Thursday, January 15, 2009

Quote of the Week: Resurrection

Try as I might to understand what's going on in Weis' head, sometimes I just inevitably end up falling short. The announcement of former O-Line coach John Latina's departure to make way for Frank Verducci surprises me; I'm not confused about the selection, but rather by the timing of this announcement.

Former Offensive Coordinator Mike Haywood was interviewing for head coaching jobs for awhile before he left, perhaps most notably when he was turned down by Houston last season. Keeping this in mind, I figured that Weis and Co. would be well ahead of the curve in selecting his replacement. In fact, I assumed that the candidate had already been chosen, but Charlie was waiting to introduce the new, revamped staff all at once.Now that Verducci's hire has been made public, it tells us that Notre Dame may not have a ready candidate to step into Haywood's role or into the D-Line coach vacancy left by Jappy Oliver. For all I know, contract negotiations may already be underway, but I'm still relatively surprised that this announcement came before we settled on an O-Coordinator.

Moving on to Verducci, though, it looks like he should be an improvement in the coaching staff. He seems to fit the classic definition of journeyman, working for four different NFL teams and taking two years off during a ten year stint, but you can't help but think that 30 years of coaching experience across D-1 and the NFL should serve him well. I like that he is reportedly an intense coach, and I like his excitement about his new job. Weis has always valued people that respect the tradition of the university, and that is where this week's quote comes from:

"I'm very excited for this opportunity and am grateful to Coach Weis," Verducci said. "Notre Dame is the one college job I pursued and is the only school I considered leaving the NFL for."

Welcome to Notre Dame, Frank. Now teach those hog mollies how to run block!

Friday, January 9, 2009


As I was watching the BCS National Championship last night, I noticed not only that national championships are way more entertaining when Ohio State isn't playing in them, but that Notre Dame may be heading in the right direction.
What!? After a 3-9 season followed by a disappointing 7-6 campaign, how can you possibly compare the Irish to the best teams in college football? You might ask... Here are a few things I noticed while watching the game:
  • The turn-and-look offense: I found it interesting that both teams looked to the sideline before snapping the ball to determine whether they should audible from their current play, but I wondered if a matured Jimmy Clausen would be capable of making these reads himself next year. An offense adjusted at the line Peyton Manning style should help the Irish keep up the tempo while exposing weaknesses in the defense.
  • Both teams could hit: The first half of this game was filled with more bell-ringers than I could count. The defenses made sure that if they were going to give up yards, they weren't going to do it easily. Here I look back to players like Tommy Z, Abiramiri, and Cory Mays, who all could lay wood at Notre Dame. Now we should see players like Sergio Brown, Kerry Neal, and Brian Smith stepping up. With the defense so young, we have the potential to grow some real hitters by next year if...
  • Both teams had great strength programs: Percy Harvin is fast. Real fast. But he also benches 405, and OU's Chris Brown ran like lightning while being ripped like the Adonis (and he's the second string RB). This is one area where I think Notre Dame has trailed off recently. It may just be that all the players are so young, but I think Mendoza's lifting program has not been as affective as some of the top tier programs. With the coaching overhaul being revealed in the coming months, this will be one spot that I pay close attention to.
  • Notre Dame is targeting the right players: In one of the earliest editions of the Irish Blogger Gathering, Frank at UHND asked us to pick 1 recruit that we wished ND landed in each of the last three seasons, and my three were Gerald McCoy, Carlos Dunlap, and Omar Hunter. As a redshirt sophomore, McCoy was an All-American defensive tackle that was an absolute force last night, registering an interception in addition to his slew of tackles. Dunlap starts on Florida's nasty defensive line as a sophomore along with fellow almost-Irish-sophomore Justin Trattou, and if not for injury, we may also have seen Omar Hunter at the defensive tackle position for Florida last night. Bottom line: Notre Dame is targeting talent that is starting and contributing on national championship caliber teams. This should comfort those that worry recruiting rankings don't mean that much.
  • Playmakers make plays: One difference that I thought put Florida on top at the end of the night was the play of Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin (duh). Great teams have very good players at every position, but the best teams have 1 or 2 of those X-factor guys that can put the team on their shoulders and win the close games. I definitely see Tate and Floyd starting to fit this mold; there were multiple games where the team had given up but Golden kept laying his heart out on the field, and while Floyd is only a freshman, I see him moving in that direction also.
True, we might be more than a year off from competing on the level of Florida and Oklahoma, but keep in mind that we may not be too far off from turning a corner.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Irish Win Free Throw Battle, Take Down Hoyas

With my fellow writer JY severely outposting me the past few days, I thought it would be a nice change of pace to watch the game with my laptop in front of me and do a pseudo-live-blog of the game. I don't think that I could give an accurate emotional summary of the game without throwing a few Bill Raftery quotes into the write up. These Onions! quotes will be bolded and italicized in an effort to capture as much zest as possible.
1st Half:

19:09 ND is trying to get their bad shooting against St. Johns out of their head, but two quick missed threes by KMac and Tory are a bad sign.
16:57 Tory Jackson gets a massive block. Jay Bilas says Tory "could be the best point guard in the Big East." He's done a great job of improving his offense this offseason
15:38 ND is being much more aggressive defending the rim as Hillesland blocks a shot. However, the players often continue not to box out on rebounds.
14:16 Nylon! By the point guard! Tory drains a floater off an Ayers assist.
11:20 Irish fail to box out and allow Henry Sims a dirty put back dunk that merits #3 on the Sportscenter Top Ten. Send it in!
10:34 Zeller comes off a screen to hit a 3 pointer with A little fortuitous kiss!
8:50 Harangody is playing like a mad man despite being in foul trouble. Gody comes across the middle with a pretty sky hook to put the Irish up one. Big Fella!
7:35 Talk about Rannggge! KMac decides to get ridiculous and nail a three from about 5 feet beyond the three point line. The guy is the biggest gym rat on the team, and it shows with shots like that.
4:59 Zeller juggles the ball on his way to the rim and finishes with A little rat-tat-tat-tat-tat.
4:01 Harangody makes a jumper to give him his 43rd straight game with 10+ points.
2:55 Announcers reveal the ESPN Big Monday schedule. Every game is between two top 25 teams. The Big East is either really good or really overrated.
1:27 Gody hits a jumper to move ND up 37-26. He scored the last 13 points of the half for Notre Dame.

2nd Half:
18:06 Bilas refers to Jackson as "Tory the Terrible." It's not quite as good as "Minnesota Slim," but I could see it catching on.
17:03 I think Hillesland is normally a good complimentary player on offense, but this game it looks like he is trying to do a little too much on offense; he already has two turnovers from poor dribbling.
16:48 Ayers drills a 3 (FillenItUp!) en route to scoring the next 8 Irish points, keeping the team in the game while Gody is on the bench with 4 fouls.
13:50 Nickledimae! Rafrety shouts some inaudible gibberish as Chris Wright reaches in on Tory Jackson in what would later be ruled a meaningless possession.
10:43 Gody steps back and swishes a jumper, prompting this gem: Soft, Deft, Delivery By the Big Fella! A little Beef on the Deck!
7:15 McAlarney hits his 4th three pointer by landing an impressive fade away (He Drills It!) to stretch the Irish lead to 10.
6:04 KMac hits his fifth three of the night on the next possession, but poor boxing out allows the Hoyas 2 offensive boards and a four point possession to keep them in the game.
4:07 Harangody throws down a dunk with such force that it almost gets John Thompson III T'd up.
0:32 Up to this point in the game, GU only converted 12 of their 23 free throw attempts, and Notre Dame, who has only shot 65% this year, had drilled 13 of 13.
0:26 McAlarney misses the team's first free throw on the front end of a 1 and 1, and paid for it by getting his eye cut on the next possession. Not wanting to wreck his other eye, he promptly made the final 2 to ice the game and extend ND's winning streak to a nation leading 44 straight games.

  • With this win, Notre Dame has now beaten every team in the Big East at home during their win streak.
  • Zach Hillesland looks very ballin' with his black eye from the DePaul game. Also, check out his blog he has been writing for The Quad. Very good stuff.
  • Brey on his decision to play Harangody with four fouls with 15:17 left in the game: "He's a veteran now and I think he can play with fouls so I didn't want him to sit out too long. He did a great job of playing with fouls."
  • With Wake Forest beating BYU at home on Jan. 3rd, the Irish now have the longest active home win streak in the NCAA.
That's all for now. Go Irish!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Lack of Defensive Rebounding vs. St. John's at MSG

 "Thanks for Ayers and Zeller for at least dressing in those new road unis, it was the most productive thing they did all day."  

This was said by our buddy Rusty after the horrible showing by the Irish in their 71-65 loss to St. John's Red Storm at Madison Square Garden today.  The game was close for the entire game with neither team able to pull away. As was said throughout the game, it was an old Irish team vs a young upstart St. John's team. St. John's has only 1 senior on their team and relied on a young group of scorers to stay in the game. As with any young quick athletic team, they can use their athleticism to get good looks, get to the lane, and rebound against any team. Most times this does not produce wins unless its against a team playing without composure which is exactly how the Irish played. 

Harangody played well and was fired up the entire game, but St. John's was able to throw enough pressure on him defensively to only hold him to 28 points. This number could easily have been doubled if their bigs did not play great. Numerous times Luke played like a man on fire doing everything to try and keep the Irish in this game. Many times it seemed as if he would jump into the scorers table and rip open his jersey Hulk Hogan-esque. Brey even had to bench him to try and cool off the hulk of a man. 

The problem in this game wasn't a cold shooting night from Kyle McAlarney which will happen from time to time, but the lack of effort and production from Zeller and Ayers. Both guys can't create their own shot, but are rather catch-and-shoot type of players who are especially accurate from downtown if given an open look. We know this, and that's not the problem, but rather their apathy on the defensive end and when shots go up. St. John's sent 3 guys to the offensive and defensive glass on every shot and used their athleticism to get around apathetic Irish players. This is most easily shown when the Irish were on defense. 

A shot would go up and it would turn into a volleyball contest of who could tap the ball around with both the offense and defense just trying to get their fingertips on the ball. This shows a lack of dedication to the fundamentals of rebounding, namely finding a guy and boxing him out. By simply throwing up a hand and jumping to tip the ball into open space, the Irish allowed St. John's superior athleticism to do the same. By doing this, the advantage goes to the offense since they don't even need to rebound the basketball, but by just jumping and tipping, the ball can go through the hoop which happened numerous times. 

By playing zone a good portion of the game, the three baseline defenders are responsible for this and against the penetrating offense. With St. John's being a team with poor outside shooting, the Irish knew they were going to penetrate and their defense wasn't terrible in this regard. But when a team relies on penetrating, it means that there will be at least 3-4 rebounders when the shot goes up in the paint. The Irish got lazy rebounding against a team they thought they should beat and lost their first Big East game. 

Two positive things to mention: The new black road uniforms are sick and definitely want to know if the bookstore could stock at least the shorts. The bright green piping and shamrock are pretty cool. Secondly, I think Tyrone Nash played well in the game, meaning he was calm and played with poise in his 12 minutes. He can be a valued contributor coming off the bench especially when our other guys get into foul trouble, and his two sweet assists show he is learning to trust himself better with the ball