Tag:Brian Kelly
Posted on: March 25, 2011 3:51 pm
 

ND's Crist: 'I'm cleared for everything'

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" ...

[N]ot only is Crist back, he also is hardly limited at all. Offensive coordinator Charley Molnar suggested to reporters earlier this week that Crist actually looks healthier this year than he did a year ago, when he was returning from a torn right ACL.

"From a physical standpoint, absolutely," Crist said, when asked to assess Molnar's assessment. "I feel I'm moving very well, I'm real happy with the knee, I have zero issues. Right now it's about getting the rest of the leg strong again and that just comes with the weight room. That just comes in time."

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
 

Spring Practice Primer: Notre Dame

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.


More Notre Dame

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: March 23, 2011 12:31 pm
 

Notre Dame makes Michael Floyd disappear

Posted by Tom Fornelli

There's been a lot of teeth gnashing in South Bend since the news of Michael Floyd was arrested for an OWI early Sunday morning, his second alcohol related problem with the law in 15 months. Sure, the first time was just a citation for underage drinking, but it didn't help Floyd's case, as he was quickly suspended indefinitely by head coach Brian Kelly.

Given that it's Floyd's second offense, there are plenty of Notre Dame fans losing sleep over the possibility of Floyd being booted off the team, and out of school altogether. Notre Dame has a history of making some decisions, and considering that Floyd is one of the best wide receivers in the country, and already holds the school records for career touchdown catches, it's easy to see why fans would worry. Losing Floyd would be a huge blow to the Notre Dame offense.

Now, while the school hasn't given any indication on how long Floyd's suspension will last, or any other information about its plans since the news surfaced, it gave a strong indication to the world on Tuesday. That's when the school released its 13-page spring prospectus to the media, and the only area where Michael Floyd's name was listed is a bad omen.

You couldn't find Floyd on the roster or in the wide receiver position preview. No, if you wanted to see his name, you had to go to the section that gives an overview of the talent lost from 2010. In other words, the only way the school feels like referring to Floyd at the moment is as a former player.

Now, this doesn't mean that Floyd's time in South Bend is over. I'm sure if Brian Kelly had the final say in the matter, Floyd would sit out this spring, then miss a game or two and rejoin the team. Unfortunately for Kelly, the final decision will rest with the school's Residence Life board. While the ResLife board has shown some leniency in recent years with player transgressions, it also has a history of showing no mercy to players for offenses that hardly cause people to blink at some other schools around the country. Particularly with repeat offenders.

So if you are a Notre Dame fan who has been losing sleep over this, I wouldn't expect to get a full eight hours anytime soon.
Posted on: February 16, 2011 1:03 pm
 

Notre Dame moves Luke Massa to receiver

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: January 31, 2011 7:10 pm
 

How important is a coach's age to winning titles?

Posted by Adam Jacobi

The Virginia Tech-centric blog Gobbler Country posted an interested study today, examining the breakdown of championship-winning coaches' ages in the modern era of college football. The question raised is "how old is too old," and excepting some obvious outliers, the answer is "younger than you think."

For the champions, I used the BCS from 1998-present, the coaches' poll from 1982-1997 and the AP poll from 1960-1981.

Time span Avg. Age
1960-69 46.4
1970-79 51.0
1980-89 48.6
1990-99 55.6
2000-10 49.9
BCS Era 55.1
1960-2010 51.3

The ages of head coaches have fluctuated from mid 40s to mid 50s since 1960, but the average has been a little over 51 years of age. However, there has been one coach that has helped break the curve. Take away Bobby Bowden's two titles and the average in the 90's shrinks to 52.8 and the BCS era shrinks to 53.8.

What's even more unsettling to programs with older coaches is the breakdown of championships by age bracket:

Age Span Champs
< 40 5
40-44 9
45-49 9
50-54 14
55-59 9
60 + 5

Not only is there a precipitous dropoff from the early 50s to 60+, those five titles were won by just three coaches: The aforementioned Bowden with two, Bear Bryant with two, and Joe Paterno -- the three most celebrated coaches of the modern era of I-A football. What's more, Bryant had won his first title at the age of 50, while Paterno won his first at 56. Bowden didn't win his first until he was 64, but that was after six straight top-five finishes in the final poll for Florida State. In other words, each of those three coaches firmly established his national championship bona fides before his 60th birthday, while every other coach who ever hit 60 in the last 50 years was quite evidently past his prime.

It's not really surprising, then, to have seen Maryland jettison longtime head coach Ralph Friedgen, who was 63 at the end of the 2010 and who clearly wasn't about to win a title at such a mediocre football school (no offense, Terps, but let's be honest). Incoming coach Randy Edsall will have just turned 53 at the outset of the 2011 season, and while one might joke that Maryland's only got two seasons of Edsall in his prime before it all goes downhill, it's not as if he's got 15 years in front of him with the Terrapins.

So with all this in mind, here are a few more notable coaches and their ages as of the start of the 2011 season. It would be incorrect to say there's a "new generation" of coaches on the move (seven years or so doesn't really constitute a generational gap) but it's pretty clear that a few of these guys aren't lasting much more than five years -- especially if they're not winning 10 games a year anymore.

Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech, 64
Mack Brown, Texas, 60
Gene Chizik, Auburn, 49
Kirk Ferentz, Iowa, 56
Al Golden, Miami, 42
Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State, a man, 44
Brady Hoke, Michigan, 52
Brian Kelly, Notre Dame, 49
Chip Kelly, Oregon, 47
Lane Kiffin, USC, 36
Mike Leach, free agent, 50
Les Miles, LSU, 57
Dan Mullen, Mississippi St., 39
Will Muschamp, Florida, 40
Joe Paterno, Penn State, 84
Gary Patterson, TCU, 51
Bo Pelini, Nebraska, 43
Chris Petersen, Boise State, 46
Bobby Petrino, Arkansas, 50
Mark Richt, Georgia, 51
Nick Saban, Alabama, 59
Bob Stoops, Oklahoma, 50
Jim Tressel, Ohio State, 58
Kyle Whittingham, Utah, 51

Now obviously, not all of these schools are going to win national championships in the next 5-10 years. But by and large, most of these schools do pay their coaches a gigantic salary -- to the point that the expectation of competing on a national level is inevitable. If a coach is struggling in his fourth or fifth year with a program, is an athletic director going to be more apt to fire the coach if he's 57 instead of 47? Is that age discrimination, or common sense?

Posted on: January 24, 2011 1:51 pm
 

ND's Ruffer gets his scholarship

Posted by Tom Fornelli

It seems that Notre Dame players can get whatever they want just by chanting it. Following the Irish's win over Miami in the Sun Bowl, players chanted "one more year" as Michael Floyd accepted his MVP award following the game. Floyd will be coming back to South Bend for his senior season. Then, when it was kicker David Ruffer's turn, the players began chanting "shol-ar-ship." Ruffer, who set the school record with 23 consecutive field goals, was a walk on at Notre Dame, paying his own way through school.

He's not going to have to do that anymore. Over the weekend at a Notre Dame awards banquet, head coach Brian Kelly announced that Ruffer would be placed on scholarship during his fifth year at Notre Dame. Ruffer wasn't available for comment about it this weekend, but he did turn to Twitter.




Now that Ruffer is on scholarship, that means Notre Dame will now have four kickers or punters on scholarship in 2011. Which seems like too many, but it makes more sense than making the best of that bunch pay his own way.
Posted on: January 12, 2011 12:08 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2011 12:32 pm
 

Michael Floyd returning to South Bend

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Well here's a bit of surprising news, and very good news for Notre Dame fans.  Wide receiver Michael Floyd, who many considered a sure thing to leave school and enter the NFL Draft, is totally doing the opposite.  Notre Dame announced on Wednesday afternoon that its star wide receiver was going to return to school for one more season.

"This was one of the toughest decisions I have ever had to make in my life," Floyd said in a release. "On the one hand, there was Notre Dame. This place has been an incredible home to me and the relationships I built here are ones I know I'll have for the rest of my life. On the other hand, there was the NFL. It has always been a lifelong goal to play football at the highest level and that is something I look forward to doing at some point. However, I'm pleased to say I will be returning to the University of Notre Dame for my senior season in 2011.

"I'm returning to Notre Dame for three reasons: to earn my degree, return Notre Dame to the top and improve myself as a player."

While Floyd may have seemed like a sure thing to enter the draft, apparently with a draft class full of wide receivers like A.J. Green, Julio Jones and plenty of other studs, Floyd may have been a third round pick.  He may feel by returning for another season and entering the draft next year he'll have a much better shot of being selected in the first or second round.

Whatever his reasoning is, I'm sure Brian Kelly doesn't care.  He's just happy to have one of the biggest weapons on his offense back for another season.  Even though he's only played at Notre Dame for three seasons, Floyd already holds the school record for most touchdown catches in a career with 28, and has caught 171 total passes for 2,539 yards.  Those marks place him second and third, respectively, on Notre Dame's all-time list.  Odds are that by the time he does finish his senior season, he'll own all three marks.
Posted on: December 31, 2010 7:09 pm
Edited on: December 31, 2010 7:11 pm
 

Bowl Grades: Sun Bowl

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Notre Dame never breaks a sweat during 33-17 win over Miami in El Paso

Notre Dame

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

Miami

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

Final Grade

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

 
 
 
 
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