Trend Spottingposted by Scott Engler
So, while I agree Weis could have called better plays, the problems and solutions are usually more complicated. When you lose, everything about the coach annoys you. That's just the way it is. I've seen criticism of everything from Charlie's press conferences, to self-discipline to highlighting specific instances of over-enthusiasm.
When emotions take over, it really doesn't matter what's real or not and everything looks like a possible cause. What I try to do is look at the overall trends, because the day to day stuff usually leads to the wrong root cause conclusions.
Here's where we are compared to last year, with 2008 on the left and 2007 on the right.
Points Scored: 27.4 vs. 16.4
Total Offense: 385.4 vs. 242.3
Points Allowed: 20.9 vs. 28.8
Total Defense: 334.5 vs. 357.0
If your counting that's an 18.9 point per game swing and a 165.3 yards per game change from last year. ND is in the top 51 in every category and the SOS is 58th in the country. Our special teams are also markedly better (kudos to Polian who's taken a lot of heat here,) though last week's punt block was one of the plays that cost us the game.
None of this is great, but we have a completely different set of problems this year. These are the better problems to have and indicate a strong trend upward.
Last year, we'd fall behind early. This year we've held touchdown leads in every game, but Michigan State (which was a 6 point game in the 4th) and double digit leads in all but two of our games.
Pitt: 17-3Light years from 2007 as it should be. Performance is trending upward.
Recruiting is also sharply upward ranking in the top 5 overall over the past three years including last year's number one class.
There have been no major team mishaps and performance is on track with fan expectations as we polled NDNation (between 3 and 4 losses this year) at the beginning of the year.
All of the trends, from a program perspective are all upward. Now granted, this is after a disastrous 2007, but we confronted new territory in 2007. Everyone's sick of the "youth" excuse, but just because you're sick of it doesn't mean it's not a problem or valid.
As far as I can see, no coach has been in the same position (so few 4th and 5th year players) before (recent history) and performed at an elite level.
Here's my problem with the "I'm not buying the youth excuse anymore" logic... there's no benchmark for our position (few seniors and 5th year players) that I've seen. No team that anyone's looked at who's faced the same problem and been highly successful. So I can't say, with any amount of credibility, that our struggles are all coaching. They "appear" to be and if you remember, I was critical in Weis back in 05, but they always "appear to be" anytime you lose.
When you don't have senior depth at positions, there's a leadership problem and also a physical maturity problem. Bryant Young, Jim Flanigan, Oliver Gibson and Brian Hamilton, all USA Today All-Americans, didn't become better than average until their senior season. This is under Lou Holtz mind you (and I loved Lou.) Guys like Reggie Brooks and Clint Johnson didn't come into their own until their senior years.
Looking at our current roster, who would have pegged Bruton, McCarthy and Grimes (all two and three star players) as future starters and leaders?
They're leaders now, because they've grown physically and mentally and been developed. Now imagine if we had more seniors (hopefully along the line) and of higher quality. That's the norm.
Senior leadership matters a great deal. Talented senior leadership wins championships.
Now the question I have is, how much of our problems can be attributed to the ongoing youth problem?
The answer is... I have no idea because I have no valid comparison. And neither, to this point, does anyone else. In fact, we looked five years back and almost every top coach now was struggling then and many of the top coaches back then are struggling now or gone. So, I'm stuck with overall trends under Weis, which after a spike downward in 2007 are strongly upward at this time.
Do I believe we've got issues? Of course. I think our OL situation is still a major problem and we're one of the worst teams in the red zone. Think there's a correlation? I have no idea what our scheme is, but it's either not fooling anybody or not being executed well. Our defense (and we knew we'd have problems here) is a smorgasbord, but defense wasn't our biggest problem last Saturday. I have a lot of issues with this team.
But I haven't seen a coach in recent history win at a high level under these circumstances and with all of the trends upward, through gritted teeth, I'm going to give Charlie the benefit of the doubt.
I've seen Weis take us to two BCS games (and if we didn't draw OSU we likely would have been 10-2 in 2005... such is our bowl life.) If Charlie can go to a BCS and 9-3 with the talent we had in 2005, what's the real ceiling if we increase our talent level with a top 10, top 5 and number 1 class?
I'm not sold on Weis and no one should be. I'm probably more pessimistic than most (though that's changing,) but right now we don't know what we don't know, simply because no one's been in the position before and won at a high level.