My thoughts and analysis of the Notre Dame offense from today's Blue-Gold Game
** I really liked what I saw from the offense today both schematically and philosophically. There wasn't a lot of tempo, but it wasn't slow-paced either. We saw a lot of different personnel groupings, the quarterbacks got out of the pocket several times on designed bootlegs, there were some new (or perhaps now being used more) pass concepts and we saw plenty of RPOs in the game.
** Notre Dame showed better spacing on the perimeter with the pass game as well. We saw horizontal stretches that went for big plays (the seam throw to George Takacs, for example), we saw vertical stretches that went for big plays (an out cut to Lawrence Keys III, for example) and we saw the running backs being used quite a bit in the pass game as well. The backs got action on designed pass concepts out of empty looks and also on free releases out of the backfield, which is a great sign.
** The overall success of the offense was tamped down by the play of the offensive line, but there was a lot to like about what the Irish did from a game plan/plan of attack standpoint today.
** All the quarterbacks had their moments and all had their mistakes. The lack of protection made it challenging for anyone to really get comfortable, but each quarterback attacked down the field at least twice in the game, which is a very good sign.
** Veteran Jack Coan had the most consistent day for the Irish QBs. He made quick decisions, showed good anticipation and when he moved around the pocket he kept his eyes downfield. He finished 18-32 for 197 yards, but there were at least 4-5 drops in the game and he also had a throwaway and a batted pass at the line of scrimmage.
** Coan made some tough throws look easy, including downfield shots and throws he made to the far hash. They looked easy because his timing, for the most part, was really good. There were instances where it was obvious he is still getting on the same page with his skill players, but not as much as you might expect. Coan was the most accurate of the quarterbacks as well.
** His downfield throwing ability was obvious today as well. He started the game off with a perfectly placed deep ball to Joe Wilkins Jr. for 32 yards and he threw the deep out cuts well, and also hit Takacs up the seam for a big gain on a four-verts concept. Coan threw the ball well on the run and impressed me with his ability to process reads while moving around the pocket.
** Sophomore Drew Pyne was a bit more up-and-down in the game. He rushed his reads a bit too often, especially late in the first half and he threw a couple of balls off his back foot that should have been completions. Pyne also had some very good moments, including doing a great job of climbing the pocket and hitting Lawrence Keys III down the seam for a gain of 41 yards. Pyne finished the game 11-23 for 146 yards, but he didn't get a lot of help from his line.
** Pyne handled the pressure relatively well, including getting a ball out quickly against a blitz to move the chains on a 4th-and-2, and getting the ball outside quickly against pressures.
** At times Tyler Buchner looked like a true freshman. He rushed through reads, locked in on his first target and was off target. At other times he looked like the highly ranked quarterback recruit that many believe him to be. Buchner looked great on his first three throws of the game, throwing with good timing and confidence, and each throw went for at least 22 yards.
** Buchner He hit a big throw to Braden Lenzy, but he rushed it and didn't lead Lenzy. They beat a walk-on cornerback, but it might not have worked out so well against the scholarship corners. What I liked, however, was his willingness to attack down the field. Buchner is also a playmaker, that was obvious in this game, and when he sits in the pocket and snaps the ball off confidently it looks really impressive. Buchner finished 6-9 for 140 yards, but he also got work late against a defense filled with mostly walk-ons on the second and third levels.
** Buchner led both touchdown drives in the game.
** Running back Chris Tyree had a strong performance despite not getting much help from the line. Tyree was decisive, made good reads and ran aggressively. Whether it was planting his foot in the ground and making a back cut on an inside run or bouncing to the outside, he maximized the yardage that was available, and he looked good running routes outside as well.
** We didn't see much of Kyren Williams but he impressed when he got in the game. He also had a strong outside bounce that went for 10 yards and hauled in a swing pass on third-down that ended with a 14-yard gain after he outran Bo Bauer to the sideline.
** C'Bo Flemister didn't have much room to work, but when he got the slightest crease he put his foot down and bulled forward for positive yards, including a 3rd-and-short run to move the chains.
** Lawrence Keys III and Avery Davis had the best days for the wideouts. Keys was open constantly, and he finished the game with 5 catches for 115 yards. If not for a few off target throws his numbers would have been even better. His route running was crisp, he got good separation and he showed the ability to find open spots against the zone.
** Davis also did a good job working the outside zones to find soft spots, including getting over top of the second level to get free on a flood concept that went for over 20 yards. Davis finished with 5 catches for 84 yards to lead the white offense.
** Braden Lenzy had a solid game, finishing with 5 catches for 88 yards, but his two biggest gains came against walk-ons. Lenzy did dirty work in the game and played solid football, but all I care about with him is that he looked healthy.
** Joe Wilkins Jr. made a great catch for a 32-yard gain on the first play of the game, but he struggled after that. Wilkins had trouble getting any separation and was often ridden out near the sideline on vertical routes. He dropped three passes, including one in the end zone after receiving a bit hit from Litchfield Ajavon.
** Jordan Johnson played a lot but was targeted just once, sort of. In fact, the Blue quarterbacks rarely looked in his direction.
** The freshman tight ends performed well in the game, at least in the pass game. Cane Berrong had 2 catches for 11 yards and Mitchell Evans had 3 catches for 59 yards. He hauled in a tough catch to convert a 4th-and-2 and he did a really nice job getting across the field with good speed to get in Coan's line of sight on a bootleg. Coan found him and Evans went for 32 yards on the play. Berrong can really run and I was pleasantly surprised at how well Evans worked across the field.
** I'll break down the game later to get a better feel on how individual players performed, but it was a rough game for the offensive line. The White squad did a decent job in the second half in the run game, but decent compared to how bad it was in the first half.
** The line struggled to protect the quarterbacks all game long, giving up nine sacks. They got beat up the middle quite a bit and there were A LOT of assignment and technique mistakes that allowed defenders to get into the backfield far too easily. There is A LOT to clean up with the offensive line.
** One player that I thought noticeably struggled on the edge was Tosh Baker. His footwork getting out to the edge needs a lot of help, and he was often late getting outside on edge rushers, which shouldn't happen with a player that has his athletic talent.
** The most concerning part for me was how little movement the OL got in the run game, and how much catching they were doing. It looked a lot like the 2018 and 2019 versions of the line, which is troubling.
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