Remember good old Mother Russia? That spirit is alive and well within Notre Dame’s version of the Kremlin, commonly known as “The Gug.” For all of my ranting and preaching against zealous analyzing of spring football… I kind of feel like a crackhead in desperate need of some product. Very little news of note has surfaced, and it’s just… quiet.
Can I offer you a few cheeseburgers?
Outside of the coaching clinic and some masterfully produced practice videos from FIDM, this has been as quiet of a spring camp as I can remember. Obviously, we have learned quite a bit about the team, even if there is still not a whole lot to start projecting towards the 2014 season. Let’s take a little peek…
As we have always known, the biggest downside with spring football has always been and will always be the chance of injury. Notre Dame has been fairly lucky thus far with only a few injuries to speak of while a little over a third of the way through spring camp.
Perhaps the biggest name on the injury list is also one that was injured over five months ago in Jarrett Grace. Grace is still recovering and there are whispers out of South Bend that although his career may not entirely be in jeopardy, the 2014 season is quite possibly out of reach for Grace.
Almost amazingly, Chase Hounshell and Amir Carlisle are not a part of this list. Will Mahone, on the other hand, is out for the spring, as is Christian Lombard. Both of which suffered injuries of varying degrees last year. Nick Martin is also recovering, but looks to be ready go for fall camp.
The return of Everett Golson gives this unit doses of hope by the truckload. I understand that there is a “quarterback competition” underway between Golson and Malik Zaire, and this “competition” may last into fall camp, but you know as well as I do, that this is all a ruse. This may be transparent to us, but for these players, I do believe the proverbial fire is actually lit under their asses.
Still, as far as the offense as a whole is concerned, the quarterback position is stronger now than at any point since Brian Kelly’s arrival. Everett Golson seems incredibly ready to pick up where he left off in 2012 and go supersonic. The offense will be geared around the skills of Golson and that should mean more efficiency- particularly on third down and inside the redzone.
The offensive line is a battalion of gladiators. The unit was deep and talented going into the spring, and have looked to have gained even more depth and more strength with the injuries to Martin and Lombard. The running back situation is still, basically, “here’s these three guys” and however Brian Kelly uses Folston, Bryant, and McDaniel will be how he uses them. The absence of DaVaris Daniels is quite noticeable, as Kelly has refrained from praising any of the wide receivers other than a few pats on the back and his confident statements about Ben Koyack.
Basically, the offense is blessed with talent rivaled by only a handful of other schools, but it must be molded and formed into a single attacking army. That process will only see its beginnings this spring, but at least it seems to have one direction to follow, and that’s right behind whatever dynamic quarterback leads them.
With massive losses along the front seven (former starters Tuitt, Nix, Fox, Shembo, and Calabrese to the NFL & Grace looking at a medical redshirt) the Irish defense turns to Brian VanGorder to be the new defensive coordinator with a plan.
From what we have seen, that plan includes a lot more four man fronts and the use of safeties as SAM linebackers. The move of Onwualu to safety from WR was somewhat of a surprise, but now utilizing him and John Turner as pieces in the linebacking corps is even more surprising. Jaylon Smith will most likely be the centerpiece of this group that now sees former walk-on Joe Schmidt leading the way at the MIKE.
VanGoder wants to implement a more aggressive and attacking defensive plan and will rely heavily on the rush from Smith as well as from Ishaq Williams and Romeo Okwara from their defensive end positions. This plan relies heavily on a secondary that comes up and plays a lot of man and tight coverage as opposed to the laying back in soft zones.
This is very much a work in progress and despite our hopes, I doubt that we will get much of a grasp from what we see now to apply to what we may see in September.