To review yesterday's column examining the first five seasons of Kelly's offensive approach in South Bend, click here.
1.) Adaptation, and 2.) struggles in the red zone -- those are the prevailing themes of the comprehensive five-season review of Brian Kelly-era offenses detailed in the link above.
Projecting forward, a guarantee of the No. 1 -- due in part to eradicate No,. 2 -- is likely afoot for 2015, Kelly's sixth season at the helm.
2015 -- OPTIONS ABOUND
What plan of attack will Kelly and his offensive staff implement for spring ball? Will that choice hold steady through the 15-practice session's end, regardless of the quarterback that emerges from an Everett Golson/Malik Zaire duel? And will indecision under center allow for Kelly's offense to realistically hit the ground running when the team reconvenes for the summer months and August camp?
At present, the following are our best representations of the offense likely to be employed by Kelly this spring, and/or next fall:
A.) A zone-read focused attack with Zaire at the trigger. In this approach, the run sets up the play-action pass, and Notre Dame's offensive line, running back tandem, and two tight end sets are a crucial component of the offense. Three wide receivers remain the technical base, but Kelly's offense looks to impose its will on defenses as it did LSU's in the Music City Bowl.
B.) An operation similar to what was featured in 2014 with Golson at the helm, though with the added bonus of Zaire subbing often in an effort to sustain drives in short-yardage and red zone situations. In other words, Golson is the starter and it's a "pass-oriented" attack, one blessed with a bevy of pass-catchers, but efforts to solve Kelly's persistent red zone and short-yardage issues (detailed at the link above) are addressed by the talents of Zaire.
In this case, "B" is a job share, similar to what Irish fans saw vs. LSU, though this time based on the weekly opponent's strength and weaknesses. (In reality, that's what it was on Dec. 30 as well, as LSU was the nation's best against the pass and vulnerable against the run.)
C.) A more perimeter-based attack that no longer needs the requisite Kelly-era (and Weis era, for that matter) tight end in the base offense. In this instance, the disparity of proven and/or up-and-coming wide receiver commodities vs. that from the unproven tight end position could make this approach a reality.
Tight ends will again have a place, but more four-wide receiver sets would prevail. This option is of course predicated on the return of Golson and a lights-out performance in the spring, summer, and early August.
If Golson is dynamic again, and wins the job this spring, "C" is indeed an option, though Zaire would be included in the proceedings -- his talents cannot be wasted in 2015 regardless of the the choice at starter.
D.) A combination of any of the two above -- that is, Kelly adjusts in-season (as he did in 2010, 2012, and at the conclusion of 2014), either by necessity, or to seek an added advantage in pursuit of a playoff berth.
E.) Other. In which case, I'm open to opinion, because I'm out of options...
Regardless of your choice du jour, what we see in early March might not be the preferred method of operation when the University of Texas returns to the House that Rockne Built on Sept. 6.