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Notre Dame Football

Anonymous Coaches Talk ND Opponents

August 12, 2019

I don’t know who coined the term “coach speak”, but I commend them for coming up with it. It’s the best way to describe when coaches say something without saying much at all. When Brian Kelly talks about traits without actually explaining what that means, that is a perfect example of coach speak.

Coaches usually don’t want to reveal too much when they talk with the media and, most of the time, it’s tough to blame them. They are looking for every edge they can get and don’t want to give any information away that they don’t have to. They are frequently tight lipped when discussing their own team and are even more so when mentioning their opponents.

It makes perfect sense why they don’t say much or end up praising the players and coaches they’ll face rather than being completely honest. By only complimenting their opponents, nothing can be used against them as motivation.

That’s why I love reading the quotes Athlon compiles every year from anonymous coaches every year. There is no fear of revealing too much or giving extra motivation because the anonymity allows them to be more honest when talking about other programs.

And what they say can be even more revealing than reading a team preview put together by Athlon themselves. I grabbed some interesting quotes from anonymous coaches that spoke to Athlon about Notre Dame’s 2019 opponents and I think they say more than a lot of the “coach speak” going into the season.

Boston College

Referring to losing several starters up front on both sides of the line:

"You finally saw what they could be capable of in the first half of last year, but they're losing so much, especially on both lines, that it's almost impossible to think they can do that again this year. "You know exactly what you're getting with Steve Addazio, so they're not going to come out with something radically different to compensate for losing their big bodies. That's what he thrives on; it's just not possible to quick fix."

Notre Dame plays BC later in the year so it will be interesting to see if they have some answers on both sides of the ball by the time they travel to South Bend. They were not deep on the defensive line in 2018 and their starters played a lot of snaps. With those guys gone, it’s not clear if they are going to be able to generate much of a pass rush with just four.

On the losses in the secondary:

"They're losing a really great defense. They could make you make really bad decisions throwing the ball, and they had a lot of turnovers. Really physical secondary, ball-hawking guys. You don't just plug and play to replace guys like that at BC."

Without Zach Allen and Wyatt Ray off the edge, are they going to play softer in coverage? I’m right there with this coach. They rarely have the same level of players ready to play in the secondary if they lose some good ones. They better learn quickly or else I could see the Irish exploiting them with their speed at receiver.


On replacing first round pick Daniel Jones at quarterback:

"Quentin Harris is the next guy there. You won't see him do what Jones did last season, and he won't have to overextend; they have a really nice backfield around him. Deon Jackson is a legit talent there and could be one of the best in the league and the country if they lean on him. He'll be their feature, but Cut always has a rotation of backs."

Jackson was offered by Notre Dame after a strong performance Irish Invasion, but they were too late to the party. He’s been a very good player for the Blue Devils and the Irish could use him in their offense.

He’s a versatile option, but they’ll need him and the other backs to do a lot. They are replacing most of their production at receiver and if teams can stop the run against them, it could make things very difficult for Harris.

On the depth on defense:

"The defense is a tougher situation. Losing a heart and soul guy like Joe Giles-Harris early really hurts them a lot. They have really physical 1's on defense, but you see the gap between them and the top programs when you get on their 2's. The talent isn't comparable."

Something to remember as Duke lost Giles-Harris and another very good linebacker from last year’s squad. They need to stay healthy on defense late in the year to hang with Notre Dame because their offense isn’t facing a BVG defense this time around.


On the state of the program Bobby Petrino left behind:

"This is a total rebuild. This one might be more difficult than Georgia Tech switching back from a triple (option). The good news is that Louisville seems completely aware that this is a ground-up situation and not a quick fix. They obviously really wanted Jeff Brohm, being the native son and all, but they got a 10-year guy in Scott (Satterfield). He's going to take the time we think they're giving him and build out his program. App State was a really, really well-run program. They found their guys, built them up and dominated with their culture. It's a long road to doing that here."

This is not the year for them to beat the Irish. There’s a reason they are a three touchdown underdog.

On the quarterback situation:

"Expect a total change with the offensive personnel. The QB they got from this signing class (Evan Conley) will probably end up as their guy, maybe not at first but maybe by the end of the year. They're going to take their lumps with him now, which makes sense."

Jawon Pass is considered the favorite to win the quarterback job out of camp, but Conley has been getting reps with the twos with Malik Cunningham suffering a knee injury. If they go with Conley to start the first game, it could be a long night for the freshman.


On quarterback Bryce Perkins:

"Bryce Perkins is good and could be great. He's athletic, he's smooth, and he changes their confidence when he's out there. They're a different team with him, and that's what you want from a starter."
"They're losing guys at running back and wide receiver, but with Perkins there for one more year, you can get past that. They've got enough there to work with around him, especially if they find a complementary runner."

Perkins might be the most dangerous quarterback Notre Dame faces in the regular season. He’s the only one who really presents a true scare as a dual-threat heading into the fall.

They rely on him in the red zone. He threw 14 touchdowns and ran for 6 (out of their 14 total) in that area of the field.

On the defense:

"Defensively, they've really been building this whole time. We knew that part, but Bronco has brought in some players and developed some other ones. They're going to be deeper and longer at all three areas, and they're extremely well coached. Bronco has always been a great developer of defensive players."

Why are explosive plays so critical? Because against well-coached defenses like this, it’s very difficult to grind out drives consistently. They were 64th in IsoPPP+ last season (a metric that measures explosive plays).

Virginia Tech

On their backfield:

"They're thin at quarterback and running back. That's not good. The (Ryan) Willis kid will probably start at QB. They need a true feature back to help him out, and they may not have one."

They missed out on landing former Clemson back Tavien Feaster as a transfer. With the talent at receiver, I’d expect them to be pass-heavy. I don’t think it will be a good thing to be a pass-heavy offense against this Notre Dame pass rush.

On Bud Foster and the defense:

"Bud Foster is going to do what Bud does. It's not about pressures or blitzes, it's actually about taking the two or three things you do best and stopping that. He's old school. He wants to make you uncomfortable above all else. He wants to make you beat him left-handed. They're really good at winning first down on defense."

Foster did not have the talent to play great defense last year. It’s to be determined how much better the talent they will be in 2019, but just about everyone is back. One thing he did do last season was lay out a blueprint for other coaches to copy when playing against Notre Dame.

He made the offense have to throw it deep and Ian Book was 1 for 7 on throws over 20 yards in that game. If Book struggles completing the deep ball early this season, you know Foster will dare the Irish to throw it over the top again.

(For all of the quotes on these teams and others in the ACC, click here)


From one coach on their identity:

"They could actually stand to change things up a little bit more on offense. They have a really solid group of receivers, and they've been recruiting that position better and better in (David) Shaw's time. They're never going to move away from the power necessarily, but they didn't run the ball at all like they have in the past."

And from another:

"It’s hard to say something new about their identity, which is a compliment. You never see them trying to force themselves into something new. They’re always going to stay consistent. If you see them struggle with the run again this year, then maybe it’s enough to say there’s a trend. But they’ve been so good at their game for so long you have to look at last year as an outlier."

Notre Dame has all season to learn what direction Stanford goes with their offense. If they start slow, and they might with a very tough schedule to open the season, then I think we might be KJ Costello slinging it around a lot more than the typical power running game they have brought to each game versus the Irish over the past decade.


On their switch to the Air Raid:

"Losing Kliff Kingsbury is understandable — the guy got a head job in the NFL — but it's still not a good situation. Graham Harrell will have some really talented guys to work with. They won't be drastically different; they've played in the gun for a while now. It won't look as extremely different as we're hearing in the offseason. It might be an improvement over last year. Of all the things around that program, their inability to run the ball is their biggest problem. They just don't look like the USC you expect. Mike Jinks was a great running backs coach in an Air Raid at Texas Tech. So yeah, the hires say they're going all-in on the Air Raid. It might look strange, but they're heading that way."

They are loaded at receiver, but what this coach mentioned about the running game is true. Harrell’s offense at North Texas finished 112th in rushing play percentage last year (46.6%) so they may be going all-in chucking it all over the yard with the hire.

We’ll see if it works, but the personnel certainly makes them intriguing.

(For all of the quotes on Stanford and USC and others in the Pac-12, click here)


On their new offensive coordinator:

"The biggest question mark is James Coley as a first-time play-caller in the SEC. That's going to be scary at first. And in that situation, the responsibility is solely on you if it goes bad, because the talent is all over the field. But Fromm helps you out there. He's comfortable with his stuff."

It seems like it would be a pretty difficult thing to screw up with the amount of talent Coley has to work with, but it is something to think about with the heat he’ll face if they aren’t as good as last season. Georgia opens the season with Vanderbilt, Murray State, and Arkansas State. Those are matchups that the offense should dominate, but if they don’t, Coley is going to face some pressure headed into Notre Dame. (Not to mention facing a much better defense)

Georgia finished with the 3rd ranked defense in S&P+ last season.

On the defense:

"Really impressed by the secondary and linebacker play. The kid Monty Rice could have a breakout season. They’ve got an absolute freak at the nose (Jordan Davis). Just an absolute monster who will play on Sundays."

They have several young players who could make their defense great. Davis is 6’6” 330. Welcome to college football, Jarrett Patterson. He’s going to have his hands full with Davis.

(For all of the quotes on Georgia and others in the SEC, click here)


On going away from Jim Harbaugh’s style on offense:

"A lot of coaches think they still want to grind you out and don't want to embrace the change. They've done a great job recruiting on offense; they can switch to a full on spread and score a lot this season. It's not even a major change — it was just that you had to scout and respect that the kid (Shea Patterson) could pull it and run, or just the threat of it."

I think things could get very interesting on offense if they go all the way with new coordinator Josh Gattis calling the offense. If they are running more spread with RPO concepts mixed in, it completely changes the dynamic of the offense and suits the skill talent they have.

However, one thing to remember is that just about every player on the offensive line gained weight this summer. They didn’t exactly change their bodies to become better suited to run an uptempo style of offense.

On what can beat them on defense:

"Ohio State has had their number, but that's because they're the only ones who have the talent to go one on one against that man coverage. Ohio State was athletic enough to pick and rub and beat them at their game."

Ahem, I believe Notre Dame also has the talent expose them if they play as much man as they have in the past. They actually did so last year with a quarterback who wasn’t known for hitting his receivers in stride.

(For all of the quotes on Michigan and others in the Big Ten, click here)

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