IBG: Zoom, Zoom, Zoomie Edition

Jaylon Smith - Notre Dame vs. Michigan State
Notre Dame Fighting Irish cornerback KeiVarae Russell (6) and linebacker Jaylon Smith (9) tackle Michigan State Spartans wide receiver Aaron Burbridge (16) in the fourth quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame won 17-13. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

For this week’s Irish Blogger Gathering, Mike from NDNation answered our questions while Aaron from Strong & True provided us questions to answer.

As always, here are this week’s entries:

1. After watching Andrew Hendrix play for almost an entire half against USC and be unable to muster any sort of offense for the Irish, has your view of Tommy Rees changed at all and how important is his availability for this weekend and the rest of the season?

My view of how crucial he is has certainly changed, although I’m reluctant to judge Hendrix based on one appearance since we’ve seen him play at least marginally better in other appearances. My view of how poorly he’s being used by the coaching staff certainly has not, and perhaps has intensified given how bad Hendrix’s throwing was. Given our top two quarterbacks have limitations when trying to put the ball into the air, it seems even more necessary for the coaching staff to create an offensive philosophy for the season that doesn’t depend on throwing the ball. Yet that seems to be what was done in the four months they had to prepare.

2. The Notre Dame defense played dominant football after allowing USC to drive 97 yards on their first drive. Give me one reason to be optimistic that they can continue that level of play the rest of the season and one reason to be cautious that it was just the result of USC’s offensive futility.

The reason I’d give to be optimistic is a combination of the return of Sheldon Day and the steady improvement of Stephon Tuitt. Tuitt seems to be getting stronger every week, and probably was due for a breakout week like this. With Day demanding more attention than his replacements, the probability of continued play quality increases.

The reason I’d give to be pessimistic is this was an SC team that, while talented in the starting ranks, has absolutely no depth. Their offensive performance peaked on the first drive and then slowly withered as players either tired or were lost to injury, whether for a play or a half. They seemed to move the ball well when they had gas in the tank, and other teams will have a much deeper tank.

 3. Brian Kelly has said that Jaylon Smith will be on the field a lot this weekend against an option offense even though the Irish have had success by playing an extra safety or corner in place of the drop backer. Is this a good idea given Smith’s success so far or too much to place on a true freshman?

I believe Smith has a tougher time playing against the pass than the run. He seems to have excellent instincts where the ball carrier is going and tends to make more plays than he misses on run defense. Given Air Force is much less of a danger when throwing the ball, which would be Smith’s weakness, having him play more in a situation where he can make the best use of his strengths like this weekend seems to be a good plan.

Bonus: Will we see any more of freshman running back Tarean Folston who has been surprisingly silent absent from the Irish gameplan after his long run against Oklahoma?

Bonus: Rumor has it Folston was a little banged up but should be returning in short order. Since ND (as usual) has a significant size advantage on the offensive line versus the Zoomie defense, a game plan emphasizing physical play would seem to me to be right up Folston’s alley, so if he’s ready, I would expect to see him out there.

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  1. I think that a variety of different factors contribute in how to define a coach besides win-loss. I think BK is a good football coach. There are times I wonder if he is the best fit here at ND. I do not think he will win a NC here at ND. That does not mean he won’t win games and maybe develop some sustainability in winning. He has some character issues that make me have some doubts (the time to look for potential new employment at the same time your team is preparing to play in a NC game that had not been there for almost 25 years smacks of lack of commitment). I am not calling for his head nor for him to be replaced because frankly I don’t know who is going to be any significantly better. I am quite disgruntled about the QB situation after 4 years on the job and having the history of developing offenses that are explosive but not here after again 4 years. We lost some players who I believe left ultimately by how Kelly has conducted himself towards them. I could be wrong about a lot of this. Just sharing what I think.

    Play like a champion

  2. Well, for the record to be clear, since Burgundy thrives in an ambiguous world! I am not going to mischaracterize ‘Champions!’ Champions don’t come in 2nd place! People love waller and muddify and hide in the shades of gray bs to justify their obvious irrational logic. We continue to have the same ‘CW love the Head Coach at all costs crowd’ here today!
    People are too emotionally attached to coaching staffs who come and go!
    It’s very simple we are paying BK to win a National Championship or bye bye! The alums are paying for a National Championship not the loons who want to marry the head coach forever. Only 22 Div 1 Schools currently brake even or make money! It’s a brand and a business to promote the University whether the holier than thou crowd wants to admit! Commercialization is everywhere on the campus to today, just open your eyes!

    1. I think we want confidence that the foundation is solid to compete for National Championships. While holding our values. Stanford and Oregon hve those foundations. It takes a steady sustained rise. It took the SEC some time to get respect, but without major ups and downs, the SEC, be it Alabama, Florida, LSU, etc, the SEC has established dominance. The Pac-12 started to become maligned, but quietly improved to be more than just the Cheating Trojans. Now the Pac-12 is very close the the SEC and looks to stay there for a while. Each ascendant program has established steady momentum and continuity.

      Kelly seems to be grinding his teeth and for ever two or three steps forward, that is a step back. MY concern is whether Kelly can establish that continuity and sustain momentum.

      And sadly, yes, the commercialization is everywhere. Including in the middle of the Notre Dame campus.

  3. I know there is no sense is crying over spilled milk, but I just saw Deontay Greenberry score an 83 yard TD and checked his stats on the year. 55 catches, 780 yards, and 7 TDs. Wow.

    1. So, so many exceptional athletes ND has lost in the last 3-4 years. This team could be loaded on both sides of the ball if we had managed to keep just half of those kids. But so be it. Indeed, no use crying over spilled milk. Hopefully from now on we can keep all the kids we recruit and sign. That’s the only way ND will ever get back to the top. We can’t do it with 2-3 star recruits. No doubt some of those types of kids are needed. But when was the last time a team in college football dominated without a top 25-30 recruiting class year in and year out? I doubt that too many teams can get any kind of traction recruiting exclusively 3 star talent every year. Yes, they might have a brief run. But dominate college football with 2-3 star kids, I doubt anyone can show me such a success story in the last 20 years or so.

  4. RB,

    I think that Stanford is ND’s benchmark. And while you make a valid point, I think if we’re honest with ourselves, then we’d admit that Stanford has been much more successful and consistent than ND has over the last 10 years or so. Of course, Stanford is in the same boat ND’s in. Like the Irish, the Cardinal has to actually recruit true student-athletes who can compete at the highest levels inside the classroom and on the fields of play. Not easy. Perhaps one day when a school like Stanford, NW, or ND wins a NC, others will realize that academics and athletics can be mutually beneficial and reinforcing.

    Go Irish!

    1. Rob, I take great comfort in how good Stanford is. Because, in all truth we “should” be able to play a cut above them. They don’t have guys like Tuitt or Nix, or our tradition, or as high of a ranking in their recruiting classes. So, if we are not clearly better than them, I have to believe we are not maximizing our potential as a program. And at the end of the day that is all we can aspire to. Not worth whining about, I know everyone has “the one that got away” but we lost a boat load of talent these last few years (see Greenberry comment below). And I am not anti-BK but you can’t have your team sleep walking to start the year and say “hey, look how much we improve as the year progresses.

    2. SFR,
      Well put. That is my point. Look, Alabama has won 3 NCs while Kelly has been coach, so I don’t think using the NC as a stat is valid. And yes, ND got there last year and by record and schedule deserved it. However, I don’t look at that game as one the Irish had any chance of winning, and the events afterward all the way up to the present have one wondering if Kelly can manage the program into stability. While Stanford and Oregon show stability, each through coaching changes, Kelly’s ride had had several bumps. That’s my point.

      To counter, RB, a bit, Put Oregon in last year’s NC game, and I think you have an opponent capable of beating Alabama. And although we beat Stanford, I might have put them in as a fiercer opponent.

      Last year was exciting. But I’m still waiting and wondering if it was a fluke, or whether ND can create a program.

      RB, consider where ND has landed in the polls versus the others at the end of each season.

    3. SFR, to your point about academics. I see a revolution sometime in the next 10 years. Too much hard earned money is going into sports, a form of entertainment. I see the SEC and similar minded schools moving to a point where their football teams are not even comprised of students. I see Alabama with a group of club athletes, who may one day use a scholarship to the school, but who will be paid to play and who merely represent the brand. I then see more academic minded schools putting athletes who want to be students on the field. ND will have an advantage as will other highly rated schools.

      I see that within 10 years.

      1. The good news C-Dog, ND has won the All Sports/Atheletes National Championship of Graduation for the 7th straight year! At a mere 99% graduation rate!

        Lastly, I wish I could be as optimistic about the next ten years in football as you. I am seriously worried about the head injuries and the billions paid out by the NFL. Unfortunately, trickle down ambulance lawyer economics will be coming to a neighborhood near you soon! If not already! The impact is serious! Many Moms at a high rate ever than before, are not allowing their sons to play football at the pee wee league level, opting for other sports.


    4. Totally agree SFR, that was basically my point. Anytime BK is given praise it is quickly pointed out that he hasn’t won a NC. You can’t begrudge BK for not winning a NC while simultaneously speak the praises of Stanford and Oregon. It’s either all about NC’s or it isn’t.

      It’s obvious I’m a believer in BK and think he is a terrific coach, his record speaks for itself and he is a proven winner. To tie everything to a NC is fine (which I desperately want to see them win) but they don’t grow on trees and this is a different era in CFB. The odds say he will never win one but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a fantastic coach. I think he ultimately will but it is incredibly tough to do.

      At the end of the day, what do I know. Just a simple man watching a game.

      1. Well I won’t be able to see it since CBS SPORTSCH is not carried where I live. I think we struggle more than what folks realize. TR being more affected and altitude. 30 to 17 ND, JC.

      2. CBS SportsNetwork to be specific. For those of you that think all announcers ahave ND bias, fear not as Aaron Taylor is on the call today.

  5. Guys,

    I think this coaching staff is doing a darn good job. Let’s face it, Kelly has had to play this season with his back up QB, Rees.

    I think we are in for a positive surprise for the rest of the year.

    Regarding the game this weekend, I think Jaylon Smith will be a nightmare for AFA. He is so fast, he can shut down their option. Ishaq and Shembo could have monster games too. Would love to see Redfield play. Our speed should dominate their O.

    Next year, when Golson and Zaire are ready to go, we will roll!


  6. Paul Longo. Exhibit A that excellence is taken for granted.

    USC played 53 guys against our Irish last Saturday night.

    14 of those players were too injured to practice on Wednesday this week.

    Folks here have commented on the Schmidt hit and the Russell pop,
    but it was a consistent physical effort.

    Physical toughness and mental toughness feed off each other.

    Its now embedded in our team DNA and that ain’t bad.

  7. Guys, again, I’m not calling for Kelly’s head. But to be realistic, he has not righted the ship nearly as quickly as some other coaches out there. Harbaugh effectively resurrected the program that Willingham gutted 10 years before. But Harbaugh’s successor is maintaining it in excellent fashion. Chip Kelly at Oregon and his successor is having a great year. Urban Meyer, everywhere, although Ohio State benefits from being in the BIG MAC.

    Let’s not forget the mess ND has been in. First a slow decline by Bob, ( I have no idea what ND is about ) Davie, then the mortician himeself, Ty Willingham, follow that with ‘Bill Parcells and Bill Belichek got me these rings’, Charlie Weis. ND football was a Disney side show. Kelly has canged that. My only issue is that like Disney’s “Herbie the Luv Bug” He is racing with a VW when we want a Hummer that flattens all in it’s path.

    Kelly has not filled in the gaps and attained the stability that others among his coaching colleagus have. I hope he does so, and unfortunately we won’t know until next year. The one sign that he gets it and can do something about it, is if the Irish beat Stanford and win the bowl game. Otherwise it’ll be just another year of reminiscing about when ND dominated. And all you young guys will get pissed off when we old guys talk about being there for the National Championships. I truly would like the younger alums and fans to have that good feeling.

    From where we sit, we can only watch and hope.

    1. Not righted the ship?? They were in the NC game last year. ND won 15 games the 3 years combined before he arrived.

      1. JC – Dog,
        So you are saying that Stanford and Oregon are the standards here. They have the same invisible NC trophies and Heisman’s as ND over the past few years.

    1. Amen C-Dog,

      However I heard Favre has some concussion issues and memory loss he talked about yesterday so he’s not returning.

    2. C-Dog,

      Tebow? Farve? Who needs those guy’s when you got “The Most Photogenic football player” in America.

      From what I have read, Cam has made a serious splash with his helmetless run during USC game.

      Couldn’t have picked a better person for the face of the Fighting Irish Football team!

      Now, not only is it “Run Cam Run” But he looks pretty darn good doing it!

      Great story for a great kid!

      1. Wow! Almost makes me wish I were a woman! Ha Ha!

        Seriously, that kid should go into acting as an action hero, or James Bond. He’s definitely got a career in front of a camera regardless of how far he goes on the football field.

        And somewhere in a dark corner, Brent Musberger is looking at a picture of the fiance and working up a lather.

      1. So sad, I agree, it is sad that someone would go to such lengths create fight after fight just to have someone, anyone, to talk to.

        I hope this helps.

      1. BWAHAHAHA! That was a good one Ron Burgundy. BJ should make a youtube music video called “Where Is The Offense?” to the tune of “What Does the Fox Say?” In both cases, to BJ, the answer is an ancient secret.

  8. “My view of how crucial he is has certainly changed, although I’m reluctant to judge Hendrix based on one appearance since we’ve seen him play at least marginally better in other appearances.”


  9. Kelly’s ego and past luck have allowed him to overlook the obvious. Do you REALLY not have a second-string qb ready to go at all times ?? That second half against USC probably scared away half the great high-school qb’s in the country ! Do they really want to come to ND and not improve their skill level ? Being a back-up qb under Kelly does not seem to be a positive thing. Kelly is horrible at improving qb’s. Golson’s improvement came from Golson, not Kelly. That is evident.

    1. I think a lot of the former 3rd string QB Everitt Golson’s improvement came from Tommy Rees last year, who’s own improvement came from Kelly, who’s coaching improvement came from his time at Cincinatti, which is all well documented.

      1. I agree it is well documented and also that BK did not win a National Championship at Cincy nor here to date! So we can sugar coat how wonderful things are theorectially; Fact is, we are 5-2 and unranked!

      2. Neither Pervis or I were talking about national championships.

        He believes Kelly is horrible at improving QB’s.

        I believe Golson going from 3rd string and running the scout team, to being the ND starting QB, by beating out Rees, Hendrix, and Kiel conterdicts that, as does Tommy Rees won/loss record, aa well as the history of the QB’s that Kelly worked with before he came to ND.

        And yes, while it true that Kelly has won championships in college football, he did not win one at Cincinatti (even though he went undefeated) or yet as Notre Dame’s head coach even though he did have his team in the championship game by his 3rd year.

        And I agree that it is a fact that we are currently 5-2 and unranked.

      3. Impressive, I can now pre-visualize the invisible moral NC victories and subjective QB training! Where does that go on the stat sheet?

        Not to mention, it’s very difficult to see the ‘invisible’ QB-Heisman and NC trophies in the case right this minute. Next year?

      4. Actually, neither Pervis or I ever asked you to visualize anything.

        You decided to do that on your own so don’t ask me.

      5. What about Pervis! Are you a KellyCare(TM) Polyanna (TM) Fan?

        Do you like ALL of the moral NC victories of BK and his invisible QB Heisman trophies too?

  10. I think the possibility has to exist that the kid was indeed prepared but simply played a bad game. It wouldn’t be the first time in history that the moment was simply just too big for a student athlete. I was as shocked as all of you watching that 2nd half, but it seems as if everybody’s opinions are once again being displayed as a fact that BK didnt prepare AH.

    Maybe he was prepared maybe he wasn’t. There is no way to tell as none of us are there. But I think it is entirely possible that the kid isn’t very good or just played a bad game. If one of us took 100% of the reps from now until the rest of the year we would all stink out there as well. All the preparation in the world wouldn’t matter. There is a reason he has been there 4 years and rarely sees the field.

    I’m Ron Burgundy?

    1. RB,

      I think you make an excellent point about the moment just being too big for some student athletes.

      It happends.

      Especially when it means that student athlete playing QB at ND and for all the world to see.

      Hendrix reminds me alot of Dayne Crist. Good Kid, good student, good team player, but good starting QB at ND? Probably not.

      I think one reason that Kelly sticks with Rees is because of the way that Rees has proven that he can handle the immense scrutiny, criticism, media pressure, and the over the top public opinion that comes with being the ND QB week after week.

      That’s a big part of the job too.

      That’s also a rare trait that not all 19 or 20 year olds are willing to embrace or can handle effectively for several seasons.

      Sorry to say, but Hendrix played like a deer in the headlights. He was afraid.
      Afraid of making a mistake.
      Afraid of costing his team a win. Afraid of negitive fan reaction. Two throws in the dirt, 5 yards short of his recievers are proof enough.

      If it hadn’t been a rival game, or a close game, or a primetime televised night game played at home, I’m guessing his preformance would have been much better.

      But it wasn’t.

    2. Personally I don’t care whether AH was or was not preprared! That is on the coaching staff and that is why we pay them whether we like that concept or not! The results on the field were excruciatingly embarrasing and painful to watch. I suspect Zaire is not ready for prime time either. So break out the band aids because season is only half over! Theory is fun, however proof on the field is all that matters! Unfortunately, that is the true report card the coaching staff cannot deny! It may be the main reason we are 4-2 and unranked. Imagine that!

      1. Not sure why you are so hung up in the rankings at this point of the season. At the end of the day they are just opinions. Rarely is ther a lot of logic. For instance UCF is ranked lower than Loisville yet they have identical records and UCF beat them at their place. We differ on our opinion of BK as a coach. I think he is good and you’d like to see him fired next year. Doesn’t really matter as our opinions don’t count.

        Furthermore, you could make the argument that if you aren’t 1 or 2 who really cares. The only thing you can control is the record. To date that is 5-2 which nobody is particularly fond of but it is what it is. Win and everything will work itself out.

      2. Now, be the outstanding person you are and attack bj for practice with your so sad tag team partner!

  11. So guys, caveat emptor! Beyond Golson and Kiel, why at the start of fall practice did BK make such a ‘BIG PRODUCTION’ that ‘Zaire’ would have to receive half of the reps with the 1st unit? And where did that leave AH? We already knew TR was the starting QB! I call it masterful chaos. BK loves to make a lot of BIG PRODUCTION erroneous statements such as: “If your throwing interceptions you won’t be playing!” All smoke and mirrors, therefore, I never believe anything until I see actionable proof!

  12. Think about this…. GK left well before EG. So, AH was already 3rd string then. Then, EG was suspended well before the season started, meaning AH was now 2nd string. Besides, there’s no proof that GK would’ve looked any better than our other backups have looked under BK. Well before the end of summer, BK knew that AH was his 2nd stringer at QB. No more excuses. We’ve had poor to average QB play at ND ever since BK’s been at S. Bend. And that includes EG’s performance last year. Too often this O looks like a Chinese fire drill regardless of who’s in at QB. This isn’t year one or two or three of BK’s tenure. We’re in year 4 and this O looks like crap, esp. when we compare it Oregon, Baylor, FSU, TA&M, Bama, Miami, you name it. Enough of the pandering already!

    1. I agree Steel, excuse after excuse after excuse year after year after year. If you can’t do the job get someone who can whether it’s BK or coordinators. Geez, I’m sick of this just like you!

  13. Think about it….in the spring Hendrix was the 4th qb. 4TH!!! Golson Suspended and Kiel left. Maybe this is why Kelly didn’t prepare him. Wasn’t expecting to need this guy.

  14. BK knew well before the season started that AH was going to be his backup QB. Not 4th string. Not 3rd string. AH was going to be the backup. Knowing this, BK should’ve given AH more reps with the 1st string in practice and more in-game reps with the starters. It sure would’ve been nice to have a couple of blowouts to also give AH some live reps.

    The point is BK hasn’t developed a single QB outside of EG that can even remotely run a Spread O effectively. Unlike some here, I’m not going to give BK a free pass. In acknowledge mitigating circumstances for sure, such as Gunner Kiel leaving. But to not have more than one QB ready to start this season borders on incompetence, esp. when that one QB is not very big, strong, or athletic.

    Will the apologists never cease?!

    1. Right on! Right on!

      Didn’t Kiel leave before Golson had his issue? At minimum Hendrix should have been considered 2rd string. Potentially Hendrix should hav been pressed to earn second string anyway since Rees doesn’t fit the offense.

      SFR you also pointed out Rees’ lack of durability. Kelly has to know that. So why isn’t another QB ready to go?

      Kelly was able to do that at Cincy and Central Michigan. So why not at ND? What’s changed in his approach?

      1. Woops meant 3rd in the second sentence above. But after both Kiel and Golson not being available Hendrix should have been 2nd string.

  15. I don’t understand the thought process that blames Kelly for not developing a 4 th String upperclassman QB like Hendrix last season.

    1. Exactly!! Not to mention Reese was a back up to sophomore last season. Lol

      I’d say that Kelly has developed the “you know what” out of Reese. A guy who couldn’t be worse a fit for this offense.

  16. Guys are gonna have to step up with Nix and Lombard out go IRISH!!! Beat Airforce big games from Calabrese on D and D Daniels on O!

  17. Q 1)You have to understand that Tommy’s experience is why he is so valuable to this team. His physical abilities have nothing to do with it. He does not have a strong arm, he is not very accurate, and he has absolutely no mobility to extend plays or stretch the field. Unfortunately, right now it is what it is. I believe the offense is getting more consistant but it is not quite there to compete at an elite level.

    Q 2)I am starting to understand why the coaching staff felt that this defensive group was capable of being better than last year’s group. There is a good amount of depth being built and I see more speed on the field than I ever have. The D-line is learning how to adjust to opposing offenses blocking schemes and Tuitt is finally getting healthy. The negative that I continue to see that has carried over from the BCS title game is poor tackling. They need to get better at taking people to the ground and quit worrying about causing a turnover.

    Q 3)Jaylon is a tremendous athlete and you can see that he is a student of the game. He is getting better each week and getting significant playing time against an option attack will teach him how to stay on assignment and play with more discipline.

    Q 4)Whether Folston plays or not should not matter. The main thing is for this offense to continue to build on developing balance. They need to do a better job of executing and sustaining/finishing drives.

  18. Q 1) No I do think AH has been given next to zero from Kelly as far as confidence and time to learn the O with the offense. However he has played far better than “marginally” in his very few opportunities up until now -(seeing I don’t think he played a down last year at all).
    And No, my opinion of Rees has only been enhanced by his poor play against better competition (though he did play probably his best game against USC -“marginally” of course) his inability to throw a decent leading pass on a regular basis, inability to be accurate on easy tosses, zero mobility (making the game 11 vs 10 when he’s in), the list goes on and on, does not change my opinion of his ability as a QB. I still want to see AH given his opportunity – the same opportunity provided to TR. I root for the whole team not just the for the players Kelly thinks are his guys.

    2) The D played a very good second half vs USC but are they improved? I don’t know. Why is it they have struggled so much up to now? Have those issues been answered? Jaylon Smith is getting better but the secondary seems too much of a weakness vs well coached teams to make this a suddenly good defense.

    3) I don’t know what Kelly is doing as a coach any longer nor do I trust his judgment on game day. He makes football this very difficult game when mostly it isn’t or at least, doesn’t have to be.

  19. Well, our offense ‘should’ be fine providing our Zombie coaching staff does not continue to mismange the backup QB who ever that will be. Therefore the AF Zoomies go down by 30+ points by TR & Company. Make no mistake, I love our team and University. However, there are indeed multiple problems our esteemed Coaching Staff continuously ignore after all most 4 years. A redundancy Santa Claus and a majority of people outside this site identify and question.

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