Notes on a Spring Game: Notre Dame

Rumblin', bumblin', stumblin'. (Photo Courtesy: USA Today Sports)

Only a few months removed from its crushing loss in the BCS Championship game to Alabama, Notre Dame finds itself in unfamiliar territory: In the national conversation.

For the Irish, this is a significant development, and a situation that has only occurred two or three times in the last 20 years. Entering the 2013 season, Brian Kelly can focus his energy on addressing a few specific questions and figures to be in excellent position for another successful campaign.

Saturday’s annual Blue-Gold Game was the de facto beginning to Notre Dame’s follow-up effort. Some general observations:

*Defense ruled

Defense remains the central theme for the Irish, so it should come as no  surprise that the defensive squad won by an inventive, scrimmage-only score of 54-43. (Strangely, last year’s defensive team won by the same margin.)  Notre Dame’s front seven should again be one of the best in the country, and though its secondary has questions at safety, the experience from last season should help catapult younger players towards a better season.

*Irish Chocolate tastes so sweet

Louis Nix played offense. And scored.

Important note: This isn’t going to be a secret weapon situation moving forward. Also important: It was fun to watch.

*Martin making the calls

Chuck Martin will be taking over offensive playcalling duties from Brian Kelly. We’ll see if this sticks, but as Mike Mayock pointed out, Martin and Kelly are like-minded when it comes to calling offense, so it would seem to be a natural fit.

*Crowded backfield

George Atkinson III is ready to take the next step as a running back, but will need to overcome some challenges to get there. Atkinson has blazing speed, but runs with a high pad level, which was highlighted emphatically when Carlo Calabrese delivered a crushing blow to him early in the game.

It will be interesting to see how Kelly splits up work in the backfield this coming season as Cam McDaniel, Amir Carlisle and potentially freshman Greg Bryant could all contribute.

*Golson… Guh!

For what it’s worth, Everett Golson looked dreadful. Spring scrimmages are often a poor barometer for future success, and Golson’s in-season growth throughout 2012 should not be overlooked, but it was clearly not his best effort.

Kelly commented that Golson resorted to old “playground football” tendencies in Saturday’s game, which was a fairly accurate description. Most of Golson’s throws were woefully off target, and his presence in the pocket was lackadaisical at best.

The expectation is that Golson will improve upon his completion percentage this coming season; Saturday’s effort didn’t do much to boost confidence. Both Tommy Rees and freshman Malik Zaire looked more impressive.