Monday, March 29, 2010

IBG: New Staff New... Spring?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Start roasting three pigs.

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

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

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

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

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