Notre Dame beat Southern Cal at home. The Irish head into this weekend facing arguably their easiest opponent all season. Nothing but blue skies and no worries ahead, right?
HAHA, oh man, that was funny. This is ND Football, there is always something worry about.
This week, Keith Arnold of Inside the Irish takes aim at my three burning questions. I faced Mike Coffey’s (aka El Kabong) inquisition this week over at NDNation. Be sure to check out posts from UHND and Strong and True as well.
I’m in the save the redshirt at all costs camp, though if Rees goes down I think it probably changes my thinking considerably. That said, I’m not sold on the idea that Zaire can walk in and be a difference maker in this offense. He’s a kid that completed less than 50% of his passes in a run-first offense as a junior in high school and was one of the most raw prospects at the Elite 11 camp, though Yogi Roth, who saw Gunner Kiel, Everett Golson and Zaire go through the camp, liked Zaire the most out of the three prospects.
From a roster management point-of-view, saving the year of eligibility would be really helpful. Otherwise you get to a place where realistically Zaire spends three seasons of playing time as a backup. But expect Malik’s practice reps to grow quite a bit in the coming weeks, just in case.
I think they are back on track. I still want to see more consistent play out of the safeties, but once you step back off the ledge and not freak out about the offensive play, it should pump up Irish fans to see Brian Kelly challenge the USC offense to beat his defense, and watch Kelly time and again be proved right.
These next couple weeks will be interesting against option attacks. One key in playing an option team is to have safeties that are disciplined enough not to get beat with their head in the backfield by a pass over the top. Color me skeptical that we won’t see that a few times in the next two Saturdays.
Looking ahead to Air Force, this will be the first time ND has been forced to defend the option under Diaco without Manti Te’o. Diaco more or less let Manti play on instinct and reads while the rest of the defense played assignments. Is there someone that can fill this role or will Diaco have to go back to the drawing board this year?
[Note: I did a horrible job phrasing this question. Diaco didn’t heavily lean on Te’o’s instincts until after the Meadowlands disaster. That first attempt against Navy was a whole different ballgame. Keith’s answer below reflects this.]
I’m not quite sure I 100% agree with your assessment of Te’o’s play against the option, especially when we watched Navy carve up the Irish in the Meadowlands that first season when everybody wanted to run Diaco out of town. Te’o had an important job, and may have had a lot of leash, but it was within the framework of the defense.
I’m fascinated to see how Jaylon Smith plays against the option. Kelly talked briefly about some installed packages that will take advantage of Smith’s athleticism and skillset, and this could be one of those games where he’s got a dozen tackles, or Air Force chooses to run away from him and to the boundary.
I think guys like Carlo Calabrese and Dan Fox will be fine against the option and I’m really excited to see how much Joe Schmidt plays. Against a team that’s undersized, Schmidt won’t have some of the natural disadvantages he faces against elite competition, and I just have a gut feeling that he’s really strong against an option attack. (I am driving the Schmidt Bandwagon.)