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Martin focused on executing the offense

Feb 14, 2012, 4:31 PM EDT

Chuck Martin tight

Chuck Martin faced his first proverbial third-and-long early in his press session. Brian Kelly’s new offensive coordinator, along with all the Irish assistant coaches, each wearing a different title in 2012 than they did in 2011, met with an eager press corp, ready to hear how this year will be better than the last.

Martin drew quite a crowd, and quickly was faced with a challenging question that might as well have been a well-disguised zone blitzer. The former safeties coach and recruiting coordinator was asked what his biggest impact on the offense will be. Martin didn’t blink.

“Hopefully execution,” Martin said. “I think that’s what Coach Kelly is counting on.”

Consider Martin’s first test passed. The long-time defensive coach, who handled quarterbacks and playcalling in his six year tenure as a D-2 national championship coach at Grand Valley State was spot on identifying the issues that plagued the Irish offense, with uncharacteristic errors damning a season that saw prolific yardage outputs marred by back-breaking mistakes.

“We want his offense to look the way it’s supposed to look,” Martin said of Kelly’s scheme. “It’s just about execution. People are calling me and asking me, ‘what’s the matter with the offense?’ There’s nothing wrong with the offense, it’s been proven for years and years. It’s execution.

“My seven-year-old daughter could tell you that we didn’t execute well. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that hey, if you fumble the ball in some key situations, it could certainly effect the outcome of games. If you throw the ball to the other team in key situations it can certainly, you know. And it’s not just those two facets, it’s are we consistent route runners, are we consistent blocking things up front, it always comes back to the head coach and quarterback. If you watch our tape there was a lot of inconsistencies at times, and that’s our job to get corrected.”

With Charley Molnar gone to UMass, Ed Warinner and Tim Hinton to Ohio State, it’s Martin that’s headlined the reshuffling of an offensive staff that’s nothing short of drastic. After having a huge impact on the play of an Irish secondary that couldn’t cover pylons in 2009, Kelly is hoping Martin’s coaching will help an offense that faded down the stretch, never showing the creativity and explosiveness Kelly’s other teams did.

Seeing his role as something of a field commander, Marin will run day-to-day operations for Kelly, who will still have his fingerprints all over the offense. But Martin, along with an offensive staff that won’t see a single coach return to the same positional group, knows that this team needs to do a better job of simple core competency, something that suffered in the most inopportune times last year.

Perhaps no position group will have the focus on them like wide receiver, and with that group, Kelly has entrusted long-time lieutenant Mike Denbrock, who will also coordinate a passing game that’ll likely take some more shots down the field.

“I know that our plan offensively will include trying to stretch the field vertically a lot more than we did the first couple of years,” Denbrock said. “We’ve got to create more chunk plays. We’ve got to get some bigger chunks of yardage.”

Of course, who’ll be tasked with that is the biggest question of the offseason. Many assumed Deontay Greenberry was going to be the first person in line, but the incoming freshman decided to play his college football in Houston. That leaves unproven options like redshirt freshman Davaris Daniels or incoming freshmen Justin Ferguson and Chris Brown. Likely, this staff will look to rising junior TJ Jones to make the leap, who still hasn’t shown himself to be more than a complementary piece of the puzzle in his first two seasons.

“TJ’s development over these winter months and over the course of the spring is going to let us know if he’s going to step up into that role as an individual player or if it’s going to have to be more of a collection of guys,” Denbrock said, all but openly challenging Jones.

Replacing all-time receiving leader Michael Floyd won’t be handled by one player, but you’ve got to like seeing Denbrock challenge guys like Jones, who Irish fans are still waiting to dominate a football game. But if this offense is going to find its rhythm, they’ll need other receivers — notably fifth-year senior John Goodman and little used Daniel Smith — to start making an impact.

“I don’t know that you can ask one guy to fill Mike Floyd’s role on this football team,” Denbrock said. “It’s going to be a collection of everybody doing their job that much better and more consistent to get us the results that we all want and need.”

One thing is for certain, Kelly has tried his best to navigate the difference between making changes and wholesale change. As we’ve seen in the past, new philosophies and schemes take years to properly install, and putting Martin in charge of the unit better assures Kelly that he’ll get what he wants from the group that he has.

“My philosophy of players not plays came from Brian Kelly,” Martin said. “We focus on getting the ball to your best players in the most advantageous positions. We didn’t necessarily focus on coming up with another pretty pass route.”

  1. captainspaulding22 - Feb 14, 2012 at 5:22 PM

    Great commentary from Coach Martin. I especially like his comment about “players not plays.”

    Like I said last week on Keith’s post regarding this year’s new crop of recruits; any coach in college football will tell you something along the lines of “it’s all about the Jimmy’s and Joe’s not the x’s and o’s.”

    Obviously coaching matters, but anyone coaching at this level clearly knows what they are doing; what separates good teams from bad teams is the talent on the field, not the guys on the sidelines.

    Everyone seems to think that football coaches have to be “offensive geniuses” or “defensive gurus” or some kind of goddamn wizard in order to be successful, but the truth is they just need to be competent coaches and great recruiters.

  2. dickasman - Feb 14, 2012 at 5:47 PM

    How do you guys read into this comment below? If its been proven for years and years, iss he insinuating that we had bunch of retards on football team last year? Is he insinuating that bad coaching is not at fault at all? How do you guys read into this? Good or Bad.

    “We want his offense to look the way it’s supposed to look,” Martin said of Kelly’s scheme. “It’s just about execution. People are calling me and asking me, ‘what’s the matter with the offense?’ There’s nothing wrong with the offense, it’s been proven for years and years. It’s execution.

    • 9irish - Feb 14, 2012 at 6:00 PM

      well…maybe you can look at that statement as an admission, too. There are ways to minimize mistakes by coaching, people play the way that they are coached and the way they practice. Maybe they have had an epiphany.
      I still remember that John McKay quote after ND crushed USC. “What do you think of your teams execution, Coach?” “Sounds like a good idea!”

    • nudeman - Feb 14, 2012 at 7:52 PM

      I think it’s simple: They have had a coach the last 2 years who specializes in the spread offense which is defined by having a QB who can run, sprint out, throw on the run, avoid a rush and hit players in open space.

      If ever there was an indication that the days of TR are over, this would be it.

      Isn’t it that simple? The Era of Everett just began.

      And for you guys out there who think I’m always picking on Tommy, let me issue the obligatory disclaimer: Nice young man, plays hard, gives it his best, was put in a tough position, blah blah blah.

      Save it.

      • jimbasil - Feb 15, 2012 at 1:40 AM

        Or, the Hendrix era.

        We haven’t seen Everett so there is no way to know about his play or even if he can take a hit at this level. We do know Hendrix, with intermittent play, can succeed in this offense and can take a hit. Everett is shorter too, and at this level, that may hamper his ability. Having heard from Eric Hanson on the practices of Golson, it was noted he didn’t pick up the plays as well as expected, so there too he may not have what it takes to run this offense, this year.

        The Hendrix era is more likely.

        If anything, I’m hoping TR will be the, “adequat” back up.

      • nudeman - Feb 15, 2012 at 8:21 AM

        If you are going to draw conclusions about Hendrix based on what we’ve seen so far, that’s OK. But you’d have to add in he’s not very careful with the ball.

        His INTs were awful. Threw one against Stanford and could have had 3; and the one against FSU was of the backyard football variety. Two defenders RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM, like 10 yards away and he tried to throw it through them.

        He also has an elongated throwing motion that won’t serve him well. He’s not without his good points, but I’d like to see what Golson can do. His stuff on YouTube is off the charts impressive.

      • ndgiants11 - Feb 15, 2012 at 10:43 AM


        We’ve talked about this on here before, but you hit the nail on the head once again. If your offense is based on “getting the ball to your best players in the most advantageous positions,” and you don’t have a quarterback that can do that, there’s obviously a disconnect.

        You could put Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall all on the same team, and if you have Curtis Painter throwing to them, it doesn’t matter that you have 3 elite receivers. Conversely, if you take Wes Welker – a 5’9″ nobody from the Dolphins – and line him up with Tom Brady, you magically have the best receiver in the game.

        My point? Like Martin said, you’ve gotta get the ball in your playmakers hands, and if you can’t do that, then the offense isn’t going to be as effective as you’d hope.

        For the umpteenth time this offseason, I’ve come to the realization that the QB problem likely won’t be a quick fix. Golson, Kiel, Rees, Hendrix, it doesn’t matter who you start, the reality is that it’s going probably going take longer for the starting QB to mature, and get accustomed to the offense than any of us would like.

      • andy44teg - Feb 15, 2012 at 11:31 AM

        Hey nude..didn’t want you to miss it so i thought i better put it in this one too…

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  3. 808raiderinparadise - Feb 14, 2012 at 5:54 PM

    “Execution” means QB play …. point blank, team has a great o-line 2 potential 1,000 yard backs, a 1st round WR and TE and “execution” is the issue?

    Yeah, Rees is awful to have those weapons and struggle.

    Insert Golson as starter.

    Groom Gunner this year.

    Use Hendrix situationally only.

    = BCS

    • ndgiants11 - Feb 15, 2012 at 10:44 AM

      Nailed it.

      • grantlandrice - Feb 15, 2012 at 11:11 AM

        Tommy Rees probably did the best job that he was capable of under difficult circumstances – at his best he fills an Evan Sharpley type backup role to Brady Quinn – he is obviously not the right QB for the BK system. Having said that, who is? I am bothered that it apparently took so long for a pre-med student (Hendrix) to learn the offense to the point that the coaches felt they could put him in the game without hurting the team (too much). Golson is an incredibly gifted athlete but is he going to learn the offense any more quickly than Hendrix. I say bite the bullet and turn the offense over to Gunner Kiel – they need to get more vertical with the offense anyhow and it really is ultimately all about the players. Use Hendrix and Golson as situational players.

  4. jomilly - Feb 14, 2012 at 6:45 PM

    how about less turnovers period and we only lose 2 games, not rocket science!!!!!!!!!!!

    • 808raiderinparadise - Feb 15, 2012 at 8:08 PM

      Again, that starts with Keeping Rees off the field.

  5. barneysbullet - Feb 14, 2012 at 8:29 PM

    Personally, I like the idea of having 3-4 “really good” (hopefully) wide receivers on the field. (to compliment Eifert)

    It spreads defenses out and doesn’t give them much opportunity to double cover the “studs”, since they have to take them all serious. (see Patriots, New England…and no, I’m not a Pats fan)

    We Are ND.

    • 9irish - Feb 14, 2012 at 9:32 PM

      Also gives so many targets, so the ball is going somewhere really quick. Add the running game to that, good luck stopping it.

    • heartofgoldandblue - Feb 14, 2012 at 10:26 PM

      It will actually be very refreshing to see the qb (whoever it is) make his reads and not lock onto one receiver

  6. cpfirish - Feb 14, 2012 at 9:17 PM

    Nudeman u are correct about the spread offense. EG is a great fit for the spread offense. He is athletic he can throw on the run, has a big time arm, and can avoide a rush and get out of trouble in the pocket. Having said all that, this is why Tommy is done. Dont get me wrong Tommy works hard and gives 100%. But he is not the right style of qb for this offense!. Period plan an simple. Lets hope EG works hard this spring and fall and becomes the starter and leader of this offense!. Go irish!

    • nudeman - Feb 14, 2012 at 10:27 PM

      Right, he’s a terrible fit for the spread. This offense was made for Hendrix and Golson; and Kiel sounds like he can run anything.

      THE ERA OF EVERETT HAS BEGUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • papadec - Feb 15, 2012 at 1:39 AM

        hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha – Oh nude, sometimes you make me laugh so hard, I get tears. Have a good day.

      • jrct2450yahoo - Feb 15, 2012 at 10:31 AM

        Would someone please explain to me the bandwagon approach over a player who has yet to play a down. Also, am I not correct that Kiel was rated the #1 dropback QB last year. How does this equate to his being able to run a spread offense? One thing of which I am sure; until the QB situation is resolved the future of this team is uncertain.

      • ndmouse - Feb 15, 2012 at 4:58 PM

        @jrct, i think the bandwagon approach stems from hope. we all watched tommy rees lead this offense to the best of his ability. many of us feel that his best is not good enough for this offense. it’s not that Gholson hasn’t played a down, because he has – on the scout team. against a very good first team defense. i feel his abilities are a great fit for the BK spread offense. hopefully his size (which is sometimes overrated, see Doug Flutie) will not be an issue. as far ass Kiel goes, he actually ran a spread offense in high school. for whatever reason, the recruiting/scouting services put him in the “pro-style” category. perhaps it’s his build. maybe his throwing motion. or maybe because he can do it all and they feel pro-style qb is a better category. i believe the qb issue last year was not so much the ability to run the offense, but the ability to read the defense. Rees was apparently the best when it came to this. i would not be surprised to see any of these qb’s to be named the starter. they each have pros. they each have cons. only time will tell who emerges as the best option to put on the field. all i know is, with the kids we have, hope springs eternal.

    • bernhtp - Feb 15, 2012 at 12:19 AM

      TR also no longer has Floyd to hit at the line of scrimmage to pick up 15 yards. A good QB that is a run threat, can extend plays with his feet and throw on the move, and has a big arm for the deep ball gives the defense effectively twice the field size to cover. With its QB limitations, ND ran the shrink offense last year.

  7. jimbasil - Feb 15, 2012 at 1:32 AM

    “Execution” no kidding. You could have the most high powered O going, scoring oodles of points and when asked what can be done to make it work better, Execution of course. Lame.

    What would help this team immediately is a QB. What would have helped in 2011, a QB with mobility. This Offense stalled with Rees at the helm. He was a one trick pony and when teams figured him out(which wasn’t to difficult to do), the ND offense worked less and less. No arm strength = no vertical game (a waste of Floyd in his last season at ND and the waste of a pretty good run attack and OLine), no mobility = bigger pass rush and tighter coverage by defenses.

    Yeah, sure, “execution” can always be better but that’s not what injured the ND offense in 2011, unless you call a one dimensional QB running things, poor execution.

    Kelly had his chance to get AH or EG into it early on, even if it meant growing pains, but he would have had a QB in there that was closer in talent to the rest of his Offense and it would have functioned much better, but he chose not to do it. For me this is not 20/20 hindsight. I’ve been saying this since last spring game.

    I like Martin’s talk, lets hope his influence will get this team up to speed as far as putting in the talent that is equal to the rest of the squad instead of putting in a weak link and saying its the best that can be done.

    • mtndguy - Feb 15, 2012 at 11:25 AM

      The one dimensional quarterback still would have won more games if he had executed his “one dimension” better. A quarterback better suited to the spread would have added a new dimension to the offense, but that wasn’t the issue. The real issue was turnovers and that is directly correlated to TR’s poor execution. Half the interceptions/fumbles and ND would have won 2-3 more games with or without a a more mobile quarterback.

      • jimbasil - Feb 15, 2012 at 12:02 PM

        Because of that little problem of immobility coupled with lack of arm strength, the defense then has an extra man on the field and can dictate the offense. As soon as Jonas was lost, the ND offense couldn’t execute much.

        Yeah, sure it’s execution but where does the execution need to be picked up? How about at QB where that position didn’t match the rest of the talent on the offense. This isn’t the “chicken or the egg” first problem, it’s the “where is the offense breaking down?” problem. – answer: you got it, the one dimensional QB who has nowhere to throw the ball because everyone is covered because there is no vertical game and he cannot run because he’s immobile.

        That ND scored as many points as it did is a tribute to the OLine play and the other talent on offense. The bad decision in execution was having Rees in at QB without getting one of the more physically talented QB’s prepared, in games and experienced by mid season.

      • mtndguy - Feb 15, 2012 at 6:25 PM

        Most of TR’s interceptions weren’t because everyone was covered. They were bad decisions. Bad execution. When an immobile quarterback has all their receivers covered a good decision would be to throw it away, not throw an interception. Even taking a sack is better than throwing an interception. Hendrix is mobile, he threw some interceptions. Why? Because he executed poorly. Martin is right on his comments about execution.

  8. jimbasil - Feb 15, 2012 at 10:16 AM

    Nudeman: I’m not sure what your drawing – certainly not conclusions on what you’ve seen Re: Golson.

    You’re talking about a player (AH) thrown into situations in the middle of a game being used more as a savior expected to perform at a champion level; expecting a player who has a game rhythm; expecting a player who has been in the process of being the fully practiced QB with multiple games of experience under his belt – not a player who hasn’t that experience.

    You’re promoting a QB, Golson, without knowing anything about his game day ability. You know exactly what the rest of us know – nothing. Albeit, in what we know his possible upside is very intriguing but no more so than Hendrix was before he was poorly used by Coach Kelly.

    What you are denying in saying Hendrix made a few mistakes is the circumstances in which he made those errors. Was he awful? No! he wasn’t. Actually he looked like an inexperienced QB in a tough situation doing rather well. Your putting “awful” out there to benefit your point of view on another player that is at best, speculative.

    Try not to confuse what is known with what isn’t, as fact. Golson is an unknown value. What we’ve seen from Hendrix is intriguing and somewhat known. Let’s start there. Also note, it has been reported by those who have seen Golson practice, he makes too many errors when he’s running the offense. Kelly noted as much and so too have reporters who have seen him in practice.

  9. schuey73 - Feb 15, 2012 at 11:01 AM

    Take this for what it’s worth:

    Dion Caputi, NFL/College FB analyst said on twitter that a source close to Devonte Neal says that he “sounds for sure” headed to Notre Dame.

    I’ve never heard of the guy, but I hope he’s right.

  10. kazmar619 - Feb 15, 2012 at 11:13 AM

    I think it was fairly obvious that ND’s opponents were “stealing” ND’s offensive signals from the sidelines (probably the defense signals also). Unless Kelly and crew start hiding their signals, no change in offense coaching is going to help. Watch the Florida State game and see how Florida State hides their signals.

    • jimbasil - Feb 15, 2012 at 11:20 AM

      Boston College game for sure. It was as though BC was in the huddle or listening to the ND coaches on a headset. It was Spooky.

    • mtndguy - Feb 15, 2012 at 11:30 AM

      How are they stealing signals? How does Florida State hide their signals?

    • mtndguy - Feb 15, 2012 at 11:45 AM

      Wait, I think I figured it out

  11. ct111 - Feb 15, 2012 at 11:51 AM

    EG might have a breakout season like Jeremy Lin. Nudeman, have you heard anything new about Neal?

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