John Goodman

Practice Report: Day Ten update


As our friends at take us around the positional groupings, no unit (at least offensively) has more question marks than the outside wide receivers. Now coached by Mike Denbrock, who spent his first two seasons under Brian Kelly coaching tight ends, and his last run at Notre Dame coaching tight ends and offensive tackles, the receivers are desperately looking for a competent replacement for the Irish’s all-time leading receiver Michael Floyd.

After an impressive run finding big-bodied prolific wideouts, this could be the weakest the position has been since the Ty Willingham era. (It really has been a great run for Irish WRs. In 2005, both Jeff Samardzija and Maurice Stovall went for over 1,100 yards and 10 TDs. Samardzija and Rhema McKnight scored 12 and 15 TDs respectively in 2006. In the woeful 2007 campaign, Duval Kamara still set freshman records in two categories, Floyd broke them in 2008, while Golden Tate went for over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns, and Tate had a super-human season in 2009, while Floyd’s injury truncated season might have been even more statistically impressive.)

The usual suspects have been rounded up. John Goodman has been given a fifth chance to make good, and early reports are very promising this spring. TJ Jones, now a junior, should also be ready to take a step forward. Davaris Daniels, who redshirted last season, is probably the most physically gifted of the group, but what the Irish will get out of his depends on No. 16 himself. Daniel Smith and Luke Massa will compete for time as well.

As usual, here are some thoughts and observations after watching practice report No. 10:

  • 0:11 — Getting lazy on us, Jack Nolan? I swear I’ve spotted that sweatshirt before…
  • 0:21 — Louis Nix has been absolutely hilarious on Twitter lately. Whether its making Stephon Tuitt try and eat a spoonful of salt, or highlighting his mug in the past two team pictures, this kid is a real treat to follow. Perhaps Brian Kelly would like a little bit more business out of him, which explains why he’s been running with the No. 2 defensive line while Kona Schwenke is taking snaps as the No. 1 nose tackle.
  • 0:24 — And there’s Aaron Lynch, coincidentally when Jack Nolan says, “And EVERYBODY came back with a lot of enthusiasm for today’s tenth practice.” Nice shimmy there, Aaron.
  • 1:10 — Denbrock calls the talent at wide receiver “raw and under-developed.” That seems fair, and he’s acknowledged the “crutch” that was Michael Floyd.
  • 1:31 — We’ve seen this throw before but it doesn’t get any worse. A perfect moon ball by Everett Golson, who hits John Goodman for a long touchdown. It’d have been great to see Goodman go and get the ball, and shrug off defenders like that against Florida State. (Cue the Lo Wood doesn’t play for Florida State jokes…)
  • 1:44 — Denbrock calls John Goodman consistent. That’d be great.
  • 2:12 — It doesn’t mean he’ll contribute next season, but Luke Massa looks like a wide receiver. Not a converted quarterback playing wide receiver.
  • 2:20 — Denbrock talks about Danny Smith’s confidence. It’d be good to see the South Bend native make a mark on the offense.
  • 3:05 — I’m excited to see what Denbrock’s impact will be as “passing game coordinator.” It very well could be a promotion in title only, but Denbrock has shown himself to be a very savvy coach, and between Denbrock and Chuck Martin, this could be fun.
  • 3:48 — First two people Denbrock calls out is Tate Nichols and Jordan Prestwood. Once and O-Line coach, always an O-Line coach.
  • 4:14 — Great exchange with Ben Koyack. It also sounds like Kelly wasn’t kidding around with the communal aspect of special teams. It sounds like Denbrock will have a hand in kickoff return.
  • 4:45 — The art of wide receiver blocking. The joy of spring football.
  • 5:40 — Denbrock coaches up Andre Smith, a preferred walk-on that’s seen a lot of camera time this spring. Not that it means he’ll play, but the North Broward Prep looks the part at 6-2, 190.
  • 6:25 — Easy for you to say, coach…
  • 6:50 — That’s a nice route by Davaris Daniels. Looks explosive.
  • 7:04 — That’s a catch by Daniels, but not such great coverage by Josh Atkinson.
  • 7:18 — “We’re just getting jammed all over the field,” Denbrock says. That’s what Irish fans are all worried about too, Coach.
  • 8:04 — Nice coverage by Bennett Jackson on Danny Smith’s dig route.
  • 8:24 — “All day long!” Denbrock shouts after Daniels makes a play. That’s a best case scenario for Irish fans.
  • 8:44 — That’s a great throw by Golson and nice catch by Luke Massa in a tight spot.
  • 9:00 — Luke Massa doing work, then making Denbrock chuckle.
  • 9:30 — Think Brian Kelly is getting the idea with coaching clinic invites. Don’t think Rick Neuheisel or Tim Murphy are going to steal staff members.
  • 9:43 — That’s a bullet there by Golson. Could work with that…



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.”