With last season in the rear view mirror, 2017 will be a great year for ND.
Yes, last season was a horrible, depressing, embarrassing year. I felt the coaching, play-calling in particular, was atrocious and that A LOT of talent was wasted.
Now that that’s over, I want to talk about why fans should be excited and optimistic about this year as it relates to the new coaching staff.
Coaching staff additions
After the hiring of Chip Long was announced, I watched a lot of Memphis game film from last year. I really liked what I saw in that he used a lot of two and three tight end sets, two back formations and unbalanced schemes to produce mismatches and confusion on the defense.
The fact that Notre Dame will have 5 former High School All-American tight ends on their roster must make him giddy. I’m certain Long, a former All-American tight end himself, will put them to good use.
Kelly explained in his press conference on Jan. 30th, that Long will be calling the plays. He was sure to mention the offense will remain intact but will include Long’s emphasis on multiple tight end/running back sets to help those positions get more involved in the passing game.
Long added in his interview that he will apply his style using tempo and that he wants to be a run-play action team.
I really like that DelVaughn Alexander was hired as the receivers coach for a few reasons. He has coaching experience with a lot of good programs, he’s a great recruiter and he coached with Long at Arizona State University.
Coaching cohesion is extremely important and always a concern when you overhaul the majority of your staff. These two having history running an offense together bodes very well for the Irish.
Some fans look at the hiring of “turnover Tommy” as a questionable move. I don’t. If there’s anything I have never questioned about Tommy Rees, it’s his football IQ.
With the lack of a strong arm and very little running ability, the fact that Rees still started at quarterback for Notre Dame (and won a lot of big games) shows his intelligence and knowledge regarding the quarterback position, coverages and game management is superior.
Brian Kelly did exactly what I wanted him to do. It started after the week 3 loss to Duke when he deleted Brian Van Gorder and his unfit, complex defense from the equation.
I think BVG’s thoughts were that because ND football player’s are high-IQ kids, they could handle the rigors of running an NFL caliber defense, and I get that thought…..but it wasn’t so.
The hiring of Mike Elko was a bit of a shock at first as Wake Forest, in my mind at the time, wasn’t exactly a prolific defensive team. After having a look at things and realizing WF was in the top 20 in so many important statistical categories, my attitude changed.
Elko’s defense is a perfect scheme for Notre Dame. The Irish have many “tweener” types at all three levels. They have some smaller type, athletic defensive ends that will thrive in a stand-up end role. They have linebackers and safeties that fit the bill as rover.
For example, linebacker Asmar Bilal is lacking in size but has shown flashes of elite athleticism that could help him play in space but also come downhill with authority.
Drue Tranquill has shown that he can certainly play in the box to help out the run while also possessing adequate cover sills. Being an Academic All-American, he certainly has the smarts to play the position as well.
Having Elko work with safeties as well as Clark Lea coming with him from WF will help continuity and familiarity with the scheme in the second level of the defense from a coaching stand point.
In my opinion, the poor Special Teams play in ’16 cost the Irish several games in ’16. I believe Brian Kelly saw it this way as well. In his recent press conference, Kelly stated that hiring a Special Teams coordinator was his first order of business.
Brian Polian returns to Notre Dame with Head Coaching experience as well as having coached special teams at Stanford and Texas A&M.
Polian is very passionate about Notre Dame and glad to be back in South Bend.
One concern would be that Justin Yoon has been battling tendinitis in his knee, but with Jonathan Doerer committing, he should be more than OK regarding kicking personnel.
Notre Dame boasts a lot of talented depth at defensive end, linebacker, receiver and running back which will provide Polian with a plethora of talent in his respective teams.
Expect a solid year in Special Teams.
That wraps up Part 1 of my Notre Dame Optimism articles. Stay tuned to SlapTheSign.com for Part 2 – Player Personnel, and for all your Notre Dame Athletics news.