Saturday, April 24, 2010

Irish Display Progress in Blue & Gold Game

Well the 2010 Blue & Gold Game is in the books, and Coach Brian Kelly has to be pleased with what he saw. The stat sheet isn't out yet, but I wanted to quickly share my initial impressions of the game.

Of course all eyes were on Dayne Crist and his surgically repaired knee, and Dayne looked very good physically while taking every snap for the Blue squad in the first (and most important) half. The first half was played under normal game clock rules and generally featured the players who are on the two-deep depth chart or fighting for a spot on it. The second half was two 12-minute quarters with running clock. It went very quickly and was the opportunity for the back-ups and walk-ons to see some live fire in Notre Dame Stadium.

The most surprising aspect of the game for me was how well all the quarterbacks looked in the new offense. Dayne Crist started for the Blue squad, while Nate Montana ran the Gold team, and both seemed very much in command of the offense, getting everyone lined up and generally making the proper reads and getting the ball where it needed to go. Dayne looked to me to be a little ahead of Nate as far as making the reads and getting the ball out quickly, and he had more zip on his throws, at least until he started to look a little fatigued late in the first half when his throws started falling a little short. But Nate was not far behind Crist in execution and actually had a better stat line for the game. I did not expect our #2 quarterback to look as far along in learning the offense, and I certainly did not expect anything from the #3 QB, Tommy Rees, who looked like he could step in and play if he is needed. Pretty impressive all-around performance from the QB corps (and the coaches who got them ready).

The other really big surprise for me today was Cierre Wood. Wow, that kid has a burst! It didn't take very long to see why Theo Riddick is now a wide receiver (and a good one at that). Wood showed acceleration through through the hole that the Irish haven't seen in decades. He gets through the hole and into top gear right now. If he gets half a step on a defender, he is not going to get caught. I was reminded of the time that Charlie Weis talked about Munir Prince's "whoosh!" speed. Well, we never saw Munir's "whoosh!" translate to a game situation, but Cierre Wood is the real "whoosh!" deal. Armando Allen is the starting running back, but he won't ever get too comfortable in that role because Wood is gaining on him fast.

Robert Hughes and Jonas Gray also looked very good at times. The bottom line is that Coach Kelly has plenty of depth to draw on at running back, especially since we'll generally see only one back on the field at a time.

The one wide receiver that really stood out today was the early enrollee, TJ Jones. Although he doesn't look very big, he did look very quick and sure handed. That young man is going see playing time early and he is going to be a play maker. Shaq Evans also had a good day.

Both Kyle Rudolph and Mike Ragone had very productive days at the tight end spot, and more importantly they both looked 100% healthy.

The defense, although playing vanilla sets, played generally very well and most importantly seemed to tackle much better than last season. Manti Te'o stood out for his instincts and his speed, and Steve Filer surprised by leading the team in tackles. The defensive line seemed to be getting a good push up the middle and had good awareness in batting down several passes.

All in all, I was very pleased that the team on both sides of the ball appears to have already grasped a good understanding of the basic sets they will be using next season, and that the understanding extends fairly broadly across the roster so that Coach Kelly and his staff are developing a lot of depth. The game was played very cleanly with very few penalties, mental mistakes, mishandled balls, etc... I take that as a sign that Coach Kelly's insistence on discipline and attention to detail has begun to take hold.

Overall I was very pleasantly surprised by all the progress the coaches and the team have made over the course of just 15 spring practices. I don't know how many wins that will translate into come the fall, but I am now confident the team will not be unprepared when Purdue rolls that big drum into Notre Dame Stadium on September 4th.


Voice in the Wilderness said...

Great post OC Domer.
Was an attendence figure announced?

Titus said...

Well they didn't have 80,000, since a third of the bleachers were pulled out.

So we're supposed to be running a 3-4, but I would have sworn I saw 4 guys on the D line all day. What was that?

OC Domer said...

During the broadcast they announced attendance of 27,000 and change.

As for the defense, we were told to expect a 3-4, with one linebacker blitzing most of the time. Maybe part of the "vanilla" defense was advertising in advance which LB was coming by having him on the line with his hand on the ground? Good point though.

TBone1966 said...

I thought Nate was at least equal or maybe a little better than Dane. This may have been related to Dane's leg, Nate clearly should be the front runner for #2, but I expect Rees will push Nate by mid season.
The play was as expected under a new system, a little rough around the edges.

Anonymous said...

If Nate Montana looked almost as good as Crist we are in deep trouble.