We have established this Blog to share any and all thoughts and discuss issues relating to Notre Dame Football.
We are Subway Alumni Notre Dame Fans who love IRISH Football and The University of Notre Dame Du Lac. This is the place to interact, learn, discuss, perk interest, argue, keep you informed, have some fun and maybe help perpetuate the traditions and history of Notre Dame Football.

Check out the archives, for some great posts or scroll down the right side for the most popular. At the bottom of the Blog, we have added 50+ neat pictures of the Notre Dame Campus.

Don't forget to add us to your favorites list: http://subwayalumnistation.blogspot.com

Feel free to make comments to the posts. We read and try to answer all of them.
Email us at: dragonspress@gmail.com
Welcome Aboard!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Notre Dame Punt Returns - An Exercise in Futility

A number of members of the SAS staff disagreed with the notion that we should have included punt returns as a Notre Dame Bitter Disappointment. (See previous post) It was decided to task Becky, one of our staff researchers with digging up some facts and statistics. Her assignment was to ferret out the state and status of the Irish punt return.  It should be noted that Becky wears short skirts to work and has great legs. Although that had absolutely nothing to do with the assignment.


Oregon who just happens to be positioned as number one in the polls also has the best punt return record.

Oregon punt return ranked 1st --11 games, 35 returns, 671 yards, 5 touchdowns, 19.17 average.

Notre Dame punt return ranked 96th –12 games, 15 returns, 89 yards, 1 touchdown, 5.93 average.

Notre Dame received 75 punts. 1 was blocked and returned for a touchdown (Blanton), 4 went for a touchback, 31 fair caught, 24 went out of bounds, shanked, let go to bounce around, etc, 15 were returned.

Out of the 15 returned went for grand total of 89 yards:

Allen 2-47

Blanton 2-27

Goodman 11-15

Longest 38 yards (Allen)

Obviously Allen’s run and Blanton’s block skew the numbers even worse.

So how does the first year of the Kelly era compare with the immediate past?  Weis?  Willingham?:

2010 – 15— 89

2009 – 18 --- 232

2008 – 24 --- 227

2007 – 26 --- 237

2006 – 23 ---169

2005 – 28 --- 396

2004 -- 33 ---358

2003 -- 31 --- 381

2002 -- 53 --- 518

2001 -- 28 --- 282

2000 -- 32 ---484

Becky wanted to wake up the echoes with a number of Tim Brown punt return videos. She was voted down. She countered with maybe a couple of Tom Zbikowski’s? No we decided.

She threatened to quit.  Her legs won out, here is Tim Brown running through Michigan State.

We here at SAS are often criticized for our harsh reviews of Notre Dame Football. That could not be farther from the truth! We are loyal subway alumni sons who just feel 7-5 is not good enough. With that explicit credo, we invited Coach Brian Kelly to respond to this post. He begged off listing recruiting, a blurred bowl picture and some much needed time with the family.  Instead the following is offered up to try and understand and explain Notre Dame's apparent lack of a punt return game.

First the lecture:

Like most coaches, they try to put the best athletes on the field, but were willing to settle for the people with the best instincts versus trick plays.

From the standpoint of a field position and ball-security, you have to start with the punt returner -- a player with great confidence, fearlessness, and the ability to adjust and catch the ball. Speed and elusiveness would be the icing on the cake.

A normal goal pretty much standard is to return each punt a minimum of 10 yards. To always give the offense good field position. Handle each punt properly.

In a return specialist you want: Quick, tricky punt returnees who have sure hands and use their blockers. They must catch the ball. (Seldom let one hit the ground.) Fair catches should be almost non-existent when a return is called.

On the punt return team you want: Fast open field blockers using good judgment in blocking. No blocks in the back, no chipping. Must stay onside and avoid roughing the kicker on punt return.

Punt Return Philosophy:

Pressure all kicks.

Too many things have to be right to get a return. Perfect kick. Great timing in wall. Blocking above the waist.
Avoiding clips.

Rare to get them all but you will get all if there is flaw in the punting operation.

Some basic rules:

Punt Return

1. You must catch all punts. Allowing a punt to roll on the ground loses valuable yardage. (average –16 yards)

2. Know the return, block, or prevent scheme called.

3. Be aware of the wind direction, sideline and distance that the opponent can punt the ball.

4. Always look to the bench for instructions.

5. Make your fair catch signal a decisive one. Wave one arm overhead twice.

6. You do not have to catch a punt even though you have signaled for a fair catch. However, you cannot block after signaling for a fair catch.

7. If backed up deep in our own territory, set up on the 10-yard line. Handle all punts on or in front of the 10-yard line.  If the ball is punted inside the 10, let it go, drawing the coverage away. If the ball is going into the end zone, be a good actor and draw coverage to you and away from the ball.

8. Score a touchdown or make a first down (10-yard return).

9. “Peter…Peter” call - the term “Peter” means we do not want to touch the ball downfield. In certain prevent situations, on partially blocked punts and on shanked punts, you will often not want to risk fielding the ball. Make the “Peter” call and use a “wipe away” hand signal to alert our return team to get away from it. Let it roll!

10. Know the rule of first touch. The official’s whistle downs the ball.

11. Returners must communicate. Listen for “hot…hot” call by the corners. (This means to signal for a fair catch.)

After the lecture the reality.

At the beginning of the season our punt return depth chart looked something like: Allen, Riddick, Wood, Goodman.

Allen started to have early injury issues and eventually it was thought he should concentrate on the running back position. Cierre Wood never really had a chance when Armando and Theo went down and we ended up with John.  Wood needed to concentrate as running back as well.

We ended up being ultra conservative for a number of reasons other than personnel. Don’t get us wrong John did exactly what was wanted, sure hands, good instinct, nothing crazy back there. We were punted short and away from a considerable number of times. Honestly, our opponents were not very good at punting.

Also, the nature of punting appears to be changing. Punting shorter, defending with three against the block, playing it safe, avoiding the fake. If you ask any coach he will tell you that referees call too many blocks in the back. Teams are employing great speed and emphasizing the gunners more and more. Everything has to set up just right for a return, good long line drive kick, gunners getting blocked, linemen making and holding blocks and a fast shifty returner.

The problem with TV is that you never get the big picture.  Who is blocking?  Who fell down.  Was their any kind of a wal or wedge set up?  Where is the breakdown?

It obviously looked as if Notre Dame was playing for the fair catch.  If that is the case, why not rush ten.  The heck with blocking the gunners, send ten to block the punt.

What ever happened with the idea of having a short man?  One who takes on the first gunner to get through and spring that all important first block for the returner.

Also, it would appear that punt returns offers the best opportunity for freshman and walk-ons to get on the field.  Special Teams has always been a path to starting.  Get some of those hungry guys out there to set up blocking and sacrificing there bodies for the return.

It just seems that coaches are always looking for the edge.  Always looking for the weakness.  Games are close and every opportunity to score is critical.

What would Frank Beamer do?

Don’t forget to add us to your favorites list: http://subwayalumnistation.blogspot.com


Anonymous said...

worst use of personnel i have ever seen by a notre dame head coach.Stop playing and get a real coach,kelly is horrible,play calling is horrid.U will jnever get to the top with a jr. high coach like kelly.1 of the most ignorant coaches i have ever seen.

johnh said...

notre dame personnel was much better than florida state. it took an inept coach to make a game of this.nd should have won going away,it goes back to the 3 and 1 call when he knows his qb is not accurate.I feel sorry for the great athletes that play there with a jr. high coaching staff.