Notre Dame Offensive PersonnelThe Irish lost consecutive games to begin the season but piled up more than 1,000 yards of offense in the process. In last Saturday's first win, Notre Dame managed just 275 (58 snaps) yards but easily handled Michigan State, 31-13.
QB: Tommy Rees –The sophomore suffered his first loss as a starter (5-1) at Michigan in Week Two but bounced back to lead the Irish to a 31-13 victory last week vs. the visiting Spartans. Rees has thrown five interceptions and fumbled twice in five halves of football this fall (one apiece vs. Michigan State last week), but is otherwise accurate, completing nearly 70 percent of his passes for 772 yards and six touchdowns.
Rees is undefeated (5-0) when attempting fewer than 35 passes but his Irish 0-3 (including two relief efforts) when the team exceeds that number of pass attempts.
RB: Cierre Wood – In 2010, Wood became the first redshirt-freshman in program history to eventually lead an Irish team in rushing, totaling 603 yards in seven starts while scoring five (total) touchdowns. Wood ran for a career-best 104 yards in the opening loss to South Florida then bettered that output with 134 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 25 carries at Michigan. His two touchdowns and 64 yards on nine first half carries vs. Michigan State keyed a 21- 10 halftime advantage.
More quick than fast, Wood is Notre Dame's best pure runner and easily its most elusive in space since Darius Walker left campus early prior to the 2007 campaign. Wood has 299 yards and five touchdowns while averaging five yards per carry through the first three contests.
WR: Michael Floyd – One of the nation's top offensive weapons, Floyd owns the program record for career receiving yards, receptions, touchdowns, and yards per game and is tied with former star Golden Tate for the most 100-yard games in school history (15).
Floyd was unstoppable through two games, catching 25 passes for over 300 yards and two touchdowns. The senior posted consecutive games with career- best receptions (12 and 13) but the Irish lost both contests. Floyd snared six balls for 84 yards in the victory over Michigan State including a season-best 35- yard post-route from Rees – also drawing interference on another long throw. The team's best perimeter blocker, Floyd paved a path for Cierre Wood's second touchdown last week vs. the Spartans.
Though technically the "W" wide receiver (aligned to the boundary side), Floyd lines up all over the Irish scrimmage and has caught several passes from the slot position through three weeks.
WR: T.J. Jones – Has caught a touchdown in consecutive contests, last week reeling in a 26-yard go-route from Rees in single coverage; previously catching a 2-yard cross and turning it into a 14-yard score that extended Notre Dame's late third quarter lead to 24-7 in Ann Arbor.
Last season, Jones became the first true freshman wide receiver to start the season-opener for the Irish since Milt Jackson in 1982 (Jones secured a touchdown pass in that contest as well as his second game vs. Michigan). Capable of backing up the crowded slot position, Jones will serve as Brian Kelly's "X" wide receiver in most situations.
Slot: Theo Riddick –Suffered a poor 2011 debut (muffed punt and three dropped passes) but scored a pair of touchdowns including the go-ahead with 30 seconds remaining in the Week Two loss at Michigan. Riddick caught just one pass for seven yards last week and was replaced in his return roles – both kick and punt – since easily winning both jobs in August.
Riddick was moved from running back to the slot when Brian Kelly arrived in the winter prior to the 2010 season and after a slow start, enjoyed a four-game span with 33 receptions, 3 touchdowns, and 343 yards before losing the second half of his 2010 season to an ankle injury. Then a sophomore, Riddick caught seven passes for 75 yards vs. the Panthers last season.
TE: Tyler Eifert – Has 12 receptions through five games including four third-down conversions (with a 22-yard and 37-yard catch of note to move the chains). The 6'6" 250-pound Eifert was not part of the Irish attack when the Irish a Panthers met last season, taking over the starting role for an injured Kyle Rudolph one week later and since producing 38 receptions for 504 yards and two touchdowns (10 games).
An improved in-line blocker in his second season, Eifert often splits wide opposite Michael Floyd to give the Irish added punch on the perimeter and a pair of huge chain-moving targets.
LT: Zack Martin – Sat out his freshman season in 2009 then won the team's Guardian of the Year award as its top offensive lineman in 2010…Excels on the move, a key feature in the read-option attack…Started 11 games at left tackle last season and two on the right side to make up for the absence of bookend Taylor Dever...The team's top offensive lineman played well the loss to South Florida and was dominant at times in Ann Arbor, especially as second level blocker, but did get whistled for a key personal foul penalty, drawing the ire of his coaching staff.
Martin was uncharacteristically beaten by an outside stunt that resulted in a blind-side hit/sack/lost fumble by Rees in Saturday's win over Michigan State.
LG: Chris Watt – 6'3" 310-pound mauler sat out 2009 as a true freshman but earned the 7th-most snaps among Irish offensive linemen last fall. Watt is the only first-time starter among the front five and has fared well to date, earning Irisheyes.com's tag as the second-best offensive linemen in his first career start (South Florida).
Watt is a mauler at the point of attack and has the chops to be an outstanding drive blocker over the next three seasons. The Irish spread-running game often begins through his gap with athletic counterpart Trevor Robinson pulling from the right guard spot.
C: Braxston Cave – 6'3" 303-pound senior ranks as the team's strongest player. Cave has excelled as a move-blocker, finding linebackers at the second level to spring Cierre Wood for multiple gains between 8-25 yards through three contests. A senior, Cave has two seasons of eligibility remaining and appears to have improved upon a weakness identified by the staff: his ability to execute combo blocks.
RG: Trevor Robinson – Enters his fourth season as a regular up front and has already started 29 games for the Irish. His play slipped a bit last year after losing nearly 30 pounds in the 2010 off-season (his choice) but has since bulked back up and greatly reduced his body fat. Graded as our third-best offensive linemen in the season-opening defeat and second-best vs. Michigan, Robinson had a tremendous opening half vs. Michigan State – his pulling blocks through scrimmage opening numerous holes in a 100-plus yard first half rushing performance.
RT: Taylor Dever – First time starter as a senior last season after languishing behind graduated 50-game starter Sam Young under the previous coaching staff. Dever ranked as Irisheyes.com's second-best offensive linemen prior to a Week Five hamstring injury last fall. At 6'5" 300-pounder, Dever's is adept at second level blocks and generally solid in pass protection. He, like left tackle Zack Martin, keys the team's read-option running game with his ability to seal up-field pass-rushers outside.
Key Reserves: RB Jonas Gray (senior has put together the best two- game effort of his Irish career, contributing18 carries for 131 combined yards in Weeks 2/3); wide receiver Robby Toma (slot); offensive guard/tackle Andrew Nuss; tight end Ben Koyack; quarterback Dayne Crist.