Scouting the Notre Dame Offense

Submitted by AAL on September 9th, 2010 at 3:07 PM

This may or may not be a running series based on time constraints and feedback.

Legitimate scouting of an offense should have 2-4 of the most recent games, but only one has been played. Online video sources efficient for scouting purposes are hard to come by, as well. The bitTorrents take 8-10 hours to receive with my computer and (which I used) made me want to kill myself. The need to constantly rewind for 5-10 seconds with poor tools is beyond tedious (Tom Hammond didn’t help). TV is also notorious for cutting important information out of the shot and, where this occurred, I didn’t record data.

  • If you enjoy this and know a way to get full game video quickly please let me know.

A Few Disclaimers

  • The focus was on data and not particular players’ ability. I didn’t watch anything trying to figure out how good a particular player or position group is. Regardless, I picked up some things that I note at the bottom.
  • I recorded 56 total plays, stopping when they were up 23-12 and bleeding clock
  • I link to my own site to explain some terms utilized.
  • Nominal analytical errors certainly exist, but don’t effect points made in a meaningful way.

The Irish never make analytical errors

The Irish never make analytical errors

2010 Notre Dame Offense vs. Purdue

By Down and Distance

  • On 1st and 10, the Irish were 68% run, 32% pass. On all other downs they were 21% run, 79% pass
  • On 3rd and 2+, they were 90% 5 Step
  • Overall 45% Run, 55% Pass, but you can see where the runs come from

By Field Zone

  • Unsurprisingly, the Irish are more conservative inside their own 20. In 5 plays they relied on Power, Play Action, and a Jailbreak screen
  • No other meaningful tendencies solely by field position

By Personnel, Backfield, and Formation

(A quick note on Personnel: Rudolph moves around a lot between TE and receiver. I used whichever position he actually lined up in, rather than identifying him as a TE every play.)

  • ND most popular backfield is Empty, using 00 Personnel. In 13 plays they used a version of the Trips Open formation (3 x 2) 12 times and Quads Open (4 x 1) once. All plays were 5 Step except one, where they faked a sweep to a player in motion and ran Crist unsuccessfully on a Power.
  • In 10 Personnel ND uses a formation I call Detroit. Because the play concepts are similar regardless of backfield, I combined instances of the Gun Near and Gun Far backfields for 14 total plays. 9 were 5 Step, followed by Draws (2), Play Action, Trap, and Inside Zone (1 each).
  • From here, things get more interesting. Again in 10 Personnel, ND used Gun Near Trips Open 9 times, 8 of which were runs (6 different zone plays, a Power, and a Draw). When the #3 receiver lines up as a true slot (1 x 1 off the OT, always Rudolph) ND called 4 runs to the weakside and nothing else. Those plays netted 16, 13, 15, and 13 yards, respectively. This could have been solely to exploit a defender or the scheme, but a major tendency nonetheless.
  • When the Irish go to 11 Personnel they lined up in Trey Open (Gun Near and Gun Far) for 11 of 12 plays. 9 runs, 3 passes. Runs were balanced between strong/weak.

By Play

  • The obvious: they throw a lot of 5 step (27 of 56 plays)
  • Most popular runs: Power (8), Inside Zone (5), Draw (3), Read Zone (3)

By Passing Zone and vs. Blitz

  • Crist threw to the strong or weak curl zone 13 times.
  • Of the 7 passes he threw over 15 yards, 2 were complete (+21, +19) and one was called for defensive PI.
  • Purdue only blitzed 3 times before the score was 20-3. The Irish handled it at that time (+5, +12, +7). After, Purdue blitzed 8 times netting 2 sacks, 3 incompletions, 1 scramble (for 0 yards), and a safety on a run play. Against the late blitzes, the Irish succeeded once on an Inside Zone run (+18).

Other Anecdotes

  • Crist is not a great run threat, but like any QB he can scramble for yards in a pinch
  • Floyd will be moved around as necessary to create favorable matchups
  • Rudolph, though utilized often, is not a great receiver in terms of measurables. His routes are about as round as a circle and he’s not fast. I didn't see what the hype is about. In the Empty set, ND put him in the weak slot a couple times, had the 3 strong receivers clearout that side and dragged him across for easy yardage. They also hit him 3 times in the weak curl zone for +8, +9, +9.
  • Crist audibled into a counter weak for ND’s first TD (+22).
  • ND pulls their center or backside tackle often to lead through the hole rather than the backside guard. (Those are some of the plays I labeled Power. Some may disagree with that name, but the concept is the same.)
  • Purdue plays a 4-3 and was happy to sit in Cover 2 for almost 50% of all plays. Often a nickel back was in the game replacing the Sam, but serving the same function. The safeties sat at 10-12 pre-snap and weren’t going to let anything over their heads.
  • It’s impossible to know how much of ND’s offense is “what they want to do offensively” vs. “what Purdue was allowing.” Michigan played a lot of Cover 3 last week. Based on the the ND scheme and what happened vs. Purdue I’d guess M plays much more Cover 2, Cover 4, Cover 6, and rolls to Cover 3 more often, if employed, to give Crist a different look. I’d also expect M to pressure or show pressure more often than Purdue did, based on how Crist performed against it.
  • I didn’t pay too much attention to the RBs because I focused on data, but they are legit. I’m sure Brian will have plenty on them.
  • If someone wants my chart, I can try to find a way to put it up.



September 9th, 2010 at 3:43 PM ^

Kelly utilizes what he (at Cincy) called stem routes in the passing game Lots of mid to deep routes.. Strictly read based routes. Simple, but receivers and QB have to make the same reads. This offense will get better and better as year progresses. This explains why some passes missed very badly for them vs. Purdue-  young QB, new system. Anyway I just hope it doesnt progress too well for them this week.


September 9th, 2010 at 4:01 PM ^ seemed like there was very little flow to ND's offense last Saturday.  Had to watch their game alongside the M game, and it was hard not to take a peek at what the Irish and Purdue were doing.

Ugly game, really.  Not much flow to either teams' offenses...but I suppose that's to be expected.  I was particularly unimpressed with Purdue's offense.  Also, as AAL noted, Purdue didn't do much of anything on defense until they were "forced" into taking some chances.

Great analysis, AAL.  I hope you can do this each week!


September 10th, 2010 at 12:06 AM ^

To add on to that point: Rudoph's "round" routes are intentionally so. Much more so than the traditional route tree, Kelly's receivers transition to soft areas of coverage and explore ways to morph around the D.

Smart Football took a crack at explaining some of this when Kelly was hired:…


September 10th, 2010 at 12:35 AM ^

Check the video example I posted below. If every play were as Brown described, he'd keep pushing vertically on the play. On this play he's trying to get to the sticks on 3rd and 7, stemming inside to set the guy up before (eventually) running a short out. I'm not disagreeing with what Chris is saying, but it's not the case in the example that made me make the comment. Also, some ND guys say he has some nagging injuries which may be contributing. Either way, it looks like what it looks like.

Greg McMurtry

September 9th, 2010 at 4:02 PM ^

I'm willing to bet that ND plays less cover 2 vs UM than they did vs Purdue.  Also, I too wanted to kill myself when watching the NBC stream of the game.  I chose not to watch after a few plays.


September 9th, 2010 at 5:01 PM ^

Very nice analysis.  After looking at the ND roster and watching the game tape against Purdue I think our advantages lie in the trenches and at quarterback.  ND's offensive line is young and inexperienced.  We should be able to get to the quarterback fairly often, which should force some inconsistent throws.  On the flip side our offensive line has much more experience and is much more athletic.  This should allow us to control the LOS and give us the advantage in TOP.  Lastly, Denard Robinson > Crist.  As long as we don't turn the ball over or beat ourselves with penalty's then we will be fine.  31-21 M


September 9th, 2010 at 5:18 PM ^

This kind of thing is definitely a very valuable addition. It's so good I bet Notre Dame fans would want to read it as a breakdown of their team.

Definitely do it in later weeks whenever its possible and you are so inclined. Great stuff.


September 9th, 2010 at 6:50 PM ^

How fast do you expect a TE to be?  He is 6'6" 260 something, still speedier than a LB and bigger than a DB, he is a match up nightmare for opposing defenses.  He doesn't have to be fast, he has size and when covered by a LB a speed advantage, not to mention he doesn't just block he can catch the ball.  


September 9th, 2010 at 8:03 PM ^

I don't know...I thought he was pretty hyped up so I also thought he'd have better than average speed and run good routes. It may be too much for him to run so many routes due to his size. Seriously.

Deep linking isn't working so check this video at the 17 second mark for after-the-catch speed and 6 min, 24 second mark for routes:


September 9th, 2010 at 9:21 PM ^

I can kind of understand where you are coming from if this is the only time you have really watched him play.  They didn't send him deep or throw to him outside.  He is coming off a slight hamstring ding from camp, that probably contributes to the play calling and also the perceived speed he is running at.  I can see where you are coming from better now, though I will say he is capable of more than was shown in week 1.


September 9th, 2010 at 10:28 PM ^

irish and i spent the last 2 seasons watching rudolph easily run past linebackers, thus the conclusion that he's faster than most linebackers. what sort of stat are you looking for? do you want a FAKE 40 time? the last couple years, we've see him routinely run seam routes leaving linebackers in his wake. nfl scouts haven't been worried about his route running and pass catching, they've been worried about his blocking which was much improved against purdue.

i suspect his failure to make big plays against purdue had more to do with how he was used - mostly short outs - than his talent. of course, its also entirely possible that he's still feeling lingering effects of his hamstring injury. it seems rather unlikely that he is significantly slower than he was last year.

if michigan doesn't have a safety over the top, it won't take long before we have the opportunity to measure his speed against your lbs.

(btw, i'm incredibly impressed (and a little worried) that a michigan fan took the time to break down every single nd offensive snap. wow.)

Blue in Seattle

September 9th, 2010 at 10:57 PM ^

just an opinion on whether he'll look as poor as last week, or as sweet as last year.

Kind of the problem across the board for preparing for week 2.  Especially since ND has a new coach.  From the presser the Michigan Coaches are going to watch last year ND for personnel talent and last year Cincinnati for play calling and schemes.

all in all, pretty tough to end up with an opinion everyone agrees with.

although "running cuts like circles" is a bit harsh.

for me, I'm much more afraid of TE on LB mismatch than the WR on the corners.

especially since dumps to the TE don't require as much pass protect time from the OL.

I wonder if we'll see the punters on the field at all on Saturday?


September 9th, 2010 at 8:22 PM ^

xs and os, but will keep this by me during the game. More of this, please. 

Don't they say the biggest leap for teams tends to come between week one and two? I'm looking forward to the game. 


September 9th, 2010 at 9:50 PM ^

Nicely done, I could definitely get used to seeing these for as many upcoming opponents as you can break down.  I agree with you on their running backs being legit.  I was impressed with how reasonably well Michigan's beleaguered defense did against Todman so hopefully they are up to the task against the Irish.


September 10th, 2010 at 1:04 PM ^

Looking at that video of every ND running play, it seems that their line is either solid for a huge game, or pourous for a small gain or negative play.

That's promising, if Michigan's defense can play like they did last week where Ezeh was ok and Mouton was good (!)