Tag Archives: Brian VanGorder

Irish Slaughter the Skunkbears. A Weekend Review

-Sgt Shamrock 

What. A. Game. To be honest I’m still pinching myself to make sure that its all real. Notre Dame absolutely embarrassed Michigan last night in prime time in front of the entire country the final scheduled meeting of the rivalry. Anytime you beat a rival its a good feeling but when you beat a rival as bad as Notre Dame beat Michigan it makes that feeling even better. The Skunkbears were completely outmatched and out coached from start to finish Saturday night. Everett Golson cemented his position on the Heisman watch list with another stellar performance, throwing for 226 yards and three touchdowns and the young Irish receiving corps once again showcased their speed against the Skunkbear defense. The offense only gained 280 total yards however having really good field position to start most of their drives can be a pretty large factor in those numbers. I guess the Skunkbears thought they were playing against the 2012 version of Golson for some reason because their defensive game plan seemed more focused in stopping the run instead of getting pressure on the quarterback. Notre Dame gladly accepted this and focused their offensive attack on the passing attack that shredded the Skunkbear defense. The Irish only rushed for 54 yards but it didn’t matter one bit and I wouldn’t be too worried about the lack of a running game. The Irish have three very good backs and they were really just playing what the defense gave them. It obviously worked.

With as good as Golson and the offense looked, the defense looked even better. Of course they pitched a shutout against a hated rival which is always awesome but they also only gave up 289 total yards and only allowed Devin Gardner to throw for 189 yards. The Irish defense was all over Gardner the entire game making him uncomfortable in the pocket and forcing four turnovers. Brian VanGorder’s new defensive scheme worked magic against the Skunkbears as they were never able to truly get anything going. And just as awesome as how well the defense played, was Brian VanGorder’s reaction to how awesome the defense played. It was truly epic. 

 BVG

 

After a game against Rice where the defensive line got very little pressure on the quarterback, the Irish defense turned up the heat putting constant pressure on Gardner making him look like a deer in the headlights. The defensive line looked fantastic and was really the key to the disruption of the Skunkbear offense and the secondary was just as vital keeping a lid on Devin Funchess and not allowing any deep passes down the field. It was just an outstanding effort all around for the entire defensive unit. 

Key Observations:

  • First and foremost I have to give a huge shout out to every single fan that was at the game. The atmosphere was ELECTRIC. Myself and everyone around us stood for the entire game. When the entire stadium started chanting “Hey-Hey-Hey Goodbye” I got chills. It was awesome. Bravo fans. Bravo.
  • I don’t know if its the move to the nickel position or if its the new scheme but Mathias Farley has had himself a spectacular start to the season. He was flying all over the field and making big plays. Last season fans remember him for some blown coverages and missed tackles but he has really found a spot in this defense. 
  • There still is not a “go-to guy” in the back field and to be honest I don’t think there will be and thats ok. Each of the last two weeks the carries have been spread out pretty evenly between the three running backs. Each of the backs has a strength and I don’t see it being a problem.
  • How big was the addition of Cody Riggs in the offseason? He has been outstanding in secondary thus far this season in his coverage. Not only that but he has been very valuable in special teams as well. He had his first interception of the season last night when he beautifully jumped a route. With the recent academic investigation and the fate of KeiVarae Russell unknown, having Riggs on the roster is huge.
  • Ill probably be saying this every week this season but Jaylon Smith is a BEAST. He is so fast and was making plays all over the place Saturday night. He finished the night with 10 tackles but his contribution was much larger with the amount of plays he influenced. Brian Kelly moving him to the inside this season is looking more and more like a genius idea each week.
  • The defensive line played their asses off. Jarron Jones and Sheldon Day were in the backfield all night long and never allowed Devin Gardner to get in any sort of rhythm. Freshman Daniel Cage looked very impressive in his first game of major action after getting a few snaps against Rice. Kolin Hill did make his Notre Dame debut and he did not disappoint. He really reminds me of a Prince Shembo type player.
  • This was the second game where the Irish played crisp and clean football. Notre Dame committed zero turnovers for the second straight week and only committed three penalties for the entire game. That kind of discipline makes it much easier to win football games. 
  • Welcome to the show Amir Carlise. After having an undefined role last season as he tried to find a role in the offense, he is coming into his own as a slot receiver. I cant wait to continue to watch him grow and develop. Having a dangerous slot receiver makes an offense so much more difficult to defend. 

5 HOT (and Quick) Takes from Blue/Gold Game

Spring practice is in the books!  Can I use the terms/phrases “practice” and “in the books” for employees? Kidding, kidding…put the pitch forks away. I’ll give you plenty better opportunities to skewer me. While the Sarge continues to lead the DTT Spring game experience on-site, thought I’d provide a few quick observations from the Blue/Gold Game. For full disclosure, I am not of the opinion that a lot can be gleaned from what amounts to a glorified practice. It’s far more special and relevant for those able to make the trip than those of us looking to extrapolate what it means going forward. Nonetheless, people LOVE to extrapolate (even when they don’t know what that word means), so let’s get down to business:

1. QB “Battle”: Unquestionably, the number one “thing to watch” for today was the quarterback position. The return of the prodigal son, Everett Golson vs. the self-confident Malik Zaire. Twitter and Mike Mayock have declared the big winner of the day to be Zaire. I’m critical of Mayock’s analysis though because he did not tell me Zaire’s height and weight. Mayock, when in full lather over a particular player always tells you the size measurements while wiping some drool from the corner of his mouth. He did it for Golson pre-game. He did it for Jaylon Smith. Perhaps I just missed it.

Now to the game. I would *generally* agree that Zaire had the better performance. The stats bear that out. His reads came out quicker, he was more accurate, and most importantly to me….he looked like he wanted to compete for the starting gig. Golson was perhaps most disappointing with his reluctance to cut the ball loose. This issue plagued him at times during 2012, and I think many hoped he’d display a greater command of progressions after a one year quarterback boot camp. It’s important to remember a few things though: 1) This is but one practice. Folks need to realize Brian Kelly will not be making any final decisions based upon this one game. However, that Zaire looked ready to compete may create some intrigue for the inter web-professional-football-analysis-society from the summer months. 2) When you have 2 mobile quarterbacks battling in a “game” where they can’t be hit, it’s difficult to assess their true effectiveness. The refs were generally willing to let the QB’s continue to run around (and eventually throw) in situations where they will not be as fortunate in game situations. Golson’s rushing TD was a clear example. He scored. In a game, he’d have been pancaked between two rather large defensive players. To go along with this: Why in the WORLD was a screen pass run????? It happened early, but just seemed ludicrous to me. QB can’t be touched (and knows it), line comes flying through…Well executed(?) I suppose.

My more general take: First of all, I wet myself just a bit (it was early) to see both of our QB’s scramble, look elusive, and demonstrate plus arm-strength on the run. The Tommy Rees era is over, and I for one (all) couldn’t be happier to have it reaffirmed that it is possible to both run and throw the ball. Both quarterbacks exhibited the arm strength necessary to take advantage of the team’s speed and depth at the wide receiver position. While a function of the flag football game atmosphere, there were many deep attempts and routes down field suggesting a perhaps more vertical passing game while utilizing the TE and RB positions as safety valves.

2. FIELD TURF!!!! OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG: In a super fun troll job by the ND administration, Jack Swarbrick confirmed once and for all that field turf is a-coming to Notre Dame following Spring commencement ceremonies. So many words and blood have been spilled over this topic over the past few years that there’s no need to re-hash it. It’s a business decision, it’s a completely reasonable decision, and it will not impact game play for the negative in any material respect. Something I’ve harped on in the past is that something is not tradition just because it’s been done for a while. Rockne’s teams played on grass because that was more desirable to playing on dirt. ND never jumped the gun to install the horrendous astro-turf surfaces that led to many an injury in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. However, field turf’s come a long way. It’s not tradition to embrace a technological advancement that is more economical, provides greater reliability of playing surface, and doesn’t impact injury concerns. Get with it folks, or tell me why I’m wrong in the comments without mentioning the word “tradition.” I *might* listen then.

3. Hello Running backs: Greg Bryant did Greg Bryant things the way we’d all been Greg Bryant’ing he’d do. See what I did there? I used his name like the word “Smurf” was used back in the day. Bryant, of course, is not smurf. Rather, his speed and agility are more reminiscent of Sonic the Hedgehog coming out of a 360 degree loop and catapulting up into the atmosphere to claim rings and decimate all obstacles in his way. Take the spring game for what it is: confirmation that all angst associated with the unsubstantiated rumors of Bryant’s transfer were well deserved. I look forward to seeing him decimate all obstacles in his way in an effort to claim another type of ring.

In the meantime, Tarean Folston was quite active catching passes. Again, there’s a limit to attempting to extrapolate that this is a new trend, but he demonstrated good hands and improvisation as a safety-valve pass catching option. This facet was missing from ND’s offense last year. However, with a return to a more free flowing mobile quarterback style, a good pass catching option coming out of the backfield should not be under-appreciated. Theo Riddick was good at this in 2012 when, you might remember, good things happen for the team at large. I like to see things that *could* convert to a new offensive wrinkle in the season to come, and this fits the bill quite nicely.

4. The Defense…Lost? Okay…what does that mean? I have a difficult time really grading anything that occurs on the defensive side of the ball. The inability to hit/sack the quarterback is such an impediment that it’s difficult to consider the defense’s effectiveness.  Add that to the team still learning a new defensive-system and philosophy and the always straight-forward vanilla game plan, and you aren’t left with too many takeaways. I thought Cole Luke looked generally good and made some great plays on the ball in difficult situations. I thought Austin Collinsworth looked severely under-sized and slow attempting to cover the wide receivers, but I’m not going to read too much into that. Perhaps more telling, Brian Kelly during a second half interview explained that he asked BVG to dial back some of the pressure schemes so the offense could get the “looks” it wanted to run plays. Does that mean the line is better than expected? Does it mean the offensive line is a little bit worse? Perhaps a mixture? Yeah….I’ll go with mixture for the day.

5. The BVG: Finally, the most legit thing I saw all day was in fact VanGorder stomping around the sideline. He’s intense, rocks as legit a ‘stache as any in the business, and I give him bonus points for his 1970’s hair dew. I think fans are going to be pleasantly surprised in the short-term with VanGorder’s increased aggression. He comes into a great situation where the experience of the secondary may let him get more exotic up front to compensate for the losses of Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt. We’ve been down the road of a hyper aggressive defensive coordinator trying to make something out of nothing (I’m looking at you Jon Tenuta), but the caliber of athlete BVG has available is superior to what Tenuta dealt with, and the secondary is an entirely different animal. Perhaps grasping at straws, I also enjoyed seeing BVG on the sidelines. Being cerebral and up in the booth fit Bobby Diaco quite well. The same holds true for seeing VanGorder stalk the sidelines.

We now enter the dark days where there won’t be much to report or look forward to for several months. Share your comments or thoughts and feelings about the B/G Game and what you’re looking forward to for 2014 in the comments below. I’m sure Sarge will be back sooner rather than later to fill you in on the Down the Tunnel Tailgate and the reception to our sponsors the Indiana Whiskey Company being gracious enough to come on out this morning.

Cheers!

– Moons

Mike Denbrock to be the new Irish Offensive Coordinator

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-Sgt Shamrock

Notre Dame has filled its open offensive coordinator position by promoting Mike Denbrock multiple media outlets are reporting. Since the departure of Chuck Martin, who took the head coaching job at Miami of Ohio, there has been a lot of speculation of how Brian Kelly would handle the filling of the offensive coordinator position. Many thought he would promote from within, while others took the large amount of time it took to hire a coordinator as a sign he may be looking to bring someone in from the outside. Earlier this week reports surfaced that there were four candidates for the position. Mike Denbrock, Jeff Quinn, Don Patterson, and Al Borges (yes that Al Borges, this is not a joke) were all reportedly set to interview for the open position yesterday.

For most, including myself, Mike Denbrock was the safe choice as the favorite as the position and from the list of the reported candidates it should some as no surprise that he was chosen. It was thought Brian Kelly would promote from within his current staff on the offensive side of the ball after bringing in Brian VanGorder from the New York Jets to fill the vacant defensive coordinator position. Jeff Quinn would have also been a very good hire as he and Brian Kelly have a lot of history of success while working together at Grand Valley State. However it was very unlikely that Quinn would leave his head coaching position at Buffalo to take a coordinator position especially after Quinn had the opportunity to join the Irish staff when Brian Kelly first took the job at Notre Dame but instead pursued his career elsewhere. Don Patterson, who is the current quarterback coach for Buffalo, has a good reputation of coaching and recruiting however it seemed unlikely that he would be the choice. Al Borges is…… well……. Al Borges and he was the most unlikely candidates if only for the reason that Irish fans across the country would be coming at Kelly with pitchforks calling for his head if he hired Borges who was recently fired by Michigan.

While Denbrock is going to be the offensive coordinator by name, Brian Kelly announced on the Bill King show earlier this morning that he would be calling the plays for the 2014 season (which is a really good idea by the way) so as we all suspected the offense is still Brian Kelly’s baby and it would have been with whoever Kelly hired. Kelly did mention however that he was still going to hire a quarterback coach to help with the development and maturation of the Irish quarterback corps of Golson, Zaire, Keizer (incoming freshman). It is still very possible that Brian Kelly hires either Patterson or Borges to fill this spot on the coaching staff. The decision on who Kelly chooses should come by next week at the latest so we should not have to wait very long to see what route he takes.