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!