Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 23, 2017

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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14 OCT. 23, 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED UNDER THE DOME DANIEL CAGE FOOTBALL FUTURE UP IN THE AIR Senior nose tackle Daniel Cage is taking a medical redshirt this season after suffering multiple concussions throughout his career and a knee surgery this summer, and it's uncertain if he will return for a fifth season in 2018. "We've given him the opportu- nity to focus on his academics," head coach Brian Kelly said. "The most important thing is to see that he gets his degree this year. Then we can figure out whether foot- ball is still an option for him. … In January, if we feel like we wanted to restart this, we would sit down and have that conversation." Kelly also mentioned that Cage has "very little involvement" with the Irish strength and condition- ing program. Catching On Physically Through the first five games in 2017, Notre Dame's more emphasized physical- ity on offense was highlighted by a No. 1 ranking in red-zone production, where it has scored on all 22 opportunities, includ- ing a whopping 20 touchdowns. What became overshadowed was the downfield blocking of the wide receivers and tight ends. No one was putting up Will Fuller, Michael Floyd or Tyler Eifert num- bers, but production doesn't always have to be measured by pass-catching data. "We've got guys at the wide receiver and tight end position that are sustaining blocks and are playing really physical all the way down the field," head coach Brian Kelly said. "That says a lot about their commit- ment to what we're doing. "At times, you can get frustrated that you're not getting the ball, but these guys are really doing a great job." In the red zone, Kelly said physicality has replaced the popular fade passes, helping lead to the success there early in the season. "It has a lot to do with the running of the football and then what we're setting up off of the run, more so than trying to take shots on first down into the end zone," Kelly said. "We're leveraging our calls down there through the run game … and that leveraging is allowing us to do things other than trying to attack the front pylon, the back pylon, and the back of the end line." COACHING VETERANS JEFF QUINN AND BILL REES PROVIDING HUGE ASSET College football staffs have expanded more than ever with various roles. Two of them at Notre Dame include longtime coaching veterans Jeff Quinn and Bill Rees. Before serving as head coach at the University of Buffalo from 2010-14, Quinn was Irish head coach Brian Kelly's right-hand man for more than two decades as an assistant. In addition to serving as an offensive analyst under Kelly since 2015, he has now been entrusted to play devil's advocate and do weekly self-scouting assessments of the Irish. Kelly admitted that in the past he didn't go into much self-scouting until around midseason or when there was a bye week. This year, it's been a weekly protocol under Quinn. "He does an incredible job of really diving deep into all of our formations and plays, and right and left, and tendencies," Kelly said. "It's just been a thorough report that's allowed us to really be very intentional in terms of play calls and setting things up. "It's helped us quite a bit this year so far." Meanwhile, Rees — the father of Notre Dame quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees — is in his fourth decade of coaching at the collegiate or NFL level. He handles the personnel evaluations of the Irish opponents, but also is involved in analysis of Notre Dame's recruiting prospects. From 1979-94, Rees at UCLA, Notre Dame's Vinny Cerrato and Michigan's Bob Chmiel — who would later come to Notre Dame — were among the most celebrated recruiting coordinators in the country. "He's been invaluable in his ability to go through those players that are emerging late, those kind of guys that break late for you," Kelly said. "I don't know that we've ever had as many guys that we've been able to find this late in the process that are really the right fit for us, as well as really dive deep into the sophomore group and have us ahead of the game moving forward." Head coach Brian Kelly lauded the downfield blocking of the wide receivers and tight ends such as fifth-year senior Durham Smythe, noting that it has contributed to Notre Dame's suc- cess in the red zone (20 touchdowns and two field goals in 22 trips) through five contests. PHOTO BY ANGELA DRISKELL

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