The Fun is Back in Irish Offense

IrishEyes analyst Tom Beck writes that you should be very pleased with the choice of Bill Diedrick as offensive coordinator. More players should touch the ball, the Irish attack should become more efficient, and a more skilled level of recruit could be attracted to Notre Dame. Tyrone Willingham's first major move as a head coach draws a rave review from this corner.

Copyright by Global Electronic Telecommunications, publishers of IrishEyes

January 5, 2002

Analysis -- Beck's Beat

West Coast Flavor
Needed in South Bend

By Tom Beck
For The IrishEyes.Com NewsService

Out is the option offense of Kevin Rogers and in is the "West Coast Style Offense" of new Notre Dame offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick.

The new offensive philosophy is breathing new life into the hearts of quarterbacks Matt LoVecchio and Jared Clark. They both have to be thrilled that they are going to get a bona fide opportunity to earn the starting position. It is easy to visualize the smiles on their face. The flip side is that there is no doubt some trepidation for Carlyle Holiday who was the best suited of the three for the previous option offense. Chances are that Holiday will switch positions even though he surely has the confidence that he can still be the number one QB.

The "West Coast Offense" is predicated on short, high-percentage passes. The wide receivers, tight end and running backs are all integral components of the offense. Although this offensive philosophy does go downfield with the long pass it is not the big strike offense such as that utilized at Miami.

There will be much more practice time devoted to the passing game. Spending more time throwing in practice and in the off-season is going to sharpen the passing skills of all of the quarterbacks. The tight ends, receivers and backs are unquestionably excited about the change.

Diedrick, 55, has been Tyrone Willingham's offensive coordinator at Stanford the past four seasons and has directed an attack that has become increasingly more balanced as time passed. In his first year, The Cardinal averaged only 75 yards rushing per game and 319 passing. This year, for a team that finished the regular season ranked in the top 10 of the BCS, the offense posted 201 yards rushing and 250 passing per contest.

The Irish tight ends and fullbacks are probably doing back flips during the semester break. Stanford fullbacks last year under Diedrick had more than triple the total yardage of ND fullbacks. The Cardinal tight ends had 24 receptions; Irish TE's eight.

With the talent that Notre Dame has, they are well suited for this change. So many top-notch high school backs and receivers believe that someday they will have a chance to play in the NFL. The most skilled players want to attend a University that features what the NFL desires. Although training them for the NFL should not be the mission of a college football program it does attract the skilled athletes. The lure of Notre Dame has always been great among gifted student-athletes. It has now become greater for those with NFL ambitions.

"There are some basics of the offense," Diedrick told Al Lesar of the South Bend Tribune. "The first is speed. Then there's consistency of execution and the development of a solid running game."

Running a more balanced run-pass attack is also going to impact on the offensive linemen as well as the entire defense. The O-line is going to spend much more time practicing and learning the subtleties of pass protection. The defense will face a more efficient and comprehensive passing attack in practice that should enhance their game effectiveness against opponents that have a good pass attack.

Notre Dame needs this new offensive approach; it had become stagnant and predictable with quality talent.

Both the players and the coordinator must adapt to each other and they will. A question may be how Diedrick adapts to South Bend.  He has spent his entire coaching career West of the Rockies.  His hometown is Spokane, Washington, he played college ball at Eastern Washington and earned his graduate degree at Hawaii. 

As always the offense must capitalize on the strengths of its players. The Notre Dame players will not have trouble adapting to this new emphasis on a balanced offense. Putting in the offensive package should not be difficult. The players at Notre Dame are intelligent enough to make the transition a smooth one. They are skilled enough that the physical changes in technique and emphasis should not be frustrating. Most coaches that change programs will say how they don't have enough time to get their entire offensive package in, but it will be accomplished at ND.

Offensive success involves talent, speed, fundamentals to execute the skills of the offense chosen, some creativity and the ability of the coordinator/play caller not to be predictable against equally quality opponents. Notre Dame has all the ingredients for success.

The defensive coordinators of Notre Dame's opponents are not happy with this change.

(Tom Beck is a former head coach whose teams at Illinois Benedictine, Elmhurst and Grand Valley State each led the nation in total offense. He played at Northern Illinois, where the media guide lists him as the best two-way player in the first century of NIU football. He was a team MVP, captain, all-conference on both offense and defense, an Academic All America and is in the NIU Hall of Fame. He was an assistant coach under Lou Holtz during the 1991 Notre Dame season. He is a contributor to IrishEyes.) Top Stories