I agree, and would like to go on record as such for the next installment in our summer prediction series.
Prediction #15: The Irish will return both a kick and punt for a scoreIt hasn't happened at the program since 2002, when cornerback Vontez Duff performed the double-dip with a punt return score in the season-opener vs. Maryland and a kick-off return TD in a narrow escape vs. Navy in Baltimore. The '02 Irish returned a blocked punt for a score as well in the season finale at USC.
My projection for 2010 calls for separate players to contribute to the prediction's fruition, but I'd be surprised if slot receiver Theo Riddick isn't involved.
Note: Blocked punts returned for scores will not count for the prediction.
Brian Kelly and Mike ElstonThe pair has worked together in a head coach/special teams coordinator capacity since 2006 at Central Michigan.
- 2009 (Cincinnati): 3 KR TD; 1 PR TD – 2 players
- 2008 (UC): 2 KR TD – 1 player
- 2007 (UC): 0 KR TD; 2 PR TD – 2 players
- 2006 (Central Michigan): 1 KR TD
Elston's 2009 Bearcats ranked second nationally in average kick return yardage with 28.52 per return; a number just 0.72 yards per return behind national leader TCU. The Bearcats production is more impressive as Kelly's UC squad returned 54 kickoffs compared to the 34 needed by TCU (thanks to the Horned Frogs stingy defense).
(And yes, that brings up an issue regarding the staff's defensive performance in Cincinnati last fall, but that's a prediction for another time.)
In the end, look for two punt returns by two different Irish players and a top 10 national ranking by the punt return squad. The return unit will be augmented by a top 40 national ranking on kick returns with one opposing kickoff brought back to the house at Notre Dame Stadium this fall.