#26 Notre Dame Football 2012 Preview

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Overall Rank: #26
#1 Independent
Notre Dame College Football 2012 Team Preview
Notre Dame Team Page


Coach Brian Kelly returns quarterback Tommy Rees, but Notre Dame has a huge quarterback controversy on their hands. Rees was turnover prone last season, throwing 14 interceptions and 20 touchdowns. Andrew Hendrix, a 6-2 sophomore has some experience and is a much better fit in Coach Kelly’s spread offense. Redshirt freshman Everett Golson stole the show during the spring game and remains an option as well. Freshman Gunner Kiel will likely join the fray next year, but if all goes very poorly for everybody else, Kiel could get a shot down the line.

2011 Record: (8-5)
2011 Bowl: Champs Sports Bowl vs. Florida State (L 14-18)
Coach: Brian Kelly (16-10 at Notre Dame, 69-32 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Chuck Martin
Defensive Coordinator: Bob Diaco

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Cierre Wood, RB, 1,102 yards
Passing: Tommy Rees, QB, 2,871 yards
Receiving: Tyler Eifert, TE, 803 yards
Tackles: Manti Te’o, LB, 128
Sacks: Manti Te’o, LB, 5.0
Interceptions: Zeke Motta, S, 1; Jamoris Slaughter, S, 1; Lo Wood, CB, 1

Other Key Returnees: C Braxston Cave, LB Dan Fox, WR T.J. Jones, DE Kapron Lewis-Moore, OT Zack Martin, DT Louis Nix, LB Prince Shembo, P Ben Turk, G Chris Watt

Key Losses: CB Robert Blanton, OT Taylor Dever, LB Darius Fleming, WR Michael Floyd, CB Gary Gray, RB Jonas Gray, DE Aaron Lynch, G Trevor Robinson, K David Ruffer, S Harrison Smith

The offense may rely on the ground game a lot more than Coach Kelly would prefer. However, that is where the strength of this group lies at the moment. Cierre Wood had a fine 2011 campaign, rushing for 1,102 yards and nine touchdowns on 217 carries. Jonas Gray is gone, but Theo Riddick is back. Riddick spent the last two seasons out of position at wide receiver and Notre Dame will be very happy to have Riddick back where he belongs. With a couple quarterbacks who can also run the ball in Hendrix and Golson, the Irish should rack up a lot of yards on the ground. A strong offensive line will only help matters. Center Braxston Cave is back after missing the end of the 2011 campaign with an injury and will join fellow returning starters Chris Watt and Zack Martin on the line. On the other side of the ball the defense was saved when linebacker Manti Te’o opted to return for his senior season. Te’o is a tackling machine and likely a first round pick draft pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. He will again be asked to do a lot for the entire defense. With the return of fellow inside linebacker Dan Fox and outside linebacker Prince Shembo, the Irish have a strong linebacker corps. The defensive front is full of potential. Senior Kapron Lewis-Moore is an experienced end and Stephon Tuitt is poised for a breakout year. Nose guard Louis Nix is an imposing presence in the middle and should be better with a year of experience under his belt.

The pass defense was very good last season, but a lot of key players are gone. Safety Harrison Smith was second on the team in tackles and led the Irish with ten pass breakups. Cornerbacks Robert Blanton and Gary Gray will also need to be replaced. On a team that did a decent job of putting some pressure on the quarterback, Blanton and Gray were the only two players who had more than one interception…and they each just had two. The secondary must do a better job of taking advantage of the pressure the front seven can get on the quarterback by actually picking off some passes. The good news is that Notre Dame often started five defensive backs and safeties Jamoris Slaughter and Zeke Motta have plenty of experience. Slaughter could move out to cornerback as well and they may need him to do so. Juniors Lo Wood and Bennett Jackson are the likely options to start at corner if Slaughter remains at safety.

The Bottom Line:
The quarterback battle will garner a lot of attention, but an equally compelling storyline is at wide receiver. Michael Floyd is gone after catching 100 passes for 1,147 yards and nine touchdowns. With Theo Riddick spending more time in the backfield, the Irish need to find some new receivers. Tyler Eifert will get plenty of opportunities at tight end. He is one of the best in the country, but Coach Kelly wants to spread out the offense and that means he needs some receivers. T.J. Jones is a proven playmaker who caught 38 passes last year, but after that the group of receivers is largely inexperienced. John Goodman, Robbie Toma and DaVaris Daniels are all very talented, but they need to produce right away if Notre Dame wants to have any success battling through a brutal schedule.

Projected Bowl: Military Bowl

2011 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 160.38 (54th in nation, 3rd among Independents)
Passing Offense: 252.62 (40, 1)
Total Offense: 413.00 (35, 1)
Scoring Offense: 29.23 (49, 3)
Rushing Defense: 138.92 (47, 2)
Pass Defense: 205.77 (38, 3)
Total Defense: 344.69 (30, 2)
Scoring Defense: 20.69 (24, 2)
Turnover Margin: -1.15 (118, 4)
Sacks: 1.92 (59, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 1.31 (26, 3)

Madness 2013 NFL Draft Rankings:
#7 Manti Te'o
#23 Tyler Eifert

Madness 2012 Football Recruit Rankings:
#25 Gunner Kiel
#54 Tee Shepard
#88 Elijah Shumate
#117 Sheldon Day
#127 Ronnie Stanley
#144 KeiVarae Russell
#149 Jarron Jones
#227 William Mahone