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Offense evolves with Alford assigned RBs and slot receivers

Feb 2, 2012, 6:33 PM EDT

tony-alford-assistants

Lost in the shuffle of Signing Day (we’ll get back to it, I promise), it appears Brian Kelly had finalized his coaching staff’s assignments. Tony Alford, after shifting to wide receivers to accommodate Tim Hinton, will head back to running backs coach. Scott Booker, named a full-time coach after Hinton and offensive line coach Ed Warinner left for Ohio State but not given a positional duty, will coach wide receivers. One major wrinkle, according to the South Bend Tribune’s Eric Hansen, is that Alford will also coach slot receivers.

The move is an evolutionary change to Kelly’s offense that’s always been a part of the structure, but is likely now being implemented because of Chuck Martin’s familiarity to the system and the roster’s flexibility for change.

“It’s always something that we’ve had in the offensive structure,” Kelly told Hansen. “But my last couple of stops have been short ones, and it really hasn’t allowed me to develop that.

“At Grand Valley State, the running backs coach coached the slot (receivers) as well, and we’re moving toward that with Coach Alford. So both of those will fall under one coaching position, because they are so mirrored in terms of what we want to do.”

If that’s the change, it’s one that’ll actually be smoother thanks to Alford’s experience coaching wide receivers the past two seasons. Long a running backs coach, the hybrid nature of this should be a nice addition to the workload of one of the Irish’s most valuable coaches and recruiters.

More to that point, the Irish have a depth chart — specifically at running back and inside receiver — that has a lot of versatility. Keeping Cierre Wood out of this because he’s the clear No. 1 running back, heading into spring the Irish will have a nice collection of talent that can run and catch the ball, highlighted by players like Theo Riddick and George Atkinson, two guys that have been tagged both backs and receivers in their careers. Extending that, guys like KeiVarae Russell and Amir Carlisle, two players coming into Notre Dame as running backs (not to mention rising sophomore Cam McDaniel), can just as easily work out of the slot.

Heading into spring, the only player that seems a sure thing at the slot receiver is Robby Toma, who has never scared teams with his raw skills but has certainly been productive when given the chance. After sitting out last season, guys like Matthias Farley and Davaris Daniels might work inside at receiver or on the edge, where the Irish will need to replace Michael Floyd, most likely with the lightbulb finally going on for TJ Jones, as Deontay Greenberry left the Irish at the altar.

The wildcard in all of this is Martin. It’s been two seasons since he’s run an offense (which he did at Grand Valley, a D-II powerhouse), and while we’ve tried to hypothesize what his impact on the offense in terms of schematics will be, until we see it on the field, who knows. That said, with cross-training going on between running backs and receivers, you’ve got to think there’s a higher likelihood for jet-sweeps and other running plays that put the ball in wideouts’ hands. Building off that theory, who better to distribute the ball than a mobile quarterback?

Extrapolating a starting quarterback based on Tony Alford’s position switch is a mighty conclusion jump. But with an roster filled with diverse offensive talent, a new coordinator that’s shown a penchant for running the football, and personnel that doesn’t have a proven outside receiving weapon, there’s a very real chance that changes are coming to an offense that clearly broke down at the end of last season.

Just another item to track as the Irish enter into a tenure-defining offseason.

  1. newyorknd - Feb 2, 2012 at 6:40 PM

    Anyone know when spring practice starts?

  2. 4irish - Feb 2, 2012 at 6:56 PM

    We ought to be looking at some of the ways that the Patriots isolate and match up with Gronk and Hernandez and try some of that with Eifert and Koyack… especially with some unknowns, I would love to match either of those guys up with a LB down the seam once every 4 downs.

    • don74 - Feb 2, 2012 at 7:58 PM

      Who’s Tom Brady?

    • trbowman - Feb 2, 2012 at 9:33 PM

      Koyack and Eifert aren’t Hernandez/Gronkowsi.

      • dmac4real - Feb 2, 2012 at 10:13 PM

        Tommy Rees isnt Tom Brady is the real problem.

      • ndgoose - Feb 3, 2012 at 7:08 AM

        bowman you are right they aren’t Hernandez abd Gronkowski, They are better than they were in college.

    • bb90grad - Feb 3, 2012 at 12:44 PM

      Smacks a bit too much of Weis’ schematic advantage to me. Solid blocking technique, tight pass patterns, timing with the QB, hanging on to the ball, etc. should come first.

  3. ct111 - Feb 3, 2012 at 12:23 AM

    I have a bad feeling about next season

    • dmacirish - Feb 3, 2012 at 8:05 AM

      no no, that is just gas. dont eat the chimichangas so fast. next season will be wonderful – no chili for you at the BCS party though.

    • mattnef - Feb 3, 2012 at 3:48 PM

      Funny. I was just thinking how much fun next season could be.

  4. cpfirish - Feb 3, 2012 at 2:07 AM

    I am excited about this up coming season! If there are any concerns then it is at the QB spot. TR needs to be a back up. I have no concerns with TR but in this style of offense he is not the best fit. I hope EG works hard and steps up this spring and next fall. I think we will all be suprised with what he can do as a freshman! GO IRISH!!

  5. gtizzo - Feb 3, 2012 at 2:08 AM

    Ok Keith,

    I don’t think “conclusion jump” is the term you want here, you cover the irish very well. I think your better off with “educated guess” seems to fit better. There are some things to feel good about going into next season. The first is the offensive line that really should be a very solid unit again. The front seven on defense will be one of the best in the country. The Irish will finally have a pass rush that might scare people with Lynch and others. Running the football more, or running the option is really good news for the Irish. The don’t have a clear deep threat with Floyd gone, so to a degree that almost puts Tommy Rees on the bench. Should Rees not start that takes away 19 turnovers from last season so there is upside there. A speedy QB is something the Irish have in Golson, and they have Riddick on a sold stable of running backs. I really don’t care how much the Irish run between the 20 yard lines. I’m tired of ND attempting to pass in the red zone with QB’s that are not accurate. So running the ball inside the 20 would be music to my ears. Something else Keith do you know if the Irish are planning to file a transfer wavier on Amir Carlisle? That would make him able to play the upcoming season. The NCAA says “yes” then we have another weapon, if they say “no” then he was already sitting out a season…I don’t see how the Irish lose.

    • ct111 - Feb 3, 2012 at 8:12 AM

      Here are my thoughts
      -The other QBs have little to no experience which worries me.
      -TR should be promoted to play signaler on the sidelines
      -There is a new O-line coach with no spread offense experience.
      -I’m excited to see how coah Kelly will use the running backs.
      -I’m curious to see if Davarius Daniels will become an impact player everybody hope for.
      -I hope this year Manti Te’o will make more big hits

      • nudeman - Feb 3, 2012 at 10:36 AM

        My thoughts:
        – Hope Golson is the guy. Tremendous athlete. Look at YouTube
        – Rees has a 50% chance of winning the job. Makes zero sense, but BK loves him
        – The WR situation is not at all dire. Some pretty good talent there
        – If they have to, they could always move Collinsworth back to WR
        – Hope they spend all Spring working on eliminating turnovers and penalties
        – BK has to show marked improvement this year or the tide in ND Nation will turn against him

  6. domerhomernc - Feb 3, 2012 at 9:54 AM

    I think Coach had it right: the ones who should be at ND are, and the ones that shouldn’t be aren’t. I’m happy with what is in the cupboard, and one of the outside WRs will step up. Will he be Michael Floyd? No. He could be something just as good in a different way. Getting Davonte Neal would help, but if they don’t, then line ‘em up and play ‘em.
    Still hopeful that they’ll live up to the promise they’ve shown.

  7. 1historian - Feb 3, 2012 at 11:03 AM

    We don’t have an AA wide receiver anymore. Fine – we DO have an AA tight end and lots of darn good wide receivers, any one of whom could suddenly become a lot better than originally thought possible when we have a QB who can get the ball to him. We’ve got some good running backs.

    We’ve got 5 new OLs coming in off a redshirt-transfer year and 5 more juniors and seniors, plus probably at least 1 5-year OL. Redshirt the 2 OLs coming in and go after 4 or 5 next year.

    over and out

    • nudeman - Feb 3, 2012 at 11:32 AM

      1histy
      You know what? They’re fine at WR. Stanford had mediocre WRs last yr and had a great year.

      BY FAR, there are bigger fish to fry (bigger issues):
      1. QB Play: They simply can NOT play Tommy Rees at QB next year and expect better results. This means it will be someone younger, newer, etc. Hopefully Golson. But BK scares me here with the irrational loyalty he’s shown to Rees.

      2. The DB/CBs. This was a real area of weakness and someone needs to step up. I don’t care how great of a guy Harrison Smith was, he stunk in coverage. This has to improve.

      3. Penalties, turnovers and uninspired play. This killed them last year. Probably every loss except Stanford could be attributed to this. And in some games they won they were flat as well. Finished near the bottom of the NCAA in penalties and turnovers. And how they could come out so flat against USC in a nationally televised home night game is beyond me. These things are ALL about coaching. It’s 8-5 and a bid to the Garbage Bowl again next year if they solve the QB and DB/CB problem but not this one.

      Hot seat time for Kelly in 2012

      • gpatton90 - Feb 3, 2012 at 12:41 PM

        Right on Nudeman,

        QB Play – if Rees starts, Kelly will immediately lose fan support. I continue to be a pro-Kelly guy based on the entire picture, but he significantly mis-judged his QB talent last year, and if he sticks with Rees, I’ll jump right off the bandwagon. That being said, whether Golsen or Hendrix, you will be breaking in a new QB and the fan base will need patience with first year mistakes.

        Offense – based on above, and considering the strength of our offensive line, next year we need to favor the run, something Kelly has failed to stick with every time he was under pressure (I still cringe at how quickly he abandoned the run game against USC)

        DB / CB – I don’t know if we have the experience to see this group take a big step forward. i think Diaco needs to be much more aggressive with the front seven to take some pressure off the DBs. If not, our secondary will be attacked mercilously, and we’re not going to come out on the winning end.

        Totally agree with your 3rd bullet.

        I’d finally add special teams as in need of immediate improvement. We have to have a punt return scheme, punting has to be consistent and effective, and coverage on punts / kickoffs needs more consistency.

      • ndirish86 - Feb 3, 2012 at 3:54 PM

        Agree with all except your tag line at the end. If you mean that fans will complain, sure. If you mean that the school will contemplate letting him go, no way. Worst thing that could happen from the standpoint of attracting coaching talent is to get a reputation as a revolving door school with no patience and no backing for the coach. ND is borderline in that regard already given its recent coaching history. As a result – Kelly gets 5 years minimum. And even if you want him gone, you should want him to get that 5 years, otherwise you are cutting your own throat when it comes time to get the next coach. Sure you’ll find someone to take the job, but the top talent you really want will think twice.

        We should not run off in search of the mythical first-year-wonder coach every couple of years.

      • nudeman - Feb 3, 2012 at 9:09 PM

        ndirish86

        I was NOT suggesting BK should or will be canned if this year does not go well.

        I was just saying that enough things have gone wrong that ND Nation badly wants to see marked improvement in 2012. If not, the minority who are openly questioning him (I’m not one of them) will turn into a very vocal majority.

        Why? I think these are the reasons:
        1) Back to back 8-5 seasons. Not awful, but not inspiring
        2) Still an inability to beat top 20 teams
        3) Incredibly sloppy, penalty ridden football that has cost games. LOTS of them
        4) Terrible play at the QB position. For a school that has seen the likes of (in my lifetime alone) Huarte, Hanratty, Theismann, Montana, Rice, et al, the play at the most glamorous position in all of sports has truly been just terrible the last 2 years. And it’s on Kelly that he KEPT playing TR when absolutely NO ONE thought he could get it done. Fair or not, ND fans are seriously questioning BK because of THIS more than anything else.

        It just needs to get better. Period.
        And if it doesn’t, his seat will get really really warm.

  8. newyorknd - Feb 3, 2012 at 11:34 AM

    The single most important thing for the Irish next season is not who is at WR but who is at QB and how effective can they be. Period.

    • nudeman - Feb 3, 2012 at 12:11 PM

      NYND
      QB is important but more importantly the COACHING needs to improve
      If they get improved QB play but still turn it over, get LOTS of penalties and play uninspired football in 4-5 games they’ll be no better off.

      I’m over Greenberry, Agholor, Armstead and all the other guys who went elsewhere
      Let’s move on.

      • newyorknd - Feb 3, 2012 at 12:16 PM

        OK – I’ll give you that, but I still think the lack of execution on the field was at least as much on the players as the coaches. I would say more so, but yes, BK does need to make some clear-headed coaching decisions for next year.

      • domer77 - Feb 3, 2012 at 12:47 PM

        Too bad you can’t get over Tommy Rees. Why not call a “time-out” on all TR bashing until at least Spring ball. That is something we all would appreciate.

      • nudeman - Feb 3, 2012 at 2:46 PM

        domer77/goat/nudemn/UAW/and whatever other fake names you’ve got

        No one is “bashing” Rees.
        It’s a discussion about things they need to do to become a BCS team.
        His name came up

        No one here believes that he’s the right guy to start at QB next year.
        No one. Seems to be a pretty solid consensus about that here. Like 99.99%

        Never once have seen you, regardless of the screen name you’re using put an opinion out there that’s worth discussing. Just rip people and use the same old tired lines.

        Why don’t you drop off? Go get some sun and fresh air?

      • nudeman - Feb 3, 2012 at 2:56 PM

        NYND

        Agree.
        And sometimes it’s hard to know where to draw the line between coaching mistakes and player mistakes.

        If you look at the video of the Stanford game when they had a 1st down inside the Stanford 5, you see a microcosm of the season.
        Penalties, play confusion, unnecessary time out, more penalties.
        Everything except a turnover, but they made up for that with a missed chip shot FG.
        If the coaching staff was TRYING to get fired, this would have been their Exhibit A

        I hope moving Chuck Martin to the offensive side of the ball eliminates this.
        Seems like a solid guy

  9. alsatiannd - Feb 3, 2012 at 11:43 AM

    Sometimes 3 good receivers on the field is better than 1 superstar receiver. Helps to avoid over-dependence and predictability which opponents can prep for if they have one talented defensive back. Good teams usually have at least one talented defensive back.

    • dmac4real - Feb 3, 2012 at 2:16 PM

      Who are these 3 good receivers that we suddenly have? We have the same exact guys as last year.

      • nudeman - Feb 3, 2012 at 3:48 PM

        My take:
        TJ Jones: Skilled, but small. Probably a better slot guy than WR
        Toma: Overachiever; love him. But not a 50 catch guy, I don’t think
        Goodman: Everybody rips him; not an impact guy but I feel bad for him
        K Russell: Frosh; unclear how much he’ll contribute, but a 4 star guy
        Daniels: We’ve heard a lot about him; was a 4 star guy. Until he plays we don’t know.
        Neal: Still might get this kid; OSU has dropped out and there’s a question as to whether UA has any scholarships left. Kid does not want to go to ASU because there’s a very controversial HS coach from the area who might be going there. Possibly comes to ND by process of elimination. Fine by me. 2 time State Offensive Player of the Year. Might be immediate impact guy
        Chris Brown & Justin Ferguson: Sounds like one or both of these kids could contribute right away. We’ll see.
        Smith, Farley, Massa: Unclear what if anything they get from these guys

        Did I miss anyone?

        Personally I think we all spent too much emotion and angst on Greenberry.
        ND has guys with speed who can catch the ball. This is less an area of need than improved QB and def backfield.

      • bernhtp - Feb 3, 2012 at 8:59 PM

        re: Did I miss anyone?

        Nude,

        uh, Eifert.

      • nudeman - Feb 4, 2012 at 10:33 AM

        Bern
        Yes, I’m aware of Eifert, but the topic was WRs and slot guys.
        Only guy I MIGHT have missed was George Atkinson who could be moved outside.

        By the way, I don’t know a thing about Daniel Smith but noticed that he’s 6’4″. If the kid is ready to step up he could give them a real boost at WR.

  10. ajw21 - Feb 3, 2012 at 1:19 PM

    nude: I usually agree with most of ur posts but with turnovers you got to put some of that on the players, you can practice ball protectiion all day but running backs will fumble and qbs will make bad plays. With the QB I agree Tommy shouldnt start: i dont care who does. I find it funny how everyone has backed off Henrdix despite he has played in less then one game for his career. I think whoever plays you will get turnovers with a new qb but hopefully his talent and production will overshadow the stupid mistakes that will be made regardless of the starter. I wonder how many qbs we wiill need if Golson or Kiel starts. do all the other 3 qbs leave? Kiel didnt come to play 1 yr and if Golsons starts at least 8 games, then he will probably be the starter all 4 yrs. I can see Hendrix being a red zone qb if he doesnt start. We will see.

    • nudeman - Feb 3, 2012 at 3:05 PM

      ajw21
      Of course the players get some blame for turnovers.
      But if taking care of the ball isn’t stressed in practice, that = turnovers on game day
      That’s on the coaches.

      I think you can forget about Kiel starting next year, barring a rash of injuries or unexpectedly rapid development by him. I saw a clip on Irish Illust. of an interview with him and was impressed with how mature and realistic he seems. Said in essence “I just want to fit in, be a part of the team. If that means running the scout team, I’m happy to do that”.

      I am not a huge Hendrix fan. There is admittedly a limited body of work there so of course I could be wrong. He’s physically talented. But it strikes me that he’s got a very long delivery and is easily rattled.

      Golson, if you’ve watched any of his YouTube HS highlights, seems like the guy.

      • ndgoldandblue - Feb 3, 2012 at 4:36 PM

        I don’t know, nude. I think you have to look at what Coach Kelly is expecting from his quarterback, and last year he made it perfectly clear. Dayne got the hook for two primary reasons: 1) His lack of consistency in the accuracy department, and 2) His penchant for being indecisive (a la holding on to the ball too long).

        BK talked about why he replaced Dayne with Tommy. He said that Tommy was decisive. That decisiveness was measured in Tommy’s quick release and his ability to make quick decisions on throws. Coach Kelly also talked about Tommy’s accuracy. Many of us here think that Kelly was overrating Rees’ accuracy compared to Crist’s. I think we can all agree that Dayne had times when he was incredibly accurate. But, there were too many times that Dayne would get cold, and he would stay cold for a long time. Tommy was more consistently accurate, so that’s why BK went to him.

        What is all of this leading to? Nude, I think your belief that Kiel has no chance of starting next year is premature. In fact, if you ask me, the only one on the roster who does the things that BK wants to a better degree than Tommy is Kiel. Indeed, Hendrix is a tremendous athlete, and he has a cannon for an arm. However, we saw in the Stanford and FSU games that his accuracy is about on par with Dayne’s, maybe worse. He’s not consistently accurate enough for BK. By next fall, I don’t see Hendrix doing enough for Kelly to have the confidence in him to go out and consistently do well.

        Moving on to Golson, I don’t have much negative to say about the kid. The only thing that worries me about him is his height. Everett can beef up all he wants, but he’s not going to grow any more. Nude, Tommy’s three biggest problems last year were turnovers, a lack of mobility, and tipped balls. In the games that the Irish lost, Rees had several balls tipped at the line. The guy is, at least, two inches taller than Golson. Maybe three. I don’t see how Golson can complete too many passes when his offensive lineman are taller than him by a half a foot. And the number of tipped passes from Golson will, undoubtedly be more than Rees.

        That leaves Kiel. Out of all the QB’s on the roster (besides Rees), he is the most accurate. Unlike Tommy, Kiel has a strong arm, but he also shows nice touch on his passes over the middle, so he can hit the deep balls and the underneath stuff. He’s also got a quick release. These are all the things that BK wanted last year. The added bonus that Kiel brings to the table is his size (much more impressive than Rees) and his elusiveness. He won’t win any track records, but the guy can move around a little. Rees simply refuses to run the ball, but Gunner will take off and run if the opportunity presents itself.

        Look, nude, you and I pretty much agree on most things, and I think you are unfairly attacked more often than not on this blog, but don’t be surprised if Gunner is under center next fall. It might not happen on day one, but it might after a couple of games. I will say that, if that does happen, expect Golson to transfer. Tommy and Andrew would probably stay because each has his own niche on the team, but Everett would probably take his talents elsewhere.

      • andy44teg - Feb 3, 2012 at 4:41 PM

        Nude..You don’t think that after the first 5-Turnover game of the season the coaches weren’t stressing taking care of the ball?? I’ll guarantee you that Ball Security was STRESSED all through spring and fall camp as well. That sh*t just happens, man. I remember the year we started 8-0 with Willingham and we were doing awesome in turnover ratio. Do you think Tyrone had some magic formula for creating turnovers or do you think maybe some of those just happened? Oh, by the way…what happened the rest of that season?…Didn’t end well from my recollection…You’d think the turnovers would just keep bouncing our way if it was “stressed in practice”…C’mon, man..have you ever played a down of football??

      • nudeman - Feb 3, 2012 at 5:39 PM

        ndgoldandblue,
        I agree with a lot of your points. I think that Golson will win the job in the Spring and will start the year as the starter. If he plays well that won’t change. If he doesn’t then who knows what BK will do? I could make a strong case that he’d go back to Rees. I could see him doing that. “Tommy gives us the best chance … blah blah”.

        I could also see him going to Hendrix, since he’s the next most experienced after TR.
        The only way he goes to Kiel is if the kid is off the charts impressive in Spring and then again in pre-season. Could happen, I agree.

        Last point: Re: Rees’ penchant for getting passes tipped, have you ever noticed how he releases the ball so near his shoulder pads? The proper release has the QB’s elbow at ear level and the at or above the top of the head. Rees throws it more like a baseball from that standpoint and it costs him at least 3-4 inches in the height of the release. He’s not short; I think he’s 6’2″, right? That’s a decent height for a qb. But the way he releases it, he throws like a 5’10” guy. So playing amateur coach here, Golson’s 5’10” is potentially taller than Rees’ 6’2″.

        Golson also has the advantage of a MUCH stronger arm and his mobility allows ND to get away from the 6’5″ DLs by moving the pocket or sprinting out. They can’t do any of that with Tommy. Pocket passer; nothing more/nothing less.

        Last thing is I don’t see Hendrix or Rees ever x-ferring. Neither is NFL material, both seem to have their head screwed on straight and both will be less than 2 yrs away from an ND degree when the season starts in the Fall. They’re going nowhere.

  11. gtizzo - Feb 3, 2012 at 5:16 PM

    I have been reading the posts and I think I have a small something to add. The reason Gunner Kiel is a 5 star QB isn’t only because he is accurate. He has tremendous decision making skills for his age. My reason why Rees won’t start has nothing to do with his talent level or decision making or turnovers. The fact is with out Floyd on the field defenses will blitz him to no end, and I don’t think he can handle the pressure. I think teams will blitz and force him to make throws in tight man to man coverage. I really think the move is to go option or a more run based offense. This has to be BK year for showcasing his offensive skills and putting up points. He did it everywhere else he has been and has yet to do it at ND. I think the first two games against Navy and Purdue are the best test of a new ND offense this season. Scoring anything less then 30 should be out of the question, even with a young secondary we should get more the enough stops. I think Kiel sits a year, Rees moves to number 2, Golson starts and Hendrix…can’t say what happens to him.

  12. nudeman - Feb 3, 2012 at 5:25 PM

    andy,
    es I’ve played all sports, thanks. I know this: Whatever the issue is – whether it’s turnovers in football or hitting the cutoff man or playing defense on the court – the mindset of doing those things correctly starts with making them a priority in practice, meetings and scrimmages.

    Your post seems to suggest that the fact that they were near the bottom in the NCAA in turnovers was just a fluke. Chance. The luck of the draw. And nest year it will be Alabama’s and LSU’s turn to be at the bottom.

    Let’s be honest: Tommy Rees was responsible for more of the turnovers than any other guy. A bit of a bum rap, because the QB has an oppty to turn it over on every play. But still … he was atrocious and actually got worse as the year went along. The Bowl game INTs were ridiculous.

    • andy44teg - Feb 3, 2012 at 5:42 PM

      Actually, that’s kinda what i’m saying. I think you can only coach someone so much on how to hold a football, how to take a snap, etc. Ex 1: michigan game the ball slips right out of TR’s hand during his throw. Ex 2: Crist botches snap in USC game. Ex 3: Jonas gets ball ripped out of his arm against USF (that was just a great defensive play, by the way) There’s 3 TO’s right there that I think were absolutely just bad freakin’ luck. Not poor decision making or a lapse in judgement, or a missed read, just a kick in the junk. Had they not have happened, we’d pry be reminising about a 10-3 season and possibly (but not likely) an 11-2 season. And if you don’t think that those 3 players haven’t had how to do those things correctly drilled into them since peewee football then you’re crazy. TO’s are a little different than playing defense or hitting the cut-off man, by the way.

      • nudeman - Feb 4, 2012 at 10:45 AM

        andy
        Point is very valid.
        They were just as bad at NOT causing turnovers and they were turning it over.
        Probably unfair to blame any one person, but I always thought Harrison Smith was a big reason.

        How does a safety who was probably on the field for 95% of the D unit’s plays HAVE ZERO INTs?

        I consistently saw a guy who entered my flat screen picture right after a 12 yard catch on 3rd and 11.
        Always a step slow.

        I don’t know if Shumate is in the plan to start this year, but he or Josh Atkinson or Collinsworth or someone has got to be an improvement.

      • notredamegrad - Feb 4, 2012 at 11:21 AM

        I appreciate the desire to take pressure off of coaching as the cause for the mess of turnovers this season. It’s absolutely a combination of coaching, practice, player execution and mental focus, and on the flip side, the execution of the defensive players (and coaches) benefitting from the turnovers. To me, “bad freakin’ luck” isn’t the explanation – the tangled combination of these other factors is.

        Take the three turnovers you cite as examples of “bad luck.” Explanations:

        (1) Poor physical execution on Rees’s part (grip the ball!), possibly spurred by momentary inattention or detrimental focus on other things.

        (2) Poor physical execution (he separated his hands slightly before the snap), but this one could have had much to do with practice, coaching, and play calling, because taking snaps under center is not stressed in practice; Crist was the back-up, coming in cold, and was rotated out for a single play immediately before this after successfully moving the offense down the field and establishing a bit of a rhythm. Kelly gave him a relatively complicated play to run in the highest-pressure situation in the highest-pressure game, so a momentary loss of mental/physical focus on the mechanics of taking a snap under center can be attributed to a whole set of problems and people in this case.

        (3) This one was obviously both an excellent and well-coached defensive play and a clear physical error on Jonas’s part – he allowed separation between his elbow and his body, letting the defender get his arm between Jonas’s body and the arm grasping the ball; once that happens, it’s getting ripped out. Protecting the ball by locking your elbow to your body did become an important element in practice immediately after that, suggesting that this player error was correctible with practice.

        Finally, here’s an example of a turnover I think you can describe as “bad luck”: the Irish stuff the Michigan runner at the goaline, perfectly executing the goal line stand. What happens? The runner fumbles the ball, it pops out behind the pile where the QB is looking on, Denard scoops it up, practically waltzes around the pile, and scores. The luck is in the bounce back into the QB’s arms. And yet, even that, Kelly suggested, could have been prevented if LB Prince Shembo had resisted jumping into the pile and stayed on the edge when he could have – maybe – tackled Denard.

      • nudeman - Feb 4, 2012 at 11:56 AM

        notredamegrad
        That is one of the best posts I’ve seen. Backed up with evidence and examples
        As Lombardi would say “What in the hell is goin’ ON out thah?”

        To further your point, after the USF and Michigan turnover jamborees, it was very noticeable that ND RBs were going to extra lengths to protect the ball.
        They actually went several games without a fumble afterwards.
        So obviously BK began stressing ball security in practice.
        My guess is this Spring it will be a primary focus.

        Coaching matters on this point.

  13. gracehall1980 - Feb 4, 2012 at 12:38 AM

    I think we’re all overlooking one important fact. As much improved as ND’s defense was in 2011, if you take a look at ND’s turnover margin in 2010, the big change in 2011 was ND’s inability to cause turnovers on defense. For example, in 2011, ND lost 29 total turnovers and ranked 118 or almost dead last in the NCAA — admittedly inexcusable — but that’s only 5 more than it lost in 2010 when it ranked 50. The primary difference between 2010 and 2011: ND recovered 25 turnovers in 2010 but only 14 in 2011. And in case you’re wondering, Okie State led the nation in turnover margin, even though it lost 23 total turnovers, because it recovered a total of 44 turnovers.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have the time (or statistical expertise) to look more deeply into what happened on this front at ND in 2009, 2008, etc. But this does make it apparent that it’s a bit more complicated than just “hold onto the damn ball” and “don’t throw it to the team wearing the other color.”

  14. idratherbeinsouthbend - Feb 4, 2012 at 1:17 AM

    For all of you talking about how Tommy Rees better not start, have a little perspective. Other than the obvious intangibles, he’s got a strong FB mind, good work ethic, experience, etc….consider the history of some qb’s across college football, keeping in mind that Tommy has about 1 1/2 seasons under his belt.

    Tommy Rees’ second year 20TDs, 14 INTs, 65%

    Jimmy Clausen’s second year 25 TDs, 17 INTs, Comp% 60%
    Jimmy Clausen’s third year 28 TDs, 4 INTs, Comp% 68%

    Brady Quinn second year 17/10/54%
    Brady QUinn third year 32/7/65%

    Tony Pike second year 19/11/61%
    Tony Pike third year 29/6/62%

    Matt Barkley second year 28 /12/62%
    Matt Barkley third year 39/7/69%

    Andrew Luck second year 13/4/56%
    Andrew Luck third year 32/8/70%

    Brandon Weeden second year 34/13/66%
    Brandon Weeden third year 37/13/72%

    Jake Locker second year 21/11/58%
    Jake Locker third year 17/9/55%\

    Tom Brady second year 15/12/61%
    Tom Brady third year 20/6/63%

    Eli Manning second year 21/15/58%
    Eli Manning third year 29/10/62%

    I’m not saying we should hand him the job, but c’mon QB play is a natural progression unless you steal laptops and transfer to a JC in texas for a year before going to Auburn. With almost EVERY quarterback you check the stats on, the second year to the third year is a MARKED IMPROVEMENT. Trust me, i just got done looking at ALOT of QB statistics and it’s almost a guarantee. If Tommy gets the starting job, he’ll be alot better than last year.

    Let’s not throw the kid under the bus yet.

    • bernhtp - Feb 4, 2012 at 8:56 AM

      TD-INT-% stat comparisons don’t tell the full story here – not even close. Tommy played with an extremely talented offense. He had a great o-line, a top WR, a top TE, and two great backs. This was an elite offense except for one position, unfortunately the most critical one.

      We can all plainly see that Clausen would have had astronomical stats with that crew around him. Ditto with Quinn. We aren’t bashing TR, but we cannot help notice his obvious limitations: can’t throw hard or long, can’t run, can’t throw on the roll or move, can’t throw the fade, has a proclivity to drop the ball, and makes the strangest INTs at the worst times. Maybe worst of all, this didn’t improve as the season progressed; it actually seemed to get worse.

      With all of that said, I can’t help but like TR as a person. With little relative athletic ability, he somehow worked himself to the starting QB job at a premier football program as a freshman and re-earned it again his sophomore year. By all accounts he is a great kid and there is much, very much, to be said positively about him. But sadly, this football team needs more than he can apparently give to get to an elite level. If TR somehow wins the start this fall, it means that the others have failed to rise to that level as well, and we will all be disappointed once again.

      • nudeman - Feb 4, 2012 at 10:23 AM

        bern
        That is all very well said. I agree that TR has always seemed like a good person.

        But his first real test in that regard will likely come this Fall.
        So far he’s been living a charmed life, starting at QB at ND. Yes, he gets heat from fans like us, but for the most part he’s drawn the long straw and has been living the good life.

        So if, as expected it’s Golson or Hendrix who starts, will Tommy continue to be the cheery boy next door who’s a good kid ND good teammate, like Crist was to him?

        Or will he sulk and shrink from the moment?

        We’ll see.

    • nudeman - Feb 4, 2012 at 10:28 AM

      This just ignores everything we know we’re watching.
      Tommy doesn’t have any mobility, can’t avoid a rush and frankly I don’t care what his stats say.
      And I don’t know how you can say he’ll be a lot better next year when he completely regressed in 2011.

      We’ve seen what TR can do and it’s not good enough to beat quality teams. It’s time for a change.

      • newyorknd - Feb 4, 2012 at 11:17 AM

        After the first few games of the season, Lou Holtz commented on TR’s turnovers by saying “If Ihad had a QB who turned the ball over that many times, I’d sit him down” Tommy was given a chance and just doesn’t show an upward trajectory as far as his decision making is concerned. Coupled with the fact he’s the least athletic QB on the roster it makes it hard to see him as the best option going forward. As someone else said, if he starts it means the other 3 guys really underachieved. I don’t hate Tommy. I will root for him if he’s under center. I just think it’s time to give someone else a shot.

      • ct111 - Feb 4, 2012 at 12:07 PM

        Denard Robinson is not the best QB but yet he still finds a way to win games. TR doesn’t have that kind of ability. I hope Hendrix or Golson has that “it” factor.

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