Friday, June 17, 2011

Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2010 Review

Notre Dame Fighting Irish
2010 Record: 8-5
2010 Bowl Game: Sun Bowl, Defeated Miami 33-17

     Brian Kelly is working his ass off to bring the Irish back to the elite world of top tier college football, and he has all of the tools and resources to get it done. Notre Dame is still probably the flagship name in college sports, but the shine has worn off in recent decades, as we all know. Kelly is the right guy to get it back, and the ass whooping that he laid on Miami in El Paso is a sure sign that things are heading in the right direction in South Bend.
      I would have loved to have seen what Notre Dame could have done in 2010 with a healthy QB. The Irish bounced around a bit with their signal callers, as nobody could stay healthy. I look for that to change, but there is now depth at the position. Dayne Crist was the chosen leader for most of it, and he did well in 9 games. Crist passed for 2033 yards last fall, and managed to toss 15 TDs against 7 picks in 9 games. He averaged 225.9 yards per game, but he has to get more accurate in Kelly's system, as he only completed 59.2% of his passes. Tommy Rees may have passed him by, as he passed for 1106 yards and 12 TDs, but he tossed 8 picks, but seemed to be a fan favorite by the end of the season. Rees QB'd the Irish through a 4 game winning streak to end the season, earning him major credit with the faithful. He was the starter in wins over Utah, Army, USC, and Miami.
     Kelly seemed to favor a 2 back system in the backfield last fall, but it would be nice if he picked a primary back in his single back spread system. Cierre Wood should be the guy, as he rushed for 603 yards last fall, while scoring 3 TDs. He averaged 5.07 yards per carry, but only averaged 9.15 carries per game. Armando Allen was second on the team with 514 yards and 2 scores. Crist added 4 rushing TDs of his own until he got hurt.
     Michael Floyd was incredible at times, and looked like the next great WR in Notre Dame history, but when the seaosn ended, he could not keep himself out of trouble, and his lack of maturity got the better of him. He still had a tremendous 2010 season, as he finished with a line of 79-1025-12. Nobody came close to his production on tis roster. Theo Riddick followed him (40-414-3), while Riddick was followed by Tyler Eifort (27-352-2), Kyle Rudolph (28-328-3), and TJ Jones (20-170-2). Wood added 2 more TDs out of the backfield, and Duval Kamara added 3 more TDs of his own.
     The Irish did struggle on defense at times, averaging 206.4 yards passing allowed per game , while allowing another 146.8 yards rushing per game. Notre Dame needs to find tackling machines for this defense, as only 4 defenders averaged 5 or more tackles per game. Manti Te'o has been all that he was advertised to be coming out of high school, as he more than led the team with 129 tackles on the season. Te'o, who was just a sophomore last fall, is the distinguished leader of this unit coming into his junior season. Harrison Smith (91), and Gary Gray (66) were next in line. Kapron Lewis-Moore (62), Carlo Calabrese (61), Robert Blanton (54), and Zeke Molta (50) all eclipsed the 50 tackle mark, but the Irish need more activity.
     Darius Fleming led the team in applying pressure up front, as he collected 10.5 TFLs last season, the only defender to hit double figures for the Irish. Te'o came next with 8.5. Fleming was the team leader in sacks as well with 6.5, but the Irish need more heat on opposing backfields than what they got this season.
      The Irish were also not exactly deep when it came to playmakers in the secondary. Only three defenders collected as many as 5 passed defended last fall. Harrison Smith led the team with 7 passes knocked away, and he was followed by Gary Gray (6), and Brian Smith (5). Smith was incredible in his own right, as he led the team by more than double with 7 picks on the season. Darrin Walls picked off 3 passes, and scored once.
     David Ruffer was one of the better kickers in the country last season. Ruffer nailed 18 of his 19 FG attempts last fall, to give one of the better performances by a Notre Dame kicker in history. Ruffer did manage to miss 3 of his PATs, but hit 37 of 40. He will be difficult to replace. Ben Turk was not one of the better punters in the nation, as he struggled as a sophomore last fall. Turk only averaged 38.34 yards per punt last season, so he will have much work to do this offseason. Freshman Bennett Jackons was the leading kick returner, but was not spectacular, averaging 22.24 yards per return. The punt return game was a disaster for the most part.
Final Notes
     You have to be encouraged by the work accomplished by Kelly in season one of his tenure at Notre Dame. The win over Miami in the Sun Bowl was especially bright for Notre Dame fans, as it signalled a possible dawning of a new day. There are still issues, have no doubt, and much work needs to be done still if the Irish are to return to thenir former glory, but the pieces are moving now, and the Charlie Weis days are drifting away now. Hope endures all.

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