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Pregame Six Pack: Blue vs. Gold

Apr 19, 2013, 11:57 AM EST

Fighting Irish quarterback Golson brings the first team offense together during a practice session in Davie, Florida

Notre Dame’s spring practices will come to a close on Saturday with the annual Blue-Gold game. For the first time in what feels like a decade, there doesn’t seem to be a major storyline playing out in front of our eyes.

There is no quarterback controversy, with Everett Golson holding down the No. 1 job and Tommy Rees serving as the veteran backup. There is no cloud hanging over the head coach, with Brian Kelly and athletic director Jack Swarbrick putting the final touches on a contract extension. And while the Irish will need to replace an All-American on both sides of the ball, there’s confidence that the sums of the parts will do just fine filling the individual shoes of Tyler Eifert and Manti Te’o.

With the action set to be broadcast on NBC Sports Channel at 1 p.m. EST Saturday, let’s run through the pregame six pack. As usual, here are six fun facts, tidbits, leftovers and miscellaneous musings before the offense takes on the defense.

1. With depth still not ideal, it’s going to be Offense vs. Defense on Saturday afternoon.

With some depth issues along the offensive line, Kelly decided to go with an offense vs. defense format for Saturday’s televised scrimmage. It’s the same scoring system that led to the defense beating the offense 42-31 last year, and will likely produce another high scoring affair.

For those unfamiliar with the set-up, here’s how the scoring system will be broken down.

OFFENSIVE POINTS:
6 points for a touchdown (1 point for PAT kicks, no rush allowed).
3 points for a field goal.

DEFENSIVE POINTS:
4 points for a defensive stop before offense crosses the 50.
2 points for a defensive stop after offense crosses the 50.
7 points for a turnover before the offense crosses the 50.
3 points for a turnover after the offense crosses the 50.
1 point for holding the offense to a field goal.

Last year, the offense turned the ball over six time, even with a running clock in the second half. Let’s see if they can clean things up this spring.

***

2. It’ll be a little shy of all hands on deck Saturday.

For a spring that’s been filled with its share of heavy hitting and full contact, the Irish walk into Saturday’s scrimmage with a pretty healthy roster. But Kelly walked us through the players that would be sitting out the Blue-Gold game.

Dan Fox, ILB – Shoulder
Bennett Jackson, CB – Shoulder
Nicky Baratti, S – Shoulder
Chase Hounshell, DL – Shoulder
Amir Carlisle, RB – Collarbone
Corey Robinson, WR – Elbow
Tyler Plantz, RB

Outside of Hounshell’s labrum tear, which will keep him out for the 2013 season, all injuries are expected to be healed before the start of summer camp.

***

3. Even though we won’t see Carlisle and Robinson this Saturday, it was an impressive spring for both players.

Irish fans will have to wait a few more months before getting a look at Amir Carlisle. The former USC running back, who received a waiver that granted him immediate eligibility in 2012, still sat out the season after lingering nerve damage slowed down his recovery from a broken ankle suffered on the eve of spring practice.

Carlisle suffered another injury setback this spring when he broke his collarbone during one of the team’s first padded practices, casting a doubt over whether or not he’ll ever be able to withstand the wear and tear that comes playing running back.

Kelly didn’t seem to have that concern. And Carlisle proved more than a few skeptics wrong by practicing almost immediately after surgery. He even put pads on for the team’s final workout, though will be held out of Saturday’s game.

“Amir Carlisle was in pads today, but we will not put him in a contact situation,” Kelly said. “He tried to talk himself into that, but we’re not going to let him.”

Holding Corey Robinson back from the Blue-Gold game will be a disappointment for Irish fans hoping to see for themselves the moves that turned more than a few heads this spring. Robinson, a below-the-radar recruit who many expected to need some seasoning, has looked more college-ready than anyone expected.

Kelly talked about the type of role Robinson can have next season for the Irish.

“He’ll be a role player, kind of like Chris Brown was,” Kelly said. “Chris helped us win a game against Oklahoma. That’s how you have to look at Corey Robinson. No, he’s not a finished product yet. He’s got to get stronger. But he does have a skill set. When you throw that ball near him, he comes down with it. So I think there’s a place for him in our offense, but he won’t be a featured guy.”

With an offense that struggled to produce points in the red zone last year, a six-foot-five (and growing) receiver with hands like Spiderman can’t be a bad thing.

4. We’ll see how ready the newcomers are on the Irish offensive line.

It’s a big day for the young offensive lineman on the Irish roster, with Harry Hiestand getting a nice long look at his depth chart. We already know that Zack Martin, Chris Watt and Christian Lombard are going to be in the starting lineup. What remains to be seen is who gets to next two jobs.

It appears Nick Martin and Conor Hanratty have the inside track at center and guard. But it’s a great opportunity for guys like Matt Hegarty and Mark Harrell to make a move, and young tackles Ronnie Stanley and Steve Elmer to show that they’re one of the best five, potentially pushing Lombard inside to guard.

Against one of the best defensive lines in the country, it’ll be one of the toughest assignments of the year for the offensive line. But before four new freshman make their way onto campus, it’s one last piece of game tape to show the coaching staff.

***

5. With Zeke Motta and Jamoris Slaughter gone, let’s see how the kids play at safety.

While the Irish secondary unfortunately had to say goodbye to Jamoris Slaughter far too early, this will be the first time we see the safeties without its two veterans leading. Last year, it was Motta who played traffic cop, getting the defense in alignment and holding down the fort. This year, that appears to have fallen into Matthias Farley‘s hands, with Elijah Shumate all but anointed by Kelly to be the other safety across from him earlier this week.

Just don’t tell Bob Diaco that.

The Irish’s star defensive coordinator wasn’t ready to heap praise on the talented rising sophomore, who has impressed the Irish staff, but still must have a ways to go.

“I wouldn’t say so, no,” Diaco bluntly said, when asked if Shumate was one of the spring’s stars. “Elijah we’re pleased with. He’s a very talented player. But he’s a long ways away from functioning and driving our defense. Light years away.”

That kind of tough love and honesty isn’t all that surprising from Diaco, who has always been brutally candid. But it also goes to show you how vital the safety position is in the Irish defense.

Since reloading the depth chart in recruiting, the position is now filled with players Kelly and Diaco hand picked for the system. And while it appears Farley has locked down one starting job, there will be others that see the field, with Shumate working as the No. 1 field safety by default.

With this spring a huge determining factor for the depth chart entering fall camp, keep an eye on a few guys battling to work their way into the rotation.

Austin Collinsworth is back and healthy after a lost season to injury. Eilar Hardy seems fully recovered from a serious knee injury that robbed him of some confidence and athleticism. Both have shown themselves useful this spring. Nicky Baratti will also force his way back into the conversation when he’s healthy.

Chuck Martin and the Irish offense will take some shots down the field on Saturday. With Bennett Jackson sitting, let’s see how the young secondary reacts.

***

6. In Notre Dame Stadium, natural grass is still greener… for now.

On the heels of Notre Dame and NBC’s ten-year extension, athletic director Jack Swarbrick spent some time with the media yesterday. In between ducking questions on scheduling and the announcement date of Brian Kelly’s new contract extension, Swarbrick calmed the nerves of traditionalists, when he said field turf was staying out of Notre Dame Stadium.

“I see nothing in the near term that would move us away from natural grass,” Swarbrick said. “Down the road as we contemplate the future of the facility, finding more ways to use it is important,” Swarbrick said. “Might turf be a dynamic in that? It may. But alone, it doesn’t solve the problem.”

If you enjoy reading between the lines of the always cagey Swarbrick, the sentence “contemplate the future of the facility,” might be one worth digging into. That could mean renovations, remodels, Jumbotrons, or private suites.

But until then, the improvements made by the field turf crew have been enough to stave off a change to an artificial surface.

  1. NotreDan - Apr 19, 2013 at 12:45 PM

    GO IRISH! Blue AND Gold.

    • nudeman - Apr 19, 2013 at 10:32 PM

      Why would someone give this a thumbs down?

      • papadec - Apr 20, 2013 at 4:24 AM

        nude – one of the trolls got over or under the fence again.

  2. stedward - Apr 19, 2013 at 3:14 PM

    I much prefer the “drafted” team scrimmage over the defensive scoring, but I understand the reasoning. I’ll take what I can get. Go almost real football.

    • italianirish - Apr 19, 2013 at 3:28 PM

      Not what you meant by “drafted” but my mind went to picking teams schoolyard style like the NHL All Star Game did a couple years ago. It would be fun if each team had an offensive and defensive captain and they picked their own team. (Clearly not a good way for coaches to look at different personnel groupings and matchups, but more competitive and fun for us fans!)

    • nd42fn - Apr 20, 2013 at 1:50 AM

      I’d give this a half and half thumbs for the almost football. LOL But yes I’m ready to see what this years Fighting Irish look like. From west central Illinois all I get about off season news is thru the net either here or und.com and other ND related sites so it’s good to finally see some on field action.

  3. cpfirish - Apr 19, 2013 at 4:10 PM

    Anybody know the changes they made to the playing surface in the stadium? New grass?? Different kind of grass?

  4. oldschoollyons - Apr 19, 2013 at 6:27 PM

    I am not sure what “problem” Swarbrick wants to solve. The stadium is a classic jewel box of a stadium. It is symmetrical and self-contained; the sight lines are uncluttered and clear. It is a purist’s dream. Renovating or remodeling it or adding jumbotrons (whether the trons are jumbo or just regular size), 3D movie screens, giant ipods, private boxes or even subtitles would prove the adage that everything improves for the worse.

  5. nudeman - Apr 19, 2013 at 11:10 PM

    Guy I’d most like to see step up tmrw is Will Mahone.
    Always have been a big fan of the big bruising back who can wear downdefenses in the 4th qtr.

    But from all I’ve read it sounds like he hasn’t really seized the oppty so far and Cam McDaniel is on the rise. Two completely different players.

  6. nudeman - Apr 19, 2013 at 11:11 PM

    Oh … and Gholston too

  7. whodabigdog - Apr 20, 2013 at 6:48 AM

    I am getting ready to head south to the BG game. I cant believe we have more snow on the ground today than we had on Christmas. All I know is we will get our first W of the year today. GO IRISH!!!!!

  8. 1historian - Apr 20, 2013 at 9:46 AM

    This is Rees’ 4th season and probably the same for Hendrix – we need 2 QBs in this year’s recruiting class.

    Given the lack of depth in the OL we need to recruit 5 OLs per year for 2014 and 2015, then we should be able to recruit 4 per year and hopefully red-shirt at least 3 of them.

    To all of those who will be there – have a good time.

    • nudeman - Apr 20, 2013 at 10:57 AM

      When Rees takes his last snap … party at my house.

  9. dillonbigred - Apr 20, 2013 at 12:57 PM

    Haven’t you read today’s South Bend Tribune. The article is Rees Battles For Starting Job. Here are some comments about Rees:
    Consummate competitor
    won’t take no for an answer and is on edge
    he competes very hard
    has savvy and moxie
    maturity and professional approach
    willingness to compete

    What more do you want? And did I say that he is a competitor?

    • nudeman - Apr 20, 2013 at 1:15 PM

      Barring 2 broken femurs on Gholsten, Rees has zero chance to start.
      Ever.

      • dillonbigred - Apr 20, 2013 at 3:29 PM

        In the article Martin does make it crystal clear that Rees is a backup. I just found the writer’s comments amusing.

  10. harvupdyke - Apr 20, 2013 at 12:58 PM

    How y’all gonna replicate the prowess of a Bama offensive line in a blue & gold game?

    Of course y’all want be so soft up the middle with what’s his face movin on…

    Roll dam tide.

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