Michigan – Final Review

After rewatching the game on my DVR, here are my final thoughts on the debacle in Ann Arbor.

Offense

  • Offensive line still can’t block anyone.  This one goes without saying.  Michigan owned the line of scrimmage and even when they sent four, they over powered the Notre Dame line.  Because Michigan was able to get consistent pressure on Clausen without  blitzing, there was no where to go with the ball.  Weis played a lot of young guys – Matt Romine, Eric Olsen, Thomas Bemenderfer, and Matt Careful on top of the normal five starters and I think we’ll see some more of these guys this weekend.  Romine was inserted at left tackle at first, but moved over to right with Sam Young switching to the left side – this tackle pairing is the future of the offensive line and while Romine will struggle as a freshman, he could see a lot of time this year.  Thomas Bemenderfer is also becoming an internet legend on Notre Dame sites for showing some tenacity in there even though the same was long decided when he got in there.
  • Weis needs to stick to what he knows best – his pro-style offense.  Trying to run the spread and any other kind of offense each week is contributing as much to the sputtering offense as the play of the line.  Weis needs to stick with what he knows best and what the players who have been in this system have practiced in the past.  Until this happens, the line will continue to look lost and the offense will continue to sputter.
  • Clausen held onto the ball too long at times.  Even when the line gave Clausen enough time in the pocket, he wasn’t comfortable back and held onto the ball too long.  Getting the sacked repeatedly will do that to a young quarterback though.  Weis needs to find a way to keep Clausen on his feet or he won’t have much of a chance to improve this year.
  •  Aldridge needs to start.  No other running back on the roster runs with as much authority as Aldridge and none go down as tough has he does either.  Aldridge bounces off first contact more often than not and he never quit on Saturday.  Giving a work horse back like Aldridge 20-25 carries could help jump start the Irish ground game.
  • Allen doesn’t have the leg strength to run through arm tackles.  Armando Allen is going to be a big time star for the Irish, but right now he isn’t strong enough to be the every down back.  There have been a number of times that it looks like Allen has a huge play only to get tripped up just a bit.  In time he’ll have the leg strength to run through those tackles and bust some big plays.  For now, Allen could be best used on third downs and in passing situations and definitely on kick returns.
  • George West needs the ball more.   I realize West hasn’t gotten the ball much, but every time I’ve seen him get the ball I’ve liked what I’ve seen.  He can take those quick hitters and turn them into nice gains more so than the other Notre Dame wide receivers.
  • Weis needs to get Robby Parris on the field more.  Parris might be the most complete receiver on the team right now and has shown some sure hands.
  • Carlson is still having problems with his blocking.  Notre Dame’s poor offensive line play has kept Carlson in as a blocker and this has drawn some attention to his problems blocking.

Defense

  •  It’s really hard to tell what exactly we have on the defensive side of the ball right now because Corwin Brown’s unit has been placed in some really bad situations.  The South Bend Tribune posted a stat the other day that 42  of the 102 points the Irish have surrendered have come on drives of 38 yards or less.  While the defense needs to do a better job keeping people out of the end zone, any young defense is going to fail when placed in situations like that on a repeated basis.
  • Trevor Laws might be the only 5th year senior helping his draft stock by coming back this year.  Laws has been a beast playing defensive end in this new defense and has been all over the field.
  • Pat Kuntz might be the hardest worker on the field for the Irish.  He’s played the nose tackle position much better than I thought and he fought from the beginning till the end Saturday.
  • Notre Dame’s tackling was atrocious – Mike Hart bounced off of Notre Dame defenders like a pinball.  Too many times Irish defenders try to strip the ball instead of making the tackle and the end result is usually an extra three or four yards, not a turnover.  Notre Dame needs some serious work on tackling fundamentals for this defense to improve.
  • Ambrose Wooden keeps getting costly pass interference penalties and it might be a matter of time until Raeshon McNeil passes him on the depth chart.  McNeil saw some extensive action in the second half and has looked good in limited duties this fall.
  • Kerry Neal’s playing time seems to be increasing week to week.
  • Corwin Brown didn’t dial up too many blitzes for Michigan’s freshman quarterback and when he did the Wolverines picked them up and Mallet had wide open receivers.  Brown is going to have to find a way to get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks – using Morrice Richardson and Kerry Neal would be a good start.
  • Not sure what happened on Manningham’s last touchdown where Walls looked like he was expecting there to be a safety back there, but other than that, Michigan targeting Lambert and not Walls.
  • Bottom line is yes, the defense needs to improve, but until there is a competent offense in place, we really won’t know what this defense has to offer.

Special Teams

  • Golden Tate looked great as a kick returner.  Tate is going to break one loose very soon and I wouldn’t be surprised if that came this weekend.   Should Notre Dame get the ball first against Michigan State this weekend, a huge return from Tate would be huge.
  • Zibby is looked great returning punts as well and like Tate, it’s just a matter of time until he breaks one.
  • The coverage units prevented Michigan from making a big play in the return game after letting Derrick Williams bust a punt return for a touchdown last week.
  • Geoff Price is looking better, but he hasn’t really taken that next step after being one of the best punters in the country last year.
  • Who knows what the place kicking situation is like right now?  Walker has nailed both of his field goals, but both were chip shots.

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One Comment

  1. frank,
    1. another excellent analysis, but the real question is why the oline and the rest of the team was not prepared for real games before the gtech game.
    2. those of us who remember the 2002,2003, and 2004 seasons have a pretty good idea of what the simple problem is, as we are certain that coach weis and his staff do now.
    3. in 2002, nd had a great season. that success was player driven, not coach driven, and led to that fine recruiting class of 2003, the thin green line which gave nd the 2005 and 2006 seasons and those fine 2006 and 2007 recruiting classes.
    4. in 2002, nd went down and decisively beat a fine florida state team at their house.
    5. in 2003, florida state came up to south bend and whupped nd. the comments of the florida state players and of the other teams that played nd in 2003 and 2004 were that the nd players were soft.
    6. only after tyrone left did we find out the reason for that softness. in training and practice before the 2003 and 2004 seasons, there were no real hard gamelike physical contacts between the o ones and the d ones. there was no real hard tackling at all.
    7. in 2005 and 2006, because of the disasterous recruiting in 2004 and 2005 and in the bob davie years( why should i go out on the recruiting road?) and the last few years of the holtz era when lou wife was diagnosed with cancer and the recruiting was in bob davie’s hands, the talent and depth were so thin that charlie and his staff simply could not risk the injuries of one against one real physical training and practices, but the bulk of the players had been battle tested in the 2003 and 2004 seasons.
    8. in 2006, 2007, and for the 2008 recruiting class, charlie and his staff had to reinvent nd recruiting. the demise of the old nd recruiting network falls not on the shoulders of tyrone, as many people think, but squarely on that lazy idiot bob davie( now at the espn).
    9. the people at nd who hired tyrone did not bother to tell tyrone that lazy bob davie had allowed the old nd recruiting network to die on the vine and tyrone had no way of knowing that.
    after all, that fine 2003 recruiting class fell into tyrone’s lap after that player driven 2002 season.
    10. having accomplished the miracles that they did on the playing field and on the recruiting trail in 2006 and 2007, charlie and his staff had to spend the bulk of their time on the road getting verbals for 2008.
    11. in the meantime, someone should have been taking that talent and depth that charlie and his staff brought in in 2006 and 2007 and prepared them physically for the 2007 season with a lot of real physical contact.
    12. for reasons which we do not know, the nd players never got that real physical contact training and practice that they had to have before the 2007 season began.
    13. the results have been obvious and disasterous. with both talent and depth for the 1st time in many years, nd has no shortage of players with talent, desire, and quality depth.
    14. we have absolute confidence that charlie and his staff and the nd players will fix that problem this season and never allow that problem to exist again.
    15. we understand why coach latina had to limit the phyicality of training and practice in 2005 and 2006. he simply did not have the depth to risk any injuries at at.
    16. however, what was coach latina doing before the 2007 season while charlie and the other coaches were on the road recruiting?
    17. he had the talent and the depth to have the serious physical training and practices prior to the 2007 season that he did have not prior to the 2006 and 2006 seasons.
    18. although charlie is the head coach and will always take the full responsibility for everything that goes wrong, we have to ask ourselves what coach latina was thinking or doing while charlie and the other coaches were doing wat they had to do on the recruiting trail.
    19. coach latina seems like a fine fellow. however, the training and practice screwups prior to the 2007 season were so egregious that we have to ask if nd would be better served by an oline coach with real nfl experience.
    20. the problems of 2007 are not with the talent, depth, or desire of the nd players. they lie with the coaches who were not out on the recruiting trail with charlie and corwin and most of the other coaches and these screwups cannot be repeated.

    of course, this is just what we see and we are not infallible,
    bob gilleran

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