Opponent preview: Western Michigan

3 Comments

We’re halfway home profiling Notre Dame’s 2010 opponents. Check out the rest of them with Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State, Stanford, Boston College and Pitt.

The Overview:

With a hole still open on the 2010 schedule, last October athletic director Jack Swarbrick added Western Michigan to the home schedule, the final egg to the face of those that hated former athletic director Kevin White’s 7-4-1 scheduling model. Said Swarbrick of the marriage of convenience:

“We had one opening left on our 2010 schedule, and Western Michigan was
able to move some things and get it done. We’re thrilled because there
is great value in having teams play here that are coming from close by.
The fans from Western Michigan will make this a difficult ticket, and
there’s always energy in the stadium when you play someone from not far
away.”

After a schedule that opens with six straight BCS teams, sliding the Broncos in before prepping for Navy isn’t the worst thing in the world. While Western Michigan starts up a streak of four straight games against non-AQ teams, Swarbrick has shown with later moves that adding the Broncos to the Irish schedule was a move of necessity, not something he plans on continuing.

Last time against the Irish:

Lead by coach Knute Rockne and captain Frank Coughlin, the Irish faced off against their second straight team from Kalamazoo (Kalamazoo College opened the season) and behind 123 yards on 14 carries and two touchdowns by George Gipp, the Irish cruised to a 42-0 victory in front of 3,500 fans. Gipp also chipped in three PATs, and finished 1 for 2 passing for 10 yards, moving the Irish to 2-0 on the 1920 campaign, a season they’d finish 9-0.

Degree of Difficulty:

Of Notre Dame’s 12 opponents, Western Michigan ranks twelfth-most difficult game on the schedule.

      3. Boston College Eagles
      4. Michigan Wolverines
      5. Michigan State Spartans
      6. Pitt Panthers
      7. Stanford Cardinal
      8. Purdue Boilermakers
      12. Western Michigan Broncos

The Match-up:

Coming off a 5-7 campaign, the Broncos will try and replace four-year starter Tim Hiller and all-purpose running back Brandon West. Hiller holds just about every passing record in Broncos football history and West was even more prolific, departing as the FBS record holder for kick return yards and all-purpose yards. The Broncos will plug into their spread attack quarterback Alex Carder who has thrown only seven passes in his college career. Carder will have the support of a deep offensive line and three solid wide receivers, Robert Arnheim, Jordan White, and Juan Nunez.

Most of the secondary is back for the Broncos, but the unit struggled last season, finishing 92nd in the nation. Jamail Berry provided the lone bright spot, making five interceptions and returning at strong safety. The defense will have to replace All-MAC linebacker Austin Pritchard, as well as two other front-line players, DE Justin Braska and DT Cody Cielenski. Former Hofstra head coach Dave Cohen was brought in to coordinate the defense, but he may have been given a knife for a gunfight.

How the Irish will win:

They should win by showing up. The Broncos offense will be in a state of flux, and even the most experienced offensive line the Irish will face shouldn’t slow down a pass rush that should be coming into their own. More importantly, the Irish offense should feast on a green defense, exploiting physical match-ups and moving the ball up and down the field with both the first and second team offense.

How the Irish will lose:

It’d have to be a an Armageddon-like scenario, and my creativity is struggling to come up with a way for this to happen. For the Irish, getting their starting personnel through this game and ready for Navy should be what’s most important.

Gut Feeling:

If you’re a Notre Dame fan, get to the game on time, because I expect the Irish offense to score early and often. That said, if there’s any game on the schedule that’s a hang-over / look-ahead game, this is it. Unfortunately for the Broncos, they lack the firepower needed to compete against the Irish. If Hiller and West were still on the roster, I’d give them a 1 in 100 chance, but this should be a easy victory for the Irish.

Restocking the roster: Running Backs

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 17: Josh Adams #33 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish runs for a 26-yard gain against the USC Trojans in the first half of the game at Notre Dame Stadium on October 17, 2015 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

Notre Dame’s running back depth chart was tested to its max less than 10 minutes into the season opener. The projected two-deep, Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant, were both lost for the year—Bryant out of school as an academic and disciplinary casualty by the start of fall camp and Folston because of a knee injury suffered on his third carry of the season.

Welcome back to Notre Dame, Autry Denson.

The school’s all-time leading rusher in his first season as a running back coach had to be feeling a little woozy. He had a converted wide receiver taking featured-back carries and a true freshman a little over a year removed from his own major knee injury serving as his primary backup.

That the Irish had their most prolific running season under Brian Kelly says quite a bit about the job that Denson did. It’s also a credit to the offensive line blocking, the adjusted scheme that also protected two new starting quarterbacks, and the talent that remained at the position.

Spring presents new challenges. Tarean Folston should be a little over seven months removed from ACL surgery, making him doubtful to do anything more than wear a red jersey. With C.J. Prosise‘s departure, Adams goes from record-setting rookie to spring starter, with Williams likely carrying a large load as well.

Tony Jones Jr. and Deon McIntosh arrive this summer, reinforcements on the way. But before we get there, let’s take a look at the pre-spring roster at running back.

 

DEPARTURES
C.J. Prosise (156 carries 1,032 yards, 11 TDs)
Greg Bryant (lost preseason 2015)

 

2015-16 ADDITIONS
Josh Adams (117 carries, 835 yards, 6 TDs)
Dexter Williams (21 carries, 81 yards, 3 TDs)
Tony Jones Jr.
Deon McIntosh 

 

PRE-SPRING DEPTH CHART
Tarean Folston,* Sr.
Josh Adams, Soph.
Dexter Williams, Soph.
Justin Brent,* Junior

*Additional year of eligibility remaining.

 

ANALYSIS: This might be a position battle deferred to fall camp, especially if Folston is still in recovery mode. At this point, it doesn’t make sense to rush back from an ACL tear for 15 practices, so while the rising senior may be chomping at the bit to return, it’s better to save it until August.

Folston will likely be the team’s most versatile back, but keeping Adams off the field will be a hard chore. His breakaway speed was on display multiple times in 2015, with his record-setting run against Wake Forest the team’s longest play from scrimmage. Adams also likely added some mass and physicality to his game in the offseason weigh-training program, giving the Irish someone capable of hitting the big play and also moving the sticks in short yardage situations.

The staff believes that Dexter Williams is a talented back, so with three solid contributors on the roster before Jones or McIntosh hit campus, it’ll be fun to see how snaps get sorted. (From that perspective, you can only wonder how they’d have dealt with the champagne problem of having Prosise around…) Justin Brent remains an option as well, though the attrition from the receiving corps makes you think he’ll be back at receiver.

The wildcard in all of this is Folston. He’s a unique talent with natural ability you just can’t teach. If he’s fully recovered and ready to engage in a position battle, there won’t likely be a drop off even with the early departure of Prosise.

 

Notre Dame gets 10 invites to NFL Scouting Combine

2013 NFL Combine
Getty Images
6 Comments

Notre Dame will send ten former players to the NFL Scouting Combine. The annual event in Indianapolis serves as the unofficial apex of draft season, a meat-market where the best professional prospects are poked, prodded, questioned and tested in a variety of on- and off-field drills.

Heading to the festivities from Notre Dame are:

Chris Brown, WR
Sheldon Day, DT
Will Fuller, WR
Nick Martin, C
Romeo Okwara, DE
C.J. Prosise, RB
KeiVarae Russell, CB
Elijah Shumate, S
Jaylon Smith, OLB
Ronnie Stanley, OT

For a prospect like Smith, it’ll be teams first opportunity to talk to the elite prospect and check his progress medically as he returns from a Fiesta Bowl knee injury. Russell will also be a non-participant in physical drills, waiting until Notre Dame’s Pro Day to go through testing.

Invites to Chris Brown, Romeo Okwara and Elijah Shumate are crucial in finding their way into the draft, as the three former Irish starters participated in the Shrine Bowl, where scouts had an early look at them. Likewise, Nick Martin and Sheldon Day continue their ascent, both coming off strong Senior Bowl weeks.

For Irish fans, it’ll be fun to watch early-enrollees Fuller and Prosise test. Both are expected to be some of the fastest players at their position. Brown may also have the ability to surprise teams, with his track background and leaping ability capable of earning him an extended look. Offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley will look to impress as well, hoping to check out as one of the draft’s most impressive athletes at offensive tackle.

Ohio State led all schools with 14 invites. National Champion Alabama had nine former players invited.

 

WR Corey Robinson named Notre Dame student body president

6 Comments

On Wednesday, wide receiver Corey Robinson added another impressive title to his resume as a student-athlete at Notre Dame: Student Body President.

The junior, paired with classmate Becca Blais as his vice presidential running mate, won a majority of the votes cast by his fellow students, a runaway winner with 59.4% of the votes, nearly triple the next highest vote getter.

Robinson posted the following on Twitter, thankful for the opportunity to serve his fellow students:

Robinson’s time at Notre Dame has been filled with accomplishments both on and off the field. He was named an Academic All-American as a sophomore. He’s a six-time Dean’s List member in the prestigious Program of Liberal Studies and is also pursuing a sustainability minor. He’s won the team’s Rockne Student-Athlete Award as well.

That’s quite a bit on the plate of Notre Dame’s lone senior wide receiver. But as you might expect, Robinson is well prepared for the next challenge ahead.

“I’ve planned ahead, gotten all of my hard work out of the way this semester, and I’m finishing up my senior thesis,” Robinson told The Observer. “I’m doing all the hard stuff now so in the fall and the spring, I just have to take two classes pretty much.”

Robinson’s other contributions as a student-athlete at Notre Dame include One Shirt one Body, an opportunity for college athletes to donate their athletic apparel to local communities. Robinson has presented the plan to the ACC as well as the NCAA, earning immediate support from both organizations.

 

Mailbag: Now Open (scheduling input requested)

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - JUNE 01:  Actors Mike Myers (L) and Dana Carvey as Wayne and Garth from "Wayne's World" onstage during the 17th annual MTV Movie Awards held at the Gibson Amphitheatre on June 1, 2008 in Universal City, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Getty Images
11 Comments

Okay folks, we’ve had enough semi-positive encouragement to keep the video mailbag going for another week. With that said, I’ll need some reader participation to keep this thing rolling on.

As always, submit your questions below or on Twitter @KeithArnold. You can also ask your questions live via Facebook. You’ll need to LIKE THIS PAGE first, and then at the appropriate time, head on over to watch and participate.

To that point, let’s pick a time that works for everyone. Right now, here are the options that work at Inside the Irish HQ.  Weigh in and the best time wins. (How’s that for a democracy?)

***