With the completion of the game Saturday- one thing was made very clear: Greg Bryant will be a player who will see considerable action this season and could very well become the primary focus for the Irish offense.
But along with his play Saturday, and the play of Malik Zaire and CJ Prosise - one tid bit overshadowed the actual players on the field and it was the field itself.
In 2014 Notre Dame Stadium will convert to an artificial surface per the first quarter announcement from Jack Swarbrick.
And keyboard commandos promptly drew on theories and excuses as to the decision:
"No doubt the field for the blue-gold game was purposely left to look bad. Field turf, was this part of the ACC agreement?" (Courtesy SBT)
One thing has been made very clear since the arrival of Brian Kelly, and that is he clearly recognizes the level the football program should be at or atleast strive to elevate itself to. From uniform tweeks, possible Jumbo Trons and now a surface to utilize and maximize has been a long term thought and was part of the road map Kelly and AD Jack Swarbrick have been venturing together.
Not that surface breeds wins, but a poor surface where image is concerned to lure recruits and perhaps even elevate the teams play was always a goal of Brian Kelly's:
“I think you look at the conditions of the field today, going out there, and it’s really about getting a surface where there’s some consistency week-in and week-out for our players. I think today was an indication, we can’t even practice out there,” said head coach Brian Kelly. “We want to be able to get out there with our team, we want some safety issues to be not part of the equation.
“I think everybody is in agreement, if we could get the best surface there in grass, we’d love to have that. We just haven’t been able to get to that.”
Brian Kelly has never been shy about his style or objectives.
Whatever it takes to achieve ultimate success for the football program has always been made clear-whether it comes in changing of playing surfaces or recruits.
His desire to reach into the vast well of talent in the southern states for recruiting is evident and the fruits of those labors are with NFL draft caliber players 2 years running.
Within the past 2 years the Irish have fed 18 plus players to the NFL.
The previous 5 years saw as much under Charlie Weis.
And to enhance the abilities of high end players, Kelly recognizes in the cold midwest you must have a surface to compliment that talent as best as possible. Within the past few years the surface in South Bend has gone south. No George Toma grass guru could salvage this surface.
Practices will now be able to be held on the actual field along with preparation on game day Friday's, something relagated of late to the nearby practice facilities.
One thing of glaring note is the perimeters of the field area and sidelines that is an asphalt surface- posing problems of injury potential and remaining unsightly for such a historical place.
This will no longer be an issue.
What will still be up in the air-along with the traditionalist view that grass is part of the history of Notre Dame Stadium- is a logo aspect mid field or even in the end zones.
Happiness for many- displeasure for some.
So, early into Saturday's scrimmage, Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick announced the decision that after graduation in May, Notre Dame will move onward into a new era that includes uniforms, stadium renovations and upgrades and now- the new surface.
Greg Bryant will be a star
Greg Bryant. Greg Bryant. Greg Bryant.
Get used to public address announcers echoing that name in 2014.
What transpired on that lackluster surface was anything but lackluster for one Greg Bryant.
His 50 yard gallop in the second half was evidence of his talent coveted by so many college's as one of the nations top recruits. A play later, he equally showed his skills putting the offense on the goal line with power running.
On the day Bryant finished with 100 yards, but made it very clear Notre Dame has 3 runningbacks heading into 2014.
Not so special
The special teams in this format will never be utilized.
But one aspect reared it's ugly head unexpectedly.
Often reliable kicker Kyle Brindza hooked, shanked, pulled, NASCAR'd or whatever could attach itself to kicks that went 'Hillary'.
Student section left.
Granted, one was from 57 yards. But he drilled an earlier attempt from 50.
As for a return game tweek to problems of previous years, fall looks like the timeline to see those results.
Each year a defensive player jumps out.
In 2014 this player will be converted linebacker Romeo Okwara.
Along with Sheldon Day, Jarron Jones, Tony Springman, Isaac Rochelle and others, the Irish have a capable group of putting up 2012 like numbers.
Disruptive all day, Okwara recorded 3 sacks in a makeshift defensive gameplan where players can't hit or tackle the quarterbacks. The sacks went for a total of 39 yards. Against running quarterbacks.
Imagine what will transpire when the rein's are pulled off.
In 2013, Notre Dame was in a position no team would envy or find success with.
The suspension of Everett Golson left the Irish with no clear backup should Tommy Rees falter.
The USC game was evident.
That won't be the case in 2014.
In fact, the Irish may have something most programs would rather stear clear of:
Not that Malik Zaire's comment early into Spring about being the starter would spark that, but his play Saturday offered clear evidence of just that.
It's a position Brian Kelly must be smiling about this morning even if it remains that he has an unsettled position thus far.
But head coaches never relish such things, rather- they ponder the difficulties that lie ahead if these players don't produce certain results:
“We certainly have to be a (more productive) offense (because) we don't have some of those prolific defensive players on the field that we've had over the last few years,” Kelly said. “We have to be more proficient offensively. We have to put points on the board that we have not been able to consistently do against the best teams in the country. We can't go down to Florida State and hope to win 10-7. We're going to have to put some points on board.”
On the day, the Irish duo went 30-45 for 434 yards and 2 touchdowns from Zaire.
What clearly stood out was the scrambling abilties of the two after check downs and progressions were exhausted.
And also their inablities to get rid of the ball when trouble arises.
Both managed to find themselves on the receiving end of an Irish defensive front that would find themselves all over the passers even with a relaxed set up of no contact.
A clear sign Kelly needs to resolve come opening day but the talent is clear in both.
2 receptions for 61 yards with a touchdown has placed CJ Prosise on top of the Irish depth chart.
Not just his stats but his pure size at 220 pounds and raw speed for a big player.
With the Davaris Daniels on 'leave' until summer, a battle of sorts has emerged from the group comprised of freshman Justin Brent and returning players Amir Carlisle, Chris Brown and Tori Hunter for a starting spot along side Daniels and Corey Robinson.
Chris Brown displayed his skills with the longest reception on the day from Zaire, but the play of Prosise clearly puts the position as a whole perhaps the area with the most depth and skill.
The next time the Irish take the field against Rice, they will adorn a new brand in uniforms and trot onto a new surface in 2014.
Quarterbacks will have depth.
Receivers will present the offense with a variety of options.
The running game will be stronger than ever.
An unsettled defensive front will remain a question for new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder.
The goal to reach the new BCS Playoff format will be a challenge for Notre Dame in 2014.