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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Restocking the roster: Running Backs

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 17: Josh Adams #33 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish runs for a 26-yard gain against the USC Trojans in the first half of the game at Notre Dame Stadium on October 17, 2015 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Notre Dame’s running back depth chart was tested to its max less than 10 minutes into the season opener. The projected two-deep, Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant, were both lost for the year—Bryant out of school as an academic and disciplinary casualty by the start of fall camp and Folston because of a knee injury suffered on his third carry of the season.

Welcome back to Notre Dame, Autry Denson.

The school’s all-time leading rusher in his first season as a running back coach had to be feeling a little woozy. He had a converted wide receiver taking featured-back carries and a true freshman a little over a year removed from his own major knee injury serving as his primary backup.

That the Irish had their most prolific running season under Brian Kelly says quite a bit about the job that Denson did. It’s also a credit to the offensive line blocking, the adjusted scheme that also protected two new starting quarterbacks, and the talent that remained at the position.

Spring presents new challenges. Tarean Folston should be a little over seven months removed from ACL surgery, making him doubtful to do anything more than wear a red jersey. With C.J. Prosise‘s departure, Adams goes from record-setting rookie to spring starter, with Williams likely carrying a large load as well.

Tony Jones Jr. and Deon McIntosh arrive this summer, reinforcements on the way. But before we get there, let’s take a look at the pre-spring roster at running back.

 

DEPARTURES
C.J. Prosise (156 carries 1,032 yards, 11 TDs)
Greg Bryant (lost preseason 2015)

 

2015-16 ADDITIONS
Josh Adams (117 carries, 835 yards, 6 TDs)
Dexter Williams (21 carries, 81 yards, 3 TDs)
Tony Jones Jr.
Deon McIntosh 

 

PRE-SPRING DEPTH CHART
Tarean Folston,* Sr.
Josh Adams, Soph.
Dexter Williams, Soph.
Justin Brent,* Junior

*Additional year of eligibility remaining.

 

ANALYSIS: This might be a position battle deferred to fall camp, especially if Folston is still in recovery mode. At this point, it doesn’t make sense to rush back from an ACL tear for 15 practices, so while the rising senior may be chomping at the bit to return, it’s better to save it until August.

Folston will likely be the team’s most versatile back, but keeping Adams off the field will be a hard chore. His breakaway speed was on display multiple times in 2015, with his record-setting run against Wake Forest the team’s longest play from scrimmage. Adams also likely added some mass and physicality to his game in the offseason weigh-training program, giving the Irish someone capable of hitting the big play and also moving the sticks in short yardage situations.

The staff believes that Dexter Williams is a talented back, so with three solid contributors on the roster before Jones or McIntosh hit campus, it’ll be fun to see how snaps get sorted. (From that perspective, you can only wonder how they’d have dealt with the champagne problem of having Prosise around…) Justin Brent remains an option as well, though the attrition from the receiving corps makes you think he’ll be back at receiver.

The wildcard in all of this is Folston. He’s a unique talent with natural ability you just can’t teach. If he’s fully recovered and ready to engage in a position battle, there won’t likely be a drop off even with the early departure of Prosise.

 

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

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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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