Jones, Offense Not Placed in Position to Succeed

NOTRE DAME, IN ( – The winner of the very publicized quarterback race for Notre Dame ended up being sophomore Demetrius Jones – albeit for a little under two quarters. Jones, Notre Dame’s athletic quarterback, took the field as the starter when the Notre Dame offense trotted onto the field, but at no time was he ever really placed in a position to succeed.

Charlie Weis has talked a lot about molding his offense to the skills of his players, but with Jones in the game there wasn’t much molding – there was an outright change in offensive philosophy. When Jones was under center, it looked like Notre Dame was trying to run a West Virginia style spread offense without any of the passing plays that open up the field.
Through just under two quarters, Jones attempted just three passes. Instead, he ended up running the ball 12 times for 28 yards (with 11 yards being lost on negative plays). On two of those carries, Jones, who had not been tackled in a real game since his senior year of high school, fumbled the ball giving Tech great field position on two occasions.

While Jones has to do a better job of protecting the football, Weis has to do a better job of putting his players in a position to succeed. Lining up Jones under center and calling so few pass plays was like asking Jones to play with one arm tied behind his back. Without the threat of the passing game, the Tech defense teed off on the Notre Dame offense under Jones.

There have been plenty of questions about Jones’s ability to throw the football, but if Weis was so worried about Jones throwing the ball, then his decision to start him at the quarterback position was one of his worst decisions since taking over as head coach at Notre Dame. In fact, it’s really unfair to judge Jones’s abilities as a quarterback based on what we saw Saturday since he didn’t get many opportunities to throw the ball.

It is also a bit unfair to judge the abilities of the offensive line based on Saturday. For the offensive system that the Irish tried to run while Jones was in the game, you need different kinds of offensive linemen than the ones Notre Dame has recruited. The offensive line Notre Dame has was recruited for a pro-style offense, not a spread option like that of West Virginia and Florida.

The two styles of offense require completely different blocking schemes and asking any college lineman to learn and perfect two styles of blocking is at the very least, an unreasonable request. The result of this was an offensive line that got tossed around by the aggressive Georgia Tech defensive front.

While Jones was in at quarterback, the line got mauled on the few passing plays that Weis called. They had trouble executing simple cut blocks and seemed confused and unsure of what they were doing – most likely due to the fact that Notre Dame had no offensive identity out there.

Weis has talked a lot about making things simple and molding his offense to his players strengths, but he did neither of those things Saturday. Instead he did the opposite; he had confused players running an offense they were not familiar with. The offensive line looked confused from the opening whistle right up until the final gun and the Irish ran two different offenses. Instead of molding his pro-style offense to the strengths of Jones, he thought he could install a spread offense this summer.

The result of Weis’s handling of the quarterback competition and his decision to have two styles of offense resulted in an offensive line that couldn’t pick up a blitz, a quarterback who couldn’t get into any sort of rhythm, and an offense that move the ball consistently or put the ball in the end-zone for the first time in his tenure at Notre Dame.

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