Tuesday Chat with Brian Kelly – Syracuse Week

-SSG Shamrock

Brian Kelly met with the media today to discuss this weekend’s contest with the Syracuse Orangemen as well provide some new information on the ongoing academic investigation. Down the Tunnel was there and has all the pertinent information from Coach Kelly’s weekly press conference.

Key Information 

  • On the weekly depth chart release there was a significant shake up on the offensive line. The revamped offensive line has Ronnie Stanley at LT, Nick Martin at LG, Matt Hegarty at Center, Steve Elmer at RG, and Christian Lombard at RT. Coach Kelly did make sure to note that this may not be the exact offensive line that starts on Saturday and that Connor Hanratty and Mike McGlinchey will also receive first team reps this week.
  • Amir Carlise is OUT this week against Syracuse and is should be seen as questionable for next week against Stanford. Coach Kelly said that Carlise has been responding well to his PRP treatments and will start moving him around at the end of the week.
  • Torii Hunter is slated to make his Notre Dame debut this weekend and will get work with CJ Prosise in the slot.
  • Austin Collinsworth will be back in the lineup this weekend after missing the first three games with an MCL sprain.
  • Brian Kelly said that he was informed last Friday that the academic committee had been official formed and that if all goes well the hearings should be concluded by the end of NEXT week. Kelly also made it clear he was not a spokesman of the administration and that when a student is notified of a violation, only the student is notified and not the parents.
  • Coach Kelly stated that there is still not a “go to number one” running back in the backfield. Greg Bryant has been doing a very good job of understanding schemes but he has to unseat two players in Tarean Folston and Cam McDaniel that have played a lot of football game. Bryant has only played in three college games and still has work to do.
  • Kelly talked about the ACC conference alignment and how the main factors that went into the decision was ensuring high quality bowl tie-ins as well as a conference that made geographic sense for Notre Dame.
  • Kelly said that Malik Zaire is getting 60% of the reps in practice on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and 40% of the reps on Thursday. The amount of reps that Zaire gets just shows how confident the staff is in Golson as the quarterback. Kelly said there is no temptation to play Zaire at all.
  • Kelly gave credit to Paul Longo and Brian VanGorder for having so many freshman ready to play and contribute on the defensive side of the ball. Kelly also said they knew before the season that the staff knew they were going to have to play freshman but they didn’t know exactly who would emerge.

Check back all week long for all your Notre Dame coverage of this weekends matchup against Syracuse and dont forget to tune into the first broadcast of the Down the Tunnel Radio show on Thursday night. We will be taking your calls live!

Introducing the Down the Tunnel Radio Show

-Sgt Shamrock

Here at Down the Tunnel we are always looking for new ways to improve and provide you the fans and readers new and entertaining content such as our YouTube show “Roughing the Passer” and Dear Dixie. We have the best fans in the Notre Dame fan community and we really enjoy bringing you all the best content and coverage of Notre Dame athletics.

With that said we are pleased the announce the creation of the Down the Tunnel Radio Show, which will begin next week. The radio show will be a live show and will give our fans the opportunity to call in and talk Notre Dame athletics. I will be hosting the show that will take place on Wednesday nights throughout the football season as well as certain weeks during basketball season.

However I can’t host a radio show on my own so in addition to the new radio show, we are pleased to announce the addition of Brae Beadles (@BraeBeadles34) and Augie Farwig (@AugieFarwig) to the Down the Tunnel crew to be the co-hosts of the new Down the Tunnel radio show. We are thrilled to add them to the team and I hope everyone will welcome them.

We will keep you posted as to the call in number for the show and the starting time for the first show next Wednesday. We looking forward to taking all of your calls and talking Notre Dame athletics with the best fans in the entire ND fan base. GO IRISH.

Grading Out the First Three Weeks

-Sgt Shamrock

The first quarter of the season is complete and with this week being the first bye week of the season, now would be as good a time as ever to look back at the first three games of the season to see just where the Irish stand. Record wise nobody is complaining with the Irish being 3-0 with wins over Rice, Michigan, and Purdue and the outlook of the entire season looking much brighter than it did a few weeks ago. Even with the academic investigation not complete and dragging into the season, the Irish have been able to plug and play players to fill in the holes and have so far done a pretty good job of it. Lets take a look at some interesting statistics from the first three weeks and also give out grades for each position group for the first quarter of the season

Stats and Notes:

  • Notre Dame has scored at least 30 points in their first three games of the season, the first time that has happened since Brian Kelly arrived at Notre Dame
  • Through three games Notre Dame is converting 47% of its third downs while holding their opponents to a 37% conversion rate.
  • Notre Dame has been in the red zone fourteen times so far this season. The Irish are 14/14 in those trips in scoring with ten touchdowns and four field goals.
  • The Irish have intercepted six passes by through three games. Those six interceptions were intercepted by six different players
  • Notre Dame has scored 13 touchdowns in their first three games while only allowing opponents into the end zone four times.
  • Notre Dame has won each of its first three games by at least 16 points. The last time an Irish team did that was in 1987
  • Notre Dame ranks 4th nationally in scoring defense allowing only 10.3 points per game.

Quarterback 

There is really not a more impressive way for Everett Golson to start of the season. After sitting out the entire 2013 season, Golson has quickly put himself in the Heisman Trophy conversation. After the first three games, Golson is 62 of 96 passing for 780 yards, seven touchdowns and ZERO interceptions or fumbles. Notre Dame ranks 51st nationally in Passing offense averaging 260 yards per game. Even with a receiving corps full of new faces, Golson has had pretty good chemistry with his receivers and has looked very crisp and comfortable in the pocket. Irish fans can only hope that Golson keeps up this performance because if he plays at this level, the wins will keep piling up. Grade: A

Running backs

The running game has been a bit underwhelming in the first quarter of the season. After a strong performance against Rice, Notre Dame had two lackluster performances running the football against Michigan and Purdue. The Irish are currently ranked 70th nationally averaging a very average 158 yards per game. Greg Bryant leads the team in rushing with 119 yards while Tarean Folston is a close second with 110 yards. Those types of numbers are what we were hoping these guys to have in one game, not three games. With the amount of talent in the Irish backfield it is vital to get the running game going in order to keep defenses off balance to open up the passing game for Everett Golson. Grade: C

Receiving Corps

With Davaris Daniels still being held out as the academic investigation continues, Will Fuller has been the breakout star in the Irish receiving corps early on this season. While he has had some drops early on, he leads the team with 19 receptions for 225 yards and three touchdowns. He has really shown the speed that we all expected. Amir Carlise and CJ Prosice have been very effective in the slot and are adding even more speedy weapons to Golson’s arsenal. Torii Hunter will return to the lineup next week against Syracuse to make his Notre Dame debut which should add another weapon to the offense. Chris Brown has been disappointing thus far, being very inconsistent and really not playing to the level that many thought he would. There have been some miscues in terms of communication with the receivers in terms of routes and play calls as well as a couple drops. That is going to need to get cleaned up quickly. Grade: B-

Offensive Line

If there was one part of the offense that has not looked impressive through the first three weeks it would be the offensive line. There have been some major issues in both run and pass blocking that are real concerns for the Irish. The offensive line along with not really opening running lanes to allow the running game going, they have also given up six sacks in the first three games. At times the offensive line has had real trouble maintaining blocks in the passing game, especially against Purdue. Brian Kelly said following the win over Purdue that he was going to talk to the coaching staff about possibly moving some players to different positions along the line. After the first three games performance that is a pretty good idea. Grade: C-

Defensive Line

So far this season the defensive line has really been Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. They looked not bad against Rice, played a fantastic game against Michigan, but then look to take a step back after a fairly lackluster performance against Purdue. The line had a hard time getting any pressure on the Purdue quarterback this past weekend and that is not a good sign with much tougher opponents looming on the schedule. Sheldon Day however has played very well so far this season and is really looking like he is turning into a dominant force on defense. Jarron Jones has also shown some flashes of brilliance which is a reason for some optimism. We saw that the defensive line can play very well in Brian VanGorders scheme in the Michigan game. Now we have to see if they can get back to that level and stay there. Grade: B-

Linebackers

Let me go ahead and get this out of the way. Jaylon Smith is a beast and is without a doubt the best player on defense. Other than Jaylon Smith the linebackers have had a pretty season so far. Joe Schmidt is playing far better than people expected him too and he looks nothing like a former walk on. VanGorder has shown he is not afraid to mix up the blitz packages and bring linebackers from all areas of the field to get pressure on the quarterback. While we have not seen much of Ben Council, expect that to change once Stanford comes to town in a few weeks as Brian Kelly will bring him in to help against the physical offense of the Cardinal. Jared Grace is still out with an injury however he is getting closer and closer to playing time. He will not play against Syracuse but I don’t think its out of the realm of possibly he could return for Stanford. The group hasn’t been super flashy early on but they have not made many mistakes either. Oh yea and Jaylon Smith is a beast. Grade: B+

Secondary 

In my opinion even without KeiVarae Russell playing right now, the secondary is the strength of the Irish defense at this point in the season and I believe it will stay that way all year long. The Irish have already intercepted six passes through three games and the entire unit is really thriving in VanGorder’s scheme. Mathias Farley, a player that after a lackluster performance last year, has really thrived and is playing his best football in his new nickel corner position. Both Cole Luke and Cody Riggs are doing more than enough in coverage at the corner positions. Redfield and Shumate have played really well at the safety positions and Austin Collinsworth should return to the lineup soon after missing the first three games with a strained MCL. The only issue with the secondary that worries me going forward is depth. Going on the assumption that Russell will not return this season (I dont know that is the case I am just assuming) and Nikki Barrati being out for the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury, Notre Dame can not afford any more injuries. Grade A-

Special Teams

In years past this is normally where I would be talking about how the special teams is a mess yet again and trying to figure out what to do due to fix it. However that is not the case this season. Cody Riggs and Greg Bryant has finally provided and successful punt return unit and Amir Carlise has looked good on kickoffs as well. Kyle Brindza is a valuable weapon in all facets of the kicking game especially on kickoffs. Forcing your opponent to start on the 25 without a chance at a return is always good and is a big part of Notre Dame’s success. Grade: A-

Irish Invade Indy. A Weekend Preview

-Sgt Shamrock

shamrock_logo_2014_final
The 11th ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish head down to Indianapolis this weekend to take on the Purdue Boilermakers in the annual Shamrock Series game. Notre Dame (2-0) is fresh off a complete destruction of Michigan while Purdue (1-1) got blown out last weekend by CENTRAL MICHIGAN AT HOME. That fact alone paints a pretty good picture of how this game should play out this weekend. Now normally this is the type of game that Irish fans have had to worry about in the past. Coming fresh off a huge win and playing a completely inferior opponent the following week has spelled trouble for the Irish in the past and I have already seen a bit of concern from some fans about if the Irish will come out flat Saturday night. Normally I could sort of understand that sentiment. I mean it has been a problem in the past and Notre Dame has lost to teams that they had no business losing too however that will not be the case this season. When Notre Dame originally announced that the Shamrock Series was going to be played in Indianapolis, this early in the season, against PURDUE, I was a bit confused. In the past Notre Dame had traveled to places like Dallas, New York City, and Chicago to play against opponents like Arizona State, Army, and Miami. The locations were places where in areas where Notre Dame usually didn’t play that often and against teams that are not on the schedule as much as maybe some of the normal staples like Navy or Stanford. However now I can completely appreciate the choosing of this game and per usual Jack Swarbrick is a smart smart man. The Irish knew headed into the season that their first big test of the season was against Michigan and that the first bye week of the season was fairly early (Its in week 4 this year). I actually had a chance to talk to Jack Swarbrick last weekend when some of my buddies and I ran into him in the bookstore. He was great and took some time to talk to the three of us. When talking about the Shamrock series he said that the program knew if they good get to the first bye week at 3-0 that the season would start taking shape very nicely. Having the Shamrock Series in week 3 against a team that is just not very good is going to completely get rid of the chance of a letdown game. The players are not only excited to wear the special Shamrock Series uniforms but are also just as excited to play in an NFL stadium. The players will be amped and I really expect them to come out firing on all cylinders from the time the game starts to when the backups are closing out the game.

Offense

Everett Golson has looked fantastic through the first two games of the season. After looking a bit wide eyed in the early stages against Michigan this past weekend, he quickly got a hold of himself and made some fantastic throws and led the Irish to a 31-0 win over the Wolverines. Golson has eight touchdowns to his name thru the first two games of the season but has yet to throw for over 300 yards. If you look at it closer though the yardage can really be attributed to the fact that Notre Dame has had fantastic starting field position in each of the first two games. Regardless, this week he will break that 300 yard mark and I actually think he has a good shot at 400 yards. The Purdue defense is pretty bad ranking 108th in the country in scoring defense allowing an average of 34.5 points per game so far this season. They are also giving up close to 225 yards through the air per game and that was against two very mediocre quarterbacks. Golson is on a completely different level than what Purdue has seen so far and their secondary is going to be in for a LONG day. Speaking of long days the front 7 for Purdue is in for one too. While the Irish didn’t run the ball nearly as effectively against Michigan as they did against Rice, part of that was due to Michigan’s defensive game plan of trying to stop the run and make Golson throw. As dumb as that sounds, that was their plan and the Irish were more than happy to oblige. This week expect the Irish backfield to have a field day against a Purdue run defense that for lack of a better word is..well..BAD. The Boilermakers rank 97th nationally allowing a whopping  187 yards on the ground per game. The Irish should have no problem dominating the line of scrimmage and running the ball at will. I dont think it is farfetched for the Irish to have 300 total rushing yards by games end.

Defense

I could not be more surprised by how the defense has played through the first two games of the season. After losing the big names of Nix, Tuitt, and Shembo to the NFL Draft and Williams and Russell to the ongoing academic fraud investigation, I had very tempered expectations of just how the defense was going to play this season. That defensive unit has gone above and beyond those expectations and the great thing is I think they can keep getting better. Cody Riggs has been a huge addition to the team and Cole Luke has more than just filled in for Russell. After a pretty plain look against Rice, Brian VanGorder unleashed the dogs against Michigan with multiple blitz packages that had the Wolverines guessing the entire game. Expect that to continue. Purdue’s offense is nothing to write home about either ranking 95th nationally and averaging close to 350 yards per game. And those games were against Western and Central Michigan. Thats not good. Add on the fact that Purdue still doesn’t even know who is going to start at quarterback saturday and its pretty safe to say the Purdue offense has some major issues. Something that I noticed when looking back at the defenses performance through the first two games of the season really caught me by surprise. Through the first two games, Notre Dame has played EIGHT freshman on defense and have committed only ONE penalty. With the amount of young players on the field, that is just insane to think they have only been called for one penalty. The younger players while inexperienced, have a ton of speed and are really out performing my initial expectations. Not only does that bode well for this season but it makes the future look very bright for the Irish defense.

Prediction 

Notre Dame opened up as a 30 point favorite and I believe the line has dropped to 28. Both of those are too low and if you are a betting man put your money on the Irish. Notre Dame is a flat out better team in every aspect and its not even close. I fully expect the Irish to have close to 600 total yards of offense and the defense should have another stellar performance. Notre Dame rolls over Purdue and heads into the bye week at 3-0 and a possible top 10 ranking. Notre Dame 51 Purdue 6

Other Games around the country

This weekend has a bunch of dud games and not very many good match ups but here a couple of the not so bad, bad games.

Tennessee at 4 Oklahoma- While I don’t think Oklahoma is as good as everyone is giving them credit for, they are going to be too much for Tennessee. Butch Jones is taking the Vols in the right direction and will have them back in contention in the SEC but not this year. Oklahoma 35 Tennessee 17

6 Georgia at 24 South Carolina- Georgia looks like a bonafide SEC title contender and playoff team hopeful led by Heisman candidate Todd Gurley. Gurley is a beast and by far the best running back in the nation. I have no idea how South Carolina is even still ranked at this point after getting flat out embarrassed by Texas A&M but that ranking will be gone soon enough. Georgia 31 South Carolina 20

12 UCLA at Texas (Arlington Stadium)- UCLA received a bunch of preseason hype as a playoff contender for some reason but through the first two weeks of the season they look far then impressive. However they are taking on a Texas team this weekend that is practically in shambles. The Longhorns are missing their starting quarterback as well as countless other players. UCLA 41 Texas 14

Notre Dame Player Interviews- Purdue Week

-Sgt Shamrock 

Thanks to our recent partnership with The New Notre Dame Nation, I am very blessed to be able to attend Brian Kelly’s weekly press conferences as well as the player interviews that take place every Wednesday. We here at Down the Tunnel are doing our best to be the NUMBER ONE Notre Dame blog by providing you, the readers/viewers, high quality, unique, and at times comical, coverage of all things Notre Dame. Starting today we will have video and audio from the player interviews every Wednesday. And make sure you check back to Down the Tunnel every week have wall-to-wall coverage of each and every Irish football game this season.

Everett Golson  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0U3nUwbc0ok

Will Fuller

Kyle Brindza

Amir Carlise

Nick Martin

Elijah Shumate

Mathias Farley