Spring 2011 - Key
What's happening this spring season? Several Scout
publishers provide their insider info on the key
questions that matter to the real world of college
football. Scroll down for the links to all the
Q: Considering the way Notre Dame handled, or didn’t handle, the Elizabeth Seeberg and Declan Sullivan tragedies, why such a hard-line stance on Michael Floyd? If Dayne Crist is healthy, is the quarterback job his no matter what Tommy Rees does? Is Manti Te’o about to be Butkus-special?
From Tim O’Malley, IrishEyes.com … In the NFL, it's called a "controversy." In college football, where a coach such as second-year head man Brian Kelly runs the show, the quarterback battle between former starter Dayne Crist and November hero Tommy Rees is viewed largely as it should be in any athletic competition …
May the best man win.
Physically, that's Crist, even after a second knee surgery in a calendar year. Statistically - it’s a relative wash, considering the Irish completely revamped their offense for Rees' four starts and installed a power attack to augment the spread offense. Under Rees, the Irish passed less, ran well, dominated defensively, and finished 4-0 in his four starts.
Under Crist, the Irish passed far too often, showed no power in the running game, and exacerbated the situation with sporadic defense, winning four and losing four when he played and finished a contest.
Regardless of who wins the job, it’s the team's defense that will carry the load early...and likely late. Returning is the bulk of a unit that allowed one touchdown in the month of November - a two-yard drive that took four plays to complete - then dominated Miami for the first 50 meaningful minutes in a Sun Bowl victory. The program hadn't seen a season conclude with such defensive prowess since Jeff Burris, Bryant Young and Bobby Taylor roamed the field at the tail end of 1992.
The key to Notre Dame's 2011 season can be found in last year's conclusion, because as Kelly noted last December "Nobody begins the season hoping to play in the Sun Bowl." The Irish will likely win more than eight games this season - but how many more will be decided by the ultimate evolution of the head coach's offense, one that could be without the services of its best player, Michael Floyd.
Floyd, suspended indefinitely for a third alcohol-related offense at the University (the latter the most serious, a DUI near campus), ranks as the only proven difference-maker offensively. Without him, promising slot receiver Theo Riddick and running back Cierre Wood become less threatening to a defense. So too does emerging tight end Tyler Eifert. With Floyd in the fold, the trio above becomes far more difficult to contain in an offense the staff felt would take a huge step forward in Year Two of the Kelly regime.
Floyd's indefinite suspension was levied by his head coach, but it's the St. Joseph County Courts and University's Office of Residence Life will ultimately decide the potential All-American's fate for the upcoming season.
That decision is likely worth a game, if not two, in the final ledger.
As far as Te’o being special, I know Kelly thinks it - there was a point last year (after ND got bullied by Stanford, I believe) that he said Te'o was "a force" and he had turned the corner from just being the best player on their defense, to someone that imposed his will on a game (Te'o had a 16-tackle second half).
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