Sunday, September 30, 2007

Goin' Back to Miami

I've written about odious comparisons before, and by the tone both in comments here and posts on NDN, the philosophy of going back to the previous coaching regime when discussing the current problems is wearing thin. I certainly understand that, and am probably reaching the saturation point on that myself. A wise man somewhere on the Internet said the current talent may explain that we're losing but doesn't explain how we're losing, and I see a goodly amount of truth in that. And the good news is next year, CW will have three fourths of the team as his players, so we can finally put the cupboard-bare conversations to bed.

Having said that, however, I'd like to try to get one more bucket out of that well.

Kayo, the co-author of Weis Cracks, is a smarter, more analytical person than I, and I've always copped freely to it (and can do so because I still have youth and good looks on my side). He and I have discussed what I call his "Miami theory" often, and he recently started posting on it on NDN. Because posts tend to be ephemeral, I wanted to make sure it was summarized and saved somewhere less temporary. So I've lent him the keyboard for this entry to talk about the parallels between ND of 2007 and the Miami team of 10 years ago. While it's not an iron-clad comparison, I find it thought-provoking at the very least.

Kayo, take it away.

My numbers may not be perfect, but they’re at least close…

When the NCAA penalized Miami in 1995 after the Pell Grant scandal and other illegal payments, they lost 24 scholarships over the next two years, knocking them down to 61 scholarships overall. That was the second harshest penalty the NCAA has ever levied after the SMU death penalty.

When Weis arrived, he inherited only 68 scholarship players. Now there are only eight scholarship players in the current senior class and 13 in the junior class. Had ND’s roster size been an NCAA penalty, it would have been the third harshest ever levied.

Except for Brady Quinn, the few players Miami was able to recruit were much better than those ND had in those two recruiting classes. Miami still attracted classes full of four- and five-star players who were recruited by other major programs, just not large classes of four- and five-star players.

The two classes preceding Weis' arrival lacked both quantity and quality, featuring few four- and five-star players. According to Tom Lemming in a South Bend Tribune article more than a year ago, “it looked like the staff at that time was resigned to battling Georgia Tech, Stanford, and Northwestern for players instead of going after the great ones.” Lemming also said, "The fact is that [these] last two classes were horrible and one more class like that would have been disastrous. Notre Dame would not have rebounded for years."

Butch Davis took the Miami program after the sanctions were levied and won eight games in each of his first two seasons. Then the scholarship reductions came home to roost, and Miami went 5-6 in Davis' third year, with the five wins against lowly teams.

The Hurricanes did not beat one team the caliber of the five Notre Dame has played so far this year. They started 1-4 in 1997, opening with a victory over Baylor (2-9 in 1997). They lost three in a row to Arizona State (9-3), Pittsburgh (6-6), and West Virginia (7-5). Then they were pummeled 47-0 by a good Florida State team (10-2). Miami rallied for three wins over poor teams - Boston College (4-7), Temple (3-8), and Arkansas State (2-9). Then it lost two of its last three, the losses to Virginia Tech (7-5) and Syracuse (9-4), the win over Rutgers (0-11).

Miami improved steadily in the subsequent seasons. It won nine games each of the next two years, contended for the championship at 11-1 in 2000 (Davis's last year), and won the championship in 2001 with the plethora of talent Davis left when he went to the Browns.

When it comes to his current junior and senior classes, Weis is in a similar situation to Davis’ third season. This isn’t the only reason the Irish are 0-5, but it’s a major factor. It’s reasonable to criticize Weis' management of such a young roster, but how many coaches ever had to deal with a roster so skewed to its freshman and sophomore classes?

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Anonymous Kevin said...

As I've indicated through other posts on NDN, I believe that our problems will prove to be transitory. This post ably supports that idea - thanks for providing it.

9/30/2007 04:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting comparison. The bottom line though is wins and losses. Nobody expected a great team this year. But one that was at least in the game should be expected. I truely believe that CW is the man for the Irish. After that first half vs. PU I am starting to believe that something is wrong with this program. Is is the coaching? The recruiting? The AD and Administration? I do not know? Next year will be the critical one for CW. He will have 3 years of hopefully Top 10 recruits. Somehow I feel this problem goes beyond TW and his last 2 recruiting seasons. I guess time will tell soon enough.

9/30/2007 08:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That still doesn't explain Charlie's questionable play calling decisions that we see in each game. For example the constant "pro style passing game" he forces the team to execute even though the talent to execute this is at a bare minimum. (with the exception of the Purdue game) With such depleted talent and a young team one would think that Weis would adapt his style to a style more in tune with his talent i.e. a ground orientated Ohio state style 45 rushes a game attack. There are at least 2 very good punishing RB's on this team in Aldrich and Hughes. It has been noted that it is easier for a young o-line to run block than pass block also. The idea of running the clock and keeping an undermanned defense off the field would help us win. Also if the past 2 weeks were "training camp" what did the team do during the spring and summer "training camp" don't get me wrong, we are in much better shape now that during the Davieham days, but I feel that if Charlie would show more adaptability and not be married to the passing game to the extent that he is we may have at least one win in the "W" column. Go Irish!!

9/30/2007 08:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Bobby Jones said...

Very well said on this piece. The Irish recruiting under Willingham was suspect and that is why he was let go. Unfortunately, the media fails to realize that. Coach Weis this season was saddled with a brutal schedule out of the shoot and a very young team. Progress has been made the last two weeks. If Notre Dame would have scheduled patsies like Middle Tennessee and Florida Atlantic, Rice or SMU then we would be talking about a 3-2 team and not an 0-5. This team is getting better and most with knowledge of this program knew this season may be rough.

9/30/2007 08:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that he does not have the experienced players but let's not forget that he is not an experienced college coach either. He hesitated in selecting his starting quarterback and I think he thought his young players were more fundamentally sound than they were. He is a very smart man and he wont make the same mistake twice. Next year the Irish will finish in the top twenty at a minimum.

10/01/2007 07:31:00 AM  
Blogger jim / Redondo Beach said...

I've said all along the Willingham has had his negative recruiting fingerprints all over this team's upperclassmen. Even more reason to give the vast majority of playing time now to sophomores and freshmen. So what if we win two games this year instead of three. That's the price of preparing for 2008, 2009 and 2010. It will also give current recruits the warm fuzzy feeling that they'll be able to come in and compete for playing time. Something winning programs cannot, with a straight face, promise.

10/01/2007 10:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This information is indeed interesting. But I don't think any of us doubted that we may end up with more losses than wins this year.

I think the thing that shocked us all was the "quality" of the losses. I know I'm not the first to express that idea.

The fact that Miami had losing records during those years may not be a good comparison unless they lost in similar fashion to the 2007 Irish.

10/01/2007 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger Pete O'Brien said...

Sorry but Kayo is reaching. This ND team is one of the worst 0-5 teams ever.

There are tons of problems.

I think the worst problem was demonstrated Saturday against Purdue: our defense doesn't seem to be the least interested in playing football.

I'm not sure what they are trying to do. Maybe it was ballroom dancing. Maybe they are trying to keep their uniforms clean to cut down on laundry expenses. Maybe they are just trying to get to know the other teams offensive players.

Every single play our lineman and linebackers auto concede 5 yards before engaging in a fierce patty-cake match with their lineman.

We don't blitz, stunt, curl. We do nothing to get to the passer. Painter had all day literally to throw the ball. My grandma could've made those throws in her wheelchair without her glasses.

Oh I forgot we did blitz on 2 consecutive plays to set up the infamous 3rd-and-29 conversion where our genius defensive coordinator decided to allow our players to rest instead.

I almost forgot how can I expect our defensive players to practice tackling and shedding blocks when they must spend so much time on their post-tackle-celebration jumps (coach included).

I think we should just play 11 defensive backs instead. Maybe once in a while our speed advantage may enable us to get a sack and slow the other team down or get around a lineman to tackle the ballcarrier. Our dline doesn't even take up space.

Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. Someone please point that out to our coaches.

10/01/2007 11:25:00 AM  
Blogger Ken said...

"Now there are only eight scholarship players in the current senior class and 13 in the junior class."

You guys always confuse me on this. I believe the junior class belongs to Charlie! The weakness of that class is a result of his selfishness and pride which prevented him form leaving his former job due to the rewards that were to follow. The day he signed with ND he should have been working for ND - FULL TIME!

In addition, we see just plain bad coaching over and over again. From extra points, to field goals, to punt returns (Zibby, catch the ball at the 11 please), to poor devensive alinements, to going for it on 4th down over and over again. It's like playing Texas Hold-em, when your low on chips you go all in on desperation. We seem to play the whole game that way and it is ALL Charlies fault!

Obviously, not a CW fan here - never have been!

10/01/2007 01:12:00 PM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

CW said from the get-go he was committed to the Patriots until the end of their season. I expect people to fulfill commitments like that, so I have no problem with him finishing the season with the Pats.

It's not like there was a parade of four- and five-star players lined up to commit to CW had he only come on the job sooner, and he was calling recruits as often as NCAA rules allowed anyway even during his time with the Pats. If he hadn't been doing anything for ND during that time, that might have been a factor, but he was doing things for them, as much as he could have been doing sitting in South Bend.

10/01/2007 01:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don B. ,
I don't know the exact date that CW
was hired, but I know it was at the
end of the season, and if you look
at next years class he already has
19 of the 26 recruits with verbals
before this season even started.
What was Ty doing that last year
when he should have had 72% of the
class already in line. That was an
impossible task to expect CW to
pull that class out of the ashes
in such a short period of time.

10/01/2007 02:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Utah Subway Alum said...

Pete O'Brien:

Harsh my friend...very harsh. Remember that CB is a first year defensive head coach. He wasn't coordinating a defense last year, he was only one cog in the defense for the Jets. I think the base scheme works and he will introduce more blitz packages as he gets his sea legs. Also, did you watch the first half? The only reason ND was in the game was because of the defensive stops that netted Purdue 3-point attempts. Your characterization of the D is off. They have played with heart and should not be judged on the occasional bad plays (3-29). They gave their all and finally the offense stepped up in the second. Now, if the offense would only start stepping it up in the first half...

As for the pass first offense, CW already has stated that when you get down 23 points in the first, it dictates your response in the second half. I thought he tried to run in the first, but had limited success. During the first, we got behind early and had to change game plans. It happens.

I like the direction the team is headed and was encouraged by Sat. second half effort.

10/01/2007 05:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Will said...

ken -
Have to say that you make a couple of good points with regards to: Going for it on 4th down, poor defensive alignments, and special teams errors. HOWEVER, to claim that the Junior class is Weis's fault is a really poor argument.

Let's put this in perspective: Today is October 1st, and ND already has 19 commitments. Most other schools have in the neighborhood of 8-10, but they've identified and been in constant contact with 20-25 other high school seniors, of which theyre hoping 10-12 of those will eventually commit. In other words, if someone was named head coach of a Division 1A program today, he would be at a significant disadvantage to put a recruiting class together.

Now think about this - Weis was named coach AFTER THANKSGIVING. You are actually going to attempt to make an argument that the Junior class is Charlie's class?

Everything else you have said lost credibility.

10/01/2007 07:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nobody expected this to be a great season, but the manner in which we've lost was certainly unexpected. This is especially true when you consider that ND has yet to play a good team.

Northwestern would trade their 85 scholarship players with Notre Dame's young men in a heartbeat. (Wasn't Bemenderfer on scholarship there?) Yet they gave Michigan a much better game than we did. Look at Illinois against Penn St, Virginia against Ga Tech...

I would venture to guess that most people are upset by the fact that:

+ We can't pick up a 3rd/4th and short to save our lives.

+ Special teams play has been overlooked

+ Our fundamentals are horrible (especially on the O-line and with the DBs), and have been so for two and a half years now

+ There's a difference between calling plays in the NFL and calling plays in college, and Charlie doesn't seem to want to adapt. (Misdirection? Something other than a run up the gut on 4th and short?)

Charlie isn't on the hot seat this year (unless he loses to Navy), but unless he proves over the next 7 games that he's capable of developing young talent, the seat will be mighty warm next season.

10/02/2007 08:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can excuse physical mistakes to a degree (missed tackle, dropped pass, mis-block). What really pains me is to watch a D-end give the quarterback a cheap shot to the face after the play is dead, or that same player to hit the runner while he's running out of bounds. Or missed extra points which I dont put in the category of physical mistakes because they are so fundamental. Its the stupid mental mistakes the really pain. I believe this goes back to the coach. Weis needs to figure out what he can do to make these players smarter and yet continue to play with the same intensity. Holtz seemed to have figured it out. I hope Weis can.

10/02/2007 10:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My world has been turned upside down this year. I was a huge believer in CW before the season started but now I have serious doubts that he’s the man that will return us to the promise land. No, I’m not one of these alums that simply gets worked up after a few losses. I’ve thought about this a lot (too much actually.) CW is a fantastic recruiter, and he has more help on the way, but there are real, serious issues with his coaching. His problems are glaring when there is a lack of talent and depth to cover them up. At some point are we going to be talking about how this team has so much talent that they are winning despite CW? Good coaching can’t always overcome a lack of talent or speed but bad coaching can ruin even the most talented of teams. All it takes is one bad game plan and you can kiss the NC goodbye. So far we’ve had five bad game plans. Fundamentals have not been taught. Special teams are horrific. In-game decisions are questionable at best. CW is a smart man. I just hope that he isn’t so arrogant that he isn’t willing to learn and adjust based on how this season turns out.

10/03/2007 08:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even during the 5-6 year of Butch Davis and Miami, they still scored offensively 314 points, or a total of about 26 points/game. ND is currently posting 9 points a game and the defense hasn't held any team to below 30 points.

This appears far more serious than Miami. Auburn has three true freshman on an OL that can beat Florida, ND has redshirt freshman or better on it's line but appears they haven't developed a skill set in the last year of coaching.

You could see progress with Butch with his players.

10/03/2007 09:47:00 AM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

True. However, as Kayo pointed out, (a) the upperclassmen in Miami's situation were still four- to five-star players, while ND's are not, and (b) Miami's overall schedule was not nearly as arduous as ND's has been so far.

Also, Auburn may have three frosh on the OL, but when the rest of your offense is fourth and fifth year players, you can cover up that weakness. The win against FL was done a lot more with their very-experienced defense than anything the offense did.

10/03/2007 09:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have faith, don't over-analyze the situation. Better days are down the road. REBUILDING is not pleasant but let's face it there are bright spots. Just keep tuning in on Saturdays and give the team encouragement, not discouragement!!!

Go Irish, onward to victory!!

10/03/2007 11:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am looking to 2009 instead of next year. This year and next we should see player development and continued strong recruiting on both sides of the ball. It is indeed important that the current freshman and sophmores don't get discouraged because they have great talent and it will show on the field as they mature. Go Irish!

10/03/2007 01:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great comparison to "the U" although it sickens me to a degree to compare my alma mater to that institution for any justification purposes. Since most everyone else discussed the youth and inexperience on O, I'd like to mention the issues on the other side of the ball. I realize the D is on the field an inordinant amount of the game due to ND's offensive woes, but the D needs to be addressed because there is experience on that side of the ball (Laws, Crum, Brockington, Wooden, Zibby, Lambert, Bruton). ND has allowed our last 7 opponents to score 30+ points games. Granted those games have included the likes of USC and LSU but I'm very concerned with the lack of a nasty streak on display. Defense is played with intensity and passion and I hope I'm not the only one that doesnt see that out of anyone on D. There are no visible signs from the D that indicate they have a "take no prisoners" mentality. It appears that no one pounding his chest, pumping up the crowd/teammates, butting helmets with teammates, screaming etc. And for the love of God, will our DBs ever turn their head around to find the football on a go route. We need a mean streak on D and 11 guys that want to stick people (see: Chris Zorich and Michael Stonebreaker for those who remember them) and more physical play on the outside vs. WRs. Looking forward to seeing continued progress this year and next year with CW's top 10 recruiting classes. Watch out in '09. Stay positive (although there is not much reason this year), better days are ahead. CW and CB will adapt, they have to or else...GO IRISH!

10/03/2007 05:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's all about the coaching at this point. CW has been HC for 3 years and I haven't seen much development in his players. True Brady improved but he was going to get better by virtue of his experience the previous 2 years. I'm disappointed that CW has not developed the talent that he has. Coach Pagna pointed out a number of times that when it's third/fourth and a yard you don't hand off to a back who's 5-7 yards deep. I can't understand why CW doesn't see this on the films--is it arrogance, I know he's not stupid. Just a frustrating years for us all. For me CW does not get a by fromthis year year forward!

10/06/2007 10:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone explain to the writer that the comparison from Miami to ND is assinine. What Weis walked into is exactly what every coach walks into on a new job. Players leave the school every single year and therefore you have a reduction in the amount of scholarship players. The coach then recruits players to be on scholarship just like Weis did and bingo, you're back to 85 players again (just like Weis did).

Sorry if I sound like I'm teaching people that have never heard of this before but the writer of this blog obviously hasn't. This is the lamest crap I think I've ever read. No wonder people hate ND and its fans so much.

10/10/2007 07:59:00 AM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

Sorry, "Anonymous", but you're incorrect.

The reason ND is short on scholarship players this season is TW continually giving out less than the maximum allowed rides every year, and giving scholarships to three- and two-star athletes when he did.

Charlie Weis has pretty much maxed out in each of his classes, including early-entry athletes, and is still 10 scholarship players short of the max allowed. Think that extra depth might make a difference, especially on the OL where we can barely fill a two-deep?

Weis can only give 25 per class, so he can't make up the difference as quickly as we'd like. He was able to take 28 his first year because of the early entrants, but otherwise, he's restricted like any other coach. I believe next year, we'll be back at the 85 limit (for the first time in a few years).

Sorry if I sound like I'm teaching people that have never heard of this before but the writer of that comment obviously hasn't.

10/10/2007 08:19:00 AM  

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