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Notre Dame Football

Emptying the Notebook | Michigan Week

October 22, 2019

Each week I do a "Scouting Report" on the upcoming opponent for Irish Sports Daily readers. There's a lot I end up leaving out, though, either due to length or because it doesn’t fit the breakdown as I present it every week.

I do the same thing with what Mike and I talk about on Power Hour and the Thursday preview podcast. There are always some specifics I don't have a chance to include because there’s only so much time on each podcast.

Instead of keeping those additional observations to myself, I’m going to empty my notebook so to speak to give ISD readers more information. What better week to kick it off than this one when the Irish take on Michigan before a game that could make or break the season for both programs.

- Shea Patterson has fumbled six times this season (tied for 5th most in the country) and has thrown four interceptions. I can’t see him getting through this game without giving the ball at least once to Notre Dame.

He was hurt in the first game of the season, but has played through it. Is he still hurt? Even in the Penn State game, where he looked better than he has, he missed some open receivers when he had a clean pocket. That wasn’t happening with him in 2018.

- Penn State took four deep shots against Michigan and completed three of them.

- Tight end Nick Eubanks is a talented receiver, but he’s a move tight end. He lost several times blocking defensive ends one on one from a seven technique (inside shade of the tight end). He does a terrible job on outside zone.

If he’s the primary tight end with Sean McKeon hurt, Michigan will not have success running off-tackle.

- With so much blitzing from their inside linebackers, Iowa had a running back run an angle route open to convert on a key third down. Notre Dame needs to make their inside linebackers cover and we know Tony Jones is effective running that route.

- Former Notre Dame recruiting target Carlo Kemp has developed into a very good player inside for them. He wins with his first step. He can split the double team and his get off was a big part of shutting down Iowa’s running game.

- Ian Book must have a clock in his head in order to avoid the blitz. Sometimes it will be the best play to see a lane and run it like Brandon Wimbush did last season. Chip Long has to have hot routes built in to every play to help Book out.

- Vincent Gray is the third corner and he’s someone I would attack when he’s in the game. He’s a notch below Ambry Thomas and Lavert Hill, but all of them are very grabby in coverage. It’s another reason to keep taking shots down the field.

Michigan will hand them 15 yards if they keep testing them.

- Iowa did not have the athletes to get open on crossers against Michigan’s man coverage. I believe Notre Dame does, but they haven’t targeted those players often on those routes this year.

- It’s noteworthy that on a 2nd and 20, Don Brown went for the jugular and blitzed linebacker Cameron McGrone. He doesn’t sit back in those situations and Notre Dame needs to find a way to counter that when they get off-schedule.

- Michigan wanted to run a pass off of a jet sweep with Donovan Peoples-Jones throwing against Iowa, but the tight end slipped on the play or else it would have been six.

- When the Irish run play-action, Book needs to be on alert for a Green Dog blitz from the linebackers. They don’t hesitate for one second if they see pass in those situations even if they are supposed to be covering the back.

Notre Dame may be able to catch them with a back leaking out.

- It’s no surprise that McGrone has become an impact player in Brown’s scheme, but he is much better as a blitzer than in coverage. He’s been beat by backs out of the backfield because he gets caught peeking at the quarterback in man coverage.

When they’ve run zone, he hasn’t shown great anticipation on those crossing routes even though he has the speed to run with smaller, quicker players.

- He also isn’t someone who wants to take on blocks. He uses his speed to try and undercut them to make a play. Something big in the interior could pop because he loses his gap. Every play can’t be a tackle for loss, but he tries to make it one. That is a good thing sometimes, but not all the time.

- Khaleke Hudson is an elite athlete at their version of a Rover, but he is so much better when the play is run away from him or at making plays on the perimeter. When he’s forced to play off the ball in the box, he doesn’t diagnose as quickly on runs coming at him and he struggles to get off blocks.

He frequently plays man to man on tight ends and if I was Notre Dame, I would start with motion their tight ends to an H-back role from the slot to force Hudson to be a box defender. Penn State did it a couple of times and should have done it more.

- Notre Dame should try and play uptempo as much as possible to keep them in the same coverage and not let them check into pressures.

- They aren’t deep on the interior on defense. They play three guys, but mostly the two starters. It’s yet another reason to go uptempo to tire those defensive tackles out and try and wear them down in the second half.

- Because Brown has them playing so much man, this could be a day for more designed runs than usual. Quarterback Power out of empty worked well for Penn State and I think we’ll see quarterback draw on 2nd and long from Notre Dame.

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