Season 4 - Bringing Back the Irish Pride South Bend, Indiana - At the opening day of Notre Dame spring practice, the mood was all business. Players and coaches ignored reporters and instead barked orders and encouragement at the new look Irish as they ran through new sets and formations over and over again. If the attitude of the team matches that of the coaches, this should be an interesting season in South Bend. For example, when Coach Dude was asked what he thought about last year's 8-5 record, he simply said: I have no idea what you're talking about. Now get out of my way. I have a team to coach. Since we couldn't get much from coach, here's what we learned by watching the Irish work out: The Offense The Irish look to be installing a power run game, similar to that run by Andrew Luck at Stanford a few years ago. We saw a number of two and three tight end sets, and a number of two TE, two backs sets with a single wideout. Looks like power, power, and more power for the Irish offense this season. Look for the starting quarterback to be junior pocket passer Zac Smith (85), who has a good arm (91 THP, 92 THACC) but little experience, so he should probably be limited to 15 or so attempts a game. His backup, the quick-footed senior Andrew Hendrix (82) should fidn some time as a change of pace guy, unless Smith should happen to suffer an injury. The bulk of the offense will be carried by the backs, George Atkinson III (87), the fastest guy on the team, Chad Hill (86), who is the shiftiest and toughest to bring down, and power back Gabe Riley (83), who tends to run over things rather than run around them. Behind an experienced and talented offensive line, all three of these backs should find their fair share of success. The receiving group contains five players of fairly equal skill, but we expect junior garret Crowder, last year's #2 guy, to be the top of the class. The rest is up in the air, but it looks like junior Davaris Daniels will be fielding kickoffs and punts, and he's fast enough to make himself a real factor. The Defense Coach Dude's new 4-3 system didn't quite take last season, and the Irish ended up as one of the worst pass defenses in college football. This season, the new look defensive line promises to bring more pressure, mostly due to senior DT Louis Nix, who tips the scales at 6-1 and 348 lbs, a size that should demand double teams and free up others for sack opportunities. The linebackers are solid, with a good mix of coverage and run stopping ability spread among the core three of ROLB Kendall Moore (82), LOLB Danny Spond (84), and the anchor, 6-5, 248 lb Ishaq Williams (87). Look for Moore to come out in nickel sets, to be replaced by speedster Bennett Jackson (CB - 83) on passing downs and when opponents spread things out. The Irish will win if: The defense improves The offense can dominate T.O.P. They can avoid injuries at key positions. The success or failure of this defense will hinge on how Notre Dame deals with a weakness at the SS position. How the Irish fill this void will determine on almost a play by play basis whether or not they can stop the run or the pass, as any player they plug in will be weak in one aspect or the other. Looks for the Irish to be creative in addressing their weaknesses at the back.