Following up on last week’s FSU perspective from Coley Harvey, Eric Hansen of the South Bend Tribune joined @ChampsSportsBwl on Twitter to give the Notre Dame outlook, including the QB situation, the biggest challenges for the Irish and who needs to step up to bring the trophy home to South Bend.
@ChampsSportsBwl: This year was a step up for Notre Dame record-wise, but in general do fans feel the program is making progress?
@HansenSouthBend: I think they see the progress on the defensive side of the ball definitely … where they are concerns are two areas: special teams and especially the development at the quarterback position. ND is 53rd in passing efficiency, similar to 2010.
@ChampsSportsBwl: Speaking of QBs, who benefits most from extra practice? Tommy Rees is starting but as you wrote yesterday, Andrew Hendrix is making gains.
@HansenSouthBend: I think it’s win-win. Where Rees gains an advantage is working through strategies that will counteract how defenses are defending him, Hendrix gets more of the playbook, more attention from coaches, more everything. Great situation for him.
@ChampsSportsBwl: FSU is very strong against the run, and ND has struggled running against ranked opponents. Will that affect the QB shuffle?
@HansenSouthBend: It could. Florida St is by far the best run defense ND has faced in Kelly Era. Leads the nation in avg. per carry allowed. Stanford was No. 5 when the Irish played them in run defense. Hendrix’s added dimensions did loosen up the defense.
@ChampsSportsBwl: Special teams also face a tough challenge. Which ‘Nole should Irish fans worry about most: Greg Reid, Shawn Powell or Dustin Hopkins?
@HansenSouthBend: I’m going to go with the punter, Powell, on this one. Field position will be huge, I think, in this game & he’s a weapon. Notre Dame, meanwhile, is dead last nationally in punt returns (0.3 yds per) and hasn’t returned on in its past 7 games.
@ChampsSportsBwl: On the other side, which ND player is poised for a breakout game in Orlando? Who has the most favorable matchup?
@HansenSouthBend: I would say freshman DE Aaron Lynch, who was once committed to FSU, would be the guy to watch. FSU, to me, looks like a BCS team in every way but offensively. Trouble with o-line dragged them down. ND has to exploit. I think Florida State has more things going in its favor, but if ND’s defense can play its best game, then they might win.
@ChampsSportsBwl: Ok, last question: how much will the loss of OC Charlie Molnar affect the offense, both in prep and in-game strategy?
@HansenSouthBend: I think minimally. This is an offense that during the week and on Game Day has Brian Kelly’s fingerprints all over it. That’s not a knock against Molnar, but he wasn’t an OC with much autonomy. Plus o-line coach Ed Warinner is very involved.
Thanks to Eric for his insight into the Notre Dame side of the bowl. You can see his coverage of Fighting Irish football in the South Bend Tribune and online at SouthBendTribune.com.