Thursday, September 16, 2010

IBG: the Aftermath of DRob

Almost the entire emotional narrative that was the Michigan game can be retold through the quarterback position. There was the authoritative first drive by Crist before his bizarre injury. There was the flea-flicker by Reese followed by an obviously inexperienced Nate Montanta. The second coming! More points by Crist! But in the end, the talented Denard Robinson dismantled the Irish entirely by himself.

So where does that leave us heading into the weekend? Was it a game of flukes with a strange injury and freakish opponent? Or are the echoes being woken similar to those of recent rather than historic coaching regimes? We Never Graduate helps tackle the Michigan State week of the Irish Blogger Gathering.

1)Status check: How deflating was the loss to Michigan? I could argue that Crist's injury makes this loss both easier to swallow and even more maddening for Irish fans.

In two words, I’d say that loss was ‘soooooo deflating.’ Every offseason stirs up a lot of hype and high expectations, and last Saturday unveiled some ugly aspects of this year’s squad that might be hard for some to swallow:

•We have NO depth at quarterback. Many people said this during the offseason, but the point was proven last weekend.
•Theo Riddick has not come as advertised. A phenomenal player, Riddick has not shown promise in the slot yet, and he or someone else needs to step up to take pressure off the other receivers.
•We can’t run the football effectively. Well, at least not when the defense doesn’t respect our passing game.
•Notre Dame still lacks crazy speed. True, Robinson is special, but the inability to slow Robinson down offered more evidence that the Irish lack elite speed on defense.
•Worst of all, Brian Kelly isn’t perfect. Not kicking field goals and failing to adjust defensive schemes at key points in the game are mistakes that led to the downfall of the last regime.
2) How critical is this Saturday's game? Walk away 2-1 and the Irish can feel good about taking on a very able Stanford squad at home next weekend. Walk out of East Lansing with a loss..?

Sorry for all the negativity, because with all that being said, MSU offers the Irish a great chance for a bounce back win. Like I said earlier, Robinson is a special player, and MSU doesn’t have a quarterback capable of taking over the game with his arm and legs. Our defensive line and inside linebackers have shown enough skill to give me confidence that they can stop a pro-style offense similar to what MSU will be running Saturday, and if Crist can stay healthy, we will score enough points to get the W.

3) Why does the rivalry with Michigan State seem to get so little respect?

Firstly, it’s tough to hate everyone. USC has been despicably shady for the past decade, and Pete Carroll is just about as scummy a football coach as Lane Kiffin or Rich Rodriguez. Secondly, while MSU is a tough game every year, the Spartans have averaged exactly 6 wins per season over the last 8 years. Even when they won 8 and 9 games, they beat just 1 ranked opponent, failing to win the crucial games to get to a Big Ten championship. MSU and ND have historically had a great and intense rivalry, but recently these two reasons may explain why the rivalry doesn’t get as much respect as some others.
4) It's hard to draw too many conclusions from victories over Western Michigan and Florida Atlantic, but what do you expect this Saturday night in Spartan Stadium?

Notre Dame always plays Michigan State at a difficult time in the schedule. While the Irish have usually played two quality opponents and are coming off the emotional Michigan weekend, Sparty typically is building momentum after rolling a few cupcakes. As such, I am expecting MSU to come into this weekend with a lot of confidence and play Notre Dame tough and down to the wire like they do every year.
5) Best case, worst case, most likely: The Irish's record after the first six games.

Best case: 5-1. Why not?
Worst case: 1-5. You saw our offense without Crist…
Most likely: 4-2. Like I said in the season’s first IBG post, this is a reasonable record after the first six games. It would be tough to pick who the Irish might lose to, but with a six game slate as tough as ours to open up the season, it would have been remarkable to make it through without some bumps and bruises. If Notre Dame makes it out with 1 or 2 losses, the back end of the schedule is set up to allow them a fairly good chance of a BCS birth.

6) Let's leave Michael Floyd out of this for a second. What Irish player needs to step up and play better football?

I’m going to go with Theo Riddick. The kid is too great of an athlete to be as unproductive as he has in the first two games. As a slot receiver in Kelly’s offense (and with guys like Floyd and Rudolph to distract the defense) the guy should be able to make some plays. If Crist stays healthy, the development of a third wideout is perhaps the position where improvement can most correlate to success in the win loss column.
Hopefully the Blue and Gold pull out a much needed win this week... Go Irish!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

IBG: Season Preview Edition

At first glance, the future looks nothing but Kelly Green. There’s a proven winner blowing the whistle, All-American talent at several offensive playmaking positions, and competition and experience on the two-deep for the first time in awhile. Even off the field, talk of training tables and intense workouts on Longo Beach have fans excited to see an extra burst late in the season where the team has recently struggled.
…But Notre Dame just lost a near-Heisman candidate quarterback, a Biletnikoff winning wide receiver, two NFL caliber linemen, and their leading defensive tackler. It’s possible that the losses in the offseason aren’t too far from the talent drop-off that led Notre Dame to their worst season in school history. 2007 saw a new quarterback with a O-line experiencing turnover growing pains, and a defense that looked slow and even soft as opponents routinely pummeled the Irish.

So as Notre Dame leaves behind a forgettable decade of football, do fans have reason for optimism in 2010, or must we suffer through another 7-5 season of gridiron purgatory? UHND kicks off the 2010 season’s first week of the Irish Blogger Gathering to help us find out.

1. Name one offensive players and one defensive player you are most excited to see in the new systems and why.

With the majority of media coverage calling him the lynchpin of our season, Dayne Crist has to be the player to watch on offense. Thousands of fans are waiting to see how well the highly touted recruit was developed under Charlie Weis and how many points this gun slinger can put on the board with Kelly’s spread. On the other side of the ball, while our success may not depend solely on Manti Te’o’s performance, many fans are equally excited to see this doombringer wreak havoc on opposing offenses at an elite level… as only a sophomore next season.
2. What’s one reason you think Brian Kelly is the right coach this time. What’s one reason you think he might not be?

Fans have to like the plethora of experience that Kelly is bringing to Notre Dame as a head football coach. Achieving his level of success across three programs as diverse as Grand Valley State, Central Michigan, and Cincinnati is no easy feat. On the other hand, winning national championships in D2 is impressive, but Notre Dame isn’t a D2 school. Similarly, resurrecting two programs in CMU and Cinci to win conference championships is impressive, but Notre Dame isn’t interested in winning conference championships. Kelly is still missing the BCS win that Irish fans will be expecting… let’s hope he can get it.

3. A lot of people are labeling Purdue, Boston College, and Michigan State as toss up games. Considering Notre Dame beat all three of these teams during the disappointing 2009 season, do you consider these games toss-ups or games you expect Notre Dame to win?

After the first six games, the 2010 season should almost entirely be in the books. There are few schools in the country that open with a schedule of Purdue, Michigan, MSU, Stanford, BC, and 15th ranked Pitt like the Irish will this fall. Even though there aren’t any blow-me-away tough opponents, the fact that all teams are formidable enough to take down a top 25 makes it a grueling slate. Out of the three games listed, it’s likely Notre Dame will drop 1. But Notre Dame faces only Navy, Utah, and USC in the second half of the season (each with a cupcake the week prior to rest and prepare), so taking 2 losses in the first six games would not be a bad scenario.

4. What’s one reason you think Notre Dame could shock the world and pull of another 1964-type season? What’s one reason you’re concerned we might see more of a 1997-type season?

As stated in the answer to the previous question, Notre Dame does not face a blow-me-away tough opponent until facing what should be a beaten, battered, and bruised USC squad at the end of the season. Yes, there are undoubtedly tough games in the beginning of the year (I’m cringing thinking about what Pitts run game can do to us if we don’t get fast and mean on defense real quick), but if the Irish can get through the first six games unbeaten, there is no limit to how they can close out the season. But like I said, that opening schedule is gonna be a grind…

5. Which freshmen do you see contributing the most on the field this year (outside of TJ Jones – that’s too easy)?

Look for Prince Shembo to get some quality reps in at linebacker while athlete Danny Spond may take a Zeke Matta role on special teams this year.

6. Other than Dayne Crist (too easy again) who is the one player Notre Dame can least afford to lose to injury for any significant period of time?

Hopefully the UHND crew doesn’t jinx our season with this question, but I am going to go with Ethan Johnson. The depth at D-Line is a weak point on this team, and the other #9 is a force to be reckoned with. Let’s hope all of our players stay healthy.
7. 2010 Season Predictions
Notre Dame record: 9-3
Bowl game for Notre Dame with opponent: Just outside BCS games
Final ranking: 15
Opponent with the highest final ranking: Pitt
Notre Dame’s offensive & defensive MVP: Offense Michael Floyd, Defense Manti Te’o
Best opponent offensive & defensive player:
Offense: Dion Lewis (Pitt) Defense: Greg Romeus (Pitt)
Best opposing coach: Jim Harbaugh (Stanford)
Game you are most excited to watch: USC 11/27/2010
Game you wouldn't mind watching on DVR: F*** it, we’ll do em all live!
National Champion: Alabama
Heisman Winner: Terrell Pryor
Purdue game prediction: W 30-20

Monday, June 14, 2010

Conference Realignment and Notre Dame

While everyone else in the world has their eyes fixated on soccer cleats and their ears tuned to the nonrelenting drone of vuvuzelas, talk of imminent conference realignment has recently been the point of focus for college football fans. It looks as if Colorado and Nebraska's exodus from the Big 12 has opened the flood gates to push more teams out of the conference. This morning, ESPN's Joe Schad reported that "the odds are very strong that the departure of Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State to the Pac-10 is imminent," adding that Texas A&M is likely to join the SEC, leaving Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Baylor, and Missouri in the dust.
So where does this leave Notre Dame? Does joining a conference make sense at this point? If not now, is there a possible scenario that would force the Irish away from independence? Is there any way to stop the stupid buzzing of those damn vuvuzelas?

It is obvious that decision making at the University of Notre Dame is always done with the overarching goal of doing what is best for the university. Fortunately for football fans, success on the gridiron brings in a significant chunk of revenue that is used to support many other university organizations. In addition to ticket sales, merchandise, and TV contract revenue, I have been told by members of the investment office that even donations can significantly be affected by the success of the football team. None of this should come as a surprise, but the point of this paragraph is to illustrate that Jenkins et al, acting in the best interest of the university, will try to put our football team in the best position for success when discussing conference realignment.

For the sake of simplicity, a successful football team is comprised of two elements: good coaching and good players. While developing a successful coaching staff merits its own conversation, attaining top players is something that can be more easily talked about. In addition to superior academics, Notre Dame sells itself to recruits with three pitches, all of which will be affected by conference realignment. Here, are the elements of our competitive recruiting advantage discussed in no particular order:

1. Playing a unique schedule: Being independent allows Notre Dame scheduling flexibility that would not exist if the Irish were in a conference. Storied rivalries such as USC, Michigan, and Navy can be routinely scheduled while still giving the Irish room to play storied programs such as Oklahoma or Miami in any given year. Offering recruits the ability to play across the country (or out of the country as is the case with the upcoming Navy game) and in unique venues (see Yankee stadium, the Meadowlands, and possibly Soldier Field) is something that teams in a conference simply cannot offer. For better or worse, ND commits generally don't have to worry about playing 1-AA programs either.

2. Unique program tradition: The four horsemen, the Gipper, and the House that Rock Built combine with many other elements to comprise Notre Dame's tradition. While it is tough to make an argument that any program's tradition is "the best," it can at least be said that ND holds a unique spot in college football's history. Joining a conference wouldn't necessarily take this away, but Notre Dame's tradition is rooted in its independence, and becoming part of a conference would certainly at least make the Irish more like everybody else.
3. Superior media exposure: A nationwide fanbase (partially brought about by national scheduling) and a unique program tradition have combined to give Notre Dame unparalleled national media exposure. An exclusive national TV contract guarantees recruits that their family and friends can watch any home game on TV, and media giants such as ESPN tend to give more time of the day to Notre Dame and its players than they arguable deserve at times. Joining a conference would strip Notre Dame of this privilege, taking away one of its key recruiting competitive advantages. When discussing the potential increased profitability of joining a conference, Jack Swarbrick has gone so far as to say "the finances are way down on the list of things [determining Notre Dame's independence]," and the intangible benefits provided by having an exclusive national TV contract are just one reason why the immediate bottom line is less relevant in this case.

It is of my opinion that joining any conference (as the current BCS landscape currently stands) would take away from all three of these recruiting competitive advantages. Notre Dame would have to compete with large state schools on the benefits of academics, class size, campus atmosphere, and the privilege of living in South Bend. With the recent lack of success of the football team, these criteria may not be enough to compete with top tier schools, and recruiting (and the success of the program) would likely suffer. Short term revenues brought about by joining a conference will likely be outweighed by the loss of future program revenues if the team falls into mediocrity.

That being said, dramatic shifts in conference realignment could lead to a different scenario. It is not unfathomable that the next few years could see the demise of the Big 12 and Big East conferences, leaving only four "super conferences."

Conference play among a 16 team conference could make it even more difficult for teams to play out of conference late in the season, making it difficult for Notre Dame to fill out a schedule with quality opponents. The ability to schedule nationally is somewhat diminished if it means ND is traveling to play teams like Iowa State instead of USC. ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX would scramble for exclusive deals with the conferences, possibly leaving Notre Dame without access to a deal. And while program tradition rooted in independence is part of the Irish sales pitch, it would carry much less weight if it left the Irish without access to the BCS (or whatever form it will have by then). Joining a conference would cause some of our competitive advantages to take a hit, but sometimes it is necessary to make small sacrifices in order to avoid a more damaging blow.

Fans convinced that Notre Dame will perpetually remain independent may hear all of the conference realignment chatter as nothing more than a drone of vuvuzelas, but rest assured that Jenkins, Swarbrick, and co. are listening closely. If the future holds changes that will hurt the chances of success for our football program, don't expect the Irish to be left in the dust.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day Stories

The Nasties crew wishes everyone a happy Memorial Day weekend. For those of you that aren't too busy watching the 500 or already hitting the barbecue, here are some Notre Dame stories and links to keep you occupied:
The men's lacrosse team beat Cornell Saturday to advance to the program's first NCAA Finals appearance. After Cornell found the net on their first shot, senior goalie Scott Rodgers made save after save to keep the Irish in the game. Rodgers went on to make a career high 16 saves against 7 goals and was the prime reason that Notre Dame was able to pull out the victory. The majority of the offense was supplied by Neal Hicks (4G) and Zac Brenneman (3G) with Sean Rodgers, Grant Krebs, Adam Felicetti, Steve Murphy, and Andrew Irving each contributing goals of their own. Senior Trevor Sipperly was also instrumental in the win, controlling 10 of 21 faceoffs. Notre Dame will play No. 5 Duke in the finals Monday at 3:30.

Drafted only two spots away from the ominous spot of "Mr. Irrelevant," former Irish safety Chinedum Ndukwe figures to keep contributing to the Bengals this season despite Cincinnati's surplus in the defensive backfield.

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick recently had an interview Darin Pritchett and Eric Hansen on WSBT during which he discussed the progress of Brian Kelly, the theories behind scheduling, and factors to consider when discussing Notre Dame's independence. NBC Sports has a summary write-up for those of you that don't have the time to listen to the 20 minute interview.

College football analyst Phil Steele recently released his preseason top 25, and Notre Dame was able to crack the list at number 16. Preseason polls are very difficult to take stock in. I personally think that they throw bias into actual rankings once the season starts and that they should be done away with. However, if the Irish can get off to a good start next season, they could potentially be helped by their ranking in some of these early polls.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Value Pick

As I was taking in a dollar beer South Bend Silverhawks game last night, cell phones, iPhones, blackberrys, and blueberrys all around me routinely buzzed about every 15 minutes with text updates or ESPN draft apps. My geographically diverse set of friends were interested in the future of their respective teams, but the story that everyone was more collectively interested in was the future of former Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen.

After seeing Clausen slip out of the top 10, and soon out of the top 20, I was one of many people who were very surprised to not hear his name called at all on the first day. In fact, I completely discredited one CBS analysts' mock draft yesterday because he unrealistically had Clausen falling to Minnesota at number 30.However, don't expect Jimmy to wait long after 6:00 today. Teams such as Minnesota (34), Tampa Bay (35), and Cleveland (38) all need help at quarterback in the immediate future. Charlie Weis and the Kansas City Chiefs are a possible destination at pick 36, and don't discount the possibility of Oakland (39) or Buffalo (41) trading up to get in the mix.

Regardless of who ends up drafting Clausen, they will be getting a great value pick. The players drafted towards the bottom of the top 10 in last year's draft were hauling in about $20 million in guaranteed money whereas the no. 32 overall pick only inked $6.1 million. Plummeting out of the first round undoubtedly cost Jimmy some G's, but whichever team picks him up will be happy to do so while investing considerably less in him than Bradford, and hopefully the events of last night can serve as further motivation for Clausen as he starts his career in the NFL.

Monday, March 29, 2010

IBG: New Staff New... Spring?

Welcome back to the least appropriately named Notre Dame blog on the net. Things have been slow at this site since signing day, but there's no better way for me to get motivated enough to write a post than to get a message from the Irish Blogger Gathering crew in my inbox. Subway Domer, who is quietly assembling quite the army of ND bloggers, is getting us ready for spring ball with another round of questions.

1. Notre Dame is looking at vast changes on both sides of the ball. Kelly will implement his version of the "Spread," which is run at an excruciating pace, and the Irish defense will, once again, make the transition from the 4-3 to the 3-4. Asking to pick one side of the ball that intrigues you the most would be a disservice to us all. Instead, list your biggest hope and your biggest fear for both the offense and the defense.

Offense: While Weis-era teams were seldom criticized for their inability to score points, my biggest hope about Kelly’s spread is that it actually transforms Notre Dame into the mythical video-game offense, where an eight year old should be able to pick up a controller and hack through the defense, rendering the punter as a forgotten position. Like many traditional fans, however, I am concerned that the spread may take away from the ability to control the ball. I know Kelly’s offenses have been able to run the ball well, but there were too many examples of our “explosive” offense blowing leads at the end of the game because we couldn’t convert on the 3rd and shorts. Feel free to run a high octane offense, BK, but make sure we can still grind it out during the close games in November.

Defense: My biggest hope is that the switch to the 3-4 will give our defense an identity. With the hiring of Tenuta, fans were convinced our linebackers were going to become, to borrow a phrase from my high school days, “hole fillers and runningback killers.” Unfortunately, questionable technique and assignment confusion combined to produce a relatively ineffective defense. More speed on the edge should limit our opponent’s ability to stretch the field, and an increased emphasis on technique will hopefully allow us to give up fewer big gains. The key to this transition will be the adjustment by the defensive linemen, and I fear that the Irish may lack the quality big-body depth needed for the ideal 3-4 personnel.2. The mainstream media, and ESPN in particular, have been riding Brian Kelly's jock for about a year now, and were collectively praying for Notre Dame to fire Weis and hire Kelly. Do you agree, or disagree with this statement? What changes in media coverage do you think we will see in 2010 and beyond?

I don’t think there could have been a better media scenario then Notre Dame hiring Urban, undergo three more intensely emotional 7-6 seasons finally culminating with a stress induced death of our coach. Besides illustrating that this is the most stressful job in the country, it would have fueled the “Notre Dame can’t compete” argument like never before, much to the chagrin of the media.

As for changes in media coverage, expect respectable journalists to increasingly cite Twitter accounts and facebook statuses as primary sources. GPS tracking imbedded in coaching staff gear will allow ESPN to report where head coaches are traveling at all times, and at least one Tiger-Woods-like scandal will surface as a result of this.

3. With new regime changes, players that were once lost in the muck sometimes find themselves in a situation to become key members of the team- or even starters. Identify one of those players that will be that "sleeper." Explain, in brief detail, why your guy will rise above and become the proverbial; CREAM. Oh yeah... it must be a junior or older to qualify.

Robert Blanton will likely start this fall, but I’m going to use him for this pick to because I think the changes in the defensive staff will allow key members of our secondary to make big improvements in 2010. From when he saw time as a true freshman in 2007, Blanton has shown that he has the ability to be an effective defensive back. Expect the junior to benefit from the new scheme, additional coaching, and another year of experience.

4. If you could change the Blue-Gold Game experience in any way- what would it be? Some years, the game can be quite boring and offer no real insight for the upcoming season. Are we all doomed to be underwhelmed every year, or can you make the change that makes spring ball slick like Rick on a pogo stick?

Start roasting three pigs.

5. EVERY coach talks about the importance of special teams, and says that they are a major priority for the team. Is there anything that Coach Kelly has done to back him up on his own statements? What phase of special teams would you like to see more improvement from?

I was pretty pleased with the kicking game last year, especially considering that the Irish were fielding freshman at both the snapping and kicking positions. The punt coverage team, who only allowed 8 of 45 punts to be returned, should be used to Kelly-level discipline already. The challenge for BK and Co. will be replacing Tate at the punt return position and figuring out the most effective combination of Goodman / Riddick / ? to put the Irish in position to score points on returns this season.

6. Last topics are a bit, off topic... A)With the arrival of Spring Football, comes a lot of "color" discussion. "The Shirt," is always a favorite subject of debate for Irish fans. What is your opinion of "The Shirt," and if you were in charge of it all- what would it look like? B) There is a lot of talk about the Notre Dame uniforms possibly being altered. What would you like to see, even if they aren't changed?

As far as the color, I’ve always been partial to green because most pale irish kids don’t look good in anything yellow or “gold,” and I feel like a green student section has a little more character than a generic navy. All that being said, I thought a student’s suggestion last season to buck the shirt trend and get the student body to dress in three different segments (green, white, orange) to form an irish flag would have looked real nice on the tele. As for my prediction for the color this year, I bet students will complain about it and then wear it.

I’m not too picky on the uniforms just because I can’t see them being altered to the point where they aren’t more or less the same as they are now. A few pin stripes here, a few block letters there, as long as its still blue and gold I’ll cheer for it.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Happy Signing Day!

Welcome to Notre Dame signing class of 2010!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Recruiting Eve

Even more so than any day in spring football, national signing day is the most exciting day on the offseason calendar. Good surprises can come few and far between, but landing a top recruit at the last minute (like Te'o last year) can have a large impact on a program. With that background, lets check out some of the storylines surrounding this Irish recruiting class:

Kelly emphasized the importance of recruiting the right kind of guys, stating in his first press conference that he will recruit players that "are mentally and physically tough, that will play for four quarters, and [that are] gentlemen off the field that we all can be proud of." In theory, these tough gentlemen sound pretty bad ass, but if there is one thing the last three coaches have taught me, it is to not get too wrapped up in words. Here are two examples:

"if you don't recruit every day, you've missed the boat" - Ty Willingham on the importance of recruiting

"You are going to have a hard-working, intelligent, nasty football team that goes on the field because the attitude of the head coach will be permeated through the players" - Charlie Weis on his motivational abilities

Up to this point, Kelly's staff has added six players to the current class, recently including four star athlete Danny Spond, but two seemingly superfluous quarterbacks and one 2 star TE have some fans wondering if an "RKG" is just an excuse to miss on blue chip players. Haters should give a little slack here; it is always difficult to put together a solid class on short notice. However, Kelly will need to showcase his ability to player develop if he doesn't want to run into problems three years down the road as Weis' last recruiting class wasn't that spectacular either.

Notre Dame vs. Stanford
An interesting subplot to the recruiting season has been between Kelly's Irish and Jim Harbaugh and the Stanford Cardinal. The two schools have been battling cross-country to nab recruits off one another; here is a quick rundown of the battle of drunken Tree against ND up to this point:
  • June 28th: 3 star safety Chris Badger becomes the first Stanford commit to defect to the Irish
  • October 18th: 4 star Tai-ler Jones decides he would rather have Dayne Crist tossing him the rock and decommits from Stanford
  • January 16th: 3 star OL/TE Tate Nichols becomes the first Stanford recruit stolen by Kelly's staff
  • January 25th: Notre Dame is dealt a tough blow when 4 star DE Blake Leuders follows his recruiting coach Brian Pollian to Stanford
This'll be easier if you just keep squatting, Jim

Hopefully no one on the current commit list feels like bolting for California tomorrow, but I don't feel comfortable calling this recruiting war over just yet.

Positions of Need:
As was previously alluded to above, there have been some concerns about which positions Notre Dame is offering and landing in the current class. With an injured Dayne Crist as the only scholarship gunslinger on the roster, QB was an obvious need this year, so I personally don't think bringing in 4 quarterbacks (1 of which will likely end up playing more of an H-Back) is a bad thing. Sure 1 (or maybe even 2) will end up transferring in a year as they fall down the depth chart, but with such a looming question mark behind Christ, it is probably better to have the numbers for now.
Henderson is sitting high on most fans' wish lists

With a lot of inexperience on the two-deep, DE, DT, and OT are also positions that this class could use a little help at (think of 5 star OT Seantrel Henderson as being this year's version of a much larger Manti Te'o), but I personally think that the safety position has the biggest need of a recruit in this class. Beyond Harrison Smith (who is ideally more of a LB/S hybrid), Dan McCarthy and special teams ace Zeke Motta are the only 2 safeties on scholarship. Another safety recruit to compliment Chris Badger would significantly add to our safety depth.

Time to start crossing your fingers and making trips to the Grotto Irish fans. Signing day is tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

2 cents on the staff

The university officially announced the hiring of Mike Denbrock (Tight Ends), Mike Elston (Defensive Line), and Chuck Martin (Defensive Backs) as the newest additions to Kelly's still forming coaching staff.
While 43 years of combined coaching has only given one of these guys time to learn how to (kind of) smile in a mugshot, there are a few things to get excited about with these guys (and especially Chuck Martin).

First, all three coaches have worked under coach Kelly (Dembrock and Marting at Grand Valley and Elston at Cinnci), so no matter what us crazy bloggers may say about them, Kelly at least knows what each should bring to the table first hand.

The press release focused on each coach's ability to recruit as well as their ability to player develop. Elston headed Cincinnati's Florida recruiting while Dembrock specialized in recruiting the West Coast while at Stanford and Washington. While neither the Bearcats or Huskies experienced much recent success on the recruiting front, Elston will have the opportunity to work with (and learn from) Alford, who is doing a great job in Florida. As for Dembrock, it has been reported that he will be visiting blue chip offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson in Minnesota today, so he will have a golden opportunity to impress the fans. Martin has been involved with recruiting almost exclusively out of the Chicago area for the last few decades, so he should be a good fit there.

Speaking of Martin, I'm pretty pumped to have him on board. After joining one of Kelly's first staffs as a defensive backs coach at Grand Valley, Martin went on to become the head coach and win 74 out of 81 games including two national championships. You have to love bringing a coach with that type of winning mindset onto the team, and if he can repeat his success from Grand Valley State at ND, I wouldn't hate it.

Best of luck to the new coaches - welcome to Notre Dame!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Initial Impressions

After surviving another round of finals and thankfully wrapping up my Christmas shopping, I finally found some time to spit out a few thoughts on the new Notre Dame coach.

What difference a (head) coach makes: While not many leads for Kelly's first staff have surfaced, fans will notice that Kelly is much more detailed and methodical than perhaps Weis was when assembling his first staff. Rather than reaching for the big names, Kelly is more focused on finding coaches that are on-board with his coaching philosophy. Having many years of experience as a head coach, the assembly of Kelly's staff will be fairly different from that of the Weis era. Expect him to bring in a lot of familiar faces from his previous experiences as well as a few carefully selected people to help him adjust specifically to the Notre Dame culture.

Living in the lime light: There has been fairly unanimous agreement that Kelly has handled himself well with the media up to this point. Keith Arnold from NBC Sports recently pointed out how BK's decision to hold 2 separate media sessions illustrates his understanding of the media and what it can influence. Unfortunately, Charlie's Nasties was not invited to the internet reporters presser. For now I'll blame it on the blog name, but if I keep getting rejected from these private parties, I could turn this site into slander city.... so watch yourself coach.

I'm really glad that Kelly has been able to hit it off so well with the media because, frankly, it is demanded. At a school like Notre Dame, winning records are expected to be accompanied by a good public image. I'm not sure if an iron-fisted lock-jawed coach like Belichick or Parcells could makes things work here. Don't get me wrong, any particular style of coaching could work here, but unless a coach is able to communicate positively with the media, alumni, and fans, it would probably not lead to a lasting marriage.

Tough Gentlemen: In his opening press conference, Kelly told his players to take some time off over the holidays. I would advise them to take advantage of this break because from what I've heard, they are going to have a fun spring in Kelly's conditioning program. BK has put a very strong emphasis on his ability to develop players, and while a certain component of that is coaching, an equally important factor lies in the strength and conditioning programs.

I have confidence that this no-nonsense approach to conditioning should have a positive impact on the team. Everyone always references USC's full contact practices as an ingredient to their success, and I think Kelly will be moving closer to that model than Weis did.

RKGs: Kelly made an interesting comment that (paraphrasing) schools like Notre Dame can sometimes get caught up too much in the public opinion of recruits. The idea is that there is so much football talent nation wide, that a good number of players inevitably slip through the cracks of recruiting sites or that some players are positioned to play better in college than their high school resume indicates. Coach Kelly's performance on the recruiting front will be well documented (and likely criticized) over the following weeks, and I'm very curious about how this comment will work its way into ND's recruiting plan.

To draw on an almost completely irrelevant analogy, some of my best players in EA Sports NCAA Football have been 2 star players that, while being terrible at almost everything else, happened to be 6'6" and run a 4.4 forty. I know its a stretch, but you get the picture. Look for Kelly to reach on a couple recruits in order to get some qualities guys and hard workers into the locker room as well as to push his players in practice.

That's it for now. Eventually I might put up a poll for a new blog name or something like that, so start brainstorming now. Go Irish!