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Pregame Six Pack: Prepping for Purdue

Sep 7, 2012, 1:06 AM EDT

Akeem Hunt

No doubt, expectations have been raised thanks to the Irish’s convincing victory over Navy. But one win is a data point. Two would make a trend. And over the past few years, the trend has never been a good one for Notre Dame.

With a stout defensive line and strength in the secondary, quarterback Everett Golson will be challenged. After executing a mostly simple game plan against the Midshipmen, Golson’s learning curve with rise as Notre Dame welcomes in-state rival Purdue, a dark horse candidate to win its division in the big Ten.

As the Irish prepare to open their home schedule on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC, here are six fun facts, tidbits, leftovers, or miscellaneous musings as No. 22 Notre Dame prepares to take on Purdue.

***

1. After a mostly anonymous freshman season, sophomore Stephon Tuitt is already making his presence felt on a national level.

It seemed like most Irish fans were ready to call the defensive line a wash when Aaron Lynch departed during spring practice. But after a relatively quiet freshman season where his fellow classmate stole most of the media attention, Stephon Tuitt sprinted his way into the national headlines with his impressive opening performance.

The 6-foot-6, 305-pound defensive lineman is a dominant force along the front line, already showing his athleticism with his 77-yard fumble return. Mix that in with his physical tools and you’ve got draft gurus like Mel Kiper already singing Tuitt’s praises calling him, “Arguably the best defensive lineman virtually in college football, let alone the sophomore class.”

When asked what helped flip the switch, Brian Kelly pointed to an offseason where Tuitt transformed himself thanks to a tireless work ethic both on and off the field.

“The only word I remember him using was dominate,” Kelly said. “Dominate in the classroom — which he did this summer, over a 3.5 (g.p.a). Everything he did, he wanted to be the very definition. He’s been on this mission of, whatever it is, and it’s not just football, it’s everything in life. He’s a very, very driven young man right now.”

***

2. Brian Kelly wouldn’t name a backup quarterback, but expect Tommy Rees to slide into the backup quarterback role.

After not taking a single team rep during fall camp, Tommy Rees very quickly got reintroduced to the Irish offense, taking virtually all the No. 2 reps in practice this week, making up for lost time in Chuck Martin‘s tweaked offensive system.

Kelly talked about the junior quarterback’s return to the depth chart and how he looked.

“I just think he continues to get better in ball position and ball placement and putting it away from the defender. Obviously we had too many turnovers last year,” Kelly said of Rees. “He’s still got room to work on things mechanically. He’s got a low arm slot. Sometimes the ball comes out in an area where I don’t want it. We’re working mechanics because he’s got the mental end of it down. But some of the mechanics we’re still trying to clean up.”

While there weren’t any media viewing windows of practice, word from inside the Gug had Rees incredibly sharp in his first team reps, moving the team efficiently in his first significant practice snaps of the season.

With three quarterbacks essentially in the rotation for playing time, you can expect freshman Gunner Kiel to hold onto a year of eligibility this season.

***

3. After a sloppy week one, both teams need to do a better job on special teams or it might cost them the game.

You think Notre Dame had a bad week on special teams? Wait until you get a load out of Purdue’s week one performance. The Boilermakers fumbled a punt, and had both an extra point and a punt blocked. To make things worse, they also had two kickoffs go out of bounds, giving away free field position to an undermanned Eastern Kentucky team.

Still head coach Danny Hope isn’t making wholesale changes.

“The changes we’re going to make are from an execution standpoint,” Hope said.

Hope’s comments are in line with what Kelly said Thursday afternoon when asked about the Irish’s special teams flubs, most notably difficulties in the kicking game.

“There’s always concerns when you start like that,” Kelly said of the kicking units. “But I think they were more about nerves than they were about anything else. I think they settled in after we had a PAT and a poor kickoff and not a great punt. I think it was settling in first time and they had a good week.”

***

4. In addition to making Notre Dame Stadium a louder place, the Irish are working on making it a more familiar home.

The hallowed grounds of Notre Dame Stadium might be too hallowed. After a season of mixed results on their home turf, Kelly decided to spend Thursday’s practice inside the stadium Rockne built to help the players build familiarity and comfort inside.

After stepping foot in the stadium only six or seven times last year, Kelly plans on spending every Thursday in the stadium.

“It’s important that our guys feel comfortable in there. I felt our guys at times, we ran in the stadium like we were running into the Basilica or we were running into the grotto,” Kelly said. “It almost seems there’s too much of a reverence there. It’s Notre Dame Stadium, it’s a football game. Let’s have some energy. We talked about that today. We’ll continue to beat that drum.”

Obviously, the Irish laid a few big eggs at home last season, which could have been the product of Notre Dame not being comfortable at home. With a different locker room, tighter quarters, and a ton of history, it’s conceivable that a stadium filled with a century of history had the Irish too on edge to play to their potential.

***

5. While Amir Carlisle has been cleared to practice, it still hasn’t been decided when — or if — he’ll play this year.

Notre Dame caught a break when the NCAA granted Amir Carlisle‘s waiver which earned him immediate eligibility. Now it’s unclear whether he’ll ever use it this season. The talented former Southern Cal running back was expected to add another gamebreaker at the hybrid running back receiver position, but a broken ankle suffered before spring camp has kept Carlisle away from taking significant reps.

“He’s not ready to play in the system of offense. He’s ready to play where physically we feel he’s going to get some reps,” Kelly explained. “But it’s going to take him a little bit more time. This was really his first week of true practice. We tried to make it akin to the first week of really preseason camp for him. That’s kind of where he’s at.”

With the Irish deeper than they ever expected in the backfield and in the slot, the idea of saving a year of eligibility hasn’t been lost on the Irish offensive staff.

“The rules are you’ve got to do it within the first six games,” Kelly said about a potential redshirt. “We’ll see where we are. We’re counting on playing him, but we leave all those options open for a number of guys.”

Carlisle is probably itching to see the field, especially considering it’ll be in front of his family and father, who’ll be working with the Boilermakers as the head of the team’s strength and conditioning program.

***

6. It may be cliche, but expect turnovers to tell the story of the game on Saturday.

Danny Hope chose quarterback Caleb TerBush to start the game on Saturday mostly because of what he doesn’t do: Turn the ball over. TerBush might lack the flair of sixth-year quarterback Robert Marve, and the legs of quarterback Rob Henry, but Hope believes he gives the team their best chance to hang in this football game.

“He did a great job in camp and won the job hands down,” Hope said of TerBush. “He separated himself from the others. It would be to our best advantage, I believe, to start Caleb this weekend because I feel like a smooth start in the beginning of the game at South Bend could be very important to our team.”

After turnovers ruined the Irish’s 2011 season, putting together a +3 box score at turnover margin was a pleasant surprise. Meanwhile, the Boilermakers turned the ball over five times, winning against a mediocre Eastern Kentucky team in spite of its difficulties playing clean.

Of course, TerBush didn’t get the Boilermakers off to the best start last season against ND. His first play from scrimmage TerBush was picked off by Gary Gray, and two players later Tommy Rees hit Michael Floyd for a 35-yard touchdown. The Irish sprinted out to a 21-0 lead before Purdue could even manage a field goal and running back Cierre Wood’s 191 yards on the ground helped the Irish coast to a 28-point win.

  1. idratherbeinsouthbend - Sep 7, 2012 at 1:26 AM

    LOTS of pundants picking this one to be an upset…but i kinda like that. It gives the sense that Purdue is a better than average football team.

    So, when my Irish beat them like a rented mule, the CFB world will know that the Irish are on the rise…maybe not the caliber of team that Ara put on the field, but CERTAINLY on the rise.

    • roughingthecenter - Sep 7, 2012 at 10:04 AM

      Yeah for some reason the media, particularly ESPN has been pushing the upset (Tune in after the pitt/cincy game, “Irish on Upset Alert”). The problem is after the game they will never admit they are wrong. If we win all we will hear is “it’s still Purdue”. Anyway football is won in the trenches, we all know this, its why Weis didn’t succeed, This current ND team is loaded in the trenches, studs on both lines. I don’t care what they say about Purdue’s D line, it doesn’t have the depth and quality of ND’s D line. On the offensive side our line will be very prepared to handle them. We should have a good balanced game plan. Purdue won’t be able to run on us and they will be forced to be one dimensional, and Terbush/Marve will be running for their lives all day. This team is on the rise and hungry, they will give Purdue and their weird-ass fans a reality check tomorrow.

      • voegtlin - Sep 7, 2012 at 1:01 PM

        finally. this.

        folks, if we don’t open the whoopass can on the boilers, we’re in for a long, depressing season. no one’s going to run on our line. and no one’s going to stop WOOD, RIDDICK, and GAIII. we’re better than everyone thinks we are. tomorrow’s game won’t help mark may and the rest of those drones realize this, but when we’re undefeated and beating UMich by two TDs at halftime, it’ll start to sink in.

        GO IRISH.

      • 9irish - Sep 8, 2012 at 9:23 AM

        Just noticed that ESPN pulled Notre Dame from there little theme-song littany before College Game Day. I guess it was too hard to find a rhyme with “game” and Notre Dame. Hmmmmm….they really don’t like us.

    • nudeman - Sep 7, 2012 at 1:06 PM

      “Pundits”

      • zorichmidriff - Sep 7, 2012 at 1:10 PM

        “knowledgeable”

      • jerseyshorendfan1 - Sep 7, 2012 at 2:52 PM

        “ESPN”

      • clearwall - Sep 7, 2012 at 3:37 PM

        *Purdue upset*

      • irishmurphy25 - Sep 7, 2012 at 6:03 PM

        “Mark May”

      • zorichmidriff - Sep 7, 2012 at 7:21 PM

        “Purdue”

    • gtizzo - Sep 7, 2012 at 1:46 PM

      Amazing what a win over Eastern Kentucky will do for you. This is part of the plan of ESPN since SEC loves to schedule these sub division teams they need to be built up a little. Picking Purdue is just ESPN saying “This sub division schools are not all bad”. Thankfully fans are smarter these days.

  2. seadomer - Sep 7, 2012 at 2:18 AM

    Please don’t mention ….that other guy!!
    Tuitt stepped it up and not just the TD but I call it the “Zbikowski” tenacity.
    I feel that our defense has that desire, lets see it again.

  3. 818irish - Sep 7, 2012 at 3:40 AM

    I love the idea of practicing in the stadium every Thursday. The team needs to take ownership of that field and this is a solid way to help build that mentality.

    Go Irish!

  4. yaketyyacc - Sep 7, 2012 at 4:53 AM

    yes, coach, not being a Notre Dame man, you do not understand, that the Stadium is like going into the Basilica or the Grotto. but like them it is ours. it is in the stadium that the world gets to see the faith, belief and dedication of why Notre Dane is Notre Dame. We don’t enter the Stadium with awe, but with the determination to share the spirit and hope that Notre Dame is the well to come to for those who have need. Well coach, you recruit, and She recruited us, and it is a lifetime commmitment. Not in arrogance, but with deep humility.

  5. irisheyesnate - Sep 7, 2012 at 6:38 AM

    I AM GOING TO MAKE A staND THIS WEEKEND WHILE I ATTEND THE GAME.

    BLIND,CRIPPLED,OR CRAZY 18 TO 80 I WILL BE STANDING IN FRONT OF YOU AND FORCING YOU TO STAND JUST TO SEE THE GAME!

    I WILL BE VERY LOUD AND PROB DRUNK AS HELL. WE ARE GOING TO GIVE PURDUE THE WELCOME THEY DESERVE.

    GAME PREDICTION: ND 43
    PU 13

    • ndsugarsand - Sep 7, 2012 at 11:14 AM

      Wow, I’m sure your mother is proud.

  6. irisheyesnate - Sep 7, 2012 at 6:45 AM

    I NEVER TELL PEOPLE TO GOTO ANOTHER WEBSITE TO LOOK AT ANYTHING. BUT, IRISH FANS SHOULD GO ON YOUTUBE AND CHECK OUT WORRIORS OF NOTRE DAME SONG!

    I HAVE WATCHED IT LIKE 50 TIMES ALREADY. PREGAME IS THE BEST TO WATCH VIDEO.

    TO ME IT JUST PUMPS YOU UP
    CHECK IT OUT!!!!

  7. irisheyesnate - Sep 7, 2012 at 6:47 AM

    ALSO, IF YOU WANT TO LAUGH.

    ON YOUTUBE—GO TO I LOVE YOU DENARD LOL

    • notthatconfused - Sep 7, 2012 at 7:40 AM

      Psst……. dude, your Caps Lock is stuck “ON”.

      • nudeman - Sep 7, 2012 at 12:19 PM

        LOFL

  8. mmcss690 - Sep 7, 2012 at 9:22 AM

    Yak, I’m pretty sure that Coach Kelly is serving the students, administrators, alumni, and fans of ND. And doing a pretty good job…I think that makes him an ND man, certainly not the pedigree of someone like yourself but, nevertheless, he is ND. Get over yourself, puuulease!

  9. atlirish1013 - Sep 7, 2012 at 9:46 AM

    I’m sorry, but isn’t this the same Purdue team that we played last year? Kawaan Short was an All Big Ten defensive tackle last year, and we ran up,down, in, out, and through Purdue. NOW they have less experience at the linebacker position. And last I checked, a year at Notre Dame is 365 days just like it is at Purdue, meaning our O-line has had as equal benefit of the weight room as the Purdue D-line. I don’t believe this is going to be a romp to the extent it was last year, but seriously, Purdue? A trap game? If this team can’t beat Purdue, then it won’t stand even a fighter’s chance against MSU, OU, or USC.

  10. runners00 - Sep 7, 2012 at 10:34 AM

    I’ve read a few articles predicting an upset here. Folks are saying that Purdue is one of the teams to beat in the Big Ten. So we should not take them lightly. And, let’s not forget that Purdue is an in-state challenger. We’ve gotta knock ‘em out early.

    Okay, looking at their depth chart, one thing that is obvious is that they are big. Eyeballing their offensive line, each guy’s about 6-5, 300, and they’re all juniors and seniors. While it doesn’t look like any are flashy recruits, a few are southerners — Kentucky, Florida & Alabama who likely competed with the flashier recruits found at bigger name schools (such as ND, USC, Oklahoma and Florida State).

    Their defensive front four look pretty strong as well, with guys averaging around 6-3 and close to 300 pounds. Again, they don’t seem to have the type of high-end athletes found at Oklahoma, Southern Cal or Michigan, but they are experienced and large and will likely be much more difficult than Navy’s defensive front.

    On balance, we have better players and better athletes. While Golson is playing in only his second college game, he’s poised and athletic and possesses a strong arm and some quick receivers. Plus, he’s got some very strong and very fast running backs in Theo Riddick, George Atkinson and Amir Carlisle. And on defense, we are sound up front and in the middle. I’m worried about the secondary but I think our big guys should be able to get to Purdue if we play our best.

    No bold predictions on the score — but I think if we play our best and we stay healthy, our offensive line should move the football and our defensive front should be too much for Purdue. Go Irish!

    • clearwall - Sep 7, 2012 at 3:40 PM

      See, you lost me at “Purdue is an in-state challenger. ” That doesnt matter at ND. We are not a regional, and most DEFINITELY not a state school. ND competes and only cares about NATIONAL teams. Purdue is a yawner and a warm-up for our REAL opponents.

      • irish4006 - Sep 7, 2012 at 5:30 PM

        Disagree. No one is a yawner and no one is a REAL opponent. An opponent is an opponent and we need to put our best foot forward against each of them. If you do not respect the opponent and prepare accordingly, you will not win too many football games.

        Remember the losses to Tulsa, Syracuse or SFU?

  11. chare34 - Sep 7, 2012 at 11:13 AM

    Long time reader, first time replier.

    BDAY party starting at 4 that I MUST attend this Saturday. Anyone know of a way of watching the game online later that evening? I dont have a DVR. NBC sports has a live feed, just wondering if they leave it up so folks can watch later that same day. Any other ideas appreciated…GOOOOO IRISH! Have a droid phone too, but prefer to watch it on my larger tv later that evening.

    • joeschu - Sep 7, 2012 at 4:19 PM

      I think you’re pretty much screwed. The local NBC here is preempting ND/Purdue for the second game of the regional ESPN SEC double header (Alabama vs. WKY). I’ve been searching high and low for a replay on Universal or NBCSportsNetwork, but can’t find anything. I’ll check back if I do, but for now, I think we’re stuck with highlights only.

  12. nudeman - Sep 7, 2012 at 1:34 PM

    Irish just flipped a 4 star Stanford recruit
    Doug Randolph
    OLB

    • bernhtp - Sep 7, 2012 at 1:54 PM

      I hope at least one or two of these IrishMob13 LBs can play DE or safety.

      While Randolph is a great catch, we really need some CB and WR talent.

      • nudeman - Sep 7, 2012 at 2:01 PM

        I haven’t seen any info that any of them are capable that
        In fact someone asked that about Randolph (as a safety) on another board
        Consensus is “no”; he’s already 237 lbs and only runs a 4.7

      • bernhtp - Sep 7, 2012 at 2:06 PM

        My guess is that at least one of them grows into a DE position, though it’s unlikely to be Randolph who needs way too much size.

        My point is that IrishMob13 has an embarrassment of riches at LB and we need help elsewhere. Something will have to change or some of these (talented) guys will sink down into the depth chart.

  13. carolinairish - Sep 7, 2012 at 3:32 PM

    So I just found out the Raleigh NC NBC affiliate has preempted the ND game for the incredibly exciting Alabama vs. Western Kentucky game… The local affiliate has also confirmed that they will not show the game on any of their other NBC channels and they were directed to do this by NBC corporate in NY. Wow… Is this the beginning of the end? BTW the Alabama affiliates will be showing the ND game. bs!

    • joeschu - Sep 7, 2012 at 4:29 PM

      Yup. The local ND club has been trying to work with ND media relations and the alumni board, but we’re pretty much screwed. (PS: Thanks Keith for the RT)

      The issue is that NBC17 wanted to show the ECU/SC game at noon, but to get it, ESPN forced anyone who picked up that regional game to carry the SEC double header; hence the 40+ point spread scrimmage bumping ND off in the afternoon slot.

      This is pure, anti-competitive, monopolistic BS from “the worldwide leader.” Sadly, our sponsors here are a bit to blame too. Apparently, NBC won’t give the local affiliate the opportunity to move the game to their alternative digital channel (17-2).

      I’ve suggested to the station’s GM and anyone who will listen that they should bump the SEC game to the alternative channel and air ND as they should, but no response yet. I’d love to post the guy’s e-mail here, but I presume Keith wouldn’t look favorably on that. You can submit complaints to NBC17 here: http://www2.nbc17.com/nbc17/contact_us/ and ESPN here: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/columns/story?id=2826900

      There are no replays on the schedule for NBCSports Network or Universial. Your only option is on-line. You can stream in a browser or to an iOS device live, but no DVR if you have anything going on in the afternoon (like multiple kid soccer games).

      Sorry for the doubly posted rant Keith, but this is such a screw job, and he brought it up ;-)

    • Keith Arnold - Sep 7, 2012 at 9:18 PM

      Not the beginning of the end. Just posted a new article on the multiple places you’ll be able to watch the game.

  14. loadofwash - Sep 7, 2012 at 10:07 PM

    You think maybe jimmy c is watching since he has nothing else to do

    • dietskunkbears - Sep 8, 2012 at 11:14 AM

      And just when i thought you were still in time-out, you show up again.

  15. zice03 - Sep 8, 2012 at 3:52 AM

    Is this an Irish site or no. Can you do an article on the 4 star lb we stole from Stanford. Come on. I love this site but your always last on news and also pulled it off the main page. Who gives a crap about hockey or golf Either be Irish Or be gone. Done with this site

    • dillonbigred - Sep 8, 2012 at 10:58 AM

      Keith had an article on the recruit over an hour before you posted. It’s not that to find.

  16. loadofwash - Sep 8, 2012 at 8:51 AM

    Here we go purdue here we go!

  17. tbone71 - Sep 8, 2012 at 10:23 AM

    It has taken a few years but I am all but done with ESPN. Their open hostillity towards the Irish is palpable and I am tired of it and their open support for all that is wrong with college football. They should get it over with and just rename the network to SEC.

    • seadomer - Sep 8, 2012 at 2:28 PM

      Don’t worry, we need both.
      Good publicity = Good publicity
      Good + Bad publicity = Great publicity.

  18. loadofwash - Sep 8, 2012 at 10:34 PM

    Breaking news, ND ratings worse levels ever. Oh no, that’s not news.

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