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Irish offense getting up to speed

Mar 23, 2013, 10:20 PM EDT

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You could forgive some Irish fans if they’ve forgotten that Brian Kelly came to South Bend with the reputation of being a quick strike, spread attack, offensive guru. (Okay. Most of you haven’t forgotten.) But if there’s been one thing the Irish haven’t been on offense in Kelly’s three seasons at Notre Dame, it’s up tempo.

Outside of the earliest reports in Kelly’s first days on campus, when players were awestruck at the pace of play during the Irish’s tempo offense, the extent of any comparison to former Oregon coach Chip Kelly’s call-it-and-haul-it offense, ended at the surname.

Yet with Everett Golson a full season into his on-field development, and entering his third spring in South Bend, Kelly made it clear that he still planned to run an up-tempo attack. Which is good news for those that thought Kelly left his high octane offense Cincinnati.

“No, that’s not in my past. That would be in my future,” Kelly said after practice. “We definitely would love to have the ability to dictate tempo. It takes so many things on a play. Look at the Alabama situation, if you’re playing fast there, you’re eliminating a lot of pressures because the ball is coming out so quick. We were deficient in areas offensively last year and one of them was our inability to play fast. That is definitely a part of where we want to go.”

It’s been pretty clear for the past three seasons that no quarterback in the Irish system was capable of running the up-tempo attack efficiently. Year one included Dayne Crist, a first-time starter that was learning on the fly while rehabbing a knee injury. He gave way to Tommy Rees, a true freshman that ended up beating out Crist in year two. Rees’ grasp of the offense was likely up to par, but he lacked the ability to bring a running threat to the offense, a critical component of an up-tempo, zone-read based ground game.

So much of what Golson did last year was predicated on his learning curve. Early in the season, Kelly and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin didn’t even feel comfortable incorporating Golson into the run game. But heading into Golson’s second season starting and with offensive personnel that’s feeling more and more in line with the coach’s design, expect to see the Irish offense pick up the pace.

Perhaps even more interestingly, they’ll also likely take more chances. While last season’s success could be credited to a precipitous drop in turnovers, Kelly doesn’t believe that moving quicker and throwing downfield will mean more mistakes. In fact, he thinks it could work the opposite.

“The more aggressive that you are, if you’re fundamentally doing the things that we’re teaching, it doesn’t put you at a higher risk with throwing interceptions,” Kelly explained. “Playing faster decreases that because you’re going to have guys that are going to be running wide open that are not even defended. I don’t think that accelerating the offense puts us at a higher risk of interceptions.

“If we’re really doing it the right way, we’re going to get some easier throws along the way. Slowing it down, letting the defense set, being a little predictable in some of the things we do, we want to be much more unpredictable offensively and I think that’s going to help us.”

We’re seen these problems the past few seasons. With Rees at the helm, too often the offense was reactionary, often trying to counter a defensive look from the line of scrimmage. Against Alabama, we saw the predictability of a limited Irish offense (and defense) rear its ugly head, with Nick Saban able to scheme for looks he expected.

With three practices under their belts, the Irish have a dozen more opportunities to lay the tracks needed to pick up the pace. But the fact alone that Kelly has it on his spring checklist should be music to Irish fans ears.


  1. tedlinko - Mar 23, 2013 at 10:30 PM

    Music to my ears for sure.

  2. glorygreyhound - Mar 23, 2013 at 10:46 PM

    I’ll believe when I see it…

  3. irishpuma - Mar 23, 2013 at 10:55 PM

    Bring it. Spread them out and let them play. Carlisle looked fast in practice!!! Ga3 going to have a big year

  4. mtflsmitty - Mar 24, 2013 at 12:54 AM

    This should be interesting to watch. And makes me think of the changes we saw last year as EG developed.

    One thing that received surprisingly little discussion here last year is the changes BK made in how plays were called/communicated to the offense. Purdue was an extremely painful game last year. You may recall BK was waiting to see the defensive set, and then calling the play with the Red Army. Snaps were consistently made with a nanosecond left on the play clock. This wasn’t the only time he did this. But I think it was the last. It was brutal. I believe he allowed EG to make the pre-snap calls from that point on, and things went much more smoothly.

    The spread and zone read run game in 2013 will show us if EG has the grey matter to run that O. God help us if we ever are forced back into giant posters with pics of Hannah Storm and Pope Benedict. Hope EG continues to develop.

  5. irish13pa - Mar 24, 2013 at 9:52 AM

    Im with glorygreyhound… I’ll believe when I see it…

  6. 11thstreetmafia - Mar 24, 2013 at 12:29 PM

    Golson is the man. Whatever way BK decides to go is fine with me. Forget you guys with this I’ll believe It when I see it crap. I seen my team, who is usually mediocre at best, go 12-1 and I believe it. BK did this with a RS freshman. I think he will be fine. I can’t wait for the B/G Game!

  7. yaketyyacc - Mar 24, 2013 at 2:03 PM

    as an apprentice, Edison asked his mentor how long was it necessary to grind the compound into powder. answer: you can never grind it too much. The same with offensive speed. you can never be fast enough.
    some say they will believe it when they see it. the problem is that the speed of the Irish will be so fast that they will not even realize it has happened. for them to believe, we will have slo mo.
    why so optimistic? the caliber of Notre Dame’s players will be the catalyst for speed, as they compete with each other.

  8. simmel65 - Mar 24, 2013 at 2:39 PM

    I would think that Golson is going to much improved this year. He was a redshirt freshman for goodness sake last year. Just maturity alone and the experience of last year will improve as the game will slow down for him. Really excited about this year!

  9. yllibnosredna - Mar 24, 2013 at 2:56 PM

    Completely agree with glorygreyhound. Kelly has been nothing but ambivalent when it comes to deciding his offensive pace. It seems like he has had difficulty reconciling that kind of pace with a more traditional style historically endorsed by ND football. Don’t know why this year would be any different.

    • irish4006 - Mar 26, 2013 at 1:34 PM

      So you think the pace was slow in the last few years because of historical endorsement, not the personnel (or lack thereof)? Hmmm… I am not sure how to respond to it.

  10. dudeacow - Mar 24, 2013 at 3:03 PM

    Toward the end of last year, I saw little changes that led me to believe that an up-tempo, pass-happy offense was coming. There were more pass plays than runs, more downfield throws, more of Golson calling the shots. Kelly said that last year at this time the defense was so far ahead of the offense. Seeing how the defense was coming off a mediocre year, that speaks volumes of how bad the offense was. Now, even with the defense remaining mostly intact and coming off a great year, Kelly said that the two are about even. I’m expecting great change.

  11. mediocrebob - Mar 24, 2013 at 7:19 PM

    Kelly will run whatever pace/style offense he feels necessary. Has nothing to do with how ND has historically played. That claim seems a but ridiculous. The guy knows what he’s doing and he’ll do what he feels will produce Ws.

  12. ohioirish - Mar 25, 2013 at 9:52 AM

    I don’t really understand why some of you are hung up on tempo. I don’t care what the tempo is, as long as we get the plays off before the play clock reaches 0, and have drives that result in TD’s. Scoring points and keeping our Defense off the field is key.

    Our defense last year was well rested in several games because we had so many drives over 4/5 minutes. If we go up-tempo and score in 1:30 that is great, but if our opponent is keeping the ball for 3-5 minutes, our D will not be able to help us win games.

    Go Irish!

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