Thursday, December 27, 2007

Projection, Please

My partner in crime that writes as a student blogger for the Sporting News posted his projected offensive and defensive starting lineups for next season (most of you probably read it when it was posted on NDLNA a few weeks ago), and I felt that it was my obligation as a friend to analyze his predictions and test their validity. Let's start off with the 2008 offense:

Potential Offensive Starters:
QB: Jimmy Clausen, SOPH
RB: Robert Hughes, SOPH
RB: Armando Allen, SOPH
WR: David Grimes, SR
WR: Duval Kamara, SOPH
TE: Will Yeatman, JR / Mike Ragone SOPH
LT: Sam Young, JR
LG: Eric Olsen, JR
C: Dan Wenger, JR
RG: Mike Turkovich, SR
RT: Chris Stewart, JR
K: Brandon Walker, SOPH


The first thing that stood out to me when I read this was the experience at the O-Line. The group somewhat lacks a senior presence, but having a starting line that consists of all upperclassman should give ND a decided advantage in the trenches compared to last season. Senior Mike Turkovich was nasty and aggressive at times last year, and Olsen, Wenger, and Stewart all showed that they have the necessary combination of skill and desire to be effective. With three year starter Sam Young protecting Jimmy's blind side, this group has a lot of good potential for the next season; the challenge will be if they can learn to play together, something that the 2007 squad was largely unable to accomplish. The Rock Report emphasized the need for experienced depth and talent (to increase competition), and it looks like the right tackle position will be full of competition this year. Rising senior Paul Duncan will challenge Planet Stewart, causing both athletes to work harder.
Time to get physical, men

Running Back:

Hughes was good at the end of '07, but the question is will a healthy Aldridge with two years of experience win the job? My guess is that the starting job is James' to lose; Allen will be used for speed and Hughes for hands on 3rd down situations (or goal line sets), but Weis has said before that he thinks Aldridge is the 'most complete' halfback. I personally believe that we have yet to see Aldridge at 100%, and I'm hoping that he can find a way to take advantage of a better offensive line next season.

The receivers will need to step up in '08 if the passing game is to improve. I agree that the starting two will be Kamara and Grimes, but as a senior, Grimes will need to show that he can be a consistent target. Duval will look to build off of an impressive freshman campaign, but Robby Parris should enter with a chip on his shoulder, and don't be surprised if he rebounds for a big year. Another issue will be if coach Ianello can groom Golden Tate into the playmaker we saw against Purdue. Incoming freshman Michael Floyd will look to get in the mix, but unless he has an incredible summer, expect to see more of Grimes Parris and Kamara for the first few games.
Tight End:

ND lost one of its biggest offensive threats in John Carlson (who is still projected as a dark horse first round pick), but what the Irish lost in playmaking, they made up for in Nastieness. Yeatman is a physical blocker who will add to the run game, and I distinctly remember him making some physical receptions in 2007. Young gun Mike Ragone and incoming 5 star recruit Kyle Rudolph will get chances to prove themselves when Weis runs the double tight and some goal line packages, but Yeatman will get most of the action; he's one of the players I expect to have a breakthrough year.
I think you hear him comin'

I think this is another crap shoot, and quite honestly, I wouldn't be too surprised to see a walk-on get a few looks at this position. I hope that Brandon Walker will get rid of his butterflies next year. Who knows? Once he gets a good off season of lifting in him, the Irish may just be able to attempt 41 yarders this year.

"Wait a minute?" you ask, "Notre Dame has the top ranked recruiting class this season. Why aren't there any freshman in the starting lineup?"

While I was a huge critic of Clausen at times last year, and I think very highly of some incoming players like Michael Floyd, I don't think many freshman will immediately see the field on offense next year. Writer Shawn Courchesne put together a nice article about Zach Frazer and the UConn practice squad, describing the importance of the scout team. Last season, the Irish were so thin at so many positions that they couldn't afford to run very physical practices, and the starters weren't able to get many good looks at opposing schemes before they played against them. This year, the star studded freshman class should be able to give the defense pretty good looks while the newbies can adjust to the college game and get a chance to develop before they are thrown into the fire of a live game.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

Fellow Domer Chinedum Ndukwe force-fed me a huge helping of humble pie for the holidays, picking off Derek Anderson twice en route to a Browns loss that will likely end their surprising season by shutting them out of the playoffs. O well, at least the Browns loss came at an Irish gain: Ndukwe also recorded 8 tackles in the Bengals victory.
Time for me to go to bed and wait for some Santa actions, but I couldn't help but leave everyone in Irish nation without a little ND holiday cheer (compliments of our friends of Keenan Hall).

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Lazy Sundays

As everyone rushes around the town to buy their remaining presents, the Notre Dame basketball team will look to lay the smack down on the University of San Francisco Dons. While currently averaging 80 points per game and only allowing 60, the Irish hope to make quick work of the Dons, but with only two out of conference games remaining (against Brown and North Florida), don't expect ND to take any of these games lightly. With a big matchup against West Virginia to look forward to on January 3rd opening up Big East play, the Irish will be fine tuning their game in order to get ready for their next level of competition. It was this time last year when ND began to realize the potential of freshmen like Luke Harangody and Tory Jackson, and these last three out of conference games could be the last time that a lot of the freshmen see any significant minutes. Look for young guns like Tyrone Nash and Tim Abromaitis to jockey for some playing time down the stretch.In football news, who would have thought that 15 weeks into the season, Brady Quinn still would not have seen a snap for my Browns? More than that, who would have thought that the team could clinch a playoff berth this week with a win over Cincinnati? I'll be sitting back tomorrow to watch the glory of another win while I listen faintly for Cowboys fans to let out another small sigh of frustration.
Have fun shopping, and remember: don't drive like an animal when its raining/snowing like cats and dogs.

Happy Holidays. Go Irish.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Finals Finally Over

I have to apologize for the brief void in Nasties posts. I was a little pre-occupied saturating my body with energy drinks and pouring over pages of notes, but after taking all of the tests (and watching a few people cry during some of them), I'm finally back in the buckeye state and ready to spread some Irish cheer.
The coaching staff appears to be deciding whether or not a few major changes will be made for next season. Running backs coach Mike Haywood apparently fell short of earning the head coaching position for Houston, losing to Oklahoma State co-offensive coordinator Kevin Sumlin. However, the offensive coaching staff still doesn't appear to be set. Offensive line coach John Latina is rumored to be interested in joining former co-worker David Cutcliffe at Duke. Personally, I could see this situation being an addition by subtraction; Latina's line allowed a Notre Dame record 58 sacks and averaged a league worst 75.2 rush yards per game.
Fortunately, because of Weis' excellent effort to introduce all of the recruits to multiple coaches on the staff, it appears that if Haywood or Latina relocate, their actions would not affect recruiting too much. As national signing day draws closer, take some time to check out this article from the South Bend Tribune and this write up from the Sporting News. Both break down the recruits that are still being pursued by Notre Dame and tells readers how likely it is that the Irish will haul them in.

From reading around the blog circuit, future receiver Michael Floyd is quickly becoming one of my favorite players. Every article I have read about him praises him for his good work ethic and his humbleness. Here, Rise Magazine explains why Floyd is such a good leader, and why Notre Dame should be ecstatic to pick up a man of his character.
Speaking of recruiting, two future quarterbacks have attracted some attention to themselves. Ranked as the 30th best high schooler in the country by ESPN, Dayne Crist has been declared one of seven finalists for the first annual Joe Montana Quarterback of the Year Award. The other QB getting some attention is Montana's son, Nate, who will attend the University of Notre Dame next season as a preferred walk on. Irish fans can only help but be optimistic when looking at the future of the quarterback position; it isn't a stretch that ND could have two signal callers drafted in the next four years.
He doesn't even need to change his uniform

In enemy news, Irish fans would be advised to know that Michigan hired former West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez to replace Lloyd Carr next season. Challenging Louisville/Atlanta/Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino for back-stabber-of-the-year, Rodriguez will look to bring his dangerous spread offense to the U of M. It will be interesting to see how this situation develops; rising sophomore Ryan Mallet, the current quarterback, doesn't draw too many Steve Slaton comparisons as his big body is more suited for a pro-style offense, but if Rodriguez can land the Vince-Young-like #1 recruit Terrelle Pryor, the Wolverine's could see a rise to the top very quickly.

Here's to hoping that doesn't happen. Go Irish.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Irish Land Another 4 Star

Charlie said in his latest presser that he wouldn't be working on anything but recruiting until December 17th, and it appears that this strategy has paid off; the Irish stole yet another recruit from Nebraska in Trevor Robinson, ranked as the third best offensive guard in the country and a top 100 prospect by Scout and Rivals. Following fellow commit Jonas Gray away from the Cornhuskers, Robinson made his decision the other night after an in home visit from Weis and recruiting coordinator Rob Ianello.

While Irish fans still need to wait for national signing day to officially reel in the entire '08 recruiting class, this commitment seems pretty solid; Trevor will be enrolling early to get a head start with college academics and working out with the team. At 6'6" 304 lbs, opposing teams aren't looking forward to this hoss gaining an extra 6 months in the weight room.
In other ND recruiting news, local commit Braxton Cave wrote a nice article for the South Bend Tribune (That's right - Notre Dame recruits are actually writing before they get to college!). The write-up tells the story of Cave's recruiting journey, including some subtle knocks on other coach's recruiting tactics. Here are a few of the texts Cave received while being recruited:

“It’s 85 and sunny here, Big Brax. What’s it like in nasty South Bend?”

“No man should have to live in that weather you got up there.”

“If you come play for us you’ll start right away.”

“We have the biggest stadium in college football, don’t you want to play in front of all those people?”

I can't stand teams that recruit by knocking other schools, especially with weather (the stadium text wasn't a bad selling point, but playing in Notre Dame Stadium isn't exactly a bad thing either), so it was comforting to hear a recruit's opinion on the matter:

"These are just a few of the recruiting pick-up lines that I would receive on a daily basis. Sunny weather, big stadiums and early playing time are all great aspects. Don’t get me wrong, but to me, these capture lines only turned me away from the collegiate powerhouses."
I highly recommend this article not just to gain insight on the recruiting process, but to get to know a member of the Notre Dame family. I can't say how proud I am that a senior in high school took the time to put together such a well written piece for the local paper, and I can't wait to see Braxton on the field for the Irish.

God Bless.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


While already having to deal with the intensified studying for finals, I was additionally forced to cope with the fact that my favorite baseball team was involved in the Mitchell report. I have to admit that I never would have guessed former Indian's backup catcher Tim Laker to be involved in the steroid scandal...
For reader's looking for Notre Dame related material, a blogger from the Sporting News dug up a pretty decent video promoting Notre Dame basketball.

In unrelated news, this week's quote comes from MSN writer Eric Hansen:

"Notre Dame’s most perplexing, most forgettable, most exasperating, most weird season in its 119-year football history will not define Charlie Weis as a college head football coach. The days between now and the Sept. 6, 2008 season opener with San Diego State will."

While next year's win / loss record is more likely to shape Weis' image as a head coach, it is true that the coaching staff needs to step up its game this offseason. Several newcomers should be helping him out next year. Check out highlights from Jamoris Slaughter's last game as a high schooler here, and you can watch clips of man/bear Omar Hunter in the Georgia state semi final here (although most of his highlights are from him playing offense).

Hope you all enjoyed the post. Now I need to get back to studying.

Go Irish.

Monday, December 10, 2007

JACC Forced to Incur Huge Maintenance Expenses

The Notre Dame service staff was hard at work, beginning early this morning and continuing for the next several days, replacing the light fixtures in the basketball arena. This is of course because juvenile Kyle McAlarney and several accomplices shot the lights out during the Irish's record breaking 25th consecutive win at the Joyce Center (the previous home win record was set in the 1970's). Shooting 62% from the field and 56% from beyond the arc, Notre Dame overwhelmed its lesser opponent, Northern Illinois University. Senior Rob Kurz and Junior Kyle McAlarney each dropped 17 points, and every player (except red shirt freshman Carleton Scott) was able to score in the route.

Fans were treated to a very stylish Notre Dame Basketball calendar. My favorite picture was actually the month of April, which has an absolutely classic picture of Brey and his staff.
Also on display was super sophomore Luke "Bam-Bam" Harangody, who registered a double double while only playing for 21 minutes. Throwing down for several monster dunks, there were times that I thought Luke might bring down the backboard. Even though the Irish won by over 40 points (108-62), the student section was electric as most everyone stayed until the end to witness a chapter in Notre Dame history.
After suffering through such a tough football season, it was refreshing to be able to sit back and watch a good old fashion beating; all of the players were having fun getting after it, and Brey was pretty pleased as well. Here's his response (courtesy of the Observer online) when asked if he had seen anything like the squad's performance in the first six minutes (22 points before the first media timeout).

"The first six minutes of the game, have you ever seen anything like that?" Irish coach Mike Brey said. "I mean, are you kidding me? That was a clinic. I'm hitting [assistant coach Sean Kearney] and going, 'This is fun.' See I would've bought a bunch of tickets for tonight if I knew that was going to happen. You got your money's worth."

As mentioned before, several of the recruits (and a few current players) were in attendance, although they somehow got stuck with seats up in the bleachers. They seemed to have fun despite being removed from the action, and Weis looked strangely similar to Santa Clause as a chain of fans (children and adults) lined up to shake his hand at halftime. Even though the game was likely one of his only breaks during this busy football weekend, Charlie was still doing the good old PR act.

That it for now Nasties fans. Go Irish.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Pressers and Such

Anyone searching for answers about the coaching/gameplanning/freshman alma mater singing will have to wait until December 17th to get any answers. That's because the Weis man will be spending the next few weeks taking full advantage of the time he is given to visit recruits, and despite the commitment that the young Fightin' Irish have displayed up to this point in the year, it is likely that the staff will have their hands full holding on to all of them. Running backs coach Mike Haywood potentially leaving to take a coaching job in his hometown with the University of Houston could potentially weigh in to Jonas Gray's verbal, and any other change in the coaching staff (offensive line...?) could factor in even more; this class currently has four offensive line commits. Because of the potential ensuing changes, it is important that the recruits can get to know not just their position coach, but other members on the staff as well, which is why Charlie is making sure that he and his gang will be taking full advantage of the given recruiting time.
Is Haywood on the move?

14 recruits will be making the trip up to snow covered South Bend to attend the annual post season football banquet. It isn't very difficult to sell the tradition of a Notre Dame football gameday to a highschooler, but sometimes a bad visit back to campus in the offseason can cause recruits to second guess themselves, which is why the entire weekend is stuffed full of special events for them. For instance, the team will be in the Joyce Center on Saturday night to watch the Basketball team win its record-breaking 25th home game against NIU.
Weis mentioned in the presser that he wasn't just looking forward to getting the incoming freshman on the field, but that two current freshman will be healthy enough to play next year. Harrison Smith and Gary Gray were both sidelined this season, and both of them coming back will add some more depth to the rapidly improving secondary.

With ND not playing in a bowl game, the team loses out on about an extra month of practice, but Weis said that the month of December won't be going to waste.

"we're countering that lack of practice time by the increased early start on strength and conditioning"

Good for them. Weis also specifically mentioned Clausen as needing to beef up a little.

Charlie did, however, give insight to the future of one coaching position. This season, Weis divided up the duties of the special teams position, the theory being that everyone would share responsibility, but without a return touchdown this season and the terrible kicking game, Charlie was pretty clear about how he thought his plan worked out:

" it has to be changed. I was not pleased with the way it went," adding on that he could see himself assigning the job to one person if he was the 'right guy.'

Wrapping up this Thursday quote segment, we'll lead into an article about the BCS system. Here's Charlie's thoughts on who got the short end of the stick:

"They (OSU and Georgia) were 3 and 4. Not that I'm a big fan of Ohio State or Georgia or anyone else, but if you're next in line and you don't play, and the two teams ahead of you lose, I think that you move up. I just don't know how you get penalized for not playing. I think right now if I were (Georgia head coach) Mark Richt I'd be out there whining today because wasn't he sitting 4 last week? So he's sitting 4 but now he moves down a spot. He doesn't play, he wins his last six games, one of the hottest teams in the country, and now he gets penalized. I don't think he's a whiner because I know the guy and I like the guy, but I think if anyone has a gripe today, it would probably be him. "

Happy Thursday and good luck to the Woman's Soccer Team, who will be facing off against Florida State in the NCAA semifinals tomorrow at 3:00.
Go Irish. Beat Seminoles.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Case of the Mondays

The first Monday fully removed from ND's football season has undoubtedly left some of our loyal readers in a head-pounding Duds and Studs withdrawal, so the crew thought that it would be helpful to post something today, even if it is just a vain attempt to fill a void that likely won't be satisfied until after the San Diego State game.

While perusing NDLNA, I came across a decent writeup by analyst Eric Hanse, which points out some highs and lows of the season. Hanse found some silver lining in the season both in the play of freshmen nose tackle Ian Williams and wideout Duval Kamara, and the statistical improvement of the defense from 2006 to 2007 is also worth taking a look at. Regarding Kamara, came up with a cumulative playing time chart for the season, and #18 was able to log the most playing time for a freshman receiver since Rocket Ismail on the 1988 squad. It's worth noting the presence of underclassmen that are either at or near the top of their position; hopefully these young players can build off of the quantity of experience they were able to get this year and use it to better prepare for next season.

The Charlie's Nasties crew always tries to present a fair and unbiased opinion whenever possible, so in order to attempt to do so, I give you this article defending the Nasties crew's favorite scapegoat, John Latina. Our friends at the Irish Roundup offer several factors out of the realm of John's control that have negatively contributed to the offensive line's performance over the last three years, and the post suggests that Irish Nation should (like the case with Weis) hold off on passing judgement until he is given another year to redeem himself. In my mind, however, a good coach is able to fix the type of problems (missed assignments, inability to adjust to defenses) that have plagued the line this year, and I am still blown away that Chris Stewart went unnoticed and unused for the first half of the season. I mean, come on, looking at this picture, doesn't one player kind of, um... stick out as possessing some good physical traits for excelling at the right tackle position?

Anyway, the point is that a player shouldn't have to threaten to transfer to see some playing time. I know that sometimes players perform differently in practice than in games, but when the team opens the first three games struggling to net positive rushing yards, then there's not really any excuse for not giving the bottom of the depth chart some opportunity.

In other news, if you haven't noticed yet, the Nasties crew has finally sold out. Contract negotiations with Brugg and the Golden Boy have resurfaced and have been proceeding amicably up to this point, but it looks like the site is going to need to generate some revenue to put up with their demands. So if you like what you read around here, I encourage you to support us by checking out the ads in the right column of the page. With the holiday season fast approaching, it never hurts to find some nice ND apparel online.

This picture is seriously from one of the ad sites.

Lastly, a quick congratulations to the men's bball team for a nice win over Eastern Michigan last weekend. I have a film screening in the DPAC tomorrow night during the Kansas State game (which will be played at the Madison Square Garden), but you can bet that they'll be at least one laptop in the theatre pulling up a gamecast.

Go Irish! Beat Wildcats!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Carlson and Laws Make ND Look Good

These two fifth year seniors were named to the 2nd All-Academic team by ESPN The Magazine and the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). Believe it or not, this is the first time since 1988 that ND has had multiple players with this distinction.

There were only seven other D-1 schools that had multiple all-academic players, and no team had more than two. Finally, Notre Dame is with the top of the pack again. More info on this can be found in this UND write up.

Apparently, the Pac-10 officiating crew is standing by their ruling in the booth to overturn Grime's spectacular end-zone reception. The South Bend Tribune breaks down the nits and grits of it here, but our quote of the week (since there has been little player/media interaction since the season ended) gives David Grimes' personal opinion on the matter:

"I know I had it" - David Grimes

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

New Years

Coincidentally, the close of Notre Dame's football season lined up pretty well with the ending of the Church's liturgical year, and while the end of the 2007 campaign was accompanied with some discussion of the apocalypse, the optimism brought along with the start of a new season is refreshing, even though it comes at the expense of having to watch Top 10 segments void of much pigskin action.

However, there is no need to fear the complete absence of Notre Dame Football in the next few months: loyal readers can look forward to post-season recaps (grades, awards, and such) before very premature previews for next season (what better way to spend Christmas than completely breaking down the San Diego State defensive line?).

However, While this blog projects a gridiron image, the Nasties crew is also a proud member of the Leprechaun Legion, so especially in these months of slow football news, don't be surprised to see a few posts devoted to the hardwood. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and this picture (from's photo gallery), along with it's caption, offers a fair summation of the Irish's most recent win over Patriot League foe, Colgate:

"Kyle McAlarney, starting junior point guard, prepares to shoot the ball as the Colgate coach yells at his players to play better defense."

No joke. That's the actual caption.

Notre Dame's 94-63 win on Monday marked the 23rd straight win at the Joyce Center, 1 W shy of the school record. With a win over an Eastern Michigan squad this Saturday, the Irish can finally start making history in a good way.

I'd also like to point out to those that haven't already noticed, Charlie's Nasties has now gone global, with readers from Panama, Ireland, England, Germany, Australia, and our friendly neighbors of the north. Check out the real-time map at the bottom of the site to see the last 1000 visitors in the U.S.

Go Irish. Beat Eagles.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Duds and Studs: The Last Hurrah

Congrats to the Fighting Irish for taking down the Cardinal in their last game of the 2007 campaign. The official box score was as follows:

Notre Dame: 35
Stanford: 14
Officials: -14


ESPN: Electing to use the C-Team announcers to cover a more notorious game during rivalry week, ND was stuck with what appeared to be the J-Team, consisting of a field reporter with spray on hair and two announcers that couldn't help beating everything to death.

Announcer A: Look at number 20 for Stanford! That linebacker's all over the place!
Announcer B: I agree, if you had to take a guess for who made the tackle last play, you could say Clinton Synder and you would be right 90% of the time.
A: Clinton Synder is around the play almost 90% of the time.
B: He really is all over the place.
A: Well, B, that's because he was a 2 star recruit and he plays with more heart than 4 star recruits...

Officials: "The call on the field is reversed" seemed to be the most popular words out of their mouths, and the 'indisputable evidence' that overturned Grime's endzone circus catch might have caused riots if it became a deciding factor in the game. The primary reason these officials make the duds list, however, is that they failed to keep the game in control. There is absolutely no reason for the Notre Dame vs. Stanford game to escalate to FIU/Miami proportions. The drive where the announcer's son and his bash brother decided to headbutt Clausen after a play and de-cleat a stationary David Grimes after the whistle (respectively) could have resulted in ejections; labelling them as "off-setting personal fouls" was ridiculous. This foul play seemed to stem from Lambert's (even though it wasn't necessarily malicious or intentional) hit on Pritchard, and it was missing this call that really turned the game downhill for the officials.

Defensive Fundamentals: In a showing that made the Duke game look like a masterpiece, our defense seemed to forget how to take pursuit angles or break down when they were tackling. The preferred method of lunging at the feet of Stanford's players was able to quell a less than impressive offense, but it is obvious that Corwin needs to address this issue during the offseason.

O-Line: As opposed to positions like linebacker or defensive tackle, the problem at this position is that if one player misses an assignment, it usually blows up the entire play. Blitz-ford delivered as advertised and dished out 5 sacks on Clausen as well as creating several other pressure situations. To Weis' credit, he didn't mess around this game, pulling players in Lou Holtz fashion if they failed to properly execute an assignment. While Chris Stewart and Dan Wenger showed some promise, Sam Young needs to learn how to stop a speed rush; the opposing gameplan on him appears to encourage pinning back one's ears and sprinting around him. Fortunate for us, Young appears to have the talent and desire to correct this weakness.

Jim Harbaugh: I have to admit that I enjoy some of his outspoken nature, but could you imagine being Mrs. Pritchard and watching Harbaugh send your son back onto the field after suffering an obvious concussion? I think that he will have a hard time convincing parents to trust him with their children after that.


Robert Hughes: Despite the Notre Dame v. Reggie Bush circa 2005 efforts by the Cardinal grounds crew, Hughes succeeded in becoming the first freshman to eclipse the century mark in back to back games since Autry Denson in the 95 season. It would have been nice to see him finish his two long runs, but it's becoming clear the Hughes likes his role as a feature back, turning 18 carries into 136 yards and a touchdown.

The D-Team: Darrin Walls, David Bruton, and Ian Williams join permanent resident Trevor Laws in this group. All performed well with Williams recording 6 tackles, Walls and Bruton providing good coverage, and Laws being Laws. The young outside linebacking duo of Kerry Neal and Brian Smith looked pretty decent as well.

Brian Smith says "Give me a low-five"
Duval Kamara: The late season Golden Tate, Kamara has proven to be ND's most consistent aerial weapon, however, Charlie could improve on mixing up his play calling to the #1 receiver. It seems like whenever someone catches a deep ball, Weis has to run 3 or 4 fly routes to him before reverting back to the out and slant patterns. Irish fans should be especially thankful for Kamara's consistency when considering the drop in production from Parris and the inconsistency of Grimes. While #11 is able to make a spectacular catch from time to time, his inability to haul in the gimme's could move him into the slot next season if he doesn't show improvement.

Tom Zbikowski: It was great to see Zibby back in his old form for his last game with the Irish. His punishing hits and momentum changing plays in the Stanford game serve as a reminder for what the Irish will be missing at the safety position next year.

Also, props to the Blue and Gold supporters that made it out to Palo Alto for the game; judging by the crowd noise, it almost sounded like a home game on TV. Good job sticking with the team throughout this struggling season. As former Irish head coach Gerry Faust said, "It won't be long before they're back on top again. Sometimes it's good to go through these things. It makes you stronger. The crucifixion has to come before the resurrection."

Go Irish. Beat Aztecs!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Show Me The Trophy!

Finalists for the nation's more prestigious college football awards were announced earlier this week. lists the finalists for all the awards, but the Nasties crew is here to help break down three of them.

Doak Walker Award

Mike Hart, Darren McFadden, and Ray Rice round out the competition for the nation's best running back. After an excellent first 7 weeks, Michigan's Mike Hart tapered off at the end of the season, missing 3 games with an injury and only rushing for 44 yards against rival Ohio State. However, Hart's impressive 1232 yards and 12 touchdowns accumulated in only 9 games keep him in the conversation. Scarlet Knight Ray Rice has put together the most impressive numbers this season (projected 1759 yards and 20 total touchdowns), but the Nasties crew is giving the edge to last year's winner, Darren McFadden. On pace to mirror last year's stats of 1794 rushing yards and 20 total touchdowns, the Razorback earns this award for compiling impressive numbers in the nation's best conference. Monster games against South Carolina (321 YDS 1 TD) and Alabama (195 YDS 2 TDs) help seal the deal for this junior.

Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award

Two great players were nominated in Oregon's Dennis Dixon and Missouri's Chase Daniel. Dixon threw for 20 TDs and rushed for 9 more during the season, but weak performances against Cal and USC combined with a leg injury suffered against Arizona last week could shatter more than the Ducks championship hopes. The centerpiece of a high powered offense in Missouri, Daniel has thrown for 3,590 yards and 30 touchdowns. Passing highlights include 5 touchdown performances against Mississippi and Colorado as well as 350 yards and 3 TDs against A&M. However, another SEC boy in Tim Tebow will win this award; this super-sophomore has rushed for 749 yards and 20 touchdowns in addition to throwing for 2,870 and another 26 touchdowns. Especially against tough SEC competition (5 total touchdowns against Kentucky, 5 rushing TDs against the Gamecocks), Tebow's 177 QB Rating gives extra reason for why he should win this award.

Maxwell Award

Dixon, Tebow, and McFadden are all looking to join Brady Quinn as a Maxwell Award winner this season. Sidelined for the rest of the season with knee surgery, Dixon will be unable to finish his impressive season and stands little chance of coming away with this trophy. While McFadden makes a strong case for winning this award, the Nasties crew woefully congratulates evil enemy Urban Meyer for producing a Maxwell winner. Even in losses to #1 ranked LSU, Auburn, and Georgia, his QB rating never dipped below 114, and against LSU, he still managed to accumulate over 200 total yards and 3 total touchdowns while only turning over the ball once. Tebow's impressive numbers should be enough to win him the Maxwell Award, if not the Heisman, this season.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Stuff my Turkey with Natty

The Stanford Cardinal will be coming off of a bye week to face Notre Dame this weekend. At 3-7, this team has shown vulnerability (45-17 loss to UCLA, 27-9 loss to Washington), but has also managed to hang around long enough to drop some huge opponents in the PAC-10 (21-20 over Arizona, 24-23 over USC). Jim Harbaugh uses his plethora of receivers to mimic a pro style offense, and with 41 freshmen on the squad this year, the Christmas Trees might be on their way up in the next few seasons.

ND needs to watch out for the passing attack, but the deciding factor on who wins this game will likely be determined when the Irish are on offense. Ranked 11th in the country in sacks, Stanford ain't afraid to bring the heat with it's pass rush, frequently sending one or two linebackers on every down. As Weis mentioned in his press conference, "you don't have to guess if they're coming, cause they're always coming." While not quite deserving of a name like Blitz-Ford, the Cardinal defensive scheme could cause some problems for our green offensive line. Evaluating how ND picks up the pass pressure will give fans some idea of how much the O-Line has meshed at the end of the season.

Expect to see some Wenger and Bemenderfer at center with Sullivan listed as doubtful, and Hughes should continue to see some carries with Aldridge "still not at full speed." Pat Kuntz is not expected to play, still nursing a leg injury, but freshman Ian Williams has done a nice job filling in for him up to this point in the season.

Today's quotes are about two studs on the team from Charlie's November 20th press conference.

On Eric Maust's ridiculous rugby punt:
"There was no bigger play in the game than that play by Maust. You really have to be an athlete to do what he did. A, to catch the ball, but B, to be athletic enough to get the ball off and end up net punting 30 yards on a play really you could have lost 20 yards on. That was 50 yards of field position on that play there, solely due to him. No one else could we benefit that 50 yards to other than his athleticism on that play. "

On Laws potentially being named an All-American:

"Let's just go by the numbers. I mean, I don't see all these guys, what everyone does. When I do, it's just for a couple minutes of a game on Saturday night before I go to sleep. But if you just go by the numbers, the guy's getting nine, 10 tackles a game as an interior defensive lineman. That's phenomenal. Isn't like we're playing against crummy teams. Isn't like he's going against bad guys, and he's had numbers every week. Doesn't make any difference who we go against, he's had numbers every single week. It's tough not to at least have that argument. "

Sweet Potatoes or Yams? Nasties Thanksgiving Day Predictions:

Packers 17, Lions 24

Jets 10, Dallas 31

Colts 28, Falcons 14

There you have it Nasties, easy on the tryptophan. Beat Cardinal!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Duds and Studs: Senior Game

Irish Insider on campus had an interesting breakdown of the game before this weekend. The articles contained all of the similar text found in ESPN breakdowns of a Pats Colts game or an SI NBA Finals preview; each position was analyzed and the writers gave the edge to either Notre Dame or Duke. It was a decent read, but it lost a little credibility in my book when it gave the "Intangibles" to Duke. Against Notre Dame at home. On Senior Day... Come on, there's no way we're that bad this year, right? O well, one of the writers was the same that predicted us to go 11-1 in the regular season with our only loss being at UCLA... No one's perfect.

Robby Parris: I've been a Parris fan all season long, but against Duke he was overshadowed by the performance of other players who stepped up at his position, going catchless with a few drops. The competition at the WR position will be something to pay attention to next game.
James Aldridge: I've been a huge fan of Weis' first prized recruit, but he has only been able to average over 4 yards a carry 3 times this season (5.1, 5.5, 4.4 yards against Michigan, MSU, and Air Force, respectively). I realize that Aldridge left the game early, but his mediocre production has given the other running backs on the team a chance for them to show what they can do during the games. I am obviously not including an injured player in the 'duds' column because he is injured, but because his injury just might lead to a position change at running back. The Stanford game could set the stage for a very competitive running back battle during the off season that I'll be looking forward too.
Every week I try my best to find players who sucked it up when we won (UCLA) and played well in a losing effort (see other 9 games), but for some reason, I struggled to do this with the Duke game. Even Aldridge and Parris played decently well, but the fact is that our defense looked very competent and our offense seemed to have a game plan for the first time all season. What's not to like about that?

Robert Hughes: The first freshman to run for over 100 yards since Walker against Pittsburgh 3 years ago, Hughes showed some good potential in a great performance Saturday. Granted it was against Duke, but on senior day, a freshman was able to step up in a big way, earning some of the carries that Aldridge used to see.

Jimmy Clausen: Weis mentioned in a post game interview that Jimmy has benefited greatly from sitting out against USC and Navy, getting a chance to rest up a little bit and watch from the sidelines. Once again, his last two starts were against Air Force and Duke, but Notre Dame has been waiting all year for a quarterback that can move the ball without creating turnovers, and with 440 yards (50% completion rate), 6 touchdowns, and no interceptions in his last two starts, it seems that JC is starting to do just that.

Trevor Laws: Laws ended his final game in Notre Dame stadium with 7 tackles and a sack, continuing to make a case for being a first day draft choice. Hats off to him for playing solid game in and game out all year.

The Seniors: Everyone probably saw this one coming, but its still important to recognize the seniors for getting some playing time and making sure that they ended their final game in South Bend on a good note. This might just have been me, but I thought center Neal Kennedy looked good enough to get some snaps in earlier in the year...

As for the decision to play Zbikowski at quarterback, I'll say that Willingham probably wouldn't have played him like Weis did. Some might have viewed the move as disrespectful to Duke, but Zibby had been asking Weis for three seasons to get a chance to go under center. The fact that Weis didn't make any apologies for giving one of his most loyal seniors some requested playing time is one of the reasons that his players like playing for him. He knows how to reward good performance. Although after watching Zbikowski run the offense, I'm glad Weis chose not to put him in earlier in the season...
You tell 'em ChuckGo Irish! Beat Cardinal!

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Congrats to all of the seniors! Go Irish!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Of Pep Talks and Seniors

Notre Dame will begin the end of its football season with its last home game tomorrow against Duke, and several Alums tried to give the players some last minute motivation. Most notable are the speeches given by Lou Holtz and Mike Golic.

Holtz's official ESPN Pep Talk, which can be found here at Colonialhead's Irish Blog, emphasizes the importance of representing the university on every down:

"[Notre Dame] stands for intelligence, play smart. It stands for excellence; whatever we do, we do it with class. And it represents faith. You always have faith; you always have a belief you're gonna find a way to succeed."

Holtz also focused on a no excuses mentality:

"It's time to put Notre Dame back where it belongs. We have talent here, that's not the case. It's a matter of a commitment to excellence."

I strongly recommend watching this pep talk. It's easy to see that Lou has a little more emotion when his speech is being directed towards his former team.

Golic, who spoke at the pep rally tonight, also brought up the privilege of being able to play for Notre Dame:
"I played 9 years in the NFL, and was fortunate enough to be able to play in every stadium, but no tunnel gave me the chills that I got when I ran out onto Notre Dame Stadium."

Some may shrug this game off, a contest between two 1-9 teams, but the fact of the matter is that this will be the last home game for many Irish players that have excited us (positively or negatively) over the last few years, and the fans and student body owe it to those players to give them a good showing on Saturday.

The nasties crew will try to get a senior post up sometime soon, but for now, I'd just like to once again acknowledge the season that defensive end Trevor Laws is having. Per the folks at BGS, Laws currently has 98 tackles, which is good for the 33rd rank in the nation. To give you some perspective on the magnitude of this accomplishment: no other defensive lineman is ranked in the top 100.
Go Irish. Beat Devils.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Quote of the Week

Despite the start of the college basketball season, the Blue Devil pigskin supporters will be at full strength in South Bend come Saturday. Don't believe me? Here's a link to the Duke Super Bowl website that offers a breakdown of this weekend's upcoming game.

Speaking of basketball, this week's quote comes from Sports Illustrated:

"Luke Harangody and Rob Kurz are formidable up front; Kyle McAlarney's return from a lengthy suspension bolsters a thin backcourt."

Bam Bam tears it up in last year's Bama game
Sometimes when the team has a 1-9 record, it can be helpful to fall back on the basketball team, who currently boasts a #29 preseason ranking.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

This One's For You, Brian

In the last edition of Duds and Studs, the Nasties judged Clausen's performance somewhere between the two: not quite duddly, but not quite studly. One of our loyal readers challenged us on this issue, and it caused me to contemplate the quarterback situation as I have never contemplated it before.

Coming off of two seasons of high octane offense led by a future first round draft pick and Heisman finalist, I seemed to have forgoten what it was like to develop a young quarterback. After seeing so many rookie quarterbacks struggle in the NFL the last few seasons, it amazes me that I hadn't made the connection that adjusting from high school to college must possess similar challenges.

With these thoughts in mind, I whipped out my pocket calculator and set out to compile some statistics with another Notre Dame quarterback who saw playing time as a freshman. The statistics are from each quarterback's first 8 games (except for one of Brady's*).

Also, the stats I was using didn't have a QB rating for Brady, but according to a article, Brady had a 93.53 rating after 9 games and Clausen had 98.77 after 7. Anyone can put together a simple table in Excel, but in order to take full advantage of my incredibly difficult integrated applications course I took in high school, I thought I should display some of the data in a more visual way, using an appealing orange and brown for Brady and a traditional blue and gold for JC:
A couple things jump out:

1. Brady threw the ball on average about 10 more times per game, and this partly contributed to Quinn averaging about 60 more yards per game (167 to 108).

2. One of Brady's outlier games included 59 attempts for 297 yards against Purdue in his third game, but he threw only 1 TD and 4 INTs in a 23-10 loss. His other came against BC, where he threw the ball 39 times for 350 yards, 2 TDs and 2 INTs in a 27-25 loss.

3. Ignoring those two games, Clausen's yards per game were more or less statistically indifferent even though Quinn was throwing the ball more. This especially makes sense when comparing Jimmy's 57% completion rate to Quinn's 45%.

It's official, I have let the emotional student fan in myself completely bias my opinion of Jimmy Clausen, and I apologize for being so harsh before looking at the numbers. The most underrated part of his performance appears to be his efficiency, averaging just over 36 attempts per interception (compared with Brady's 22), which is even more startling when considering that Quinn's offense was able to average over 170 rush yards a game (41 yards this year) and had been sacked half a frequently as Clausen. It's hard not to criticize the quarterback when the team is 1-9, but these numbers indicate that Jimmy may eventually live up to the promised hype that surrounded him. Let's hope for the best.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Duds and Studs: Crash Landing

USC hammered us, but they were once a top 5 team this year. Navy? Well, I guess they had to break the streak sometime, right? So why not this year: a rebuilding year, and it took them three overtimes and a blunt-headed coaching decision to do so. But losing by 17 at home to Air Force? Yikes Irish fans... Lets look at last weeks Duds and Studs and see where we stand after this one:

O-Line: If the Navy game wasn't enough evidence to get rid of Latina, the 1.5 YPC and 6 sacks allowed against the Falcons should do the job. This unit seems to consistently underperformed regardless of who we are playing. The one bright spot that I can find solace in is that we will be returning a lot of experience next year, but the situation doesn't look much different than when fans looked forward to the return of the porous secondary before the 2006 season after they had looked porous in the 2005 season. I think the only way to get this unit clicking is by vamping up the practice intensity and forcing them to get more full speed experience.

4th quarter kicking: A somewhat legitimate chance at a comeback was ruined when ND allowed Air Force to run the ball back 52 yards (the drive ended in a field goal) and later kicked the ball out of bounds. It doesn't matter if you're playing AF or UF, giving the leading team free field position at the end of the game greatly diminishes the chance of a comeback.

Defense: After opening the game by allowing a 14 play, 56 yard drive, the defense seemed to collect itself on the sidelines, causing 2 three-and-outs and a forced fumble on the next three drives, but after this good start, the Irish only forced the Falcons to punt twice (in nine drives) more in the ball game. Especially in the fourth quarter, the defense failed to get a stop when it mattered most. I'm tempted to start calling to see special teams walk-on Mike Anello in the secondary after failing to stop a service academy passing attack (63% completions for a 7.5 average) for the second week in a row.

Coaching: I know that I defended Charlie and the Weis guys in the previous post, but you have to scratch your head at the lack of in game adjustments against Air Force. A well written Sporting News student blog breaks down why ND would be foolish to fire Weis this year, and the gang at IR throws in some additional thoughts here. Both writers feel that Weis should be given the same opportunity as Willingham: to rebound from a bad year. If Charlie still can't find a place in the W column after his recruits have been in the program for 2 or 3 years, however, don't be surprised if ND starts shopping the coach market to find someone who is better at developing talent and making adjustments during games.

Eric Maust: The Irish backup punter had another solid week replacing Price, kicking 5 times for an average of 43 yards with 2 kicks inside the 20. With a special teams weapon like Maust, one has to wonder why the Irish neglect to ever play the field position game.

Junior Jabbie: Albeit in somewhat of a mop-up situation when Air Force was playing a conservative defense, Jabbie did have four nice catches for 51 yards, an effort that might justify a few more touches against Duke.

WRs: It is with great hesitation that I group Grimes and Carlson in here, and I only do so because they redeemed their early mistakes (multiple dropped passes and a ridiculous fumble, respectively) by hauling in a difficult touchdown reception (Carlson) and coming up with two big fourth down catches (Grimes) later in the game. Duval missed some action apparently because of academic issues (just like in NCAA 08 when you have to suspend someone for a game), but Parris came up with another strong performance and Allen added somewhat of a receiving threat out of the backfield.

On the quarterback situation: Clausen's performance fell somewhere between the two; not quite duddly, but not studly. For whatever reason, I feel that Sharpley is better right now, but its hard to argue Charlie handing over the reigns to his prize recruit in order to get him ready for next year. However, Irish fans need to hope that Clausen can learn to throw a deep ball better than an interhall quarterback and step up in the pocket instead of taking 12 yard sacks or the Dayne Crist era might come sooner than expected.

That's it for this week's edition of Duds and Studs. Hopefully we can catch Duke looking ahead to UNC and muster a home win this season. Go Irish.