Notre Dame Football: Key Improvement Areas Irish Must Focus on During Bye Week
After a hard-fought 13-6 victory over Denard Robinson and a hyped Michigan team, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are ranked in the top 10 for the first time since 2006 and are getting a cavalcade of BCS bowl buzz.
Unfortunately for the Irish, they will not be able to continue their momentum into Week 5 action due to a bye. With nearly a ton of time between now and the team's Oct. 6 game with the Miami Hurricanes, it could lead to a rusty or complacent squad walking into the neutral site contest at Soldier Field.
Or this week off could give Notre Dame just enough time to fix its problems and continue the program's resurgence throughout the 2012 slate. If the coaching staff is smart, it will use this week as a learning tool and not one of reflection on the team's accomplishments.
With that in mind, here are a few problem areas the Irish need to work on during their week off.
Though it was the right move for head coach Brian Kelly to pull Everett Golson in favor of Tommy Rees last Saturday against Michigan, he cannot continue this vacillation going forward.
The Irish coach needs to use this vital extra time to choose which guy he wants behind center and abandon the current mind-bending situation.
Simply put, offenses do not work without confidence in the quarterback. And knowing who is behind center, who will be the guy leading you down the stretch, is more than half the battle.
As it currently stands, Golson is the starter in name only. It seems that any time the redshirt freshman makes a, for lack of better term, freshman mistake, he gets pulled in favor of Rees. That strategy worked against Michigan and Purdue, but is not sustainable going forward.
This type of vacillation confuses the offense, stunts Golson's growth and makes Kelly look like a flip-flopper to his team.
It's time to make a true choice and have enough confidence to win or lose games with that decision going forward.
For the Irish to have any chance at getting solid play out of their quarterbacks, they will need a vast improvement from the offensive line over the rest of the season.
Though a veteran bunch, the unit has failed to adequately replace former starters Trevor Robinson or Taylor Dever. Replacement guard Mike Golic Jr. has (rightfully) faced overwhelming negativity from Notre Dame fans throughout the season for his inadequacies as a starter.
Nevertheless, it is not one player who is single-handedly bringing down everyone around him. There are massive holes in each lineman on the roster that have been getting exploited all season, and it's submarined the Irish offensive attack on more than one occasion.
Without significant strides in the coming weeks, there is no chance we see Notre Dame in a January bowl contest.
While the youthful bunch has been an unexpected revelation thus far, the unit's responsibilities will only increase as the season goes along.
The Irish have been able to hide their secondary's inexperience by dropping five and six men back in coverage while still getting frontal pressure thanks to the scintillating play of their front seven.
With matchups against top-notch quarterbacks in Oklahoma's Landry Jones and USC's Matt Barkley on tap, the team needs to cut bait a little during practice to see how the youngsters hold up.
All indications have been that the secondary will be fine. Nonetheless, the coaching staff will need to mix blitz schemes against Jones and Barkley to have any chance at success. How the secondary performs on an island likely holds the key to victory in both games for the Irish.
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