Two More to Ponder

Irish Eyes will offer two rounds of its ongoing pre-season predictions series today, the first of which proves stats, when placed in the right hands, can be fun.

Prediction #21: Notre Dame's 2009 Season-End Total Reception Chart

The goal of this prediction is ambitious – to project the team's receptions leader chart – but I'm not shooting for the impossible (each player's total numbers). Those are just included as a guide and ballpark figure.

In Brady Quinn's two seasons with Weis (2005-06) he finished with 581 completions in 917 pass attempts and the Irish running game accounted for 914 combined rushes in that span. Jimmy Clausen completed 268 of his 440 attempts last season while Irish ‘backs carried the rock 436 times.

In '05, 11 players caught between two (Travis Thomas) and 77 (Jeff Samardzija) passes. In '06, ten Irish players caught between one (Robby Parris) and 78 (Samardzija) passes while last season 12 players accounted for between one (George West) and 58 (Golden Tate) grabs.

Using those three seasons as a general guide, here's my 13-game projection for the 2009 season reception chart:

Beyond the Numbers

My projection for the combo of Floyd and Tate feels a bit low (considering the Shark/Stovall and Shark/McKnight duos accounted for 146 and 145 respectively), but rest assured, there are plenty of yards and touchdowns contained therein.

The drop-off attributed to Allen from last season's total (50) is a result of three factors:

  • The continuing evolution of Robert Hughes in the screen game. I think the Irish staff will be comfortable leaving Hughes in the game in standard screen situations this season.
  • Kyle Rudolph won't regress (29 receptions last season) and though an Irish tight end will always have a few 1-2 catch afternoons, I have a hard time believing he won't post at least two games with reception totals near 6-7, an occurrence that will inch his final total near my prediction.
  • Duval Kamara should improve (20 receptions last season) but I think he'll be A.) more of a weapon in the red zone and B.) still disappear from the stat sheet in a couple of games as do most No. 3 WRs.

No backup TE in the Weis era has caught 10 passes in a single season. I had Ragone at that number but grudgingly lowered it a bit for his comeback campaign. Look for Ragone to double his projected total in 2010.

The Parris/Goodman split illustrates an early role for Parris and an emerging role for the sophomore from Fort Wayne as the season progresses. Goodman's total could be a tad high, I just think he'll find a role and playing time equals production. I think Deion Walker will begin as the No. 6 receiver and work his way into action later in the season, but too few snaps in September lowers his projected total. Aldridge's total is simply a matter of opportunity as there are quite a few check-down passes available in this pass-heavy attack. The remainder of the players are victims of a numbers game. You're kidding yourself if you think Armando Allen and Robert Hughes are coming out on third down for one of the freshman running backs.

If I had to take one player from the rest of the list that might destroy my prediction total it would be Robby Parris (if he can beat out Goodman and Walker in August and remain healthy through October).

Finally, Steve Paskorz's one catch will be a touchdown (near the goal line). Consider that Prediction 21A.

Prediction #22: Notre Dame Will Score More Than 50 Total Touchdowns in 2009

Nice round number? Sure, because I first settled on the number 49, but that's far less catchy. Here are the top 10 touchdown-scoring teams of the last 20 seasons:

  • 1991 – 64 in 13 games: 40 rushing, 20 passing, 4 Return. A team-record 23 (including the Sugar Bowl) courtesy of Jerome Bettis.
  • 2005 – 58 in 12 games: 21 rushing, 32 passing, 5 Return
  • 1992 – 58 in 12 games: 36 rushing, 20 passing, 2 Return
  • 1988 – 57 in 12 games: 34 rushing, 16 passing, 7 Return …Decent team, too.
  • 1996 – 57 in 11 games: 34 rushing, 15 passing, 8 Return. This Irish team outscored its opponents 407 to 181 and elected not to go to a Bowl Game.
  • 1993 – 55 in 12 games: 39 rushing, 10 passing, 6 Return
  • 2006 – 55 in 13 games: 14 rushing, 37 passing, 4 Return
  • 1989 – 54 in 13 games: 45 rushing, 2 passing, 7 Return (Note: The passing touchdowns total is not a misprint).
  • 1995 – 50 in 12 games: 32 rushing, 17 passing, 1 Return
  • 1999 – 47 in 12 games: 25 rushing, 18 passing, 4 Return. The only team with a losing record, 5-7, on the list.

Bowl statistics weren't officially added until after the 1999 season. I took the liberty of adding them myself.

In 1988, 16 different Irish players scored touchdowns for the 12-0 National Title squad.

Lou Holtz's top six scoring teams totaled 34 "Return" (punt return, blocked punt, kickoff return, interception, defensive fumble recovery, blocked field goal return – however, an offensive fumble recovery or fake field goal run/pass is considered a rushing/passing score). For the record, Tyrone Willingham's miracle defense (and special teams) of 2002 matched the highest total of the last 30 years with 9 return scores in the 13-game season (over one-fourth of the team's total touchdowns that year).

The Irish scored 40 touchdowns last season (26 in 2007) and I'm predicting the 2009 squad cracks the top nine of the list above...in a manner similar to this:

  • Tate and Floyd: The 2009 Irish passing game will attack opposing defenses beginning near the opponents' 35-yard line. The duo produced 34 combined plays from scrimmage that gained at least 20 yards including 10 scores from beyond the opponents' 20-yard line (David Grimes added another). Remember, those totals were accrued during the embryonic stage of the duo's development. The pair scored 18 touchdowns last season – that number should be closer to 30 in 2009.
  • Red Zone Efficiency: Not dominance, but efficiency. The Irish running game is unlikely to be strong (or consistent) enough to impose its will on the better defenses on the schedule, but the threat of Tate and Floyd, coupled with the development of TE Kyle Rudolph and an improved screen game should lead to more touchdowns than field goal attempts when the Irish venture inside the 20-yard line. And any team with a pulse at running back can account for double-digit rushing scores (I have the Irish RBs slated for 15 or fewer rushing TD).
  • A disruptive defense: The Irish might not stop the run and it might not rank among the nation's best in sacks, but it will feature its largest selection of playmakers since the incredible collection on the 2002 squad. Likewise, speed has finally trickled into the Irish Special Teams, making five or more return scores a reasonable goal.

As you can discern from the list above, not all 50-plus touchdown seasons are created equally, but the 2009 Irish will reach that plateau nonetheless.

Another set of predictions will be posted Saturday.


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