Notre Dame Football

What to Expect From the Blue-Gold Game

April 19, 2017

After practice on Wednesday, Brian Kelly announced the format for this year's Blue-Gold game. And with that came some hope that we're going to see some real competition rather than a glorified practice like so many other programs run at the conclusion of spring ball.

It will be best versus best with the ones versus the ones going head to head. Essentially the game will be comprised of the offense versus the defense, which is a much more entertaining and realistic version of a scrimmage than having the starters go against the second team. That might lead to some big numbers for the offense, but it's not going to show where the players are truly at in terms of their development.

For most Notre Dame fans, this is going to be the first time they get to see what is a mostly brand new Irish team. Several players are returning, but with a new offensive coordinator and new defensive coordinator, everyone has to be very curious as to how different this team will be from previous versions of the Irish during the Brian Kelly era.

What can we expect scheme wise from both the O and the D?

Spring games are notorious for being bland. Especially now that most are televised or are available online, coaching staffs are more cautious than ever to not show their hand.

It's going to be impossible for Chip Long and Mike Elko to keep everything under wraps. It would be counterproductive to run something completely different than they are going to run this fall. I would just expect everything to be a bit more basic.

Former Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco ran a 4-3 in Nebraska's spring game just so no one could watch the film to break down his 3-4 defense. In my opinion, nothing could be more stupid than wasting a practice just so opposing teams don't see your base defense. Teams have seen his defense at UCONN and Notre Dame. They know what they are getting with him as a defensive coordinator for the most part, so why waste time failing at being sneaky?

Teams know what they are getting with Elko's defense as well. He's not going to come to Notre Dame and go away from his 4-2-5. I'm sure early season opponents are going to be well aware of what he does by watching plenty of Wake Forest and even Bowling Green film.

We'll see plenty of his regular defense on Saturday that probably won't look that much different than it looks like on 1st and 2nd down in the fall. Where it will probably look a lot different is on 3rd down. I can't imagine he'll be dialing up a ton of exotic pressures in this format.

I would say the biggest difference between what we'll see this weekend and what we'll see in the fall is specific things taking advantage of the individual talent. If he views Jamir Jones as a great pass rusher as an inside linebacker, I wouldn't expect to see a ton of pass rush from him to show his hand in that sense.

Those types of wrinkles to his scheme that he has or will put in to take advantage of the talent at Notre Dame are not going to be on full display on Saturday. It would be surprising if the same wasn't true on offense.

Long may have a package he wants to use to get the ball to Alize Jones or some screens he plans to implement with someone like CJ Sanders or Chris Finke. He'll save those for Saturdays in the fall, but the meat and potatoes of what his offense is will run like it normally would.

He is going to run his offense in this game. We will see him change tempo and we will see personnel packages with multiple tight ends. RPOs (run-pass options) will be in there as well. Everyone knows this is part of the offense so there will be no big secrets revealed in that sense.

I'm sure he'll hold back on the unique wrinkles they are going to use in the fall, but it should be a good opportunity for Irish fans to watch what Long's offense is mostly about.

What will be the most intriguing individual matchups?

Ones versus ones ensures that we are going to see just how far along some of the players are after a spring concentrating on technique, fundamentals, and body transformation under a new strength and conditioning staff.

Let's start in the trenches where Daelin Hayes has had a breakout spring playing Drop in Elko's defense. He should be up against Mike McGlinchey plenty of times and it sounded like Hayes got the better of McGlinchey at least a few times yesterday at practice. Everyone knows that Big Mike is one of the top returning tackles in college football and that Hayes is being counted on to produce as a pass rusher off the edge. It's going to be fun to watch them battle most of the day.

Right beside McGlinchey on the left side of the line is Quenton Nelson. He should be lined up across from 3 technique Jonathan Bonner quite a bit. Is Bonner just an end playing inside out of necessity or is he a legitimate starter that can hold up versus the run on a consistent basis? It would be good news for Notre Dame to see him hold his own versus an outstanding run blocker in Nelson.

I think there is a very good chance that Drue Tranquill and Asmar Bilal see time with the ones at Rover in this game. Seeing how they match up in coverage is the biggest question mark and if they can do a good job when assigned to cover tight ends like Alize Jones and Durham Smythe and also a talented group of running backs, it would ease some concerns that they won't be out of their depth this fall.

The reviews at corner have been mostly positive this spring while it's been more mixed at receiver. Miles Boykin might be having one of the best springs on the team and seeing him against Julian Love, another player having a great spring, is the most intriguing matchup to watch on the outside.

Love makes up for a lot of the size mismatch with strong technique and physicality. We'll see if he can handle Boykin in some 50/50 ball scenarios.

Plenty of plays are hopefully going to be made on both sides of the ball with no matchup being too lopsided. What we see is not going to be the same team we see when they face Temple to open the 2017 season, but this will at least provide a glimpse of what kind of talent the Irish have on both sides of the football.
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