Irish Blogger Gathering: Time to Get Defensive Edition

Tommy Rees - Notre Dame QB
Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Tommy Rees (11) throws a pass against the Purdue Boilermakers at Ross Ade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Irish Blogger Gathering returns for another week with Aaron from the UND Blog Strong & True answered our questions on the defense, Tommy Rees, and the running back rotation.

As always, be sure to check out the other IBG sites for their posts as well:

1.Notre Dame has had a different running back lead the team in rushing in each of its three games so far. How do you see the running back rotation shaking out the rest of the season and who will lead the Irish in rushing this weekend against a tough Michigan State defense?

I think Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said it best this week about the running back rotation when he talked about how each of them will be used where they can strive in different situations. Additionally, he spoke about how each running back likes to get more and more carries to get in a rhythm… As we all know, the Notre Dame offense doesn’t run downhill all the time and prefers to look to the sidelines when running the rock, therefore there will be more change at the running back from series to series or play to play unless they are trying to run out the clock just like we saw last week at the end of the Purdue game.

In short, the running back stable will tighten as the season goes one, but not much. Coach Kelly has never used just one back during his coaching tenure, so what makes us think he will now.

2. For the third week in a row the Notre Dame defense allowed an opposing quarterback to have their best game of the young season despite those opposing signal callers playing fairly weak competition outside of the Irish. Why is the Notre Dame defense, one of the best units in the country in 2012, struggling to keep opposing quarterbacks in check this year?

The early season has been different for the Irish. Think about what the Irish have faced thus far. In week one they played a first-year head coach that was a starting a first-year player, in week two they were playing a team in Michigan who didn’t have to show any wrinkles in their opening-week win and in week three with the Boilers they were playing a first-year coach at Purdue in Darrell Hazell who had one game against an FBS opponent during his time in West Lafayette.

Not going to make the excuse that there was no tape to go off of for Coach Diaco and the defense, but early in the season, especially with the unique schedule the Irish have, is tough for coaches to deal with.

In regards to quarterbacks, I don’t have the answer. I tend to let the guys who know much more about football that I deal with how to stop them. But from what I can see is that Diaco and the rest of the defensive staff is still feeling out the team and where each piece fits. The loss of Te’o in the middle of the defense and Motta on the back end is huge, but don’t forget about the loss of Danny Spond to injury.

This defense will find it’s way, I hope there is enough room on the bandwagon once the defense does for those who have jumped off at the first sign of distress.

3. A quarter of the way through the 2013 regular season, assess the play of Tommy Rees as he has filled in for Everett Golson. Would Notre Dame’s record be different if Golson were still the starting quarterback and has Rees player better, worse, or as you expected him to thus far?

Since Tommy Rees was named the starter for this football team early this year I have always been confident in his abilities. In a conversation before the season began many people in the FIDM office, myself included, believed that Rees was the most underrated player on the Notre Dame roster. What has he done this season? Just throw for 300 yards in three straight games, toss seven touchdown passes (to just two picks), lead a ten-point comeback in a night game on the road, better his record as a starter to 16-5 and be the signal caller for just the eighth Irish team in history to score 28-points or more in the first three games of the season. Not bad for someone many Irish fans want to throw under the bus.

Would Notre Dame’s record be different with Golson at the helm? Doubftul. Look, the Irish scored enough points against Temple and outclassed Purdue in the second half, but last season when Golson was at the helm, the Irish scored over 41 points just once, that was in the season-opening win against Navy when they scored 50.

In ending, Rees has exceeded my already lofty expectations so far this season. I expected that Coach Martin, Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator, would employ a steady diet of the run game early on. Instead, the Irish have thrown the ball around the lot, getting all of their offensive weapons involved as early as possible. But, Rees’ play has not warranted the use of the run game thus far due to his accuracy to the outside and throws over the top.

I’m really excited to see how the rest of the season unfolds for Rees and the rest of the Irish offense.

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  1. Rees is doing well. Would having EG in the game changed the results? I think that’s very hard to say because they are both very different quarterbacks. EG struggled early last year because he was new. He clearly had improved toward the end of the season.

    2 things EG gives that Rees can’t. His escapability and quickness on his feet to keep plays alive. And 2nd, most importantly, he is the ideal quarterback for the offensive system Kelly prefers. That allows Kelly to open up the plays more. Rees is pro-style, and that limits what Kelly can do with him.

  2. I believe that ND can be productive on offense if they would be a little more creative – play calling is far too predictable. I still think Hendrix is a better fit for what they want to do offensively. What about playing 2 quarterbacks? Give the defense different looks to deal with throughout the game. Just a thought. My biggest concern after 3 games, and probably every ND fan’s concern, is their poor defensive play. What scares me is I don’t think Fox and Calabrese are quick/fast enough to play every down. Without constant pressure on the quarterback, teams can expose this weakness through the air – and they have in each of the first three games. Do they have any other options at the linebacker position, particularly on passing downs? I know Smith and Councell are splitting time at the DOG position and Grace is backing Fox and Calabrese up. Fox and Calabrese play hard but I worry that they are becoming liabilities defensively because they are not quick enough. Grace seems to play faster but is raw because he hasn’t played much. Perhaps as he plays more and gains experience he will be part of the answer. I just don’t see them improving too much defensively with what is seemingly a lack of quickness at the linebacker position.

    1. Curious as to why everybody thinks AH is some magic bullet solution to the offense. Based on what?

      Just a hunch but I’m guessing the coaches that see him everyday have a slightly better grasp at what he can and cannot do.

      1. Nice ‘hunch’ plagiarism! Real innovative and quanitative assessment Anchorman! You get an F for the semester on your regurgitated and unoriginal thoughts. You’ll be lucky if Shaz does not sue you for brain theft. Ah..yes, the ? with a cryptic modus operandi.

        Just Say’n

      2. Great Oden’s Raven, and I’ve tried so hard to pass this class.

        Until then old wise one, you stay classy!

      3. Hey Ron do you really think if he had played the first half vs Purdue he could have been worse the TR??

      4. No clue, but isn’t that the point. He could be worse he could be better. The only action he sees is in practice and the coaches who are at practice and do this for a living decide to keep him on the bench.

        I’ll go with the guy who is the fifth quickest to 200 wins in history.

  3. Without question, we have ‘great talented/experience’ players with only a few that are not seriously underperforming at this juncture. We are beyond the tune-up phase and still looking for answers. Regrettably unprepaired for BK’s established gold standard of ‘Next-Man-In’ protocol. There are those who continue to look through a phenomenonally distorted kaleidoscope, that conveniently only projects to their narrow incoherent grasp of poor coaching and team captain leadership. It is what it is! Michigan State is no team to look pass, it will be a war. Finally, it will certainly be interesting to see who brings their A-game for this one.

  4. Couple things…#2 quote “This defense will find it’s way, I hope there is enough room on the bandwagon once the defense does for those who have jumped off at the first sign of distress.”

    A first sign of distress would be from the first game. I dont know about anyone else but I honestly felt like we were just trying out some things on defense and weren’t showing anything for Michigan. However, it’s been three games, or 1 quarter of the season, and our defense flat sucks and hasn’t improved. I’m thinking that is why people are jumping off the defensive bandwagon.

    And the second thing…I watched the Bengals the other night and setting up a punt return is very, very simple, yet we don’t attempt that setup at all. The Bengals had two guys blocking each gunner on the outside. The middle is so crammed up that it takes longer for the defense to get downfield because they have to get through that mess. If you look at our punt return setup, we have one guy on each gunner. Well there’s a whole lot of field for them to work with and they always get to any returner we put back there before they even have a chance to do anything with it. It’s pretty simple, coaches…

  5. Like I said we do not have good players no sacks dropped balls freshman five stars not playing ishag one career sack tj and davaris only bcs caliber watch how slow st are getting downfield on kick offs Purdue almost ran one back watch on punt receiving no one is there to block these are 4-5 star players we should definitely be dominating we are not. Watched ucla asu ala geo Oregon and others. These teams get after you our team does not. Has there been a defining tackle or smash mouth play this year. Time for team to establish dominance. Play up to skill level and dominate unless level is charade.

  6. Could you expand on what “The Plan Truth” means?

    Because if that means that we do not have good players, then I would have
    to say that the “Plain truth” says Louis Nix, Prince Shembo, Troy Niklas, DaVaris Daneils, Amir Carlisle, TJ Jones, Sheldon Day, Stephon Tuitt, Greg Bryant Jaylon Smith, Terean Folston, Ishaq Williams, Chris Brown (and a few others to be sure) are very good players,and the only thing truely overrated is your own twisted opinion.

  7. We lost manti motta Klm then springman spond baretti and future all American vanderdoes. Offense we lost eifert wood riddick devonte golson. The plan truth is now we do not have good players. Also Longo most overrated of all time.

  8. Sure, TR has thrown “just two picks” up to this point, but those picks were against the ONLY decent team ND has faced thus far.

    1. Rees has actually played decent so far and one of those pics was at the end of the game when it didnt matter anyways. The other pic was an extremely poor decision that contributed to the loss. I still believe we will get better on both sides of the ball. Lot of youth on this team that still trying to figure it out.

    2. George,

      Shhhhhhh, you’ll really upset our inhouse statistical analysis-paralysis experts. Overall game stats in their mind are always superior to critical turnovers that change the outcome of the game. You know how the blind lead the blind? Well, they demand more columns of figures to argufy the moment than obvious visual assessment smacking them in the face. Amazing is it not?

    3. Anyone that doesn’t want to admit we’d have a better chance beating Michigan with Golson this year is not being realistic. It could have only improved our chances. Rees means 2-3 more losses this year though he’s done very well for himself compared to the last time he started. Let’s hope the D improves. Go Irish!

      1. Golson definitely would have put ND in a better position to beat Mich than Rees. Take away that lucky pick 6 by Tuitt, and we pretty much got stomped. ND is currently PATHETIC on defense, especially vs Mich. After all those years of Denard Robinson running all over us, we STILL haven’t figured it out apparently. But as far as Rees goes, he has done as well as could be expected thus far, but I expect a lot more INTs in the future. His ceiling is somewhat low. I think he can rack up the stats though, due to the opponent’s defenses selling out on the run and giving ND the pass.

  9. While I didn’t have high expectations considering we have our #2 QB and lost a couple pieces of the D we didn’t expect such as Spond and Springmann, further lowering expectations, I can say this isn’t one of the worst teams we have fielded in recent years. I’ll take TR passing for over 300/game and scoring 20 some odd points a game. When I think back to some of the Davie/Willingham teams where we might go GAMES without an offensive TD let alone one through the air with no exciting recievers. If we got down by double digits we had no hope for coming back. Now those were teams headed in the wrong direction. I don’t like how we’ve played, but in perspective it has been much worse recently and I don’t think we are going down that same road with all healthy personnel at our disposal

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