Notre Dame will start its 2013 season with formerly deposed senior quarterback Tommy Rees at the helm. He steps in for former Irish QB Everett Golson, who is off the team this season.
To understand how the offense is going to change, you first need to understand the differences between the two quarterbacks.
Golson is a dual-threat quarterback with a solid arm. Though he averaged just 3.2 yards per attempt on his feet, his rushing ability was an asset to the team. The threat of a running QB can freeze defenders, thereby easing coverage on receivers and rushers.
Rees is a pocket passer whose greatest strength is his knowledge of the game. He's a capable game manager who functions best inside the pocket.
For a full comparison of the two quarterbacks, click here.
So, how will the offense be different?
Expect to see Rees in the pocket throwing screens to primary receivers TJ Jones and DaVaris Daniels. His lack of mobility will limit, but not cripple, the offense.
The play action will also continue to be a large part of the Notre Dame offense, in both wide and tight formations.
The biggest issue for Rees will be winning the turnover battle. If the pistol offense is indeed used on the field, the alignment of the quarterback in that formation—closer to the line of scrimmage than in the shotgun—should help him read defenses and spot alternate receivers. The pistol is also well suited for short passes, such as screens, which are well within Rees' comfort zone.
Perhaps the biggest asset Rees has coming into the 2013 season is his experience. As our national CFB lead writer Michael Felder pointed out, the current Irish QB is third in passing yardage for the last 10 years at Notre Dame, behind Jimmy Clausen and Brady Quinn.
Will the Fighting Irish offense perform better than it did in 2012?
Rushing duties will fall primarily to George Atkinson III and Amir Carlisle, assuming the latter stays healthy. As we saw last year, the Irish rushers have had moderate success running out of the spread, ranking 38th nationally in rushing offense.
Should they rush out of the pistol, you can expect that stat to elevate as the pistol keeps the O-line tight like a Power-I formation. This allows the offensive linemen to cover man-to-man and open up running lanes for the rushers.
Ultimately the success of the Irish offense will rest on their ability to execute plays and avoid turnovers. The defense is expected to be juggernaut again this year, but the offense will need to deliver in order for Notre Dame to get back into the title game.