2011 Opponents: Notre Dame

Submitted by Tim on July 22nd, 2011 at 10:16 AM

This is a personnel-oriented look at the season's opponents. The game-week previews will be more matchup based. Last year's stats are presented with projected starters in bold and departed players in italics.

The Offense

Notre Dame Offense 2010
Category Raw Rank
Yards Per Game 379.69 61
Points Per Game 26.31 67
Yards Per Play 5.52 63
Yards Per Pass 6.84 75
Pass Efficiency 129.31 59
Yards Per Rush 3.98 77
Playcall Distribution 1.16 Pass:Rush

Notre Dame replaced an offensive genius in Charlie Weis with... another one in Brian Kelly. With a really young lineup, including a rotating cast of quarterbacks, the offense struggled. It wasn't particularly pass-happy either, as even adjusted for sacks, they only threw it 1.27 times for every rush.

Part of that is the quarterback issue. Three quarterbacks played for the Irish last year, including significant reps for a true freshman. With more experience at the position, the entire offense should improve, because all things considered, it was actually quite bad last year. The Irish only broke 40 points in one game, against Western Michigan.


Dayne Crist started the year at the helm for the Irish, but mediocrity and injury combined to give plenty of playing time to Tommy Rees, with a few reps for Nate "yes that" Montana. None of them performed particularly well, which generally spells doom for a Brian Kelly offense.

Rees seems like a better long-term fit for the system (and is obviously a couple years younger), so although Crist will probably still start, expect to see him Rees in the lineup from time-to-time. There are also a few viable backups, with redshirt freshman Andrew Hendrix joined by true freshman (and early enrollee) Everett Golson, a very good athlete who needs some seasoning as a QB.

Notre Dame QBs 2010
Name Comp Att % Yds Yds/Att TD Int
Dayne Crist 174 294 59.18 2033 6.91 15 7
Tommy Rees 100 164 60.98 1106 6.74 12 8
Nate Montana 9 18 50.00 116 6.44 0 1
Notre Dame QBs Rushing 2010
Name Att Yds Yds/Att TD
Dayne Crist 52 74 1.42 4
Nate Montana 9 25 2.78 0
Tommy Rees 12 -2 -.167 0

Grade: 4/5. Based on past performance, this might be a serious overrating of the unit. However, Crist came out of high school with all the accolades, and as a redshirt junior, he should be rounding into form. Given Brian Kelly's track record with quarterbacks, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, and there is some material to work with on the roster.

Running Back

Cierre Wood led the team in rushing last year, though he was part of a two-headed attack with Armando Allen (pictured at right), who completed his 12th and final year of eligibility last season. Pounder Robert Hughes, the team's third-leading rusher, also departs from last year's roster. That leaves Notre Dame with two options: either feed Wood the ball a ton, or hope another rusher emerges. With Theo Riddick finding a full-time gig at wideout, that means former Detroit Country Day (classmate of Kenny Demens) standout Jonas Gray is the best bet, or it will be a completely green player.

Notre Dame RBs 2010
Name Att Yds Yds/Att TD
Cierre Wood 119 603 5.07 3
Armando Allen 107 514 4.80 2
Robert Hughes 68 300 4.41 2
Jonas Gray 20 100 5.00 0
Notre Dame RBs Receiving 2010
Name Rec Yds Yds/Rec TD
Cierre Wood 20 170 8.50 2
Armando Allen 17 138 8.12 0
Robert Hughes 7 67 9.57 0
Jonas Gray 1 13 13.00 0

Grade: 2/5. Wood is a decent starter. Gray had some national recruiting hype but is still inexplicably waiting for his Michigan offer. He could be good, but the Irish lose too much here to predict that everything will be sunshine and lollipops [Ed-M: Unless you're a Notre Dame fan, in which case Wood will win the Heisman next year, unless Crist does]. There's a serious - nay, dire - lack of experienced depth, and if anything happens to Wood, there's a precipitous dropoff.


MichaelFloyd-court.jpgDo you mean with or without Michael Floyd? This is perhaps the biggest question for Notre Dame this season. The Irish's best offensive player by a country mile, Floyd has been oft-injured throughout his career, and is currently in limbo after a suspension for several alcohol-related arrests.

The other starting spots aren't in question. Theo Riddick is a 5-11 guy who can play outside or in the slot, TJ Jones is a similar player (though less explosive), and Tyler Eifert hopes to step up at tight end following Kyle Rudolph's early entry to the NFL. Eifert started about half of last season after Rudolph tore his hamstring. The only wideout the Irish lose is Duval Kamara, who didn't produce last year (despite being a starter) because he was so frequently injured.

Notre Dame Receivers 2010
Name Rec Yds Yds/Rec TD
Michael Floyd 79 1025 12.97 12
Theo Riddick 40 414 10.35 3
Kyle Rudolph (TE) 28 328 11.71 3
Tyler Eifert (TE) 27 352 13.04 2
TJ Jones 23 306 13.30 3
John Goodman (TE) 15 146 9.73 0
Robby Toma 14 187 13.36 0
Duval Kamara 11 112 10.18 3
Mike Ragone (TE) 3 32 10.67 0
Notre Dame WRs Rushing 2009
Name Att Yds Yds/Att TD
Theo Riddick 11 29 2.64 0
Bennett Jackson (CB) 1 20 20.00 0
Michael Floyd 1 9 9.00 0

Grade Without Floyd: 2/5. Grade With Floyd: 4/5. I was tempted to raise the with-Floyd grade even more, because he's that talented (a 2nd-Team All-American projection by Phil Steele), but one man does not a receiving corps make. The other players in the Irish's stable haven't done a whole lot, and what they have done was accomplished with Floyd drawing attention away from them. If he's not on the field to do that, it could spell trouble - though improved QB play would help them out. If Floyd is on the field, expect improvement at every position, because the Irish had a young group last year, and they should progress normally.

Offensive Line

If the Irish are to improve offensively this season, it will likely be along the offensive line. The one consistently meh part of Charlie Weis's offenses is looking to make a leap in year two under Brian Kelly after losing only one starter. That starter, Chris Stewart, was in the lineup for three years, but he'll be replaced with a former 5-star prospect in Chris Watt, a redshirt sophomore. The other starters remain unchanged, with redshirt sophomore Zack Martin at left tackle, Watt or true senior Trevor Robinson at left guard, redshirt junior Braxston Cave at center, Watt or Robinson at right guard, and 5th-year senior Taylor Dever at right tackle.

Grade: 4/5. The Irish weren't a great running team last year (in fact they were pretty bad), despite a slant toward the pass in playcalling. They were, however, pretty good in pass protection, finishing in the top 40 in sacks allowed despite their slight slant toward the pass. Replacing Stewart (who went undrafted and unnoticed by the NFL) with a very highly touted player in his third year of college should see no dropoff, and in some likelihood major improvement.

The Defense

Notre Dame Defense 2009
Category Raw Rank
Yards Per Game 357.23 50
Points Per Game 20.23 23
Yards Per Play 5.13 37
Pass Yards Per Game 215.08 54
Pass Efficiency 115.75 25
Yards Per Pass 6.35 28
Sacks Per Game 2.08 54
Rush Yards Per Game 142.15 50
Yards Per Rush 3.97 53

So if the offense didn't improve by replacing one offensive guru with another, why did the Irish have reason for optimism this offseason? A defense that finally seems to have found its way after 5 poor years under Charlie Weis.

Brian Kelly brought along a switch to the 3-4 base defense, and with it a bounce back toward the middle of the pack. The pressure up front wasn't great against the pass or the run, with teams having average-ish success in moving the ball on the ground and not getting sacked. It was in the secondary that ND's defense really improved.

With another year in the system, and plenty of returning talent (who had the recruiting stars on their side, at the very least, coming out of high school), the Irish are looking to take another step forward on the defensive side of the ball this season.

Defensive Line

Notre Dame's 3-man front returns both defensive ends, so the only question mark is at nose tackle. Ian Williams was a hot-and-cold starter who performed decently against Michigan last year, and Sean Cwynar will step in to fill his shoes. The depth is light, as redshirt frosh Louis Nix will be expected to step in and contribute immediately, and ND didn't pick up any DTs at all in the 2011 class. The Irish will have much better depth on the edges this year - though young - as they signed approximately every defensive end in the nation last year, including a few highly-recruied ones. Aaron Lynch enrolled early from that group, and impressed this spring.

Notre Dame Defensive Line 2010
Name Tack TFL Sack
Kapron Lewis-Moore 62 2.5 2
Ian Williams 37 3.5 1.5
Ethan Johnson 34 6 5
Sean Cwynar 32 2.5 0
Hafis Williams 11 0.5 0
Emeka Nwankwo 3 0 0
Kona Schwenke 2 0 0
Tyler Stockton 1 1 1

Grade: 3/5. If the incoming freshmen weren't, well, freshmen, I'd rate this group much more highly. It's a crapshoot as to whether they'll be able to step in and contribute immediately, so they can't be relied upon this fall. Defensive tackle is a very sketchy point. Although Sean Cwynar had nearly as many tackles as Ian Williams last year despite much less playing time, the depth is unproven and/or non-existent, with Irish kicking specialists having nearly as many tackles last year as returning backup DTs.


The Irish are all set on the inside. Star MLB Manti Te'o (pictured making a great tackle at right) enters his junior year with two seasons as a starter already under his belt, and his compatriot Carlo Calabrese will be a second-year starter himself. Darius Fleming, the team's most explosive edge-rusher, also returns, leaving only one open slot at the the outside linebacker position. Dan Fox and Prince Shembo will battle for that position, but I'm guessing the more physically gifted Shembo will take the starting spot (their stats were similar last year but Shembo brought much more pass rush, and is the younger player), and Fox will be a valuable backup. Steve Filer will also see increased backup duty on the outside, but depth on the inside is weak, as McDonald and Posluszny have been special teams players to date in their careers.

Notre Dame Linebackers 2010
Name Tack TFL Sack Int
Manti Te'o 133 9.5 1 0
Carlo Calabrese 62 5 2.5 0
Brian Smith 50 3.5 1 1
Darius Fleming 48 10.5 5.5 1
Kerry Neal 42 1.5 1.5 0
Dan Fox 19 0 0 0
Prince Shembo 15 5 4.5 0
Steve Filer 14 0 0 0
Anthony McDonald 11 0 0 0
David Posluszny 1 0 0 0

Grade: 5/5. As Michigan fans saw in last year's game, when not being ridden into members of his own secondary by Patrick Omameh on spinach, Manti Te'o is one of the best defensive players in the country (a 2nd-Team All-American projection by Phil Steele). Carlo Calabrese is a returning starter who racked up some decent stats last year despite playing alongside Te'o, and Darius Fleming is also a returning starter who led the team in TFLs in 2010. That means the only possible question marks are the other outside linebacker slot, which seems to have two viable candidates, including one who was a great edge-rusher in backup duty last year, and depth, which seems very good on the outside, but limited on the inside. With the strength of Notre Dame's top three options, I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Defensive Backs

Notre Dame's secondary is led by three-time Zibikowski Memorial White Notre Dame Safety Award winner Harrison Smith, who was the Irish's second-leading tackler last season. He's joined by two other returning starters in Zeke Motta and Gary Gray. Robert Blanton wasn't a starter last year, but he got plenty of snaps on both special teams and defense, so he should be ready to step in for Darrin Walls. Nearly every other defensive back returns for the Irish, so this should be an area of strength.

Notre Dame Defensive Backs 2010
Name Tack TFL Sack Int
Harrison Smith (SS) 91 9 1 2
Gary Gray (CB) 66 1 0 5
Robert Blanton (CB) 53 1.5 0 5
Zeke Motta (FS) 50 1 0 0
Darrin Walls 41 1 0 0
Jamoris Slaughter 31 0.5 0 0
Bennett Jackson 11 0 0 1
Austin Collinsworth 7 0.5 0 0
Dan McCarthy 4 0.5 0 0
Lo Wood 3 0.5 0 1
Chris Salvi 2 3.5 1 0
Michael Garcia 1 0 0 0

Grade: 4/5. As mentioned above, Notre Dame was actually pretty good against the pass last year. They also lose practically nobody off that unit - Walls was only an OK player, and Blanton should be adequate or an upgrade - and gain a lot of experience, especially since it's just their second year in this system. Phil Steele projects Smith to be a 4th-Team All-American.

Special Teams

Both Irish specialists return from last year. David Ruffer will continue the kicks (he was very solid on FGs but weirdly mediocre on extra points) and Ben Turk is the punter.

Notre Dame Kicking 2010
Name FGM FGA % Long XPM XPA %
David Ruffer 18 19 94.74 50 37 40 100
Notre Dame Punting 2010
Name Att Yds Yds/Att
Ben Turk 68 2349 38.34

Grade: 3/5. Ruffer is a 4th-Team All-American projection by Phil Steele, but Turk is mediocre at best. The Irish were below average in net punting last year despite playing several teams that were pretty damn bad on returns last year.



July 22nd, 2011 at 12:43 PM ^

The key will be our offensive performance.  ND will probably not score too many points...probably under 28 points.  Given it will be a big night home game, UM will be pumped! UM 31, ND 27.

Mr Mackey

July 22nd, 2011 at 12:47 PM ^

In all honesty, they're most likely the better team. Especially in the 2nd game of the season. But I think the atmosphere and intangibles will be so much in our favor that it will shift the balance. Can't wait for this game


July 22nd, 2011 at 3:14 PM ^

If they're the better team, wouldn't playing them early bode better for us? They would have less opportunity to scout us (and our new system) and it seems like the last couple years ND has started off slow (to our benefit) and then picked it up later in the year. Granted, we will have less time to scout them too, but I think playing them early helps to equalize some things.


July 22nd, 2011 at 1:13 PM ^

My brother-in-law bet me $20, taking ND - 14.5 vs M this year. They should be good and might beat us, but 14 and a hook is absurd...thanks for the brewskies, broskie.

blue note

July 22nd, 2011 at 1:17 PM ^

Going to be tough to play power football on that defense

Looked at their depth chart on rivals -

Their DL goes 295- 280(Cwynar) / 340(Nix) - 300

Their LBs go 250-250-255-245

For a college 3-4 that's not messing around

D.C. Dave

July 22nd, 2011 at 1:43 PM ^

I really don't see that Notre Dame has a big edge in this game. I'd take our returning team over what the Irish bring back. Their defensive rise came against some pretty weak teams that usually are better (a mediocre USC team, Utah after it lost its QB), so I don't see them shutting us down. And they have serious, serious depth issues, worse than ours. Their starting RB gets dinged and they've got youngsters in there. There is no Rudolph at TE, no second receiver. Double-team Floyd and things get tough for them. At home, at night, with the best player in the game on our side, I think we win it.


July 22nd, 2011 at 7:55 PM ^

So bowl games aren't a big time game? How about when you have to start a true freshman QB for the final 4 games of the season?  Does beating the 14th rated team in the country count (with said true freshman QB)?  How about ending that huge unbeaten streak against your biggest rival (still a true freshman QB btw)?

Hey look I just named 3 things UM couldn't do last year that ND did.


July 22nd, 2011 at 8:52 PM ^

Pretty much responds to the arguments here. And I think you would be better off starting Rees. He was better than Crist, in my opinion, and it's grooming him for the future. And don't get me started on non-Big 6 conference teams being ranked high. You beat your big rival when it was knocked down by NCAA sanctions, we'll do the same.


July 22nd, 2011 at 8:58 PM ^

You are greatly underestimating ND's opponents last year and UM's this year.  What exactly has the football team done since the spring game to improve?  UM will lose to OSU without huge strides on both sides of the ball.


July 22nd, 2011 at 11:23 PM ^

I'm looking at your schedule with maize and blue glasses and you're looking at your schedule with blue and gold glasses. We won't know what the team has done this summer for another week, but the reports have been nothing but glowing so far. And on defense we actually have a coordinator now who understands defense and realizes you probabaly shouldn't give the opposing team's WRs a 15 yard cushion on 3rd and 3s. We're looking at a major coaching improvement and a return of a huge amount of experience. And while OSU still will be a challenge, I think we have the capability to beat them. They're starting a freshman at QB, lose their head coach of the past 10 years, and if they lose any of the games without the players who've been suspended or lose any games after they return, they'll be demoralized. I give us a 60-40 shot in that game.


July 23rd, 2011 at 2:30 PM ^

2 of those games included Crist being knocked out of the game for extended periods of time.  The depth chart included a true freshman and a walk-on QB behind him; they did not have the depth or experience to overcome a loss like that on the first offensive drive of the game.  How many times was denard knocked out of the game for multiple quarters let alone games, and UM persevered with no QB depth?

ND lost the navy game a week before it was played, they weren't prepared and the game plan left a lot to be desired.  The defensive staff will need to learn from those mistakes to have success this year.


July 22nd, 2011 at 1:49 PM ^

finished the season strong last year (beating USC sans Barkley and Miami FL). Brian Kelly is a very good head coach and has worked miracles with average quarterback talent in the past.    Their offense is definitely going to be better than last year, but I suspect the biggest improvement  for them on defense. They had 3 close losses last year (UM, MSU and Tulsa) and few to no close wins.  They'll be a better team for sure.

Phil Steele says ND could be 12-0 though. I don't understand that. Just looking at the Irish fall schedule I see 5 to 6 teams that will be very tough challenges for the Domers:

at Michigan


at Pitt


at Stanford

Boston College at home won't be a picnic game IMO despite 2 straight wins over them.

I predict a 8-4-or 9-3 finish for Notre Dame.

As for the Michigan game, I try not to be negative, but I can foresee another close contest down to the wire and that Ruffer kid trotting out with seconds to play to nail a 50 yarder or something. 




July 22nd, 2011 at 3:35 PM ^

My Freshman year of college at my first Michigan game (in person) I had to stand up in the rain for 5 hours and watch Rahib Ishmail return two kicks for touchdowns in a game we should have otherwise won.  Each one was like a punch in the gut.   The worst part was the girls from St. Mary's talking smack at the parties that night.  They don't even go to ND.  Beating OSU means something.  Beating ND doesn't necessarily mean anything, but losing to them cetainly does.  It won't determine Michigan's fate for the year, but there is a lot of pride in winning that game.


July 22nd, 2011 at 4:31 PM ^

I think maybe you're underestimating Crist, especially in relation to Rees. Crist, you'll recall, picked Michigan apart last year. Yeah, yeah, so did most QBs. But still. Crist was lights-out until a concussion sidelined him for a good chunk of the game; had the latter not occurred, ND probably would have rolled. Crist, when healthy, is very dangerous.

D.C. Dave

July 22nd, 2011 at 7:28 PM ^

He went 22-for-29 and two touchdowns. The slow UMass running back -- the short, chubby guy -- rushed for more than 100 yards. The Indiana quarterback hit 45-of-64 for 480 yards and three touchdowns -- the best game of his career -- on a horrible team.

We cannot make a judgment about Crist based on how he played against us. It was like running offensive plays against pylons, with a mannequin as our defensive coordinator.



July 22nd, 2011 at 11:27 PM ^

that Crist's stats came against weaker teams, while Ree's came against stronger ones. Plus wouldn't you want to set yourself up for the future by grooming the younger QB who has more years of elgibility left than the older QB who brings no distinct advantage to the table?


July 23rd, 2011 at 1:14 PM ^

Rees had the major benefit of a running game and a great defense when he played, Kelly essentially put the burden of the offense on Crist's shoulders, in retrospect something he was not ready for as a first year starter.

Crist has a stronger arm, is a better athlete, and is much bigger than Rees.  At their best, Crist enables Kelly to expand his offense more so than Rees.  Kelly really did not attack down the field much with Rees.  Not sure about Rees facing stronger competition either.  Crist played against the two best teams on the schedule last year, Stanford (he really struggled) and Michigan State (he shredded them much of the game, throwing for almost 400 yards).

Long term, Hendrix and Golson are better fits for the offense than Rees and have more eligibility left.  I'm not counting Tommy out though, because he's definitely a gamer/grinder/insert cliche.


July 22nd, 2011 at 5:02 PM ^

I am picking ND to get to the NC game this year.  Almost every quality opponent they play this year has a new coach or depth issues from probation and scholly losses.  

Auto-wins: USF, Purdue, Air Force, Navy, Wake Forest.

Games they could lose but won't: Maryland, BC

Games against teams that were elite for one year but on the way down: Sparty.

Games they could possibly lose and reasons why they probably won't:

Michigan: New coach, new system.

Pitt: New coach, new system.

USC: depth issues may start to show from lack of schollies plus last year wasn't their greatest.

Stanford: Subtract Jim Harbaugh, add three losses.  One of those should be to ND.

ND will stub their toe somewhere, because they are probably still too traumatized from the Weis era to go undefeated yet, but a one-loss ND team will get voted into the NC game over any other team with one loss.  

I just hope MIchigan is able to stay close enough to not be embarassed this year.  ND and Nebraska are the only two teams I don't think they can beat this year.  I'm not saying Michigan will go 10-2, but a decent performance against ND would be very helpful.  


D.C. Dave

July 22nd, 2011 at 7:31 PM ^

In our case, the new system makes us better, not worse. Truth is, the offensive 'system' wasn't that great against Notre Dame, Denard Robinson was. People are putting too much emphasis on this. We'll be in the shotgun half the time and Notre Dame's 'great' defense was just a middle of the pack college defense. ND better hope they don't get to the BCS title game. They would get destroyed.


July 22nd, 2011 at 8:05 PM ^

Middle of the pack defense?

Miami averaged 182 rushing yards a game, ND held them to 87.  USC averaged 189, ND held them to 80, Army averaged 252, ND held them to 139 (thats 3.1 ypc), Utah averaged 153, ND held them to 71.

Wouldn't middle of the pack have been to allow each team to rush for its average.....not half of it?


July 22nd, 2011 at 8:41 PM ^

If you're decent and play a shitty schedule. You think army would get that many yards in the Big 10 or any other conference? Utah didn't have it's starting QB that game. Even I could game plan for that-stack the box, force the back-up QB to beat you. Miami was pretty much the same, playing against Mr. Interception. Not to mention you had a month to plan for that game. I'm guessing averages for most bowl teams drop off in the bowl games. And so you managed to hold a beat down USC team below it's season average in rushing yards, if it wasn't for the worst drop I've seen in all my years of watching football you still would have lost that game. And on top of that, your run defense didn't work too well against Denard last year. There's no reason to believe that will change.


July 22nd, 2011 at 9:15 PM ^

Wynn started 11 off Utah's games last season, including the ND game, and threw all but one of their passes.  ND WAS THE TEAM WITH THE BACKUP QB STARTING.  

ND played against both Miami QBs in the bowl game, and last I knew they also get a month to prepare for the game.

Rees scored every one of USC's points with 4 ints and a fumble.  USC couldn't do a thing themselves without already starting in FG range.  It didn't come down to one pass.

Imagine that, in the second game of the year the defense wasn't prepared for the first player to ever rush and throw for 1500 yards in the same season.  If you're expecting the same results this year, you will be off the bandwagon before the bye week.


July 22nd, 2011 at 11:55 PM ^

I read it somewhere here while I was on my phone so I wasn't able to check the facts before posting. My bad for that. And you can't argue that if that pass was caught, barring a miracle, ND would have lost. In my books, that's coming down to one pass. And didn't the second Miami QB come in after the game was out of reach? You were already up 21-0 after the backup came in, forcing the back up to play catch-up and we all know that's a different game. And while the win was still a bowl win, something that ND sorely needed (something that UM needs now too), it hardly came against a great quality opponent. I'll believe the ND defense can stop  Denard when I see it. I'm not saying that he's unstoppable, far from it, but that it'll take a serious change to go from 502 yards of offense to even below 300, and 300 yards of offense isn't a small amount at all. And sorry, not part of any bandwagon here. I've supported Michigan every game, even in games where I knew we had no chance of winning (08 OSU anyone?), I 've never stopped supporting Michigan even when I disagreed with the direction the program was going. If you want to find a bandwagon fan, search the Miami area, there'll be plenty around there.


July 22nd, 2011 at 9:30 PM ^

I was at the Utah-ND game and don't remember anything about the Utes not having their starting QB.

Jordan Wynn was their main guy all year (17 TDs; 2,334 yards), as you can see from their team site.



And he played almost the whole game against the Irish.





July 22nd, 2011 at 5:18 PM ^


Overall, I thought it was a pretty fair article, but from an ND perspective, I had some issues with it.

QB: Not sure why you feel Rees is a better fit for Kelly's offense. Kelly wants a pass-first QB who can push the ball down the field and also has the ability to be a threat running the zone-read option.  Rees has the weakest arm among the QBs and is not a runner at all.  He may end up being the best QB but he's not the best fit.

I would assume Crist is the starter with Rees as the main backup right now and Kelly said he will probably use either Hendrix or Golson as a change of pace QB given their running ability.

RB: If Wood lives up to any of the hype and can stay healthy ND will be much better than a 2/5 at RB.  He was better than that when he was the starter at the end of the year against USC and Miami.  His biggest issues last year were holding onto the football and inexperience in the system, two things that should improve with time.  Depth is rightly noted as a major concern.  However, if Wood went down I don't think Kelly would hesitate to move Riddick back to RB, especially if Gray can't carry the load (he hasn't proven he can so far) and the frosh aren’t ready.

WR: Duval Kamara was not a starter last year and he wasn't injured, he only played after TJ Jones and Riddick went down with injuries.  He played in 3 games and filled in well with 3 TDs but then missed the bowl game due to academic issues.

OL: Watt is contending with 5th year senior Andrew Nuss for the starting job at LG (Watt is expected to win), Robinson will be the starter at RG.

DL:  The biggest issue is Cwynar holding up (he’s been injured this offseason and its probably affected his ability to lift) given that he’s undersized as a 3-4 NG (at 6-4 285).

LB: Soph Danny Spond is squarely in the mix to start at the OLB spot opposite Fleming.  Spond is a good athlete who can play well in space.  Kendall Moore is contending for a backup ILB spot (Fox can play there too), he was ND’s defensive scout team player of the year as a frosh.  5 star early enrollee Ishaq Williams will probably see time on pass rushing downs on the outside.

DB: ND’s biggest concern is the 3rd corner spot.  Lo Wood played ST last year as a frosh and Bennett Jackson moved from WR to CB in the spring, where he impressed (very fast player).  Other than that we have two true frosh in Jalen Brown and Josh Atkinson.  Jamoris Slaughter is batting Motta to start at FS.  Slaughter was the starter to open the season but was banged up for most of the year opening the door for Motta.

D.C. Dave

July 22nd, 2011 at 7:35 PM ^

The RB rating is fair when one considers the steep drop if Wood goes down. And he will go down at some point. Not wishing it on him, but it's a tough position to go all year without getting knocked out here and there. ND does not have experienced depth at RB, WR or TE, and the quarterbacks after Crist are nothing special at this point, because they lack game experience. Floyd is a superstar, so opponents will doubleteam him. He also gets hurt all the time. So it's a team that needs everything to go right and can't suffer any injuries at a few key spots. Teams are rarely that fortunate.


July 22nd, 2011 at 8:49 PM ^

No it's not a given that a player will get injured during the course of a season.  If he does get knocked out for a period of time, it very well may be during a game ND can weather the storm like Purdue or Wake Forest, instead of Michigan or USC.  Also, I was assuming that given this is a Michigan blog, the rating was more about the quality of the team when Michigan plays them, not the last game of the season.  I would say its highly unlikely that he's injured before Michigan.

Not many teams have experienced depth period, rather they just have depth.  ND is thin at RB but there are options if they miss Wood, although certainly not ideal.  At WR ND has John Goodman and Robby Toma, neither can replace Floyd, but they can get the job done if Jones and Riddick get knocked out respectively.  ND is actually very deep at TE, Mike Ragone was one of the top TEs in the country coming out of HS and has a lot of experience blocking (and a little in the pass game) as a 5th year senior.  Alex Welch really impressed in  the spring as a RS Frosh (so much so that Kelly said he would implement some 3 TE sets).  Ben Koyack was one of the top TEs in the country this past year and could contribute in the passing game if needed.


July 22nd, 2011 at 9:25 PM ^

I haven't read the whole thing, but there was an interesting take on the defense.  The author blamed the Navy game on the 3-4 ND was running w/o any adjustments by their coaches.  Navy's guards got to the linebackers too easily.  He went on to claim that playing more 4-3 after that was part of their success.


July 22nd, 2011 at 9:53 PM ^

All things being equal, somewhat to last year...  Lets do some math!

28-24 last year.  So...

Add Crist in for 4 full quarters +14 ND.

Better defense at the end of last year -7 UM.

Denard throwing more. 0 (Offset by his studly running ability)

Change in system offense -7 UM.

Change in system defense +7 ND.

Special teams +9 ND.


By my count that is...ND 54 UM 14.  Sounds about right.


July 24th, 2011 at 4:45 AM ^

I'm thinking they beat USC and will have a tough game at Stanford.

Michigan and Michigan State will be tough but the irish will be favored in both games.

A Michigan win will be huge and may mean contending for a conference championship.

A close loss may mean a few more tough losses but a winning season.

A blowout loss: Thank God the rest of the nonconference schedule is relatively easy.