Last week I introduced you to the new faces of Irish football and a lot of the players on that list saw action in the victory over Purdue.
As also mentioned before, Saturday’s victory displayed a nice balance of veteran starters mixed with just the right amount of upperclassmen players ready to step up and a few younger players pushing their way into serious playing time.
Let’s take a look back at how everyone did in the first game of 2010.
Little to No Impact
Quite a few on the list made very little of an impact or didn’t see the field at all, which is to be expected.
Among this group are included, Deion Walker, Austin Collinsworth, Dan McCarthy, Chris Watt, Tyler Eifert, Tommy Rees, Lo Wood, Prince Shembo and Danny Spond.
Some of these players never stepped on to the field (Rees) while some found themselves playing a little bit on special teams.
Eifert was not a regular on the field, although he was out there blocking on the unfortunate safety that the Irish gave up.
Shembo, Spond and Wood all saw some action on defense but it was very limited.
Martin, Cave and Dever
The three new starters on the offensive line did a pretty admirable job on Saturday, especially considering they were facing a tough BCS-level front four from Purdue. Although they were far from perfect, you have to be glad with the way they performed after being essentially thrown into the fire without a cupcake team to beat up on first.
Martin played very solid at left tackle and Cave was actually really good for most of the game. At times, Cave was flat out dominant in run blocking.
Dever had his hands full with All-Big Ten defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, but he was able to settle down and make some nice adjustments after a rough start in which Kerrigan was living in the Irish backfield.
I was pretty impressed with this group of new starters and that is a great sign for the future. I don’t even want to think about what would have happened with Sam Young and Paul Duncan playing at tackle last Saturday.
Carlo & Mac
Carlo Calabrese got his first career start against Purdue and played above expectations. You can tell that he is a very down hill kind of middle linebacker who likes to get up field and stick someone in the mouth.
However, he is not as dynamic back peddling, making adjustments in passing situations or getting towards the sidelines, but he should improve as time goes on. It’s important to remember that Calabrese is still really young.
Anthony McDonald was slowed down by an injury in the weeks leading up to the home opener, but ended up seeing a very small amount of time nonetheless. It looks like he should be ready to go against Michigan on Saturday.
Sean Cwynar, Emeka Nwankwo and Hafis Williams all saw significant action against the Boilermakers in back up roles on the defensive line.
While they didn’t play terrible, there was a significant drop-off in physicality whenever one of these players replaced a starter and Purdue did a lot of damage while they were on the field as well.
Serviceable is a good word that comes to mind when describing this unit and the positive thing is that they allowed Johnson, Ian Williams and Lewis-Moore some much needed rest.
This unit could play a pivotal role in the match up with Michigan this Saturday because the Irish cannot afford too much of a drop-off and too little of a push with Denard Robinson looking to bolt through the line of scrimmage and into the open field.
My new favorite player who I have been championing since spring did not disappoint in his Irish debut.
Everyone has been praising him for his play and rightfully so, but he also nearly lost a fumble on his big kick return and lost a lot of stamina as the game wore on.
Once Wood gets more comfortable with the college game and is back in the groove of playing a lot of football, I expect him to push for more and more playing time.
Jones had an outstanding day in his first career start as a true freshman playing on a big stage for week one.
As long as he can stay healthy and take the pounding required to make plays at this level he should remain one of the top three receivers on the depth chart.
Jones caught every ball thrown his way on Saturday, including the only touchdown, while he should have also drawn a blatant pass interference penalty in the later stages of the game.
Jackson wasn’t even on my original list of the new faces we’d see against Purdue and his play on special teams was outstanding. The coaching staff continues to praise this true freshman and his blazing speed, but you have to be impressed with the toughness he showed against Purdue.
The word from South Bend is that he has to let his hands catch up to his incredibly quick feet, but Jackson might be catching some balls for the Irish a lot sooner then most people thought.