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A look at Kelly’s offense from the other side

May 17, 2011, 2:10 PM EDT


The 2010 season was the first time many Notre Dame fans had seen Brian Kelly’s offense in action. Sure, the highlights of Cincinnati burning through the Big East were out there, but for most Irish fans, the BK experience began during spring practice last year, where players, reporters and fans all got to see up-tempo in motion.

Meanwhile, over at Down The Drive, a Cincinnati Bearcats blog, writer Matt Opper has been taking a comprehensive, threepart look, at the difference between Kelly and Butch Jones, the man taking over at Cincinnati. It’s been a pretty fascinating read filled with YouTube clips, play diagrams, and a pretty glowing review of what Kelly was able to do in three short years at Cincinnati.

It’s truly worth reading the 5,000 or so words, but Opper encapsulates his beliefs in this tidy paragraph:

In the end the differences between Kelly and Jones and the representative offensive schemes and game plans isn’t that big. There are some key differences in the design and execution of them, sure. But the real difference between Butch Jones and Brian Kelly might come down to one position. In my opinion Jones needs a very specific type of Quarterback to make his system really fire on all cylinders. He needs that mobile QB with a big arm to work out of the pocket in the passing game. Kelly on the other hand can make do with just about any QB. How many coaches can make due with whatever they have on hand at the most important position on the field? In truth that is the only really major difference between them.

After a quick read, I thought it made sense to ask Opper about Notre Dame’s quarterback conundrum, where Kelly now has four legit options behind center, with Dayne Crist, Tommy Rees, Andrew Hendrix and Everett Golson all viable options.

Here’s Opper’s take:

I don’t think it really matters in the slightest who the QB for Kelly is. He is such a good teacher and has such a great eye for detail that he can work with any QB and make them look if not great then at least serviceable. At UC there were questions about whether he preferred a traditional pro style QB or a dual threat. I don’t think he has a preference for one style or the other. His teams certainly run the ball better with a dual threat under center. Ultimately the style of QB he likes is the style of whoever his best QB at the moment is. I know that sounds like a cop out. But Kelly has such unshakable faith in what he does offensively that he doesn’t really care who takes the snaps, he thinks he can make them win.

What’s interesting is that Opper seems to think of a guy like Tony Pike as the perfect quarterback for Kelly’s system, all while Irish fans seem to think a dual-threat player, someone in the mold of Golson or Hendrix, is what Kelly’s interested in bringing to South Bend. Of course, if you look at the Irish’s two major quarterback targets in this recruiting class, Maty Mauk and Gunner Kiel, you see that both of these guys bring two completely different skillsets to the table. Mauk is more of the dual-threat, prototype spread quarterback, while Kiel is the big-armed trigger man that can sit back in the pocket and throw. From Opper’s perspective, and apparently the coaching staff’s as well, Kelly thinks he can win with both.

One final observation, and hopefully something that’ll come into play more in season two. Opper took great pleasure in the amount of vertical shots that the Bearcats took down-field under Kelly. I don’t think there’s a Notre Dame fan out there who thought the Irish took enough deep shots, especially with a guy like Michael Floyd at his disposal.

  1. johndepasquale - May 17, 2011 at 2:52 PM

    I’m not really sure what you’re trying to say with this picture, but I don’t like it…

  2. scardino - May 17, 2011 at 2:59 PM

    They say hindsight is 20/20. If that is the case, we should look very carefully at what he did at Cincinnati to be an indicator of his potential at Notre Dame.

    • bernhtp - May 17, 2011 at 3:41 PM

      A better way of saying this is the old maxim: the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Kelly certainly did exceedingly well with lower talent levels. If we extrapolate what he can do with a roster filled with elite players – where each has one or two more stars than they did at Cinci – then it gets pretty exciting. We’ll start getting a good idea in about four months.

  3. paiten34 - May 18, 2011 at 5:12 AM

    I think Kelly himself put it best. He can make whatever he has work with the offensive system that he uses.

    He is using what Weis left him on offense while adding a few key talented position players. He has a wide range of QB styles at ND and is recruiting the bast QBs available. Most coaches recruit only one type of QB but not Kelly. He’s going after winners and players with the right attitude and desire to win and learn.

  4. nudeman - May 18, 2011 at 10:10 AM

    Am I the only guy out there who thinks Dayne Crist gets no love?

    I am excited by some of the guys behind him, especially Hendrix and Golston. But in Crist, I see a smart, mobile guy with a pretty strong arm. I’m not sure he’s in the Heisman conversation, but he could start for almost any major college program.

    I think if he can stay healthy, and if he gets a decent running game to support him, he’s got a breakout year ahead.

    • oldestguard - May 18, 2011 at 11:40 AM

      couldn’t agree more….in my opinion, we haven’t even scratched the surface with what Crist can potentially do.

      Just stay healthy Mr Crist !

    • paiten34 - May 18, 2011 at 7:04 PM

      The reason for that is injuries and lack of snaps during his career. Crist has only started 9 games in his career and only played in one other game. Plus as you know the most popular QB on a team is the backup.

      I do think Crist is a talented player who needs snaps and time to show what he has. I think he could end up as the countries most improved player.

  5. johndepasquale - May 18, 2011 at 2:57 PM

    i’m still stuck on the picture… it’s insulting our coach. I don’t get it. (maybe because I’m all about Apple products… I feel like the names should be switched)

  6. mattnef - May 19, 2011 at 2:13 PM

    The picture is not an insult. The Apple products are very specific and defined by Apple. There is no flexibility in Apple platforms. Meanwhile, the PC is very flexible with multiple platforms and variations on the same theme. This picture is the ultimate compliment. It says Kelly can take whatever is thrown at him and mold to that situations needs.
    At Cincy he was a down the field throwing offensive juggernaut that dominated the Big East with relatively no time of possession. So far at ND it looks like he has transformed into (what is hopefully) a defensive juggrnaut that understands that defenses need a running game and clock management to be ultimately effective, mixed into a spread system that I’m hoping will bring some more 2 and 3 TE sets with plenty of power to compliment the spread finesse.
    Can’t wait to see what Kelly has up his sleeve for year 2.

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