game and then transfer in time for spring semester and be able to participate in spring practices.
If Rees decides to transfer too, it'd be pretty bad for ND. The ND depth chart at QB would be Hendrix and.... Not exactly the depth you would want when your QB is scrambling and taking hits as often as Hendrix would.
You have to love Brian Kelly burning bridges.
What does the board think?
*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.
While I wasn't watching the Michigan game yesterday, I spent my time watching the ND game. I talked a ND friend who watched the whole ND game, and I thought I'd post some observations from USF-ND.
1. Notre Dame Offense
a. Crist was horrible. He was late on throws and he just wasn’t accurate. His interception was completely on him, the ball was thrown way behind the receiver. He was pulled at halftime. He was 7/15 for 95 yards with 1 pick.
b. Rees was better than Crist, but not that much better. He was 24/34 for 296 yards, with 2 TDs and 2 picks. His 2nd TD came on when the game was pretty much in hand. I’d expect Rees to start next weekend.
c. Cierre Wood (RB) was good. 21 carries for 104 yards, his first time going over 100 yards in 14 games. 3 receptions for 44 yards too.
d. According to my ND friend, Wood’s back up, Jonas Gray, was horrible. Gray’s stats: 4 carries for 17 yards. He also had a fumble on the goal line that went back for 6.
e. ND’s O-line let everything through. ND was only sacked 2 times, but it felt like USF was getting pressure at will. My ND friend said that the left side was good but the right side sucked. Look for blitzes to the right side next week.
f. Michael Floyd was amazing. 12 receptions, 154 yards, 2 TDs. Although the second TD came with the game pretty much in hand. Still that stat line is amazing. He was double covered most of the night too. He’s definitely going to give us trouble next week. Although last year we held him to only 51 yards receiving.
g. TJ Jones (WR) comes in on rotation, TE goes out he comes in. He’s average. Not going to kill us, but you still have to watch out for him.
h. Theo Riddick (WR, PR) sucked at everything. He dropped passes, he muffed punts. I think we’ll see someone else returning punts for ND next week.
i. Eifert (TE) was above average. He dropped some passes, but he had some good catches too. 6 receptions, 93 yards. He’s definitely not Rudolph, but he’s still a threat. I’d say he’s definitely the #2 receiving threat on ND.
2. Notre Dame Defense
a. They had some trouble with BJ Daniels, a mobile QB. There were some times he scrambled 5, 6 yards to pick up the first. If it was Denard scrambling on those plays, he could have easily gone for 20.
b. The zone defense was exploited. There were some holes in the zone. ND friend said it was on the DC, not the players.
c. ND’s run D was nothing special. They only allowed 3.0 yards a carry, and 126 yards rushing but I think if you looked at rushing outside of the red zone, YPC would jump up. It felt like USF was running the ball for 4, 5 yards outside the red zone but once they got in the red zone, they were stopped.
d. The Pass D couldn’t stop the out routes. USF had their way with ND on out routes.
e. The Pass D also gave up no long balls, the longest USF reception was 18 yards.
f. My ND friend said that Te’o was the best defensive player, but that he didn’t play very well.
g. My ND friend said the D line was not good enough to stop the run until they got to the goal line, and on passing downs they didn’t get much penetration.
3. Notre Dame Special Teams
a. Missed a 30 yard field goal. Their kicker was 18 of 19 last year, so I expect that it was the weather. I’m betting he’ll be better next week.
b. The punting was terrible. The kicker average 34 yards on the night, but he had a couple of punts around 23 yards each.
c. The punt returning was not good. 2 punt returns, 2 muffed punts. One was lost, the other recovered for negative yards. Like I said, I expect them to have a different PR next week.
d. KRs nothing special. Return of about 25 yards each time.
e. KR and PR coverage was decent. No big plays, but no bad plays either.
4. Notre Dame Problems
a. ND friend said offense moved well with Cierre Wood in, and when passes weren’t dropped. The turnovers, 5 of them, killed the offense and lost the game.
b. The defense was not as good as last year. Out routes killed them. Holes in zone exploited.
c. The biggest problem was the turnovers. They gave the USF offense great field position. ND had almost double the yardage of USF, but that was because USF probably started close to the 50 yard line most of the time.
d. Penalties. 8 penalties for 73 yards. And they were bad, really stupid penalties too. Pass interference and late hits.
5. Brian Kelly is a major douche bag.
a. I know this was already covered earlier, but damn! Before I hated Brian Kelly because he was ND’s coach, now I hate Brian Kelly because he’s Brian Kelly.
b. My ND friend refuses to see it though, I tried everything to show him the light, but to no avail.
c. Him being an asshole like that is going to come back and bite him in the ass.
d. I really like this line from MGoBlog user Yeoman, ”…but I think the fundamental difference is that when Bo yelled at you it was because you'd let down your teammates. When Kelly yells it's because you've let down Brian Kelly.”
6. My ND friend on Damefan’s blog: “This shit is weird.”
I think that covers most of it. The players on ND's offense to watch for next week are definitely Michael Floyd and Cierre Wood. On ND' s defense, Manti Te'o. If you disagree with something, if I'm wrong about something, or if I missed something let me know so I can fix it or add it.
I think UTL will be a close game, but I think that we'll win. We'll see a lot of blitzes to the right of ND's line, and most of their yards will come from the air. I think we'll be able to run it fairly well and that Denard will be able to get some long scrambles on both broken plays and designed plays. A significant amount of our yards will come from the air, if I had to guess.
I called USF to beat ND, and I'm calling their final record to be 8-4. I'm predicting us to go 10-2, for what it's worth.
Edit: Sorry for the crappy indentation. When I go to fix it, everything is still properly indented.
Brian Kelly announced that Dayne Crist will be starting at QB over Tommy Rees. Not wholly unexpected, but interesting nonetheless...
EDIT: Stats for those who are curious:
Crist : 174 of 294 (59%), 2033 yards (6.91 YPA) 15 TD / 7 INT.
Rees 100 of 164 (61%), 1106 yards (6.74 YPA) 12 TD / 8 INT.
After watching the ND vs. Purdue game, my fear/paranoia level has dropped dramatically. Here's some scouting notes:
The strength of their team is the running back position. The wide receivers are serviceable, but Crist as a first year starter doesn't look ready to take advantage of their ability yet.
#5 Armando Allen is their most experienced RB. He's their best pass blocker and does just about everything pretty decently.
#20 Wood, dynamic, shifty runner. Reminds me of vincent smith. Doesn't have great hands, not as big of a threat in the passing game. Usually gets pulled for allen on third down.
#9 Rudolph, looks to have put on some bulk from last year. But by the same token, seems to have lost some speed. Soft hands, makes for a good possession receiver from 5-10 yards. ND likes to use him on drags over the middle and outs and ins from an 'extended' TE position
#3 Floyd. Still big, still fast, still got great jumping ability. Unfortunately for him, Crist doesn't seem able to hit him on a fly. Twice they tried a double move, with crist missing badly. Somethings not right with their timing. But he's a huge threat on deep hooks and other sit down routes against a zone.
Kamara something duvall something. Lanky kid, seemed serviceable. Could cause mismatches against shorter db's.
Crist, He's a big athletic pro style QB. Sucks for him that he's running a spread option. He doesn't really have a feel for reading the DE. He's got good speed once he knows where he wants to go, but he's not shifty by any means. He's much closer in ability to Steven Threet than Tate Forcier when it comes to running.
Big strong arm. But it's surprising that he doesn't have better touch on the long balls for being a pocket passer. Perhaps it was just first game jitters.
The interior linemen seemed ok. But again the problem is that they're not designed to do what the offense is trying to do. These are big strong, slow, kids. They get a pretty good push up the middle on running plays. But time and again they missed downfield blocks due to a lack of speed. Craig Roh should have a field day speed rushing around the tackles on either side coming from a 2 point stance. He might get pushed around a bit if he's down in a 3 point stance, however.
The spread that kelly runs is different than ours, but similar enough that our defense should be able to recognize and blow up plays pretty quickly. Plus they won't be going up against denard, so they'll be pretty happy about that. The #1 threat is the running back. Most times on the read option, crist will hand off, since he doesn't read the end well. And ND called many designed runs, even when there was a QB/RB mesh handoff. Their coachers are probably well aware of crist's limitations in the run game.
There were a variety of draws and tricky ways to get the ball to the RB, including our favorite counter draw that saw MSU tear us up a few years back. The RB will line up at a variety of depths when in the shotgun. Sometimes, nearly in a pistol formation. The further back he is, the more likely it will be a run play. If he lines up 3 yards directly to the side of the QB, it's going to be a lateral motion mesh. If he's closer, like 1 yard, then watch out for the counters and traps.
Due to their lack of speed on the OL, they cannot run the wide screens like we can now. Screens will be toward the middle of the field, so it's important that our linebackers pursue inside out and not get too sideways, since they'll be coming back against the grain. Most of their passes were hitches and crosses, square ins. Crist is at his best when he's got a stationary target he can rifle it to.
This is a very different mindset from last year. Gone are the bazillion blitzes. They do look much improved on D, but they were coming from pretty far back, so there's still a lot of weaknesses to attack. (hmmm... that sounds vaguely familiar)
Hard to tell. Big and strong, not so swift. Had a couple sacks where the DLinemen managed to shed a block. But Purdue spent the entire afternoon running bootlegs, so the DL didn't factor in much.
They did this one crazyass play on third down where no one was in a three point stance and all the front seven were bouncing around trying to confuse the pass protection. Purdue promptly ran it for like 20 yards. I doubt we'll see much of that this week.
#5 Teo, the kid from Hawaii, is still their best athlete. He has a good instinct for the game and great speed to get where he wants. But he's usually out of control, relying too much on his athleticism. He doesn't breakdown and make a solid tackle. he's more like a loose missle. He can be juked.
#45 A run stopper. Good straight line speed. Not very fast on the edge. Reminds me of Obi ezeh.
#59? OLB. Smith He's a weak link. Not good at maintaining contain. can be sucked in on reverses and read options. Denard should have a field day running circles around him.
Mostly played off the ball. Were good in run support. Look like they don't have the speed to run with our receivers. ND played a soft zone much of the time. Can be beaten deep.
Hard to tell. Marve didn't throw deep down the middle often since he was always rolling out. These guys were mostly back in a cover two all day.
We match up really well against them. Better than last year even. It looks like their offense is not ready to take advantage of our depleted secondary. I'd have floyd doubled whenever possible, have obi knock rudolph to the ground on every release, and have the rest of the team keying the running backs, or better yet, blitzing into the running backs on passing plays to blow up any draws.
Our dilithium fueled offense, (*now with passing attack!) should be able to put up at 35 on these guys.
It's still ND, at ND, so there's always concerns about shenanigans in their sheleighlies, but on paper we should win this game by a couple of TD's. So of course I expect a wild shootout with us winning by a mere point.
gawd I love college football!