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BYU Mailbag: Questions answered

Nov 21, 2013, 4:57 PM EDT

Kendall Moore Getty Images

Let’s get into this week’s mailbag, which featured quite a few good questions (and more than a few answers from you guys).

Let’s get to it:

@jfoneill22: On whose behalf am I cheering for an Irish blowout this weekend? Which unheralded senior has earned a few snaps on Sat?

I don’t know if BYU is the team where the bench is going to empty, as some wise guys see this one as a one-point line pointing the Cougars direction, making the Irish a rare homedog.

That said, if I were to guess a senior that might get a chance to make a few big plays, it’d be Kendall Moore. Against a running quarterback like Taysom Hill, Moore could have some chances to knock heads, and it’s only a matter of time before he knocks a football loose.

domer77blowsgoat: In 2012 with Golson out with a concussion Kelly relied on the run game and the defense to get past BYU, i.e. wasn’t going to put the game in Rees’ hands to lose – why the change in philosophy this year as it has cost us at least 2 games and a shot at the BCS?

I get the angle you’re taking here, but I’m not sure I agree with it. Notre Dame lost to Michigan because they gave up 41 points. Looking at the offense the Wolverines are trotting out there now, that’s just brutal.

Put simply, I don’t think Kelly trusts his defense like he did last year, or his running backs. There’s a reason why the Irish can’t settle on a running back rotation and I tend to think it’s a product of nobody giving the staff exactly what it wants.

That being said, I am very curious to see if the Irish lean on the ground game on Saturday, especially with the weather starting to look like a potential winter wonderland. It certainly makes more sense than having Rees throw 35 times.

@BruceND75: Could it be that much of the problem with playcalling is blowback for Rees’s prolific audibling? What % of plays are audibles?

I think anybody who is willing to tell you a percentage of Rees audibles is lying to you, Bruce. Nobody has any idea how often the Irish check the play at the line of scrimmage, but the offensive system is designed to get the team in and out of bad looks. It’s certainly not something that JUST Tommy Rees does, but Notre Dame will likely go back to a situation that’s more a “call it and haul it” scenario with Everett Golson, who has the ability to keep the football and run it.

Ted Wheeler: If the ACC bowl tie-ins were in effect for this season, where would ND likely end up? How much of an improvement would this be over what’s likely an appearance in the Pinstripe Bowl?

Good question. Next year the Irish will need to be within one win of an ACC team to leapfrog them in the bowl lineup. It’s kind of hard to guess where that’ll be without knowing if the Irish are going to beat BYU and Stanford, but here are the ACC tie-ins as of this year, per SI.com’s Stewart Mandel.

Orange Bowl: ACC Champ
Chick-fil-A Bowl: ACC No. 2
Russell Athletic Bowl: ACC No. 3
Sun Bowl: ACC No. 4
Belk Bowl: ACC No. 5
Music City Bowl: ACC No. 6
AdvoCare Bowl: ACC No. 7
Military Bowl: ACC No. 8

They’d slot in somewhere in the middle depending, so it isn’t as if the Irish are missing out on that much this year.

Nudeman: Just as a follow up/tag on here … no one is excited about playing a 2nd tier team in a 3rd tier bowl. Keith, is there any chance ND just passes altogether ND stays home? (And yes, I know all the prevailing BS about those 15 practices being so important)

In today’s era of college football, you’d be pretty stupid to turn down the opportunity to develop your team for an additional 10 practices or so. So while traditionalists like Uncle Nudie like the idea of turning down (or turning up the school’s collective nose at) a mediocre bowl, you don’t see coaches volunteer to give up spring practice, do you?

Also — the bowl trip is about more than just the football team, it’s often used to reward school officials and administrators with a few days away from home in a nice locale. That might not happen this year if it turns out being Shreveport or Detroit, but post Christmas in Manhattan doesn’t sound too bad.

irishaggie: Going into this BYU game what have you seen from this 2013 squad that has disappointed you the most in the first 10 games?

Probably the inconsistencies on both sides of the ball. This defense has given up way too many big plays. And offensively, there still isn’t much of an identity. This team hasn’t been able to hang its hat on anything, and that’s been tough.

Obviously, the Pitt loss is as disappointing as it gets. But collectively this team has struggled to get a ton out of its personnel, though I do think a lot of this is injury related (at least defensively).

mediocrebob: What do you know about guys like Hounshell and Springman? Are they healing on time? I know there was talk about Hounshell possibly returning this year. Are they guys the Irish can lean on next year upfront with the departure of Tuitt and Nix?

It sounds like both guys are on track to practice this spring, though BK hinted at an infection slowing down Springmann earlier this fall. There was talk about Hounshell practicing and taking snaps potentially, but that was mostly because of the internal skepticism that he’d be eligible for a sixth year of competition.

Don’t count out Nix or Tuitt just yet, though I do think this is it for Big Lou. But I don’t think it’s outrageous to think that Springmann can fill in capably at nose tackle like Sean Cwynar did and hopefully Jarron Jones does a good job developing.

ndfenian: Keith, I think the injuries to ND’s front seven have been very significant for the 2013 squad. Going into the Pitt game, I counted seven players out for the game, and two playing with significant injuries, and these are all front seven guys that were listed on the preseason two-deep. Are you aware of other programs in recent years that have suffered this amount of injuries to starting players and still had successful (BCS) seasons?

I can’t give you specifics, but I’m certain a rash of injuries happens to other teams, too. (Just not on the team that I follow on a daily basis.) But I don’t think teams just make it to the BCS after losing 11 contributors on defense, and that’s pretty much been what happened to this team.

Injuries stink. But it’s a good reminder of why teams need to build quality depth and why teams don’t give up on guys like Tyler Stockton, Justin Utupo or Eilar Hardy.

charlie617: What current player who will be a senior/5th year next year do you project as having the biggest (positive) impact next season?

I’m feeling good about Kendall Moore. I really think he’s going to have to play a lot of football next year and could step in and do a nice job. He reminds me a lot of a guy like Corey Mays.

Mays spent the majority of his first four seasons in South Bend playing special teams before stepping into the starting lineup and having an impressive fifth-year. He parlayed that into a nice run in the NFL. I could see that happening with Moore, too.

newmexicoirish: Keith, now that the season is winding down, do you expect BK to make some coaching changes for next year? If so, which coaches do you think will be updating their resume?

You aren’t the first person to ask this, but I just don’t see it happening. This is the same staff that carried the Irish to the BCS Championship game. While there’s been some disappointing play at positions like safety and maybe quarterback, I hardly think that’s something that needs addressing at the positional ranks.

Also, people have clamored for a special teams coach to be assigned. I don’t think Scott Booker has done a bad job, and if you want to look at one spot that’s really been crushed by injuries, it’s special teams.

 

 

  1. ctfivula - Nov 21, 2013 at 5:33 PM

    Keith I must say I am getting frustrated with the questions that were answered this week. The column is titled BYU mailbag and yet you are answering questions about next years players and bowl games and coaching changes all things that are well into the future. Granted they were all good questions but I thought it was the BYU mailbag not the, where are we going to play our bowl game and who will be coaching and playing next year mailbag. Were there not enough worthy questions about this weeks game?

  2. NotreDan - Nov 21, 2013 at 5:56 PM

    Keith.

    Surely you did not mean to say that Detroit isn’t a nice locale…

    • bernhtp - Nov 21, 2013 at 10:29 PM

      Sadly for Detroit, the prevailing winds from the west carry that putrid stench from Ann Arbor. It’s too much for any city to bear.

  3. ndfenian - Nov 21, 2013 at 6:35 PM

    I do think injuries (and a bizarre ejection) played a significant part in the Pitt loss. I just don’t think we give up 28 points to Pitt if, say, Tuitt, Springmann and Ishaq Williams were in there. The counter to that argument though is the fact that the defense did not play well against Michigan, Temple, and even Oklahoma, when the injury list was not as long. Diaco’s defenses in 2010 and 2011 were able to right the ship and play well late in the year, but I think injuries have made that task difficult this year.

    I still don’t understand why we can’t run the ball. Is it the spread formation philosophy, poor offensive line play/coaching, Kelly’s play-calling? It has been terrible. Even in this era of pass-happy offenses, I just don’t think we will ever see an elite ND team without a solid run game. We certainly haven’t in history.

    • ndfenian - Nov 21, 2013 at 6:37 PM

      * I mean Purdue, not Temple.

  4. fnc111 - Nov 22, 2013 at 9:52 AM

    Notre Dame lost to Michigan because Rees gave scUM a 14 pt lead at halftime. Stubborn much?

    Sheesh.

    When ND loses all the credit goes to the defense. When ND wins you give all the credit to Rees. I guess it’s tough to admit you’re wrong.

  5. fnc111 - Nov 22, 2013 at 10:06 AM

    You don’t blame a defense for allowing a TD when the Michigan offense got the ball at the ND 20 right before the half. K

    Knowing you are not as athletic as OU and you need to ball control maybe don’t come out chucking the ball with a D2 player. Just awful game plans by Kelly all year.

    I look forward to him being the Lions coach next year. Hopefully Ford is dumb enough to take him off our hands.

    • ndfenian - Nov 22, 2013 at 1:37 PM

      Yes you do blame a defense for giving up 41 points. I don’t remember the ins and outs of the game, but the defense obviously performed poorly. Would it help our defense in some of these games if we could get out to a quick lead? Surely, but the defense showed serious regression at the beginning of the year, and I believe the injuries have prevented them from putting it together late in the year.

    • danirish - Nov 22, 2013 at 1:52 PM

      The scum game is the first game I think that we noticed a serious problem with lack of tackling ability on the second and third level of the defense. Suddenly, wr’s & rb’s were getting though the line and LB’s and DB”s were whiffing on tackles. That one catch by the scum wr was a perfect case – a short passed turned into a highlight long run for a td.

  6. danirish - Nov 22, 2013 at 1:46 PM

    UGA is the ND of offensive injuries. Their O-Line has been injured and at one time, 2 TE’s, both awesome rb’s (Gurley and Marshall), they lost their starting speedster 1st game (celebrating…smh), their big wr in Michael Bennet.

    Georgia’s offense has been a MASH unit.

  7. runners00 - Nov 22, 2013 at 2:21 PM

    Is this the BYU mailbag or is it the “I wish we were in the ACC” or the “off-season” mailbag? Why is BYU a one-point favorite after getting waxed at Wisconsin last week? That’s what we should be talking about. What is it about their players that makes Vegas so sure that the Irish are underdogs?

    • bb90grad - Nov 22, 2013 at 3:11 PM

      Remember, the line is less about reality and all about the house making money.

  8. danirish - Nov 22, 2013 at 9:25 PM

    JUST READ ON YAHOO.COM SPORTS THAT THEY THINK BIG LOU WILL PROBABLY BE DRAFTED BY THE BEARS! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

    I know its speculation but I need to hold onto something

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