As usual, had a blast watching the annual spring game from the stands of Notre Dame Stadium this passed Saturday. Bleachers are being replaced on the east side of the stadium so watching the game with an entire side of the stadium being empty was different. However, a few observations from the game...
1) Fast paced offense...
Those of us that have only been able to read but not really witness the Brian Kelly fast-paced offense were in for a treat on the games first possession especially. No huddle, no substitutions, just get on the ball and don't allow the defense the ability to change things up. Watching this series especially showed why Brian Kelly's Cincinnati teams didn't hold the ball for very long but were still able to run a bunch of plays and score an absurd amount of points.
2) Keep Your #7 Jersey's
Okay, if you like you are allowed to go purchase your Jimmy Clausen Carolina Panthers jerseys but make sure to hold on to your #7 Notre Dame one as well. That is because Tai-ler "TJ" Jones will wear that this year and on Saturday he was the most impressive receiver on the field for the Irish. Sure there was keying on Michael Floyd going on like you would expect but Jones will make the loss of Golden Tate not be nearly as bad as it could have been. He pulled in 4 receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown on Saturday.
3) Manti T'eo is an Animal
Yes, he's going to be as good as he was hyped up to be when he was making his visit to campus against Syracuse in the late fall of 2008. T'eo had 8 total tackles on Saturday along with an interception but as a whole he had a great feel for getting to where the play was headed. He can sniff out the run and on more than one occassion he was able to knock away passes headed from Dayne Crist to Michael Floyd. Excitment level to watch him develop is at an all-time high after seeing him perform yesterday.
4) Robert Hughes Will Have Trouble Finding the Field
Impressive on Saturday were Armando Allen, Cierre Wood, and Jonas Gray for the Fighting Irish backfield. All three seem to have picked up a step compared to last year, maybe their overall top speeds aren't as fast but their quickness and cutting abilities are definitely there. Robert Hughes seemed a step slow and his cutting ability was very minimal compared to the others yesterday.
5) Kickers Make My Head Hurt
Yet again it will be a long year from the kicking department I have a bad feeling. Two extra points were missed on Saturday by Notre Dame kickers while they went 0/2 in the field goal department. One positive from the special teams department was from the foot of punter Ben Turk who was head and shoulders above his competition yesterday.
6) Kyle Rudolph - Still Excellent
Entering his junior year we expect Kyle Rudolph to take the next step and become that much more of a target in 2010. With what I saw on Saturday he will be the #1 target often for Dayne Crist as he was making catches in traffic on a regular basis while being a key in the misdirection handoffs during the running game. If Saturday is any indication he will be targeted often and will have a great chance to be an All-American barring injury.
7) Harrison Smith - Still Awful
It didn't take more than the third or fourth play of the game for Harrison Smith to find himself out of position, biting on a playfake and being out of position to make a tackle on a run by Armando Allen. Sure it wasn't in pass defense but he bites on play fakes worse than Tom Zbikowski used to and his one-on-one coverage skills are terrible. I really hope for the benefit of the defense and well-being of Notre Dame fans that he is not on the field much in 2010...BAD.
8) Quarterbacks in a New System
Lots of things I have read have talked about the progression of Nate Montana since last spring. Yes he did get better, he looked like a high school quarterback a year ago in the spring game compared to this year as he was leading the offense down the field for Notre Dame. The biggest difference between him and Dayne Crist is on their ability to read the field, Crist is miles ahead of Montana in that department as Nate still likes to lock in on one receiver a great portion of the time.
At the end of the day it is only a scrimmage but there were obvious positives and negatives to be taken away. The offensive playbook didn't appear that deep for Dayne Crist but as usual the treat of seeing spring football has me very excited for the fall. Not sure how improved the defense is going to be but all teams on the schedule will have trouble slowing down the Notre Dame offense...mark it down.
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