Notre Dame vs. Michigan: 3 Best Ways for Irish to Use Amir Carlisle
Notre Dame roared back onto the field in the opening minutes of their season opener against the Temple Owls. The Irish came up early and maintained a comfortable lead throughout their 28-6 victory.
While the Tommy Rees-DaVaris Daniels combo impressed in the air—prompting the Twitter hashtag #TouchdownReesus—it was USC transfer Amir Carlisle who shined on the ground. The 5'10", 190-pound rusher led the Irish backs with 68 yards on seven carries.
Although it was widely assumed that George Atkinson III would be the Irish's primary weapon on the ground, it was Carlisle who shined against Temple.
Next week the Fighting Irish will meet the Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor for the last game of what has been a prolific rivalry. The teams' last four meetings have been decided by seven points or less, so expect the competition to be fierce in The Big House this Saturday.
With series bragging rights and both teams' AP ranking on the line, expect this to be a defining game for Notre Dame's 2013 season.
Here are three ways head coach Brian Kelly can use Carlisle in their battle with Michigan.
Rush out of the Pistol
In his first attempt of the game, Carlisle rushed out of the recently implemented pistol offense for a 45-yard gain.
Supposedly, Michigan's front seven is going to be putting a lot of heat on quarterbacks this year. I'm not sure how seriously I take that conclusion since it was drawn after the routing of Central Michigan, but let's humor them and—for argument's sake—assume it's true.
Operating on that assumption would mean the rushers will have added pressure to deliver yardage. Carlisle proved Saturday that he is not only quick and elusive, but he has explosive speed when he breaks loose.
The pistol—as you can see in the clip above—is very well suited for rushing plays. As I mentioned in my previous article, the pistol keeps the O-line tight allowing for stronger man-to-man coverage, ideally opening up running lanes for the rushers.
The versatility of the formation—think play-action—should also keep the Wolverines defense guessing off the snap.
Expect to see Carlisle run this play in The Big House.
In addition to his rushing yardage, Carlisle made two receptions for five yards. While those numbers might not exactly jump off the page at you, the fact that he shows hybrid potential is very promising.
NBC's Keith Arnold also noted his potential as a slot receiver, quoting Kelly's reference to his versatility:
“And then we have a guy that’s not as big, who transferred in. But he’s got great speed and great ball skills. I think both of those kids have a chance to really impact our offense and really make us very versatile in the things that we can do.”
Should Carlisle be used as a true hybrid slot player—something the Irish have not had in some time—it should definitely throw the Michigan defense, who are already working with limited tape to study.
Maximize the Speed
One thing Carlisle proved unequivocally during the Temple game is that he has tremendous speed.
Michigan currently has the fifth-ranked pass defense in the nation—a ranking they also held at the end of the 2012 season. Their secondary lost safety Jordan Kovacs and cornerback J.T. Floyd, but overall the defensive backfield is expected to to be solid for the 2013 season.
Strength in the backfield means that those long passes Rees found successful during the Temple game will be more difficult to complete.
On the other hand, Michigan ranked 51st in rushing defense in 2012 and the depth chart for their defensive line is still uncertain.
This means the rush will be critical for a win over the Wolverines. While the other rushers—particularly Cam McDaniel—showed promise, it was Carlisle who stole the show with his speed.
Maximizing his speed will be crucial for a victory in Ann Arbor.