Welcome to the 21st Century of Fighting Irish football coverage.
This One Foot Down season preview focuses on Notre Dame of course, but also branches out for a wider focus on the greater college football landscape. With 16 chapters in all, we think it's a thorough and in-depth look at the Fighting Irish and what we expect to see from the team and the rest of the country in 2012.
You can buy the eBook here for 99¢ for Kindle and it will soon be available in the iBookstore as well.
Here is a short preview of the magazine.
Chapter 1, Uncertainty & Hope: Brian Kelly's Third Year
"If you look hard enough you'll find trends both positive and negative from a whole breadth of results that have occurred over the past two years under Kelly. However, if there's one word that could sum up the collective head scratching past 24 months under Brian Kelly's leadership it would be paradox.
Kelly was a noted quarterback developer but has struggled finding a quality signal caller at Notre Dame.
There were fears that Kelly wouldn't pay attention to defense but he's dramatically improved that side of the ball.
He runs a pass first spread offense that is very friendly to receivers but has struggled developing wideouts.
He runs a pass first spread offense but has built tremendous depth at running back and had one of the most productive rushing seasons in recent school history in 2011.
Kelly's offense is typically run at hyper speed but has been run mostly at a normal pace for two years in South Bend.
Notre Dame's biggest weakness prior to his arrival was the defensive line, but now it is the strength of the defense even with the loss of Aaron Lynch."
Chapter 2, Notre Dame 2012 Schedule
Here you'll find the opponents, dates, times, television networks, and location for Notre Dame's upcoming season.
Chapter 3, One Foot Down Staff Predictions for Notre Dame
"State is rebuilding, and I think that the Kelly-era strength and athleticism upgrades continue to reap benefits in the form of a road win at State. I've finally recovered from whatever whole-body physical illness overtook me in the '11 UTL game at Ann Arbor, but not enough to pick the Irish to beat U of M. Also, this is my attempt at a reverse jinx, or like the Tao of college-football fandom or something."
Chapter 4, Notre Dame Opponent Previews
"Notre Dame handled Purdue last year in West Lafayette, but the Boilermakers look to be an improved team in 2012 with some calling them a dark horse candidate for the Big Ten Championship game. Purdue should be better, but I don't think a chance at a conference title is really in the cards this year---there's simply not enough All-Big Ten-type talent and the quarterback play would need to take a large step forward.
Historically, this should be a game that Notre Dame wins as the Irish have taken 16 out of the past 17 meetings between these two schools in South Bend. Purdue has some nice players, and there will be some worry about a hangover effect from the trip to Ireland, but Notre Dame is still much stronger in nearly every way. A closer game than last year shouldn't surprise anyone, but an outright Boilermaker upset would be somewhat shocking."
Chapter 5, Irish Coaching Staff Profiles
"There are few assistant coaches in the nation that have worn more hats than Martin. He enters his first season as the Irish offensive coordinator after coaching in the secondary the last two seasons and acting as Notre Dame's recruiting coordinator.
He joined Brian Kelly in South Bend after six seasons as the head coach at Division II Grand Valley State University, a tenure which included back-to-back national championships. In addition to being Kelly's right-hand man on offense, Martin faces the formidable task of coaching a quarterback group that has many questions to answer. Martin remains undaunted by the challenge, always keeping his calm and sense of humor whether dealing with erratic quarterbacks, unpredictable recruitments, or his short-fused head coach.
He is looking for more dynamic play and fewer boneheaded decisions out of the Tommy Rees-Andrew Hendrix-Everett Golson-Gunner Kiel foursome this year. Schematically, he refuses to be typecast and deemphasizes X's and O's, instead ascribing to the rule that offense is about "players, not plays". He is hell-bent on getting the ball into his best players' hands, and he has many weapons on this Irish offense to choose from."
Chapter 6, Bob Diaco's 3-4 Defense
"Diaco picked up much of his defensive philosophy when he spent three seasons (2006-2008) as the Linebackers Coach under Al Groh at the University of Virginia. Groh is part of the Bill Parcells to Bill Bilichick coaching tree that has produced several top flight coaches such as Nick Saban. As a relatively young coordinator there isn't much written on Coach Diaco's defense specifically but by studying the defenses of Bilichick, Groh and even Saban we can garner some insight into some of the things that Coach Diaco is doing with his defense when we watch the Fighting Irish.
In the 3-4 front there are four linebackers lined up behind three down linemen. The outside linebackers are hybrid players that are sometimes referred to as "tweeners" due to their ability to fill multiple roles on the edge of a defense. They often fill what most think of as a traditional outside linebacker role but they also need to be able to fill the roles of a defensive end with a hand on the ground, or a defensive back in pass coverage. Both outside linebackers need to be proficient in all three of those things.
The flexibility provided by those two outside linebackers is the biggest benefit of a 3-4 front. That ability to move them around to fill multiple roles allows the defense to easily maneuver in and out of 3, 4 or even 5 man fronts with relative ease. All it takes is either outside linebacker walking up and lining up as a down lineman prior to the snap. This versatility can create an additional layer of confusion for opposing offensive linemen and quarterbacks that are trying to make pre-snap reads to determine things like blocking assignments and where the pressure might be coming from."
Chapter 7, Notre Dame Offense 101
"When Kelly arrived in South Bend in 2010, he had a former 5-star quarterback in Dayne Crist, a star wide receiver in Michael Floyd, a future second-round NFL draft pick in Kyle Rudolph, and an offensive line that underperformed greatly for Charlie Weis. Kelly's system seemed tailor-made for the Notre Dame's roster.
But in reality, the spread is an underdog strategy. It was originally designed for teams that faced a talent disadvantage on a week-to-week basis. Notre Dame can recruit beefy offensive linemen, hulking tight ends, and tall wide receivers. You don't need to use David's strategy when you can recruit Goliath's players. Thus we are seeing Kelly fit his offense to his personnel and add in pro-style elements so the Irish can over-power teams when the situation is right.
That isn't to say the spread is bad. Its main focus is getting your best athletes the ball in space, something I think everyone can agree is a good thing. But when you can line up and push the other team around, that's also a good thing. Putting those things together just makes sense."
Chapter 8, Depth Chart & Positional Previews
"As the Kelly offense evolves, the lines between tailback and slot receiver are going to blur, meaning you could see Riddick and Wood on the field at the same time. Theo Riddick is returning to the backfield after two years playing slot receiver, but he'll still be a versatile athlete used all over the place. Riddick was effective at tailback as a freshman, developing a reputation for his leaping ability when approached by would-be tacklers, but Kelly moved him to the slot in 2010.
Although effective in his two seasons there with 78 catches and a half dozen touchdowns, the New Jersey native was hobbled by injuries that either slowed him or kept him out of games completely. With his experience at wide receiver, Riddick is the poster child for the swing position that might define the Irish offense this year, as players switch between the backfield and slot, getting the ball in as many ways as the coaching staff can devise."
Chapter 9, Potential Breakout Players for 2012
"Councell steps into the 2012 season as a perfect fit for the difficult Dog linebacker position, now a bit thinner with Troy Niklas moved to tight end and Prince Shembo almost certain to move to the Cat position alongside Ishaq Williams; Danny Spond is likely to compete at the Dog position with Councell. At Dog, speed and pass coverage are key, and Councell has the lankiness, speed, and nose for the ball that can bring much improved play to a position still needing a true playmaker in 2012. Councell also has the chance to make a big impact on special teams. Brian Kelly claims to have had Councell "at the top of our board from the very beginning of the recruiting process;" he's shown the coaches "the ability to shed a blocker, [to] arrive at the play in a bad mood," to "play on the edge of our defense and increase our athleticism immediately." If he plays to his potential and finds his fit, Ben Councell is poised to break out for the Irish in 2012."
Chapter 10, Freshmen Profiles
"Russell will come to camp this fall as one of the most versatile athletes in the 2012 class. He is the ideal fit for the slot receiver/running back combo for Offensive Coordinator Chuck Martin. He also played defensive back in high school and could potentially move to cornerback if depth becomes a concern for the coaching staff. He is a very elusive runner in the open field, with great acceleration and change of direction. He has great hands and is a real threat catching the ball out of the backfield."
Chapter 11, Preseason Top 25
5. Oregon Ducks
"Some say this will be the best Oregon defense of the past decade. They lose quarterback Darron Thomas and running back LaMichael James, but there are whispers that sophomore quarterback Bryan Bennett is lethal in the Duck offense. Two more Heisman-level weapons in De'Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner return as well. With their easy schedule, the season will likely boil down to how they fare against USC. Beat the Trojans twice and the BCS title game may await, if not then the Rose Bowl instead."
Chapter 12, BCS Bowls & Conference Predictions
Sugar Bowl (January 2, 2013 at Mercedes-Benz Superdome)
Alabama vs. Virginia Tech
BIG 12 CONFERENCE
The Favorites: Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Texas
The Dark Horse: TCU
Chapter 13, All-Opponent Team
2nd Team Defense
DE Anthony Chickillo (Miami)
DT Nikita Whitlock (Wake Forest)
DE Wes Horton (USC)
LB Shayne Skov (Stanford)
LB Max Bullough (Michigan State)
LB Hayes Pullard (USC)
LB Tom Wort (Oklahoma)
CB Merrill Noel (Wake Forest)
CB Demontre Hurst (Oklahoma)
S Aaron Colvin (Oklahoma)
S Jordan Kovacs (Michigan)
Chapter 14, Top Heisman Candidates
7. QB James Franklin, Missouri
"Franklin could have been a few spots higher on this list if it weren't for Missouri's move from the Big 12 to the SEC. As it is, he's probably the most underrated dual-threat quarterback in the country as an athlete who is truly a pass-first signal-caller. Last year he racked up over 2,800 passing yards nearly 1,000 rushing yards with 36 overall touchdowns and just 11 interceptions. If he stays at that level of production or even slightly better and Missouri actually surprises in the SEC, Franklin might be getting an invite to New York City when the season ends."
Chapter 15, Football Food
"Your guacamole is all but finished at this point and can actually be served as is. I like to take the additional step of dicing a tomato and mixing that in after moving the guacamole from the food processor into a bowl. The tomato will add some more volume and an added complimentary taste. Once your guacamole is done, take those avocado pits that you saved, put them in the bowl with the guacamole and just push them to the bottom with a spoon. The pits will help to keep your guacamole green and fresh for about 2 days. This little trick gives you the option of making it the night prior and packing it up on Saturday morning to take to your tailgate."
Chapter 16, Notre Dame Trivia
7) Which Irish defender totaled the most tackles in one season throughout the 1990's?
A. Michael Stonebreaker
B. Jimmy Friday
C. Demetrius DuBose
D. Kinnon Tatum
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