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9.1 - Pleasing the Gods

Charlie Weis exorcised one of the few mistakes he's made since coming to Notre Dame (other than not providing me a sideline pass) by moving out of the House that Roob built. I was filled with horror upon learning Weis messed with the Karma of Irish football Gods by taking up residence in Bob Davie's old house.

I imagined the ghosts of Davie past trying to get into the Robot Genius's inner workings - attempting to short circuit his motherboard. That has been rectified. Weis has moved on and I am suddenly more confident about this season. Among the other tidbits gleaned from his latest press conference:

Turk is day to day.

Ferrine is out for this game.

Frome and Talley are 1 and 1a at defensive end.

Springsteen and Bon Jovi were played at practice to simulate game day noise situations. Half the players were probably like: who?

Finally, Weis sent a strong message to his players: there's no free fride. Despite having four open slots for travel, Weis is only filling one spot.

I still have room for 3 more, but 3 more didn’t warrant going. So I’m not taking
them.

As you read this, Weis will have already made countless calls to recruits:

Tomorrow's the first day I can start making phone calls... because of time zones i think the first one they have me making is at 7 or 715, so I'll be making one every 15 minutes for quite some time tomorrow.

No tee time?

And offers will have gone out to juniors. The player most expected to get offered is Chicago's Steve Filer, a man-child linebacker prospect. But Weis says not to expect a lot of early offers:

If you make a mistake on a guy two years early that's a major mistake. You better have a lot of evidence and sometimes watching tape is not enough. What some programs do is they offer a whole bunch of them and whatever guys they get to say yes, that's the ones they take. If we offer a guy, it's because we want'em to say yes.



Weis not only "gets" Notre Dame, but he's creating an aura around the program. As for Saturday, I keep running best and worst case scenarios through my head.

Worst: Atlanta is buzzing. They're convinced this is the upset game of week and they're going to take out the Irish like they did Auburn and Miami. Expect Bobby Dodd stadium to be electric at night. Ball is the kind of quarterback that gives Notre Dame fits, Calvin Johnson is a future 1st rounder and running back Tashard Choice was wanted by everyone in the country. GTech also has a very strong defensive line. If Notre Dame commits turnovers they could easily lose this game. Turnovers are the single most important variable in most games. Worst: GTech 34-31.

Best: Atlanta is buzzing. Big deal. Notre Dame is not Auburn. Bobby Dodd stadium intimidates nobody. Ball is below a 50% passer. If Notre Dame defensive line dominates the LOS and we can cover even marginally better than last year and Brady rolls with no turnovers, then, of course, Notre Dame opens big. Best: Notre Dame 49-14.

Somewhere in between lies reality. I'd actually like to see ND open up with a closer game than many here expect. Remember, Vegas is moving against the Irish. This all tempers my final prediction, which is: Irish by a touchdown.

Looking for a place to watch the game: check out our gamewatch board.

~ The Rock

8.31 - To The Booth

The biggest surprise of the pre-season came last night when Charlie Weis announced that Rick Minter will be calling plays from the booth and defensive backs coach Bill Lewis will be on the sideline. Lewis said he'll now be the one communicating directly with the defensive backs and tying their coverage to the linebackers.

This is an interesting move and may play to Minter's strength as a strategist and Lewis's experience in the secondary. Yet another sign that Charlie will not stand for defensive lapses and is willing to take measured moves to improve. The one thing I've stopped doing with Charlie is wondering whether his moves are ill-considered. They may be wrong in the end, but it won't be because he hasn't taken into account all the possible permutations both negative and positive.

I get they feeling he's a good Rocks, Papers, Scissors guy specifically because he studies their tendencies. Seems to me that this switch is more evidence of a "putting guys in their best place to succeed" policy.

NDNation seems pretty confident, here's a rundown of some of the more "interesting" predictions on NDNation.com:

105MARQUETTE: Irish Catholics will defeat Bible-believing patriots like George O'Leary 38 to 14
84DAVID: Much better offense than Utah will defeat Calvin can't throw it to it to himself 48 to 18
AKARONMEXICO: Fish eating Catholics will defeat Fish throwing Rednecks 42 to 17
ALUMNI79: Charlie's Orkin Men will defeat Striped Insects 35 to 17
BACCHUS: ND will defeat Pitt---er---I mean Georgia Tech 42 to 21
BEATPS0607: Rudy's team will defeat Rudy's favorite team 42 to 22
BOBK: Coach Lewis' New team will defeat Coach Lewis' Old Team 34 to 24
BRUNO95: Catholic Freedom Fighters will defeat MLK's Jailors 34 to 17
CARTWRIGHT: School that's never won by 222 will defeat a helluva mediocre team 38 to 17
CBIEBEL: Mackeral Snapping Anarchists will defeat Mackeral Throwers 35 to 10
CELTICCROSS: Glo Worm Lounge will defeat Gold Club 37 to 13
CHUCK_LANZA: Charlie's Nasty Bastards will defeat Fish Pitchers 45 to 24
CUCAMONGAIRISH: God's Chosen University will defeat Ass Clowns on Crack 34 to 21
CUZTEAHAN: One Down, Eleven To Go will defeat Jefferson Davis' Mackeral Tossing Jamboree Band 37 to 17
DAVIEHAMSUFFERER97: Golden Dome Warrior-poets will defeat Cousins of the Bee-Man 45 to 17
DILLONFIGHTSONG: Charlie's Super Bowl Rings will defeat O'Leary's Resume 27 to 13
FIGHTINAMISH: Mackeral Snapping Anarchists will defeat I Built a Robot Girlfriend 38 to 24
GMURPHY: The Papist northern sons of General Sherman will defeat the [insert tasteful nickname]s 42 to 10
GOLDENCHILD: Fighting Irish will defeat Vespula squamosa 31 to 13
GOND570: Shark Outshines Johnson will win 38 to 21
GOONSQUAD: Papist Horde will defeat Ball Throws Fish, Falls Incomplete 42 to 20
GOZER: Northern drunks will defeat Southern drunks 49 to 3
IRISHGUARD: Theologically Sound Exegesis will defeat Crass Literalism 35 to 21
IRISHINSCRANTON: Gaelic Pugilists will defeat The Fish Throwers 42 to 16
IRISHLAW07: Piscivore Papists will defeat Fish-Slingers 38 to 17
IRISHTHRASHER: The NFL was happy to see our coach leave will defeat The NFL was sad to JAKAM31: 64.9% Completions will defeat 64.9% Incompletions 34 to 17
JB: Wedontcareifyoudontlikeus will defeat ramblin' wrecK aKa the yellow jacKets 31 to 21
JOE07: Whiskey drinkers will defeat Fish tossers 45 to 17
JOHN88: In a remake of a Chinese classic movie Charlie will defeat Chan 41 to 16
JOHNTHEBAPTIST: Holier than thous will defeat Beekeepers 31 to 21
JPH: Mackeral Snappers will defeat OLeary's leftovers 33 to 24
JRAN: Catholic Jihad will defeat Engineering Infidels 42 to 21
KELLEYCOOK: Our 'unfast' defense will defeat the idiocacy of the media's groupthink 58 to 0
MINTIRISH: Rudy was barely good enough to be a walk-on will defeat O-line was bad enough to let rudy sack
the QB 38 to 14
NDDL99: The #3 ranked football team will defeat The #3 ranked wide receiver 35 to 17
NDSAX707: The North will defeat The South...again 40 to 22
OITLINEBACKER: The second string will score some points will defeat Can only score against the second string 45 to 10
OLDGOLD: Charlie Chan matchup no mystery: will defeat You throw fishes, we pinch loaves on you. 38 to 20
PHLSPHR: Am I the only 1 with the balls to predict ND will defeat the Wreck with a SHUT OUT? 35 to 0
PMCDND96: Quinn's Heisman Express will defeat some irrelevant school that thinks it's important 37
to 14
PMOOSE: Win 1 (of 13) will defeat Our Engineering school is ranked ahead of yours... 42 to 20
ROSSJAR: Civil War will defeat The War of Northern Aggression 38 to 16
SEE: Is this really a NC run? will defeat We've got geekier student body than ND 41 to 28
SHOBERT: Dorsey Levens North will defeat Dorsey Levens South 41 to 17
SONOFND: Our Holy Mother the Church will defeat Couldn't Block Rudy 45 to 17
TCIRISH03: Streams of Whiskey Flowing will defeat Bottles of Whiskey Throwing 38 to 13
THECONTRARIAN: Whore of Babylon will defeat Hotlanta '06 34 to 31
THERC: Weis Defenders Of The Faith will defeat The foul creatures that kille Mac in My Girl 38 to 20
TONY: Charlie's Army will defeat The Chan Gailey Ballsquad 27 to 21
TONYBULLETS: Omega-3 All Stars will defeat Evan Williams and the Tuna Chuckers 41 to 13
UGOIRISH: Scalawag Papist Carpetbaggers will defeat Southern Fried Geeks 38 to 14
WEISENHEIMER: Fighting Irish will defeat Helluva Engineer, Kinda Average Football Player 31 to 21
WTF: Travis T and the Irish will defeat Sweet Tea swillin' Tech 34 to 17

Speaking of predictions, be sure to post any predictions you see or hear by a scribe or talking head here. We're going to keep track of their outlandish predictions and rambling inanity for an article later in the year.

~ The Rock

8.28 - The Invincibles

I love to pick through the trash of forgotten players and find the guys that will prove everyone wrong. Whenever a player doesn't meet fans' expectations the collective we immediately figures out a reason why that player will never be good. It's like a Three Bears' fan parody:

This one's too slow. This one's too small. That one's too big. Another doesn't have heart. He ain't tough enough.

Most of the time, like analysts speculating about what's wrong with Notre Dame football, those rationalizations are dead wrong.

Now, there is that Louism that if a dog is going to bite you he's going to do it as a pup, but that don't make a whole lot of sense given that Holtz players like Reggie Brooks, Frank Stams and Ray Zellers didn't come into their own until their upper class years.

Me thinks that's Lou motivation.

Regardless, it's time to pick The Invicibles for 2006. Last year I tabbed Corey Mays (too slow,) Stovall (too soft,) Wooden (too soft) and Powers-Neal (too slow) as my dark horse picks. Overall, they came through. This year it's much harder because we're returning so many players -- but I'll take a stab anyhow.

On defense I have to go with Travis Thomas, who took one for the team in giving up his dream to play running back. When the move to LB was being discussed the nattering nabobs said "he couldn't learn the defense in such a short time period," "he wasn't big enough" and that "he hadn't played the position in college." Hogwash. I think Travis will become defensive leader by midseason. He's tough, he's fast and he loves the game. Oh, and he seems to have that instinct thing.

Staying on defense, I was tempted to pick Landri, but I think a lot of people are, so I'm going to go with defensive whipping boy Chinedum Ndukwe. Now I understand he was beaten and out of position much of last year, but he was also 20 pounds overweight for his position and in a brand new system that wasn't generating a pass rush. This year he's svelte, still as tough and is playing in a secondary that I think will be very good. Nedu will be a surprise player this year and an NFL pick.

On offense, I'm going with Bob Morton. As many of you know his father recently passed away. Here are Bob's words:

"Another thing is not to mistake my sorrow at times for weakness. That would be
a very big mistake. Because of my dad passing, I could use an event like this as
motivation to continue forward and press on instead of a distraction on what
needs to be done."
I was going to pick Morton anyway since he's the forgotten one on the OL, but now I'm going to pull for him on every play.

Finally, I'm reaching deep down the depth chart to pick Chase Anastacio. Yeah, he won't get much PT compared to the starting stars, but Chase has battled injuries, a lot of negativity and apparently some time in the dog house to come back and make the two deep. He may not be a star on this team, but Matt Shelton wasn't either and he's getting an NFL paycheck.

I'll take one more for special teams this year: Geoffrey Price. Price has one of the strongest legs in the country, but has punted like Wild Thing threw in "Major League." He's worked with Hunter "The Punter" Smith in the offseason and is punting much more consistently (and booming them.)

There you go, The Invincibles 2006: Thomas, Nedu, Morton, Anastacio and Price. These are the kind of players any team needs to have breakout years if its going to run the table. This year's Invincibles are a little more heart than head and I really, really wanted to go with Leitko as well, but there's only so much room.

On another subject, I think it's hysterical that Bob Davie is now kissing Charlie's butt . Davie has the conviction of a weather vane. Which way is the wind blowing this week, Bob?

"He's great," former Irish coach Bob Davie said. "There needs to be a degree of
arrogance when you're the head coach at Notre Dame. You need to step up and say, 'Look, I'm running this, and nobody else has a vote.' (Notre Dame has) taken on a whole different personality than it was. That's what they wanted, and now they have it."
BTW, ndnoldtown unearthed this Davie/Paterno factoid. Between 1997 and 2004 the Davieham Record is 56-41, the Paterno Record? 54-42.

Obviously legends in the making.

Don't know if you caught it this weekend, but South Carolina stud cornerback Gary Gray told a national audience he was 60-40 Notre Dame over USCg. And he said that in front of South Carolina fans. He would be a huge get.

MSNBC did a light, but still enlightening comparison of Brady vs. Brady . Among the not so shocking findings: arm strength is a necessary asset, but nowhere near the most important factor in determining quarterback success.

"You can have the strongest arm in the world," Weis said while with the
Patriots, "but what does it matter if you don't know how to use it? You've
got to have touch. You've got to understand what we want to get done on
offense."
There are many incredibly strong armed passers with desk jobs. If they're not well coached, don't have touch, don't understand an offense or don't make good decisions, it doesn't matter if they can throw it through brick. For example, Zbikowski and Samardzija both claim to have stronger arms than Brady Quinn. The bottom line is that a quarterback has to have the arm strength to make all of the necessary throws, after that there is a quickly diminishing rate of return on arm strength and an increasing rate of return on smarts.

Here's what Weis wants to hear Saturday night, silence.

"The best part of going on the road is when there's three minutes to go in the game and the fans are starting to leave. All your fans get behind your bench and they're only fans you hear. Those fans that were screaming at you for the first three quarters that are heading for the exits, there's no better feeling than that. When you try to paint that picture in their mind, you're trying to get them thinking that this is the highlight of going on the road." - Charlie Weis

Here's to the sounds... of silence.

~ The Rock

8.25 - Nine Frosh Make The Two Deep

Notre Dame released the two-deep for the season opener against Georgia Tech. Probably the biggest news is that freshman man-child Sam Young will start at right tackle and Paul Duncan is listed in the second spot. Here's what Weis had to say about the moves (from IE transcript:)

“What I did is I put Sam Young and (Paul) Duncan; I put Sam Young first and Duncan second. That’s another one that is too close to call. Offensive line play has to be one of cohesion and I don’t think you can not try to put in guys that you expect to play together. What we’ve been able to do this week, because there is an extra week, we’ve been able to utilize Brian Mattes at several different positions – he’s played left guard, he’s played left tackle, he’s played right guard and right tackle – the only position he hasn’t played is center and I’m talking with the first group. So what that has allowed us to do, say if Sully is out, Mattes goes to right guard and Bob Morton bumps into center. In reality, Morton who is our right guard is our backup center."

Ronald Talley will start the season at first team DE in front of Chris Frome.

"Whether I’m listing Talley first, Frome second, I can see both those guys playing an equal number of reps in the game because I have a lot of confidence in them."

And Carl Gioia begins the season as the starting kicker.

“That one is kind of close to call right now, but if I were kicking in a game today, (Carl) Gioia would kick field goals and (Bobby) Renkes would kickoff."

Among the few surprises, Chase Anastacio and George West will start out in the fourth receiver spot.

"I don’t know if you know much about Chase, he’s very fast and that’s why he has been very productive on special teams. He has been waiting his turn to play wide receiver but, as I told you the first day, he’ll be one of those guys that will be out a week or two, but once he started practicing his level of experience ended up. "

In fact, nine Freshmen are sprinkled throughout the depth a chart, a sign that Weis is sticking to his philosophy of playing the best kid regardless of year. Munir Prince starts the season as Darius Walker's backup, though Thomas will be shifted back if Walker gets hurt. Frosh McNeil and Walls both made the two-deep at cornerback. Torryn Smith is Crum's backup at middle linebacker. Eric Olsen and John Ryan also made the two-deep at LG and LDE.

Said Weis about the moves:


"You’re looking for guys to supplement what you have, and you are also looking for guys to supplant what you have. So you have to look at it in both terms, both as supplement and supplant. I think in this case, you’re going to have guys who in most cases are going to supplement the roster and fill in some glaring holes that we had. And in other cases people will take it to another level and supplant some guys; whether it be supplant them on the second team or supplant them on the first team. "

Of course the biggest news is that we can finally write about football.

Here's your two deep:

OFFENSEDEFENSE
QBQuinn
Sharpley
LDEAbiamiri
Ryan or
J. Brown
RBWalker
(T. Thomas)
Prince
LDTLaws
Leitko
FBSchwapp
McConnell
RDTLandri
Kuntz
ZSamardzija
Grimes
RDETalley
Frome
XMcKnight
Anastasio
West
SLBM.Thomas
Vernaglia
TECarlson
Freeman
MLBCrum
T. Smith
RTYoung
Duncan
WLBT. Thomas
Brockington
RGMorton
Mattes
LCWooden
Walls
CSullivan
(Morton)
Chervanick
SSZbikowski
Herring
LGSantucci
Olsen
FSNdukwe
McCarthy or
Bruton
LTHarris
Turkovich
RCRichardson
Lambert or
McNeil
SPECIALISTS
LSJansen
Duncan
PRZbikowski
Grimes
West
PPrice
Renkes
KRGrimes
West

PKGioa
Burkhart
KORenkes
Burkhart
H

Samardzija
Sharpley


Line of the day goes to the SBT's Jason Kelly:

Speaking of remembering the past, it shouldn't take a historian to remind fans how fast success can evaporate. This time three years ago, the love for Tyrone Willingham was just as intense. "Don't even go there. Weis and Willingham have as much in common as Tiger Woods and someone who never made a competitive putt that didn't go through a clown's mouth."

Finally, Bob Morton's father passed away from stomach cancer. He was a great guy known to many on NDN.

~ The Rock

8.24 - The Latest Scandal That Wasn't

Tommy Zbikowski will not miss a beat, a game or a down for innocently appearing in promos this summer for a local sports show. A writer at the Ft. Wayne J-G turned the Irish in to the NCAA on the suspicion that appearing in the promo could be an NCAA violation. The story appeared on national web sites, but no one who investigated the incident expected anything to come of it and as predicted, nothing will. Weis gave this brief statement:

"I appreciate the fact this was handled in an expeditious manner by the NCAA as well as our compliance and sports information departments. I¹m glad we have a resolution to this situation and I look forward to continuing our preparation for Georgia Tech."

End of story. And if you didn't get it, the headline is dripping sarcasm.

Ironically, Weis was all over the news today and I just want to hug the stuffing outta the big lug. Think back to the people who made you better in your life. Were they more concerned about making you the best you could be or being liked? Weis is in the former category and I've always liked and respected those people in my life much more in the long run. Just listen to his former players talk about him and you'll get it loud and clear.

Apparently there are some big alum who didn't get to shake his hand or campus admin types who didn't get a hello in the hallway and are upset with Weis. One coward, as Kabong noted, even fueled a negative story about Weis. I write this because Weis was asked about that story and some Alum not being happy with his availability or his gruffness today. Weis's response (paraphrase): I'm trying to do what you hired me for, build a winner, graduate players and recruit well enough to build a consistent winner and not a one year wonder. If I were doing more appearances I wouldn't be doing what you hired me for to the best of my abilities.
Memo to the affronted: Just possibly, he has other things on his mind. Weis is used to working with tunnel vision in a virtual compound and if his success at New England is any indication, that's exactly how you want him. I know when I'm working hard on something I'm thinking about my next move even while I walk the hallway and people are just a distraction to my thinking at that point. I would imagine that's Weis 10x. Let me remind you that you had hall greeters, backslappers and low handicappers in Ty and Bob.

How'd that work for you?

Exactly.

Amazing that some are worried about themselves and their personal needs to be recognized and acknowledged. Your appreciation is shown in on the field performance.

Among the nuggets of information gleaned from the interviews: Weis believes we're better on both sides of the ball this year, but also thinks that the road will be tougher because we're a marked team. He also vowed to defend the integrity of the football program against media slams.

Here's a summary from cousin eddie on Weis's appearance on Rome:

Are demands on time from alumni/others distracting?
People might take it as arrogant or obnoxious when "alls I'm trying to do" is be the football coach. I think I should be worrying about quarterbacks, running backs, line backers, kickers, etc.

Player development?
Don't let the players figure out what they need to do; it's the coach's job to ID the buttons that need to be pushed to get the player to a higher level.

Miss NFL?
Doesn't miss anything about the pro game except some of the people. Enjoys watching NFL on Sunday, making recruiting calls and second guessing some of the calls that he sees on TV.

How improved is defense?
Faster, 9 returners, 2-deep returns for the secondary. LB is big question because only one returning. Likes speed of defense. Just spoke to D-line guy about the lack of respect for the defense. They take that as a challenge. Know the team isn't ranked #2 because of the defense.

Why move Thomas?
Thomas moved to LB because he needed more speed.

ND what you expected?
So far so good at ND. Won't be able to answer question for 10 years.

Worried about expectations?
Answer: what top program doesn't enter the season expecting to win it all? Have to go in expecting to win every game.

Will never go into a game expecting to lose. Always going in expecting to win the next game.

When is the last time you entered a game thinking "our best isn't good enough to win this?"
Answer: NEVER. Look at Super Bowl 36.


Boomer80 saw Charlie in person and had this to say:

Just dropped my son off in the Holy Land to start his freshman year. Charlie addressed freshmen and parents in the JACC; told them that ND was about excellence and ND folks need apologize no longer for having high expectations! That drew an immediate reaction from everybody - cheers and applause! He also pointed out that for these freshmen, their very first ND game will be the one that is more requested than any other in the school's history. And he wished everybody well in the victory party over Penn State.

The pride and excitement that guys exudes has me counting the days on the calendar!!! It's so great to have a real coach again!

8.22 - Here Comes The Irish... Defense?

The Rock notes with amusement the plethora of prognostic vacillators trying to get a foothold on the defensive resurgence bandwagon. If I had to guess (and I do) I'd predict Notre Dame will finish in the top 30 defensively. Couple that with a top 10 offense and Notre Dame should at least be contending for a title. Additionally, the feel good story of comeback defensive lineman Travis Leitko is almost complete as Weis has put him back on scholarship. Mel Kiper actually included ND in his top 5 defenses, but I think he's referring to likely draftees. That written, the title of this article doesn't refer to defensive play, but defensive recruiting.

Everyone's focused on the top offensive players and with Weis we can expect to land them every year, but Notre Dame is poised to score some huge recruiting wins on the defensive side of the ball. From the line to the secondary, Notre Dame could land its best talent since the late 80s.

Tennessee linebacker Chris Donald is 'da bomb' in ESPN parlance and he'll choose between Notre Dame and Tennessee. He's big, fast and loves to hit. Only Chris Gallippo's video rivals Donald's among linebackers this year and Donald might be the Irish's highest ranked LB recruit since... CPA?

"He plays the game with a love and passion for contact. He is an explosive tackler. He accelerates through the ball carrier, which is a tremendous trait for a defensive player. Donald takes short, choppy, quick steps to the football, and then explodes into the ball carrier. Yet he also can sprint across the field and pursue like a heat-seeking missile."

Westview head coach Don Coady picked an easy way to describe a player of Donald's talents. "Coaches call them 'freaks,'" said Coady. "They're not supposed to be that big, that fast and that athletic. But Donald is that big at 6-3, 220 with a frame capable of holding an extra 20 pounds once he gets into a college strength-training program. Donald is that fast. He recently ran the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds. Donald is that athletic. Simply put, Donald has talent possessed by only a select few," says Marley."He's like anybody at the elite level - he's not like everyone else," said Marley. "He can just do things other people can't."

Don't believe us? Decide for yourself:

But Donald isn't the only top linebacker the Irish are after. Illinois prospect Martez Wilson is also described as a freak athlete and he has had the Irish at one or near one since the recruiting process started.

On the defensive line Ohio's Ben Martin has the Irish in his top two with Ohio State.

"Ben Martin is the best defensive end prospect I have ever seen in Ohio," said Duane Long, in his 10th year as a Midwest football recruiting evaluator for Scout.com. "If there is a better defensive end in the country," Long said, "I need to see him."

But it's the middle the of the Irish defensive line most fans are rightly worrie about. Not only has Notre Dame failed to recruit any depth or star players the past few years, but the starting corps will be gone. The Irish need to land at least two players who are ready to play right away and they may have found one in Will Blackwell out of Louisiania. Blackwell is up for top lineman in the state and is a top ten recruit. Joseph Barksdale has Notre Dame back in his top list. Florida stud DL Ian Williams has the Irish in his top two and I'm still not counting out the Irish for Marvin Austin the spectacular defensive lineman from D.C. He's had his eyes on Miami, but he was an early Irish lean and those players usually return to the schools they connect with and Miami is a program in transition. Plus, he's looking for publicity and playing opportunity, two things the Irish have in excess supply.

Finally, there's Gary Gray. The number two ranked cornerback in the country decommitted from South Carolina to take his mother to Notre Dame. He and Ronald Johnson may be the best cornerbacks in the country this year.

The Irish just haven't been in on a group of 'five-star -- can't miss' players such as these since the 1980s and they're running either one or two for all of the above players (except Austin) and stories like Leitko's can only help. Most recruits seem to make decisions based on everything working out perfectly in their NFL dreams, but the reality is that almost every player, no matter how good, is going to have to overcome obstacles, injury and periods of failure. Notre Dame's track record of graduating its players and its support network -- don't hurt.

If Notre Dame can land a good portion of these recruitings, then coupled with dark horse recruits, Notre Dame's defense won't just poised to make a run at the top this year, but in the coming years as well.

Here Come The Irish!

~ The Rock

8.21 - Hold Me, I'm a Skunkbear

I swear, I wasn't going to post about Michigan again, but... they won't let me stop. David Letterman never had material this good. Last week I highlighted former Michigan football players and students complaining about their underachieving coach, Michigan's embarrassing minority graduation gap on its football team and, of course, Llloyd Carr on the hot seat and they just wouldn't let it drop.

Look, it's not me. Every major publication following college football that's looked at coaches on the hot seat has mentioned Llloyd Carr. Every one. Michigan fans talk about it openly. Now, Llloyd and Bo (that just sounds funny to me) had the perfect opportunity to quell such speculation -- instead Llloyd's doublespeak just made him seem dishonest, "I tell them that there's as good a chance that I will be here in four years as there is of any other coach saying he'll be at the same school in four years." How comforting.

Uh, hum.

You know exactly what you're going to do, Llloyd. Just say you're going to be at Michigan in four years. If it's true... say it. Three-Loss Llloyd and Bo huffed and puffed for an entire article meant to squelch the rumors but just danced around the issue like (skunk)bears in the third circus ring. All they needed was one sentence. I'll even write it: "I will be at Michigan in four years." Instead he chose the obfuscation approach.


Michigan Live had a similar reaction and wrote this about Carr, "With the recent talk by Lloyd Carr about retiring, I think it is appropriate for Lloyd Carr to consider his own advice. If he is considering retirement, he should pull the cord and leave."

ML then went on to list possible replacements.

Charlie Weis has been very straightforward about his future, but Lloyd is keeping his options open. Though if this
fan nutball is any indication, he may not have many options left especially after losing two if his biggest recruits from his own back yard. The level of adolescent angst in this GoBlueSkunkbear article is hysterical. Michigan fans are teetering on meltdown (if it hasn't already begun.)

Suffice to say it's real which is why, as a Michgian fan, Sept. 16 is the day of reckoning. Nothing matters before and nothing will really matter after. Michigan MUST win that game. And let me be clear - while a repeat of 38-0 would be welcome, I'll take a 2-0 win, or a 49-48 win - I don't care how it comes about just as long as U-M is the victor.

If Michigan loses again to the Irish I will cease to care. It won't matter if it's the only loss of the year. It won't matter if the Wolverines go into Columbus and knock off a No. 1 Ohio State. I don't care if you hate me for not caring, nothing will matter for me as a Michigan football fan if Michigan, and me, are not in glorious celebration on the evening of Sept. 16. I want to hear echos of "Henne to Mannigham for yet another score; Hart is again off to the races; Branch nearly decapitated Quinn."

Moreso, I do not want to experience the depression of watching Michigan hold a two-score lead, only to become Potsie and suffer through ND scoring 28 second-half points, as they did in 2004. I want the Wolverines to pour it on until the end - first-team on the field even if up by 50. I don't care about poor sportsmanship, I want to see the Bill Gates, "it's not enough to win, I want the other guy to lose," attitude. Do not "sit on it" Coach, destroy them. However, if you win by a point at the last-second, I will love you just the same. I want Michigan to win; I want Notre Dame to be humiliated, but will happily accept ND being humbled.

Now, I understand that the coaching staff is looking at the Vanderbilt and Central Michgian games. They are preparing their players to face two Division 1-A football teams and they need to be ready to play. But if Lloyd Carr and Co., don't have a bullseye on Sept. 16, and I don't know whether they do or not, but if they don't I can't imagine what the thinking process is inside the Fort. A 1-4 record against Notre Dame over the last five years is unthinkable and unacceptable. U-M is 9-0 against Penn State - one of the premier programs in college football. I want that same magic against ND.

If Michigan comes out of South Bend 3-0 and proceeds to tank the rest of the season, I will still smile and return next season for more. If they lose, I will find another activity for my fall Saturdays. Somehow I feel I'm not alone.

The 2006 college football season begins and ends on Sept. 16.

Truly remarkable that anyone would want that printed. Even more remarkable that he can't spell Michigan. But it highlights what this series means to the Skunks, even though they try to downplay its importance. With Big Bo and Llloyd constantly trying to get out of playing Notre Dame, another loss to ND might get rid of Lloyd and the series.

Now understand, I think Michigan will be the toughest game on Notre Dame's schedule this year. The Skunks are deep and talented. And while no team wastes more talent than Michigan and they'll get their three losses again, they are more than capable of beating the Irish this year.

Of course, you wouldn't know it by their fan base.

Just couldn't resist.

~ The Rock

8.10 - Right, Wrong, Accountability and Michigan

Travis Thomas ain't goin' nowhere according to Charlie Weis: “I’d be surprised of turning back at this point,” Weis said. “At this point I’m not in any big rush to pull him back over there.”

So there you have it... Notre Dame will have its most athletic LB corps possibly in history this year if the Thomas-Crum-Thomas trifecta holds. As covered here before, I think it's a great move that may pay dividends next year as well.

And major Kudos to Weis for taking a stand on smear reporting. About time. A few hairpullers attempted some strange sort of retribution, but in keeping with the theme, not one even bothered to read the articles in question, which is kind of funny in that sad-funny way.

Shame on the SBT's Bill Bilinski for not examing his own writers work in addressing the issue again on 8.9. He certainly would have gained more credibility in the eyes of readers if he and his paper owned up to the laughable Google example or in presenting completely unbalanced points of view. He never even bothered to address his own paper's obvious twisting of facts in an attempt to create a "series." That the authors defend their writing as issue oriented is insulting to anyone with a base level of intelligence. How many "issues" are there really in covering a local college football team? In Carroll's case this is simply code and cover for muckraking. There really just aren't any big issues right now (other than positive ones,) so they created a negative issue that didn't exist and defended themselves by saying that's the kind of writing they want to do. Circular reasoning 101. If there aren't warning signals shooting up everywhere, then no one's paying attention. What's the next issue to be concocted at the SBT? Perhaps posters' idea of staging a boycott of SBT advertisers has merit. As they say, voting with the pocketbook is the ultimate form of free speech.

Here's the bottom line. Charlie Weis has brought accountability to Notre Dame. Kids must go to class or they're in Charlie's office early in the morning -- a fate worse than... just about anything. Assistant coaches can't excuse their breakdowns, they must produce. Players must show up at practice and work. And reporters can't pen lazy, hatchet jobs designed to sell papers and make reputations without repurcussions. Charlie himself set the standard by calling himself out after losses. The result has been winning, the highest GPA in team history, a slew of feel good stories from Pass Right to the Navy salute and a renewed commitment all around to excellence. Of course, such changes bring wailing and gnashing of teeth from those who don't meet that standard. That's good. It's a sign that it's working. Eventually lazy, agenda driven "issue" hacks like Carroll will be driven out by their own misguided intent and ethics. Oh, they'll complain and cry and make all sorts of charges, but no one of any credibility has read his and Weineke's articles and defended them. No one.

They're just whining about being held accountable and in a college football world of virtually none. That's a good thing. Charlie is right to defend his program and his players and he deserves your support. For too long Notre Dame's let such reckless reporting go unchallenged and it has inflicted serious damage over time. And it's just plain wrong to think that Charlie "has it in" for writers who pen negative articles, he's actually friends with many reporters who've been negative toward him and has been for years. He respects them and their mission and their work, but respect is a two way street. If you write ill-researched, smear pieces, you don't get respect and the carrot, you get the stick. Weis is completely in the right.

Speaking of shame... isn't it one that Michigan has become, as one poster put it, the General Motors of college football? It's bad enough that they received a disqualification for minority graduation rates, and that Llloyd is mentioned in every coach on the hotseat article, but now they're so bad that Amani Toomer said on Mike and Mike, "I don't watch them as much as I used to. They are such consistent underachievers. They are just difficult to watch." That's Amani Toomer, folks. How about this: A Michigan fan wrote us to stop bashing Michigan because they'll "beat Notre Dame AFTER LLLOYD RETIRES AND WE GET A REAL COACH." That's tellin' us. Dionte Allen, a top CB prospect for Michigan, BTW, just verballed to FSU and Taurian Washington, another top recruit, just verballed to OSU. These guys are out of their own backyard. I'd say Llloyd's days are quickly coming to an end, but he's just keeping up the mediocre legacy of Bo Schembechler who said just the other day, "We don't need Notre Dame. They need us more than we need them."

Look, if I couldn't beat Davieham, I'd want out too. Without further ado, the Bo legacy by omahadomer:

They have a fine program that is noted, in particular, for coughing up hairballs in big games. Let's review the record of their greatest coach, Bo Schembechler --


1969: Michigan wins the Big 10 but then loses the Rose Bowl to USC 10-3
1970: Michigan is 9-0 heading into Ohio State but comes up short 20-9
1971: Michigan is 11-0 and facing heavy underdog Stanford in the Rose Bowl: 13-12 Stanford
1972: 10-0 heading into OSU: 14-11 Buckeyes
1973: 10-0 and Michigan has Ohio State at home: 10-10 tie and the conference athletic directors vote to send the Buckeyes to the Rose Bowl
1974: 10-0 heading into Columbus: 12-10 Buckeyes
1975: 8-0-2 and have OSU at home: 21-14 OSU. But good news, the Big 10 now allows other Big 10 teams to go to a bowl. 14-6 Oklahoma over Michigan in the Orange Bowl
1976: Inexplicable 16-14 loss to Purdue, but Michigan finally gets by Ohio State and goes to the Rose Bowl. Oh goody: 14-6 USC
1977: Another dumb conference loss, this one 16-0 to Minnesota. But they beat the Buckeyes and they're back in the Rose Bowl and a huge favorite over 7-4 Washington, so finally Michigan's going to win the Rose Bowl. Oops: 27-20 Washington
1978: This time the conference gag is against MSU but the Wolves beat the Bucks again and are back in the Rose Bowl. Same song, 18th verse: 17-10 USC
1979: Michigan has Devine's worst team in Ann Arbor and the Wolves have already tuned up on Northwestern and it's ND's opener. No matter, Bob Crable blocks a game-winning FG attempt and ND wins 12-10. 8-3 Michigan finally gets an easy bowl opponent, UNC in the Gator Bowl. Thanks for playing Bo: 17-15 UNC.
1980: Finally Michigan wins a Rose Bowl (over Washington). But a 51-yard FG by Harry Oliver beats UM in ND stadium. The next week the stunned Wolves also lose to South Carolina, removing them from NC consideration.
1981: Bo finally beats ND (Faust's 5-6 team) and beats UCLA in a bowl game. The bad news? It's the Bluebonnet Bowl.
1982: Bo gets beat by Faust but still makes it to the Rose Bowl at 8-3 and plays UCLA. UCLA wins of course, 24-14.
1983: Good news: ND's off the schedule for Bo. Bad news, they have to play Washington again and lose 27-25. 9-2 Michigan gets invited to the Sugar Bowl where they lose to Auburn 9-7. Bo has now managed to lose 3 of the then-Big 4 bowls.
1984: Michigan flops around to a 6-5 record and then makes history as the weakest opponent ever in a bowl game for a national championship team as BYU gets by them 24-17 to claim the NC even though BYU would've been a 2-touchdown underdog to either Oklahoma or Nebraska.
1985: A conference loss to Iowa and a tie with Illinois keeps UM out of the Rose Bowl and NC consideration. UM does beat Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl.
1986: Familiar scene. ND is jobbed by a bad call as the game-winning TD is ruled out of bounds. UM somehow loses to Minnesota in Ann Arbor but still makes it to the Rose Bowl where the Wolves lose 22-15 to ASU. ASU is now the 5th Pac 8 or 10 team to beat Bo's teams in the Rose Bowl.
1987: Lou drills UM 26-7 in Ann Arbor. Michigan suffers 3 more losses to go 8-4.
1988: Gillette's miss allows ND to win 19-17 setting up ND's 12-0 season. UM does finally manage to win the Rose Bowl over USC. ND defeats both participants in the Rose Bowl during the regular season.
1989: Rocket runs back two kickoffs and Michigan loses 24-19. Michigan plays well and wins the next 10 before losing the Rose Bowl to USC. ND beats both participants in the Rose Bowl, again.

And thus concludes Bo's career. Llloyd's football epitaph to probably be written after this season.

Did I mention that I LOVE the move of Thomas to LB?

~ The Rock






8.9 - I Can't Help It

Everytime my rational mind tells me to not get my hopes up about an improved defense, my irrational mind takes over and gives me what seems like false hope.

But is the apparent rational really irrational and the irrational closer to the truth? Is God so powerful he can make a rock so heavy that even he couldn't lift it?

We're not solving the riddle of the Sphinx here, we're talking defense and it's time to shed the "Hold Me I'm Irish" mentality that requires fans to think that the past equals the future.

Have our defenses blown donkey hooves the past X years? Well, yes, but this new team comes with a label "Past performance does not equal future results."
Last year was not 2004 and 2003.

Let's strip out the hype and focus on what we had to work with last season. We returned exactly two of nine starters to the team that had a major psychology problem and hired a new defensive coordinator that installed a completely new scheme. Just on the surface, you wouldn't expect much. But our minds instantly replay the previous seasonal meltdowns that fans had to 'Baer' through. It's not the same and here's why.

First, Defensive Coordinator Rick Minter has had success at every stop to on the defensive side of the ball. He improved South Carolina's defense dramatically in one year. With now nine returning starters on the defensive side of the ball, they'll know the system, have a year to be comfortable with it and will make personal gains both mentally and physically. That itself should be worth at least a field goal a game and maybe more.

Then there's a staff wide focus on improving the defense and pow wows with NFL coordinators breaking down Notre Dame's film. Here's Charlie on the subject from yesterday's interview:

"I think we will be better both personnel-wise from the guys having more experience and having a better clue of what to do, plus the influx of the young guys coming in. We have tweaked our system so I think we are far ahead of where we are schematically. "

At is media day press conference Weis expressed surprising optimism and a realistic view as to why Notre Dame's defense was, um, unsatisfactory.

"I think that both on a coaching side and players side, we have fixed a lot of problems, and I expect that to show up early in the season. A lot of times in the first year, not to go off on a tangent but a lot of times in your first year, you're just putting it in and not really having a chance to tweak it.

I think that we've had time to research evaluation and some other outside resources, put us in position to take it to adifferent level than where we were at last year.

I think that we played slow sometimes. That doesn't mean we ran slow. There's a difference now, and sometimes when you play slow you think too much and that's true on anyone who plays football. Anyone who has to think about what to do, you can't just go out there and let it loose, is going to be hesitant. I think that was one of our big focuses in the off season."

Then there's history. In 1992 Notre Dame's defensive line was derided for not being able to pressure the passer and underperforming. In 1993 that defensive line almost led Notre Dame to an undefeated season and sent three players to the NFL. You may have heard of Bryant Young? Why is that parrallel important? Rick Minter was our defensive coordinator that year -- in his second year.

Finally, there is talent. This is Notre Dame's most talented defense, across the board, since 1993, which sent a slew of players to the NFL under Minter.

On the defensive line Abiamiri, Landri, Laws and Leitko were all USA Today first or second team All-Americans. The starting linebacking corps as it stands now might be Notre Dame's most athletic in history: Mitchell Thomas, Maurice Crum and The Rock's favorite player Travis Thomas all have All-American type athleticism. As Weis says, if they make mistakes, they have recovery speed. Also, remember this point last year when our linebacking corps had major question marks? Hoyte, Crum and Mays proved to be the best unit on the team. Crum and the two Thomases (there's a muffin joke in there somewhere) are an upgrade in terms of raw talent. The outfield is underrated. Yeah, they got burned. But they got burned for two main reasons: 1. Lack of pass rush; 2. Scheme and communication. I think every returning starter showed they can cover at a very high level and improvements in the above two categories coupled with their continued development under guru Bill Lewis and an influx of frosh talent point to an improvement in 2006. I wouldn't be surprised to see six players go from this years starting team to the NFL, including Wooden and Abiamiri.

Except for the "Hold Me I'm Irish" mentality, there's no reason not to expect dramatic improvement in this year's defense.


~ The Rock

8.8 - Charlie's World

A couple of quick observations from the limited practice video available.

The one thing that stands out (and it's almost impossible to get even a decent read on things) is that we have three potential studs on the offensive line. Chris Stewart (as The Rock pointed out from his H.S. video) could be the road grader ND has been missing. He's massive and has great feet for any OL, no less one that's three and half centuries big. He's just going to be a load to handle and that's after he gave birth to a quarter keg. Equally impressive is Sam Young. Wow, he's big. Country big. And his feet are fantastic. Both of those guys have the kind of big you can't lift your way to; you're just that big or you aren't. The third guy I really like is Dan Wenger. He looks like a TE going through drills and he carries his weight very well. I think that ND has found itself three anchors for the future at C, OG and OT. Would have loved to have Wilson to fit into that bunch, but...

Our Tight Ends, to a man, look ready to go. Carlson is massive and quick and I swear I didn't recognize Marcus Freeman. He looks like a taller Schwapp. Can't tell much from the running back drills except that Darius carries himself like he's an NFL All-Pro already. He just looks like a pro(you could say this about a lot of the kids.) BTW, Munir Prince is #25 and Chuckles loves him and his speed. I'm just sayin'...

That's about it, though a few of our better informed posters are befuddled by any media person who isn't thrilled with Charlie's openness at his press conferences. I can't remember a coach being as forthright with both the good and the bad. There's more than enough from Charlie to create a week's worth of articles just breaking down his analysis. As far as his restrictions, that's just common sense. You don't want 20 year olds talking to a seasoned reporter without some guidance, because they're easily baited and manipulated as we saw with Paddy Mullen being used by the SBT. Such freelancing also has a negative effect on team cohesiveness and the players themselves.

The guy is a treasure trove of quotes, insights, Xs and Os analysis, and quips. His press conferences are boffo performances. Why media types couldn't just appreciate what Charlie offers is beyond me. Instead they want exclusives and access on their terms. Worse still, some want to be "investigative journalists," a posture that is adversarial by nature, and then they wonder when Weis treats them as adversaries.

I realize that this is a competitive business, but Charlie is under no obligation to make any media members' jobs easier. It may grate against the current journalistic culture to be asked to play by the rules, but playing by the rules (even when they're nebulously defined) is probably the best way to keep the information spigot flowing. - b

Given the discussion of CW and the press the past few days, I have this observation. I just watched his post-practice PC - I can't imagine any other coach giving as much info, detail and substance in his general press sessions. I watched Lou, Davie and Willingham. None of them gave anything. I would think this is like a smorgasbord for a working reporter. Tons of info, detail and real candor. The question is which story line to choose out of the many he gives every day. I would think that has to endear him somewhat to people on the beat. - ndo

8.7 - It's Football Time, Baby

I feel like a little kid at 4am waiting for his parents to get up on Christmas morning. Media day was just a tease... it was sneaking under the tree, picking up the presents and trying to guess by weight and size (with a little pulling at the corners) what we were going to unwrap this year.

Chuckles gave us a few presents out of the stocking to hold us over. First up, confirmation that Travis Thomas is indeed moving to linebacker in an attempt to get some speed there. The Rock Loves! this move. Loves it. Loves it like a new action figure to play with. This one comes with speed, a nasty streak and with a full complement of action figure mobility.

I look at the Thomas move and think of Frank Stams. It's the kind of thing championship coaches try. Hell, if it don't work out, move him back. In the meantime, let's take that sucker out the box and see if he can be our go-to action figure on defense. But, our action figure LB won't be called Apache anymore because that was too "un-pc".... seriously.

There's been a lot of word on the street about Travis Thomas, so let's talk about that one. Last spring Travis and I got together and I told him I felt I was one of best 22 players on our team, and I wanted to know if he would be interested in trying to play linebacker on our team. Of course, anyone who looks at a possibility of starting when he's a backup behind Darius would love that opportunity. So last spring we started it and went through the summer, and what I'm going to do is give him an opportunity to be a starting linebacker on our team.

Now I would not let him play defense if it wasn't for the fact that I'm going to give him an opportunity to start. I told everyone we were getting more athletic on defense, he's one of the best tacklers we have on our special teams, played strong safety in high school, he's dying for an opportunity to get on the field on a full time basis and I'm going to give it to him.

Now the logical question will be, let me get this straight, Aldrige isn't ready to go and you're moving Travis over there to defense, Travis is also going to play offense, so I've created a two way monster here. So right now I'm not going to worry about him practicing on offense for the first week at least, see what he can do on defense, if it doesn't pan out, we'll bring him back to offense full time. But we'll give him an opportunity to start at linebacker for us.

Let's talk about some major position battles going into training camp. One of the biggest battles will go on actually is the backup position, that's the backup quarterback. We all know Brady is No. 1, but the two freshmen, Frazer, Jones and Sharpley are going to be given an equal opportunity to be number two. I told Peter his biggest job is developing those three guys and see who ends up winning that competition.

Running back because I'm going to let Travis work over there to be a starting linebacker and because James isn't ready to go, very near.Munir Prince and Luke Schmidt are two freshman; Luke although he'll play halfback and fullback in training camp, those two guys along with Junior can get the ball to the backup carries behind Darius.


Q. You said you started the process with Travis Thomas last spring. What did you start?

COACH WEIS: First thing we did, when you have a kid who it's his fourth year in the program and he's a great athlete and a backup, you look at your linebacker position and you see that you're not real happy with the speed that you have at the position. Well, then you have to figure out where the answers are. Now are the answers are the freshman coming in, Smith and Richardson, or do you have the answers currently here already on your team.

And coming from the Patriot mentality, you always try to build from within; that's what I did. I evaluated our team to try to feel who I had the best opportunity to go over there and not just to go over there but go over there and play. So I went back and researched. He went to high school in Pennsylvania, he was a great defensive player when he was in high school. I went, he was also one of our best tacklers on special teams. So we started talking then and started meeting with Rick then. It's been an ongoing process. It's not like we're going to go out there and wing it. He knows if I need him on the second play of the game to carry the ball, he'll be ready to go and do that, too.

What he did is all summer long see, I don't do it when you guys are around. So all summer long when I'm not there, the whole summer, he worked at linebacker, that's captain's practices. We're not there. So I'm interested just like you to see what this project looks like.

Q. Do you have a specific linebacker position you're looking at him as?

COACH WEIS: I'm looking to put him in at the weak side linebacker where he gets a chance to run or he's covered up and gets to run. I'm off on a tangent right here, but I changed the name of our one linebacker to the Sam, or strong side linebacker. In a time of political incorrectness I just didn't feel comfortable with Apache. I'm serious, that's why I did it. So I changed the same name of it to just Sam, Mike and Will. So the Will is the weak side linebacker. Right now that's where Travis would be playing.

Q. And you mentioned, if he starts, he would be a starting linebacker but you would still play him someplace on offense?

COACH WEIS: Well, it's going to depend on James and Munir and Luke. If I have as much confidence in the freshman, you know I'm not afraid to play the freshman so I have as much confidence in the freshman as I think I'm going to, I might not need to but I know one thing I'm not going to go in here saying, well, what am I going to do if Darius goes down and not have an answer, so you need to have your bases covered just in case that happens.

Brockington appears to be healthy as does Crum who'll be the MLB. Banda is gone from the team for medical reasons. Frome looks to be back and Leitko is back, at least as a walk-on for now. Is Leitko really 290? Rumors abound. Rhema is in better shape. Remember he has 'exceptional quickness.' Junior Jabbie returns to the team as a backup RB.

In the broken action figure box: Aldridge is out for a few weeks or more, which jibes with what we've been hearing. Harris is gone for one to two weeks -- same for Chase Anastacio -- DJ Hord is out for the year.

Will the defense be better?

Q. And beyond better speed at linebacker, more athleticism, what leads you to believe that the defense will be better this year?

COACH WEIS: Well, we have a lot of reasons to believe that, and you know sometimes experience can be a negative, not a positive. Everyone says, well you have to have everyone back. It's what they are doing being back. I think that both on a coaching side and players side, we have fixed a lot of problems, and I expect that to show up early in the season.

A lot of times in the first year, not to go off on a tangent but a lot of times in your first year, you're just putting it in and not really having a chance to tweak it. I think that we've had time to research evaluation and some other outside resources, put us in position to take it to a
different level than where we were at last year.

Q. Do you feel like that was one of the big problems last year, the defense being too slow?

COACH WEIS: No, I think that we played slow sometimes. That doesn't mean we ran slow. There's a difference now, and sometimes when you play slow you think too much and that's true on anyone who plays football. Anyone who has to think about what to do, you can't just go out there and let it loose, is going to be hesitant. I think that was one of our big focuses in the off season.

Q. Are you confident that the defense will be coaches say that defense wins championships, do you think the defense will be in that range?

COACH WEIS: Put it like this: They are going to be played as the underdog the whole time, and it's something that psychologically is easy for me to play on. "You guys aren't any good, anyway. That's what everyone is telling you, anyway." They might hear that once or twice, about every five minutes.


Will the offense be better?

Q. This is your second year here and your system in place, is that an advantage, and do you feel more confident heading into this year knowing what you have?

COACH WEIS: I think every year it's going to change based on everything is based on in our system, everything is based on what the quarterback can do as far as what you call, it's based on what the quarterback can do. Obviously you have to deal with the components you have with a veteran offensive line, that helps. I'm not really thinking too much when you have four starters back on your offensive line, Harris, Sully and Horton and it eases your pain a little bit. Well, what do I have to do to protect the offensive line. Those type of things help.

So personnel definitely dictates a lot of what you do. But when you have a veteran offensive line, when you have veteran tight ends, both John and Marcus are experienced, you have a veteran running back and veteran ran wide receivers; when you have a bunch of veteran players here, then what you have to do is see what you can do mentally to take it to expand and expound on what you do.


That's pretty much all you can really expect out of a presser except for this line, which is my new favorite,"We just try to do things right. I would like to think that people would respect us for the way we run the program, whether you like us or not is really not that relevant."

In other news Mickey Mouse and Goofy, otherwhise known as Carroll and Weineke, or however you spell their names, apparently threw a hissy fit after learning they'd been frozen out for talking to Paddy Mullen in their hatchet "series" on Clausen and Weis. Weis has a strict rule about talking to players without permission, which he reiterated for the hard of hearing or the hard of ethics, "Please follow the protocol. Don't try to go behind the scenes to try to get to any of the guys."

I would have thrown them out for malicious intent and abuse of reporter privilege... but that's just me. In any case.... good riddance. These two will now be looking for any trash they can throw on ND, but at least ND isn't giving the Foxes the keys to the Hen house. Let them scrounge around in the barn yard for their cow chips.

Just to keep them in line, whenever one of these hacks writes an article on Notre Dame, we'll evaluate it here piece by piece pointing out the journalistic, ethical and factual faults with their articles and link that on the page so that any patterns will be noticeable (and you won't have to click on their articles and give them more "eyeballs.") I'll call it the Hack of Fame and use the same ethos the writers used in their "articles," I'm going to focus only on the negatives. Certainly gives me a column every week.

Enough wallowing in the mud... it's Football time and all that negative probability crap I spewed over the summer was just that. I'm no longer rational.

Here's my new prediction:

Notre Dame will beat Texas to win the National Championship in the Fiesta Bowl

Stick that in your Leprechaun corn cob pipe and smoke it.

~ The Rock