Notre Dame appears to be experimenting with the pistol formation in preparation for the coming season, and it's going to prove to be a vital part of an offense that will be prone to ineptness.
ESPN's Matt Fortuna discussed seeing Notre Dame in the pistol once and that he heard players talking about it. Meanwhile, Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune has information that suggests a bigger role for the pistol. Hamilton says the starters were practicing this formation.
There would be little reason to waste valuable reps with the starters if there were no intentions to implement this set.
Of course, Brian Kelly is not tipping his hand as to how often this formation will be used, and I would expect nothing less from the Irish head man.
When, as Fortuna reports, Kelly was asked about comments by wide receiver DaVaris Daniels concerning the Irish's use of the pistol, the coach bluntly deadpanned, "Daniels doesn't know what the hell he’s talking about."
Of course, I think Kelly is full of it, and he should be. There is no reason for Notre Dame to reveal any insight as to what the offense will look like.
Whatever the role the pistol plays for the Irish, I have no doubt it will be of benefit.
With a powerful offensive line, a passing game that figures to be suspect and a stable of talented running backs, the strength of the Irish's offense will come on the ground. The pistol will allow Notre Dame a new set of rushing alternatives.
If you aren't familiar with the formation, think of it as a mix of the shotgun and the quarterback being under center.
In a traditional pistol, the running back will line up behind the quarterback. This allows the quarterback the space to quickly throw passes without dropping back, while giving him the option to make a handoff in the same area as when he is under center. Typically, the offense will spread the defense out with three or four wide receivers in these sets.
This all works well for quick passes, handoffs and play-action passes, and read-options.
Now, the Irish lack one quality that is typically associated with this offense, and that is that quarterback Tommy Rees is not exactly known for his running ability.
Current 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick ran for over 1,000 yards in three straight seasons at Nevada while under pistol godfather and then Wolf Pack head coach Chris Ault, bringing the pistol to the forefront.
However, while Rees will not be a threat on the ground, the pistol will still help divert the defense's attention. With extra receivers on the field, defenses will not be able to stack the box. This will create more one-on-one matchups for the Irish's line, and that is a good thing for the explosive George Atkinson III and all the runners behind him.
If defenses decide to send a little extra help to stop the run, Rees will have easy passes to bring balance to the offense.
I'm not suggesting the Irish go exclusively to the pistol—it's simply another option in Kelly's bag of tricks.