Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2010 NCAA Football Preview

Notre Dame Fighting Irish



2009 Record: (6-6)

2009 Bowl: none

Coach: Brian Kelly (First year at Notre Dame, 53-22 overall)

Offensive Coordinator: Charley Molnar

Defensive Coordinator: Bob Diaco


Returning Leaders

Rushing: Armando Allen, RB, 697 yards

Passing: Dayne Crist, QB, 130 yards

Receiving: Michael Floyd, WR, 795 yards

Tackles: Brian Smith, LB, 71

Sacks: Ethan Johnson, DE, 4.0

Interceptions: Robert Blanton, CB, 2; Brian Smith, LB, 2


Other Key Returnees: LB Darius Fleming, CB Gary Gray, DE Kapron Lewis-Moore, TE Kyle Rudolph, S Harrison Smith, LB Manti Te’o, CB Darrin Walls, DT Ian Williams

Key Losses: S Sergio Brown, QB Jimmy Clausen, OT Paul Duncan, S Kyle McCarthy, CB Raeshon McNeil, C Eric Olsen, DE John Ryan, G Christ Stewart, WR Golden Tate, OT Sam Young


For new head coach Brian Kelly it is forgetting the past and moving forward with a Notre Dame squad that lost quarterback Jimmy Clausen and wide receiver Golden Tate a year early. Certainly things would be easier if those two came back, but Coach Kelly has the weapons to keep the offense moving effectively, as he has done at <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />Central Michigan and Cincinnati, while trying to rebuild what was simply an awful defense in 2009.



Despite the absence of Tate, Notre Dame has some great options for new quarterback Dayne Crist. Michael Floyd is a superstar receiver and showed plenty of that last year. Many times it was Floyd who overshadowed Tate. Tate ended up being drafted in the second round and Floyd could do better than that during the 2011 draft. Another pass catching threat who has a future on Sundays is tight end Kyle Rudolph. Coach Kelly is not really known for his use of a tight end, but Rudolph is versatile enough to fit into any scheme and too good to keep anywhere near the sidelines. When all is said and done, Rudolph should be one of the best tight ends to play college football this season and his statistics will prove it. At running back Armando Allen returns after leading the team with 697 rushing yards a year ago. Injuries and playing from behind kept the running game in check, but Allen is a talented back who may not get many carries in the new system, but will make the most of his opportunities. However, the Irish need to rebuild their offensive line and the entire offense could sputter if the line cannot give Crist time to throw or Allen holes to run through.



The Irish defense gave up nearly 400 yards per game last season. That is the bad news. The good news is nine starters are back. Yet, that may not be good news either. The pass defense was bad and now they have to live without safeties Sergio Brown and Kyle McCarthy and corner Raeshon McNeil. Gary Gray, Darrin Walls and Robert Blanton are serviceable corners, but safeties Harrison Smith and Jamoris Slaughter need to step up big time. The frontline is decent with Ian Williams, Kapron Lewis-Moore and Ethan Johnson, but those three were relatively unproductive last season. The linebackers may have the most room to grow thanks to sophomore Manti Te’o. As a true freshman he tallied 63 tackles. Add Brian Smith and Darius Fleming to the lineup and the Irish have the players to turn into a pretty good defense.


The Bottom Line:

The development of the defense will likely be the difference between another rebuilding year and a real bowl game, but the play at quarterback will be pretty important too. The Irish offense won games last year and Crist will have to win some games this year if the defense does not pull together. Crist missed the spring while recovering from ACL surgery, but he is the leader of this team heading into the 2010 campaign. Nate Montana will grab some headlines, but he will stay a backup for now. Crist will not look like Tony Pike at Cincinnati any time soon, but he is a serviceable quarterback who can work in the system and put up some impressive numbers as any decent quarterback under Coach Kelly would.


2009 Team Stats:

Rushing Offense: 128.25 (84th in nation, 3rd among Independents)

Passing Offense: 323.50 (5, 1)

Total Offense: 451.75 (8, 1)

Scoring Offense: 30.08 (32, 1)

Rushing Defense: 170.25 (89, 3)

Pass Defense: 227.50 (76, 3)

Total Defense: 397.75 (86, 3)

Scoring Defense: 25.92 (63, 3)

Turnover Margin: .42 (29, 2)

Sacks: 1.58 (89, 2)

Sacks Allowed: 2.08 (67, 3)