Press conference notes


While the headlines coming out of yesterday’s press conference were the good and bad news on injuries regarding Michael Floyd and Dayne Crist, there were still more than a few interesting tidbits gathered yesterday. Here are a few notes from the press conference.

* John Goodman is now working as the third-string quarterback. Weis was clear that this was simply an emergency precaution, but he wanted to be prepared just in case.

The thing is if we don’t start training him to be ready to go what we
don’t want to do is be down another quarterback, regardless whether it
was one of the first two guys and now be scrambling to get them ready
to go. Even when we tried our gadget plays in practice, and reverse
passes with Goodman, which, believe it or not, we do have them. He’s
not been efficient throwing it because of being rusty.

In training camp when we threw it a lot, he would look pretty good. But
because it’s been a while. So we have to knock off some of the rust.
It’s not a question of whether Goody can throw the ball or run the
offense. It’s the question of you don’t want to take away from his
competing at the wide receiver position but at the same time get him
ready to go. He’ll be a marginal rep guy at quarterback, and his reps
will come at wide receiver.

This kind of emergency situation is around because Nate Montana decided to spent this fall at Pasadena City College, hoping to get some playing time and develop his skill set. The transition hasn’t been easy for Nate, he’s completed only 31 of his 88 passes, throwing 2 touchdowns and 5 interceptions, although I’m guessing Weis would feel more comfortable with Montana under center than Goodman, who hasn’t played there since his senior season in high school.

* It’s pretty obvious that CW is happy to have Michael Floyd back. It’s also obvious that he did everything by the book to protect Michael, even consulting with Dr. James Andrews, the most prominent doctor in sports medicine.

Our trainers did a good job. And talked to the doctor guru down in
Alabama. And he agreed, let’s go. And Michael called his mom up to make
sure that we were all on the same page. Because I let him, you know —
I let Michael make the call. Once he got cleared to go, you know, still
let Michael make the call whether or not this was the week or not.

He talked to his mom. Talked to me. Came back to me and said, I’m ready
to go. Wasn’t too long before I was getting a text from No. 7. He might
have been as happy as No. 3 was. I think No. 7 might have been just as

Weis was clear that the Irish have a game plan with Floyd and that he won’t be on the field for the entire game. Still I think the decision to let him play against Navy was smart, and it’ll let him get accustomed to contact and game speed before the showdown with Pitt next weekend.

* Weis addressed the Golden Tate / fair catch issue, specifically whether or not Golden has been conservative back there in calling fair catches. I’ve long thought Golden has been pretty risk averse as a return man, which doesn’t really seem to fit his on-field personality, but CW attributed the fair catches to the spread punt alignment.

I think everyone’s in this spread punt right now. It’s the big in vogue
thing in the country. You spread them out all over the place, and
instead of two gunners, you have seven of them. Just about every week
you’re dealing with the same thing. That forces you everyone’s playing
one-on-one in space.

You’re blocking one-on-one in space. So it’s not like you had double
teams on this guy or double teams on that guy. There’s always one guy
besides downside guys that’s running completely free on account of
running down there. In our case usually our lone snapper. He’s running
down there and nobody even touches him. So the ball goes down there and
it’s like having another gunner down there.

Whether it was Tommy Zbikowski back there or Joey Getherall, Irish fans have gotten used to fearless punt returners that never signaled for fair catches. Still, I think Tate has been a little more conservative than either he or Charlie would care to admit, and that’s probably a product of the tight games the Irish have been playing in. Still, with hands like Tate’s, he’d be better off taking a chance on catching the ball, maybe making someone miss, and if he gets hit early, he’d get the Irish an extra 15 yards. (Also known as the Getherall special…)

Evaluating VanGorder’s scheme against the option

ANNAPOLIS, MD - SEPTEMBER 19:  Keenan Reynolds #19 of the Navy Midshipmen rushes for his fifth touchdown in the fourth quarter against the East Carolina Pirates during their 45-21 win on September 19, 2015 in Annapolis, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Notre Dame’s ability to slow down Georgia Tech’s vaunted option attack served as one of the high points to the Irish’s early season success. After spending a considerable amount of offseason energy towards attacking the option and learning more, watching the Irish hold the Yellow Jackets in check was a huge victory for Brian VanGorder, Bob Elliott and the rest of Notre Dame’s staff.

But it was only half the battle.

This weekend, Keenan Reynolds and Navy’s veteran offense come to town looking to wreak some havoc on a defense that’s struggled to slow it down. And after getting a look at some of the new tricks the Irish had in store for Paul Johnson, Ken Niumatalolo and his offensive coaches have likely started plotting their counterpunches days in advance.

How did Notre Dame’s defense slow down Georgia Tech? Brian Kelly credited an aggressive game plan and continually changing looks. So while some were quick to wonder whether Notre Dame’s scheme changes were the biggest piece of the puzzle, it’s interesting to see how the Irish’s strategic decisions looked from the perspective of an option expert.

Over at “The Birddog” blog, Michael James utilizes his spread option expertise and takes a look at how the Irish defended Georgia Tech. His conclusion:

Did the Irish finally figure out the magic formula that will kill this gimmick high school offense for good?

Not exactly.

The Irish played a fairly standard 4-3 for a large chunk of the game. James thought Notre Dame’s move to a 3-5-3 was unique, though certainly not the first time anybody’s used that alignment.

But what stood out wasn’t necessarily the Xs and Os, but rather how much better Notre Dame’s personnel reacted to what they were facing.

Again, from the Birddog Blog:

The real story here, and what stood out to me when watching Notre Dame play Georgia Tech, was how much faster the Irish played compared to past years. I don’t mean that they are more athletic, although this is considered to be the best Notre Dame team in years. I mean that they reacted far more quickly to what they saw compared to what they’ve done in the past.

Usually, when a team plays a spread option offense, one of the biggest challenges that defensive coordinators talk about is replicating the offense’s speed and precision. It’s common to hear them say that it takes a series or two to adjust. That was most certainly not the case here.

James referenced our Media Day observations and seemed impressed by the decision to bring in walk-on Rob Regan to captain what’s now known as the SWAG team. And while VanGorder’s reputation as a mad scientist had many Irish fans wondering if the veteran coordinator cooked something up that hadn’t been seen, it was more a trait usually associated with Kelly that seems to have made the biggest difference.

“It wasn’t that the game plan was so amazing (although it was admittedly more complex and aggressive than we’ve seen out of other Notre Dame teams),” James wrote. “It was plain ol’ coachin’ ’em up.

“Notre Dame’s players were individually more prepared for what they’d see. Notre Dame is already extremely talented, but talented and prepared? You can’t adjust for that. That’s more challenging for Navy than any game plan.”

Irish prepared to take on the best Navy team in years


Brian Kelly opens every Tuesday press conference with compliments for an opponent. But this week, it was easy to see that his kind words for Navy were hardly lip service.

Ken Niumatalolo will bring his most veteran—and probably his most talented—group of Midshipmen into Notre Dame Stadium, looking to hand the Irish their first loss in the series since Kelly’s debut season in South Bend.

“Ken Niumatalolo has done an incredible job in developing his program and currently carrying an eight-game winning streak,” Kelly said. “I voted for them in USA Today Top 25 as a top-25 team. I think they’ve earned that. But their defense as well has developed. It’s played the kind of defense that I think a top 25 team plays.”

With nine months of option preparation, Notre Dame needs to feel confident about their efforts against Georgia Tech. Then again, the Midshipmen saw that game plan and likely have a few tricks in store.

As much as the Irish have focused their efforts on stopping Keenan Reynolds and the triple-option, Navy’s much-improved defense is still looking for a way to slow down a team that’s averaged a shade over 48 points a game against them the last four seasons.

Niumatalolo talked about that when asked about slowing down Will Fuller and Notre Dame’s skill players, an offense that’s averaged over 48 points a game during this four-game win streak.

“We’ve got to try our best to keep [Fuller] in front of us, that’s easier said than done,” Niumatalolo said. “We’ve got to play as close as we can without their guys running past us. I’ve been here a long time and we’re still trying to figure out how to do that.”


Navy heads to South Bend unbeaten, defeating former Irish defensive coordinator Bob Diaco‘s team just two Saturdays ago. And while Diaco raised a few eyebrows when he said Navy would be the team’s toughest test of the year (they already played a ranked Missouri team), the head of the UConn program couldn’t have been more effusive in his praise.

“I have been competing against Navy for some time and this is the best Navy team I have seen for, let’s say the last half-dozen years,” UConn coach Bob Diaco told the New Haven Register. “I could click on footage from three years ago and see a lion’s share of players who are playing right now in the game as freshmen and sophomores. They have a veteran group, a strong group, a talented group and they look like the stiffest competition among our first four opponents.”

As usual, there will be those who look at this game as the breather between Clemson and USC. That won’t be anybody inside The Gug. So as the Irish try to get back to their winning ways in front of a home crowd, a complete team effort is needed.

“I’ll take a win by one,” Kelly said Tuesday. “That would be fine with me.”