College football enthusiasts got their first look at what Brian Kelly's Notre Dame Fighting Irish team will look like in 2012.
The Fighting Irish took the field today in South Bend for the annual spring football game, and while this was only a scrimmage, Kelly had to come away with mixed thoughts.
At times, the offense looked great and at other times they looked like they were completely lost out on the field. The same can be said with the defense, which is led by All-American candidate Manti Te'o.
Let's go ahead and break down several winners and losers from Saturday's Notre Dame spring game.
Bleacher Report style!
Brian Kelly has made it clear that Tommy Rees is leading Notre Dame's quarterback competition heading into the 2012 season, but make no mistake about it, this is a competition, and anyone can take over that spot in time.
The most impressive Notre Dame quarterback on the field Saturday afternoon was redshirt freshman Everett Golson.
Golson completed 11 of 15 passes for 120 yards and two touchdown passes during the spring finale in South Bend. He had great zip on his passes and played with the type of confidence that coaches have been waiting to see from this kid.
What also makes Golson so impressive is that he can do it with his legs as well. There were several times where Golson was able to escape the pass rush and get to the outside to pick up first downs.
There were several standouts in this game, but Everett Golson shined the brightest on Saturday afternoon in South Bend.
Tommy Rees helped lead the Irish to an 8-4 regular-season record last season, so it's tough to get down on the guy, especially because it is difficult to judge a player in a team scrimmage.
But Tommy Rees was simply awful in Notre Dame's spring scrimmage on Saturday afternoon.
The junior quarterback completed just 7 of 14 passes for 84 yards and an ugly interception in the game. There were plenty of times where he missed open receivers and overthrew his intended targets.
If Rees is going to keep his starting job in 2012, he is really going to have to impress the coaching staff this summer leading up to the season because he looked far from a starting quarterback here today in South Bend.
With Jonas Gray moving on to the NFL, the Irish will have to find a capable backup running back behind starter Cierre Wood.
George Atkinson made a pretty darn good case that he could be that guy in 2012.
Atkinson rushed for a team-best 124 yards on 15 carries in today's game. He also added 52 receiving yards and a rushing touchdown in the contest as well.
Akinson looked fast and had shifty moves, often making defenders miss. On one play, he made a total of five players miss as he picked up a 30-yard gain on the ground.
The one problem with Atkinson's game today is that he did fumble the ball twice. That is going to have to stop if this guy is going to serve as the No. 2 running back for the Irish this season.
Every program designs their spring football games a little differently.
But trying to keep up with the scoring and clock system in Notre Dame's spring game must have been near impossible for the average fan.
Instead of doing a draft, Notre Dame split up the teams offense vs. defense. The offensive team could earn points as any offense would with touchdowns, field goals and point-after attempts. But the defense was way more complicated, earning points from making defensive stops before the 50-yard line (four points), turnovers forced before the 50-yard line (seven points) and forcing the offense to try a field-goal attempt (one point).
But where it really gets a losing grade is in the special teams department. There were no kickoffs in the game and all possessions began on the 35-yard line, like if you were playing in a flag football game in a park with your friends. Every punt had to be fair caught and there were only two field-goal attempts, one of which missed badly from just 30 yards out.
For a team that is struggling to find a solid option at kicker, you would think that Kelly and his staff would want to focus more on this unit in a live game type of situation like today.
If you don't know about Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert, you should now.
This kid is an absolute stud out on the football field and he showed today why he should be considered an All-American candidate heading into the 2012 college football season.
Eifert has great size at 6'6" and the athletic ability to go up and snatch the ball out of the air. He was impressive in today's spring game despite not playing after the first half.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said that his team is going to be successful if they can get the ball in the hands of their running backs and Eifert. He was pretty spot on, and those were the bright spots on offense today for this Notre Dame football team.
Tyler Eifert should bring plenty of excitement to this program in the 2012 season.