Sunday, November 04, 2007

A Tale of Two Teams

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. The Notre Dame football squad is horrific and has lost to Navy for the first time since John Fitzgerald Kennedy was president. Meanwhile, the basketball team, victorious over Saint Ambrose in their openenr, seems positioned for a great season in 2007-2008.

The biggest difference between the two teams is experience. The football team has very little, which has been well documented on sites such as ND Nation. The Irish have played a school record number of freshmen and sophomores and have youngsters playing in every unit. Charlie Weis has had a rough row to hoe this year.

Meanwhile, the basketball program is a very deep team that returns four starters in Luke Harongody, Rob Kurz, Tory Jackson, and Kyle MacAlarney. Their experience goes so deep that no freshmen played in the exhibition game until the ninth player, Tyrone Nash, entered the contest. This was in a game in which Harongody was out with an injury, which accentuates how deep the cager's depth actually goes.

Will the basketball team fair better than their fall counterparts? That remains to be seen, but Mike Brey's recruiting and guidance has put the team in a position to succeed. That is much more than could consistently be said for the football program over the past five years.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Back on the Weis Bandwagon

Jonas Grey has decommitted from Nebraska and has committed to Notre Dame. This is tremendous news. Internet reports say that lists Grey as the number three rated runningback recruit in the country. Notre Dame has all but assured itself of the recruiting national championship during a 1-7 football season. As one internet poster put it, "Weis could sell ice to an Eskimo."

Meanwhile, the master recruiter commented today that he has learned a lot this year and they may practice full pads next year. This is great news. Weis has consistently criticized for being arrogant, but it takes a lot of humility to admit that your usual way of doing things may have been wrong. He has shown a willingness to adapt and grow on the job, which means that he still has a chance to be successful. I know that Irish fans in the know cannot wait until 2009 to see what he can do when he truly is coaching a deep and talented football team. Until then, we will just have to grin and bear it.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Welcome Aboard Michael Floyd!

At least Charlie Weis can still recruit. The commitment of Michael Floyd helps to alleviate some of the disappointment of losing Aurelius Benn last year, and it could not come at a better time for Irish fans. Just when everything seems bleakest, a five star wide receiver has announced that he wants to wear the same golden helmets that were worn by Rockne, Snow, Brown, Ismail,and the other receivers of Irish lore. Welcome aboard Michael!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Bye Week Blues

It is time for the bye week, which would be a great time to reflect back on the first half of the season if it were worth reflecting on. Unfortunately, this might be the worst Notre Dame team in history. It is the worst team in my lifetime at the bare minimum.

If you think that is hyperbole, just look at the facts. The Irish are 1-7 and have 273 yards rushing on the season. Lou Holtz's teams used to average that many per game. They have a lower per game rushing average than any team the in NCAA has had in the last eight years. Their 1-7 start is the worst start by an ND team since Joe Kuharich's 1960 squad started off with the same record. However, that team averaged 11 points scored per game, which is one more point per game than this year's team is averaging. To put things bluntly, these guys are just plain awful.

The bright spot in all this is that the next four games should be the easiest on the schedule. Of course, the next four opponents probably feel the same way about ND. Navy has to be licking their chops at an opportunity to take ND down for the first time in four-and-a-half decades. The Irish appear ripe for the picking this year.

The main culprits in all of this are the offensive line and the special teams. The Irish have a behemoth offensive line, some of which came in with All-America accolades in high school. They are blocking (or should I say not blocking)for a team that is averaging 1.1 yards rushing per carry and has 430 yards lost rushing this season. This is the worst offensive line memory.

The special teams are not much better. Armando Allen and Golden Tate have tremendous ability as return men, but there is almost never any blocking for them (a theme it appears). Likewise, the Irish have had a field goal blocked, missed a couple of extra points, and just had a fumble lost on a punt return this past Saturday when Munir Prince was not paying attention and was hit with a punted football. Basically, the special teams are almost as awful as the offensive line, but nobody is quite that awful.

The only solution at this point is for head coach Charlie Weis to can John Latina and Brian Polian. Latina has coached the offensive line for the past three season, and it has been at least five years since ND has had a running game. Polian was the special teams coach over the past two years before the job was supposedly turned over to a coaching committee. Either way, the special teams have been horrible for the past three years. Likewise, Polian is coaching the linebackers this year, and the linebackers are the weak spot on the defense. It seems obvious what needs to be done.

Monday, September 17, 2007

And I Say Hey! What's Going On?

Obviously, the Irish are not doing very well this year and the offensive line has been awful. Charlie Weis will receive a lot of criticism for this, but he deserves more time. For one thing, everything is not entirely his fault. For another, the things that are his fault are correctible. Finally, He has been good for ND win-or-lose.

My first point has been hashed and rehashed everywhere that Irish football is discussed. Tyrone Willingham refused to recruit when he was at ND. As a consequence, Weis inherited a team that had just five offensive linemen and 66 total football players. They were essentially on the equivalent of an NCAA punishment of twenty scholarships except that ND's reduction was self-induced. The end result is that ND has just six players in their senior class, and the offensive line is awful. This is not that shocking since it takes offensive linemen longer to develop than players at other positions. When you have only one senior offensive linemen total, the odds are that your offense is going to be in for a long season.

None of this is to say that part of ND's problems are not Weis's fault, but he is capable of correcting them. When defending the young offensive line, I should point out that the last two teams did not have very good running games, either, and they had veteran offensive lines. Instead, of running the ball effectively, ND's offense was one dimensional and was effective due to Brady Quinn and a deap receiving core. Rather than allowing this new group of young linemen to develop into poor run blockers like the preceding group, Weis should look for a new offensive line coach. John Latina's lines have not shown anything to suggest that ND will ever be a good running team under him.

Finally, let's consider the possibility that Weis will be a failure at ND. He has, at the very least, been a very good recruiter. As such, we will know for sure whether Weis can coach within two years because his sophomore, junior, and senior classes will all have been ranked in the top ten coming in. Consequently, if Weis is fired after that season, ND's talent cupboard will be stocked for the next coach and a potential national championship run.

At this point, ND can go one of two ways. Either Weis will get the job done, or he will not. Either way, the talent level has been seriously upgraded since Willingham left. Weis is either a Ron Zook or a Lou Holtz. Either would be good for ND. Zook did, after all, recruit the players that won Florida's national championship.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Remembering Harry Oliver

For those who have not heard, Harry Oliver has past away.

Monday, August 06, 2007

We Talkin' About Practice

Practice started today, and I just finished watching the first practice video of the season. I feel like I could go head butt my dog, and I don't own a dog. Sure, you cannot learn much from such a short sampling of stretching and drill work, but seeing the gleam of the golden helmets in the sunshine is a beautiful thing. How wondrous it is to here pads cracking, whistles blowing, and the tough love of Bernie Parmelee.

About the only thing that could be gleaned from the practice video was that the freshmen need some coaching, which is to be expected, and we have good coaches who are quick to correct them. I could clearly hear the ND coaches giving instruction to Taylor Dever, Golden Tate, and Matt Romine. This is not too surprising since this was their first day of practice, but they are going to have to prepare quickly because they will be needed on such a young team. If the youth can gel, this could be an exciting season.