A Look at the 2012 Irish

The 2012 Irish, coming off an 8-5 season marked by sloppy play in the way of turnovers and penalties that led to several disappointing losses, face tough challenges in Kelly’s 3rd year. The Irish scored on 57% of the drives when they had no negative plays (35/61) but only 23% of the drives when a negative play occurred (21/91). A key to success for the 2012 Irish will be eliminating mistakes on Offense and creating turnovers on Defense.

The Offense:

theo riddick feature
Theo Riddick will have to increase production in 2012 to fill in for Michael Floyd.

The 2011 Irish finished ranked 35th in Total Offense (40th Passing, 55th Rushing), 110th in Turnovers Lost (29) and 87th in Penalty Yards/Game (59). Not counting Tommy Rees, who isn’t expected to start, there are 7 returning starters. (Wood, Jones, Riddick, Eifert, Martin, Watt, Cave)

Key Losses:

Michael Floyd – 100 rec, 1147 yds, 9 TD – Michael Floyd was arguably the greatest receiver in Notre Dame history. He will be missed not only in his production in the passing game but also his blocking ability. A big question mark for the 2012 Irish is how do we replace the production of MF, some have argued that in a “Ewing Theory’ sort of way that with less dependence on one receiver the cumulative results of a balanced attack will make the offense better. I expect to see Eifert split out more and balanced production at the receiver position from John Goodman, TJ Jones, Theo Riddick, Robby Toma, DaVaris Daniels, Daniel Smith and a trio of dynamic freshman: Chris Brown, Davonte Neal and Justin Ferguson.

Jonas Gray – 791 yds, 12 TD, 6.9 avg. – Jonas Gray was the thunder to Cierre Wood’s lightning in 2011. We do not appear to have a similar back on the roster to replace Gray’s rushing style, but we do however have several talented backs that should emerge to replace Gray’s production. Expect George Atkinson III, Theo Riddick and Amir Carlisle to carry the load when Cierre Wood is not in the game.

Trevor Robinson, Taylor Dever, Brad Carrico, Jordan Prestwood – Despite replacing 2 starters and losing 2 sophomores that were expected to provide depth, the OL is expected to be a strength for the 2012 Irish. There is plenty of talent across the line, but depth is a concern.


With the expectation of Everett Golson as the starting QB, the 2012 Irish offense will look much different than the 2011 Irish offense. Golson adds a strong arm and an escapability component to the offense that didn’t exist with Tommy Rees at the helm. Turnovers, drive killing negative plays and penalties plagued the 2011 Irish offense. I think that a combination of less negatives with a more balanced attack and focus on the run game will make the Irish a top 25 offense in 2012.

The Defense

The 2011 Irish finished ranked 24th in scoring defense but ranked nearly last in turnovers gained. Not counting Dan Fox, who I don’t expect to start, the Irish return 7 starters (Tuitt, Nix, KLM, Teo, Shembo, Motta, Slaughter)

Key Losses:

Harrison Smith, Robert Blanton, Gary Gray, Lo Wood (Achilles), Austin Collinsworth (Shoulder) – Combined 243 Tackles, 5 Interceptions and 3 Fumble Recoveries. – Replacing the experience we are losing in the defensive backfield is the biggest question mark by far on defense. To add insult to injury, two players projected to contribute have suffered season ending injuries. Projected CBs: Bennett Jackson, Josh Atkinson, Jalen Brown, Keivarie Russel, Elijah Shumate. Having 2 sophomores and 2 freshman in the top 5 is never ideal. I think there is a lot of raw talent at the CB position but the lack of experience is certainly a major concern. Projected Safeties: Jamoris Slaughter, Zeke Motta, Dan McCarthy, Chris Badger, Eilar Hardy, Matthias Farley, CJ Prosise. The situation at safety is not nearly as dire as cornerback, hopefully solid play at the safety positions will take some pressure off of our inexperienced CBs.

Aaron Lynch – 33 Tackles, 7 TFL, 4.5 sacks – I think that most Irish fans would agree that Aaron Lynch was one of the top young players they looked forward to watching develop, unfortunately Aaron decided to take his talents to south beach. We will certainly miss his unique talent for rushing the passer, but rumors are that he was not the most popular person among the other players. Fortunately, Defensive Line is possibly the most talented position grouping with Kapron Lewis-Moore, Stephon Tuitt, Ishaq Williams, Chase Hounshell and Sheldon Day.


When I look at the front seven, I am really optimistic about the defense for 2012. However, my optimism fades significantly when I look at the experience in the secondary particularly at Cornerback which is such a key position on defense. [Pause to take a sip of Kool-Aid] With help from the front seven in pressuring the opposing quarterbacks, the young talent in the secondary will be enough to overcome the lack of experience and the Irish will again field a top 25 scoring defense. Ohhh Yeahhh!

Special Teams

Punt Return

The punt return team performance can only go up. We have dynamic athletes and should be able to excel at returning punts, but whether it has been John Goodman or Theo Riddick back there, our blocking has not allowed for a return. The optimist in me says that in the 2nd year of the Kelly system with a lot of problems to fix elsewhere, punt return just wasn’t a priority. Whatever the issues are, they need to get fixed ASAP.

Kickoff Return

As a freshman, George Atkinson III, ranked 19th in the country in average yardage and ran 2 back for TDs. If he can duplicate this performance in 2012 we’ll be doing well.


Hopefully Ben Turk doesn’t get a lot of work this year. He averaged 40.3 yds per punt in 2011 and really seemed to come on towards the end of the year.

Field Goals

With the graduation of David Ruffer, Nick Tausch who made 14/17 his freshman year will take over the kicking duties.

Check back in Friday, as Walter reviews the 2012 schedule.

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  1. ESPN is a joke at times. Let the Irish win and they have a whole week dedicated to the Irish up coming season. Let us be mediocre and they throw us under the bus. They’ll jump back after this season.

    GO IRISH!!!!!!

  2. I also believe ND is going to have a really good season. Undefeated, probably not, but a good season nonetheless. They have loads of talent offensively and should put a lot of points on the board. I also think they will be better defensively than many seem to believe. Yes, they are working through some issues in the secondary, but they have talent there. It’s inexperienced and they will struggle at times but they will “grow up” and improve as the season progresses. No question, losing Collinsworth and Wood hurts – for both of them were going to play a lot. However, injuries are a part of the game and a solid program has to have a “next man up” philosophy and continue to play well despite injuries. I believe ND now has the talent and depth to compete on a national level. They are getting better each year. Without question, Kelly is bringing in top-tier talent and that is starting to translate well on the field. They play a “killer” schedule this year and that will result in some losses where their weaknesses are exposed. However, I think we will see marked improvement again this year. Let’s just let them play and not try and “over analyze” everything and every play. Kelly is building something special in South Bend and let’s just let it play out and enjoy it. I think 10 wins (including a bowl win) is attainable and I look forward to watching the Irish play this season.

  3. I have a good feeling. Intangibles seem much more positive than last year even with the murderous schedule. Please teach TJ Jones to block! He almost got a couple of guys killed last year.

  4. http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=mQ-LusRPxd0

    10 more days….

    Apparently we are a .500 team
    Apparently the secondary is lousy
    Apparently the front 7 is overrated
    We can’t win in Norman
    We can’t win in southern California
    This team needs to take all the hate
    all the naysaying
    all the we can’t this we can’t that
    and fold it up and carry it with them to every stadium on the schedule
    Because they are going to get their moment
    Their moment to take all the hate
    All the naysaying
    all the we can’t this we can’t that
    and unleash it on the poor souls lined up on the opposite side of the ball
    In norman
    In southern California
    So they can stand in front if the cameras on PRIMETIME
    and give the college football world a big collective F@#% YOU
    Its them against the world
    As it should be

    1. Just saw on College Football Live that ND needs to be on upset alert against PURDUE!!!

      There is no respect for this team what so ever and I love it because I think ND is going to make everyone eat their words.

  5. I too saw the ESPN 6 loss prediction and it made me want to vomit. I do not understand why they predict automatic losses to Michigan State and Michigan when we dominated both of those teams last year. I understand our defense fell apart in the 4th against Michigan, but we still took the lead on them with 30 seconds to go and had over 500 yards of offense even with 5 turn-overs. We just beat the tar out of Michigan State with their “Best” QB and this year the have a new QB and new receivers.

    I agree with Walter when he says the 2012 offense will not look like the 2011 offense. This team is going to have so many offense weapons this year and if Golson plays anything like the spring game, this team is going to be explosive. I truly believe this team is going to score 30+ points/game and even with our in-experience at corner, we are going to be a difficult team to score on.

    I love the fact that people at ESPN are talking about this being a 6 loss team because I’m sure the coaches are using this as motivation. I also think all the BCS talk last year hurt the growth of this team.

    I may be wrong, but I’m just getting a different vibe about this season. I truly believe it is going to be something special with Golson at the QB and Chuck Martin running the offense.

    Sept 1st can’t get here fast enough.

  6. Walter,

    Great article! I was watching ESPN Collge Live with their loser SEC QB’s and Joey Gallaway last night. They predict this team at 6-6. They feel the defensive front is not that good and the secondary has kids that should be playing MAC football. However, the roll out the red carpet for Ohio State and Urban Meyer. The SEC they roll out the carpet and USC. I love the pundits over at ESPN, they are soooo insightful. If ND decided to sign a contract with that shitty network they would be kissing ND’s ass. I don’t think this club is a National Championship contendor and the only team on the schedule they may have a talent gap is Oklahoma, but really 6-6.

    Let’s look at last year 8-5 record.

    Losses that should have been wins

    South Florida: six turnovers and almost won
    Michigan: Dominated for 3 quarters and shit the bed in the fourth

    Losses that were legit but ND wasn’t dominated:

    FSU: Were in the game in the entire time, drop from Floyd and TR’s poor decisions at the end of the game

    USC: Wake up first half and another 99 fumble return. They played horrible in the first half, but yet could have tied the game in the third quarter.

    Loss that was legit:

    Standford: They just couldn’t beat Andrew Luck.

    This year ND starts new corners with no experience. The last best corner tandum at ND was Vontez and Shayne. Shayne was recruited as a soccer player to ND and Vontez wasn’t a high recruit. Like I always say you need to see the first two games to make the call.

    1. Amen Jack,

      The bromine theoreticians over at ESPN love to cram it up our wa-zoo every year.

      Too bad the SEC isn’t recognized internationally in college football.

      Most of the guys over at ESPN probably graduated DeVry University.

      Of course they forgot to mention we are #26 in the AP poll. So if we win and somebody looses in the top 25 we move up!

      WE ARE ND!

  7. Dan Fox will start – at least against Navy. With Calabrese out, the next man in after Fox at Will LB is preferred walk-on Joe Schmidt.

  8. The words (the lyrics) to our school hymn “Notre Dame Our Mother” need to be learned. A technically short hymn, with logical progression and feel! Camera coverage shows players fumbling with lip sync, in an empty fumbling look. It’s not even lip service to “playing for Our Mother”. Looks like a passionless vacuum without purpose. Joyful College games can teach a higher purpose than merely amassing records.

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