Posted on: November 21, 2011 12:22 pm
Edited on: November 21, 2011 12:23 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Notre Dame only has one game left in the regular season against Stanford and a bowl game to play, but it's lost a big part of its offense for those final two contests. While there has been no official injury determined from an MRI as of yet, Brian Kelly confirmed on Sunday that running back Jonas Gray had likely played his last game with the Fighting Irish.
"It's pretty apparent he has a significant knee injury," said Kelly in a teleconference on Sunday, going on to say that MRI results will "probably confirm" what the training staff suspects.
Gray suffered the knee injury against Boston College on Saturday, and was seen in tears on the sideline. NBC's sideline reporter Alex Flanagan said that the team believed it was a torn MCL.
It's not only a big blow to the Irish, but it's a sad chapter to end Gray's career at Notre Dame as well. Gray was finally having the year the Irish expected from him in his final season at the school, rushing for 791 yards and 12 touchdowns this season, so to have that come to an end on his Senior Day is a cruel twist of fate.
As for what Notre Dame will do moving forward, the good news is that Notre Dame also has Cierre Wood, who has rushed for 1,001 yards and 9 touchdowns this season. Wood began the season as the team's starting running back and will step back into that role. Behind Wood the Irish have freshmen George Atkinson III and Cam McDaniel, though Brian Kelly did not rule out the possibility of Theo Riddick moving from wide receiver to running back to finish the season.
Riddick missed the Boston College game, but came to Notre Dame as a running back before being moved to wide receiver.
Posted on: July 7, 2011 12:38 pm
Edited on: July 7, 2011 12:49 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Time for another preseason award Watch List.* This time it's for the Biletnikoff Award, handed out annually to the nation's best receiver.
Via No 2-Minute Warning, the full 75-player list:
A few knee-jerk reactions:
-- Yeah, it's the SEC, but the emphasis on the nation's strongest conference still seems a bit ... heavy. Duron Carter, who as of today still hasn't even enrolled at Alabama? Four different Arkansas receivers? (It's true, Cobi Hamilton would be the No. 1 guy on most teams ... but still.) Tavarres King, who caught all of 27 passes last season? (Then again, it's hard to say the SEC is really getting that much respect when Rueben Randle's name is so egregiously misspelled.)
-- As for snubs, Big East followers are up in arms over the exclusion of Rutgers' Mohamed Sanu, which makes some sense given his overall production as a receiver/rusher/even passer. Notre Dame's Theo Riddick could also wind up having a huge year, especially if Michael Floyd doesn't make it back from suspension. Other than that ... well, as you can see, it's a long list.
-- Louisiana-Lafayette's Ladarius Green was one of the nation's most prolific receivers last year at the Ragin' Cajuns' combo WR/TE spot ... which is how he's turned the rare trick of being nominated for both the Biletnikoff and Mackey Awards. Not bad for a Sun Belt player, huh?
*Hope you're getting used to it, because we've still got a bunch more coming down the pipe this week.
Posted on: March 24, 2011 1:48 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at Notre Dame, which started spring practice on Wednesday.
Spring Practice Question: Can Notre Dame finally establish a running game?
When it comes to the way that Notre Dame finished its 2010 season, there are a lot of positives to talk about. Four straight victories against teams like Utah, USC and Miami that came as a bit of a surprise considering the Irish did it without starting quarterback Dayne Crist and starting tailback Armando Allen.
Instead the team was led by backup quarterback Tommy Rees, and a defense that played better than any unit the folks in South Bend have seen in quite a while.
So, it's no surprise that going in to the spring, the questions most people seem to be asking about Notre Dame have to do with the quarterback competition and the defense. Does Tommy Rees have a chance to keep the starting job? Will someone else emerge to replace both Rees and Crist? Can this defense maintain its late-season play, and can Manti Te'o get even better?
All are good questions to ask, and will definitely have a large impact on where Notre Dame goes in Brian Kelly's second season. Still, these aren't questions that can really be answered this spring. For the second year in a row, Dayne Crist is coming off of knee surgery and will be limited in the spring. Te'o is coming off of knee surgery as well, and won't be at full-speed either. So while we may see hints of things to come in those two areas, the answers will not come until later this summer.
One area that not many people are talking about, and also played a huge role in the late season turnaround that will definitely have a huge impact on the Irish in 2011 as well, is the running back position.
Since Charlie Weis replaced Tyrone Willingham in 2005, the running game that Notre Dame was once built upon has disappeared. The team hasn't had a featured tailback that could produce or be counted on since. Armando Allen had the talent, but through his first three seasons the results were inconsistent, and he was marred by injuries.
After having his senior season end early due to an injury, Allen is no longer in South Bend, though it turns out that Allen's absence may have been a blessing in disguise. With both Allen and Dayne Crist out, Brian Kelly placed a greater emphasis on the running game over the last month of the season.
The best friend that both a quarterback and a defense can have is a good running game. It takes pressure off of the quarterback, and time off of the clock, which allows a defense to rest on the sidelines.
The majority of the work replacing Allen went to Cierre Wood and Robert Hughes. Wood ran for at least 80 yards in four consecutive games, while Hughes played a large role in Notre Dame's victory over USC. Of course, like Allen, Hughes is gone. That leaves Cierre Wood as the team's top option, and this spring the Irish hope to find out whether he's ready to carry the load full-time.
The team feels he can, but Wood still has a bit to learn. While it's hard to deny the talent and explosiveness that Wood holds, he did show a tendency to dance a bit with the ball during his first season. There's no doubt that two words will be drilled into Wood's brain this spring: "north" and "south." If Wood can learn to hit the hole instead of dancing around and trying to run away from everybody, he definitely has the speed to break some huge runs for the Irish this season.
Wood won't be alone, however, as Notre Dame has other backs behind him on the depth chart. Jonas Gray is a senior that hasn't had much of a chance to prove himself during his first three years, but the Irish would like to see the 230-pound running back take on the role that Robert Hughes had last season, and be a short-yardage back. There's also Cameron Roberson, who redshirted in 2010, but has a lot of the qualities that Kelly and company are looking for.
He has the size to run between the tackles, and though he doesn't have great speed, he is a north-south runner. If Wood and Gray fail to meet expectations, Roberson could see himself climb up the depth chart.
Then there's Theo Riddick. Riddick came to Notre Dame as a running back before being moved to wide receiver. He could be the best running back that the Irish have on the roster, and Brian Kelly has hinted about moving him back to the position in 2011.
Which back will emerge as the team's starter, nobody knows yet. What we do know is that Brian Kelly saw how important having an effective ground game could be for his team at the end of last season, and that he'll look to keep it going in 2011.
It'll be up to one of these players, or maybe all of them, to see that it does. After all, it could be the difference between another lackluster season in South Bend, or waking up those echoes they talk so much about.
Posted on: December 31, 2010 7:09 pm
Edited on: December 31, 2010 7:11 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Notre Dame never breaks a sweat during 33-17 win over Miami in El Paso
Offense: Tommy Rees probably isn't the best quarterback on scholarship at Notre Dame, but he's proven that sometimes there's more to the quarterback position than talent. The Irish improved to 4-0 on the season when Rees starts, though even Rees would tell you it's a lot easier to play quarterback when you have a talented wide receiver like Michael Floyd at your disposal.
Floyd says he hasn't made a decision as to whether or not he'll return for his senior season, but there are likely some NFL scouts drooling after his Sun Bowl MVP performance on Friday. Floyd finished the game with 6 receptions for 106 yards and two touchdowns. Still, as nice as Floyd was for the Irish, the real key to their success was the running game, which racked up over 200 yards behind Cierre Wood, Robert Hughes and Theo Riddick. If it weren't for the Irish offense slowing down a bit in the second half -- which is understandable considering the game was already over at halftime -- I'd be giving them a higher grade than this. Grade: B+
Defense: The Notre Dame defense had flown a bit under the radar this season, and came into the Sun Bowl allowing only one touchdown in the last 12 quarters of play. That one touchdown was by USC, and it was a four-play three-yard drive following a turnover. The Irish stretched that streak to 15 quarters before Miami found its way into the end zone, and forced four turnovers on the day with safety Harrison Smith intercepting three passes by himself.
Miami finished the game with over 400 yards and 17 points of offense, but just about all of those came when the game was well out of reach late. Grade: A
Coaching: Brian Kelly didn't come to South Bend with the same fanfare that Charlie Weis and Ty Willingham did, but it's starting to look as though he may finally be the head coach that restores the winning tradition of Notre Dame. The Irish attacked Miami's defense early and built a big enough lead that it was able to coast through the second half, and Bob Diaco's defense stuffed Miami's running game and forced Jacory Harris to throw. And when you force Jacory Harris to throw, it's but a matter of time before the turnovers happen. Grade: A
Offense: It was really a tale of two quarterbacks for Miami. Jacory Harris came into the game looking to redeem himself and just made things worse. Here's what you need to know about Harris' day: he completed seven passes. Only four of them were completed to Miami receivers, the other three ended up in the hands of Notre Dame.
Stephen Morris came on, and though he threw an interception of his own, Miami's offense looked a lot better while he was in the game. Morris threw for 283 yards and two touchdowns, and even though a lot came in garbage time, the fact he didn't quit says a lot about him. Had he played the entire game, the outcome may have been a bit different. Grade: D
Defense: I can't blame Miami's defense for this one, as Jacory Harris didn't put them in a very good position in the first half. Hard as it may be to believe given the outcome of the game, I was actually impressed with Miami's defense in this game for the final three quarters. Even though the outcome of the game was never really in doubt, Miami's defense never stopped playing, and kept holding Notre Dame to field goals. Marcus Fortson, in particular, was impressive in the second half, frequently disrupting life in the Notre Dame backfield.
All that being said, however, Miami's defense never made a play to bail out its offense either. Grade:C+
Coaching: I do not envy the task that Jeff Stoutland had going into this game. A lame duck coach filling in for the recently fired Randy Shannon, and in charge of a team that seemed to lose interest in the 2010 season over a month ago. My only qualm with anything he did was starting Harris over Morris at quarterback, but given the fact that Morris sprained his ankle in practice, I can't even blame him for that. Grade: Incomplete
If you were tuning into this game hoping to see a classic like the meetings between these teams in the late 80s, then you were no doubt disappointed. Still, the game was a microcosm of the directions these once mighty programs seem to be going. Each team has plenty of work left to do, but Notre Dame seems to have already taken the first step back to respectability, while Miami needs to build a foundation first. Grade: D