Prior to the beginning of the 2009 Notre Dame football season, I picked out 10 impact players/coaches for the season (follow the link to the original here). Since we are five weeks in and have arrived at the bye week, I thought it was fitting to give interim grades (Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory/Incomplete) to measure their progress.
My original measurement for impact: the safeties aren’t 1-2 in team tackles this year (it’s not a good thing when safeties lead the team in tackles, trust me).
Tackle Leaders: Kyle McCarthy (49), Harrison Smith (32), Brain Smith (26)….Ian Williams (12)
Incomplete. The line has shown steady improvement over the past few weeks, with more activity from Williams, Ethan Johnson and Kapron Lewis-Moore. I am still holding on to hope for this unit…but only just.
My original measurement for impact: 60-plus tackles on the season.
14 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery
Unsatisfactory. Averaging just under three tackles a game results in about 35 over the season. Considering Brian Smith will now be starting at Mike and Manti Te’o at Will (forcing T. Smith out of a starting job), the numbers will only decline. On the bright side, he has been good in stopping the run and was part of the outstanding goal-line unit in the Washington game. Now relegated to a situational player, I still expect him to make a play or two here and there.
My original measure for impact: ND defense holds the opposition to under 3.5 yds/carry (vs. 4.1 yds/carry in 2008).
The defense is currently yielding 4.4 yds/carry, more than the ’08 squad. This is due in part to the overall poor tackling, which will hopefully improve. Maybe.
Incomplete. As stated above, the line has been improving, and with Te’o bound to see most of the snaps at Will, the opposing offense will have to account for him by changing blocking schemes. Looking back at the numbers for the Washington game and his improved tackling (did I mention that yet?) could equal a possible passing grade.
My original measure for impact: an overall reduction in the number of sacks (26 in 2008) to somewhere in the mid-teens. Also, an yards per carry average of four-plus.
So far, the line has given up nine sacks (projecting to around 20 for the season) and 4.1 yds/carry.
Satisfactory, but just barely. Overall, the line play is improved, but key penalties (including one on Duncan vs. Washington that negated a TD) and inconsistent running leave a little to be desired. Then again, Chris Stewart and Eric Olsen pushing the pile on the Hughes' two-point conversion was pretty sweet. Moving forward, Duncan could lose some playing time in favor of Matt Romine.
My original measure for impact: he gets 5-to-10 touches a game, averages 40-50 yards (hey, that’s only 600 yds on the season), and can become the featured 3rd-and-short (and goal line) guy who gets his job done.
Hughes has 30 carries for 159 yds (5.3 avg), two TDs, and the longest run by a ND player this season (37 yards). He also has five catches for 33 yds (6.6 avg). This projects to seven touches a game and 36.4 yds/game.
Satisfactory. I think it is finally starting to click for Hughes, and perhaps Tony Alford deserves most of the credit. He has gone from a big back trying to make too many cuts to a more decisive, north-south runner.
The Third Receiver
My original measure for impact: 600-800 yards receiving, six-to-eight TDs (similar to the numbers I expect from the TE position).
Kamara—7 catches, 49 yds
Parris—7 catches, 87 yds, 1 TD
Evans—7 catches, 61 yds
Little did I know the third receiver would have to become the second receiver.
Incomplete. Given the Michael Floyd injury, this group is under increased scrutiny. I expect one to have a big game vs. USC. So far, Parris and Evans are ahead of the pack in filling in for Floyd, and have made some big catches in key situations. Let’s hope for more of this going forward.
Charlie Weis the Offensive Coordinator
My original measure for impact: Top 20 offense, four-plus yards per carry, 30-plus points per game.
Offense ranking—10th (total offense), 4.1 yds/carry, 32.6 pts/game
Satisfactory. The output has been great, but the play-calling at times has been questionable. Limit the Wildcat to the red zone, please. Find a few more ways to get seven instead of three, but I will take the FGs over going for it on fourth down.
My original measure for impact: no snapping miscues on punts, field goals and PATs.
While he is only the LS, there have been no problems to date.
Satisfactory. Keep up the good work.
My original measure for impact: wins the kickoff responsibilities and hits double digits in touchbacks.
He did more than just win the kickoff responsibilities. Currently, he is 15/16 on PATs and 10/11 on FGs.
Satisfactory, by far. I can’t tell you how great it is to have a solid kicking game, not to mention that he will be around for three more seasons after this one. I would like to see more touchbacks, overall it’s hard to complain.
My original measure for improvement: an average a little closer to 45 yards per punt, which is asking a lot. If the average isn’t there (which partially depends on field position), then an increase in the number of punts inside the 20.
14 punts for 557 yds (39.8 avg), long of 49, three inside the 20, one touchback. Lost the punting job to freshman Ben Turk, who averaged 39.5 yds for 2 punts (1 touchback) in his debut.
Unsatisfactory. Bad punts, especially in key situations, led to Maust losing the job to the newcomer.