Special Teams And Defense Key To ND Success

<P>I keep receiving the phone calls from my subscribers. Everyone wants to know how the Irish are going to do this year. The season is nearing and everyone wants to believe. They want to believe that we will see this team turn this thing around. We all want a 10-win season. Is that too much to ask? </P>

You would be foolish to think that Davie was the only problem with Notre Dame football. This isn't going to be a "remove this guy and everything falls into place" type of fix. The simple fact is that Notre Dame finished 114th is passing the football. Notre Dame also didn't run the ball like your typical Notre Dame team. The problems still exist on offense and they are changing the offense to a totally different system.

The offense will ask runningbacks to read defenses more often. They will be asked to run, catch, block, line up in the slot and read the defense to know if you should flair out into the flat or into the middle. The wide receivers will also have a learning curve. They will also be doing a lot of reading of the defense to find the holes in the coverage.

The offensive line will have to learn the new terminology and different reads for line calls. They also will be asked to pass block more, this hasn't been their strength as a unit. The tight end also has a new job. He actually has to run routes, turn around and look for the ball. If the ball is coming his way, he is going to have to actually catch the ball and then run with the football after making the catch. Notre Dame tight ends don't do that.

The biggest learning curve will be the quarterback. It's too much to ask of Carlyle Holiday to come out of the gate running this offense like a well-oiled machine. He is going to have to read everything the wide receivers, runningbacks, offensive line and tight ends see. He is going to have to read the defense as well and then try to think like his wide receivers think and guess where they are going to be. Repetition is the only way this will be a well-oiled machine. Carlyle Holiday essentially will be a true freshman starting at quarterback running an offense he knows little about.

Now that I have cast doom on the season, let's talk about what is going to work for Notre Dame. Two players are going to be very crucial for Notre Dame this year. These two players will likely be the difference in many games this year. They deserve far more respect than they get and far more praise that we have given. Nick Setta and Joey Hildbold could be the difference in winning this year.

We have already agreed that Notre Dame will not be scoring 42 points a game. The offense will struggle to learn this system. Each and every time Nick Setta lines up to kick, it could be the difference in winning or losing the football game. This defense will be very good and should be able to keep them in almost any game. Setta has to have a good year for Notre Dame to win football games. Setta has been one of the solid rocks of this Notre Dame football team. He has been the answer to the Notre Dame kicking woes and I expect him to continue to perform at his high level. Setta has always been at his best with the game on the line and I don't expect that to change.

Joey Hildbold has also had an outstanding career at Notre Dame. He has been the answer at punter since his freshman year. Field position is so vital in football and Hildbold has been a weapon in the field position battle. The success rate of taking the football 90 yards and scoring 6 points is very low. If Hildbold can continue to win the field position battle for Notre Dame, that will go a long way in winning football games.

The Notre Dame defense will also be one strength of this team. They have a lot of athletic ability and a lot of experience amongst the starters. Injuries could quickly make this unit less of a strength. The good news is that this unit performed very well last year. They are going to miss guys like Tony Weaver and Anthony Denman but they do have athletes that can fill that void. Cedric Hilliard and Darrell Campbell will be the key to this defense. If they can stop the run, this defense will have a very good year.

This defense and the ND specialists should keep Notre Dame in every game. The bad news is that we will be sitting on pins and needles for almost every game. The good news is we have an offense that has the potential to make some big plays. Setta and Hildbold could be the difference in winning this year but certainly will keep Notre Dame in each game . The big question will be if Notre Dame has a playmaker on offense that will step up to win the game.

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