Friday, July 01, 2005

The Big Day | by Dylan

So the hour is, at last, upon us.

For some, the transition of the Presidency of the University stirs feelings akin to those of the wandering Israelites upon Moses leading them out of the desert and into the promised land. For others, it's the biggest anti-climax since Hugh Hefner's 80th birthday party. One thing should be obvious to all, though. Based on his handling of Ty Willingham's dismissal and Charlie Weis' hiring, it's clear that Fr. Jenkins' vision of the University is substantially different from that of his predecessor.

We here at BGS have drafted a manifesto, which we hope to slip into Fr. Jenkins' pocket in the vacuum of moments during Dr. Monkenstein's wane and Fr. Jenkins' wax, hopefully to be read during his remarks after formally assuming his new position.

Here's what we would do if we were President.

NOTING that the U has been akin to a ship, if not without a rudder, then one with a drunken (and likely French) mime at the helm, and

DESIRING to set the compass both backward and forward at the same time, and

ENSURING that the student experience is the renewed and continued focus of the university,

WE PROPOSE the following changes:

• The immediate and prejudiced destruction of Legends. Surely one of our alums owns a bulldozer. In its place shall be constructed an establishment containing 2 parts Harry's Bar, 2 parts Doug Weston's Troubador, and 1 part O'Connell Street. In this establishment, students and alums will be able to eat food that does not suck, drink booze that does not suck, and hear live music that does not suck, all in an atmosphere that does not resemble the Perkins restaurant on 33. The fact that alums' first reaction upon entering will no longer be, "What the &@%# is this?" will be gravy.

• The university will commission a statue of Ara Parseghian, to be placed outside the northwest wall of the stadium.

• The University shall no longer engage in underhanded, dopey, ridiculous, heavy-handed tactics in the parking lots during home football weekends. Never again will an 85 year-old man named Bud and his 35 year-old grandson be asked, "You fellas gonna behave today?" by a mall cop in a plastic dayglo vest whose most intimate experience with a golden dome was when his date's hair fell out after too much fake-bake before the 1978 IUSB Spring Mixer.

• And speaking of tailgating, we will ease up on the black ops that have been found in the lots every football Saturday. We get it; underage drinking is wrong, but we believe undercover agents are a little much. We don't want you to feel like bolting whenever you see two casually dressed people who are too old to be students and too young to be parents; tailgating should be a relaxed and fun experience for all ages, not an episode of COPS.

• The University will shutter the Office of Manufactured Spirit, which has been flooding the campus with saccharine, inane, Ned-Flanders-on-laughing-gas "mystique" since the publication of the 1991 Dome. Any student or adminstrator found creating, proposing, or otherwise endorsing a "spirit banner" shall be forced to wear it as his lone garment for the period of one week. All hazing of said offender during this time shall be considered to have been performed in self-defense and, therefore, immune from prosecution.

• The University is hereby out of the Gameday T-shirt business. We will no longer defile our unparallelled football tradition by commemorating, in cotton, games against Navy, BYU, and Stanford. Students will not be prohibited from doing so, but are subject to the whims of the market. If you can sell a Notre Dame vs. Rutgers t-shirt, good on ya.

• The University will draw up an amendment to its charter, a "Declaration of (Conference) Independence," as a bit of preventive medicine to avoid the fate of other once-proud Independents. We are not whores, so we figured we might as well put that one on paper. The Big 10 Polka is over.

• From this point on, referring to Boston College as our rival will be grounds for mandatory enrollment in a 3-credit course on the history of the University. We have one rival, and they know who they are. If you are an ND opponent and are asking yourself, "Are they talking about our school?" then you ain't it.

• An expanded and improved display of Notre Dame's football awards, team and game photos, and all manners of ND football memorabilia will be included in the upcoming Joyce Center renovation. (Thanks to Gator77 for the fine suggestion, by the way). The current hallway displays at the JACC fall way, way short of what a ND Sports Hall of Fame should be. Great care will be taken to construct a well-researched and non-cheesy exhibit space that will feature archived photographs of teams gone by, trophies, award displays, film clips of great games, and an interactive experience on what it feels like to be sacked by Ross Browner.

• In light of the recent tragedy and in an effort to maintain the University's cultural heritage, the recently-condemned CJ's Pub will be relocated to LaFortune, complete with crappy popcorn, Ricky Joe on guitar, and the best burgers in the country, bar none. ($2 pitchers of Bud Light on Tuesdays.)

• Pep rallies will be returned to student control, where they rightfully belong. Chuck Lennon is a good man, but he comes flying out of that tunnel every Friday night, spouting off as if he's been drinking straight Red Bull for the past 4 hours. He tries his best, but students "raise the roof" out of ironic bemusement, not school pride. Scratch Chuck, or at least give him a less vital role, find students willing to fire up their peers, and be less concerned with showing Mom and Dad a good time and more concerned with getting ourselves and the football team excited for tomorrow's game. A return to the noisy, cramped space of Stepan Center will be a good first step in reclaiming the spirit of the old rallies, as any alum who recalls the old Fieldhouse days will attest. Oh, and a yearly guest appearance by Coach Holtz wouldn't hurt, either.

• SYRs will be returned to the dorms. The reason for this is two-fold. First, the students are adults, and should be treated as such. Second, it is invariably true that, given the choice between drinking in their rooms with their section-mates and skipping down to the K of C for a junior-high-style social with punch and cookies, Notre Dame Men and Women choose option A every time. We might as well let them have dates while they do it. This is logical, and the University is, above all, a place of learning. This senior class will be the first class without SYRs, and as a result an important tradition is about to die. It only takes four years to kill a campus tradition, and the cultural memory is about to run out, to be lost forever. Save the SYR.

• A new "Champions of Notre Dame" commerical will be created to replace the ones in rotation on NBC. The new version will feature Motts Tonelli, Fr. Paul Doyle, Mary the maid in Morrissey, George Wendt, Ted Leo, Clashmore Mike, Tony Rice, Terri Buck, and Steve Bartman.

DART will no longer be available online. DART will go back to the phones. DART's beeps and boops will be replaced by Officer Tim McCarthy saying "May I have your attention: congratulations!" or "I'm sorry, that class is full. Please drive safely!"

• Chris Zorich will be brought on to be the Associate Provost for Kicking Ass.

• The defunct ethanol plant, in recognition of its years of serving the University through the production of, well, ethanol, will be converted into a brewery, manufacturing high quality beverages such as Ara's Ale and Leahy's Lager. Tours and tastings on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, appointments available through DART. Students will handle Quality Control.

• Parietals will be revoked; however, in order to maintain in loco parentis, the University will ban alcohol for everyone from 2AM to 4AM during the weekend. This will be known as the "Dodged Bullet" period, in which men and women recover their senses and avoid making those special errors that earn them the mockery/pity of their peers.

• The New Bookstore will be lifted off its foundations, placed on a very large flatbed or perhaps a barge, and will be transported to Orlando, Florida so it can do what it was born to do: it will sell overpriced Mickey Mouse garbage to people who have no choice but to buy it there. An exact replica of the Old Bookstore will be built on the vacated spot. Waiting in lines in cramped areas builds character.

Michigan sucks.

It is so decreed by us, BGS, on this First Day of July, in the year of our Lord, Two Thousand and Five.

Yours in Notre Dame, et cetera and so forth.

In all seriousness, we wish Father Jenkins well in his new endeavor. We know it's a tough job, and we pray that the University, under his guidance, will continue to reach for the heavens while acknowledging and nurturing its roots. Welcome aboard, Father.

(Thanks to Pete for his help in brainstorming the above.)

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Number 3...number 3... | by Jay

The SBT picked up on Paul's NDN post (reprinted here at BGS) from a few days ago and made a poll out of it. Give 'em your vote if you get a chance (although is there really any doubt who's the best on the list?)

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Top Gun | by Michael

Zach Frazer put his best foot forward - literally. It paid off in a big way.

Nearly two months ago, Frazer suffered a hairline fracture in his left foot during a Nike combine at Penn State. Just last week, his doctor cleared him to start rehabbing the foot, yet this past weekend Frazer flew to Las Vegas to participate in a regional work-out for the EA Sports Elite 11 quarterback camp. Gutsy call on his part since he risked further injury, but the Elite 11 invitation was something Frazer wanted badly:
"I had a lot of people asking me why I was even trying to do this, even players in line at the workout in Las Vegas. Everyone was saying you're already committed (to Notre Dame) and it's just a camp, but ever since my coach told me about it last year it's been something I've been working towards and trying to make."
While the injury still prevented him from participating in every drill, Frazer was impressive enough to garner an invitation, which will take place July 25-28 in southern California. (Taking cues from the Big 10, twelve quarterbacks are invited to participate in the Elite 11.)

The camp, in its seventh year, is run by noted quarterback guru and Mission Viejo High School head coach Bob Johnson, and every year, its counselors include some of the best college quarterbacks in the country. At the 2003 camp, it was John Navarre, Eli Manning, Andrew Walter and Ben Roethlisberger throwing around footballs and reading defenses with the high school juniors. The 2004 camp featured counselors like Kyle Orton, Aaron Rodgers, Derek Anderson and Heisman Trophy winner Jason White. Not too shabby.

Frazer joins fellow invitees Cody Hawkins, Isiah Williams, Neil Caudle, Pat Devlin, Mitch Mustain, Jake Locker, Kevin Riley, Josh Freeman, Jevan Snead, Matthew Stafford and Tim Tebow.

So, how exactly are the participants chosen? According to the Elite 11 site, "The high school quarterbacks are selected for the event after an exhaustive evaluation process which includes both film research, an in-person workout (whether at a NIKE Camp or EA Elite 11 Regional Workout) and a telephone interview."

If you'd like to do your own evaluation, check out Frazer's video highlights, and for an extended Frazer refresher, be sure to check out my colleague Pat's excellent write-up from earlier this year.

As most recruitniks have learned the hard way, no high school accolade can guarantee success at the next level, and an Elite 11 invitation is no exception. That said, we thought it'd be interesting to take a stroll down memory lane and examine previous Elite 11 classes to see how those quarterbacks developed. Who's been a stud? Who's been a bust? And whatever happened to...?


(The first Elite 11 camp was the only one that actually featured 11 quarterbacks. After the first year, the organizers included a twelfth quarterback to ensure that each participant had a roommate.)

There’s probably no better way to measure elite status than by comparing quarterbacks using the NFL draft. Only two quarterbacks from the inaugural camp were drafted. Although
Jeff Smoker never reached the heights predicted of him during an impressive freshman year because of a drug problem during his junior year, he was still drafted in the 6th round by the St. Louis Rams and is expected to be the back-up to Marc Bulger. And the other guy? It’s none other than Southern Cal back-up Matt Cassell, who hardly played because of the two Heisman winners in front of him. Nonetheless, the New England Patriots took a flier on him in the 7th round of April's draft. As much as I didn't want to put Cassell in this category, it's hard to argue with Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli when it comes to player personnel. I believe a third quarterback also belongs up here. Casey Clausen was a four-year starter at Tennessee and signed as a free agent with the Chiefs, where he was a back-up in 2004. However, he was recently cut from the team on June 16th. I'm sure he'll find another NFL team before long.

These guys may have had good collegiate careers but they were neither elite college quarterbacks nor certain NFL prospects.
Brock Berlin signed with Florida, transferred to Miami and never came close to approaching expectations placed upon him during recruiting. Another Sunshine State quarterback, Chris Rix, had an up-and-down career at Florida State, and he’s currently unemployed. In fact, had Adrian McPherson not gotten into so much trouble, it’s quite possible that Rix wouldn’t have even played as senior. Little-known Roman Ybarra walked-on at UCLA, eventually transferred to Idaho State and had a nice D1AA career. Matt Lovecchio (right) was the only Irish recruit invited to the Elite 11 prior to Frazer, and hopefully the similarities will end there. Lovecchio’s career at both Notre Dame and Indiana reached its peak during his freshman year run prior to the Fiesta Bowl loss to Oregon State. Ironically, for all the talk that he was cool under pressure, it seemed that whenever Lovecchio was pressed with a heavy rush or forced to make throws, he really struggled. Chance Mock had a great year in 2003 where he threw 16 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, but he lost his starting job to Vince Young at Texas. He’s been unsuccessful in his attempts to make an NFL team.

Zac Wasserman signed with Penn State (he
beat Jeff Smoker to the punch), transferred to a JUCO in California and then apparently chose Cal over San Jose State and Hawaii in the spring of 2002. He didn’t play that year and then mysteriously disappeared from the Bears’ roster. Similarly bizarre, Jon Van Cleave was a two-year starter at Louisiana-Lafayette who abruptly quit football in 2003. John Rattay, meanwhile, is the only player I've ever heard of who transferred twice to the same school.
As a prep All-American from Phoenix, Rattay originally went to Tennessee, but after dropping to third on the depth chart, the 6-foot-3, 205 pound lefty then transferred to Arizona. Due to NCAA rules, Rattay sat out a year before backing up then-junior Jason Johnson for the Wildcats during the 2001 campaign. In limited action, Rattay completed 27 of 59 passes for 385 yards and two touchdowns.

Unhappy with his lack of playing time, he transferred again, this time to Pasadena City College in Southern California. Rattay earned the starting job at PCC, but he was ultimately sidelined after suffering a season-ending knee injury in the team's seventh game. With the quarterback race wide open once again, following Johnson's graduation, Rattay chose to come back to Arizona and will compete for a spot on the team as a walk-on. Rattay is expected to be fully recovered from the knee injury by the start of fall practice.
Unfortunately, Rattay’s injury was career-ending and he never played for Mike Stoops at Arizona.


Some of these guys are now in the NFL, and others are wrapping up their collegiate careers and getting ready for “The League.” Adrian McPherson, former Florida State quarterback, played in the Arena Football League when no school would accept the baggage that would accompany a transfer; he won the Rookie of the Year award and was drafted in the 5th round by the Saints. Matt Leinart has two national championships and a Heisman trophy. Most of college football is hoping he’ll miss Norm Chow – a lot. Derek Anderson enjoyed a solid career at Oregon State, shredded Notre Dame last year in the Insight Bowl and was drafted in the 6th round by the Ravens. Kyle Orton was a Heisman hopeful in 2005 who sliced and diced the Irish defense in 41-16 win, but his inconsistent play and rib injury down the stretch cost him a chance to seriously contend for the trophy. The Bears drafted him in the 4th round. Kellen Clemens has improved each year and 2005 will be his third year as Oregon’s starter. Although Duck quarterbacks haven’t fared too well in the NFL, Clemens isn’t a Jeff Tedford progeny.

DJ Shockley has split time the last three years with David Greene, whose departure has allowed Shockley to become the full-time starter. There's confidence in Shockley, but it'll be interesting to see how he responds to all the pressure that comes with being the starter. Remember Pitt’s narrow 41-38 win over Furman last year? Ingle Martin signed with Florida and transferred to Furman; he was a big reason why the contest was so close. Brodie Croyle looked really good last fall before a torn ACL ended his season; he started to look like he was coming into his own. If he can overcome his injury, he has the tools the NFL wants in a quarterback.

He still has a chance, but Casey Paus isn’t likely to win the Huskies’ starting position. Paus has struggled throughout his career, and some have suggested his sidearm throwing motion is to blame. Paul Troth signed with East Carolina, and his career started downhill when a new coaching staff came in and tried to install the option, which didn’t fit Troth’s skills. He transferred to Liberty and played disastrously in limited action (1 TD, 7 INTs). He was invited to rookie camps, but like Chance Mock, Troth has not been able to find a home. Billy Hart eventually quit the Southern Cal football team to focus on baseball, and the Astros recently drafted the third baseman in the 5th round. Last but not least, some Irish fans may remember Nic Costa as the recruit who complained about the on-campus binge drinking. He is now a forgotten man in the collective consciousness of college football; at Arizona he was moved to WR, moved back to QB, and then finally, he transferred to Portland State.


A quarter of this class has established itself as legitimate starters in college football: Pitt’s Tyler Palko, Michigan State’s Drew Stanton (he has to stay healthy), and finally, the Longhorns’ Heisman hopeful Vince Young.

Another one-third of this class is on two teams; these quarterbacks are battling for starting jobs. Drew Olson will duke it out with Ben Olson for the UCLA starting spot when he returns from injury later this summer. Meanwhile, Ohio State hasn’t determined a starter between Justin Zwick and Troy Smith; both played well this spring although Smith should have the upper hand based on how he played down the stretch last year. Finally, Walt Harris hasn’t named a starter in Palo Alto yet, and two-year starter Trent Edwards is trying to hold off T.C. Ostrander.

Michigan's Matt Gutierrez may have become the next Wally Pipp after his shoulder injury allowed Chad Henne the opportunity to start last fall. Anthony Martinez quit football to play baseball at Virginia, and after being suspended for academic reasons, he is currently hoping to rejoin the team. Ryan O’Hara quit football and dropped out of Arizona in order to take care of his ailing brother. Gavin Dickey is still playing quarterback for the Gators but considering his baseball career as well as the fact that he’s fighting for a back-up spot with Josh Portis and Cornelius Ingram, I think Dickey is fighting an uphill battle. Either his days at as a signal-caller are numbered, or he may turn to baseball full-time.


As we reach the younger classes, there are obviously fewer players in contributing roles...of course, Florida’s Chris Leak bucks that trend. How Urban Meyer adapts to Leak’s skills, and how Leak adapts to Meyer’s offense will be one of the most-watched storylines of 2005.

Ready for Prime Time
Familiarize yourself with three young QBs who are certain to make an impact this year: Miami’s Kyle Wright (who had a strong spring throwing to a talented ‘Cane WR corps), Kentucky’s Andre Woodson (already drawing comparisons to Tim Couch and Jared Lorenzen), and South Carolina’s Blake Mitchell (Spurrier’s next gunslinger). All three are expected to start for their respective teams in 2005.

Some great QB battles were waged this past spring, and some of these kids may win the starting job while others may still be a year away. JaMarcus Russell is trying to hold off Matt Flynn and an incoming Ryan Perrilloux at LSU. Mike Affleck is competing for a back-up role at BYU. Dennis Dixon has earned high marks at Oregon but he’s a year away with Kellen Clemens' return. Tommy Grady is battling Paul Thompson and Rhett Bomar for the spot vacated by Jason White, although Grady's reported lack of foot speed may hurt his chances. As mentioned above, TC Ostrander has a chance to beat out Edwards and become Walt Harris’s next pupil. Ole Miss QB Robert Lane missed the spring with a shoulder injury but, more importantly, he missed an opportunity to impress new head coach Ed Orgeron.

Justin Midget transferred from Florida to Eastern Illinois, then quit the team because he was tired of school and simply wanted to play football. He tried out unsuccessfully for the Arena Football League but failed to make the Florida Firecats. Michigan's Clayton Richard is another baseball player who decided football wasn't for him, and now Lloyd Carr is vowing never to recruit another quarterback/pitcher.


John David Booty got a head start on the rest of this class by skipping his senior year of high school to enroll at Southern Cal. It was done with the idea in mind that when Carson Palmer graduated, Booty would be able to win the starting job in 2003. Of course, they forgot to plan for Matt Leinart. Booty had a dynamite spring for the Trojans and should get plenty of mop-up time this fall before taking over next year...of course, Mark Sanchez has something to say about that. Rhett Bomar has a very good shot to beat Tommy Grady and Paul Thompson to become Jason White's replacement at Oklahoma. Putting him at this level may be premature but I do believe that Bomar will end up getting the majority of the snaps in Norman this fall, even if Stoops is talking about playing two quarterbacks.

Anthony Morelli spurned Walt Harris when the Big East looked like it would crumble, and he ended up at Penn State. He played sparingly as a freshman but this spring he couldn’t beat out Michael Robinson, who in my opinion, is a better wide receiver or running back than quarterback. Unless the Nittany Lions sign someone better this year, the starting job should be Morelli’s in the fall of 2006…if Robinson doesn’t struggle sooner. Kirby Freeman lost the starting job to Kyle Wright this spring, and now he’s stuck at #2 for the next few years. Chase Patton is competing for a back-up role to Brad Smith at Missouri, and right now he hasn’t cemented himself as the #2 guy. Nate Longshore signed with Cal and is battling JUCO Joseph Ayoob to become the next stud quarterback under Jeff Tedford. Cornelius Ingram is literally in limbo, battling for the #2 spot while waiting for Chris Leak to graduate or leave early for the NFL. Of course, who knows whom else Urban Meyer will sign in the meantime. Drew Weatherford is in the mix for the starting job at Florida State, although God could be tough to beat out if He returns from his drug problem. Bobby Reid suffered an injury last year that prevented him from contributing as a true freshman. Right now he is battling returning starter Donovan Woods at Oklahoma State; head coach Mike Gundy has not named a winner yet.

Alonzo "A.J." Bryant was moved by Georgia’s Mark Richt to WR and actually contributed as a freshman. Matt Tuiasosopo quit the Washington team to pursue a baseball career. Batting .469 as of late April, it’s doubtful that Ty Willingham will be able to get him back in a Husky uniform. Brian Hildebrand didn’t last very long; he is transferring from Oregon State, though the destination is currently unknown. Some have suggested Colorado. A couple of sidenotes; Hildebrand is not related to the famous wrestling referee namesake, and his transfer has nothing to do with the sheep incident from what I can gather.


Ryan Perrilloux definitely belongs at the top of the list. After verballing to Mack Brown and the Longhorns, Perrilloux had a change of heart and signed with LSU. There is a chance he could win the starting job this fall. Nebraska's Harrison Beck likely won't redshirt, according to head coach Bill Callahan. "Right now, I want him to compete for the spot. If he’s ready, he’s ready." Finally, Willie Tuitama has a shot at winning the Arizona starting job this fall. "We'd like to save him, but if Willie can help us win, he'll play," said head coach Mike Stoops.

Since Brent Schaeffer was kicked off the team, if Jonathan Crompton can beat out Rick Clausen he might end up as Erik Ainge's back-up for Tennessee.

Waiting Game
Jeff Tedford has quietly restocked the quarterback depth chart at Cal, and Kyle Reed will come in this fall and learn the system. It's very likely he'll be redshirted, as will Jake Christensen at Iowa. Christensen was recently drafted by the Cincinnati Reds, and it appears he'd like to play both sports in college. Two-sport Elite 11 campers haven't done too well by my count. Ohio State's Rob Schoenhoft played well recently in the Ohio North-South All Star game, and he's a likely redshirt candidate. Mark Sanchez is already being touted as the next great Southern Cal quarterback, but John David Booty will stand in his way next spring. His high school coach was Elite 11 instructor Bob Johnson. Jonathan Garner was sent packing when Urban Meyer took over Florida, but Georgia Tech picked up his signature. Garner will likely redshirt. Bill Doba has done a great job since taking over for Mike Price at Washington State, and this past year they signed their first Elite 11 camper, Arkelon Hall. He's expected to redshirt, as is Georgia's Joe Cox. There are two Elite 11 quarterbacks named Chase at Missouri, and Chase Daniel is the second. He's expected to redshirt, although there is some speculation that because his high school offense is similar to what head coach Gary Pinkel runs, he'll have a shot at winning a back-up job.

Overall, it's pretty obvious that having the Elite 11 camp on your resume won't make or break your career. Additionally, it's important to note that the campers aren't always the best twelve quarterbacks in the country. Two summers ago neither Chad Henne nor Brian Brohm participated (neither worked out in order to become eligible), yet both these guys showed on the field last year for Michigan and Louisville, respectively, that they are two rising stars among college quarterbacks.

So how should the Elite 11 be viewed? It's up to the individual fan; as with recruiting rankings there are certain to be biases, and the fact that neither Brohm nor Henne participated demonstrates it's an imperfect system.

However, I see two positives. First, it's a harmless, yearly ritual that's fun for recruitniks to follow, and like the Nike combines and National Signing Day, it's become part of recruiting culture and its vernacular. Second, it's a great opportunity for some recruits to gain greater exposure. Landing an Elite 11 quarterback may not guarantee on-field success but it can certainly generate some momentum in recruiting. Generally speaking, the best high school wide receivers want to play in passing offenses with great quarterbacks, and having an Elite 11 quarterback in the fold certainly adds some punch to the recruiting pitch...especially if the quarterback is recruiting some players personally, as Zach Frazer has been doing for Notre Dame.

2005 Opponent Position Preview - Running Back | by Pat

(This is the second part in a series.)

As at quarterback, Notre Dame will see a lot of familiar faces at running back from 2005's opponents. And unlike the quarterback position, where unproven signal callers rarely make an immediate impact, it is far easier for a freshman or other inexperienced running back to step into the feature role and produce. So what's in store for the Irish this season? Let's take a look.

PITT - Raymond Kirkley. 2004 stats: 154 attempts, 560 yards, 6 TDs. Returning Starter.

Kirkley was the leading rusher for Pitt last year (and in 2001 as well) but only amassed 560 yards (at an avg. of 3.6 yards per carry). A strong, physical back, his production was more limited by Walt Harris' playcalling that his own talent level. Also returning is fullback Tim Murphy who missed time last year with injury but still was Pitt's second leading rusher. Depth: It shouldn't be a surprise if Pitt's starting tailback against Notre Dame is a true freshman. Rashard Jennings enrolled a semester early and was the star of the annual Spring Game with 119 yards rushing on 19 carries against the first team defense. At 6'1, 235 lbs, he might remind Irish fans of a Rashon Powers-Neal style runner. However, he reported to Pitt at 265 lbs, so he'll have to keep his weight down. He's still a good bet to start. Also a possibility to start is fellow freshman Conredge Collins. Another big back (225 lbs - see a trend yet?), Collins was one of the highest-rated recruits in Pitt's incoming class, which by the way includes 5 players listed as running back.

MICHIGAN - Michael Hart. 2004 stats: 282 (!) attempts, 1,455 yards, 9 TDs. Returning Starter.

Michigan's other freshman sensation (alongside Chad Henne) is back and should be a formidable opponent in 2005. After gaining 1,455 yards (at an impressive 5.2 yards/carry clip) and leading the Big Ten in rushing, Hart should be even better after a year of college weight training. A shorter back, Hart is the type of low-to-the-ground power runner that disappears into the pile and pops out the other side. He already holds a record as the only Michigan back to top 200 yards rushing in 3 consecutive games. Brian Thompson or Obi Oluigbo will have to step up and take over the fullback spot left by departing Kevin Dudley. Depth: Freshman Kevin Grady, another short power back, enrolled a semester early (to much recruiting hype) and so far is getting rave reviews in practice reports. Expect to see him get some carries every game. Rounding out the deep, but young, stable of running backs is Max Martin, a 6'1 215lb sophomore.

MICHIGAN STATE - Jehuu Caulcrick. 2004 stats: 113 attempts, 629 yards, 5 TDs.

Despite a costly fumble on the goal line, Caulcrick had a productive game against the Irish last year. The 243 lb running back is a load to bring down, and his 5.5 yards/carry average is a testament to that. He's not a threat to outrun the secondary, but is the kind of running back that can wear down a defense. Depth: Jason Teague will join Caulcrick in a running back by committee approach. Teague started 8 games last season and gain 716 yards so he has plenty of experience. A wildcard in the Spartan backfield is incoming freshman Javon Ringer. Ringer tore his ACL as a high school senior but was still one of the top running backs in the country, and his homerun speed could lead to quality playing time and an outside shot of starting by the ND game.

WASHINGTON - Kenny James. 2004 stats: 172 attempts, 745 yards, 5 TDs. Returning Starter.

Returning starter James had a decent season last year, but Washington's lack of committment to the run kept his stat total low. This year there's a lot of talk in Seattle about establishing a power running game, and while James is more of a speed back, he also has enough size (215 lbs) to break the first tackle. James Sims returns to the fullback spot he took over when Zach Tuiasosopo broke his leg in the ND game. At only 205 lbs, he is more of a running than blocking fullback. Depth: Shelton Sampson returns and will give the Huskies some depth in the backfield. Given Ty's penchant for splitting carries between running backs (Jones/Grant, Grant/Walker), look for Sampson to get plenty of carries this year.

PURDUE - Jerod Void. 2004 stats: 159 attempts, 625 yards, 3 TDs. Returning Starter.

Void is an extremely dependable running back and with with 22 game starts under his belt, one of the more experienced the Irish will face. A tall back at 6'2, 212 lbs, Void has a nice mix of speed and strength. When Purdue does go to the fullback, it will most likely be Anthony Heygood. Depth: While Void is listed as the starter, senior Brandon Jones will get plenty of carries as Purdue likes to split carries between the two. At 235 lbs, Jones is a stronger back than Void and will be Purdue's power runner up the middle. Rounding out the deep Boilermaker backfield is Kory Sheets, who has the breakaway speed that Void and Jones lack.

USC - Reggie Bush/Lendale White. 2004 stats: Bush- 142 attempts, 908 yards, 6TDs. Returning Starter. White - 203 attempts, 1,103 yards, 15TDs. Returning Stater.

Continuing with the "ummm...USC is good" theme, Bush and White should combine to be one of the best tailback tandems in the country this season. Bush's exceptional speed is always highlight material, but White (right), technically the starter, is the better all-around running back who has the power to wear down a team. Either one is a handful and together they give USC a backfield guaranteed to keep defensive coordinators up at night. Bush's 509 receiving yards and 7 TD receptions are an added threat. Fullback David Kirtman had a solid spring and will be another weapon in the USC offense. Depth: The transfer of spring practice star Chauncy Washington hurts the depth, as does the knee injury to Herschel Dennis, who might miss the entire season. Still, USC has speedy Desmond Reed and will benefit from the return of muscle-bound fullback Brandon Hancock. I wouldn't be surprised if Hancock beats out Kirkman early in the season and makes USC's running game even more dangerous with his speed and receiving ability.

BYU - Curtis Brown. 2004 stats: 158 attempts, 828 yards, 6 TDs. Returning Starter.

Brown is a very talented running back with plenty of speed and vision. After gaining only 12 yards on 15 carries against the Irish last year, he finished the season strongly and will make a run at 1,000 yards rushing in 2005. Brown is also a competent receiver out of the backfield who had 27 catches for 125 yards last season. And when it gets close to the goal line, that is where BYU will bring out what is probably the biggest fullback in college football, 6'0, 292 lb (!) Moa Peaua (check out the linked story -- it's great). He's not a threat to carry the ball, but "The Tongan Power" will basically be a sixth offensive lineman on the field for the Cougars. Depth: Naufahu Tahi is a bigger back than Brown at 230lbs and should see most of his carries between the tackles.

TENNESSEE - Gerald Riggs, Jr. 2004 stats: 193 attempts, 1,107 yards, 6 TDs.

Technically, Riggs isn't a returning starter. But in 2004 he not only outgained starter Cedric Houston, but also posted a better yards-per-rush average. Early buzz is touting Riggs as a Heisman darkhorse and phrases like "2000 total yards" are being tossed around on Vol message boards. Big, strong, and fast, this blue-chip recruit seems on track to finally live up to the hype surrounding his signing with Tennessee. And to block for Riggs is 275 lb fullback Cory Anderson, who is also a candidate for All-American status. Depth: The Volunteers have a stable of talented, but largely untested backups. JaKouri Williams, Adrian Foster, and David Yancey continue the tradition of deep UT running back depth charts, but none of them have much game experience.

NAVY - Grab Bag.

Navy's option offense means there is not one primary ballcarrier. With a QB, FB, and two split-backs, you never know who is going to get the ball on any down. The bad news for Navy is that they aren't returning any starters in the backfield. Along with new QB Lamar Owens, Trey Hines (right, in motion) and Marco Nelson appear to be the leading candidates for the split backs position. Hines is a track team sprinter and Nelson is only listed at 178 lbs, so likely they will stay away from the middle of the pile. The between-the-tackle running will likely fall to Matt Hall who has the uneviable task of replacing Kyle Eckel, perhaps the best runner Navy has had in over 20 years. At 216 lbs, Hall is not as big as the usual Navy fullback so it will be interesting to see how he handles the position. Depth: Navy has a number of other young runners so it's possible Coach Paul Johnson will give them a chance to prove themselves. Backup QB Brian Johnson and speedy but small Reggie Campbell (5'6 164 lbs) are a couple who will contend for carries.

SYRACUSE - Damien Rhodes. 2004 stats: 153 attempts, 870 yards, 10 TDs. Returning Starter.

Splitting carries with Walter Reyes last year, Rhodes will now be the center of attention in the Syracuse backfield. A shifty, quick runner, Rhodes had an impressive 5.7 yards/carry last season. He will also be dangerous motioning out of the backfield, as he had 18 catches for 246 yards last season; a number that might increase under the new West Coast offense being implemented. Accompanying Rhodes in the backfield will be sophomore fullback Breyone Evans, who is also a threat to run the ball. Depth: Bodies, but not much experience seems to be the case on the Syracuse bench. Jeremy Sellers, Tim Washington, and Kareem Jones are in the mix, but none have really had a chance to show anything on the field.

STANFORD - J.R. Lemon. 2004 stats: 93 attempts, 440 yards, 6 TDs. Returning Starter.

Lemon was injured for part of last season but should return healthy and ready to carry the ball under new coach Walt Harris. A very fast running back, Lemon also has enough size at 225 lbs to take the pounding of an every down back. Blocking for Lemon will be another jumbo fullback, 275 lb converted defensive lineman Nick Frank. The fullback was MIA under Coach Teevans so Frank doesn't have much experience on the offensive side of the ball. Depth: Stanford is plenty deep at running back this year and the first guy off the bench should be former ND commit David Marrero. In fact, message board rumblings are that Marrero may even surpass Lemon and begin the season as the team's starter. A sprinter, Marrero is one of the faster running backs ND will face and will be dangerous as a receiver as well. Junior Jason Evans is also a talented running back who might get a chance to carry the ball a few times a game.

2005 Opponent Running Back Analysis and Rankings

As usual, Notre Dame is going to face a lot of talented running backs this season. However, upon closer inspection it's not as bad as in some years past. Notre Dame's run-stopping ability again should be the pillar of our defense, and most of the opponents feature larger, power backs, which really almost plays into ND's strength. Smaller, faster running backs like Bush and Marrero can give ND fits with their speed and ability to line up as slot receivers, but guys like The Tongan Power will most likely have to stick between the tackles.

Still, even with that potential advantage, the top strata of opponent running backs is very, very talented. Lendale White, Reggie Bush, Michael Hart, and Gerald Riggs will be hard to contain no matter where they run. The rest of the opponents will be dangerous, but not much more than what ND usually faces every year.

Again, putting things such as coaching strategy aside, and focusing solely on talent and team depth, here are my rankings for the running back units that ND will face in 2005.

1. USC - Bush and White make this a no-brainer.
2. Michigan - Hart is a premiere feature back. Grady and Martin add plenty of size and talent.
3. Tennessee - Riggs might be the best all-around back ND faces. A lot of inexperience behind him, though.
4. Purdue - Veteran talent and a mix of running styles give Purdue a formidable running back unit.
5. Stanford - Lemon, Marrero, Frank, Evans, and others give Harris plenty of quality choices.
6. Syracuse - Rhodes is an excellent running back, but the backups are unknowns at this point.
7. Michigan State - Caluchick could surprise with a good year. Freshman Ringer is the wildcard.
8. BYU - Brown is a quality running back, but will have to show up against good defenses like ND's.
9. Washington - Experience is there, but last year's 3.2 yards/carry average will need to go up.
10. Pitt - Could a true freshman beat out Kirkley for the starting spot?
11. Navy - Too many new faces to warrant a higher ranking.

Next up: Wide Receivers.

BlogPoll II - the Quickening | by Jay

The BlogPoll rolls on (and Brian Cook of mgoblog did a nice job of pulling everyone together.)

To generate a little preseason hype, we've been doing a series of questions as a run-up to the season kickoff. This week, EDSBS (Every Day Should Be Saturday) is hosting the roundtable. Here are the poll questions:
1. What's THE critical game of the season on the national scene? We're looking for the one that will influence the most outcomes in a single span of sixty minutes. Please try to diversify your answers and think of something other than Ohio State-Texas, for example.

2.What's the most critical matchup for your team? Again, we know we'll hear OSU-Michigan from you Wolverines, but we ask you to think in terms of multiple scenarios here.

3. What's your wingnut upset prediction of year?
No hedging (or common sense) wanted here; we know everyone has a paint-chip eating, lunatic pick lurking somewhere in their brain. Go ahead and fess up on the record so you can gloat with pride later.
Check the comments on EDSBS for the various bloggers' responses. Michael handled the BGS answers thusly:
1. Critical season game? Texas-Oklahoma. Sorry it's a predictable answer but Mack Brown has the quarterback who can win him a national championship and the Heisman trophy. Their defense is good, and this could be the year they finally beat the Sooners.

2. Critical game for us? Pitt-Notre Dame (Sept 3). Bigger games against Michigan, Purdue and Southern Cal dot the schedule but this game is similar to the Maryland game from 2002. It could set the tone for the season. In a season where many pundits are predicting 6 or 7 wins for the Irish, it could mean the difference between making a bowl and making a good bowl.

3. Wingnut upset pick? Boston College will upset Florida State at Chestnut Hill on 9/17. They are going to smack the Seminoles around with a brand of power football that FSU isn't comfortable playing. (And I hate Boston pains me to predict this.)
What say you?

Monday, June 27, 2005

It's a magic number | by Jay

(Our friend Paul posted this excellent inquiry on NDN last week, and gave us his permission to reprint it here. Enjoy.)

is a magic number.

Yes it is,
it's a magic number.

Somewhere in the ancient, mystic trinity
You get three
as a magic number.

-- Schoolhouse Rock

A Georgia alumnus and co-worker asked me what was so special about the #3 jersey at Notre Dame. So I made him this list one evening last week when the wife and kids were out shopping and I was bored. I thought I would rank the list to provoke a little debate. Feel free to disagree.

5. Ron Powlus, QB, 1994-97, Berwick, PA.

Notre Dame’s current director of personnel development for the football program under Charlie Weis, Powlus is Notre Dame's career leader in football passing yardage, pass attempts, completions and touchdown passes. Co-captain of the Irish in both 1996 and 1997, Powlus, in spite of all the statistics, suffers from a perception problem caused by his high school accolades, Beano Cook’s silly pronouncements, his lack of an NFL career, and his won-loss percentage compared to his immediate predecessors: Rice, Mirer, and McDougal. His best game may have been the 1994 thrashing of Northwestern at Soldier Field, or the 38-10 win over #5 Southern California in October 1995 (when Powlus even caught a two-point conversion pass from Marc Edwards). He was 29-16-1 as a starter, by my calculations. But the ND career records get Powlus the number five spot on this list.

4. Rick Mirer, QB, 1989-1992, Goshen, IN.

After the graduation of Tony Rice, sophomore Rick Mirer opened his career at Notre Dame by leading the #1 Irish to a come-from-behind 28-24 victory over Michigan, earning him a Sports Illustrated cover and a "Golden Boy" moniker.

His record as a quarterback at ND was 29-7-1. Mirer was co-captain of the 1992 Irish, leading the team to a 10-1-1 record. Memorable games that year include the “Snow Bowl” (a 17-16 victory over Penn State, thanks to a fourth-down Mirer touchdown pass to Jerome Bettis, and a two-point conversion throw to Reggie Brooks with 20 seconds left) and a thrashing of Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl on New Years Day 1993.

Although he has not lived up to being the second player taken overall in the 1993 NFL draft, Mirer has been a journeyman starter and back-up who, as of this moment, plays behind Joey Harrington in Detroit. Entering his 13th season in the NFL, Mirer has thrown for just under 12,000 yards with 50 TDS but 76 interceptions.

3. Ralph Guglielmi, QB, 1951-54, Columbus, OH.

Ralph Guglielmi became Notre Dame's full-time starting quarterback for the 1952 season and went 25-3-2 as a starter during his Irish career. In 1954, he was unanimous All-America and fourth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy. He also played defensive back and had 10 career interceptions. Guglielmi played in the 1955 College All-Star Game and was voted Most Valuable Player on the college team. Coach Frank Leahy once called him "Notre Dame's greatest passer," as Guglielmi threw for 792 yards for Leahy’s last Notre Dame team. Of note, he led Notre Dame to the win over Oklahoma in 1953.

Guglielmi would go on to play quarterback professionally for Washington (followed by a stint in the U.S. Air Force), then St. Louis, the New York “Football” Giants, and Philadelphia during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Guglielmi was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001.

2. John Weibel, LG, 1922-24, Erie, PA.

This one surprised me: a lineman wearing the #3. A member of The Seven Mules, the offensive front that blocked for the legendary Four Housemen, John Weibel started at left guard for Knute Rockne’s squad during the magical 10-0 National Championship season of 1924, including the famous Polo Grounds 13-7 win over Army and the only Irish appearance in the Rose Bowl, the 27-10 victory over Stanford.

1. Joe Montana, QB, 1975, 1977-78, Monogahela, PA.

I think most of the status of the #3 belongs to Joe. Montana was co-captain of the ’78 Irish, leading them to a 9-3 record, and the “Chicken Soup” win over Houston in the 1979 Cotton Bowl and Notre Dame’s 600th all-time victory. At Notre Dame, it is his role in the 1977 win over Purdue, the “Green Jersey” game win over Southern California, and the Cotton Bowl victory over Texas to give the Irish the National Championship which will also long be recalled. It was with the Irish that Montana began his tradition of magical fourth-quarter comebacks.

Of course, Joe’s professional career eclipsed his college success (although I did like the TV commercial where Hesburgh asked Joe about what he had done since graduation). Now a football legend, he led the San Francisco 49ers to nine divisional championships and four Super Bowl victories. He was named the Super Bowl’s Most Valuable Player three times and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000. Thirty-one fourth quarter NFL comebacks earned Montana the nickname "Comeback Kid." He was selected for eight Pro Bowls and was a five-time leading passer in the NFC. And he threw for more than 40,000 yards. Montana was named as one of the four quarterbacks on the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.

Honorable Mention:

Daryle Lamonica, QB, 1960-62, Fresno, CA.

Another QB who is best remembered by most football fans for his pro work, Lamonica, like Paul Hornung, quarterbacked the Irish during one of the “dark ages” of Notre Dame football. He split time at QB during his sophomore and junior years, but averaged 37.4 yards per kick as the team’s punter in 1960, and 38.4 per punt in 1961. As a senior, Lamonica went 64 for 128, throwing for 821 yards and 6 TDs. He was named third-team All-America. Lamonica played QB in the old AFL and the NFL with Buffalo and Oakland from 1963-1974. He led the AFL in passing in 1967, going 220 for 425, with 3,228 yards, 30 TDs and 20 picks.

That Oakland team made Super Bowl II, only to fall in Miami to Lombardi’s Packers. Lamonica also led the AFC in passing yardage in 1970, going 179 for 356, with 2,516 yards, 22 TDs and 15 picks.

Arnaz Battle, QB and WR, 1998-2002, Shreveport, LA.

Battle’s turbulent career at Notre Dame included some valiant yet sad moments at quarterback, and one positive season at wide receiver in 2002. At quarterback, he will be remembered by most Irish fans for two events: his non-fumble / called-fumble in 1998 at Southern California; and playing with a broken wrist against #1 Nebraska in the 2000 loss to the Cornhuskers. I also recall his dazzling 74-yard run in the opener against Kansas in 1999, during mop-up duty. In 2002, he started all year at flanker, leading the Irish with 48 receptions for 702 yards (14.6 avg.) and five touchdowns. During the eight-game winning streak to open the Ty Willingham era at Notre Dame, Battle played a significant role in wins over Pittsburgh, Air Force (eight catches for 112 yards), and Florida State (when, on Notre Dame's first play from scrimmage, Carlyle Holiday faked a handoff, rolled right and hit Battle for a 65-yard touchdown).

Ultimately, Battle will likely be remembered by Notre Dame fans for two plays during the 2002 win at Michigan State: the 30-yard pass to a diving Holiday on a trick play, and Pat Dillingham’s short pass to Battle, who then ran 60 yards for the game-winning touchdown with 1:15 remaining in East Lansing.

Entering his third NFL season with the San Francisco 49ers, Battle has only eight career receptions. He did return one punt for a TD in 2004 versus Arizona, and is listed at the top of the depth chart at one WR position during this off-season.

Too early to tell:

Darius Walker, RB, 2004-present, Lawrenceville, GA.

It might be a little premature to include him among the greats just yet, but the fabled jersey already fits Walker pretty well, as related by the Observer after last year's Michigan game:
He did not request the hype. He didn't even want it. But when Darius Walker got to Notre Dame, he received a jersey with the number three - and, some would say, the expectations that came with it. "I guess it worked out for me," Walker said.

The situation is too much of a coincidence. The true freshman from Georgia jumped from promising recruit to celebrity status after igniting the Irish running game in last week's 28-20 upset of No. 8 Michigan, wasting no time in displaying the big-game potential of former number three wearers Joe Montana and Rick Mirer.

Even sub-par Notre Dame fans - the ones who think Rocket Ismail was the name of a NASA space shuttle - know the significance of the number three. Montana, Mirer and Ron Powlus are only some of the legendary Irish alums to sport the symbol. Playmaker Arnaz Battle graduated in the spring of 2003 and no one stepped up to carry the torch.

Then Walker arrived in South Bend, oblivious to the number's availability, but it did not matter. The jersey found him. "I actually wanted a single digit number," Walker said. "I was No. 7 in high school and that was something I was pushing to get. Carlyle Holiday decided to keep the number and three was the only single digit number left."

But the parallels between Walker's timely Saturday performance and those of past great number three's are eerily similar. The most notable moment came in 1980, when kicker Harry Oliver - number three - put a 51-yard field goal through the uprights with no time on the clock to beat - that's right - Michigan. No one expected the wind to subside as Oliver booted the clincher, and no one expected Walker to carry such a load in his first outing - not even the freshman himself.

Also of interest:

Harry Oliver, K, 1980-81, Cincinnati, OH.

From Gerry Faust’s Moeller High School in Cincinnati, Harry Oliver became the starting kicker in his junior year of 1980, Dan Devine’s last season. Oliver made 18 of 23 field goals, and 19 of 23 extra points, during the 1980 season. He ranked third in the NCAA that year, with 1.64 FGs per game, and was named third-team All-America. In his senior year, Oliver made 28 of 30 extra points, but missed 6 field goals for Faust’s first squad. Oliver is best remembered, however, for one of those Notre Dame “miracles”: “Harry O. gets the call.” At the Michigan game in South Bend in 1980, the Irish – moving the ball into the wind late in the 4th quarter – made it to the Michigan 34. As Oliver lined up the 51-yard attempt, the driving wind died down, allowing his 51-yard kick to sail through the goal posts. Tony Roberts’s made the call for Irish fans on the radio: “I watched the flags. Just as he got ready to kick, believe it or not, those flags went limp. The wind had shifted. His kick was right there, just there, in time. Notre Dame with a miracle win...” The Irish beat the Wolverines 29-27 as time ran out.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.George Izo, QB, 1957-59, Barberton, OH.

In the 1958 season, Izo came off the bench to lead the Irish over Purdue in a 29-22 comeback victory. During that season, Izo was also an important defender, leading the team with four interceptions. Playing for first-year coach Joe Kuharich in 1959, he threw for six touchdowns, as he split time at quarterback with Don White. Izo played professionally for St. Louis, Washington, Detroit, and Pittsburgh from 1960-66.

Coley O’Brien, QB, 1966-68, McLean, VA

Coley O’Brien’s heroic role in replacing starter Terry Hanratty during the 1966 game against Michigan State earns him high status on the list of some Notre Dame fans. O’Brien’s 34-yard touchdown pass to Bob Gladieux marked the only Irish touchdown in the 10-10 tie. He also was the holder on Joe Azzaro’s field goal for the only other Irish points. The tie, in East Lansing, against the #2 team, followed by the 51-0 trouncing of Southern California the next week, won the National Championship for Ara and the Irish.

Some others who wore the #3 jersey for the Irish, according to, include: Emmett Murphy, QB, 1930-32, Duluth, MN; George Moriarty, QB, 1933-35, Lynn, MA; Bill Hofer, QB, 1936-38, Rock Island, IL; Bob Hargrave, QB, 1939-41, Evansville, IN; Al Skat, QB, 1943, Milwaukee, WI; Roger Brown, QB, 1946-47, Chicago, IL; Bill Whiteside, QB, 1949-50, Philadelphia, PA; Dan McGinn, QB, 1963-65, Omaha, NE; Scott Smith, K, 1970-71, Dallas, TX; and Alonzo Jefferson, TB, 1983-87, W. Palm Beach, FL.

(Sources: “All-Time Roster,” Official Athletic Site, University of Notre Dame, and other aspects of; “Hall of Famers,” College Football Hall of Fame; The Notre Dame Football Encyclopedia: The Ultimate Guide to America’s Favorite College Team, Keith Marder, Mark Spellen, and Jim Donovan, (New York: Citadel, 2001); Echoes of Notre Dame Football: Great and Memorable Moments of the Fighting Irish (Sourcebooks Mediafusion; Book & CD edition, 2001); and

-- Paul

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Dome director sets sked; Big East toplines twofers | by Jay

Eric Hansen of the South Bend Tribune has a story Sunday morning on our ever-evolving future schedule(s), and he passes on some solid confirmation from White & Heisler on a few scheduling rumors that have been circulating over the last months. The entire article is well worth a read. Here's the nitty-gritty:
• In 2006 and 2007, ND will add a home game in each year to get up to the NCAA's new universal limit of 12 regular-season games. That will give Notre Dame seven home games and five away games both years

• Notre Dame's 2008 schedule was already ticketed for 12 games under the old NCAA stipulations, and its six-home-games and six-road-games breakdown will stay intact, but there already has been some opponent shifting.

• A home game against Pittsburgh, for example, was added on Nov. 1 of that year to kick off an eight-year, home-and-home series. And the previously scheduled '08 season opener with Virginia on Sept. 6 has been deleted.

• Beginning in 2009, Notre Dame aims to play seven home games each season along with four road games and a neutral site game that will move around the country and count as a home game as far a gate receipts and TV rights and revenue are concerned. "We'd go to different parts of the country," White said. "Places that don't get to see Notre Dame. Places that tie into bowl games. Places that tie into recruiting. We're really excited about it."

• Beginning in 2011 -- if not earlier -- Notre Dame has committed to playing three Big East teams each season. One of those games will be played in the New York City market, specifically Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., where the Irish are 11-0 all-time.

• In the bigger picture, this commitment along with ND's lingering ones means fewer home-and-home series than in the past. As many as three teams each year in the next decade will come to ND Stadium with no return date.

• The Boston College series, set to resume in 2007 after a two-year hiatus, will likely truncate before the next decade rolls around.

• The penciled-in 2009-10 series with North Carolina State has been erased.

• But home-and-homes with Oklahoma and Arizona State in the 2010s have been preserved.

• "With the commitments we have to USC and Stanford, the Big Ten teams, the Big East and to Navy, you can do that math," Heisler said. "There's almost more than you can deal with if you're going to play seven home games every year. We may be Johnny-come-latelies on the seven-home game thing, but I think we just want to be more strategic in what we're doing."
There are a couple of projected schedules here and here, although I think neither of them are reflecting the new information from above just yet.

On a slightly different note, something I had missed before: when we announced our 3-game deal with the Big East, apparently we agreed to play every team in the Big East in a home-and-home over the course of the series:
The Irish will play three Big East teams each football season on a home-and-home basis. All eight conference teams will face the Irish.
Note that although the SBT says the Big East series starts in "2011 - if not earlier", the Pittsburgh paper says it will start in 2009. The latter seems more likely in light of the sheer number of games we've agreed to play with the BE. We're already signed with Pitt through 2015, so the other 14 games (home-and-home with seven teams) will be spread over seven years, and 2009 looks like earliest year where we've got some wiggle room left.

And finally, there are several rumors that our 12th game for 2006 will be Army. There's a thread on IE from a guy who apparently heard Army's AD talking about it; another thread on the subject on the Army site on; and even some speculation from an article on the Army sports homepage (scroll down).

So here's a stab at how where we stand, relying on the new info from the SBT, and cribbing heavily from the two sites mentioned above.

2007 __
1 9/2 @ Georgia Tech ACC
1 9/1 Georgia Tech ACC
1 9/13 Michigan B10
2 9/9 Penn State
2 9/8 @ Penn State B10
2 9/20 @ Michigan State B10
3 9/16 Michigan B10
3 9/15 @ Michigan B10
3 9/27 Purdue B10
4 9/23 @ Michigan State B10
4 9/22 Michigan State B10
4 10/4 Stanford Pac10
5 9/30 Purdue B10
5 9/29 @ Purdue B10
5 10/18 @ North Carolina ACC
6 10/7 Stanford Pac10
6 10/6 @ UCLA Pac10
6 11/1 Pittsburgh BE
7 10/21 UCLA Pac10
7 10/13 Boston College ACC
7 11/29 @ Southern Cal Pac10
8 10/28 Navy Ind
8 10/20 Southern Cal Pac10
Syracuse BE
9 11/4 North Carolina ACC
9 11/3 Navy Ind
San Diego State MWC
10 11/11 @ Air Force MWC
10 11/10 Air Force MWC
@ Boston College ACC
11 11/25 @ Southern Cal Pac10
11 11/24 @ Stanford Pac10
Navy Ind
12th game - Army?

12th game - Army?

12th game?




1 9/12 Michigan B10
1 9/18 Michigan State B10
1 9/24 Pittsburgh BE
2 9/19 Michigan State B10
2 10/8 Pittsburgh BE
Southern Cal Pac10
3 9/26 Purdue B10
Michigan B10
Navy Ind
4 10/3 Washington Pac10
Purdue B10
Michigan State B10
Southern Cal Pac10
Stanford Pac10
@ Michigan B10
Navy Ind
Brigham Young MWC
@ Purdue B10
Boston College ACC
@ Navy Ind
@ Brigham Young MWC
San Diego State MWC
8 11/27 Southern Cal Pac10
+2 BE games, 1 in NYC
Pittsburgh BE
? Nevada MWC

10 11/28 @ Stanford Pac10
? Washington State Pac10

+2 BE games, 1 in NYC

+2 BE games, 1 in NYC




Purdue B10
Southern Cal Pac10
Purdue B10
Brigham Young MWC
Navy Ind
Pittsburgh BE
Pittsburgh BE
Boston College ACC
@ Southern Cal Pac10
@ Boston College ACC
4 10/5 Arizona State Pac10
@ Navy Ind
@ Southern Cal Pac10
@ Pittsburgh BE
5 10/25 @ Arizona State Pac10
@ Navy Ind
@ Brigham Young MWC
+2 BE games, 1 in NYC
+2 BE games, 1 in NYC

@ Purdue B10

Oklahoma B12

+2 BE games, 1 in NYC




Southern Cal Pac10
Purdue B10

Navy Ind
@ Southern Cal Pac10

@ Pittsburgh BE
@ Navy Ind

@ Purdue B10

Oklahoma B12

+2 BE games, 1 in NYC

(Oh, and for those of you not familiar with Variety slanguage, take a look here.)

the Nation | by Jay

Just wanted to drop a quick thank-you to NDNation for all the links to our articles recently.

NDN, by the way, is largely responsible for the birth of The Blue-Gray Sky, since without the maelstrom of the NDN message boards, some of us would have never hooked up in the first place.

NDN is like the bartender who keeps serving drinks to a bunch of boozy drunks who should have been cut off hours ago. Which is a beautiful thing. Thanks for providing a place where we football obsessives can collide together, insult each other and duke it out, and sometimes maybe make a couple of new friends along the way.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Know Thine Enemy: Stanford's Walt Harris | by Michael

(This is part 3 of a series on the newly-hired coaches ND will face this year.)

In the first two posts, we looked at rookie head coaches Bronco Mendenhall and Greg Robinson. Now we'll move on to the more experienced guys, starting with the "Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football at Stanford", Walt Harris.

Walt Harris, Stanford University

Bio/Record: Take a look at Harris’s bio. Stanford is his third head coaching position; Harris went 11-24 in three years at Pacific and 52-44 in eight years at Pitt. Although Stanford’s firing of Buddy Teevens came as a bit of a surprise, Harris’s move west isn’t a shocker since many predicted his departure before the Panthers made their Big East title run, which culminated in the Fiesta Bowl appearance. Even Harris, back in September, sounded like he wanted out.
"This is a pro city with a pro mentality. Nothing is ever good enough. I know that goes with the territory here. That's our challenge. I'm not complaining. I'm just telling you how it is...I'm not worried about my job. I know there's always going to be a job out there for me."
Known as a QB guru, Harris actually spent the 1970s as a defensive coach for Cal, Pacific, Air Force and Michigan State. In 1980, Harris took a job coaching QBs for Illinois, and he used that position as a springboard to similar positions at Tennessee, the New York Jets and Ohio State.

Of additional interest, Harris has strong ties to John Gruden (on Harris's Pacific staff and a graduate assistant at Tennessee) and Pete Carroll (whom Harris recruited to Pacific and for whom he coached the Jets QBs in 1994).

Notable Staff: The most recognizable name is undoubtedly John McDonnell, who coached interior OL last year for Notre Dame. Harris has him coaching tackles and tight ends for the Cardinal. Tom Hayes, who won three Rose Bowls as the co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach for UCLA during the mid-80s, has been hired as the defensive coordinator. Hayes also has significant experience coaching the secondary for the Washington Redskins (1995-1999) and Texas A&M (1989-1990, under Bob Davie) and he served as the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma (1991-1994) and Kansas (2001). Additionally, Harris retained two of Teevens’ assistants, and brought two from Pitt with him, Wayne Moses and Tom Freeman. Both Moses and Freeman have strong west coast ties, and Moses actually coached under Teevens in 2002 and 2003 before joining Pitt in 2004.

Offensive Philosophy: Bill Walsh coached at Stanford before winning Super Bowls with the 49ers, and Harris considers himself a disciple. One of the immediate changes in the new West Coast offense will be the return of the fullback, which went on the endangered species list in Teevens’ more wide-open attack. One player who won’t be able to take advantage of the new offense is former Irish recruit Jerod Arlich, who is MIA on the spring roster. Harris has asked defensive lineman Nick Frank to fill this void, and he’s already moved ahead of another former Irish recruit Emeka Nnoli.

That said, the West Coast offense is all about the quarterback, not the fullback, and Harris has two good ones in Trent Edwards and T.C. Ostrander, who played well down the stretch last year when Edwards was hurt. Harris did not name Edwards the starter despite his edge in experience, nor was a starter named after spring practice. Our bet is that Edwards will eventually beat out Ostrander. Both are EA Elite 11 quarterback camp alumni, and Harris won’t have to build the offense from scratch, like he did at Pittsburgh.

To get a better sense of his offensive philosophy, check out what Harris said at a 2003 Nike camp clinic:
“It is important to understand the impact of the quarterback position in winning. I grew up on the West Coast and I was always a San Francisco 49ers fan. I am a big Bill Walsh disciple. Why? I love to run the football, but the hardest part of coaching is to get good linemen. Linemen win championships and they are hard to get. We try to control the ball with the forward pass. We have gotten better at running the football. Anytime we can run the ball we are going to be hard to beat.
If you want to read more, check out the 2003 Coach of the Year Clinics Manual. Are linemen hard to get? For a school like Pitt, especially when many other schools are raiding Pennsylvania for the elite offensive linemen recruits, I could agree with that statement. Also noteworthy is that in his eight years at Pitt, only two linemen have been drafted: Kris Anderson, a 7th round pick (261st overall) in 2003, and Rob Petitti, a 6th round pick (209th overall) in 2005. One thing is for sure; at Stanford it will be easier to recruit OL, who generally seem to have much higher grades and test scores than other recruits. For this reason, I think Stanford will eventually have the running game that Pitt’s offenses always seemed to lack. J.R. Lemon hasn’t lived up to his recruiting hype, and David Marrero has been hurt quite a bit, but like the rest of that offense, they’ve also had to suffer though the Buddy factor.

Harris also mentions wanting to “control the ball with the forward pass.” There are two concurrent ideas here. First, when it comes to controlling the ball, even without a running game, Pitt has generally been at the top of the Big East when it comes to time of possession. Second, the forward pass has been very kind to Pitt. They have had two Biletnikoff winners in Larry Fitzgerald and Antonio Bryant, and Greg Lee emerged last year as the next in the great line of Pitt wide receivers. Their offense also heavily utilized the tight end, and Kris Wilson was a 2nd round draft pick in 2004. Stanford won’t have any problems recruiting receivers, and they’ve always had success finding and developing tight ends. That shouldn’t change, especially with talented young players waiting in the wings to replace 3rd round draft pick Alex Smith. At wide receiver, former Irish recruit Mark Bradford could have a big year as the go-to guy for Stanford. Harris has the weapons at his disposal for a dangerous attack, and from what I’ve read, his system isn’t overly complicated compared to other West Coast offenses; the Cardinal should be able to pick it up easily, especially whoever steps in at quarterback.

Defensive Philosophy: Stanford suffered a hit when the 49ers lured A.J. Christoff away from Harris to be their new defensive coordinator. Christoff, the coordinator under Teevens, had been announced as one of the members of the new staff and Harris quickly needed to fill the gap.
Enter Tom Hayes, whose previous experience suggests that he’s a capable candidate for the job. However, Hayes also seems to be on the downside of his coaching career. Perhaps he simply wanted to take time off, but the two gaps on his resume – from when he was released in 1999 by Washington (after Steve Spurrier was hired to bring in his new staff) to when he was hired in 2001 by Terry Allen as the defensive coordinator for Kansas, as well as the 2002-2004 seasons (Allen was fired at the end of Hayes’ first season). During the last five years, it appears that Hayes has only coached twelve college football games.

That concern aside, what Hayes will bring to the Stanford defense probably won’t be a dramatic difference from what they’ve been doing the last few years. Harris and Hayes are going to keep the 3-4 defense, whose philosophy will probably mirror what Hayes said at Kansas.
"There are only so many ways you can play. You can undershift, overshift, zone, man. All offensive coaches say they like to be balanced, and that's a great word. I like to be balanced. That doesn't mean 50-50 zone/man, 50-50 blitz/drop back. That means doing what you want to do when you want to do it. The best way to describe it is to say it's complex for offenses, but not too complex for us. It's a lot for offenses to get ready for, but it's not complicated for our players."
Keeping the 3-4 is a smart move for two reasons, in my opinion. It's simply much harder to consistently recruit defensive tackles than it is to recruit linebackers, and Irish fans know firsthand that tackles with grades, let alone the grades that Stanford requires, are hard to find. Secondly, the Pac-10 is and has been a QB/passing conference. The 3-4 allows more opportunities to drop 8 defenders into coverage or send different blitzes than the 4-3.

One of the differences in Stanford's schemes for next year should be regarding their coverages, as T.J. Rushing mentions in one of the series of great articles chronicling spring football:
"He's giving us a lot more mixed up coverages. Last year was predominately zone; now we get to run a lot of man and zone. Mix it up a lot so the offense just doesn't know: 'Third and four - they are going to run zone every time.' Now we get to mix things up on the offense." even sat down with Hayes for an insightful interview that’s definitely worth checking out. One interesting thing is Hayes’ decision to designate positions by “left” and “right” as opposed to using the strength of the offensive formation (“strong” and “weak”). As an aside, this seems to be a growing trend in college football as I’ve seen other teams move away from using the formation strength to determine the alignment, including Notre Dame. It appears defensive coordinator Rick Minter is using field/boundary designations, and last year he similarly used left/right for his defensive ends at South Carolina.

The internet only contains so many articles on coaches before 1995, so unfortunately there’s little insight into his philosophies from his UCLA, Oklahoma and Texas A&M days. As a result, it’s more difficult to assess what offenses can expect from Stanford this year. When it comes to Stanford's defense, I think the most important thing to remember is that Walt Harris, despite being known as "offensive-minded," has a lot of experience coaching defense. It was seen at Pitt, where Paul Rhoads developed aggressive schemes that generally included an 8-man front to stop the run and man-to-man coverage. An 8-man front may not be as necessary in the pass-happy Pac-10, and given Rushing’s comments about more man coverage and Hayes' Wrecking Crew experience under Bob Davie, I'm going to infer that the Cardinal will have one of their most aggressive defenses since at least before the Tyrone Willingham era, which seemed to prefer soft zones and "bend but don't break."

Predictions: Stanford represents a return to Harris’s west coast roots since his first coaching position was as the head coach at El Camino High School, just south of San Francisco. Now that he’s returned, I think he could be at Stanford for a long time.

Harris has never been known for his recruiting prowess, but he has several things working in his favor that will make this task easier. First and foremost, his reputation as an offensive “guru” and the success of Rod Rutherford, Tyler Palko, Antonio Bryant, Larry Fitzgerald and now Greg Lee should ensure that Harris has little difficulty recruiting QBs and WRs. Second, there is simply a ton of talent in California and, considering the talent outside the state, it’s generally much easier to recruit to a more attractive climate than to a cold one like Pittsburgh. Third, players who are sincerely interested in academics now have a legitimate reason to expect Stanford will start winning again.

Those who criticized Harris in Pittsburgh often cited his bad decisions, and in this case, the critic was Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ron Cook, who clearly wanted Harris gone. Others chronicled the ups and downs of the program in recent years. However, considering the poor condition in which Harris inherited Pitt from Johnny Majors, and what he has subsequently done to rebuild the program, I think the Pittsburgh media and fans who wanted to see Harris leave were wrong. The top talent in western Pennsylvania had too many better opportunities to pass up outside the state, and yet Harris was able to take a team that had gone 3-7-1, 6-5, 3-9, 3-8, 3-8 2-9, 4-7 in the last seven years and transform it back into a winner. That’s coaching (and admittedly, some scheduling).

Teevens recruited much better than Willingham did, and the cupboard definitely has some attractive talent. Harris was ready to take Pitt football to the next level when he had gained verbal commitments from Anthony Morelli and Andrew Johnson, two of the best players in Pennsylvania, only to lose them to bigger schools when rumors started circulating about the Big East's loss of Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College. That won't happen at Stanford. Harris should be able to utilize the roster in ways that will make the embarrassing three years of Buddy Ball (be sure to read Lemming’s prediction) easier for Cardinal fans to forget in the years ahead. Although reaching the Rose Bowl will be a more arduous task than winning the Big East’s automatic bid, Stanford should immediately become a more competitive program in the Pac-10 under Harris.

If you don't believe me, listen to Jon Gruden:
“I consider Walt Harris as good a coach as there is in America.”
The Weis Factor: Weis and Harris have never squared off. Nor have any of Charlie’s defensive assistants played against Pitt in recent years. In fact, looking at the Panthers' schedule under Harris, it seems like they played every other Ohio non-major (Toledo, Bowling Green, Ohio, Kent St) except Rick Minter’s Cincinnati squad.

In my opinion, last year’s high scoring affair against Pitt may have been an omen of sorts. It’s certainly reasonable to believe that the back-and-forth Holtz-Walsh battles of the early 1990s may return under Weis and Harris. In addition, when this year's game rolls around during Thanksgiving weekend, more may be at stake - for both schools - than what the pundits are currently guessing.

Friday, June 24, 2005

The Lemmster | by Pat

(Warning: recruitnik post below. If you don't religiously follow recruiting, you should skip this.)

The latest hot topic making the message board rounds is what might be the smoking gun for self-appointed recruiting guru Tom Lemming's true feelings towards Notre Dame. The text in question comes from Bruce Feldman's piece in ESPN the Magazine (subscription req'd) on the recruitment of Myron Rolle.

Let's just get the actual text out of the way right now:
“Tom Lemming is a huge Notre Dame guy,” Myron says. “He kept saying to me, ‘You know they have a great coaching staff. You know Charlie Weis is Mr. NFL. You’re an academic guy. That place is for you.’ Then he killed Florida State. He said, ‘You’re stupid if you go there.’ Um, okay. Thanks.”
Well, this seems to confirm everything that many of our enemies knew to be true in their heart of hearts: Tom Lemming is a Notre Dame shill who uses his position and influence to talk up the Irish and and push recruits to go to Notre Dame. Anyone who has frequented the wild world of college football message boards has seen this particular claim time and time again, and if you follow recruiting religiously (and you do, since you obeyed the disclaimer above) then you know what I'm talking about. Both Brian over at mgoblog and the writer at iBlog for Cookies both chimed in with excellent takes on this particular situation.

So what do Notre Dame fans think of this? We secretly cheer Lemming's assistance, as we put the faded, worn copy of Rudy back in the VCR and dream about how we'll celebrate Weis' fourth National Championship, right?

Not hardly.

If I may be blunt, I don't want Tom Lemming anywhere near Notre Dame. People may think he wants to help Notre Dame, but the truth about Tom Lemming is that ultimately, he is truly only rooting for Tom Lemming. Yes, most people (ND fans included) concede that Lemming is a Notre Dame fan -- from way back, when he was a postal worker in Chicago -- and he still is to this day. But when push comes to shove, he's going to act in the best interest of Tom Lemming, not Notre Dame.

For example. There's more than one player on our roster right now whom Lemming urged to hold off on an early committment to ND, in exchange for promises of higher rankings on his recruiting sheet, or even a spot on the US Army All-American bowl roster. (To be fair, I'm sure he does this with most of his recruits, not just ND's). If Lemming truly was hoping for the best Irish classes possible, he would push these recruits to commit early and help sustain positive Notre Dame recruiting momentum. But he doesn't. The reasoning is that Lemming cannot make money (his hint-laden 1-900 number being the primary source of his income) on recruits that have already publicly committed.

And when Lemming loses his "insider" access to schools, as he did to ND during the Willingham era, I seriously doubt the "go to Notre Dame, young man" pitch continues. Some ND fans even think he helped to push Brian Brohm to Louisville (but I think Willingham and Diedrick did a good enough job of that on their own.)

It seems that Charlie Weis has made nice with Lemming, so now the flow of positive ND sentiments are back. This "Kallen Wade is the #2 prospect in Ohio, and possibly Top 100 nationally" line Lemming used when Wade verballed to Notre Dame made even ND fans cringe. Of course, we aren't alone when it comes to unsolicited compliments and over-the-top hyperbole from Lemming (cough... Nebraska ...cough). Oh, and we can't forget his insatiable desire to overhype every poor kid that comes out of Chicago.

Personally, I hope he stops mentioning Notre Dame to all recruits, lest we be included when the NCAA finally decides to do something about him. But until the NCAA cracks down on him and other unethical recruiting types -- something I think is coming in the next 5 years -- then ND fans may just have to hope that Weis tells Lemming to cram the ND sales pitch and keeps him at arms length from the program, lest the NCAA deem him a booster and he gets everyone in trouble.

In the meantime, there isn't much that can be done other than refusing to assist in anything that supports him financially. And believe me, most ND fans wish Lemming would go away. Reporting on recruiting news and ranking recruits based on his own "talent evaluation skills" [sic] is one thing, but the way he inserts himself into the process is bad for the sport, bad for the schools, and definitely not in the best interest of the high school kids making one of the biggest decisions of their lives.

One last note [adjusting soap box]. Even though it was totally inappropriate for him to say so, Lemming, like a broken clock, was correct on one thing. Myron Rolle would be stupid to go to Florida State. Rolle seems to be the rare embodiment of the term student-athlete, and to waste his intellect at an academic sinkhole like Florida State would be a shame. He's not going to go to Notre Dame, but I really hope he ends up somewhere that at least challenges him academically.

Oh, and going to a school we don't face for 3-4 years would be great too.

(Recruiting rant over. It's safe to come out now.)

Scripting Ohio | by Jay

It's about time we bagged some elephants for our schedule instead of setting up more Big East bowling pins. An article over on Bucknuts says we're talking with Ohio State about another series sometime soon.
Gene Smith"[New OSU athletic director Gene] Smith said he had opened talks with Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White about the possibility of more Ohio State-Notre Dame games in the future. ND and OSU first met in 1935-36 and again in 1995-96. That series is knotted at 2-2."
Great news (if it works out), and not entirely unexpected considering the principals involved. Smith, as you might recall, is a former ND football player who graduated in 1977, and was also an assistant coach for the Irish from '77 to '81. He served as the athletic director at Eastern Michigan, Iowa State and Arizona State before taking over in Columbus. Smith still retains a strong affinity for his alma mater, as evidenced in this interview where he's asked to describe the fan support at OSU:
Smith said he's always known about OSU's rabid fans. But "probably the biggest reminder was at the spring football game when I was pulling up and it was sleeting. It must have been a couple hours before kickoff, and there was a line [to get in]. It was pretty cold — people were in hunting suits. It gave me flashbacks to Notre Dame. I thought, 'This is what it's all about.' "
(Memo to Gene: bringing up the glory days at ND might wear a little thin for the Buckeye faithful. Just a thought.)

I still can't believe that in all these years we've only played Ohio State four measley times -- and until ten years ago, we hadn't dotted the 'I' since Jesse Owens stuck it to Hitler in the '36 Olympics.

Pat informs me that the first Notre Dame-Ohio State game, played in 1935, was voted in 1950 as "The Greatest College Football Game of the Half-Century". Both teams were undefeated going in; the game was at Ohio State and was broadcast nationwide on CBS radio, with an estimated 8 million people listening in. ND was shut out until the fourth quarter, when they erupted for three touchdowns, including a last-minute hail mary from Bill Shakespeare to Wayne Millner that won the game, 18-13. (For a great recap of the game, here's a fantastic highlight reel from the ND Club of Memphis' website. QB Andy Pilney was a warrior.)

When Notre Dame won, our visiting fans rushed the field and pulled down the goalposts; payback, no doubt, for the hostile reception the Irish had received in Columbus. During a pre-game practice on Friday, more than ten thousand Ohio State fans lined the ND practice field chanting "Go home Catholics."

The following year, ND's president asked the Big Ten to check into rumors that the state of Ohio was setting up Buckeye players with phony jobs and paying them with state funds. The Big Ten urged Notre Dame to keep the matter confidential, and ND didn't want to start a major dispute, so we agreed to not press the issue. ND quietly decided to not schedule the Buckeyes anymore...until 1995, that is.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.The sting of those series-evening losses in 1995 and '96 still lingers. The 1995 game (a 45-26 loss at OSU) marred what might have been a nice run; at the time, ND was ranked 15th, with only a loss to Northwestern in the first game of the season (NW finished very strongly, going 10-2 and playing in the Rose Bowl). As it turned out, we still climbed to #6 before the bowl loss to Florida State.

1996 was probably a more exciting game than the year before. It was #4 OSU at #5 Notre Dame, with the Buckeyes winning a intensely physical battle, 29-16. I can still picture Orlando Pace steamrolling guys for Pepe Pearson (29 rushes, 173 yards).

Anyway, this would be a great series to rekindle. Despite having played only four games, there's some compelling history to revisit between the two teams, and the 1935 game ranks as one of the greatest in college football history.

There's no doubt Smith has some bigger fish to fry in Columbus as he settles into the job, but amidst all the rehab work it's good to see he's finding time to prod Kevin White for another matchup. Hopefully this time around we'll see a little less Irish futility, and a little more of this. All due respect to West Virginia, Rutgers, and the rest of the Big East, but this is a series I can truly get excited about.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Gugin' time | by Jay

Irish Eyes had an update on the Gug (no, not that one), with some good stuff from Heisler and Bernard Muir, the Associate AD who oversaw much of the construction, and who, incidentally, is taking over the athletic department at Georgetown. (Thanks to Angel at IE for the picture to the right, by the way.)

A couple of quotes:

Heisler: “Part of the motivation was not only to make sure that we could be competitive with what’s going on in the world relative to facilities, but also to try to centralize the football aspect of it...Look at our current setup. We have the football coaches’ office center here in the Joyce Center. We’ve got our locker room in the stadium. We have our weight facility in the Loftus Center. We had players viewing film in the stadium, and we had our training facility in the stadium."

Muir: “It will be state-of-the-art as far as interior design...Once [our athletes] walk into the strength and conditioning area, which just went from 7,000 to 25,000 square feet, they get the feeling that we’re turning the corner here and making a sincere effort to be the best across 26 varsity sports, and hopefully put us in a position to win a few championships.”

August 1 is the target opening date, but Heisler mentioned that they might even be able to move schedule up a bit.

Anyway, check out the whole update if you get a chance (it's a pay article, but you're a member of IE, right?). Neat to see the place coming together.

One other feature that Muir highlighted is a new Player's Lounge:
“We’re still working on some of the finishing touches on the player’s lounge,” Muir said, “but there will be a computer center that will have a little outlet for them where you can have several players check e-mails or do a little homework before or after practice. We’ll have a big screen TV, and they’ll have TVs in the locker room where they can tune into Sportscenter...or CNN, we like to hope. They’ll have a lounge-type area as well.”
Hmm. Shared computers...a place to do homework...CNN on the tube...sounds a little austere. Nothing like the luxurient "players lounges" of some other schools, huh? Doesn't Muir know there's an arms race going on in college football, and if you don't have a clubhouse full of the latest toys, you're not going to be able to recruit?

The two prime examples I'm thinking of are those of Texas and Oregon. Both were upgraded in 2003, and both are decked out like one of Saddam's palaces, featuring a vast array of Cubanesque frills. Here's Oregon's locker room:

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"We designed something that is very expensive," Tim Canfield, who has designed the last 10 Nike Towns, told the Eugene Register-Guard. The Ducks have three 60-inch plasma TVs, two of which are rigged for Xbox games, at a cost of $15,000 each. The Oregon locker room is two stories and has a door that will allow eight players to enter at once, a door that can open and shut at three feet per second. Each locker has its own ventilation system to personalize perspiration. Each also has outlets for video games and the Internet, as well as a security system that is activated by a code that includes a player's uniform number and a scan of his thumbprint.

Here's a couple shots of the locker room and player's lounge at Texas:

Weight Room-----The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Hey, neat! Pretty cool, right?

The truth is...these accoutrements are silly. Silly like Vince Neil's house is silly (as seen on MTV Cribs) -- all they're missing is a leopard skin pool table and a stripper pole. Or if you want to go literary, it's like something a hollow nouveau riche like Jay Gatsby would dream up, an expensive status symbol that he thinks makes him classy and important.

Do we need a Sony Playstation at EVERY locker? Absolutely not. Do we need a locker room that looks like the deck of the Starship Enterprise? No way. How about a door that will let EIGHT players walk through all at once? Correct me if I'm wrong Mr. Canfield, but I don't think we're losing any recruits over how many guys can walk through a freakin' door at the same time. Do we need fake horseys you can sit on that overlook the field? Actually, those would be kinda cool...

Wait, what am I thinking? Of course not. We don't need fake horseys, with or without blue and gold saddles. (A mechanical bull at Legends might spice things up, though.)

This is all over-the-top, tawdry, cheap ornamentation foisted on the universities by overzealous shoe companies and high-falutin' boosters, then sold to high school recruits as something "important to consider" when looking at football programs. It's tacky and, ironically -- considering how truly expensive it is -- it's cheap, in the Donald Trump sense of the word.

What we needed was a very nice place that was an improvement on what we had, a centralized location for the football program (instead of being spread out all over creation), an improved weight and training facility (THE most important aspect of the building), and oh yeah, a nice place for athletes to hang out and congregate between practices and classes. We got it. And it's going to be very impressive, and truly classy -- and without the silly, overblown frills.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Prez vs. Prez | by Jay

(The following is from our friend Jeff.)

There was a thread over on NDN a few weeks ago debating the hiring record of Monk vs. Father Ted as it relates to the football program.

I thought I'd take the discussion a bit further, look at all the ND presidents throughout history and compare the records of the football teams based on who was in charge when the hire was made. (For entertainment purposes only, of course.)

Here's what we've got (sorted by winning percentage):

Years / Coaches
John W. Cavanaugh 1908-1930 (Place thru Rockne)
200 171 19 10 .880
John J. Cavanaugh 1946-1953 (Leahy, postwar)
77 63 8 6 .857
John O'Hara 1941-1943 (Leahy, first time)
30 24 3 3 .850
Hugh O'Donnell 1944-1945 (McKeever, Devore)
20 15 4 1 .775
Andrew Morrissey 1894-1907 (Morison thru Barry)
107 74 25 8 .729
Charles O'Donnell 1931-1940 (Anderson, Layden)
90 63 22 5 .728
Ted Hesburgh 1954-1996 (Brennan thru Holtz)
474 329 137 8 .703
Edward Malloy 1997-2004 (Davie, Willingham)
97 56 41 0 .577

(It's embarrassing that a Morrissey is ranked lower than not one, but two Cavanaughs...but I digress.)

Despite Hesburgh's relatively low overall percentage (if you can call 70% low), Father Ted owns the all-time record for wins, and unless we see another 40-year tenure for a president at ND, this one's gonna stand up for time immemorial.

Also...check out that dropoff for you-know-who. Cough.

By the way, here's the record for wins according to the AD in charge at the time. Note that before Moose, Notre Dame didn't really have independent athletic directors; Rockne, Leahy, etc, all served as their own ADs.

Athletic Director
Krause 285 199 81 5 .707
Corrigan 189 130 56 3 .696
Wadsworth 60 35 25 0 .583
White 37 21 16 0 .568

Where's Dick Rosenthal, you ask? Well, he came in after Holtz was hired, and left before Davie, so technically he's never hired a coach at ND. That's not to minimize the great job Rosenthal did as AD; it's just that he doesn't qualify for this (narrow) study.

Finally, here's the backup data for all of this, just for the hell of it.

Coach First Last Years Games Win Loss Tie Pct. Prez AD
James L. Morison 1894 1894 1 5 3 1 1 .600 Andrew Morrissey
H.G. Hadden 1895 1895 1 4 3 1 0 .750 Andrew Morrissey
Frank E. Hering 1896 1898 3 19 12 6 1 .632 Andrew Morrissey
James McWeeney 1899 1899 1 10 6 3 1 .600 Andrew Morrissey
Pat O'Dea 1900 1901 2 20 14 4 2 .700 Andrew Morrissey
James F. Faragher 1902 1903 2 18 14 2 2 .778 Andrew Morrissey
Red Salmon 1904 1904 1 8 5 3 0 .625 Andrew Morrissey
Henry J. McGlew 1905 1905 1 9 5 4 0 .556 Andrew Morrissey
Thomas A. Barry 1906 1907 2 14 12 1 1 .857 Andrew Morrissey
Victor M. Place 1908 1908 1 9 8 1 0 .889 John W Cavanaugh
Shorty Longman 1909 1910 2 14 11 1 2 .786 John W Cavanaugh
Jack Marks 1911 1912 2 15 13 0 2 .867 John W Cavanaugh
Jesse C. Harper 1913 1917 5 40 34 5 1 .850 John W Cavanaugh
Knute Rockne 1918 1930 13 122 105 12 5 .861 John W Cavanaugh
Hunk Anderson 1931 1933 3 27 16 9 2 .593 Charles O'Donnell
Elmer F. Layden 1934 1940 7 63 47 13 3 .746 Charles O'Donnell
Frank W. Leahy 1941 1943 11 30 24 3 3 .800 John O'Hara
Ed McKeever 1944 1944 1 10 8 2 0 .800 Hugh O'Donnell
Hugh J. Devore 1945 1945 1 10 7 2 1 .700 Hugh O'Donnell
Frank W. Leahy 1946 1953 1 77 63 8 6 .818 John J Cavanaugh
Terry Brennan 1954 1958 5 50 32 18 0 .640 Ted Hesburgh Krause
Joe Kuharich 1959 1962 4 40 17 23 0 .425 Ted Hesburgh Krause
Hugh J. Devore 1963 1963 1 9 2 7 0 .222 Ted Hesburgh Krause
Ara Parseghian 1964 1974 11 116 95 17 4 .819 Ted Hesburgh Krause
Dan Devine 1975 1980 6 70 53 16 1 .757 Ted Hesburgh Krause
Gerry Faust 1981 1985 5 57 30 26 1 .526 Ted Hesburgh Corrigan
Lou Holtz 1986 1996 11 132 100 30 2 .758 Ted Hesburgh Corrigan
Bob Davie 1997 2001 5 60 35 25 0 .583 Edward Malloy Wadsworth
Tyrone Willingham 2002 2004 3 36 21 15 0 .583 Edward Malloy White
Kent Baer 2004 2004 1 1 0 1 0 .000 Edward Malloy White

So here's a good question: should Monk get credit for Charlie Weis? Or does Charlie represent the first Jenkins coach? Technically, Monk presided over the Weis hire, but given his opinion on the transition, it just wouldn't seem right. Give Charlie to Father Jenkins.

2005 Opponent Position Preview - Quarterbacks | by Pat

For our opponent previews, we thought we'd slice it lengthwise instead of crossways, and take a look at each team position-by-position. First up: quarterbacks. Let's roll.

PITTSBURGH - Tyler Palko. 2004 stats: 3,067 yards, 24 TDs, 7 INTs. Returning starter.

You might remember Palko both for his 5-touchdown performance against the Irish last season and the big F-bomb he dropped on NBC after the game. Palko had his coming out party last season and will look to build on it this year. The only thing that might slow him down is the departure of QB-friendly coach Walt Harris, however, I'll suggest that Palko will still be one of the tougher QBs that ND will face next season. He's more mobile than one might think and is the fiery type of football player that can rally a team. Depth: Pitt has even less QB depth than Notre Dame. Top backup Joe Flacco suggests he wants to transfer. If he follows through, incoming freshman Bill Stull is the backup.

MICHIGAN - Chad Henne. 2004 stats: 240-399, 2,743 yards, 25 TDs, 12 INTs. Returning starter.

Making his first road start in last year's Irish victory, Henne (#7) will be a much improved quarterback this upcoming season when ND rolls into Ann Arbor. He seemed to forget he was supposed to have the freshman jitters which leads me to believe he'll be very solid and dependable QB under center for the Wolverines. Possessing possibly the strongest arm that ND will face next season, Henne will put up big numbers all year. He's not the most mobile of quarterbacks, but he doesn't need to be in Michigan's offense. Carr should loosen up the offensive reins a bit on Henne this go-around and let him test the ND secondary early and often. Depth: Derek Landri's high school teammate Matt Gutierrez is a solid college QB who should be able to step in easily should Henne go down. Michigan's QB depth is probably second only to USC's next season.

MICHIGAN STATE - Drew Stanton. 2004 stats: 141-220, 1601 yards, 8 TDs, 6 INTs. Returning starter.

Stanton played in only the second half of last year's game against the Irish after coming into the game injured, but still managed to lead the Spartans on a comeback that nearly erased the early Irish lead. Now that he's finally healthy, last season's team MVP will be the Spartans' biggest offensive threat. Stanton's calling card is his mobility, as evidenced by the fact he had more yards rushing and the same number of rushing touchdowns last season as Ryan Grant (687 yards in 10 games versus 515 yards in 9 games). Also an accurate passer, Stanton will be a decent test for Charlie Weis' first home game. Depth: Like Pitt, MSU's backup QB has never taken a college snap. Should Stanton get hurt, either redshirt frosh Brian Hoyer or true freshman Domenic Natale will be pressed into action. Might that mean Stanton won't get the green light to run as much this year?


At the end of spring practice, Washington's quarterback situation still appears to be up in the air and Tyrone isn't giving any hints. Casey Paus and Carl Bonnell both played in the Notre Dame game last season with neither having a good game. Bonnell showed some mobility that Paus lacked and might have a leg up in the race for the starting position in 2005. Then again, Oregon transfer Johnny DuRocher was a highly recruited high school QB and seems to be taking a leadership role on the team already. Last but not least is speedy Isaiah Stanback, who seems to be a wide receiver playing QB in the Arnaz Battle mold. One thing for sure is that improvement will be needed over last season's performance as Paus, Bonnell, and Stanback combined for only 8 passing touchdowns versus 24 interceptions. Depth: The plus side of a jumbled QB situation is that you have options on the bench if the starter is having a rough game, and Paus, Bonnell, and Stanback all started games last year.

PURDUE - Brandon Kirsch. 2004 stats: 58-94, 711 yards, 7 TDs, 3 INTs.

Perhaps we should list Brandon Kirsch as a returning starter; after all, he has started six games in his career. However, he was the backup to Kyle Orton last year and this will be his first year as the Purdue's primary signalcaller. Kirsch's skill set differs from Orton in that he is much more mobile. So much so, in fact, that Tiller has reportedly worked some option plays into the Purdue playbook. Still, Kirsch will primarly be called upon to be accurate and make quick decisions in Purdue's fast-paced aerial attack. An emotional, vocal leader, Kirsch seems like the type of quarterback who at times plays a bit out of control and is always looking to make something out of nothing. Depth: Curtis Painter is now the one waiting in the wings. A big, strong-armed QB, Painter should get some quality snaps this season.

USC - Matt Leinart. 2004 stats: 269-412, 3,322 yards, 33 TDs, 6 INTs. Returning Starter. Heisman Trophy winner.

You may have heard of Leinart before. Seems he's a decent quarterback who has a fairly popular blog, won the Heisman last season, is the favorite to win it again this year, will most likely be the #1 pick in the NFL draft, and hasn't lost in twenty-two games. By far the best quarterback Notre Dame will face next season, Leinart will no doubt be looking forward to another banner game against the ND secondary. About the only thing that will slow him down is the loss of USC offensive coordinator Norm Chow. Still, the Trojan southpaw is good enough on his own to pose the toughest challenge for Notre Dame this season. Depth: Backups John David Booty (recently the subject of an SI feature story) and Mark Sanchez were both the #1 rated QB coming out of high school. Booty has only seen limited action thus far, but should be able to easily step under center if the need arises. I realize it's not fun to read this if you're a Notre Dame fan (or cornerback), but trust me, it wasn't fun to write it either.

BYU - John Beck. 2004 stats: 192-343, 2,563 yards, 15 TDs, 8 INTs. Returning Starter.

New coach Bronco Mendenhall insisted there would be a three-way race for the starting quarterback position following spring practice, but ended up naming John Beck as his starter anyway. Beck started against Notre Dame last season and led the MWC in passing and total offense in 2004, but Matthew Berry and Jason Beck both started games last season and will push John Beck for the starting position in the fall. John Beck's advantage is his mobility and experience so it shouldn't be a shock to see him under center in Notre Dame stadium on October 22nd. Depth: The trio of quarterbacks don't seem that far apart -- unless Mendenhall is just trying to motivate John Beck. As with Washington, a lack of a clear-cut starter might mean we'll see a variety of passers throughout the season.

TENNESSE - Erik Ainge. 2004 stats: 109-198, 1,452 yards, 17 TDs, 9 INTs. Returning Starter

As Al McGuire once said, the best thing about freshman is that they become sophomores. And like Chad Henne, Erik Ainge should be a much better quarterback now that he has a year of college football under his belt. His competition for the starting spot (fellow QB Brent Schaeffer) packed up and left, and now Ainge has the offense all to himself. A tall and accurate passer, Ainge should be one of the better quarterbacks in the nation in 2005. And don't discount the revenge factor when the Vols travel to South Bend as the Irish were the team that knocked Ainge out for the season with a shoulder injury last year in Knoxville. Depth: The loss of Brent Schaeffer hurts the Vols QB depth, but Rick Claussen performed adequately once Ainge went down with injury and should be a very solid backup with plenty of game experience.

NAVY - Lamar Owens. 2004 stats: 2-5, 38 yards.

Lamar Owens replaces successful Midshipmen QB Aaron Polanco, and like all Navy quarterbacks, his primary attack is with his feet. Owens is extremely fast but his arm is more or less a mystery and most likely will remain so for the season. But who knows? 2004 National Coach of the Year Paul Johnson might call a few passes to keep everyone on their toes. Depth: Coach Johnson claims there isn't a backup yet although Brian Hampton had a successful spring game and might be Owens' backup heading into the fall.

SYRACUSE - Perry Patterson. 2004 stats: 168-289, 7 TDs, 10 INTs. Returning Starter

Another team that's trying a few quarterbacks on for size is Syracuse, and new head coach Greg Robinson is looking for someone to lead the Orange's new west coastoffense. Perry Patterson had the bulk of the playing time last season and seems to be the favorite to start in September. He's a big (6'4", 242lb) QB who still has the ability to get some yards on the ground. However, some critics have questioned his accuracy on short passes, which are a staple of the WCO. He'll have to acquire a deft touch if he wants to be successful and hold onto the job. Depth: The other option for Syracuse is sophomore Joe Fields, who actually started the first three games of 2004. Fields is an elusive QB who showed improved accuracy in the spring game and will give Syracuse two competent options under center.

STANFORD - Trent Edwards. 2004 stats: 179-274, 1732 yards, 9 TDs, 11 INTs. Returning Starter

Edwards is an interesting study. An all-world talent coming out of high school, Edwards has struggled to put it all together at Stanford. Was it simply inexperience? Was it a side-effect of Buddy Ball? We might find out this season as the junior gets to learn and develop under the watch of new coach and noted QB guru Walt Harris. Edwards has all of the physical skills you could want in a quarterback and it will be interesting to see just how improved he will be when the Irish roll into Palo Alto in late November. Depth: Then again, maybe Edwards won't be the starter in November...or even September. While Edwards appeared to have a slight edge in spring practice, Coach Harris seems to be keeping his options open, and redshirt frosh T.C. Ostrander is a solid candidate to unseat returning starter Edwards. Like Edwards, Ostrander is a big, strong QB and was a highly recruited QB prospect. Experience might give the edge to Edwards, but Ostrander's presence will give Stanford talented, but inexperienced depth.

2005 Opponent Quarterback Analysis and Ranking

Looking at the schedule, our DB coaches Lewis and Polian will certainly earn their paycheck as ND will face eight quarterbacks who are returning starters. And that doesn't even count the eventual starter from the Washington group, plus Brandon Kirsch at Purdue, all of whom (minus DuRocher) started at least one game last season. In fact, the only team definitely starting someone with zero experience is Navy.

Considering that ND's secondary is probably the biggest question mark on the team, having to face so many veteran QBs should give pause to anyone who is predicting a cakewalk season for Charlie Weis' first year (unless we just out-score them all, Pac-10 shootout style).

Obviously a big part of a QB's success is who's calling the plays, and who's catching the ball . As mentioned above, Tyler Palko is a great quarterback, but with a new run-oriented head coach, his impact could be muted. The opposite is true for Trent Edwards, who very easily could turn into a all-conference QB (if not for that pesky Leinart guy) under Harris. In these rankings I'm going to try and ignore all of that stuff and just go on things like talent, team depth, experience, and past production. And it should be pretty obvious that this list could look drastically different come September, let alone December. But for now, this is how I would rank the quarterbacks that Notre Dame will face in 2005:

1. USC - I'm guessing this is painfully obvious. Leinart is good.
2. Michigan - Henne will be even better this year and Gutierrez is a solid backup.
3. Tennessee - Ainge should be improved and Claussen has experience if needed.
4. Pitt - Palko is a great quarterback, but lack of depth hurts Pitt.
5. MSU - Stanton is the team leader, but none of the backups have taken a college snap.
6. Stanford - Edwards and Ostrander are the big wildcards in this list. How good are they?
7. Purdue - Kirsch seems to have the tools to succeed and Painter is a talent.
8. BYU - Beck is another QB who has the skills to flourish under a new coach.
9. Syracuse - Patterson or Fields? Either will have to keep mistakes to a minimum.
10. Washington - Well, at least they don't have Diedrick pulling the strings.
11. Navy - This might not be fair as Owens is more of a runner than passer.

Next up: Running Backs.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Huddle Up | by Jay

A glimpse of the attention to detail that Charlie is bringing with him?

The Lesson of...Ray Handley? | by Mark

In 13 of his 15 seasons coaching in the NFL, Charlie Weis worked for two legends, Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick. And as much as he absorbed from their incredible success, it's interesting to think about what lessons he may have gleaned from the third head coach he worked for, Ray Handley. After all, the euphoria of success often doesn't teach us as much as it should; we seem to learn a hell of a lot more from the painful sting of failure (well, except maybe a certain ex-coach who "never had a bad day").

You all remember Ray Handley, right? Took over as head coach of the Super Bowl champion New York Giants in 1991 after Bill Parcells retired (for the first time, anyway). Charlie stayed on after Parcells, and Handley promoted him from a defensive and special teams assistant to running backs coach, a job he held for two years under Ray. Around New York, Handley is remembered for a few things - and none of them are good. Foremost among them is helping drive the Giants franchise into a tailspin.

Tabbed as one of the smartest men in football, Handley had a masters degree from Stanford, a genius IQ, and a steeltrap mathematical mind (he once got bumped from a Reno casino for counting cards). He inherited a great situation with the Giants, taking over a team that had gone 25-7, reached the playoffs twice and had won the Super Bowl once in the two previous seasons. So what did he do? He benched Phil Simms (who would return to the Pro Bowl in 1993, the year after Handley was fired) and went 14-18 overall. The Giants failed to make the playoffs in either of his two years as the head coach. In fact, it's the only time in Weis' NFL career that a team he was part of failed to make the playoffs in two straight seasons.

(On a lighter note, one time Handley went off on a tangent during a press conference about the way Brett Favre pronounces his last name. Handley, for all his cerebral brilliance, couldn't understand how it was pronounced "FARv". That should have been a clue right there.)

In the book "Coaching Matters", author Brad Adler devotes some attention to a special kind of failure that some "genius" coordinators experience when attempting to make the transition to head coach. One of his prime examples is Ray Handley:
Important in a coach's repetoire - and most often neglected - is the manner in which he operates. One of these operational functions is the process by which a coach communicates his ideas...the true essence of coaching may exist as much in the way a coach conveys his methods and strategies as it does in the true merits of those tactics. Otherwise viable coaches may face a difficult task imparting their knowledge to players due in large part to the ineffectual fashion in which they communicate and/or demonstrate their methods.

Former NY Giants head coach Ray Handley comes to mind as a prime example of this postulation. Handley was, quite literally, a genius. He had an IQ of 140 and...was handpicked by head coach Bill lead the Giants. With all that intelligence and experience, Handley was a flop...

Handley was a brilliant assistant coach who...was as sharp a football mind as there was in the business. In fact, he developed many of the successful offensive schemes and strategies utilized by Parcells. Handley, though, had no conception whatsoever of the process by which to successfully communicate strategies and techniques to his players...He could never seem to grasp the fact that not everyone responds to a single teaching process and that he might have to engage different educational techniques in order to ensure that everybody understood each concept.
Many of us have probably met similar types of folks. Somewhere along the way you get a teacher that, on paper, seems like they should be able to teach you anything you would want to know. An IQ through the roof, absolutely brillant, and they have every degree and every credential you could ask for. But put them before a class and they simply can't convey that knowledge to the students in front of them. Intelligence alone simply does not make a person a good teacher.

It's also easy to understand why former greats have a tough time teaching what they know to players of lesser abilities. Most of the time these guys had such an intuitive feel for what they were doing that there is almost no way they can explain that to someone else. Do you think Barry Sanders would make a good running back coach? Quite literally, the things that made him so fantastic can't be taught. Adler discusses it a little bit:
In many instances, the situation involves a former superstar who turns to coaching. Due to their innate abilities, every aspect of the game comes easily to them...consequently, these individuals are rarely exposed to the clinical atmosphere prevalent in teaching situations - a fact that tends to diminish their capacity to adequatley explain and/or demonstrate techniques.
Magic Johnson as the Lakers head coach, anyone? Quick, name a coach in college or pro football who was an exceptional player (Jeff Fisher doesn't count). There are probably a handful, but the only one I can think of is Steve Spurrier. You'll find the same in most any sport. There's a limited number of exceptions, sure -- Frank Robinson maybe, or Lenny Wilkens -- but by and large the best coaches were mediocre, or worse, during their playing days. (On another note, I wonder how the Great One will adapt to coaching).

Now, let's apply all of this to Charlie Weis.

As we all know, Weis didn't play football in college, let alone the pros. So he's not even a journeyman player like a lot of other coaches.

In fact, Charlie would seem on the surface to be a lot like Ray Handley. Ray didn't have much of a playing career, but had a brilliant mind and gained a reputation for his offensive system. His prowess contributed to Super Bowl championship teams. But a few key differences become apparent when you look a little closer at Weis' background and compare the two.

First of all, Weis got his degree at Notre Dame in speech and drama. At that time Weis had intentions of going into sports broadcasting, and so he was drawn to studying communication from way back when. Essentially, he wanted to be a type of performer. Effective teachers, too, are often good performers - a large part of what they are doing is getting up in front of a group of people and helping a certain subject "come alive".

Then, when he was coaching at South Carolina, Weis earned his master's degree in -- education. I'm no genius but I think I'm starting to see a theme here.

Now consider where Weis began his coaching career - at the high school level. In addition to coaching, Weis was also an English teacher. He has said many times that, more than anything else, he considers himself to be a teacher. Not a "professor", but a teacher.

A true teacher - in high school, college, in the workforce - isn't the person that knows the most about something. It's not a guy from Mensa with an IQ of 160 talking over the head of his students. It's the person that gets in there and actually is able to transfer his or her knowledge to students. That was the problem that became a major part of Ray Handley's failure.

And the impact of clear communication? Consider these quotes from a former Irish player that learned from Weis in the pros as well as from current players during spring practice:

David Givens:
"He's been a teacher and coach of high school kids and he's got so much experience coaching NFL players like myself. There's no doubt in my mind he would be an outstanding recruiter because he relates so well to young people.

Brady Quinn:
“Coach (Ron) Powlus turned to me and said, ‘That was the simplest I think I’ve ever heard — through college, NFL, everything — going through hots and sight-adjusts and having someone explain it. That’s a great example of coach Weis as a teacher. He makes things so simple that can be complicated at times...It probably has been the best experience I could have had. He knows the ins and outs and everything, and he knows the best way to teach it."

Dan Stevenson:
“He doesn’t just teach you your position and what you’re supposed to do. He teaches you philosophies...When you can understand the philosophy of the offense, and the philosophy of each play, it can help you better understand why you need to do certain things.”

Darius Walker:
[Darius] always assumed an offense that won Super Bowls would be beyond him, but he has wrapped his head around it in a hurry. "In a sense," Walker said, "I guess it just all depends on the coach getting his players to understand it and learn it."

So how did a guy who never even played in college succeed at the highest level of coaching? By knowing the game so well, inside and out, that the player has no choice but to believe him. By being crystal clear in what he is saying. By telling him something is going to happen and sure enough, that is exactly what occurs. Simply put, by teaching. Walker once described Weis' ability to tell him exactly how a play was going to unfold before the play even started. Things like that are what build credibility between a teacher and a student, and really go to the heart of what makes an effective teacher. If you watched the video coverage from IrishEyes of Weis' post-practice sessions with the media during the spring, you know that each was basically a mini-tutorial in some aspect of football. You'd walk away from a viewing feeling like Weis had been teaching you personally about some facet of the game.

And the ability to teach is something Weis targeted when he filled out the rest of his staff, too. As he said when he introduced his assistants, "I wanted guys that were good teachers because I consider myself a teacher first..."

But back to Ray Handley. It's possible Charlie was already well beyond Handley in terms of teaching -- err, coaching -- ability, that he already knew enough to avoid making the same mistakes that would eventually be the undoing of Ray Handley's coaching career. But those two difficult seasons with the Giants likely did a very good job of driving those points home. Ray Handley was a brilliant thinker. But Charlie Weis is a good coach, and by definition, a good teacher.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

This is not a recruiting trip, I swear. | by Pat

To pass, or not to pass...that is the question.
In the recent John Ryan post, we mentioned that Ryan called Coach Ianello to announce his verbal commitment. The reason he wasn't initially able to reach Coach Weis is because Charlie was deep in the heart of Texas at a football clinic.

Now, we realize that coaching clinics are commonplace and nothing terribly special, but since the local papers felt the need to mention his visit in not one, but two articles, we figured we might as well give it a mention, too.

Weis arrived at the Angelo Coaching Clinic (80 years after Knute Rockne hosted his first coaching clinic in the Southwest) with, as he claimed, the intention of only talking football, not recruiting.

He said it would be "wrong for him to go into a recruiting pitch to lure Texas' NCAA Division I football players to South Bend, the Mecca of the universe", as he called it.

First off, that statement is just hilarious. Forget that I'm from the greatest University in the world...I'm just here to talk football, okay?

Second, while he may not have been actively recruiting players, he was certainly busy schmoozing Texas high school coaches, and convincing them that their current and future football players will be in good football hands in South Bend.

Oh, and did he really say South Bend is the Mecca of the universe, or did he say Notre Dame? I mean, no offense to any South Benders reading this,, nevermind. Moving on.

Weis' official topic was Screen Passes (something that seemed to be lacking from the offense last season). But what he really seemed to enjoy was the Q&A session afterwards.

Weis, who coached high school football in New Jersey before hitting it big, fielded questions from numerous coaches for nearly an hour and a half, talking one-on-one with them about specific scenarios that related to their teams.

When there was a momentary break in questions being asked, Weis fired out, ''Come on, give me more.''

He discussed any football topic that was addressed and diagrammed plays for everyone, including one coach who simply asked for a play that would score a touchdown.

The article fails to mention if the name tag for that last guy read "B. Diedrick".

Weis then summed up his talk by explaining how to handle the pain of losing, and facing your toughest critics.

''We had won 21 games in a row, and we went to Pittsburgh and they cleaned our clocks,'' Weis said. ''I called my wife to get some loving support after losing for the first time in 21 games, and when she answered the phone, she said, 'Your son wants to talk to you.' When he got on the phone, he said, 'Daddy, that was a pitiful performance.''' Weis said he is hoping he doesn't have to hear that line after any of his games as coach of the Irish.

Who knows what else he might have said at this coaching (definitely not recruiting!) clinic...

"When you practice the screen pass, as we do at Notre Dame, which, by the way, has one of the highest graduation rates of any major football program in the country, it's imperative that the running back..."

"One of the keys for your linemen on the screen pass is to sell the missed block to the defensive lineman, as you'll be able to see every Saturday this fall on NBC..."

"Now, in order to make a good touch throw you need to make sure your grip on the football is...hold on, can you hold my four Super Bowl rings for me for a second? Thanks. Now then..."

It will be interesting to see if Weis' presence at some of these clinics leads to increased interest in Notre Dame from players in those areas in the future. At the very least, it won't hurt ND's chances.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Know Thine Enemy: BYU's Bronco Mendenhall | by Michael

(This is part 2 of a series.)

Last week we profiled Greg Robinson, Syracuse's new head coach. This week we turn our attention to Brigham Young University, and its rookie head coach, Bronco Mendenhall.

Bronco Mendenhall, Brigham Young University

Bio/Record: Check out Mendenhall’s bio. At thirty-eight years old, he is the second youngest coach in Division-1 football. After serving as the Cougars’ defensive coordinator the last two years, Mendenhall was chosen to replace his boss, Gary Crowton, who was fired.

A two-year starter at Oregon State as a defensive back, after graduation Mendenhall stayed on with the Beavers as a graduate assistant. From there, he went on to coach at several small schools including Northern Arizona and Snow College, before finally connecting with Rocky Long at Oregon State. It was in Corvalis, and again, at the University of New Mexico, where Mendenhall became a disciple of Long’s 3-3-5 defense.

One good sign from Mendenhall is how he embraced the rich history of BYU, and as part of that, he’s re-introducing the uniforms BYU used under Lavell Edwards. But how does the rest of his program stack up?

Notable coaches: There are few big names on Mendenhall’s staff but there is plenty of coaching experience. Two of the more recognizable names include offensive coordinator Robert Anae, Ph.D, a former BYU player who was previously the OL coach for Texas Tech, and Brandon Doman, another former BYU player and the youngest member of the staff. Doman was the starting Cougar QB in 2001, and his exceptional running skills allowed the then-coaching staff to insert a little option into the passing attack. He will coach the QBs, although the option is not expected to be a part of Anae’s offense. The rest of the staff is filled with coaches with significant MWC, WAC and Pac-10 experience.

Offensive Philosophy:
Mendenhall has always favored aggressive defenses, and when it came time to determining an offensive identity, he stayed true to himself and fancied an aggressive offense. Smart move. Texas Tech has been an explosive offense ever since Mike Leach took over the program, and in hiring Robert Anae, Mendenhall found not only an assistant with a similar mindset but also a coach with BYU ties (another smart move).

If you've watched the Red Raiders play, you are probably familiar with their extremely wide OL splits. In March 2002, Anae wrote an article for American Football Monthly where he discussed his OL splits philosophy – it’s a great read. According to Anae, widening the OL splits accomplishes four primary goals: a larger pocket is created for the QB, wider passing lanes are established, wider running lanes open up and finally, the OL are more effective on screen passes because they are more spread out and closer to their blocking responsibilities.

While Anae is inexperienced as a playcaller, OL play is an integral yet underrated element of Texas Tech's recent success, and Mendenhall also retained Cougar assistant Lance Reynolds, who has the offensive background to complement Anae's skills.

Developing an offense in Provo similar to Texas Tech’s is going to pay huge dividends, possibly as early as this year. The new offense plays directly into the recruiting strengths of BYU, a program with a rich history of producing great quarterbacks. The next one may be John Beck, who reaffirmed his grip on the starting position this past spring.

Beck started ten games last year and earned second-team All-Mountain West Conference honors. He should easily be able to increase upon last year’s numbers, which included 2,563 yards and 15 touchdowns. Given the experience that Beck returns to the 2005 offense, it’s hard to imagine this offense not creating problems for a Mountain West conference whose teams have little experience against the scheme; the Cougars could surprise a lot of teams, as this article (subscription required) mentions.

Once again, players are talking about the simplicity of the new system. This is commonly seen whenever players compare any new system to a discarded one, but I think there is more truth to this cliche in Provo because of Crowton's complex option route-based passing attack. Because of that, I do think this new offense will be easier to learn (, subscription required), as TE Daniel Coates mentions:
“It’s so much easier. The reads and getting to where you need to go. The last offense was more difficult to where everybody was confused. Now it’s more like everyone goes here and everyone goes there. This play you go here and that play you go there and there’s not as much guessing.”

Early returns from spring practice were mixed, but I think that the writer ignored an important consideration. Most of the time in spring practice the defense is ahead of the offense, and it's almost certain that this would be the case when a defensive scheme remains intact while a new offense is being constructed.

Defensive Philosophy: Scheme-wise, this will be the same BYU defense that Brady Quinn and the rest of the offense saw in 2003 and 2004. I’m not going to waste your time summarizing a defense that ND fans have seen two years running, but for our more ambitious readers, I’d recommend two insightful articles. First, an excellent run-down on Mendenhall’s defense can be found here, and if you’re interested in learning more about the history of the 3-3-5 and its development by current New Mexico head coach Rocky Long, I’d recommend this 2003 Las Vegas Sun article.

One final note on the defense: it was originally designed to help defend spread passing attacks, and like the option, its rareness made preparation more difficult, as Urban Meyer suggests in the following quote.

“You wish you had a bye week to prepare. Any time you play a unique style of offense or defense, you wish you had an extra week to prepare. And that’s a very difficult team to prepare for."

However, four teams now use it in the Mountain West Conference – UNLV, BYU, Air Force and New Mexico. Because it’s becoming a bit more common, will the 3-3-5 prove less successful as teams adapt to its strength and weaknesses?

Predictions: It’s difficult to read up on Mendenhall and come away with any opinion other than he has done his homework, prepared a thorough gameplan and is now executing it – while making adjustments where necessary. Check out the following excerpt from this article:

Mendenhall has sought counsel from inside and outside. He's tapped in to traditional BYU sources and invited advice from professional organizational behavioral scientists including Paul Gustavson, a former football player who's San Jose-based Organization Planning and Design, Inc., has serviced the likes of National Semiconductor, the Veterans Administration, AT&T Credit Corp and NASA.

Mendenhall has broken down every aspect of BYU football, operations, budget, personnel and evaluated efficiency. He's tweaked every part of BYU football from communications, academics, workouts, practices and staff assignments to summer camps. BYU has a database of 1,700 former athletes. They've targeted them with letters, inviting their involvement. They've sent out invitations for former players to attend practice, breakout meetings and scrimmage on April 1. They've had response, the oldest, a player from 1934. The idea is to spread ownership of the program, pay respect to tradition and those who've already invested. In the process, Mendenhall has a map of the country marked with former player locations, men who could help identify talent and have agreed to be eyes and ears of BYU football.

For instance, if he clicks in talent-rich California, goes to Orange County and clicks on Costa Mesa, the names of two former Cougars pop up. They are Steve Sanders and Jeff Wilcox. These guys can't "officially" recruit for BYU under NCAA guidelines. But they can watch, evaluate, be bird dogs and report on any LDS or non-LDS player who fits BYU's profile within a ward or stake boundary. Mendenhall's crew will then finish the process.

Coaches like Mendenhall don’t fail; they simply refuse to accept failure.

If there’s one aspect of his management plan that concerns me, it’s the possibility that by wearing both the HC and DC hats, he might be taking on too much too soon. But then again, his team is already familiar with his defensive schemes, so perhaps I’m reading too much into it. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Mendenhall became the Bob Stoops of the MWC and returned BYU to consistent national prominence...nor would it surprise me if, after years of success at BYU, Mendenhall returned to his alma mater when the Oregon State job next opens up.

The Weis Factor

Weis and Mendenhall have never squared off, and it’s a decent guess that Weis has never seen a 3-3-5 defense before, except on tape.

Charlie's assistants do have some experience with variations of the defense. OL coach John Latina has seen it every year at Ole Miss because Joe Lee Dunn took his version of the defense from Mississippi State to Memphis at the same time the Tigers jumped onto the schedule. Additionally, WR coach Rob Ianello has seen it as well in Wisconsin’s games against UNLV in ’04 and West Virginia in ’02 and ’03.

All in all, it should be an interesting matchup between the NFL vet and the cagey up-and-comer.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Super Charlie | by Mark

(Ed. note - please welcome Mark as the eighth regular contributor to BGS. We can vouch for his bona fides as a fervent ND afficionado and an all-around wise-ass. Say hi to Mark.)

Outside of "Never rat on your friends" and "Always keep your mouth shut", "It's not what you know -- it's who you know" is probably the greatest advice you can get in life.

Over the last 5 seasons, only 23 guys have coached in the Super Bowl as either a head coach, offensive coordinator or defensive coordinator. The vast majority of these coaches have been, and remain, among the elite in today's NFL. Some, such as Lovie Smith, Marvin Lewis and Romeo Crennel, have ascended to head coaching positions. Others, like Jim Johnson and Monte Kiffin, are paid almost as well as most head coaches and likely would be candidates themselves but are well into the swan song of their careers.

Charlie Weis has worked with, or against, most of them.

Here is a list of 19 of those Super Bowl coaches, what they are doing currently and what, if any, connection they have to Weis and his staff at ND.

This isn't meant to be a "Charlie's Rolodex" rundown as much as just a sense of the coaching stock he comes from, a look at the exceptional professional company Charlie keeps. In other words, Super Bowl coaches: the best of the best.

( * Denotes a close connection to Weis and/or his staff. Coaches are listed alphabetically.)

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.* BILL BELICHICK - head coach, New England Patriots. Belichik has won the Super Bowl three of the last five seasons. He is the best coach in pro football today and is the single greatest influence on Weis and his career. An upcoming article will go over the numerous ways that Weis has already begun to transform the "Patriot Way" of doing business into the "Notre Dame Way".
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.BRIAN BILLICK - head coach, Baltimore Ravens. Billick won the Super Bowl as the HC of the Ravens in 2000. Aside from his role on offense, he hires good people on defense. His last two DC’s are now head coaches in the NFL. His current DC, Rex Ryan, served in that capacity under Notre Dame DC Rick Minter when the two were at the University of Cincinnati.
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.CHUCK BRESHNAHAN - defensive coordinator, Cincinnati Bengals. He was the DC of the Raiders when they played the Bucs in the Super Bowl. Breshnahan worked for Kirk Ferentz when Ferentz was the HC at Maine and went with him to Cleveland to work under Belichick. While he hasn't worked directly with Weis, Breshnahan is yet another member of the Belichick coaching tree that includes Nick Saban, Ferentz, Weis, Crennel, and Pat Hill among others.
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. * BILL CALLAHAN - head coach, University of Nebraska. Callahan took the Raiders to the Super Bowl in 2002. Since then he has struggled, getting fired from the Raiders and then going 5-6 last year in his first season with the Cornhuskers. Callahan worked with Rob Ianello for four years at Wisconsin.
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.* MATT CAVANAUGH - offensive coordinator, Pittsburgh Panthers. He is the only coach on this list that is not a head coach in either college or the NFL or is no longer a coordinator in the NFL. The difference between the role that Weis played in the Patriots Super Bowl seasons, when compared with Cavanaugh's role as OC with the Ravens, is like night and day. Cavanaugh was a backup QB on the 1990 New York Giants team that won the Super Bowl. Weis, Belichik and Crennel were all coaches on that squad.
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.* BRAD CHILDRESS - offensive coordinator, Eagles. Childress, like Callahan, is a member of the growing “tree” of coaches that Barry Alvarez has developed at Wisconsin. Alvarez, of course, was the defensive coordinator at Notre Dame during the 1988 National Championship season. Rob Ianello worked with him on the Badgers staff for two seasons.
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. * ROMEO CRENNEL – head coach, Cleveland Browns. He is the third member of the “Patriot Three”. Along with Belichik, he is the only coach in the NFL that has five Super Bowl rings. Weis coached with Crennel in 14 out of his 15 seasons in the NFL.
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.JIM FASSEL - offensive coordinator, Baltimore Ravens. He took the Giants to the Super Bowl in 2000 as their Head Coach. Chances are he will once again be a Head Coach in the NFL sometime soon. Thankfully for Notre Dame fans, Weis did not get the Giants job when Fassel was fired.
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.* JOHN FOX - head coach, Carolina Panthers. The only coach, other than the “Patriots Three”, that has coached in more than one Super Bowl over the last five seasons. Was the Giants defensive coordinator in 2000. Weis is among his closest friends and Fox tried to hire him as his OC when he got the Panthers job. Fox is on the Board of the "Hannah and Friends" charity.
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.* JON GRUDEN - head coach, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Chucky won it all with the Bucs in 2002 and three years later is still the youngest head coach in the NFL. Gruden and Weis share Bob Lamonte as their agent. Gruden also employs one of Weis' closest friends in the coaching community, Rich Bisaccia, who may end up in South Bend one day as a member of the ND staff.
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.* DAN HENNING – offensive coordinator, Carolina Panthers. He held that position when the Panthers lost to the Pats in the Super Bowl. Like Muir, Henning worked under Weis when they were with the Jets. It's interesting that despite being much more experienced, as both a head coach and a coordinator, Henning worked under Weis with the Jets and was the number two choice of John Fox, after Charlie, to fill that position with the Panthers.
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.JIM JOHNSON - defensive coordinator, Eagles. This former Notre Dame coach is considered by many to be among the two or three best defensive coordinators in the NFL. That being said, many analysts attributed the most recent Patriots Super Bowl victory to Weis' in- game adjustments to the blitz scheme that Johnson used to attack New England.
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.* MONTE KIFFIN – defensive coordinator, Tampa Bay. Kiffin was in this role in 2002 when the Bucs won it all. If fact, he was retained by Gruden when he took over the team. Kiffin truly is one of the most influential defensive coaches in the game. Among those that have worked under him are Lovie Smith, Herm Edwards and Pete Carroll. In addition, Rick Minter twice worked under Kiffin - at Arkansas (both worked for Holtz) and at NC State.
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.MARVIN LEWIS - head coach, Cincinnati Bengals. Lewis won the Super Bowl as the DC of the Ravens in 2000. Lewis has done a very good job thus far getting the Bengals back on track. He and Mike Nolan are now head coaches in the NFL. It says something about the talent of Rex Ryan that he was picked to be the next to lead the Ravens defense.
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.MIKE MARTZ – head coach, St Louis Rams. His Rams lost in the Super Bowl to the Patriots in 2001. Martz is known for his acumen on the offensive side of the football. He was the OC for the Rams when they won it all in 1999. The ability of Weis' offense to control the clock and keep the ball away from the Rams offense in 2001 was one of the keys in the Patriots first Super Bowl victory.
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.* BILL MUIR – offensive coordinator, Tampa Bay. Muir was the OC when the Bucs won the Super Bowl. From 1997-1999 Muir worked with Weis when they were with the New York Jets. The last two seasons Muir worked under Weis when Charlie was promoted to OC. Muir, like fellow NFL offensive coordinators Dan Henning, Maurice Carthon (Cleveland Browns), and John Hufnagel (NY Giants) have all worked as members of Weis' offensive staffs in recent years.
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.* ANDY REID – head coach, Philadelphia Eagles. Despite losing this past Super Bowl to the Pats, Reid has been able to turn the Eagles into the most consistent team in the NFC over the past five seasons. He is close friends with Weis and the two are both represented by Bob Lamonte.
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.LOVIE SMITH – head coach, Chicago Bears. Smith was the defensive coordinator for the Rams when they lost to the Pats and his guidance on defense was a large factor in getting St Louis back to the Super Bowl. Smith is yet another in a very long line of Monte Kiffin disciples. Had he not taken the Notre Dame job Weis would likely be a head coach along with Smith.
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.* MIKE TRGOVAC – defensive coordinator, Carolina Panthers. Trgovac goes back many years with Rick Minter, having worked as a member of Minter’s defensive staffs at both Ball State and Notre Dame. Trgovac's boss, John Fox, was one of the League's best defensive coordinators before taking over the Panthers. Is it possible that Trgovac recommended Minter to Fox who in turn suggested him to Weis (with a recommendation from Lou, too)?

Of course, we could supplement this list with Weis’ connections to the the Dallas Cowboys (Parcells), Indianapolis Colts (Polian) and the New York Giants (ownership on down). In fact, I'm sure we could find Weis connections on every single team in the pro game. But even in this narrow field -- Super Bowl coaches -- Charlie's connections are all over the place.

So what does all this mean for Notre Dame football? Three things, at least:

1. Coaching magnetism. It's no surprise Charlie was able to tap an exceptional assistant staff, from expert journeymen (Minter, Lewis, Latina) to eager up-and-comers (Haywood, Polian, Parmalee). What ambitious coach wouldn’t want to plug into Weis’ world? Charlie's level of experience and professionalism should help him immensely for future hires, too -- we already know that Mike Haywood has his eye on a HC job at some point, and I can't imagine Brian Polian sticking to assistant special teams for the rest of his career. As his coaches move on to better positions, Charlie's got a great network to draw from. We already saw it when Cutcliffe retired -- he didn't miss a beat in picking up a great (and overqualified) replacement in Peter Vaas. When you consider the crowd that our Jersey Guy runs with, don't expect Charlie to have much trouble keeping the pipeline flowing into South Bend.

2. Player development. Sharpening skills. Improving on talent. Teaching the pro game, the cutting-edge stuff. 'Nuff said.

3. Pro connections. Charlie described it himself at a presser back in January, when talking about how he could help his players move on to the next level. "'I'll call up 20 general managers that will take my phone call today," Weis said. "You name a guy, I can call him. I think I can get ahold of (Bill) Polian. I got a connection. But I'm just saying that I can call 20 general managers and say, 'What do you think on this guy?'"

And that works for everyone on the team, not just the guys who are going to hear their names called on draft day. Much of the NFL is made up of non-drafted guys who got tryouts with pro clubs, practice squad free agents, and the like. For the blue chippers, the appeal of Charlie, Lewis, etc, is obvious; but even for the role players who fill out a signing class, those NFL connections and the phone calls Charlie can make are like gold.

Preseason Hype | by Jay

Brian Cook over at mgoblog has pulled together a novel idea: the BlogPoll, a weekly football ranking conducted by a panel of some of the most fervent college football blogs out there. BGS will be a proud participant, and even though we'll only be getting one vote for the eight of us, it should be pretty interesting to see if we can't collectively do a better job than the BCS. As mentioned earlier (or maybe not), we'll be doing our own weekly poll right here, and then sending the results off to Brian so he can mix them together with the hoi polloi.

As a kickoff to the poll, Brian linked the preseason rankings, a composite of a bunch of other preseason polls: Athlon, The Sporting News,,,, Lindy’s,,, Football Action, Street & Smith’s, Steele and two polls from (Ivan Maisel and Pat Forde). Here's what it looks like:

1. USC (13; 13-0) 325 points
2. Texas (11-1) 295 points
3. Tennessee (10-3) 267 points
4. Michigan (9-3) 255 points
5. Ohio State (8-4) 245 points
6. Oklahoma (12-1) 244 points
7. Iowa (10-2) 235 points
8. LSU (9-3) 233 points
9. Virginia Tech (10-3) 230 points
9. Florida (7-5) 230 points
11. Miami (Fla.) (9-3) 218 points
12. Louisville (11-1) 179 points
13. Florida State (9-3) 165 points
14. Georgia (10-2) 162 points
15. Auburn (13-0) 125 points
16. Purdue (7-5) 122 points
17. Texas A&M (7-5) 94 points
18. Fresno State (9-3) 84 points
19. Arizona State (9-3) 75 points
19. Boise State (11-1) 75 points
21. Cal (10-2) 49 points
22. Texas Tech (8-4) 46 points
23. Pittsburgh (8-4) 37 points
24. Boston College (9-3) 35 points
25. Georgia Tech (7-5) 29 points
26. Alabama (6-6) 26 points
27. Bowling Green (9-3) 22 points
28. Oregon (5-6) 16 points
28. Virginia (8-4) 16 points
30. Wisconsin (9-3) 12 points
31. Nebraska (5-6) 10 points
31. N.C. State (5-6) 10 points
33. Penn State (4-7) 8 points
33. Minnesota (7-5) 8 points
35. Wyoming (7-5) 6 points
35. Iowa State (7-5) 6 points
37. Colorado (8-5) 4 points
38. Utah (12-0) 3 points
38. Miami (Ohio) (8-5) 3 points
40. UCLA (6-6) 2 points
40. UTEP (8-4) 2 points

So here's an obvious question to get this party started right. From this grand composite of peerless prognosticators, who looks overrated to you? And which teams are being taken too lightly? (And feel free to include other teams not mentioned. Wonder who that could be.)

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Ryan joins up | by Pat

Defensive end John Ryan called up Coach Ianello yesterday morning and became the eighth known verbal commit for the Fighting Irish. With two defensive ends in the bag (Ryan and Kallen Wade), the Irish seem to have filled up at another position in the 2006 recruiting class. The 6'5 240lb Ryan had narrowed down his college choice to Notre Dame and Boston College and ultimately chose the Irish despite some family and friend connections to BC. Ryan also had offers from Michigan State, Syracuse, Maryland, and Duke.

The committment of Ryan not only secures another quality player for this recruiting class, but also is another sign of the approach Coach Weis is taking to recruiting. We've commented before on the apparent focus on midwestern recruits and Ryan, from St. Ignatius High School near Cleveland, Ohio, certainly fits the bill. Taking it a step further, Weis seems determined to get the Notre Dame name back into the state of Ohio, especially with the Catholic schools.

During the Willingham and Davie years, Ohio, a normally productive recruiting area, seemed to be ignored for states like California and Texas. And while those two states aren't shabby when it comes to producing football players, Ohio is no slouch itself. Noticing this lack of ND presence, Boston College actually has been making inroads into Ohio high schools and lately has been filling its roster with players from the same Catholic schools that used to be pipelines to South Bend.

Now, I realize our starting quarterback is from Ohio. But taking a closer look at the spring roster, there are only four players from Ohio (Quinn, Nduwke, Incarnato, and walk-on Marty Mooney). Of those, only Mooney is from a Catholic school (St. Xavier, alma mater of Rocky Boiman among others). In comparison, Boston College has eleven players on its spring roster from Ohio high schools, seven of which are from Catholic schools. Even the Michigan Wolverines have six players from Ohio on their roster. In the incoming recruiting class, both ND and BC picked up two Ohio prospects with both of BC's coming from Catholic schools. Interestingly, one of the BC recruits, Jim Ramella, is a former teammate and friend with John Ryan and their friendship was one of the factors that appeared to put BC in the lead for Ryan's services. (Ryan's current teammate, WR Rob Parris, is coming to ND's summer camp in a few weeks to try and earn a scholarship offer.)

Let me back up a second here before I continue. It's not my intention to suggest that Notre Dame should only be focusing on kids from Catholic schools at the expense of other public or private schools. I like the increased focus that Weis is giving these schools not because I desire to see ND sign kids with names like Sully or Fitz who do the Sign of the Cross everytime they score a touchdown. Rather, many of these Catholic schools, especially in the Cincinnati and Cleveland areas, are talent-rich, tradition-laden schools that annually turn out some of the best players in the state. That and the kids are already used to subpar weather, Catholic influences, and a legitimate course workload. Ignoring these schools and not establishing good relationships with their head coaches (as some have accused Ty and Davie of doing) is just a bad idea. Weis seems to have started the push back into Ohio last year during his first abbreviated recruiting campaign when he offered Cardinal Mooney star Kyle McCarthy a few weeks before Signing Day and I doubt we will see him shy away from this strategy anytime soon.

This article from last month's Cincinnati Enquirer does a great job of summing up the recent push into Ohio. Rather than just pull out some choice quotes, I'm going to reproduce the entire thing (although pay particular attention to the Schoenhoft comments).
Sunday, May 1, 2005

Irish revival might begin in Cincinnati
Wade 1st from area to sign in a while

By Tom Groeschen
Enquirer staff writer

Notre Dame last won a national football championship in 1988. Around that time, the Irish pipeline of Greater Cincinnati prep products started drying up.

While the twin droughts (national titles, Cincinnati players) are just coincidence, local Notre Dame fans are still cheering the news that Withrow's Kallen Wade, a junior defensive end, has committed to the Fighting Irish for 2006.

Wade is the first area player to accept a Notre Dame scholarship in nearly 10 years, a stunning statistic when one considers Cincinnati once regularly helped stock the Irish program.

"I love to see one of our players going back up there," said Bob Crable, the Moeller head coach and former Notre Dame All-America linebacker. "I know Notre Dame wants to make a presence here again."

The Notre Dame media guide lists 76 Greater Cincinnatians who have played at least one second in an Irish varsity game, dating to the program's formation in 1887. Of the 76 locals, 50 played at Notre Dame between the late 1960s and late '80s.

A total of 18 Cincinnati products played on Notre Dame's last three national title teams (1973, '77 and '88. Tight end Frank Jacobs (Newport Central Catholic) and cornerback D'Juan Francisco (Moeller) both played for the '88 Irish. But, since 1990, only five locals have played in a Notre Dame varsity game.

Former St. Xavier linebacker Rocky Boiman, who played for Notre Dame from 1998-2001, was the last local player awarded an Irish scholarship.

Boiman, now in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans, is nearly a decade removed from high school.

The only Cincinnati player on the 2004 Irish roster was junior quarterback Marty Mooney, a walk-on from St. Xavier.

Gerry Faust, the former Moeller (1963-80) and Notre Dame (1981-85) head coach, said he was thrilled to learn Wade had chosen Notre Dame. Faust is retired and living in Akron.

"I've been trying to tell people for years that Notre Dame needed to get back to recruiting the Midwest schools," Faust said. "Notre Dame made its heydays on those kids. Ara Parseghian did it, Dan Devine did it, we did it and Lou Holtz did it."

Back to their roots

And now, new Irish coach Charlie Weis wants to do it with help from his own Cincinnati connection - Rick Minter.

Minter, the former Cincinnati head coach (1994-2003), is back as Notre Dame's defensive coordinator. It's the same job Minter held at Notre Dame under Holtz in 1992-93.

"To rebuild this program in the proper way, we need to have a very strong hold on the Midwest," Minter said, speaking by telephone from his office in South Bend, Ind. "That includes being strong in Ohio, and particularly in Cincinnati where it's such a strong high school town. With my familiarity there, we hope to use that to our advantage."

Jon Dannemiller, a St. Xavier grad who is president of the Notre Dame Club of Greater Cincinnati, said Notre Dame has between 1,500 and 2,000 alumni living in the area. Add to that the countless "subway alumni" who grew up watching Notre Dame football highlights on TV each Sunday morning with Lindsey Nelson and Paul Hornung, and it's no secret that Irish football has always been big in Cincinnati.

"I'm so happy Charlie Weis seems to be recruiting the Midwest again," Dannemiller said.

By land, Notre Dame is about 4½ hours northwest of downtown Cincinnati. When did the relatively short drive suddenly get so long for Notre Dame, and how did Irish football lose its grip in Cincinnati ?

"I can't answer that, because I haven't been here for a while," Minter said. "I do know we want to get that presence back, because it goes all the way back to Ara's days and Gerry Faust's days."

What changed?

Theories abound on why Notre Dame has no longer recruited Cincinnati as hard:

The Cincy "connection" was broken when Faust was forced out in 1985. Faust sent several Moeller players to Parseghian and Devine in the 1960s and '70s, and there were several Faust recruits still playing for the '88 national champions.

The decline in local recruiting actually began under Holtz, who got the occasional plum (Norwood fullback Marc Edwards in the early 1990s) but signed only a handful of Cincinnati players in his 1986-96 tenure.

Holtz's successors, Bob Davie and Tyrone Willingham, also tried to spread their recruiting nets more nationally at "speed" players. To a degree, they got away from Notre Dame's hardnosed Midwest roots. And being several years removed from having Cincinnati players, the Irish were no longer regular visitors to area high schools.

Crable thinks the Irish, trying to compete against their murderous schedules, recently have gone more for the so-called "athletes" than the tough, smashmouth Notre Dame players of the past.

"I think Notre Dame recently has gotten the fast kids, tall kids and kids who could catch the football," Crable said. "Charlie Weis said he's looking for toughness, and I think his predecessors failed to find enough tough kids. I know speed kills, but football is a game of attitude. You've got to have some nastiness."

Crable, who epitomized nastiness as a player, said Notre Dame also has lost some recruiting battles to the Ohio States and Michigans in recent years.

"Kids like winners," Crable said. "Notre Dame hasn't won in a long time."

It's not as if Notre Dame has been ignoring Cincinnati prep football. The Irish last summer were a top contender for St. Xavier senior Robby Schoenhoft, who was ranked among the nation's top dozen prep quarterbacks.

"After I visited there, I was ready to commit," Schoenhoft said of Notre Dame. "I was just dumbfounded. I was in awe of the place and its tradition."

But Schoenhoft hit some snags with Willingham and his staff. Schoenhoft said he couldn't get a straight answer on who else the Irish were recruiting at his position. Finally, he decided to look elsewhere.

"The whole process turned me off," Schoenhoft said. "Nothing against anybody, because I did like it up there."

Schoenhoft signed with Ohio State, after paring his list to OSU, Michigan and Notre Dame.

Other locals of interest

This year, Wade has not been the only local target for Notre Dame.

According to the recruiting Web site, the Irish also have offered a scholarship to Princeton offensive lineman Aaron Brown and have "mutual interest" in Withrow defensive back Robert Williams. St. Xavier linebacker/defensive end Alex Albright visited Notre Dame's spring football game last week with Wade.

Tom Lemming, the recruiting analyst, said Wade may be the No. 2 overall prospect in Ohio behind Princeton's Brown, with both having the potential to be "Top 100" players when Lemming releases his annual list in June.

Has the Cincinnati pipeline reopened? Time will tell, but city coaches including Withrow's Doc Gamble, St. Xavier's Steve Specht, and Moeller's Crable all say Minter has told them Notre Dame will be back.

"I know they hadn't visited Withrow in some time," Gamble said. "I used to work Rick Minter's camp when I was an assistant at Mount St. Joseph and East Carolina, so we have a connection. I know they're making a point of emphasis to get back to Ohio."

It doesn't just mean to Catholic schools, either. While Notre Dame is famous as a Catholic school, the Irish had no qualms about landing an inner-city player from Withrow.

"I was kind of shocked that Kallen was so excited about Notre Dame, but he loved it," Gamble said.

The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Wade, who had 13 sacks last year, said he was also considering Boston College and Illinois.

"Once I saw Notre Dame ... I don't think anybody could touch them," Wade said.

Wade's road

At Notre Dame, it will help that Wade is a 3.8 student. Notre Dame's rigorous academic standards have been blamed, fairly or not, for the Irish losing recruits in recent years.

Wade said he is not particularly familiar with the Irish tradition. The 11 national titles and Knute Rockne and the Four Horsemen and Touchdown Jesus are just now coming to the Cincinnati kid, who grew up in Phoenix dreaming of being an Olympic sprinter.

"I moved here five or six years ago, but I really don't know much about Notre Dame's past," Wade said. "I just liked the atmosphere when I went up there."

For the record, Wade is Episcopalian. He laughs when asked about the Catholic yarn that says the two biggest jobs in the world are Pope and Notre Dame football coach, not necessarily in that order.

"It doesn't matter to me," Wade said. "We're all Christians anyway."

In South Bend, he'll find everyone on the same page. Irish alums, people he didn't know from Adam, were coming up and welcoming Wade as he walked around Notre Dame Stadium last weekend.

"I know they haven't won for a while," Wade said. "It's my job to help put them back up there."
Lots of interesting points in that article. The fact it's been a decade since ND signed a kid from Cincinnati. ND guys like Crable coming right out and saying he wants to send his players to ND. The apparently scattershot and dare I say bumfuzzled QB recruiting under Willingham. The obligatory Lemming quote pumping up Irish recruits. Coach Minter's connections to southern Ohio that he sowed while head coach at Cincinnati. All of it great stuff.

Getting back to the Ryan committment though, in addition to being another signal that ND is making a strong push back into Ohio, he appears to be a solid player that will be an excellent strongside defensive end compliment to Kallen Wade's pass rushing. Look for this pair to keep opposing quarterbacks on the run in the years to come.

Unhealthy fixations | by Jay

I originally wanted to include this in the post on Purdue below, but at the time we didn't know if it actually happened. This morning Jason Kelly of the SB Trib confirmed it. Check this out:
Notre Dame had nothing to do with the Sun Bowl, except in the sense that it suffered severe burns from exposing itself to Big 10 representative Purdue's offense without adequate SPF.

As autumn grew colder, so did the Boilermakers, but for one glorious October day in South Bend they radiated heat.

If the memory fails, or the psyche just suppresses it, Purdue turned Notre Dame Stadium into its own private solar system revolving around star quarterback Kyle Orton.

Considering the eclipse that followed, it makes sense that the Boilermakers commemorated that bright, sunshiny day on Sun Bowl rings otherwise clouded with the memory of a loss.

Arizona State -- a.k.a., the Sun Devils, as if this little theme hasn't played itself out -- defeated Purdue 27-23 in El Paso. One final frustration in a season of great promise and bitter disappointment.

Which explains the score of the Notre Dame game and the shillelagh representing the traveling trophy that goes to the winner engraved on one side of the bowl rings.

A cheesy gesture for a regular season game that interrupted the Big 10 conference schedule, a win Purdue barely acknowledged as significant at the time.

Like a photo of a sunset, though, it captured the last spectacular view before darkness fell.

And it etched into precious metal what the Irish have always led themselves to believe. They say playing Notre Dame takes on the significance of a bowl game for many opponents.

Now Purdue has the jewelry to prove it.
They really get up for us, don't they? Last year there was even a "shave the moustache" pledge by Brock Spack if Purdue beat ND, as if their entire season hinged on beating Notre Dame. Apparently, it did.

Do you have a little brother? Did you ever notice growing up that he was way more competitive with you than you were with him? Practicing foosball all day just so he could beat you, that sort of thing? Then gloating for a week after he finally did?

That's Purdue.