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Quinn Credits Dublin Coffman

"They supported me through high school and college. A lot of people I was fortunate enough to deal with at Dublin Coffman have helped me, and in large part it’s why I am where I am today."

Quinn also says his work ethic made him team oriented.

Not a lot couch-xperts thought the Miami Heat rookie would be playing in the NBA at his point in his career, but the baby-faced assassin has proved them wrong. A nice, belated brought to you article, in the Columbus Dispatch talks about his High School retiring his number.

Quinn's legacy lives on... really... I wasn't going to finish that line, but I will put it this way: a bunch of guys who play like he did are helping Notre Dame to its best season since I can remember and it's about time NDNation took notice. This, somewhat unheralded, freshman class is part of a revival that I don't see ending soon... because they play so -- damn -- hard. Luke "you can shoot him twice and he's still going to score on you" Harangody and Tory Jackson are two of the best freshman since Troy Murphy and Chris Thomas. And Jackson not only has a higher upside than Thomas, but also plays unselfishly and grabs rebounds. A lot of them. Harangody looks he was transported in time from Angelo Pizzo's Hoosiers. That do anything at anytime mentality sets this team apart from any in the recent era.

And they're young.

There's a lot of talk about the ND basketball crowds being fickle and let's face it, part of that is because in the past few years once ND started playing well, they immediately began playing selfish or one-dimensional which would break down the offense and leave the defense "uninspired." They'd start losing and look bad doing it. Duke fans would get tired of it too.

Brey deserves this criticism for that, but he also deserves the praise for this year's performance. In 2007, if a player starts AIing it, he gets yanked. The play is about team and, at times, spectacular ball-movement and a surprisingly aggressive defense (anyone else love Corwin Brown already?) I digress.

ND 2006-7 is so team oriented that ND not only survived the loss of Kyle McAlarney, it's playing for NCAA seeding. It's the most fun team I can remembers since -- damn, that's depressing.

Check out this year's ND team, you can almost hear the echos. It's a throwback team with range: hard fouls, hard rebounding and some fantastic three-point shooting. I'm actually hoping Brey dons the carnation this year.

As far as that quarterback. I really hope Quinn gets what he wants because he's been all but slandered recently, but selfishly I hope he slips to a decent team and has a long career. Whatever the case, the recent bashing won't mean much.

BTW, did you read that part about Troy Smith now trying to "hold the ball higher?"

Remind you of the style that a recent Irish recruit has perfected?

Will ND Run More?

I don't think it's a stretch (get the pun?) to think that Notre Dame will run the ball more and more effectively in '07. Much of our ineffectiveness in the running game stemmed from Weis's reliance on Brady Quinn and a lack of faith in our ability to beat teams at the line of scrimmage, but I also believe that if we'd committed to the run we would have been more effective. In games we were successful running the ball, Quinn had a far easier time making the passing game work. ND05 has a quick, but insightful analysis of Notre Dame's running attack:
Today's running game is about maximizing the amount of time coaches have with their players. If you run a sophisticated, NFL-caliber offense, like Notre Dame, there is a heavy emphasis on pass protection, and that takes a lot of time to teach. In addition to the technique work, Notre Dame has a dizzying amount of protections to learn - all with various adjustments vs. different fronts and pressures.

Notre Dame's running plays are no less creative than Minnesota's - yet the Gophers (though down this year due to Russell's expulsion) ran all over opponents during Mitch Browning's tenure there. If you want the truth, Notre Dame actually has MORE running plays than the typical college team (certainly more than the Gophers). They (1) aren't committed to running the ball and (2) just don't teach it as well as some other places.

(There was a great film comparison on this very point at the 2006 Nike COY Clinic in St. Louis, showing ND running inside zone vs. Michigan's odd front, and then Minnesota doing the same...)

Notre Dame runs:

Ride Series - your basic inside zone
Wham - Called Ride 32/33 - That's the play you see when the TE comes in short motion and traps an unsuspecting interior defensive lineman.

Jab - Misdirection off of inside zone - usually a 2 back play.

Jab Sub - the one back gap play vs. 6 in box. BS G for PS LB.

H-42/43 Ace - Their "softball" draw game - which has been great for the Irish.

38/39 (Toss) - Perimeter stretch play.

Ted/Boss Series - Their outside zone game.

(Note: this outside zone game is not of the Alex Gibbs variety in that we use moving parts and pull the C and PST. Gibbs, again, says that is too hard to teach and rep.)

To speak specifically to ACross's point about bringing MORE people to the backfield - that is playing into the defense's hands today. That is not what you want to do. Look at the top rushing teams in the country...they're not doing it with two backs. That allows teams to bring down that 8th hat into the box, and teams have FAR better run "fits" than they've ever had before. The two-back gap play has been relegated to short yardage.

Lastly, those of you expecting our running game to look any different next year are living in a dream world. It's the same stuff - exactly - that he ran with the Patriots. Exactly the same.
Wait, ACross stuck in a late 80s early 90s mindset... who'd a thunk it?

Reaching Higher

Is what Darius Walker did better than any running back at the NFL combine. His vertical, 40.5 inches, bested Adrian Peterson's (the next closest back) by two inches. Walker's 40 time of 4.56 probably helped his cause, but at the very least didn't hurt it. Watchers noted that he's extremely fast in the 0-10 yard range, but doesn't have that second gear. Still, a very talented athlete and excellent runner. Adrian Peterson is the class of the running back group.

Brady Quinn might be a pretty boy, but he's no girlie man. Quinn put up 225 pounds 24 times... that's more than either Ryan Harris or Dan Santucci - who both ran very good 40s, right at the 5.1 second mark. BTW, Wisconsin's Joe Thomas is a freak. He turned in a 40 of 4.91. Rhema didn't run the 40 but put up middle of the pack numbers in the broad jump, 20 yard shuttle, 60 yard shuttle and 3cone drill. He's a good athlete, but I'm not quite sure what Weis meant by "exceptional quickness."

Of note, former ND (transfered to Miami) Tight End Greg Olsen ran a 4.51 40 and vertically jumped 35.5 inches... he's almost 6'6" and 254 pounds (I still think Carlson could be better.) The freak of the day award went to Calvin Johnson who at 6'5" 239 pounds , ran a 4.35 40. Damn. Of note on the "I thought they were faster than they were given credit for" side, Antonio Pittman and Anthony Gonzalez ran a 4.4 and 4.44 40s respectively -- as I've stated, Troy Smith had a lot to work with.

The combine probably didn't do much to help or hurt the Notre Dame players there. Santucci and Harris might rise the most in Scout's eyes.

Group Stupid Mindthink and Quinn

As expected, the pendulum is beginning to swing back on the media characterization of Brady Quinn. Which is par for the course given the Shallow Hal analysis thats infuses most articles on Quinn and Notre Dame. Whenever group stupid mindthink hits a tipping point of widespread use, it's usually overrun the point or beat it beyond recognition. Before the year Quinn was the Heisman favorite and media darling, which was really a little over the top -- but understandable. Quinn played exceptionally well last year, but he also threw a lot a deep balls that were placed high rather than on target. What I mean is that with Stovall, Shark and Fasano, he really didn't have to be as on the mark, because if he put the ball at the apex, ND was going to come down with it every time. So there were some question marks in my mind going into this season about how he would fair without Stovall, who had an underrated senior campaign. But group stupid mindthink assumed things would only get better.

They didn't and the first game things didn't go as expected (Georgia Tech) group stupid mindthink immediately went in overdrive in the opposite direction. And there were some iffy moments in that game, but as we later found out Georgia Tech was a very good team. The Michigan game sealed the fate of group stupid mindthink on Quinn. But no one looked closer at interceptions that received the headlines. It wasn't noted on those Ints that the first int should have been caught, that his arm was hit on the second or that he was attempting an incredibly hard throw on the third because he had to.

I think Quinn actually made some better throws this year than he did the year before. In fact, he was very good in the first half against LSU, but drops and stupid penalties killed Irish momentum. In many ways I think Quinn is a better quarterback now even though group stupid mindthink believes his stock to have dropped. Seth Wickersham is one of the few writers (there have been several recent positive articles) approaching the Quinn draft analysis with a rational perspective. Here's his take:

It's true: College statistics really can predict NFL performance. For our 2006 Pro Football Prospectus, we studied 10 years' worth of drafts and discovered that the single greatest indicator of NFL success for QBs taken in the first two rounds is the number of college games they started. Philip Rivers, for one, started 51 games at NC State. Donovan McNabb started 49 college games and Carson Palmer started 45. On the flip side, busts-to-be Joey Harrington (28), Jim Druckenmiller (24) and Akili Smith (19) had relatively little starting experience.

What about the QBs who will go early in the 2007 draft? Brady Quinn started 46 games and completed 58 percent of his passes, almost identical to McNabb and halfway between Palmer and Jay Cutler. JaMarcus Russell completed 62 percent of his passes but had just 29 starts. Those are numbers similar to Kellen Clemens' and Rex Grossman's. Russell certainly has first-round talent, but if the past is any guide, a team that drafts him ahead of Quinn could be turning over a new Leaf.

And note here that Brady's completion % under Weis was above 60%. Is this an absolute barometer? Absolutely not. And again, I think Russell has a lot of talent. But it does point to issues that are usually more telling than group stupid mindthink. The Cleveland Plain Dealer and New York Times also ran articles wondering about the strange anti-Quinn chatter. In this case, the negative talk could help Quinn in the long run. Immediate dollars aside, he'll be much better served by going to a good team. The world will little note nor long remember high draft picks, it sure as hell remembers who wins SuperBowls.

Likewise group stupid mindthink assumed Notre Dame would be terrible in 2005, great in 2006 and mediocre to terrible in 2007. I think group stupid mindthink will be wrong again and that ND could sneak into the BCS and the press that turned negative on ND because it didn't perform at the level of group stupid mindthink expectation last year, could very well turn positive this year, just like group stupid mindthink was negative and then absurdly positive in 2005.

One thing I tend to see about group opinions is that by the time they become universal, the ground has usually shifted. This trend is exacerbated by the dog pile on the rabbit mentality that infuses every story line about Notre Dame. As Lou says, "teams are rarely as good or bad as they seem." The same is true of group, stupid, mindthink where ND is concerned.

BTW, please send edits, etc. as there is no editor for these articles.


~ The Rock

College Football's Real Villains - Superconferences

"Big Ten coaches (not Notre Dame) spent the last six months whispering about the recruiting practices of Illinois' Ron Zook."

While it's always good press to target Notre Dame, as many have tried with regard to the
Illinois recruiting questions, it's been the Big Ten schools that are turning on their own as Dan Wetzel finally admits. But it's not just turning on their own, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is also taking shots at the SEC and talking out both sides of his mouth – criticizing others while letting Ohio State run a NFL mini-camp and doing little to protect the players. Ohio State graduates less than one out of three of its African American football players and barely one out of two players total. Michigan graduates just half of it's black players and Minnesota isn't much better than Ohio State with regard to graduation. The Big Ten does have some very good schools, but that fact doesn't mean Delany gets a pass on Ohio State.

The Big Ten has its own messes, but the problem for Delany is that the SEC is playing by even looser rules... and Jim thinks that's not fair. Got news for you, Jim, you're part of the problem.

Fact One: Cheating is rampant.

Fact Two: The NCAA is virtually impotent in the face of the conference cartel.

Fact Three: The superconferences have co-opted all of the power in college football, dictating BCS terms, TV deals and bullying the NCAA when teams are caught doing what everyone knows their doing. It's only when teams are caught with their players hands in the car door of their rides that the NCAA even considers appearing like it's going to do anything.

The Big Ten is the problem. So is the SEC, the Big 12, the PAC 10 and soon to be the ACC. The unspoken truth is that superconferences have usurped all of the power in NCAA football and no one has enough influence or will to stop them (or wants to stop the money train.)

Looking for a reason there's no playoff? The superconferences don't want one and don't want to lose their bowl tie-ins. If the NCAA moves to a playoff, it will level the playing field and no conference with a "family-take" wants that. The superconferences have rigged the system to ensure they get Bowl bids even if the entire conference is down, which results in bad teams in the system on a regular basis. Why is this allowed? Because they make the rules... it's their baby. The BCS is run by the cartel. They made it up. They run it. Even the name is contrived. There's no series leading to a championship. It should be called the Battle of the Conference Superpowers.

The "BCS Formula" is the most absurd construct ever created by big-time sports. It makes no sense to anyone and it shouldn't -- because there's no reason for it to exist other than the provide a buffer against a playoff system. It's a cartel creation to stave off a move to a playoff. It's a concoction. The argument that a playoff would hurt academics is rather inane given where graduation rates are -- that's an canard. What happens when they get criticized? They just expand the BCS to quiet the complainers.

The BCS conferences get the lion's share of the money in the bowl system, and virtually all of the money generated from the championship game. The BCS is the conduit that legitimizes the distribution of the championship game money to a subset of Division 1-A. Periodic interlopers like Utah and Boise State are tolerated because it keeps the BCS conferences out of antitrust court, but the system is designed to minimize their participation.

It's all quite cynical and money driven.

The other five conferences are left to fight over less than 10% (higher this year) of the total bowl payout while the cartel of superconferences split the rest. If you want to talk unfair, Delany worked the system so that Rose Bowl doesn't even have to pay the BCS entry fee.

Want to know why cheating is allowed? The superconferences don't want to weaken their own bargaining power vis a vis other programs.

Florida let defensive lineman Marcus Thomas play through the three toughest games on the Gators schedule before kicking him out for violations it knew about before those games. He was suspended twice earlier for substance abuse, but Meyer gave him the benefit of the doubt the third time -- at least until after the hard part of the schedule was over, then he was booted. Defensive End Jarvis Moss was suspended too, for that game against powerhouse
Western Carolina, but he was reinstated for the patsy Florida Sate. He did play against South Carolina and saved the Gators' season. No one said boo. Of course, as Delany correction points out, this is minor league stuff in the SEC and Florida does have a good graduation rate.

Books have been written about
Michigan's scandals and Ohio State continues to masquerade as an academic institution that also plays football, but the only thing Delany does is point fingers at others, saying in essence, "hey, they're worse than we are."

USC should be thrown in the doghouse for Bushgate and subsequently McKnightgate but the Pac10 will make sure SC gets out of this unscathed, which is amazing considering what's out there. The fact that SC committed a recruiting violation while trying to cover up an NCAA violation is the ultimate irony. Listen to the McKnight press conference. There is no doubt what took place, yet Carroll attempts to make it seem like SC and McKnight were entrapped. Everyone is very clear on what took place, most of all McKnight... until he realized it wasn't kosher. Carroll is so disdainful of the NCAA he declared the NCAA wouldn't dock SC for Jarret's living conditions before the NCAA even fully investigated (I agreed with him on this one.) This points to another problem, individual school power dictating conference direction.

If a stud player from a relatively poor family is suddenly driving around in a tricked out SUV... questions needed to be asked. No team is immune from these pressures, but each school is essentially policing itself right now, which means the threshold is catch me if you can... especially because I know you don't want to. If the entire student body knows about a problem i.e. Rhett Bomar/Dwayne Jarrett then the school shouldn't be able to play dumb any more it would with a student cheating in class. The "Hey, we can't know everything," excuse is lack of institutional control, because that information is just not that hard to find out. Just depends if anyone wants to look. "Don't ask, don't tell," is no way to run an institution of "higher learning."

THIRTY bowl teams had graduation rates for black players that were fifty percent or less, only ELEVEN schools graduated more than three quarters of their black players and not one of those finished in the top 10. Only Penn State made it from the Delany's Big 10. Why doesn't he talk about that? Teams like Georgia Tech, Ohio State and Texas have truly awful graduation rates for black players.

Much of this would not continue if ESPN and the other big time media took up the issues as a way of cleansing the sport. Hell just take some pictures of what kids are driving to practice. Do a little homework. They won't, because it hurts the business of selling college football. Meanwhile the real kids who get hurt are those who don't make it big and don't graduate -- and that's a heck of a lot players as noted above. Schools don't care, conferences are worried about power and ESPN is worried about ratings.

Is Illinois cheating? It certainly has that "Mark McGuire doesn't take steroids" feel, but doesn't much matter because no one will investigate. Some have called this the worst recruiting year in the SEC's long history, but that matters little. You can't really blame the players, look at the example that's been set. When everything around them is "about the money," they want a piece of it and if it comes with little classwork all the better. They think they're going to the NFL anyway -- except that most of the top players don't get a NFL sniff.

The superconferences have co-opted all of the power in college football and no one cares... that is, unless one superconference is getting away with more than the other.

Enter Jim Delany's comments on the SEC.

2.19 - Quinn and The Pressure Myth

Troy Smith can't handle pressure. In his first game facing real pressure, Troy Smith folded up like a lawn chair. He completed 4 of 14 passes against Florida with an Int and an untimely fumble. Smith didn't look great -- he didn't even look average -- he looked rattled and impotent. Troy Smith can't handle the pressure.

Brady Quinn, despite facing that type of pressure all year, never looked that discombobulated.

Peyton Manning can't handle pressure. Against the Ravens with their entire season on the line, Manning was pressured into a 15 of 30 game with no TDs and two Ints. It wasn't the first time Manning's looked average or worse in the face of a tough defense. Manning, obviously, can't handle the pressure.

I like Russell a lot, but as FunkDoctorSpock points out, when he was pressured -- not so good. Against Top 25 teams (LSU was 3-2): 83 completions 158 attempts 50.2% 1,086 yards 8 TDs 7 INTs. In LSU's two losses, Russell had 1 TD and 3 picks. Russell's benefited from a Vince Young effect, even though they have little in common.

The fact is that no quarterback can handle that type of constant pressure. So when pundits talk about Quinn's ability to handle pressure, that argument needs a serious perspective shake.

Quinn was sacked more than twice as much as John David Booty, JaMarcus Russell and Troy Smith, yet had a better TD/Int ratio than any of them -- and note that Quinn had some very untimely drops of good passes that could have changed big games.

Pundits point to the 3 int. Michigan game as proof of Quinn's lack of composure. But look closer. His first interception was a strike that bounced off the shoulder of Carlson. His second one happened after his arm was hit. This third one was a forced pass after Notre Dame was already far behind. Those, by the way, account for three of the ONLY SEVEN interceptions Quinn has thrown all year -- the lowest interception ratio per attempt of any quaterback who's thrown as much as he has -- and that's while being sacked twice as much.

The fact is that Quinn has performed better than most top quarterbacks under more pressure, he's just had a heck of a lot more of it to deal with. And no quarterback performs well under constant pressure. No quarterback.

The reason Quinn was on the run so much is that ND had no credible rushing game ( 72nd in the country) and had a defense that gave other defenses a lot of time to rest. It's not like Quinn isn't mobile (he has much better feet than Russell for instance) and when he ran, he ran very well. I would have loved to see Charlie use him more in that capacity -- but I also understand that we couldn't afford to have him injured. Can he throw downfield with accuracy? He actually threw some of his best downfield balls of the year against USC -- his strike to Carlson was as good a throw as you will see in college football.

I've heard some talk about Russell's downfield balloons in the Notre Dame game as some sort proof that he has better downfield accuracy and outplayed Quinn. If you have a tape (or DVR,) watch those passes... no accuracy required. His receivers were running free. Russell outplayed Quinn only in the context that his entire team outplayed Notre Dame's. If you switched the quarterbacks in that game, I don't think there are many who think that Russell would have still outplayed Quinn. But it was a naysayers delight. Again, I think Russell is a talent, but the simpleton heads up comparison made by most sportscasters is at a base level just stupid and being more generous very misleading.

Quinn didn't have great games this year against very good teams, but he never had and outright bust of a game like Troy Smith did against Florida -- that was folding under pressure. Of course, Smith lost Ginn too, who may have really been the best player in the country last year. Which prompts the question: How good would Smith have been without Ginn all year? Quinn didn't have a Ginn to keep defenses off him all year and he didn't have a rushing game. When those things deserted Smith, he looked worse than Quinn ever did.

Now there are knocks against Quinn that are valid. He played in a lateral passing game and most of his completions were less than ten yards down the field. He also showed a little nervousness in some big games and wasn't able to turn those games on his own. He had some bad throws under pressure. But he we also the victim of some poor drops and many times when pressed, he flashed the ability to get the ball where it needs to be. In fact, where few quarterbacks could put the ball. That written, he hasn't done it consistently and his ability to do so is a questionmark. B

But I'll go further. I think Quinn possesses a little Favre in him, but he was forced to become more of a technician under Weis because this offense simply couldn't afford mistakes. Far from this offense making Quinn, in some ways I think it constrained him. He's much more of gunslinger than Notre Dame fans saw -- but his Weis training is perfect training for the NFL. Quinn generally played the best UNDER PRESSURE, against MSU, UCLA and Georgia Tech with the game hanging in the balance. I don't think it's a coincidence that he played some of his best ball when the offense was the most open and the tempo was forced.

If he goes to a team that will give him a freer reign, Quinn's real throwing personality will come out and could surprise a lot of pundits. There's no guarantee and it's just a hunch, but that's all that backs up the views of many who are piling on Quinn right now. And don't get me wrong, I don't want him on the Raiders. Nor do I want him to be a high draft choice on another crappy team. I love the Eagles scenario for instance.

Remember, it's always good TV to either build up or tear down anyone from Notre Dame and the media milks both sides of it, but their zeal to create a frenzy in either direction results in some very unfair characterizations and shallow analysis that is used to reinforce a point of view rather than to frame it.

As Scott Van Pelt said about the ESPN coverage, "We made it sound like the guy's going to be eating mac and cheese or something!"

Also note that Quinn, as he has his entire career, has handled both the positive and negative press very well.

No quarterback performs well under constant pressure, but neither does the media that covers the quarterbacks.

2.17 - Now That The Emoting Is Over

These last few weeks have brought several low points for ND fans. In the last month or so, ND scored a top ten class and a new fiery Defensive Coordinator off the Belichick coaching tree. Really, at the upper end of the possible scenarios.

It was bad enough watching and reading the same tired media hacks who predicted Notre Dame couldn't recruit anymore or win anymore (both proven false) dancing prematurely on the ND football grave once again, it was more disconcerting watching our own fans have adolescent induced emotameltdowns as kids opted elsewhere in the transition. But things are finally looking up with two more informative posts. As theoak points out in his post, the most important shifts have already happened. We'll get the top recruits on defense next year, Brown is by all accounts excellent with recruits. Here's theoak's analysis from Rock's House.


With Coach’s connection to the Bill Parcells’ coaching tree, I thought it
instructive to compare Parcells’ rebuilding strategies to the rebuilding of
Notre Dame. Bill Parcells greatest legacy is that of a rebuilder, and he
followed a consistent pattern with the Giants, Patriots, Jets and Cowboys. By
comparison, perhaps we can discover how much Coach Weis has accomplished, and
also how much work remains.

Phase I: Building a staff

One of Parcells’ strengths was his mastery of building coaching staffs. At every
location, he assembled a mixture of coaches he could trust at the upper
assistant positions, while picking young talented coaches at the lower levels.
When he took over at New England, he brought nine former Giant assistants. When
he left the Patriots for the Jets, he once again incorporated trusted coaches
(Belichik as defensive coordinator) as upper assistants, and then used former
Giants’ players as lower level assistants. When faced with the attrition of
losing talented coaches, he promoted assistants from within.

Coach Weis had difficulty following this model. He was handicapped by promising Belichik he would not poach from the New England staff, and by having to hire his staff by phone. Also, he felt the need to bring in staff with head coaching experience
and Notre Dame ties. This led to choosing Rick Minter for his Notre Dame ties
and head coaching experience, instead of coaching philosophy. This hiring in
particular created glaring problems for the 2005 and 2006 Irish. Coach Weis has
now hired a defensive coordinator in Corwin Brown with a philosophy that
harmonizes with his own, and the kind that Parcells would have started with. The
promotion of Ron Powlus to quarterbacks coach follows the Parcells’ model for
replenishing the coaching staff.

Phase II: Selecting a team

With staff in place, Parcells began the task of selecting his team. At this stage, he
focused on player attitude. With the Patriots and Jets he demanded the players
spend most of the off-season training, and if any players resisted-they were
traded or simply cut. Parcells implemented this practice for the first time
following his first season with the Giants. After they finished 3-12-1, he cut
or traded nearly half of the team. Every rebuilding project since then has
included personnel turnover in the training camp of his first season.

Coach Weis addressed his use of this strategy in his book No Excuses. He
began the spring of 2005 in suit and tie, making notes on players’ attitude and
performance. He then began the task of removing players. In the book, Coach Weis
said he was prepared to leave the spring with only 50 players. He did run off
close to 10. Some believe that the team under performed last season because it
still contained too many players held over from the previous regime. This was
perhaps a calculated move. Parcells had to remove players by trade or release,
but Coach Weis was able to use the players on hand for immediate success (which
the program desperately needed to spike recruiting), and use graduation as the
tool to weed out the remaining players. These players were not bad kids by any
means, just not ones with the same mindset as Parcells, Belichik, and Weis.

Phase III: Drafting for success

To fill the holes created from the cutting phase, Parcells signed free agents and drafted rookies that fit his mentality. As an example, Parcells was able to completely transform the Cowboys defense into a 3-4 in one draft.

Once again, Coach Weis ran into problems following this part of the model. With his commitment to the Patriots, he conceded a recruiting class largely outside of his control. Furthermore, graduation removes players Coach Weis would like to keep (i.e. Brady Quinn). However, by 2008 the team will be comprised entirely of players handpicked by Coach Weis. Notice what Coach said in his signing day press conference on this subject:

“The one thing that's happening probably to our benefit right now
that we haven't had before is I think we have established more of a definition
of what we're looking for on defense, more of a definition, rather than just
recruit good players. We might recruit a defensive lineman that you don't
think is very good, but in our system he might be exactly what we're looking
for. So I think we can't be worrying about recruiting analysis. We need to find
fits based on what we're doing. These kids we have coming right here, we are
very happy with them. I'm not saying it just to make it sound good. I love the
guys we're bringing in here. They're going to complement who we are.”

Coach Weis has pointed to next year as the completion of this phase.
“Between the fourth year guys next year that ask and are granted a fifth year and our class next year, I think that will finally put us on track to have the numbers as I
perceive they should actually be. It puts me on track next year. I'll
probably be table to take 20 next year, depending on how many fifth year guys
you have. Now since the first time since I've been here, we're going to be on
track. See, you have to have a plan, get on track. We haven't been on track yet.
I signed 15 the first year, 28 the next year, 18 this year. At Notre Dame, with
everyone staying in school, you should be on a 20 a year program. That's what
you should be on. We're about at that point right now. We're about on that 20 a
year program. That's where you want to get to. That's where we're going to be at
the end of next season.”


Phase IV: Team Building

Parcells teams were always disciplined and physical. As a testament to discipline,
Parcells' teams always ranked near the league lead in fewest penalties.
“You never had trouble scouting them. You knew every time you played Bill, his teams would be prepared and sound and most likely wouldn't beat themselves. And they will always be tough on defense. You can count on that." -Joe Gibbs

Once again Coach Weis has been hamstrung in this phase of rebuilding. By all reports, depth on the 2005 and 2006 teams did not allow for physical practices. As a result, the Irish have not controlled the line of scrimmage, and have suffered
far too many penalties. Many feel with increased youth and depth, this will
change immediately.

Summary

It seems clear that Coach Weis is following the rebuilding model established by Bill Parcells. However, he has faced obstacles that Parcells did not have to deal with. Slowly these are being overcome. As a lesson for patience, we should remember that it took Parcells four years to win the Super Bowl with the Giants. It took four more years to make it to the Super Bowl with the Patriots. Notre Dame is on pace.

Well done theoak. Now there's all of this talk about the 3-4 defense (when Notre Dame is using 3-4 personel,) but most were basing their analysis on an NFL 3-4 defense. As NDDL99 points out... college is not the NFL.

The first problem is that it's not necessarily easy to come to a consensus
on which college teams run a 3-4. Rivals lists a 3-4 setup under its depth
charts for various teams. Penn State and UVA are listed with 3-4 setups, so I'm
assuming they run those defenses at least a portion of the time. Below are the
weights for their front 7, per Rivals.com:

PSU:
DL -- 290, 288, 264
LB -- 238, 225, 237, 234

UVA:
DL -- 278, 261, 265
LB -- 235,
250, 240, 230

While neither PSU nor UVA were dominant teams last year,
and each had their share of bad games on defense, both generally had better
performance on defense than ND did. PSU had the #15 total defense last year; UVA
had the #17 total defense.

Of course, size is all relative. Let's pick a
hypothetical starting front 7 for ND next year (weights are listed per und.com):

Laws --283
Kuntz -- 270
Brown -- 254
T. Smith -- 230
Crum -- 220
Brockington -- 220
Richardson -- 228

Most people
on this board assume that it will be impossible to run an effective 3-4 without
a 300+ pounder at nose tackle. As a result, many on the board have DCE'd Laws to
DE and Chris Stewart to NT, on the theory that Laws is too small to play NT.
But, as you can see, the most glaring discrepancy between ND's lineup and that
of UVA and PSU isn't at the nose-tackle position. At a listed 283 pounds, Laws
would be in decent company with the NT's at PSU and UVA (who are 290 and 278,
respectively). I submit that it's possible to run an effective 3-4 with a 285 or
290 pound NT, assuming that the other guys on your line are beefy and athletic
enough.

Unfortunately, that latter point becomes important for us... the
most glaring difference is our lack of size at LB, where only one of the 4
listed on my hypothetical depth chart tops out at 230. I realize that a cross
section of 2 teams isn't that effective a test group for the "ideal weight"
question, and would be interested to see how other college 3-4 defenses shape
up. I'm sure it goes without saying that teams like UM and USC, which ran with
3-4 personnel from time to time, would be much larger and more athletic. But I
don't think we need to shoot for that level of defensive personnel just
yet...not with our offense.

But, my point is this: it is our overall
current lack of size (and, of course, athleticism) that needs to be remedied to
run an effective 3-4, and the most important immediate fix we can accomplish is
by asking our LB's to add 10 pounds or so. On the other hand, securing a 300+
pound NT isn't quite as important, and does not appear to be the sine qua non of
a stout 3-4 defense.

God willing, some combination of Ruben Mendoza and
dining hall chicken patties will address this concern in a single spring and
summer.

Defensive Preview: The Challenge Ahead for Corwin Brown

Thanks to FunkDoctorSpock and RevueParty, my post recruiting writing has been minimal. This is FunkDoctorSpock's excellent post on Rock's House. Enjoy.

He (Brown) actually does have some experienced, talented players to build around this season. Yes, there are holes, big ones, and question marks all over the place but if he can get his group to play well in 2007, very bright times are ahead.

It will come down to the answers he is able to come up with along the defensive line. Because I believe that ND will be better, and deeper, in both the secondary and at linebacker in 2007.

A lot of this is best guess stuff because with the shift in defensive scheme, guys will probably end up playing at different spots than what I project. Anyway, since the good Lord has seen us through LOI Day, I wanted to focus on the spring and the fall.

DEFENSIVE LINE
The obvious place to start is with Trevor Laws. He is without question the most important returning player among the 5th year guys. He is the rock around which the DL will be built. Well thought out positions have been put forth suggesting he would fit at either NT or DE. I'm not a coach, so I can't say. But I do know that of the three guys that will have their hands down on any given snap, he will be one of them. The hope is that he can have a year similar to the one that Landri just had. Laws did improve significantly from 2005 to 2006.

Beyond Laws, it really starts to become a guessing game. Pat Kuntz is the kind of player we all should root for because he really does seem to love football, ND, and plays the game with everything that he has. That being said, he was on roller skates against LSU. If he can get himself up to about 280 pounds (last year he was listed at 270) I think he can be a servicable rotation player in the mold of Brian Beidatsch a few years back. Regardless, I will be rooting for Kuntz to make the most out of all the talents that God gave him.

John Ryan was probably the biggest suprise among the incoming freshmen. He was a backup from Day One last year. Ryan is the kind of player that teams like Boston College and Wisconsin live off of. He likely was able to come in and contribute right away because he was well coached in high school. St. Ignatius is one of the better high school programs in the country, and Ohio high school football is a great training ground for success. Ryan is someone that I hope puts a mattress in the Gug and basically moves in with Mendoza. At 6'5 240 he looked skinny out there last year.

Seeing as how this isn't the steroid age in college football anymore, my hope is that Ryan can get up to about 255-260. He still probably won't be big or strong enough to hold down his spot without help, but the kid does have a chance to be a very productive player in the mold of Kyle Budinscak, etc.

This is where we jump into the great unknown(s). Derrell Hand has been beset by injuries for the first two years of his career at ND. One positive is that the kid did show enough dedication to completely reshape his body during his first year at ND.

The next great unknown is Paddy Mullen. On the positive side of the equation, he was indeed recruited to play DE by the likes of Nebraska, Missouri, etc. His play on defense during his junior year of high school is what first got him noticed by college coaches. Mullen ended last season at about 6'5 270 pounds. It's not unrealistic to think he could be in the 280 pound range by August. In no way shape or form do I expect him to be the second coming of Chris Zorich. But I am hopeful that he can be a part of an effective rotation along the DL.

The biggest mystery is Chris Stewart. On paper, his potential move to NG looks like it could be successful. Stewart's biggest problem as an OL was his almost complete lack of experience in pass blocking. I remember watching video from last years All American Game and seeing Stewart and Gerald McCoy going against each other. It was a complete deadlock. You could see that both were extremely powerful young men. Often times, players like Stewart, Nawankwo, and even Ian Williams are asked in high school to play the position that will be most helpful to their team. And in each case, none likely had the physical stamina to play both ways. One thing is for certain - Stewart is in significantly better shape now than he was a year ago. There are too many things that I don't know about him to be able to predict success or failure as a NG. Temperment, current physical condition, etc. But again, the hope is that this 6'5 330-340 giant has the ability to hold down his gap and creative some havoc for opposing offenses.

I don't know where to slot either Justin Brown, Kallen Wade or Dwight Stephenson. Of the three, Brown has played much more. He has 1 start and about 100 minutes of career playing time. In my mind, the biggest problem with Brown is that he likely still considers himself a basketball player who happens to play football. I've seen flashes of significant talent from Brown over the last two years. He actually played some of his best football towards the end of last year after he got back in the mix with the defection of Talley. Wade is a complete unknown. But even an optimist like me isn't expecting any of these guys to be the second coming of Frank Stams. Solid contributors would be just fine, thank you very much.

As for the incoming freshmen, it's hard to imagine anyone other than Ian Williams having much of an impact. And even then, I don't expect him to challenge for a starting position.

LINEBACKER
As I said, I think ND can, and will, be better at linebacker in 2007. First and foremost, everyone is back. Perhaps thats damning with faint praise. But so be it. Travis Thomas, though, looks like he is going back to being a full time running back.

The headliner in this group is Maurice Crum. I don't see how anyone can't be a big fan of this guy. He's started the last 25 games for ND. During that time he had major back surgery, changed positions, and still managed to lead the team with 100 tackles last year. I don't know where he will line up for Corwin Brown, but I know he will be out there. I'm encouraged by the fact that Crum is healthy enough this year to go through winter conditioning and go full speed during spring practice. I still shake my head at the fact that the three players that ended up being ND's main linebackers last year (Crum, Brockington, and T. Thomas) didn't take one live snap at the position during spring practice.

But getting back to Crum. It's often pointed out that he didn't get pursued by the Big Three in Florida coming out of high school. But he did get offers from teams like Georgia Tech and Tennessee. How many teams in the country have guys from Florida like that who end up being very good players? Hell, even Rutgers does it. It wouldn't suprise me to see Crum at up around 230 or so next fall. He'll never be the biggest, fastest, guy on the field, but he is a good football player that has the chance to be very good.

Joe Brockington is another player that isn't flashy, highly touted, etc. I highly doubt the NFL is in his future. What I do know is that he ended up starting the last 9 games at LB last year and did so weighing no more than what was likely 215-220 pounds. Like Crum, Brockington had major surgery on his back last year. I can't even begin to imagine how much size and strength he lost in the process. I am hopeful that Brockington can stay healthy and build himself back up to legitimate LB size - 230 or so. This season will likely be his last go round playing football, and for a guy that has had to overcome so much, I'm hoping he can put together a good year.

Like Brockington, Toryan Smith got the majority of his first minutes of playing time coming in as the extra linebacker in goal line situations. Smith is interesting in that he is what I am finding out is quite common down South - a "3 star" player that has an offer list that jumps out at you and makes you wonder how he could be rated so "low". Simply put, there are too many good to great players down in Florida, Georgia, etc., and given the political nature of these rankings, at a certain point I think guys that are very good players don't make the "star" cut.

What I do know about Smith is that he had offers from Florida, Michigan, Alabama, Oklahoma, etc. What I do know is that he is a LB that this staff targeted very early on in the recruiting process. Toryan needs to be a defensive version of Darius Walker. By that I mean a guy from Georgia that, despite having excellent offers, was only a consensus 3 star recruit but who ended up having an extremely productive career at ND.

The first place he can start is helping ND get better against the run. For all the talk about the blown coverages last season, what really made me sick about our defense was the fact that teams ran on us. A lot. ND finished last year ranked 61st in Rushing Defense. That is beyond unacceptable at Notre Dame.

Anthony Vernaglia has had a rough few years in terms of his football career. To borrow a phrase from my friends down in Texas, so far he has been "all hat and no cattle". Pete Carroll obviously saw something in him because he chased him to the bitter end. One thing about Vernaglia is that he is an excellent athlete and with two years of eligibility left, be it on defense, offense, or wherever, I hope the staff finds a place where he can shine.

Again, we take a step into the unknown. Morrice Richardson was a DE last year but I think he will be an OLB in this system. What worries me the most about Richardson is the fact that I don't know how much more weight his frame can handle. He's 6'2 225-230. He's got excellent straight line speed. The worry with Richardson coming out of high school was that he was a classic 'tweener. But stop me if you've heard this one before - he's the type of player that the other schools that recruited him - Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Florida, etc. - find a place for.

Kerry Neal is the great hope for all of us in front seven among the incoming freshmen. To me, he represents all that has been good with ND's recruiting on defense over the last two years. Again, perhaps that is damning with faint prase. But Neal was a guy that ND was in on before anyone else. Not suprisingly, credit goes to Bill Lewis, who seems to have an excellent network of resources down south, which isnt suprising given the years he spent at Georgia, Georgia Tech, East Carolina, and with the Dolphins. ND got to Neal first, and held off teams like Miami, Florida, Alabama, Nebraska, North Carolina, etc. Neal is the most highly ranked, decorated, whatever you want to call it, front seven recruit for ND since Victor Abiamiri. I don't know if he will be strong enough to be an every down player for ND as a freshmen, but he has the potential to get in create some havoc for opposing QBs.

I have no idea what to expect from Steve Quinn, Steve Smith, or Kevin Washington. Of the three, Quinn has made a nice impact on special teams. Frankly, getting anything significant in terms of production from any of them at LB would be a nice suprise. The same could be said for Nagel, Paskorz and Brian Smith.

SECONDARY
This is the place where ND has the best mix of experience and recruiting success. To start, ND would be much better off if Zbikowski can look more like the 2005 version of himself as opposed to the 2006 version. Zibby had five picks two years ago. Last year he had none. This is the money making year for him - without question he probably saw his draft stock plummet after the year that he had. I'd like to think that a future in football is important to him, because if it isn't, then he should have called it a day and moved on with his boxing career. Zibby is a returning captain and starter and needs to play his best football in 2007.

Ambrose Wooden was also beset by shoulder and knee problems last year. But he is a very experienced player that has had his fair share of big moments, both good and bad, for ND. There is no doubting his physical ability. Wooden is another 5th year player that needs to realize that if he wants to keep playing football, it's now or never to go and prove it.

Terrail Lambert was the most improved player, bar none, last season. He went from being a bust in some peoples eyes to playing more minutes than anyone last year and leading the team in interceptions. He's still too inconsistent but has the physical talent to succeed, either at corner, or even at free safety.

Darrin Walls probably has more potential than any DB on ND's roster. Before he got hurt during his senior year of high school, he was ranked by many as being the #1 CB prospect in the country. ND beat out Michigan, Florida, and just about everyone else for this kid. Walls certainly had a tough freshmen season. Welcome to college football kid, enjoy matching up with Calvin Johnson and the Bowe kid from LSU. Walls needs to build himself up in the next few months. He was painfully skinny, and likely weak, due to the shoulder operation that he had before he got to ND. With the combination of Bill Lewis, Corwin Brown, and Ruben Mendoza guiding him, the sky truly is the limit for Walls.

Also in the mix at corner will be Gary Gray, Raeshon McNeil and Leo Ferrine. Gray will benefit as much as anyone from being an EE. It amazes me that he made his reputation as being a bump and run corner, and for being physical (I hope you all caught his goaline tackle of Ryan Mallet in the AA Bowl) and being about 165 pounds and painfully lacking in the strengtth department. McNeil was just as highly touted as Walls and Gray coming out of high school. As for Ferrine, he's just a guy that despite not having any hype, has managed to play major minutes and start a few games over the last few years. It wouldn't suprise me to see him get passed by some of the younger guys, but he is a veteran that will be in the mix.

Then there are our young safeties. Herring and David Bruton have played the most minutes at both S and on special teams. Sergio Brown played mostly on special teams. Kyle McCarthy actually managed 82 minutes of playing time but that was on special teams. The wild cards are twofold - one, where will Lambert, or perhaps another corner like McNeil, end up? It wouldn't be shocking to see one of them slide over to FS. And the other is Harrison Smith. Again, on paper, he is the best safety prospect ND has signed since probably Gerome Sapp. It warms my heart when ND can beat out Tennessee, Auburn, and most of the rest of the SEC for a skill position player. The kid is a freakish athlete - he ran a 4.38 at the same Rivals combine at which Eric Berry - one of the premier corner prospects in the country who signed with Tennessee - ran a 4.33. And more importantly, if you watch Smith play, he looks smooth and experienced as a safety. He won't be playing the position for the first time in his life when he steps foot on campus.



CONCLUSION
But here is the most important thing to remember, and why Brown's first year is so important. Only a handful of players on defense are in their final year of eligibility - Zibby, Wooden, Brockington, and Laws being the foremost on that list. If, and it's a big if, Brown can get this group to make strides in 2007, he will have a significant core of experienced players coming back, and he will likely be able to attract the top flight recruits ND has missed out on.

A Review of Irish Recruiting

Thanks to Revue Party for this informative post on Irish Recruiting. It shows just how much Charlie has had to work to bring this program back from death's doorstep. This class was only a disappointment compared to earlier expectations... that was clear to most, but not some. Here's Revue Party's analysis:

Here's a look at our recruiting (based on Rivals) for the past four years against our 2007 schedule. Obviously, this is fraught with some issues. For example: 5th years seniors and defections are not accounted for (anyone else as bad as our '04 class for losses?). Also, when a school had over 85 scholarships offered over a 4 year period, I clipped them at 85 and used their average rating to calculate the results.

Summary observations:

1) Only USC recruited more talent than ND over the past 2 years, and not by much.
2) All but Stanford, Navy and Air Force recruited more talent than ND over the previous 2 seasons (mostly due to quantity of players. Only USC, UM and PSU have higher ratings these two seasons).
3) Overall, only USC, Michigan and Penn State has recruited more talent over the past four years (MSU is close but too many players).
4) If Ty continued his recruiting prowess at ND (using UW's last two years), Michigan St., UCLA and Purdue (almost) pull ahead of ND. That's a 6-6 team.

On talent alone, we're 9-3 next year based on an analysis fraught with holes. We're heading towards becoming a 11-1, 12-0 team based on talent.

Edit: I did this analysis for 2005 and 2006. 2005 predicted 8-4 with losses to USC, Michigan, Tennessee and Ohio St. (75% accurate). 2006 predicted 10-3 with losses to USC, Michigan and LSU (100% accurate).

   06 and '07     04 and '05   Total     Max 85 
Plyrs Avg. Pts Plyrs Avg. Pts Plyrs Avg. Pts Plyrs Pts New Coach?
O 20 SOUTHERN CAL 43 4.07 175 40 4.00 160 83 4.04 335 83 335
S 15 @ Michigan 39 3.51 137 45 3.53 159 84 3.52 296 84 296
S 08 @ Penn State 45 3.40 153 44 3.02 133 89 3.21 286 85 273
S 22 MICHIGAN ST. 45 2.80 126 54 2.85 154 99 2.83 280 85 240 Y
S 29 @ Purdue 44 2.47 109 48 2.83 136 92 2.66 245 85 226
O 06 @ UCLA 32 3.35 107 47 2.79 131 79 3.01 238 79 238
N 17 DUKE 47 2.30 108 47 2.17 102 94 2.23 210 85 190
O 13 BOSTON COLLEGE 38 2.84 108 36 2.80 101 74 2.82 209 74 209 Y
S 01 GEORGIA TECH 36 3.03 109 42 2.29 96 78 2.63 205 78 205
N 24 @ Stanford 37 2.54 94 27 2.81 76 64 2.65 170 64 170 Y
N 03 NAVY 29 1.55 45 19 2.00 38 48 1.73 83 48 83
N 10 AIR FORCE 30 1.20 36 28 1.57 44 58 1.38 80 58 80 Y

Notre Dame 46 3.56 164 33 2.91 96 79 3.29 259.8 79 260

2.8 - This is not "quite" the one

Leave for work and everything changes. Well, not everything, but enough. I was a big fan of Greg Little and think he'll be a stud at UNC. He has size, speed, moves and motivation. I was little moved by the other Little's defection, which hurt potential, but Greg Little could have played next year at Notre Dame.

So where does that leave Notre Dame the day after signing day? Still very good, not great... yet.

Notre Dame is one of six teams to finish in the 10 in recruiting the past two years. The others being Florida, USC, Texas, LSU and Georgia.

Notre Dame also finished 6th this year in average players ranking.

What's clear here is that Notre Dame has rejoined the elite. Compare these two classes to any two back-to-back classes at Notre Dame since Vinny Cerratto ran recruiting and you'll gain a different perspective. Notre Dame has done what it hasn't been able to do since Vinnie, put together two top ten classes back to back. I think it's a no-brainer that next year's class will also be a top ten class. So Notre Dame will have the base talent to compete with any team in the country, but it won' t have the talent edge that it enjoyed in the past. USC has it. Texas has it. Florida has it.

Greg Little's loss doesn't ruin the possibility of greatness, but it lessens it.

Weis worked his ass off this year and didn't deserve this, but he's learned some lessons and paid the price for making assistant hiring decisions on the fly when he took the job (BTW, has Jappy Oliver recruited anyone of value to ND?) Not the Belichick way and those decisions likely delayed Notre Dame's return to the top.

ND has to have the only press following that actively works against the team. Just screwy. I don't know if Prister's outing of a possible Lewis retirement or his speculating about recruits (Hughes and Little) switching positions is malicious, but it's at the very least dense. Personally, I began losing respect for him after the Davie flip-flop and and lost all respect when he played the Willingham race card.

The idea that reporting facts is somehow incumbent upon those covering freaking sports is inane. UNC's site bragged about how they withhold information to protect recruiting. Meanwhile, we've got guys who actually think they have a duty to report that which hurts what they purport to love. Hey, if it's real meaningful news, I get it . But not very much fits that criteria in sports. Sports writers tend to be self-important covering the unimportant. White House correspondents sit on potentially damaging information all of the time, but an internet sports writer can't?

I'm all for realism and not a big fan of homerism... but you don't do things that damage unless there's a very good reason. Little wanted to be the man -- that was obvious. Pristers' article told him he wasn't and it's a good bet Prister doesn't even know. "Little" things mean a lot in recruiting. If it was after signing day, I would understand... but just before? Not something other fan bases seem to have to deal with.

Enough with the rants. Maybe I'll never get that part of it and it's possible I'm reading this wrong, but it's disturbing to more than me.

We'll go through a breakdown here more in depth soon, but the bottom line on this class is that it's disappointing, but still a marked improvement. Not a class that will prevent ND from winning a national championship, but not a class that will ensure one either. Little's defection hurts, but I still have a feeling this class is going to leave Notre Dame with a ring.

~ The Rock

2.9 - This Is The One

There's a Wall Street axiom that goes like this: "Buy on bad news, sell on good news." Yet, investor psychology tends to run counter to this old adage because "perception" is a hard thing to overcome.

Many times when "analysts" are down on teams (like Michigan last year) that same down team has a surprising season the next. That's because "analysts" don't really know what's going on at a school. When a school like Notre Dame disappoints relative to expectations the visceral/emotional reaction is to downgrade the school further than need be. The opposite is also true. Lou Holtz used to tell his players that teams are rarely as good or as bad as they seem and for the most part, that's proved very true.

Why bring this up now? If Notre Dame closed out last season in style, we would be sitting with possibly the number one class in the country. We didn't and took the investor psychology (recruiting) hit, but Notre Dame is looking at a very strong bounce off a pretty high bottom. It's not like ND had a terrible year with 10 wins and BCS berth, but the poor defensive performance against LSU killed the Irish recruiting mojo. It's very hard for recruits to see beyond their televisions, but next year the Irish will beat perceptions and likely be ranked higher than they should in 2008. Which means next year's recruiting class won't suffer from late defections and likely will benefit from them.

And that, pretty much explains this year's class. Which went from potentially an all-timer to a very good class in a month -- but I believe it will be the one that will be remembered for bringing ND back a national title.

Notre Dame signed, arguably, the best player in the country at quarterback. We've inked a lightening quick running back with moves and surprising power in Armando Allen We've got a truck of a RB in Hughes and who many think was the best tight end in the country in Mike Ragone (check his offer sheet.) I love our wide receiver class. Kamara and Little are monsters with surprising speed and Tate is a breakaway threat. Romine maybe the best OT prospect in the country, we was consistently rated the top OL at the Army AA game. Notre Dame got exactly what it needed on offense and I wouldn't trade this offensive class for any I've seen in my lifetime and ND will finally have the game breakers it needs to keep defenses off balance. I also think we'll have quarterbacks who are more accurate than Quinn and that is a very big key to the way Weis plays offense.

On the defensive side of the ball, Gary Gray was really the most important recruit in the end, with Neal number two. Having cover corners opens up options on defense. Having a pass rusher like Kerry Neal shuts down options for offenses. These two will be linchpins in the Irish resurgence under Brown. In fact, I've heard that Neal maybe the real reason Notre Dame lost Trattou. Trattou wanted to be the man on the edge and with ND it's Neal. Just as important, ND finally landed a defensive lineman who can hold his own and get penetration in Ian Williams.

It's hard not to look at the losses on defense with Martin, Wilson, Austin, Barksdale, Blackwell, Donald, Edwards and Peters all heading elsewhere -- but I'm not sure I'd trade Neal or Gray for anyone (I do think Martez Wilson is the guy we'll miss landing the most -- hes the perfect fit for the 3-4 and a complement to Neal.) This class will be in the top three in the country in terms of overall average rankings and that shouldn't be overlooked, because you only need a few of the game changer players to build a championship around and we might have just got'em. Even though Florida won a national championship this past year, ND beat UF for Allen, Little, Ragone, Nwanko, Romine, Williams and Neal. ND also beat USC for Ragone, Clausen, Little and Kamara among others. In fact, ND has still won more head to head recruiting battles than it lost with Florida over the last two years.

I think we got just enough difference makers this year to set the foundation for a great class next year.

The pain is that those losses may push off National Championship hopes until 2009 -- when this year's recruits are juniors. But even if that's a delayed a year (and that hurts) I still believe that this class is the one that will push ND over the top.

~ The Rock

2.1 - One Page

If there was one defining attribute of the Patriots' success, it was coaching synergy. The Belichick, Crennel, Weis triumvirate melded into a mind-think where offense and defense understood and complemented each other and confidence permeated every part of the organization.

If there was one obvious missing attribute on Notre Dame last year, it was that very same ingredient. Here's what Charlie said in his press conference:

"…I felt I needed to be able to turn the defense over in the spring to somebody who I was familiar with and whose familiarity in the system that I was brought up in made the most sense… I won't have to concern myself with knowing what we're doing, because I know what we'll be doing. Because it's a system that I was grown up in as I started on the defensive side of the ball my first year."

"I won't have to concern myself with know what we're doing." Think about that quote. And here's what Minter said after the fact:

"I think Charlie will be more comfortable with somebody from the Belichick-Parcells family. Charlie has brought in a young guy who doesn’t have my experience. But he’ll be more comfortable with him."

Charlie didn't get Rick. Rick didn't get Charlie. Notre Dame didn't get a bowl win.

Given the oft reported talent deficiencies at Notre Dame, it's not hard to see a problem here. Weis is used to working in the war room with people he gets and respects. It's not hard to see Weis becoming frustrated by Minter's Stratego approach if Weis doesn't understand him and also not hard to see the resulting effect on team unity and motivation.

I happen to think that Corwin Brown is a boffo choice for defensive coordinator. He was already considered for an NFL DC spot and obviously comes with the blessings of some of the best coaches in the NFL. He fits exactly what I would have been looking for in a DC even over an established college name. Brown played in the NFL and has great respect as a coach, a leader and a motivator. As for the cries of inexperience, when Belichick named Mangini and Pees (who Weis wanted over Minter and couldn't touch,) he promoted from within. Crennel had exactly one year of previous DC experience. Brown (outside of his Michigan pedigree,) IMO, is a great fit and will bring true aggressiveness and not just aggressive theory to the Irish. I don't blame Charlie for one second for picking Minter to start with. Notre Dame was a ship wreck at the time and Charlie had to hire while on the road. He knew he had to bring some Irish continuity back to the Bend and he struck out on other choices.

Now there's been much gnashing of teeth over the loss of stud recruit Justin Trattou to Florida. Brown is a much, much more important recruit (and I think Trattou is great.) Given the bowl blowout, DC change and change in scheme, I think we came out surprisingly good. It could have been much worse. Not only were we recruiting for Minter (and Charlie obviously didn't evaluate talent the same way,) but recruiting for a different scheme and after a bad defensive season. Ironically, Florida is also going to implementing the 3-4 hybrid so you have to think Trattou really wanted Florida (Lemming is suggesting that ND go after to Howard and Lemmens.) That said, the Irish have still won most of the head to head recruiting battles with Florida the last two years and I'm not sure the Gators will be as good on defense (they lose 9 players and Strong/Mattison will have to develop "their" players.) I have high confidence Notre Dame will be better.

Does that mean there are no holes in this class? Of course not, but defensive recruiting class was bound to take a hit given all of the variables moving against it. And ND lost a lot of good players in the transition such as Wilson, Barksdale and Peters(biggest losses IMO,) but given the pit we were in just two years ago, this class is nirvana. It pales only in relation to expectation. Overall this will be a top 10 class and maybe the best offensive class in the country... and I will make a prediction: Notre Dame will have one of the best defensive hauls in the country next year and have a lot of defensive buzz same time next year. Bank it. Guaranteed by Rock Namath. I'll make another prediction: You will see much more of the Patriot Way at Notre Dame next season now that Weis has got one of his own.

I think next year will fun to watch... and we'll be surprisingly good.

~ The Rock (apologies, the blog isn't working)