Grading The Notre Dame Offense vs. South Florida
Notre Dame improved to 2-0 on the season when they pounded South Florida by a 52-0 score. The Irish offense was dominant on the ground and put the game away early. We’ve broken the game down in many ways, and now it’s time to hand out grades, beginning with the offense.
COACHING — B+
Two of my biggest complaints from the opener against Duke were a lack of physicality and vertical push of the offensive line, and the lack of shots down the field. Against South Florida, Notre Dame was extremely physical and the vertical push was tremendous. It seemed obvious to me watching the game and then breaking it down that Notre Dame spent a great deal of time during the week of practice working on that, and then offensive coordinator Tommy Rees game planned to get that part of the offense rolling. That’s what good OCs are supposed to do, and Rees seems to have done that.
Coming out early in the multiple tight end looks and then immediately taking a shot downfield was also a move I liked. Right now, Notre Dame is at its best when multiple tight ends are on the field, but they need to let teams know they aren’t going to be a running + short throwing team when in that alignment, and the opening play let that be known.
Rees showed early a desire to get the ball to certain players (Tommy Tremble, Braden Lenzy) and the run game had a new wrinkle this week, with Notre Dame running a kickout play with Tremble serving as a lead blocker. The Irish staff gets high marks for both areas.
The lack of a downfield pass game from both a quarterback decision making standpoint, a focus on the wideouts and the wideouts not getting open are areas where I’m concerned coming out of the game. Next on the “to do” list for Rees and company is to take the great run performance we saw against South Florida and then build a more explosive, effective pass attack on top of it, hopefully with the RPO as part of it.
QB #12 IAN BOOK (50) — C+
Stats: 12-19, 63.2%, 144 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT / 3 rushing TDs
Book showed improvement with his pocket poise and footwork. He was calmer in the pocket and he seemed to be working through his progressions a bit cleaner this week. Book didn’t turn the ball over and he mostly showed good timing with his check down throws.
The issue, however, is that he was almost utterly unwilling to throw the ball downfield. In two games he’s attempted just three non red zone throws beyond 20 yards, and one was on a simple comeback route. The lack of separation is an issue, but at some point Book needs to be the leader and give those players chances to make plays in some of those situations, and this was a game where that should have happened.
Book managed the game well, but he needs to make more plays if he’s going to get better grades. Missing a wide open Javon McKinley on an in cut and throwing late and off target to Joe Wilkins Jr. in the end zone to force a field goal are plays he can’t and shouldn’t miss. He missed the first throw but was late with his read on the second.
RB #23 KYREN WILLIAMS (25) — B
Stats: 10 carries, 62 yards, 6.2 YPC / 2 catches, 10 yards
Williams didn’t put up the numbers we saw from him in the opener, and he didn’t have any big plays, but I really liked how he played in this game. Williams was more patient as a runner and his decision making as a runner improved. I also saw improvement as a pass blocker. Williams was more assignment correct in pass pro, but he still needs to be more physical taking on blocks and continue to clean up his overall pass pro production.
RB #25 CHRIS TYREE (15) — B+
Stats: 8 carries, 65 yards, 8.1 YPC, 1 TD
Tyree was quite impressive against the Bulls, doing a lot of damage on limited snaps. He showed patience and made good decisions as a runner, but what was more impressive was how strong his leg drive was. He ran with authority and blew through arm tackles. Tyree showed what made him such a big-time recruit on a 31-yard run in the second quarter. The Irish ran an off-tackle play and a USF linebacker stepped right into the hole. Tyree pressed him outside and as soon as he committed the Irish back planted and broke inside, leaving the backer grasping for air.
RB #20 C’BO FLEMISTER (16) — B+
Stats: 13 carries, 127 yards, 9.8 YPC, 1 TD / 1 catch, 9 yards
Flemister showed much-improved patience and balance compared to last season, which is a great sign. He’s a quality athlete, which you saw on Saturday, but his decision making wasn’t always what it needed to be. Against USF, Flemister ran hard, made good decisions and when he got room to rip off big gains he did just that. He would have received an A grade if not for a fumble.
WR #88 JAVON McKINLEY (39) — C
Stats: 1 catch, 7 yards
McKinley blocked well, but he continues to struggle getting separation in the pass game. He needs to do a better job with his releases and play with more urgency. McKinley is too strong to get pushed around as much as he did on vertical routes Saturday.
WR #0 BRADEN LENZY (25) — C+
Stats: 3 catches, 34 yards, 11.3 YPC
It was good for Notre Dame to get Lenzy back in the mix. He didn’t make much of an impact, and it looked as if he still wasn’t quite 100% with his hamstring, but getting him back on the field was key. I’m confident Lenzy will get up to speed quickly and add juice to the offense, we just didn’t see it on Saturday.
TE #24 TOMMY TREMBLE (45) — A
Stats: 3 catches, 61 yards, 20.3 YPC / 1 carry, 4 yards
Tremble did a little bit of everything for Notre Dame in the win. He led the offense in receiving yards, which included a highly impressive back shoulder catch of an underthrown ball. He was a dominant run blocker at the point of attack, on the backside and from a fullback alignment. He even carried the ball for four yards to move the chains. At times Tremble got upfield out of control, and that caused him to miss his man or not get a clean shot, so that will need to get cleaned up a bit.
TE #87 MICHAEL MAYER (26) — B
Stats: 1 catch, 5 yards
Mayer had a quality second performance. He made an early catch in the pass game, but more important he had a strong performance in the run game. I was surprised how well he held up physically, and his ability to work his legs through contact was impressive. He will need to clean up his route running a bit.
TE #89 BROCK WRIGHT (33) — B
Wright had arguably the best blocking performance of his career. He got very good movement on the edge, did a good job on the backside and was assignment sound. Wright got an excellent wash-down block on the long touchdown run by Flemister that opened up a wide run lane.
LT #74 LIAM EICHENBERG (50) — A-
Eichenberg had a strong performance against the Bulls. He was absolutely dominant on the edge in pass protection, not giving up a single pressure in the game. In fact, I would argue his man didn’t come close to the quarterback the entire game. Eichenberg was also excellent at the point of attack in the run game. He got good lateral movement on the outside zones, did a good job getting to the age and he got excellent movement on down and drive blocks.
LG #69 AARON BANKS (50) — B+
Banks had a much better performance against the Bulls than he did in the opener. His pass blocking was sound for the most part and he was more physical at the point of attack in the run game. He showed improvement working on combo blocks, and when he stayed locked on he got very good movement.
C #55 JARRETT PATTERSON (50) — A-
I felt this was the best performance of Patterson’s young career. He was good in the pass game and he was assignment sound. More important, I was quite impressed with Patterson’s ability to get movement and his willingness/ability to get to the second level. He showed good timing getting up to the second level, his base was strong and he handled playing in space effectively.
RG #78 TOMMY KRAEMER (50) — C
Kraemer was the most inconsistent blocker for the Irish line. He struggled to get much movement in the run game, and there were too many snaps where he either got knocked off the line or got beat into a gap, which threw off the timing of the run game. The play of the rest of the line was good enough to keep this from being too much of a problem, but Kraemer must get a lot better from both a physicality standpoint and an assignment correctness standpoint. His pass protection was also inconsistent.
RT #72 ROBERT HAINSEY (50) — B+
Hainsey had just one negative grade on the edge in pass protection, but outside of that he was firm and effective in the pass game. Hainsey was a force on the edge in the run game. He played with effective angles, got seals when he needed that, played well on the backside and stayed locked on defenders. He got good movement on down and drive blocks as well, and along with the tight ends he was a key factor in opening up the huge hole on Flemister’s touchdown run.
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