Game Week Preview: Notre Dame Offense

Irisheyes.com publisher Tim O'Malley offers a detailed preview of Notre Dame's offensive personnel.

Note: The following was provided to USFNation.com courtesy Irisheyes.com publisher Tim O'Malley

QB: Dayne Crist – Earned the starting nod over sophomore Tommy Rees who guided the Irish to a 4-0 finish in Crist's absence to close 2010…Crist produced 19 touchdowns last fall (15 passing) and led the squad with a shockingly low four rushing scores…Offense expected to be better geared to his skill set this fall: a mixture of head coach Brian Kelly's beloved read-option and the much more effective power/play-action attack employed by the squad last November…Has straight line speed in the open field but has suffered three injuries – two season-ending – on forays outside the pocket and downfield…The key to Notre Dame's season, though the defense is likely the key to the first 2-3 contests.

RB: Cierre Wood – Finished with more than 600 rushing yards and five total touchdowns despite just seven starts last season…Junior sat out 2009 under former staff but thrived in the read-option offense last fall…Will be occasionally spelled by senior Jonas Gray in the team's power packages…Wood had ball security issues in 2010 but is said to have matured and improved in that realm as well as in his pass protection and knowledge of the expanded playbook….Not a true burner but very quick, elusive, and capable of the big run as he showed last fall vs. Western Michigan, USC, and Miami.

WR: Michael Floyd – One of the nation's top offensive weapons and should own every major program receiving record by season's end…At 6'3: 225, Floyd is a nightmare matchup downfield and in the red zone…Greatly improved as a mid-range receiver last fall and ranks as the top downfield blocker on the 2011 squad…Has never finished a season without missing a game due to injury (knee in 2008; collarbone in 2009; hamstring in 2010)…Too strong to press in one-on-one coverage, if he has a collegiate weakness it could be ball security as Floyd has lost five fumbles in his career and fumbled twice in the season's first three contests last fall (though not since).

WR: T.J. Jones – Enjoyed a fast start, two touchdowns in the opening pair of 2010 contests, but finished the season battling a neck injury suffered in Week Nine vs. Tulsa…Versatile target starts at the X (outside) receiver spot but will also shift into the slot from which he produced his best game last season (five receptions and a touchdown)…Became the first true freshman to start at wide receiver in the season opener since Milt Jackson in 1982… Not especially fast but fights for extra yards following every catch, a quality that endeared him early to the new regime last fall.

Slot: Theo Riddick – Considered the lead breakout candidate by the Irish coaching staff, fans, and media for 2011…Caught 33 passes in a four-game span last season before losing the second half of his season to a severe ankle sprain…Should return punts, kick-offs, and serve as a Wildcat QB option as well…The team's most elusive player in the open-field is also likely the second-best running back on the roster, his initial position as a freshman in 2009…Short-compact frame and ability to cut at full speed could make him dangerous after the catch though Riddick averaged just over 10 yards per reception last fall while learning a new position.

TE: Tyler Eifert – The team's most pleasant surprise of 2010 didn't miss a beat after replacing future 2nd-Round draft pick Kyle Rudolph in Week Seven last season…Junior sat out 2009 under former staff due to back surgery…At 6'6" 250 pounds, Eifert is nonetheless the team's second-best downfield target behind the All-America Floyd…Developed a rapport with backup QB Tommy Rees last November, becoming a go-to player in Weeks 11 and 12...Remains in the game during the team's power sets, often splitting wide with 5th-year senior Mike Ragone entering as an attached tight end.

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 entering the season and easily its most complete, blocking at scrimmage and at the linebacker level.

LG: Chris Watt – Sat out 2009 as a true freshman but earned the 7th-most snaps among Irish offensive linemen last fall…The only first-time starter among the front five is expected to add a tenacity and mean-streak missing from the position last fall… Beat out 5th-year senior Andrew Nuss for the starting role though both will see significant playing time…Powerful run-blocker a key addition to the team's power packages.

C: Braxston Cave – Senior ranks as the team's strongest player and, according to most reports, its most improved offensive linemen after enduring trial-by-fire as a first-time starter in a shotgun offense last fall…Excelled pulling and at the point last fall but occasionally struggled with assignments and double-team blocks according to head coach Brian Kelly and offensive line coach Ed Warinner.

RG: Trevor Robinson – Enters his fourth season as a regular up front and has already started 27 games heading into 2011…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…Most observers noted Robinson as (easily) the team's best offensive lineman entering 2010, then were surprised by his performance under the new scheme…Scout.com's No. 6 ranked guard from 2008 can be a true mauler at the point of attack in the running game.

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…Ranked as Irisheyes.com's second-best offensive linemen prior to a Week Five hamstring injury last fall…Was back at full strength by Game 10 (missed two contests and part of a third) and continued to excel as a move blocker at the second level…Efficient, quality pass protector and competitor that ranks as a staff favorite who was lauded for getting the most out of his ability each week last fall.

Key Reserves: RB Jonas Gray; wide receivers John Goodman and Robby Toma (slot); offensive guard/tackle Andrew Nuss; offensive tackle Christian Lombard; tight end Mike Ragone; QB Tommy Rees.

Click it here to share your thoughts with other USF insiders.


Bulls Daily Top Stories