Chuck Martin

Martin looking for better execution from young offense

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One of the unfortunate byproducts of Notre Dame’s decision to keep the assistant coaches away from the media is that we get less time with offensive coordinator Chuck Martin. Moved from the secondary to get the Irish offense back on track, Martin has been tasked with getting an offense with a first time quarterback, a rebuilt offensive line, and without the school’s all-time leading wide receiver playing better than it did last season.

While Notre Dame is 4-0, the results haven’t come quite as quick as many have hoped. And with the Irish on bye week, Martin was afforded the opportunity to discuss with the media why. You can see the entire conversation below in the video, but here are some parts that I found interesting.

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When it comes to evaluating the play of rookie QB Everett Golson, Martin certainly doesn’t dwell on the fact that the sophomore hasn’t finished any of his starts. He considers the fact that he’s playing in front of a depth chart that features Tommy Rees, Andrew Hendrix, and Gunner Kiel, enough of an accomplishment.

“The kid’s started four straight games as a first year player,” Martin said. “You’ve got to take some solace in that if you’re Everett Golson. There are three other talented kids and you’ve got the nod. The first four games of eligibility he’s started.

“And then the second thing is you keep accentuating all the good things that he’s done. He’s played a lot of snaps and done a lot of good things. We’ve said from day one, you’re not going to be a great quarterback as a freshman. It’s very rare. He may be great in spurts, for a period of time, or a completely game. Just to play, there are so many experiences from him.”

A good glass-half-full solution to the situation for Golson, who needs to put the past in the rearview mirror  and try to forget about his performance against Michigan.

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If you were looking for a better rationale for when Tommy Rees gets inserted into the game, Martin was candid about the inexact science about bringing in the back-up, more experienced, quarterback.

“You’re still just making an educated guess. You don’t know,” Martin confessed. “We brought Tommy in last week and the first drive we drive down and score. We didn’t know. It looked pretty good after we drove down and scored. It’s more of a feel and it’s also the feel of having a young quarterback and knowing how he’s doing in that moment in time.”

It was pretty good timing for Kelly and Martin on the quarterbacking move and its hard to fault the coaches for riding Rees until the end of the football game. Building a young quarterback’s confidence is important, but no where near as important as winning the football game.

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A few days after Brian Kelly downplayed Tyler Eifert‘s role as a receiver in the passing game, Martin admitted that Notre Dame needs to find ways to get the football to its All-American tight end.

“It’s not as much a product of Tyler not being involved in the passing game, but how efficiently we can throw the football in certain situations and make good decisions and make good reads,” Martin said. “Trust me, Tyler has been doing awesome and he’s been an unbevlieable teammate and competitor. We’re a better team if the ball gets in No. 80’ss direction more.”

Part of the problem here is the fact that the Irish aren’t getting great blocking out of the tight end position. Not to pile on sophomore Ben Koyack, but he’s struggled in the execution portion of this offense. Whether its attached to the offensive line or in space on screen passes, Koyack has swung and missed on a number of blocks, forcing Eifert to stay in the role of a traditional tight end while Troy Niklas continues to play impressive football at the point of attack.

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With young offenses, you often wonder what the identity of the unit will become. Martin isn’t so worried about that, he’ll leave that for someone else to decide. He’s working on getting the team to execute better.

“I don’t think we’re searching for identity,” Martin said. “We’re still searching for consistent execution in the run and the pass game. Our run game has been better over the first four games than some of the things we’ve done in the pass game. We’re still trying to be consistent in both areas, when we’ve executed we’ve been pretty good in both areas. When we haven’t, we’re playing pretty good teams. When you’re not executing against the teams we’re playing, you’re not going to have success.”

Will that execution include getting Golson more involved in the run game with the zone-read quarterback keep?

“The kid can definitely be an asset in the run game long term,” Martin said. “The rest of this year, I don’t know how much we’re going to run him. We know he’s got some good athleticism and the ability to run the ball. But there’s a lot on his plate.”

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Notre Dame gets 10 invites to NFL Scouting Combine

2013 NFL Combine
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Notre Dame will send ten former players to the NFL Scouting Combine. The annual event in Indianapolis serves as the unofficial apex of draft season, a meat-market where the best professional prospects are poked, prodded, questioned and tested in a variety of on- and off-field drills.

Heading to the festivities from Notre Dame are:

Chris Brown, WR
Sheldon Day, DT
Will Fuller, WR
Nick Martin, C
Romeo Okwara, DE
C.J. Prosise, RB
KeiVarae Russell, CB
Elijah Shumate, S
Jaylon Smith, OLB
Ronnie Stanley, OT

For a prospect like Smith, it’ll be teams first opportunity to talk to the elite prospect and check his progress medically as he returns from a Fiesta Bowl knee injury. Russell will also be a non-participant in physical drills, waiting until Notre Dame’s Pro Day to go through testing.

Invites to Chris Brown, Romeo Okwara and Elijah Shumate are crucial in finding their way into the draft, as the three former Irish starters participated in the Shrine Bowl, where scouts had an early look at them. Likewise, Nick Martin and Sheldon Day continue their ascent, both coming off strong Senior Bowl weeks.

For Irish fans, it’ll be fun to watch early-enrollees Fuller and Prosise test. Both are expected to be some of the fastest players at their position. Brown may also have the ability to surprise teams, with his track background and leaping ability capable of earning him an extended look. Offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley will look to impress as well, hoping to check out as one of the draft’s most impressive athletes at offensive tackle.

Ohio State led all schools with 14 invites. National Champion Alabama had nine former players invited.

 

WR Corey Robinson named Notre Dame student body president

Notre Dame v Florida State
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On Wednesday, wide receiver Corey Robinson added another impressive title to his resume as a student-athlete at Notre Dame: Student Body President.

The junior, paired with classmate Becca Blais as his vice presidential running mate, won a majority of the votes cast by his fellow students, a runaway winner with 59.4% of the votes, nearly triple the next highest vote getter.

Robinson posted the following on Twitter, thankful for the opportunity to serve his fellow students:

Robinson’s time at Notre Dame has been filled with accomplishments both on and off the field. He was named an Academic All-American as a sophomore. He’s a six-time Dean’s List member in the prestigious Program of Liberal Studies and is also pursuing a sustainability minor. He’s won the team’s Rockne Student-Athlete Award as well.

That’s quite a bit on the plate of Notre Dame’s lone senior wide receiver. But as you might expect, Robinson is well prepared for the next challenge ahead.

“I’ve planned ahead, gotten all of my hard work out of the way this semester, and I’m finishing up my senior thesis,” Robinson told The Observer. “I’m doing all the hard stuff now so in the fall and the spring, I just have to take two classes pretty much.”

Robinson’s other contributions as a student-athlete at Notre Dame include One Shirt one Body, an opportunity for college athletes to donate their athletic apparel to local communities. Robinson has presented the plan to the ACC as well as the NCAA, earning immediate support from both organizations.

 

Mailbag: Now Open (scheduling input requested)

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - JUNE 01:  Actors Mike Myers (L) and Dana Carvey as Wayne and Garth from "Wayne's World" onstage during the 17th annual MTV Movie Awards held at the Gibson Amphitheatre on June 1, 2008 in Universal City, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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Okay folks, we’ve had enough semi-positive encouragement to keep the video mailbag going for another week. With that said, I’ll need some reader participation to keep this thing rolling on.

As always, submit your questions below or on Twitter @KeithArnold. You can also ask your questions live via Facebook. You’ll need to LIKE THIS PAGE first, and then at the appropriate time, head on over to watch and participate.

To that point, let’s pick a time that works for everyone. Right now, here are the options that work at Inside the Irish HQ.  Weigh in and the best time wins. (How’s that for a democracy?)

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Restocking the roster: Offensive Line

Notre Dame offensive line
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When Notre Dame takes the field this spring, there’ll be two very large holes in the offensive line that need filling. All-American left tackle Ronnie Stanley is gone. As is captain Nick Martin at center. Both three-year starters leave Harry Hiestand with some big decisions to make in the coming months as the Irish look to fill those key positions and still field a unit with the ability to dominate in the trenches.

The Irish have had incredible stability at left tackle, with Stanley sliding in seamlessly after four seasons of Zack Martin. Perhaps the best six-year run in the program’s storied history at the position, Stanley will likely join Martin as a first-rounder, back-to-back starters at a key spot that often dictates the play of one of the most important units on the field.

Replacing Nick Martin could prove equally tricky. Rising junior Sam Mustipher served as Martin’s backup in 2015, filing in capably for Martin after an ankle sprain took him off the field briefly against UMass. But Mustipher will face a challenge this spring from rising sophomore Tristen Hoge, the first true center recruited by Hiestand and Brian Kelly since they arrived in South Bend.

Kelly talked about 2017 being a big cycle on the recruiting trail for restocking the offensive line. You can see why when you look at the depth, particularly at tackle. Let’s look at the work that’s been done the previous two classes as Notre Dame continues to be one of the premier programs recruiting in the trenches.

 

DEPARTURES
Ronnie Stanley
, Sr. (39 starts)
Nick Martin, Grad Student (37 starts)
Mark Harrell, Sr* (No Starts, fifth-year available)

*Harrell’s departure is not confirmed, though expected.  

2015-16 ADDITIONS
Tristen Hoge
, C
Trevor Ruhland
, G
Jerry Tillery
, T
Parker Boudreaux
, G
Tommy Kraemer
, T
Liam Eichenberg
, T

PRE-SPRING DEPTH CHART
Hunter Bivin, T
Quenton Nelson, LG
Sam Mustipher, C
Steve Elmer, RG
Mike McGlinchey, RT

Alex Bars, T
Colin McGovern,* G/T
Tristen Hoge*, C
John Montelus*, G
Jimmy Byrne*, G
Trevor Ruhland*, G

*Has an additional year of eligibility remaining. 

ANALYSIS:
It’ll be a fascinating spring up front for the offensive line. We’ll get our first look at potential replacements and see if the Irish staff values a veteran presence (as it has done in the past) or puts former blue-chip recruits in position to become multi-year starters.

For now, I’m putting last season’s backups in line to ascend to starting spots. That’s not to say I think that’s what’ll happen. Hunter Bivin may have been Stanley’s backup last season, but as long as Alex Bars is fully recovered from his broken ankle, I think he’s the best bet to step into that job. Sharing reps at guard—not a natural spot for Bars to begin with—was more about getting him some experience, with the aim to move him into the lineup in 2016. That allows Bivin to be a key swing reserve, capable of playing on either the right or left side.

At center, the decision is less clear cut—especially since we’ve yet to see Tristen Hoge play a snap of football. Size and strength is a genuine concern at the point of attack for Hoge, not necessarily the biggest guy hitting campus. But it sounds like he’s had a nice first season from a developmental standpoint, and if he’s a true technician at the position, he could be a rare four-year starter at center if he’s able to pull ahead of Mustipher this spring.

On paper, the other three starting jobs don’t seem to be in question. Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey are ready to step to the forefront. Concerns about Steve Elmer’s buy-in will certainly be answered by spring, there’s little chance he’ll be on the field in March if he’s not going to be around in August. I’m of the mind that Elmer’s too good of a character guy to leave the program, even if his life doesn’t revolve around football 24/7. Now it’s time for him to clean up some of the flaws in his game, the only starter from last season who held back the Irish from being a truly elite group.

Depth isn’t necessarily a concern, but there isn’t a ton of it at tackle. That happens when you move a guy like Jerry Tillery to defensive line and lose a player like Stanley with a year of eligibility remaining. That could force the Irish to cross-train someone like Colin McGovern, a veteran who can swing inside or out if needed. McGovern seems to be a guy who would start in a lot of other programs, but has struggled to crack a two-deep that’s now filled with former blue-chip recruits, all of them essentially handpicked by Hiestand and Kelly.