The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 183 BY RYAN TICE The future looked bright for Notre Dame at the end of 2012, despite a 42-14 loss to Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game. In addition to several other key play- ers, the Irish would return steadily improv- ing quarterback Everett Golson, who led the Irish to the title game as a redshirt freshman. However, Golson was suspended from school in May 2013 for "poor academic judgment" and would miss the ensuing cam- paign. Without their signal-caller, the Irish opened the season 3-2, but bounced back to finish 9-4 — a respectable season, but not the follow-up many envisioned. The quar- terback returned to the team this spring and should build on his 2012 numbers, which in- cluded 2,405 passing yards, 12 touchdowns against six interceptions, and 94 rushes for 298 yards and six scores. Junior wideout DaVaris Daniels, who ranked second on the team in 2013 with 49 catches for 745 yards and seven touchdowns, just went through an academic suspension of his own, but rejoined the squad May 28. Outside of Daniels, there is not much return- ing production out wide. Senior Ben Koyack will try to extend the Irish tradition of star tight ends after he hauled in three touch- downs last season. Five offensive linemen who started at least four games last fall return, including a trio who started a majority of the contests. That combined with three running backs who averaged at least 4.3 yards per carry and the return of Golson means the Irish should be formidable on the ground. Cam McDaniel, Tarean Folston and Amir Carlisle rushed for 1,379 yards and six touchdowns last fall. Carlisle has switched to slot receiver, with promising sophomore Greg Bryant, who missed most of the 2013 campaign with an injury, moving into the tailback rotation. While Kelly is known as an offensive mastermind — and he'll need to live up to that reputation with longtime assistant Mike Denbrock taking over at offensive coordina- tor, a position he has not held since 1992-95 at Grand Valley State — the calling card for his Notre Dame squads so far has been the defense. Like the offense, the defense returns five starters and must adjust to a new coordina- tor, Brian VanGorder, a veteran coach with experience in the SEC and NFL. The losses are numerous along the front seven, and the defense boasts just five play- ers with at least seven starts for Notre Dame. Sophomore linebacker Jaylon Smith flips from the strongside to weakside at line- backer and should build on last year's out- standing debut. He finished 2013 second on the team with 6.5 tackles for loss and third with 67 total stops. The back line should be the Irish's stron- gest group, with junior cornerback KeiVarae Russell becoming one of the nation's best. Senior Matthias Farley, a veteran of 19 starts at safety, could slide in opposite Russell. Fifth-year safety Austin Collinsworth paced the squad with three interceptions a year ago, and Florida transfer Cody Riggs, a versatile defender who has played in 40 games with 26 starts, could end up at either corner or safety. Special teams should also be strong with kicker/punter Kyle Brindza back for his fi- nal campaign. He is 43 of 57 on field goals the last two years, and that success rate of 75.4 percent is more than respectable given that half of his games were played on Notre Dame's horrendous old stadium turf. He also averaged 41.4 yards per punt last season. The Irish again pulled in one of the best recruiting classes in the nation, landing's No. 11 group in the country. While they may lack experience, there is no shortage of talent. Kelly is a proven winner, and if Golson and Daniels can regain their chemistry, they might boast their best of- fense yet under the head coach. Notes Notre Dame has averaged 27.1 points per game in four years under Brian Kelly, but the Irish actually put up the lowest average (25.8 points per game) in 2012, when they reached the BCS National Championship Game … The Irish are 12-2 in games decided by 10 points or less over the last two campaigns … They were 5-6 in such contests during Kelly's first two years at the helm. ❑ 2 NOTRE DAME • SEPT. 6 2014 SCHEDULE Date Opponent 2013 Result Aug. 30 Rice — Sept. 6 Michigan L, 41-30 Sept. 13 vs. Purdue* W, 31-24 Sept. 27 vs. Syracuse% — Oct. 4 Stanford L, 27-20 Oct. 11 North Carolina — Oct. 18 at Florida State — Nov. 1 vs. Navy# W, 38-34 Nov. 8 at Arizona State W, 37-34 Nov. 15 Northwestern — Nov. 22 Louisville — Nov. 29 at USC W, 14-10 * at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis; % at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.; # at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. QUICK FACTS All-Time Series: U-M leads 24-16-1 First Meeting: U-M 8, ND 0 (Nov. 23, 1887, at South Bend, Ind.) Last Meeting: U-M 41, ND 30 (Sept. 7, 2013, at Ann Arbor) Head Coach: Brian Kelly, 37-15 at Notre Dame (5th year) and 208-72-2 overall (18th year) Off./Def. Systems: Spread/3-4 (multiple) 2013 in Review: 9-4 Final 2013 Ranking: No. 20 Associated Press and No. 24 USA Today coaches Returning Starters: 12 (5 offense, 5 defense, 2 specialists) Last Bowl Appearance: 2013 (New Era Pinstripe, vs. Rutgers, W 29-16) RETURNING LEADERS Passing: Everett Golson (2,405 yards, 12 TD, 6 INT)* Rushing: Cam McDaniel (705 yards, 3 TD) Receiving: DaVaris Daniels (745 yards, 7 TD) Tackles: Jaylon Smith (67) Sacks: Ishaq Williams and Jarron Jones (1) Interceptions: Austin Collinsworth (3) * Stats from 2012 season PLAYERS TO WATCH OFFENSE: DaVaris Daniels, Sr., WR — Broke out when given the opportunity last season … The 6-1, 203-pounder was suspended from school for the spring semester, but returned this summer … Has 80 career catches for 1,235 yards and seven scores … The last time he and quarterback Everett Golson played together, he caught six passes for 115 yards in the BCS National Championship Game. DEFENSE: KeiVarae Russell, Jr., CB — He burst onto the scene as a rookie and earned several Fresh- man All-America honors … Built on his debut campaign and enters this fall with more starts than anybody else on the team (26) … Has posted 109 tackles and three interceptions during his career. In 2012, quarterback Everett Golson posted 2,405 passing yards with 12 touchdowns against six interceptions, plus 298 rushing yards and six scores. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA Key Players Return From Suspensions To Bolster Inexperienced Irish Squad 182-193.Opponents.indd 183 6/19/14 1:11 PM

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