Notre Dame didn't have to empty its playbook in Week 1 against Temple, but a few trends still emerged on Saturday. A look at those as Michigan week swings into full gear:
1. As expected, the skill positions will be a collective effort, but...
It's a wider effort than we thought. Nearly every scholarship receiver played on Saturday, with freshman Corey Robinson, Will Fuller and James Onwualu occasionally taking the field together for three-receiver sets. C.J. Prosise saw his first game action in South Bend, too, despite not being part of the two-deep released prior to the game.
But while there was wide distribution of players involved, the reception totals reveal a more narrow look. T.J. Jones caught six passes, while Chris Brown had three. DaVaris Daniels would've had more had he not pulled up lame in the second quarter, and finished with three catches (and two touchdowns). Troy Niklas caught one pass, and it was a 66-yard touchdown. Amir Carlisle caught two passes, while George Atkinson had one.
Out of the backfield, a clear top three emerged: Carlisle, Atkinson and Cam McDaniel. Freshmen Greg Bryant and Tarean Folsten garnered garbage-time touches late in the fourth quarter.
So essentially, the pass-catchers and running backs expected to come through for Notre Dame did. Perhaps Notre Dame will scale things back against a better opponent in Michigan, or perhaps we'll see one of the freshman -- like Robinson or Bryant -- make more of an impact. But Notre Dame has good depth at the skill positions, and isn't afraid to use it.
2. Louis Nix was neutralized.
After all the offseason hype and all the All-American talk, Louis Nix looked pedestrian on Saturday. Granted, one of his assignments -- 302-pound guard and Temple captain Kyle Friend -- wasn't a slouch, but Nix made a living by tormenting both good and bad offensive lines last year. Nix wasn't much of a factor as Owls quarterback Connor Reilly made plays with his legs, rushing 12 times for 65 yards.
Nix jumped offsides twice and looked frustrated quite a bit. He was accompanied by a pair of trainers to the locker room before the first half ended, though returned to play and wasn't mentioned by Brian Kelly among those with a minor medical issue.
Notre Dame's defensive line as a whole struggled to contain Reilly -- for example there was a play in which Ishaq Williams pushed into the backfield, but was easily eluded by the Temple quarterback, who dashed for a positive gain. Michigan's Devin Gardner is similarly elusive, and Notre Dame's front seven may not be able to get away with the work it put in against Temple again this weekend.
The good news here, though, is when Notre Dame made a concerted effort to put pressure on Reilly, it did. Prince Shembo looked like the best player on the field, and Stephon Tuitt recorded a sack.
3. Freshmen, freshmen, freshmen.
Notre Dame played 10 first-year players on Saturday: Bryant, Folston, Fuller, Onwualu, Robinson, CB Devin Butler, CB Cole Luke, S Max Redfield, DE Isaac Rochell and LB Jaylon Smith. Two other guys who could see the field this year -- OL Steve Elmer and QB Malik Zaire -- didn't, with Kelly choosing to stick with Ronnie Stanley at right tackle and Zaire dealing with mono (although he likely wouldn't have played anyway).
Some of these guys will make bigger impacts than others -- most notably, right now, Smith (who started) and Luke (who saw considerable time in the nickel), as well as the three receivers. Bryant and/or Folston may force their way into the running back discussion, while Rochell will play a role rotating in at defensive end. Redfield played exclusively on special teams.
Kelly doesn't seem concerned with preserving eligibility for these guys, and certainly sees a benefit in playing all of them. On Saturday, the benefit was allowing for a ton of substitutions on both offense and defense.
We'll see if any of these players get whittled down in such an important game this weekend, but they've all got first-game jitters out of the way and likely will play a role in their first year on campus.