Preview: Irish Offense

An insider's look at Notre Dame's offensive personnel heading into Saturday's matchup with the Spartans.

The following was provided courtesy Irisheyes.com managing editor, Tim O'Malley

Notre Dame Offensive Personnel

More than 1,000 yards of offense have been offset by a college-football worst 10 turnovers in Notre Dame's opening pair of contests.

QB: Tommy Rees – Has completed 70 percent of his passes for 611 yards and five touchdowns in just six quarters of football this season. The sophomore suffered his first loss as a starter (4-1) last Saturday, though he engineered the go-ahead 5-play, 61-yard drive, providing the Irish a 31-28 advantage with just 30 seconds remaining. Rees has thrown four interceptions this season – two in the red zone – and also lost a fumble inside the opponents' 10-yard line.

RB: Cierre Wood – Became the first redshirt-freshman in program history to eventually lead an Irish team in rushing, last year totaling 603 yards in seven starts while scoring five (total) touchdowns….Wood ran for a career-best 104 yards in the opening loss to South Florida then bettered that output with 134 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 25 carries vs. Michigan last Saturday.

More quick than fast, Wood is Notre Dame's best pure runner since Darius Walker left campus early prior to the 2007 campaign.

WR: Michael Floyd – One of the nation's top offensive weapons, Floyd owns the program record for career receiving yards, receptions, touchdowns, and yards per game and is tied with former star Golden Tate for the most 100-yard games in school history (15).

Floyd has been unstoppable through two games this season, catching 25 passes for over 300 yards and two touchdowns. The senior has posted consecutive games with career-best receptions (12 and 13) and owns the Irish record for most games (6) with 10 or more receptions. Notre Dame, however, is 0-6 in those six contests.

WR: T.J. Jones – Kelly's starting X (field side) receiver bounced back from a tough opening game with a standout effort Saturday, catching a touchdown pass and drawing a pass interference call in the end zone. A true sophomore, Jones has nine receptions for 86 yards thus far, tying for third on the team in receptions and fourth in receiving yards.

Slot: Theo Riddick – Broke out vs. MSU in 2010, catching 10 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown. Suffered a poor 2011 debut (muffed punt and three dropped passes) but scored a pair of touchdowns including the go-ahead with 30 seconds remaining in last Saturday's matchup vs. Michigan. Riddick will man the kick return role Saturday vs. the Spartans but has ceded his spot as the punt returner to senior wide receiver John Goodman.

TE: Tyler Eifert – The team's most pleasant surprise of the 2010 season has picked up where he left off, catching 10 passes for 144 yards including a trio of key third down conversions. The 6'6" 250-pound Eifert was not part of the Irish attack in the teams' Week Three matchup in East Lansing last season.

LT: Zack Martin – Sat out his freshman season in 2009 then won the team's Guardian of the Year award as its top offensive lineman in 2010…Excels on the move, a key feature in the read-option attack…Started 11 games at left tackle last season and two on the right side to make up for the absence of bookend Taylor Dever...The team's top offensive lineman played well in Saturday's loss to South Florida and was dominant at times in Ann Arbor, especially as second level blocker, but did get whistled for a key personal foul penalty, drawing the ire of his coaching staff.

LG: Chris Watt – 6'3" 310-pound mauler sat out 2009 as a true freshman but earned the 7th-most snaps among Irish offensive linemen last fall…The only first-time starter among the front five fared well in his debut vs. South Florida, grading as Irisheyes.com's second-best offensive linemen over the course of the contest. Watt is an accomplished drive blocker, a trait on display during the team's near-200-yard rushing performance in Ann Arbor.

C: Braxston Cave – 6'3" 303-pound senior ranks as the team's strongest player and, according to most reports, its most improved offensive linemen after enduring trial-by-fire as a first-time starter in a shotgun offense last fall. Per usual, Cave has excelled as a move-blocker, finding linebackers at the second level to spring Cierre Wood for multiple long gains.

RG: Trevor Robinson – Enters his fourth season as a regular up front and has already started 28 games for the Irish. His play slipped a bit last year after losing nearly 30 pounds in the 2010 off-season (his choice) but has since bulked back up and greatly reduced his body fat. Graded as our third-best offensive linemen in the season-opening defeat and second-best vs. Michigan.. much is expected of the 6'5" 310-pounder this fall.

RT: Taylor Dever – First time starter as a senior last season after languishing behind graduated 50-game starter Sam Young under the previous coaching staff…Ranked as Irisheyes.com's second-best offensive linemen prior to a Week Five hamstring injury last fall…6'5" 300-pounder played much better in Week Two than in the season opene. Generally a solid player in pass protection and, like Cave, is quite agile when seeking linebackers at the second level.

Key Reserves: RB Jonas Gray; wide receiver Robby Toma (slot); offensive guard/tackle Andrew Nuss; tight ends Ben Koyack and Alex Welch; quarterback Dayne Crist.


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