Now that the 83rd Notre Dame Blue & Gold Spring Game is in the books, perhaps I should divulge a few thoughts from the game and from spring ball in general. Honestly, I have always maintained that we must be cautious about how much we take away from all of this. I'll be brief, because for Christ's sake... what hasn't been written about all of this madness already?
Here is your hangover:
Notre Dame went into spring with a 4 man quarterback battle and Kelly offered no promise of any kind that a starter would be named. Thank-god. Now we have 4 more months of roundhouse kicks to eachother via the internet. While Kelly gave us this promise, I think it is safe to say that a vast majority see this as a two man race between Tommy Rees and Everett Golson, and a vast majority of those people think it should be Golson as the starter in 2012.
From my vantage point, it was pretty obvious that Golson had the best day out of the 4 quarterbacks. How much that means moving forward is still unknown. What I do know, is that I expected improvement from Rees, and I saw very, very little evidence of that. If the biggest beef that Kelly has with Golson is that he gets confused with checks and reads- I say: let a playa play mang.
The Top 5
- The offensive line needs some love first. The unit looked very, very strong Saturday and that was without Braxston Cave. The physical play, the lack of mental mistakes, and the way it basically dominated against a very good defensive front shows that the true strength in the offense is with the big fellas. Frankly, they make the QB situation that much less stressful. And it helps...
- The running backs. George Atkinson in particular showed off what kind of depth Notre Dame has at this position. Cierre Wood looked very good in limited time (keep the #1 back healthy) and Theo Riddick got a few carries- but it was Atkinson that stole the show with runs that combined some surprising power and extreme athleticism. Remember that Amir Carlisle is eligible for the fall (out due to injury) and Notre Dame will also see freshman Will Mahone, so this type of performance really displays how deep they are at RB. GA3 did put the ball on the ground twice, and that is a major area of concern, but if he can clean that up ND may have found themselves more of a #2 back and allow Riddick to be more of the hybrid that they want.
- Ishaq Williams. One of the first things I thought of after finding out about Aaron Lynch leaving, was that Ishaq must be given a larger role- as long as he was willing. It looks like that might finally be the case. Ishaq looked very engaged in the game Saturday, and was in on a lot of plays. While this is one of the most gifted athletes on the Notre Dame team, he still needs to brush up on the basics of tackling and assignment football. Ishaq was all over the field Saturday, and when Prince Shembo returns to the lineup, I fully expect Bobby Diaco to try and utilize both of their skill sets on the field, at the same time.
- DaVaris Daniels. As solid as the running back and slot and hybrid positions look, the Irish still have a lot of questions on the edge with their passing game. There were brief moments in the spring game, particularly with Daniels, where you think that maybe, just maybe the Irish are sitting in a better position. Perhaps John Goodman is that one guy that you can depend on to be a reliable option. At any rate, I think we started to see how much more we are going to get the tight ends involved. Notre Dame is looking for options in the passing game, and despite big names on the edge, I think they have a chance to be pretty damn good.
- Josh Atkinson. Josh didn't shine like an atomic explosion like his twin brother did, but at a position with much more stress and need, I thought he looked fairly decent. It is no secret that Notre Dame is hurting at corner, and there are still many questions coming out of spring. However, I think that there was a lot of improvement and we can only hope that continues going into fall. I'm still worried about cornerback, but I think with solid safety play behind them and that continual improvement it very well may be the weak link in the defense- but not nearly as bad as what had been predicted.
- Chris Salvi. Former walk-on Chris Salvi was all over the field from his safety spot. I'm not sure how much PT on defense he'll see this year, but he will continue to be a special teams animal. He made a tackle Saturday on Golson that required equal parts of extra effort and athleticism. It was pretty impressive.
- Gunner Kiel. While it's clear that Gunner is at the #4 spot right now, I love his work ethic and moxie. Anytime a "passing" QB drops his shoulder and trys to run over a defender, he's got my support. Oh yeah... FUCK LES MILES.
- Tommy Rees. I totally believe in player development, and that any player can improve in time. This is why I was encouraged about Rees this spring. A lot of reports came out and said that he was improving and clearly the leader. They were wrong- at least from what I could see Saturday. I'll leave it at that.
- Tom Hammond. We found our play by play guy. Please take these kick in the nuts as a warning... STAY THE FUCK AWAY. Go call an Eastern European figure skating championship... just leave us alone.