Here’s a quick list of some things I’d like to see out of the Irish in 2007. Some of these are minor things that some teams take for granted (like wish #’s 4 and 5), but they are things that could mean the difference between a win or two throughout the season.
- A Kick Return for a Touchdown – I posted about this a couple weeks ago. Notre Dame hasn’t returned a kick for a touchdown since the 2002 season when Vontez Duff returned one against Navy. Notre Dame certainly has players who have big return ability – Armando Allen, Munir Prince, and Golden Tate all come to mind. George West showed some ability in returning kicks as well last year. The blocking on kick-offs, however, might need the most work. How many times did we see kickoffs where a hole opened up so that someone even had a reasonable chance to take one all the way? Not too often.
- Touchbacks – Lots of Them – This one goes without saying, but its time Notre Dame had a kicker than consistently put the ball in the end zone. Notre Dame kickers managed to send just 13 of 75 kicks (17.3%) into the end zone.
- A 50+ Yard Run – Other than Brady Quinn’s 60 yard scramble against USC, the last Notre Dame player to break a 50 yard run was Julius Jones in 2003. The Irish have gone three full seasons without a single running back break a 50 yard run. In fact, Notre Dame’s had just two runs of 40 yards or more in that time as well – a 40 yard by Darius Walker in 2004 and Travis Thomas’s 43 yard run on the fake punt against Penn State this past season.
- Real 4 and 5 Wide Receiver Sets – When Notre Dame lined up in 4 and 5 wide receiver sets this past year, they generally lined up 3 receivers along with tight end John Carlson and running back Darius Walker – which almost negates the purpose of five wide receiver set. It would be nice to see Notre Dame line up 4 or 5 legit wide receivers and really spread a defense out. The only problem is – will the Irish have 5 wide receivers ready to play?
- 3rd and Short Conversions – It’s been a while since a 3rd and 1 and 3rd and 2 didn’t make me just a bit nervous. Over the past two seasons I’ve felt more comfortable on 3rd and 6 and 3rd and 7 than those short yardage situations. It’s about time Notre Dame had an offensive line and running game that could pound out those situations without being predictable and using a QB sneak every time. It almost cost Notre Dame the UCLA game when their last fourth down conversion was stuffed. Robert Hughes is a big back who should help in this area and he is physically developed enough to play this year.
The amazing thing here is that I just made it through an entire post about areas of improvement for next year and not a single one pertained to anything on the defensive side of the ball. I kind of like of the concept behind this post, I think I might turn this into a series of articles on the main site since there won’t be much else to write about between now and the start of spring practice.
Your thoughts? What are some other things along the same lines as these that you’d like to see from the Irish in 2007?