Posted on: September 6, 2011 12:34 pm
Edited on: September 6, 2011 5:25 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
In an announcement that doesn't really come as a surprise to anybody who watched Notre Dame's season opening 23-20 loss to South Florida on Saturday, Brian Kelly said on Tuesday that Tommy Rees would start at quarterback this weekend when the Irish head to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan.
"I want to win right now and believe Tommy gives us the best chance to win against Michigan," Kelly said.
Following a rough first half and a two-hour lightning delay, Kelly decided to bench Dayne Crist for Rees. Rees came on and nearly led Notre Dame back from a 16-0 deficit, throwing for 296 yards and two touchdowns while completing 24 of his 34 pass attempts. Crist completed only 7 of his 15 passes for 95 yards in the first half, and though he threw only one interception to Rees' two, Crist's came on a terrible throw in the end zone. He also had accuracy issues throughout his time on the field, missing open receivers. (One of Rees's interceptions bounced off of receiver T.J. Jones.)
Rees started the final four games of the season for Notre Dame last year following an injury to Crist. The Irish went 4-0 in those starts--a trend Kelly and Notre Dame fans no doubt are hoping to see continue this weekend against Michigan.
They have some reason to be optimistic, too. Rees won't be intimidated by the venue, not after starting games last season in Yankee Stadium and the Coliseum in Los Angeles. He also started the Irish's Sun Bowl victory over Miami.
And while the South Florida loss was one that Notre Dame has seen too many of in recent seasons, the fact remains that the offense did finish with over 500 total yards and the defense played well despite being put in a terrible position so many times by the offense. Plus, Notre Dame had 5 turnovers on Saturday, 3 of which came in the red zone, and the Irish still only lost by 3 points.
To be clear, it wasn't a game that Notre Dame deserved to win, yet, it almost did anyway. If the Irish offense can avoid the back-breaking turnovers this weekend in Ann Arbor, it wouldn't be all that much of a shock to see Notre Dame leave the first night game at the Big House with a victory.
Information used in this post was provided by the Associated Press.
Posted on: August 23, 2011 11:59 am
Edited on: August 23, 2011 12:06 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
Notre Dame fans have high expectations for the Irish heading into Brian Kelly's second year at the helm. They find themselves ranked in the top 20 of both major polls, with CBSSports.com's Brett McMurphy and others placing them in the top 10. Among all this hype, Kelly has kept the quarterback competition open between junior Dayne Crist and sophomore Tommy Rees.
On Tuesday Kelly ended the speculation naming Crist the starting quarterback for Notre Dame's season opener against South Florida on Sept. 3. The two quarterbacks had flip-flopped reps with the first-team, and after a weekend of meeting with his staff Kelly made the call.
"Both of those young men had a great battle for that starting position, but Dayne will be our starter, and I expect him to be the starter for 13 weeks," Kelly told the media.
Crist started the 2010 season as the starting quarterback and threw for 2,033 yards and 15 touchdowns before suffering a season-ending knee injury against Tulsa. Rees took over as the starter against Utah and led the Irish to four straight wins to finish the season, tossing 8 touchdowns and 4 interceptions in those starts.
Posted on: August 5, 2011 1:40 pm
Edited on: August 5, 2011 1:41 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Another college football season is right around the corner which means that now is the time of year filled with high expectations for Notre Dame. In spite of the fact that the Irish have won 9 games or more only three times since the turn of the century, Notre Dame finds itself ranked 18th in the preseason Coaches Poll that was released on Thursday. Whether it deserves that ranking or not, I'll let you decide for yourself, but it is somewhat understandable considering how Notre Dame finished the 2010 season.
That being said, Notre Dame has a recent history of not being able to live up to the expectations placed upon it, and now that he's entering his second season as head coach, the pressure on Brian Kelly is even greater. Which isn't the best feeling in the world when you're not even sure who your starting quarterback is going to be.
"If it's an ideal situation, I'd like to know who the starter is before camp," said Kelly in a press conference on Friday.
"I don’t know if there's a certain date (to name a starter) other than we're only going to use the first 19 practices for the evaluation process. We're spending two weeks on South Florida. We're gonna know going into the last 10 days who the starting quarterback is."
Kelly also went on to say that he plans on naming the starter publicly and that there is no need to be "stealth-like." Which is somewhat funny considering that I'm not all that convinced Kelly doesn't already know who his starter is at this point. Dayne Crist is widely-considered to be the favorite seeing as how he started the first nine games of the season for the Irish last season before going down with an injury.
What's thrown a wrinkle in the process is that Notre Dame finished the season very strong under Tommy Rees, Crist's strongest competition this fall. Still, even though Notre Dame won every game Rees started, a lot of the credit for those victories goes to a defense that played fantastic down the stretch and should be even better this season given the haul of players Kelly brought to town in his first recruiting class like Aaron Lynch.
So while the job may not be Crist's yet officially, he's going to have to do a lot in the coming weeks to lose it.
Posted on: May 12, 2011 4:11 pm
By Eye on College Football Bloggers
Each week, the Eye on CFB team convenes Voltron- style to answer a pressing question regarding the wild, wide world of college football. This week's topic:
We've already talked about No. 1, but the end of spring has also meant a revision of the rest of the preseason top 25, like our colleague Dennis Dodd's. What teams do you feel like might deserve a better ranking at this stage (or one at all)? What teams do you feel like might be ranked too highly?
Jerry Hinnen: There always seems to be one team from the SEC that comes from outside the preseason polls and surprises--think Mississippi State last year, Ole Miss in 2008, etc. But Dennis's 25 already includes every SEC team but Ole Miss, Tennessee, Kentucky and Vanderbilt, and I'm not sold on any of those teams as poll material. (There's a case to be made for the Vols, but only if Tyler Bray takes a major step forward, and his 5-for-30 spring game suggests that step may not be imminent.)
So I'll look elsewhere for a sleeper and mention how much I like San Diego State. The Aztecs have absorbed some heavy losses in their pair of NFL-bound wideouts and, of course, the head coach-offensive coordinator pairing of Brady Hoke and Al Borges. But Ronnie Hillman is an All-American running back waiting to happen, and senior Ryan Lindley is easily the best MWC quarterback this side of Kellen Moore. Together, they're one of the nation's best RB-QB combos, and new OC Andy Ludwig (the man behind Utah's undefeated 2008 attack) should know how to get the most out of them.
Defensively, the Aztecs should be much more comfortable in the second year of Rocky Long's unorthodox 3-3-5 scheme, and the schedule also offers the opportunity for two huge statement wins since TCU and Boise State travel to San Diego. Put it all together, and I don't think the departures of Hoke and Borges will be nearly enough to stop the program's momentum towards the polls.
Bryan Fischer: One team I think is a bit under the radar is Georgia. The Dawgs get the other division favorite, South Carolina, early in the schedule--that could be key if the Gamecocks are breaking in Connor Shaw, who has all of 33 passes to his name. I'm concerned about Georgia's running game but they have a good quarterback and the defense should be markedly improved in year two under Todd Grantham.
West Virginia is another team that can really make a move. They lose a lot from last year on defense but should be solid nevertheless. They might have one of the best offenses in the country with Geno Smith running the show and get their big non-conference game against LSU at home.
Chip Patterson: I agree with Bryan that West Virginia is a team that could cause some problems this fall. Dana Holgorsen might have done the coaching job of the year in 2010 with Oklahoma State's offense; the Cowboys did not return a single offensive lineman and his scheme resulted in the third-most productive offense in the nation anyway. Now he gets a stable full of athletes that, in many people's opinions, have been underperforming under Bill Stewart. Smith is the type of quarterback who can be a threat in Holgorsen's spread, especially once he gets familiar with the reads and changing plays at the line of scrimmage. The toughest challenge on the Mountaineers' slate is an early-season battle with LSU in Morgantown (as Bryan mentioned). I think that game is winnable, and could give them confidence headed into the back-loaded conference schedule.
Virginia Tech, though, is a huge question mark in my opinion. While I'm not sure whether they will end up higher or lower than 17, there's as much of a chance of them finishing the season unranked as getting to 10 wins. Their schedule does set up extremely well, with Clemson, Miami and North Carolina coming to Blacksburg and Florida State, Maryland and N.C. State avoided completely. But Logan Thomas needs to prove himself in a game situation, and running back David Wilson will have to work without Darren Evans or Ryan Williams to compliment him. Even if the Hokies finish the season strong, the eye test does not have them as "Top 20 good" just yet.
Adam Jacobi: After the first, oh, eight teams, I've got some major concerns about nearly every team on the list. Spring is the season for questions, of course, but it's like, "Michigan State at 11? Really? Wisconsin at 12? Really? Arkansas at 13? Really?" But you look at that list, and yeah, that's about right.
The one team that stands out to me is Notre Dame, who sort of creeps in under the radar at 19. I don't expect that sterling recruiting class to make much of an impact in Year 1, but there's a lot of talent coming back for Brian Kelly to build on. They have options at quarterback with Dayne Crist and Tommy Rees, the passing game basically only lost tight end Kyle Rudolph (who was injured for the second half of the season anyway), and four of five starting linemen return. The defense, meanwhile, is still led by Manti Te'o and returns its top eight tacklers. There's some retooling to do up the middle of the front seven, but the leadership and experience are there for the D to take a big step forward this year.
Lastly, I really like the Irish's schedule. The only truly worrisome game is the season finale at Stanford; the rest of the games are winnable. That's not to say the Irish are definitely going 11-1 in the regular season -- that's not happening without a ton of luck -- but it's a nice very-best-case scenario.
BF: I think the top 10 is pretty much standard for everyone. Sure, you can change the order and move teams around, but you can't argue with those 10 teams much.
After that, I have an issue with Auburn at 15. I know they're the defending champions, but they lost a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, and the Tigers have a very tough schedule where they could take some losses. I'm also not sold on Utah after watching them collapse down the stretch last year, and they've had a ton of guys sit out this spring with injuries. I'd swap them in the rankings with USC -- who has depth issues but also has Matt Barkley and Robert Woods throwing the ball around -- or UCF.
AJ: Here's something I want to know -- what do you do about Ohio State if you're a voter? Do you ding them since the Buckeye Five are suspended for five games? Do you un-ding them when they come back? How many spots does Jim Tressel's situation cost them? What's the protocol here?
Tom Fornelli: I would have them lower on my rankings, personally. Losing some of your best players and your head coach for five games is a big deal, even if those games are against MACifices that shouldn't prove much of a test to the Buckeyes. Either way, those players and Tressel aren't there to start the season, so we should treat Ohio State as if they're not there. And do you see Ohio State being a top-25 team with Joe Bauserman?
JH: Disagree. I don't think there's a "protocol" on how to deal with the Buckeyes' current (unprecedented) situation as it relates to preseason polls; your guess is as good as mine is as good as anyone else's. But I don't think dropping them out of the top 25 all together is fair. Until we hear otherwise from the NCAA, the Buckeye Five and Tressel won't miss any more than the first (mostly winnable) five games. Dropping them entirely -- under the mere assumption Tressel, Pryor, et al are a dead team walking -- seems to put the cart before the horse.
TF: Seriously, though, I need somebody to explain to me why Arizona State is suddenly the cool team to vote for. Do people just really like their new uniforms? Is Vontaze Burfict sitting over their shoulders as they fill out their brackets? This is a team that won six games last year, with those six wins coming against Portland State, Northern Arizona, Washington, Washington State, UCLA and Arizona. Arizona is the only impressive win on that list, and it was a one-point victory in double overtime. This is a team that may have a lot of returning starters this year, but they're returning starters from a team that wasn't exactly a world-beater last season. Also, after losing quarterback Steven Threet to injury, the guy who has to lead that returning-starter-filled offense is still new.
JH: You didn't even mention their plague of torn ACLs this spring. I wish I could disagree -- the Sun Devils have had a ton of bad luck the last couple of seasons -- but they strike me, too, as a prime candidate to disappoint.
Tags: Al Borges, Andy Ludwig, Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, Bill Stewart, Boise State, Brady Hoke, Brian Kelly, Buckeye Five, Clemson, Connor Shaw, Dana Holgorsen, Darren Evans, David Wilson, Dayne Crist, Eye on CFB Roundtable, Florida State, Geno Smith, Georgia, Jim Tressel, Joe Bauserman, Kellen Moore, Kentucky, Kyle Rudolph, Logan Thomas, Manti Te'o, Maryland, Miami, Michigan State, Mississippi State, N.C. State, NCAA, North Carolina, Northern Arizona, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Portland State, Ronnie Hillman, Ryan Lindley, Ryan Williams, San Diego State, SEC, South Carolina, Stanford, Steven Threet, TCU, Tennessee, Todd Grantham, Tommy Rees, Tyler Bray, UCF, UCLA, USC, Utah, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech, Vontaze Burfict, Washington, Washington State, Wisconsin
Posted on: March 25, 2011 3:51 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist hasn't had much luck on the injury front in his relatively brief Irish career.
Crist tore his ACL during the 2009 season and was limited in his first spring practice under Brian Kelly, then won the Irish's 2010 starting job anyway. But then Crist's season was ended by a torn patellar tendon against Tulsa Oct. 30. With Tommy Rees leading the Irish to a surprising four-game winning streak to end the season and Crist presumably limited again this spring, Rees was a narrow favorite to maintain his lead for the starting nod when the Irish began spring camp this week .
But that might not be the most accurate portrayal of the situation, not if Crist is being honest about how well that injured knee is responding:
"I'm cleared for everything right now," Crist said Friday, following a morning practice. "I'm 100 percent cleared for everything I'm doing" ...If there's truly "zero issues" with Crist's knee, that's terrific news for Crist and less-than-stellar news for Rees; despite Rees's heroics last fall, a healthy Crist -- having already won the job once and still boasting the raw talent and size that made him a five-star recruit out of high school -- would likely be tipped by many to reclaim the starter's position.
But the bottom line is that it's unambiguously good news for the Irish as a whole, who now have a legitimate quarterback competition in place to help both players get better throughout the spring, two quarterbacking options who have been able to fully participate in spring camp, and (of course) the likely higher-ceilinged of the two back on the field.
Now, though, comes the next question: can the brittle Crist stay healthy?
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: February 16, 2011 1:03 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
What was going to be a six horse race to be Notre Dame's starting quarterback in 2011 is now down to four. Nate Montana made it official and transferred to Montana on Monday, and now it's been confirmed that quarterback Luke Massa will be moving to wide receiver for the Irish. Much like Montana, Massa had the option to either switch positions or transfer to another school, and it seems he doesn't want to leave South Bend.
According to his high school coach, Steve Specht, it's a move that shouldn't be a major problem for Massa.
“I think Luke wished he had more time to prove himself at that position," Specht told the South Bend Tribune. "But on the other hand, this kid is all about helping Notre Dame. If they want him to clean the stadium, and that makes the team better, he'd be the first to do it. He'll embrace wide receiver.
“And as far as how good he can be? Well he's faster than people think. He can jump as high or higher than anybody on that team. He has phenomenal body control. I would not bet against Luke Massa.”
Massa certainly has the size to play receiver, as he's listed at 6'4 and 215 pounds. Which would mean that whichever quarterback winds up with the job, he'll have a large target to throw to.
It also means finding a starter will be a bit easier for head coach Brian Kelly. The general consensus is that Dayne Crist and Tommy Rees, who both started games in 2010, have the edge, but the coaching staff is also pretty high on Andrew Hendrix. Then there's the wild card of incoming freshman Everett Golson. Golson has already enrolled for the spring in South Bend, and some believe he's the best fit for Brian Kelly's offense. Of course, whether or not means he's ready to take over the offense from the start remains to be seen.
Though the last time Notre Dame found a dual-threat quarterback from South Carolina, Tony Rice, things turned out pretty well.
Posted on: February 9, 2011 6:55 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Notre Dame has a bit of a logjam at quarterback next season, with Dayne Crist expected to battle Tommy Rees for the starting job in 2011. Behind those two there are also Andrew Hendrix, Luke Massa, Everett Golson and Nate Montana. That's a whole lot of quarterbacks for a limited supply of reps, so it wouldn't be all that surprising to see one of them leave South Bend.
And it appears that the one on the way out would be Montana, son of former Notre Dame quarterback and NFL Hall of Famer Joe Montana. According to the Montana student newspaper (via the Chicago Tribune) Joe Montana was at Montana on Tuesday to talk to the school's coaches. It seems that Joe is doing some ground work to see if there'd be any interest in having his son transfer to the FCS powerhouse.
Joe's son, Nate Montana, 21, currently is a backup quarterback at Notre Dame. On Wednesday, [Montana head coach Robin] Pflugrad neither confirmed nor denied that the meeting surrounded Nate Montana's possible transfer to UM.
"(Montana) has four kids and we talked about them all," Pflugrad said of the meeting, adding that he is aware of Nate's situation at Notre Dame but declined to comment further.If Montana did transfer, it'd be the perfect situation for him. First of all, since he'd be transferring from an FBS school to an FCS school, he wouldn't have to sit out a year. Secondly, Montana is just not going to get a chance at Notre Dame, so there isn't much reason to stay if he wants to play football. Finally, his name is Nate Montana and he'd be playing for Montana.
If your name is Johnny Connecticut you don't play for Massachusetts.