Notre Dame set to add the pistol to its arsenal

Notre Dame set to add the pistol to its arsenal

August 28, 2013, 9:00 pm
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JJ Stankevitz

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Brian Kelly's emphasis since the BCS Championship has been this: Notre Dame needs to score more points to repeat its success of 2012. 

One wrinkle in those efforts, to some extent, will be the pistol formation this fall.

The pistol, for those who perhaps didn't watch much of Colin Kaepernick much in college, features the quarterback lining up four yards behind the center, and the running back three yards directly behind him. It's designed to combine the advantages of going under center and from the shotgun, letting a quarterback have better field vision while allowing for a power running game at the same time.

Kelly and his coaching staff spent time learning the formation with Chris Ault, the ex-Nevada coach who brought the pistol to prominence with Kaepernick quarterbacking his offense from 2007-2010, during the offseason.

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Tommy Rees doesn't exactly fit Kaepernick's profile, to say the least. But Kelly sees it as a good way to get tailback George Atkinson running north-south, instead of dancing east to west. 

"He ran downhill very well in high school, and we felt like the pistol could fit him very well," Kelly said. "Not just him, but we felt like it was something that could benefit us moving forward."

Atkinson said running downhill has been a point of emphasis for him for a while, whether Notre Dame's using the pistol or not. 

"Coach Alford does a good job harping on us, making sure we get north and south, even on stretch plays, outside zone and stuff like that," Atkinson said. "I just made sure I implemented that in this offseason."

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Atkinson and his fellow running backs said there's not a huge difference for them running the pistol instead of out of the gun, a sentiment echoed by Irish wide receivers and center Nick Martin. 

Having the pistol at their disposal doesn't mean Kelly and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin will utilize it frequently -- "I don't think we've turned into a pistol offense," Kelly said -- but it'll be used situationally this fall.

"It's just another piece to our offense that gives us the versatility that we're looking for," Kelly said. "I think week to week you may see it a little bit more than others, and some you may not see it at all.  I just think it's another piece that helps us complement the players we have."