January 1, 2014 // Notre Dame Football

2014 New Year’s Resolutions for Notre Dame Football

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Will Fuller - Notre Dame Pinstripe Bowl

Notre Dame Fighting Irish wide receiver William Fuller (15) cannot make a catch as Rutgers Scarlet Knights defensive back Anthony Cioffi (31) defends during the first quarter in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Mills/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

As everyone kicks off their New Year with a day full of college football, outdoor hockey, and resolution creation, we take a look at some New Year’s resolutions for the 2014 Notre Dame Fighting Irish as they work towards spending next year’s New Year’s Day preparing for more football instead of watching at home with their bowl game already in the books.

1. Start scoring touchdowns in the red zone

In 2013 Notre Dame reached the redzone 45 times.  In those 45 attempts, the Irish capped off their drive with a touchdown just 24 times.  Overall Notre Dame managed to score points just 80% of the time they reached the redzone.  That offensive futility ranked Notre Dame 79th in the country in redzone scoring percentage.  Top ranked Florida State led the country in redzone scoring percentage by scoring points an impressive 97% of the time (67 of 69 with 55 touchdowns).

If Notre Dame is going to make a playoff run next year, their redzone woes have to change in a hurry.  Notre Dame can’t score touchdowns just over half of the times they reach the endzone.  In the loss to Stanford, Notre Dame reached the redzone four times and scored touchdowns just twice.  Against Michigan redzone production was even worse with the Irish scoring just two touchdowns in five trips to the redzone and getting points just three times total.  That has to change in 2014.

2. Fix kick return and coverage teams

The one area that has perplexed me the most with Notre Dame under Brian Kelly has been the kick coverage and return units.  This should be an area that can be fixed quickly and can make a huge impact on games.  After four years though, the only return unit that is above average is the kick return team.  Kick coverage, punt coverage, and punt return units, on the other hand all remain below average.  Considering all of the improvements Brian Kelly has delivered to Notre Dame, it’s beyond surprising at this point that special teams are such a liability.

With Notre Dame losing Louis Nix and possibly Stephon Tuitt as well, Notre Dame won’t have the type of defense in 2014 that will allow it to make up for being placed in tough situations consistently like they did in 2012.  Kelly has to find a way to get more production from the punt return game and shore up both coverage units in 2014 to help out both his defense and offense.

3. Get more aggressive on defense

Speaking of Notre Dame not having the kind of defense they did n 2012 next year, the Irish are going to have to be more aggressive on the defensive side of the ball in order to make a playoff run next year.  Bob Diaco’s bend, don’t break style of defense is headed to UConn as he takes over that program while Brian VanGorder and his more aggressive style of defense is rumored to be headed to Notre Dame (although no official announcement has been made).

Notre Dame struggled to generate turnovers in 2013 because it bent, bent, and bent more often than it did in 2012.   With 17 turnovers in 2013, Notre Dame ranked a putrid 100th overall in the NCAA in creating turnovers.   Most of the season Notre Dame struggled to get to opposing quarterbacks as well with just 20 sacks on the season for an average of 1.54 sacks a game which ranked 96th in the country.  For Notre Dame to make a playoff run in 2014, the Irish simply cannot rank near 100th in both sacks and turnovers created like they did this year.  Your challenge, should you accept to it Mr. VanGorder is to generate many more negative plays by the Irish defense in 2014.

4. Find a role for George Atkinson and Amir Carlisle

George Atkinson and Amir Carlisle are both supremely talented athletes but in 2013 they were more athletes than weapons for the Notre Dame offense.  Given the lack of speed and athleticism Notre Dame has had on the offensive side of the ball over the years, Notre Dame needs to find a role for players like this to get them the ball in space and let them utilize their speed.

After three years it is pretty clear that Atkinson is not a feature back, but with his speed Brian Kelly and whoever his new offensive coordinator ends up being needs to find a way to get him the ball in some different ways.  The same can be said for Amir Carlisle.  A move to slot might be an option for Carlisle if he spends the off-season working on catching the football and improving his hands, but based on the limited times we saw Carlisle in 2013, he would need a lot of work there.  Just how Kelly and the Irish can utilize these players better I’m not sure.  Kelly has the off-season to figure that out.

5. Become more dynamic on offense

Sticking on the offensive side of the ball, Notre Dame has too many playmakers on offense to score as few points as they did in 2013 next year.  With Everett Golson back at quarterback, a talented stable of running backs, deep receiving corps, and elite receiving tight ends, Notre Dame has all of the components to have it’s first dynamic offense of the Brian Kelly era.  Just having all of the components, however, is not going to make the Irish the offensive juggernaut they have the potential to be.

At Cincinnati, Brian Kelly’s offense routinely scored 40+ points.  That hasn’t been the case for his offenses at Notre Dame.  In 2013, Notre Dame scored 40 or more points just one time – against Air Force.  In 2012, the Irish scored 40 or more just twice – Navy and Miami.  That’s a total of 40 or more points just three times over the last two years.  In Kelly’s final season at Cincinnati, the Bearcats scored 40 or more six times alone.  Notre Dame’s schedule might prevent it from scoring 40 or more points in half of its games next year, but it’s time this offense started putting up the type of points its capable of.

6. Beat Michigan

As of today there is only one game between Notre Dame and Michigan scheduled.  It’s very likely that the two programs will work out some sort of deal in the future to play more games albeit not yearly as they have, but any sort of deal is all hypothetical right now.  With that in mind, it’s imperative that Notre Dame beats Michigan in the final scheduled game with the Wolverines and not just because Notre Dame took back 1st place in all-time winning percentage from Michigan with their bowl win and Michigan’s loss to Kansas State.

There is really no reason Notre Dame should have lost to Michigan this season.  Michigan was not a good football team as their final record of 7-6 fully illustrates.  In their final trip to the Big House though, Notre Dame made Devin Gardner look like a Heisman candidate and allowed Michigan to score 41 points.  Notre Dame can’t let that happen again next year when the Wolverines come to town.  Please, just beat Michigan next year.

7. No more off-season drama

There’s no point in rehashing all of the off the field drama Notre Dame experienced in 2013 – it’s been well documented everywhere.  Hopefully the drama ends this off-season.  There are bound to be some transfers and things of that nature – that’s just normal.  I for one will be very happy, however, if I don’t have to hear words like “catfishing”, “poor academic judgement”, and “looking to get out of his letter of intent” this year.

8. Develop a backup quarterback

For the first time since arriving at Notre Dame four years ago, Brian Kelly will have a full depth chart at quarterback of QBs he recruited that are perfect fits for the offense he would like to run.  The quarterback situation Kelly inherited was out of his control and in retrospect, he deserves credit for winning as many games as he has with the deck he was dealt.  Kelly, however, has also not helped himself out as much as he could have in terms of turning the quarterback position into one of strength for Notre Dame.

Heading into 2014 the very likely depth chart at quarterback will be 1. Everett Goslon, 2. Malik Zaire, 3. Deshone Kizer.  All three recruited by Kelly, all three perfect fits for the Notre Dame offense, and all three will be on campus for spring and fall practice.  With that depth chart and all of that working in Notre Dame’s favor, if Notre Dame doesn’t have a stable quarterback situation and a solid backup quarterback capable of playing when needed, I don’t know when they ever will under Kelly.

Comments to this Article

  • Mike commented on January 1st, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    One more:

    Now that Bill O’Brien left PSU, I’m sure Thomas Holley (verbal PSU DT commit) is open to decommitting. I realize if he does decommit, he’ll go to Ohio State. However, it doesn’t hurt to try

    [Reply]

  • David Knight commented on January 2nd, 2014 at 7:56 am

    Mike, he is not coming to ND. I’m with you….it does not hurt to try. I just don’t think he is interested in coming to South Bend. It would have been nice to pair him with Jay Hayes.

    [Reply]

  • Damian commented on January 2nd, 2014 at 10:27 am

    I think most reasonable fans thought 9-4 for this year, with all the issues this team had, was more or less expected. I mean, a BCS just wasn’t in the cards really.

    Next year should be a different story though. They should be able to go 10-2 with this team, at least. Of course, that means they will have to beat some tough teams, along with beating all the teams they are supposed to beat.

    Re: the newest defensive coordinator, whoever they are, I just hope they coach to the strength of the team. I still remember when John Tenuto took over the defense under Charlie Weis. I always thought they should have given Brown more time to develop his 3-4 system more. But they kept flipping defensive schemes and when Tenuto came on board, everything seemed to be a blitz without the ideal players for that. Don’t try to coach a system that you don’t have the players for. All I say is be flexible in the coaching schemes.

    [Reply]

    fxm replied on January 2nd, 2014 at 11:53 am

    9 – 4 is about right, still hard to fathom the losses to Pittsburgh and to what turned out to be a pretty mediocre Michigan team. But, we did put the only blemish on Sparty (I really admire them for maximizing their potential) and USC turned out to be a good win.

    [Reply]

  • C-Dog commented on January 2nd, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    Let’s hope the post BCS era is kind to ND.

    A couple of interesting points to ponder.

    ND beat Michigan State, the Rose Bowl winner and now considered among the elite programs in the country. Both Dantonio and Narduzzi appear to be staying, which says something about the progress of the program and MSU’s response to the staff. Kelly might want to call up Dantonio and mention their common ground to get some pointers on getting over the hump so to speak. Dantonio has said much until last night.

    MSU has a BCS Bowl win – ND went O for ? in BCS wins.

    UCF has a BCS Bowl win – ND zero. George O’Leary ND coach for 5 days has a BCS bowl win – B. Kelly had zero.

    My hope for 2014 is that Brian Kelly takes a look at Brian Kelly. He has it in him but needs to see what some others are doing to get over the hump. Let’s hope that 2014 is a great year for the Irish and that Kelly uses examples to teach his players what it will take to get over the hump.

    Go Irish!

    [Reply]

  • Joe commented on January 2nd, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    Good list – if I could add one, I’d put finding more athleticism in the linebacker group. Running QBs troubled the Irish greatly this year, especially without Manti, and were a big reason the D had a big problem getting off the field on third down. Maybe moving J Smith to MLB would help? Regardless, I’m sure the next men to man the MLB positions will be faster than the Fox/Carlo duo.

    I’d also note that having a more athletic QB returning on offense could be just as big of a help to ND – that running option adds a great dimension, especially in the red zone.

    Go Irish!

    [Reply]

  • oldschoollyons commented on January 2nd, 2014 at 8:16 pm

    ND should try to develop not only a backup quarterback but also a starting quarterback. That is different from having a starting quarterback. We will have one in Everett Golson. He was finishing the early part of his development as a quarterback when he was expelled from the University. That is, he had learned most of the plays and was able to recognize the plays sent in from the sideline. But he was not yet able to recognize blitzes or coverages or identify defenses. On the option, he was able to keep the ball and run with it but had not yet learned when to pitch to the running back.

    Golson was also at an early stage of learning how to make good decisions in the red zone. And the coaching staff was not yet ready to let him change a play at the line of scrimmage because it did not trust him to do that.

    None of this is to say that Golson did not improve during his one season of play or that he did not throw some good passes, elude linemen and sometimes run well. He did all of those things. However, he is still developing as a quarterback. He may have taken a big step forward on the the beach with Whitfield this fall. Indeed, Whitfield said that now Golson knows how to grip the ball properly.

    On the verge of entering his senior year, Golson may have matured and may be a much better quarterback.

    In any case, he still has some developing to do.

    [Reply]

  • ChrisJ commented on January 2nd, 2014 at 10:44 pm

    I don’t think I’ve been more excited for college football to come back since 2006 with Brady Quinn’s Senior year. I think it’s going to be a special year for ND football in 2014 and hopefully for the next few years!! Can’t wait until the Spring game!! Go Irish!!!

    [Reply]

  • Jerry Seppanen commented on January 6th, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    Next year should be exciting. It will depend on the defense because we will
    score points. Have to be more aggressive on D and than score in the red
    zone and it will be a great year.

    [Reply]

  • david tonk commented on January 8th, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    the problem as I see it Kelly is no ofensive coach. he has 3 plays, off tackle left, off tackle right, pass then,punt. what about a shovel pass, a few screen passes, maybe a reverse,or a pass delay over the middle… come on, we run the ball with 8 in the box …he needs to have plays ready that the defense is not expecting …. we need some razzel dazzel…

    [Reply]

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