Here are some notes and observations from this year’s Blue/Gold game.
- Tai-ler Jones is going to be a great player. Jones looked as good as any wide receiver on the field yesterday and looks like he has a very, very bright future ahead of him. He’s going to need to hit the weights between now and the summer to be able to hold up to a full season’s worth of hits, but his skill was on full display yesterday. Brian Kelly went so far as to say after the game that Jones is in a starting role for the offense right now. He ended the game with 4 catches for 56 yards and a touchdown.
- Dayne Crist as good as could be expected. Considering Crist is learning an entirely new offense that is vastly different from what he had learned the past two seasons and is coming off a major knee surgery, he looked about as good as could be expected. He still looked a bit hesitant at times, but showed better accuracy than I expected. With more time learning the playbook and more time removed from his surgery, he should be fine for the 2010 season. He did throw a couple picks, but one of the them came off a deflection. For the game he was 20 of 31 for 172 yards, a touchdown, and two picks. The one touchdown was really a nice throw though. He dropped a ball in between the corner and safety and hit TJ Jones perfectly in stride in the corner of the end zone.
- It’s tough to say where the defense is. Kelly limited what the defense was able to do because he wanted to give the fans some exciting offense to watch, but he also knows that his defense in 2010 is much more of an unknown than his offense. It’s almost impossible to draw any sort of conclusions about just how improved the defense is at this point since they didn’t do a whole lot.
- Cierre Wood and Jonas Gray are homerun threats. Both Wood and Gray ripped off some long toucdown runs and showed really nice burst when they were in the open field. Wood especially looked once he got out in space and it looks like the new spread offense might benefit him more than any of the backs. Armando Allen is still the best all around back on the team, but Wood and Gray are going to make some big plays this year.
- Manti Te’o is a beast. Even with the vanilla defense, it was clear to see that Manti Te’o is ready to become a star on the defensive side of the ball. He intercepted Dayne Crist off a tipped pass and was all over the field. He looked a lot more confident in what he was doing on Saturday and didn’t play tentatively as he did at times as a true freshman.
- The team is going to need to spend more time with Paul Longo. The fast pace at which the new offense is run is going to require some more time in the weight room with strength and conditioning coach Paul Longo. The pace is just so much faster that it’s going to take more time for the team to get accustomed to it. On the flip side, with the defense running at the same pace every day in practice, there shouldn’t be as much of an issue with fading in the fourth quarter and at the end of the season as there has been the past two seasons.
- Nate Montana is improved, but still needs work. Montana put up some nice stats, but he did so without much pressure at all. He is definitely improved from where he was, but he still has a pretty long way to go to get to the point where he is capable of coming in and playing for Crist in the event of an injury. The improvements he made this spring are pretty impressive though. He finished the game completing 18 of 30 passes for 223 yards with 3 touchdowns and 1 interception.
- Both lines looked promising. The offensive line open some really nice running lanes and were blocking like a unit. There is still a lot of work to be done by the o-line but they did some nice things on Saturday and appear to be much more athletic than they’ve been in previous years. On the defensive side of the line, it looks like the the recruiting class of 2008 is really going to pay dividends this year. There is some real depth on the defensive line. Ian Williams and Brandon Newman were both strong in the middle and on the ends Ethan Johnson, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Emeka Nwankwo, and Sean Cywnar look like a solid two deep. Nwankwo was a nice surprise as he’s looked the part the past few seasons, but hasn’t provided much production. He was active Saturday leading the Gold team with 5 tackles.
- The tight end is going to be heavily involved in the passing game. Some were concerned that the tight end wouldn’t be used as much in the spread offense, but the tight ends were on full display Saturday afternoon. Kyle Rudolph caught 4 passes for 39 yards, Mike Ragone caught 6 for 75 yards and a touchdown, and Tyler Eifert added 1 catch for 11 yards.
- Steve Filer could be ready for his close up. Filer was all over the field on Saturday and led all defenders with 12 tackles. He also added two tackles for lost yardage. Filer is one of the most athletically gifted players on the team and is going to push Darius Flemming and Brian Smith for playing time this fall. At a minimum, I expect we’ll see him on passing downs as a pass rusher. He was easily the most impressive player on the defensive side of the ball Saturday.
- Carlo Calabrese is going to push for a starting role. Calabrese was very impressive lining up at inside linebacker. He registered 5 interceptions and made a very nice interception of Dayne Crist while providing blanket coverage on Eifert. If he can show consistency in pass coverage, he will challenge for the starting spot next to Manti Te’o on the inside.
- The wide receivers aren’t as bad as Kelly wants people to believe. Kelly has said that he loses sleep thinking about the wide receiver rotation, but from the looks of things on Saturday, the situation isn’t as dire as he wants people to think. Duval Kamara, Deion Walker, and Shaquelle Evans all had their moments on Saturday; we all know Michael Floyd is a beast; and Theo Riddick appears to be handling his move to the slot pretty well. There is still plenty of work to be done, but it’s pretty clear that Notre Dame has some very good talent at the receiver position.
- Place kicking needs a lot more work. Both David Ruffer and Nick Tausch missed a field goal and PAT – without a rush. Perhaps the offer to Kyle Brindza was in response to what Kelly had been seeing in practice? On a positive note, Ben Turk looked pretty good punting the ball.
If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the UHND.com RSS feed .