Smart Football: Ault's Pistol vs. Tenuta's Defense


Chris Brown is the editor and creator of the website, which is every bit as intelligent as the website name implies. He’s taken a look at the Pistol offense before, and I asked him to give us a little slice of how he expected Notre Dame defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta to attack Chris Ault’s vaunted pistol offense. Enjoy.

To understand what Tenuta needs to do on defense you need to understand
at least the flavor of Nevada’s offense. What the “pistol” gives Nevada
is the ability to combine a downhill, pro-style (inside zone, outside
zone) and old-school option style game with some spread elements —
namely, the quarterback can do the zone-read and all of that good
stuff. But it’s not accurate to think of Nevada as a “spread” team in
the vein of Oregon or what Rich Rodriguez is doing at Michigan.

As videos like the above show, they want to rush it straight ahead;
that the quarterback, the 6-6 Colin Kaepernick who had over 1,000 yards
rushing last season, can also read the defense and pull the ball
himself is just gravy on top. One of the advantages this gives Chris
Ault is that they are much better at play-action and sucking the
defense up and throwing over the top than are most so-called “spread

So what does that mean? It means that you play Nevada almost like teams
used to have to play those old Nebraska teams, except Nevada can throw
it better than they could. (This is not to say Nevada can steamroll
people quite like Tom Osborne’s Cornhuskers.) The front seven has to be
disciplined, keep in their lanes, account for all of the offense’s run
options (quarterback, receivers or pitch backs, running backs), while
the safeties have to be cautious and cannot just sell out to stop the
run. This actually puts a lot of pressure on the cornerbacks, as they
will not get much help in pass coverage from the inside linebackers.

Whether or not Tenuta wants to be aggressive is really just a matter of
style. Zone blitzing could be effective, but it could also be a
distraction considering that Nevada wants to throw it first and often
does so in a very straight ahead, power-focused, old-school fashion.
Now, the defensive line will be key, and if they can defeat Nevada’s
zone blocking and get penetration into the backfield, most will think
they were “aggressive” enough, even if the Irish aren’t actually
blitzing. As I said, the front seven has to take on Nevada’s offensive
line and just play better than them.

If they can do this and bottle up the running backs — and also not lose
discipline and let Kaepernick gash them for big gains — then Notre
Dame shouldn’t have too much trouble with Nevada, as I’m confident that
ND can throw it against Nevada. If they can’t though, it might be a
shootout, and that’s not the way Charlie Weis wants to start the season.

Be sure to check out more from Chris at Smart Football, and follow him on twitter at

Robertson picks Cal over Notre Dame, UGA

Demetris Robertson
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Demetris Robertson‘s decision wasn’t trending in Notre Dame’s direction. But those that expected the Savannah star athlete to pick the in-state Bulldogs were in for a surprise when Robertson chose Cal on Sunday afternoon.

Notre Dame’s pursuit of the five-star athlete, recruited to play outside receiver and hopefully replace Will Fuller, likely ended Sunday afternoon with Robertson making the surprise decision to take his substantial talents to Berkeley. And give credit to Robertson for doing what he said all along—picking a school that’ll give him the chance to earn an exceptional education and likely contribute from Day One.

“I am excited to take my talents to the University of California, Berkeley. The first reason is that the education was a big part of my decision. I wanted to keep that foundation,” Robertson said, per CFT. “When I went there, it felt like home. Me and the coaching staff have a great relationship. That’s where I felt were the best of all things for me.”

Adding one final twist in all of this is that Robertson has no letter-of-intent to sign. Because he’s blown three months through Signing Day, Robertson merely enrolls at a college when the time comes. That means until then, Kirby Smart and the Georgia staff will continue to sell Robertson on staying home and helping the Dawgs rebuild. Smart visited with Robertson Saturday night and had multiple assistant coaches at his track meet this weekend.

Summer school begins in June for Notre Dame. Their freshman receiving class looks complete with early enrollee Kevin Stepherson and soon-to-arrive pass-catchers Javon McKinley and Chase Claypool.

Sheldon Day drafted in 4th round by Jaguars

North Carolina v Notre Dame

Former Notre Dame captain Sheldon Day didn’t have to wait long on Saturday to hear his name called. The Indianapolis native, All-American, and the Irish’s two-time defensive lineman of the year was pick number 103, the fourth pick of the fourth round on Saturday afternoon.

Day was the seventh Irish player drafted, following first rounders Ronnie Stanley and Will Fuller, second round selections Jaylon Smith and Nick Martin, and third rounders KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise.

Day has a chance to contribute as he joins the 24th-ranked defense in the league. Joining a draft class heavy on defensive players—Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue already picked ahead of him—the front seven will also include last year’s No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler, who missed the entire season with a knee injury.

Scouted by the Jaguars at the Senior Bowl, Day doesn’t necessarily have the size to be a traditional defensive tackle. But under Gus Bradley’s attacking system (Bradley coordinated the Seahawks defense for four seasons), Day will find a niche and a role in a young defense that’s seen a heavy investment the past two years.

Smith, Martin, Russell and Prosise all drafted Friday night

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 13: William Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Nick Martin #72 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrate a touchdown during the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Jaylon Smith, Nick Martin, KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise were all selected on Friday, with four Irish teammates taken on the second night of the NFL Draft. As mentioned, Smith came off the board at pick 34, with the Cowboys gambling on the injured knee of the Butkus Award winner. Nick Martin was selected at pick 50, joining former teammate Will Fuller in Houston.

The third round saw Russell and Prosise come off the board, with Kansas City jumping on the confident cornerback and the Seahawks taking Notre Dame’s breakout running back. It capped off a huge night for the Irish with Sheldon Day, one of the more productive football players in college football, still on the board for teams to pick.

Here’s a smattering of instant reactions from the immediate aftermath.



Jaylon Smith goes to Dallas with 34th pick

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 07:  Jaylon Smith #9 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates by wearing the hat of team mascot, Lucky The Leprechaun, following their 42-30 win against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Heinz Field on November 7, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Jaylon Smith’s nightmare is over.

After watching his football life thrown into chaos with a career-altering knee injury, Smith came off the board after just two picks in the second round, selected by the Dallas Cowboys with the 34th pick. His selection ended the most challenging months of Smith’s young life, and come after cashing in a significant tax-free, loss-of-value insurance policy that’ll end up being just shy of a million dollars.

No, it’s not top-five money like Smith could’ve expected if he didn’t get hurt. But Smith isn’t expected to play in 2016.

And while there was a pre-draft fascination that focused on the doom and gloom more than the time-consuming recovery, it’s worth pointing out that Dallas’ medical evaluation comes from the source—literally. After all, it was the Cowboys team doctor, Dr. Dan Cooper, who performed the surgery to repair Smith’s knee.

Smith joins Ezekiel Elliott with the Cowboys, arguably the two best position players in the draft. While he might not be available in 2016, Smith will be under the supervision of the Cowboys’ medical staff, paid a seven-figure salary to get healthy with the hopes that he’ll be back to his All-American self sooner than later, especially as the nerve in his knee returns to full functionality.