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GBMWolverine: Coach’s Corner — Michigan Football — Notre Dame at Michigan — Preview


Posted at 6:00am — 9/8/2011

GBMWolverine: Coach’s Corner — Michigan Football — Notre Dame at Michigan — Preview

The Setting:

Everyone associated with Michigan from fans to players have been waiting for the big day, September 10, 2011. Michigan will play its first game (in its entirety) in the long and proud history of the program under the lights. And as a special (or not so special) touch, those new uniforms will make a blistering appearance at nighttime. Michigan is a home dog in what is an important game for both teams, rivalry aside. Michigan seeks to build momentum and Notre Dame, prognosticated by some to be a top ten/BCS team, already has its back to the wall to stay in the hunt for those lofty aspirations.

Game Overview:

Notre Dame lost its opener 23-20 to South Florida. It was UM versus Western Michigan in reverse. Notre Dame turned the football over five times by fumbles and interceptions. One fumble was returned for a touchdown and was probably a 14-point swing. The turnovers were a major factor, probably the factor, in Notre Dame’s loss, same as Western Michigan’s turnovers being a major factor in the UM game. The fact that Notre Dame lost its first game while Michigan won should not play fast into predicting this week’s verdict. Everything is different and hopefully the weather is included in this blanket statement. Most will talk about the Irish offense when discussing Notre Dame, but the defense has improved very much since mid-year 2010 and performed very well against South Florida.


The talented offense returns 8 of 11 starters from the 2010 team. Dayne Crist and Tommy Rees both played in Saturday’s loss and may still be battling for the starting quarterback job, but Rees is expected to start against Michigan since Coach Kelly announced him starter at his press conference. Both threw interceptions on Saturday, but Rees completed over 60% of his passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns, Crist was under 50% with one touchdown. We would not be surprised if Coach Kelly used both quarterbacks against Michigan especially if things are close or Michigan gets ahead.

The starting running back spot is manned by Cierre Wood who rushed for over 100 yards Saturday and had 600 yards last season. Jonas Gray is a solid back up who would start at many Division 1 schools. After that the depth is thin.

All-American candidate Michael Floyd, one of the nation’s top pass catchers, leads the wide outs. He caught 12 passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns. He is joined by a very good, young tight end in Tyler Eibert, a superb athlete who is better at receiving than blocking. With Theo Reddick in the slot, drawing plenty of attention, and Floyd on the outside, demanding plenty of attention, Eibert is one to watch on Saturday, if UM blitzes as much this week as last, the tight end could be a very valuable weapon for Coach Kelly.

Notre Dame also returns four starting offensive linemen, including All-American candidates left tackle Zach Martin and top offensive guard Trevor Robinson. This unit is solid, but never has, so far, developed a premiere running game. Coach Kelly will attempt with vigor to establish the run, a strategy abandoned last week after Notre Dame fell behind.

Notre Dame and Coach Kelly use a spread and seek balance more so than favor one offensive element. This version of the spread is accurate to term as traditional in that it seeks to isolate by going horizontal, but still have the aggressiveness to go vertical to go for the throat. Zone inside and zone outside are common staples of the run offense and a key objective is to get defenders out of the box. If the defense chooses to use bigger defenders, the offense counters by using quicker athletes to get mismatches. Know this, the Notre Dame offense and personnel pose major concerns for the Michigan defense. If Michigan cannot stop the base running plays it will be a long day.


This unit returns 8 of 11 starters led by All-American candidate Manti Te’o. He might be the top linebacker Michigan sees this year and one of the better defenders regardless of position. Darius Fleming who is a very active outside linebacker joins Te’o at linebacker. They teamed up for 17 tackles, two sacks, and four tackles for loss last Saturday.

The defensive line, with good experience, is also very good, and returns two very good defensive ends in Ethan Johnson and Kapron Lewis-Moore. The nose tackle is 300 pounder Ian Williams, thought to be a Sunday player if everything falls in place. This group also had a very good first game on Saturday

Thorpe nominee Harrison Smith, a tough safety who is equally good against the run or pass, leads the secondary. Two seniors and a junior who collectively make up a more than adequate Division 1 secondary join him.

Again, the Notre Dame offense gets the conversation, but Coach Kelly has made it clear defense is important. The defensive unit is solid but not spectacular. Talk of slow and untalented athletes on the defense that can easily get beat by speed are fading into the past.

Special Teams:

Here is a potentially huge advantage for Notre Dame. All-American kicker, Dave Ruffer, holds about every accuracy record listed, and the second kicker, Nick Tausch, would hold the job for many prime time teams. Punter Ben Turk averaged only 34 yards per punt but he is a strategic punter who excels at position, not average. On the surface Notre Dame’s return game appears average (about 22 yards last year). But Notre Dame has made this a point of emphasis for improvement this year. The talented Theo Riddick is certainly capable of busting the big one against a mediocre kickoff return team.

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Written by GBMWolverine Staff

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