Copyright by Global Electronic Telecommunications, publishers of IrishEyes.Com
September 9, 2001
Offense Needs A Point Of Reference
By Tom Beck
For The IrishEyes.Com NewsService
Bob Davie acknowledges, "We've got to coach them better."
Those were his comments after Notre Dame dropped a 27-10 contest at Lincoln, Neb., Saturday night; and he repeated essentially the same mantra at his post-mortem news conference with the media on Sunday.
" We're not going to leave our season out there in Lincoln, Neb.," Davie said. "We're going to get this thing right."
Notre Dame travels to Purdue next Saturday and Davie is right: The Irish do have the talent to "...get this thing right."
The Irish still have an excellent chance to win eight or nine games this season. They just have to decide on what their offensive identity is going to be. They have exceptional return men with Julius Jones and David Givens. The punt and field goal defense are solid. Because of their personnel and rush schemes they are going to block additional punts/kicks this season. The defense is solid and hard-hitting. The offense has as many former high school All-Americans and All-staters as any college team in the country.
But what is the Notre Dame offensive philosophy?
Other college teams can state what their offensive beliefs are. For example, Northwestern has an offensive identity with Zak Kustak at quarterback and Damien Anderson at running back. They don't concern themselves with a fullback or tight end. Their wide receivers are not the caliber of Notre Dame's, but they excel in their offense.
Nebraska knows what it wants to do offensively with the option and power attack. Florida, Florida State, Miami, Oklahoma have confidence in their offensive game plans. Notre Dame, as it was last year, just doesn't seem sure of what it wants to emphasize in it's offense.
Notre Dame currently, bounces around from a spread offense to a power offense, back to a spread, etc. What are the Irish attempting to accomplish with each formation? Are the tight ends utilized? Is the fullback position a threat? What phase of the offense and what percentage of time is it practiced during the week?
Nebraska scored its second touchdown on a play-action pass that was off a run play that they frequently use. ND used a lot of shotgun offense. They didn't look comfortable in it with their QB's; and Davie acknowledged Sunday that they had a very difficult time hearing signals from the shotgun because of the crowd noise.
Why use it, then? This wasn't the first time the Irish under Davie went into a hostile area with a lot of crowd noise?
When ND had Arnaz battle at QB he wasn't a dropback passer, but he could scramble and when he made the correct decision he was an option threat. Both Matt LocVecchio and Carlyle Holliday can run a power and option attack with play action passes emphasized. The three-step drop and occasionally a five-step drop should be secondary. If ND is going to be a dropback/pocket passing team, they should recruit for it, practice it and utilize the TE and FB positions more.
ND could have a solid power, option and misdirection attack with their talented offensive line, RB's, QB's and TE's. Play-action and mis-direction passes would make them hard to defend.
Under Lou Holtz, ND utilized all phases of the offense. FB's such as Jerome Bettis, TB's such as the Brooks Brothers, Rodney Culver, Ricky Watters, TE's Derek Brown and Irv Smith, WR's Lake Dawson, Tony Smith and "Rocket" Ismail. In that era, ND had a balanced offense with QB's like Tony Rice and Rick Mirer directing the attack. The ND attack featured an option offense mixed in with traps and the power running game. Play action passes, screens, draws and delays constituted the passing game with very little dropback/pocket passing being used.
The Irish will dominate offensively against lesser opponents such as Navy. It's the "big" games that you must have a sound plan that every team member believes in, in order to succeed.
It is not a mystery, ND has the talent. The decision on a point of offensive emphasis must take place to win the "big" games.
(Tom Beck was an Irish offensive assistant coach under Lou Holtz during the 1991 season, and is a contributor to IrishEyes.)