I remember at my freshman orientation, a senior who was selected to speak to the freshman class said something along the lines of “I am now a proud member of the dumbest class on campus,” and it seems like every senior over the next few years will be able to say something similar. ND commits have continued their ass-kicking on the SATs and other academic measurement systems; the class of 2012 will officially be the ‘smartest’ and most diverse class in the history of the school.
Bill also highlighted some of the construction and development plans currently going on, and while all of the alumni sat back impressed in their chairs, all I could think about was the absurd detours that I had to take to get to DeBartelo for all pf my classes last year. It’s always fun to look above you on your way to class and see a giant steel I-beam swinging from a crane…
But while Lewis talked long and passionately about the academics, facilities, and other sports at Notre Dame (just everything north of the JACC is being rebuilt), you could tell what he likes talking about most when he began talking about the 2008 football team, and the way that he talked about it had that straight-shooting, no-nonsense, Weis-like feel that seemed to add some actual weight to what was said.
Perhaps the most interesting segment of the evening was about a conversation Lewis had with Weis that he relayed to the audience. Lewis told Charlie he wanted to play a word association game; he would say a position name, and Weis would say the first thing that came to his mind. It went something like this:
Quarterback: really good
Running back: good. They compliment each other
OL: much better than last season
WR: need 1-2 freshman to contribute
When challenged by one of the audience members about Clausen’s potential for the next season, Lewis made sure to make his expectations about Jimmy very clear.
"You don’t know how injured he was last season. There was a point when he couldn’t throw a ball from me to you. He was playing at times when he probably shouldn’t have played, and he wasn’t getting great protection all of the time. He needed to have a really good spring, but he didn’t. He had a GREAT spring.”
Other than that, there wasn’t anything too shocking about Weis’ attitude towards the offense. It makes sense that the receiving corps could use some young help, the O-line couldn’t have gotten much worse, and without a Mackey Award nominee tight end on the roster, the position really appears to be just OK heading into fall. What was a little more concerning was the defensive word association:
Secondary: could be a strength
D-Line: Need 5 freshman to get into the rotation
Linebackers: Neal and Smith need to grow up fast. Need freshman to contribute.
Everyone in the blogosphere has raised some concerns about the lack of depth on the defensive front, and while a few linebackers showed potential last year, I would agree that the young ones need to show a good deal of improvement if they want to compete consistently on every play. Regardless, I was surprised at the lack of an attempt to hide these weaknesses in the presentation. Like I said, Lewis was speaking pretty candidly, but it’s not too often that a coach admits he needs 5 freshman to play in order to make a 4 man unit a success next season.
When asked how a strong secondary and hybrid players like Harrison Smith might be able to help out a weak front seven, Lewis gave perhaps the most straightforward response of the night.
“The secondary may be a strength next season,” he said “but the fact is that players like Kerry Neal and Brian Smith, big, strong players that can really move, need to make the transition to the next level. These elite prospects that Weis has brought in, the rising sophomores and freshman, need to develop a high learning curve and find a way to get onto the field and make plays.”
AKA, you can’t mask a weak front seven with a strong secondary.
All and all, it was a fun event, and it was great to finally hear a coach talking some football again, but this cut and dry talk concerning the defensive confirmed what I thought could be one of our biggest question marks heading into next season. I’m curious about what everyone else thinks, so comment!