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From These Ashes

Finally a spark in the Irish offense and it's no surprise it happened in game five. As noted here before, new offensive lines usually start to gel around the fifth game of the year.

Of course, it helps when you're playing a bad defense and it's not lost on anyone that all this was in a losing effort, but the the talent surge from the underclassmen is finally starting to show on the field. Jimmy Clausen, Golden Tate, Duval Kamara and Armando Allen are the most dynamic players on the Irish offense and all are freshmen. It's clear that once our line becomes more consistent Notre Dame will, for the first time in years, have the game breaking weapons to exploit defenses. Tate, Kamara and Parris seem to give us our best chance to win right now at receiver. Sharpley's looking better and better.

It was noted on Rock's House that Notre Dame returned the fewest lettermen of any 1-A team in the country and only four players on offense had any real game experience coming into this season. Which is why it was particularly galling to see a certain double paid coach disavow any responsibility for this mess (yet again) on national TV. Our upperclasses are the classes of three wood. The kids who are making plays are from the classes underneath, which, while still young will have ample experience next year and after that we won't have to go through such a transition for a long time. It's almost over. The problem is that it's not completely over.

Even after lines start to gel they usually suffer setbacks that make them look completely inept one or two more times. And while I'm optimistic about our offense, especially if we can pick up Michael Floyd, I'm less so about our defense until we get next year's class in and battle-ready. Omar Hunter and Ethan Johnson will likely be our best defensive players next years, which means another year of freshman learning, this time on defense.

But for now, we'll be content to see the offense emerge from the ashes of an early season burnout that needs to be stricken from the record books. We'll have years to enjoy this remarkable offensive freshmen class put up numbers in a Weis offense (which is finally returning.) BTW, doesn't it seem like Charlie always runs a better offense going full throttle?

The main arterial bleeding as ceased on offense and it's starting to slowly get exciting around Notre Dame football again.

Failure Isn't an Option

To build on my Game Over post on whyWeis is different and Bonger's excellent post expanding on those theme's today, I want to reframe the angst debate very simply:

1 - No matter what you think about this season Charlie isn't going anywhere. He's not getting fired and he's not quitting and moving to the NFL. His contract is huge and the administration has to give him a chance to get his recruits to the Junior and Senior levels.

2 - His situation is different from this predecessors for three reasons:
  • He has a genuine love for the school, where the previous coaches were users. But this alone doesn't matter.
  • He's been left a virtual death sentence in scholarships and talent in the junior and senior classes. His predecessor had talent from his predecessor's recruiting. We have the worst talent in modern history and no numbers.
  • It isn't that we have a young offensive line. It isn't that we have freshman quarterback who was injured. It isn't just that we lack threats at wide receiver. It isn't a relentless schedule. It's that all of these things are happening at once that makes it a challenging offensive situation.
  • Charlie's recruited back to back to back top ten recruiting classes, something his predecessors combined weren't able to do. His predecessor was destroying the program class by class.



Given one and two the ONLY outcome of the constant Hold Me I'm Irish Negativity could have would be to degrade the current recruiting class. That's it.

Charlie's not moving anywhere. The recruits are coming in. The current talent level is very poor.

So, a rhetorical question: If the only effect of constant wailing is to hurt the future we're building.... wouldn't it be better to go mow the lawn than constantly harp on negatives that bring on the very thing we're worried about?

Failure isn't an option. The talent foundation is being reset for the first time in almost 15 years.

This is the year to support, not tear down the team no matter how bad it gets... because the alternative is to make it worse.

A Rush to Judgement

Toledo, Central Michigan, Eastern Illinois and Minnesota averaged 4.4 yards a rush so far this year against Purdue for 34 first downs and 7 touchdowns. Purdue's defensive ends are 241 and 247 pounds apiece. Robert Hughes and James Aldridge are 238 and 220 pounds apiece.



I'm just sayin'

If you haven't read Vannie's two cents you should.

Recruits are Savvy

****This was shared by Art Fern (rock's house)

Recruits are savvy enough to know

· That Weis already had a verbal commitment from Frazer and a strong feelers coming from the reopened Mustain camp when Weis accepted Jones’ verbal commitment over Mustain’s

· That Weis eliminated Frazer, not Jones from the competition after spring practice

· That Weis would have chosen Sharpley to start against Georgia Tech if he only wanted a caretaker until Clausen was ready

· That Weis would not have developed packages for Jones to use against Michigan if he had no intention of allowing Jones to compete for the starting spot

· That Weis had no problem starting a sophomore over a junior at QB

· That Weis has had no problem starting a freshman at QB, on the line, at DB, as kick returner, at WR, and at RB

· That Weis let Rick Minter go and hired Corwin Brown in his place

Recruits are also savvy enough to know that opposing coaches that spin the Jones situation in light of the above are proving their own self-interest is more important than truth and the best interest of the kid.

Recruits are also savvy enough to know that opposing coaches that were ready to supplant their three-year starter with a freshman or a tag-along recruit should not be the ones accusing Weis of ulterior motives.

Truth be told, the recruits are savvy enough to know that, thanks to the recruiting shortfalls left by the previous regime, they have an unparalleled opportunity in the history of Notre Dame to walk into immediate playing time and at the same time resurrect the most storied college football program.

As a matter of fact, the verbal commitments, particularly on defense (or any WR that commits), need to come to campus ready to play because play they will. And no opposing coach, no matter how sleazy, will be able to counter this double question from any one of our verbal commits:

Coach Doubletalk, “Tell me again why I won’t be able to get immediate playing time at ND? Do you think they have too much talent, or do you think I’m not good enough?”

I'll add one more, Coach Weis isn't going anywhere for a variety of reasons. ZERO chance.

The Purpose of Blame

We always have to blame something or someone. It makes us feel better by giving us a sense that the uneasy feeling we're living with and our accompanying emotional distresses have been addressed.

Once we've blamed somebody, our frustration and burdens are temporarily exorcised.

But blame resolution, like the pursuit of instant gratification (insert joke) is rarely lasting and only helpful if placed within context.

It takes a certain amount of experience to balance the need to satiate blame with the reality of where things truly stand. Human nature requires we assign responsibility and "do something" to mitigate the perceived wrong. Until we blame somebody, we feel that our worries are unresolved. If we really care about something, it's essential to our heads that we get why it's wrong and that there's movement toward addressing it.

If not, it gets basketed into the unresolved emotional distress bin -- and that gnaws at you.

It reminds me of.... pardon the elder reference here... the "Mash" line where Frank intones, "we need to do something, ANYTHING." Hawkeye replies, "I agree with Frank, let's do anything."

That's the "make the pain go away" line, but it usually doesn't solve the underlying problem.

My unfortunate friend is married to someone who constantly harps on money while this person is building a business and highlights everything that's wrong in the day-to-day world. That doesn't change the fact that all those little things that are wrong aren't going to get better until they get better. Which simply means that everything is going to look like it's wrong until things are headed in the right direction. All of the little things that appear to be wrong would be just fine if things were good in the short-term.

The thing is... it was clear before they got married that they'd have to go through this, but the frustration of the problem begets the need to blame something. And, of course, everything looks bad. If business were great, human nature would find a way to generate happy signals for most of the frustration signs.

Folks, we're in the perfect storm of awful -- we all saw this coming, but it's worse than we ever thought it would be.

Reflecting back, we should have thought it could get this bad.

We've got a brand new quarterback, brand new wide receivers and a mostly new line starting against one of the hardest opening schedules in the country.

Now layer that in with the fact that we've had one of the worst defenses in the country with paper thin, lower-rated depth adjusting to a brand new defensive scheme.

That's all bad enough, but we also don't have ONE WEEK of rest for EIGHT STRAIGHT WEEKS. Not one smaller team to at least get our footing against.

In addition to all of this, we're struggling with the worst junior/senior classes in ND history and even those low rated classes have been decimated by attrition.

I hate where we're at. No football fan could enjoy this, but I also know the talent that's coming underneath; it's landscape changing talent especially on defense.

In the meantime understand that the personal need to assign blame is human, but not necessarily helpful or relative. We just don't, and can't, understand much of what is wrong until we come up the backside of awful. Everything (and I'm to blame as well) looks bad right now. Are the lack of hitting practices to blame? Probably, but if we had hitting practices and lost Trevor Laws or Pat Kuntz is that worth the trade-off? Or after Laws goes down for the season do we then blame the stupid decision to have harder hitting tackle to the ground practices?

Blame is one of the most useless, but essential of human reactions. Blame allows us to move on That's why we can blame with venom one week and embrace again the next week with a fervor we thought was impossible the week before.

It's part of being a fan.

The emotional need to blame, whether it's in relationships, business or sports, needs to be satiated and... something needs to be sacrificed to be free of this need to make the wrong, right.

We're all going to be mad after every loss, let's just don't sacrifice the wrong idea or jump the wrong conclusions to satisfy blood lust. It takes courage to back your man and stay the course.

We've all thrown in with Charlie who, most of all, cares about ND while being smart enough to figure it out.

Our plight today was absolutely 100% predictable two years ago.

That doesn't mean there aren't mistakes being made, but we wouldn't notice most of them, at all, if we were winning and, because we've got some basic fundamental issues, we can't tell if things are symptoms or causes.

The key here is to adjust our focus away from our beer-slamming emotions and onto the fact South Bend is going to be loaded with talent for the next four years. One, it's the truth and two, nothing else we do in the meantime, this emotional thrashing, accomplishes anything more than appeasing our own angst.

Oh, I forgot, the one thing that has been horrible from the start is special teams.

And in This Corner

Here come the Irish hoopsters with the best collection of talent Mike Brey has had since Troy Murphy roamed the court. Anyone who saw Notre Dame last year understands that Tory Jackson has enormous potential at point guard. Luke Harangody, another sophomore, is the best big man we've had since Mr. Murphy. But more importantly, Notre Dame doesn't have any glaring holes to fill for teams to exploit. The book on ND basketball(that's besides Coffey's book) was always extend on the perimeter and double down inside. Teams did it with great success, but now we have players who can finish from outside, midrange and inside.

Perhaps the biggest change (besides a weak schedule) is that a team attitude seems to have taken hold. ND was notorious for defensive breakdowns and jacking threes on offense. What Brey's team showed last year was the ability to become multi-dimensional on offense, play aggressive defense and run the ball in transition.

Thinking about the possibilities his year with an attacking offense fueled by Tory Jackson's penetration and a low post presence by Harangody and Kurz who can kick it out to McAlarney or Ayers on the wing,... and now we also have the ability sink the 12 foot shot. Reportedly, Luke Zeller played very well overseas.

While losing Falls and Carter, we're gaining in maturity from Brey's best recruiting classes.

Here are some notes from JHND from the pit on Saturday's scrimmage:

General Notes on the Upperclassmen

- Tory Jackson is outstanding. He's quick, he's athletic, he can finish around the hoop, he can dish the ball, and now he can shoot, too. I have to imagine that he'll be All-Big East this year if he stays healthy.

- McAlarney looked like McAlarney. A great outside shooter, but you can kind of tell when he's looking to shoot the ball. He looks calm and confident, though, and it looked like his defense was good. He has a serious, pissed-off (not in a bad way) demeanor to him that I
like.

- I really didn't see much of Ayers. He made a couple of nice mini-drives into the lane from 15' out on the wing, finished with finger rolls, but I don't remember him shooting the ball. He's solid, but not spectacular.

- Peoples looks pretty average to me, to be honest. I'm not sure what he brings to the table, other than another ball-handler in a
crunch. He doesn't seem to have any confidence to shoot the ball, and Jackson
seemed to get on him at one point (seemingly only half-seriously) about never
looking for his shot.

- Kurz looked like Kurz, which is a good thing. Very polished, with nice defense and controlled outside shooting. I don't remember his finishing around the rim to be as impressive as I was hoping, however, but he's a great player.

- Harangody is a beast, pure and simple. There were times during the scrimmage in which he was scoring at will, and against some pretty decent defense from Zeller. He was hitting some hooks, making post moves, hitting 10' jumpers, and hitting threes. He also seems to be making better decisions -- at one point he was barreling down the court at full speed in his traditional runaway locomotive style (which would make me crap my pants if I were the opposition), and whereas last year he probably would have committed a very gruesome charge, this time he made a nice dish to a teammate, who finished easily. I can't see why he won't be an All-Big East player this year, and some All-America recognition wouldn't be shocking if he were on a team
that didn't have as many balanced scoring options.

- Zeller plays like a poor man's Yao Ming, from this untrained eye. He seems to like to stick exclusively to turn around jumpers when gets near the rim, and he still likes to light up the three. At least he was hitting a decent amount of them. It's funny,
because when I saw him play with the team in one of these scrimmages when he was
a high school senior, he showed a variety of post moves and baby hooks, which I
haven't seen since. His interior defense did seem improved, which is a nice
sign.

- I like Hillesland a lot, and I hope he gets some more PT
this year at the three spot. I like him more than Ayers at the 3, because he can
drive to the hoop, is bulkier, and still plays awesome defense. His shot has
also gotten better, but regardless Brey shouldn't feel like he needs another
shooter at the 3, when he has Jackson, McAlarney and Kurz on the floor.

General Notes on the Freshmen

- Tyrone Nash played the most out of any of the freshmen, and I expect that he'll get decent minutes here and there, especially during the early non-conference schedule. He seems very athletic, which is something we can always use more of in our lineup (aside from Jackson), and reasonably polished.

- Carlton Scott is really, really thin, but he at least looks to have long arms and legs. He really didn't play much, though.

- Ty Proffitt got in the scrimmage quite a bit
at the end, and showed off a very nice looking, high-arching (Matt Carroll-like)
three-point stroke. He also handles the ball well, and seems confident.

- Tim Abromaitis looked pretty good, and seemed more athletic than
I was expecting. However, he seemed to look for his outside shot way, way more
often than I thought he should (he looked to have been about 1-6 shooting from
three), but perhaps that was only because it was a scrimmage.

General Summary Thoughts

- I love the way this team seems to work very hard and aggressively on the defensive end. If that translates to games, they'll be tough to beat just from that perspective. They play tough in the half-court set, and they hussle to get back on fast breaks. There were a couple of a nice-looking blocks today. More than anything else,
defense was something I liked the look of today.

- We have a lot of confident leadership on this team, in direct contrast with the football team, which has almost none. Kurz, McAlarney and Jackson are all great floor leaders, either by speaking, doing, or both.

- We'll probably lack overall athleticism again in this team, but Jackson and Nash have as much as you'd ever want at their spots, and Harangody and Hillesland can hold their own in that department. Harangody seems especially improved in that area.

- I'm sure the team will again look to the three too much, even though they have
enough talent to be able to dominate from two-point range, but we'll have to
accept that offensive strategy when our coach is from the Duke coaching tree.
They still seem to look three first, and all it would take is a little nudging
from time to time to remind them that they really are good enough to score
inside, both from passes to big men, and from drives and cuts.

- The recruit in attendance looked like a good player. Raw, but a little less so
than he was made out to be, and he looked to have a college body already.

- Brey and the coaches were there for seemingly the first third of
the scrimmage, but it was then turned over to the players.

- This team is ready to do some damage this year, as long as they can stay healthy, get some balls to roll their way in their Big East road schedule, and get enough
respect so as not to be fucked over in the Tourney seeding/draw again this year.

A Glimpse Into the Future

Junior Jimmy Clausen takes the snap and hands off to Junior Robert Hughes for five yards. Clausen to Junior Armando Allen for two. Junior Clausen hits Junior Kamara for ten yards on an out. Clausen to Junior Mike Ragone for 30 yards over the middle. Sophomore Omar Hunter sacks Ryan Mallet for a ten yard loss. Sophomore Filer picks off USC's Sanchez and returns for a touchdown.

These are words we want to hear now, but these guys aren't going to mature into their college rolls (collectively) for another year at least... and nothing is going to change that. It doesn't matter if I think that Weis throws too much and it doesn't matter if our OL isn't blocking now (though new offensive lines usually gel around week 5.)

None of our nuggets of wisdom are going to change that fact that our best players are sophomores, freshmen and High School seniors. Everyone's got one now (an opinion) and they're all worth what you paid at the bar for them.

If there's one through-thread in Notre Dame's performance it's been lack of seasoned talent while facing a tough opening schedule. We don't have one standout performer in two full years of recruiting, we don't have numbers and that creates a leadership void. Yeah, this team could have been tweaked better, but it would have different degrees of bad. Charlie shouldn't have tried to design an offense around Jones, but Clausen was still hurt. Six of bad on one hand...

As I commented on Group Stupid Mindthink with regard to Quinn, the same is true with Notre Dame Mindthink right now. The singular, absolute truth about Notre Dame football is this: fans will either be overly optimistic or overly pessimistic. There is no middle and fans are almost never right on aggregate. I usually discount about 20-30% on both the optimistic and the pessimistic side. And this isn't my invention, it's Lou who famously said "Teams are never as good or as bad as they appear."

Just as I thought going into last year things were too optimistic and before this year, now the momentum is switching to the side of pessimism --- but behind the scenes I see a transformation heading in the other direction.

The pendulum has swung, it just hasn't been reflected yet in a complete game. Progress may be a dirty word at Notre Dame, but whether it's on Wall Street or in D.C. prevailing wisdom is always a trailer, rarely a leader in predicting the future. Of course, it's hard to maintain perspective after four beatings (see Saturday's column.)

But we're going to have a hell of team very soon.

What's really worryisome now is that our defensive line is starting wear down, it's only week four and we don't get a game off until after USC. The perfect storm, indeed. Kudos to Charlie for NOT bringing up the schedule as an excuse.

***What good is Polian? Our special teams are consistently awful. Whatever nepotistic bargain got him to Notre Dame isn't worth it. We're giving away field position. We can't afford to be bad on special teams.

The Definition of Insanity

***** Author's Note: the following was written after a gamewatch ******

is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Repeat a thousand times: we cannot protect the passer. No amount of nifty scheming is going to change this until we actually do the dirty work of protection.

The turning point in this game (and I yelled it loudly when it happened) was the first quarter with second and 5 from our own 13. We've just had a nice run for 5 yards up the gut. We've got forward momentum and good blocking. The only thing that can set us back at this point is a pass.

We call a drop-back pass. Michigan State is bringing the house.

Clausen is sacked on the 4 yard line.

Repeat: PASSING PLAYS GO BACKWARDS!

Draw is stuffed, we punt, Michigan State scores a touchdown.

The second defining moment was just a few series later.

ND is down 14-7, Aldridge powers it out for 5. Notre Dame then throws for a first down with Clausen barely getting it off in time. It's clear that we cannot protect the quarterback right now. It's then first and 10 from the 31... we call a play action action with hardly a nod to the fake the ball is stripped loose on the 13.

Even though it doesn't look like it, I think this is the game right here. We hold them to a field goal. We just don't have margin of error to give up field position like that. We needed a cushion and instead gave them the advantage WE KNEW they were going to have going into this game -- their pass rush against our passing game.

Our passing game goes backward, while our running game was chewing them up for almost 6 yards a carry! Clausen threw 20 times for a net gain of 7 yards after sacks and fumbled takeaways. We lose or gain no yards more than half the time and net a ridiculous .3 yards per attempt (including sacks.)

J. Aldridge 18 104 5.8 43 0 0
R. Hughes 6 35 5.8 18 1 0
A. Allen 3 13 4.3 9 0 0

It's not a crime that our passing game isn't there yet. There was simply no need to go there because the risk was just too high. We go backwards when we pass and Michigan State couldn't stop the run.

I'm frustrated because this should have been a W. Aldridge and Hughes should carry this team until we can get protection. Grimes made some great grabs, but he wouldn't have to make "great" grabs if he were 6'3". There is simply no plausible reason to be starting two wide receivers you can't even see. If they had game breaking speed, maybe. They don't. Kamara, Parris, Hord and Tate give us size and speed.

Why Charlie went to the passing game with Sharpley at the end is perplexing. We can't pass. There's no point.

We need to start the big receivers, run the ball and ditch the horizontal passing game except as a change-up. Everyone's prepared for it. And no need to go for it on 4th down especially at that point in the game.

We showed signs of a great running game that we need to ride. MSU couldn't deal with it.

There were a lot of positive signs today and I should note that new offensive lines usually gel by the 5th game.

But we could have been the one's gutting MSU in the second half.

Instead we were gutted again.

***What good is Polian? Our special teams are consistently awful. Whatever nepotistic bargain got him to Notre Dame isn't worth it. We're giving away field position. We can't afford to be bad on special teams.

A Moment to Redefine

It occurred to me that Weis has a great moment to show he understands there's a learning curve in the college game. A shot of humility, as in: "I've learned a great lesson this year" would set the stage for a nice build the rest of this year and into next year. This week is the first one in which I think Charlie articulated a problem with his 'schematic' approach:
“Sometimes when you try to do every game, you try to find the X’s and O’s schematics to best exploit a team’s weaknesses. Sometimes you really don’t have an identity. The identity that I have always dealt with, at least on the offensive side of the ball, is multiple formations and multiple personnel groups to run the same plays. That’s my stereotype; that’s my label. And I think that’s what we really haven’t gotten to. We’re trying to get back to the basics and the core because you can always grow from the core. But I think right now we do not have a very established solid core. I think that’s what this week has been about; I think we are going about establishing that core.”

“Let’s just say that too many X’s and O’s are on the right track. We maybe are trying to do too many different things to scheme week by week that doesn’t give you a chance to have an identity.”
The first step is admitting there's a problem, the second is taking action to fix it. Pete Carroll has emphasized running the ball and they're driving kids 5 yards off the line of scrimmage, which of course, gives them an incredible margin for error in their passing game.

As Across says, if we're missing 40% of our passing plays and getting sacked another 10%, there is no way to win. If you miss a slant, you get zero yards and break the rhythm of an offense. If you run the ball and fail you at least are moving forward, but running does something else, it opens up the passing game and takes the charge out of the pass rush. So a missed pass play breaks the rhythm of the offense and does nothing to open up the run game, but a failed run keeps you moving forward and sets up the pass. It also wears down the pass rush, the linebackers and the d-backs. Additionally, it creates a tough forward leaning offensive line, which is where we want to get to.

Let's face it, we couldn't stop the pass rush last year either.

Andy Reid once said he'd never run the ball if he didn't have to. I fear the same is true with Reid's good buddy Weis.

As I was discussing with Vannie, this isn't rocket science here.

Other issues we talked about:
  • Charlie just needs to get Kamara, Tate, Hord and Parris out on the field. You can actually see these guys when they're open and they're big enough to block. Grimes and West do get open, but they also get stuffed at the line and Clausen has missed them. We need to invest is some receivers who will improve the probability of completing passes and runs... it's not just about who's getting open. A big receiver on a slant is a bigger target. More room for error. My oh my are we missing Benn this year. He was a two win recruit.
  • As I wrote before, we need to get an effective fullback in there.
  • Aldridge is a bell-cow type back and so is Hughes. We need to make a decision and get these guys in and let them get in a rhythm.
Footbaw can be a very simple game.

Late Prediction

Michigan State's defensive line is good at getting to the quarterback, but they are not at the same level gainst the run. They're also not overly big, overly talented and lack great depth. "If" Charlie can take the deep plunge and commit to trying to gut this team, it will open up the passing game for Clausen. What's been frustrating in the past is that we've used the running game to open up the pass and then switched entirely to a short passing offense. Charlie's commitment to the run game has been non-existent so far.

Notre Dame needs to pound the Spartans until the final whistle mixing in passes from Clausen. Pittsburgh ran for over 200 yards and 5 yards a carry against the Spartans. If Weis gives them a healthy dose of Aldridge up the gut, ND could land enough body blows to mitigate the Spartans pass rush.

I'd really like to see Schmidt and Aldridge in the same backfield. Armando has incredible talent, but ND needs to beat on some people up the middle this year and Aldridge is that guy. Schwapp is big and strong, but can't get a hat on anyone and doesn't have natural running skills. Schmidt does.

Line up the big boys and let our OL move forward instead of always moving back and you could see a different dynamic for the Irish.

ND not only can win this game, but should win this game.

You kiddin' me?

Whose idea was it to wave white flags for an 0-3 football team? I understand it's for a great cause... but... sheesh.

Game Over and a Final Rant

Little news flash to the media talking heads and scribes: The PR battle's over and ND won.

We replaced our head coach, our DC and recruited three straight top ten recruiting classes… game over. "You" tried to create an atmosphere that would prevent it from happening and lost. The rest, history, will be decided on the field. Write to your hearts galore about the 0-3 start, but it doesn't matter a whit what the national media thinks any more. It really doesn't. I actually think it's better to let them babble negative, because the argument has already been framed. We know they're mostly internet/tv whores shopping for viewers/hits… nothing new, they're hair pullers trolling for action.

Now, "mediathink" as I wrote last year did matter then and the year before when ND still had to attract recruits into a dying program… but… unbeknownst to most media babble, that critical phase has already passed. Now, the media war is rather irrelevant.

On point.

The Willingham argument just isn't credible anymore. Everyone's aware that he checked out during recruiting – again it's fact. And no matter what you think of the start of this season, there is no doubt Willingham left a wreck of a program behind. Can you blame Global Warming on it? Well no, but that's hardly the point.

Anecdotally, here's one for you from inside the Husky administration about Willingham:

"I can't believe how little he works for a head coach."

Postmark Seattle, four days ago. Did you say… FORE?

Wait till you tally up his rate per hour, UW.

You forget, I used to live in Seattle. I know people who know people. Willingham "still" hardly works and that fact will be will come home to roost in due time for him. We shouldn't concern ourselves anymore. The only reason we had to defend Notre Dame in the media was to save the direction of recruiting.

Notre Dame is back, even at 0-3.

What's interesting is that even writers like Pat Forde and Stewart Mandel know what's going on if you've read their articles.

Thankfully, the media war is one we don't have to fight anymore. It DID matter, because our recruiting depended on it, but Mark May Inc. already lost… the critical program changes – the only things they can affect ND's future performance -- have already happened. If ND falters now, it's not because of media bias, it's only because of ourselves -- and Notre Dame doesn't get a talent like Corwin Brown if the coaching world thinks ND won't rise again.

We've got a head coach who is also an excellent coordinator, what we wanted, and cares about the program.

We have a defensive coordinator who will do more with less and we have the most talent coming into ND since Lou Holtz in the early 90s.

Done. Game over.

I'd be more worried if we didn't' have the best incoming defensive line class (maybe in modern history) fantastic linebackers and defensive backs who already play like college juniors.

But that's not an issue.

Clausen is special and more importantly, he's a fighter. He's actually kind of a dick in a competitive sense and that's a complement. Notre Dame needs more like him. I'm in the tank for Clausen, even more so than Quinn.

He's skinny, but a tough SOB, while still smart. Our OL recruits look terrible this year, but even having to suffer through this, and knowing their talent, I believe they will form the basis of an Irish cyclone that will sweep many a team over the precipice.

Remember that next year.

Call me on it.

Get your laugh's in… soon it will be over.

0-3. Screw you.

Crappy offense? Go cry to your family.

0-3 and life is still good from where I sit, because I know the fever from the infection that was Davieham/Davingham has almost passed. It may take a few more night sweats to get it out, but it's almost gone.

Never forget that what separated those two idiots from Weis, regardless of coaching talent, was a passive-aggressive contempt for Notre Dame. That's what links them together in infamy and why Willingham never got five years; he didn't get five years because he followed a blood-sucking standard lowering twin in Bob Davie.

It wasn't that three years was enough with Willingham, it's that EIGHT YEARS of Davieham usery was too much for anyone who cared to bear.

When Willingham was at Stanford he would opine about what he could do with "Notre Dame level talent," then he came to Notre Dame and opined about what he could accomplish without "Notre Dame's restrictions."

I'm sure everyone's worked with such an excuse molder in every lower form.

Then he went and talked to the Administration at UW about coaching there while he was still at ND … and was fired.

"The lead's are weak, Ty? You're weak."

When Ty was hired he sung Notre Dame's praises; when he was fired he cried racism. Screw him and the Boob who came before him.

As a person, I hope they have happy fulfilled lives. As a fan, I hope they rot for their combined betrayal (and let's face it, their lives are in the 99.9999999%ile of good because of Notre Dame cash and notoriety.) Whether it's Boob's administration stabbing of Lou in the back and mediocrity peddling or Ty's crying race while playing the back nine, leaving Notre Dame with no offensive linemen and pocketing over $5 Million large while teeing up another team, the two are inseparable and pathetically equal in my mind.

And with that, I mention my last word ever about BobTyDavieWillingham, the greatest combination fraud ever perpetrated on Notre Dame soil. They are one in the same from the Notre Dame perspective… not black, not white, just users who both took the money and ran and never cared except for that which Notre Dame could do for them.

Neither even liked Notre Dame.

Thankfully, TyBoob doesn't matter.

The media critics don't matter.

I predict they, the critics, will be falling over themselves to gush about Notre Dame… after pronouncing Notre Dame dead a few more times and after we start winning.

And it's going to hurt in the meantime, but the infection has almost been purged.

Hike up your kilt; suck it up. Yeah it could be "better" but only better like a "C-" with beer goggles better. It would still be different degrees of bad if Stoops or Belichik or whomever were coaching this team.

"The only thing now that matters is to get them to score on the line that is coned."

That which needed to be done, was done. The big media battle has already been fought and Notre Dame won.

That said, I'll still swear and throw things on Saturday until we get better.

Thomas Bemenderfer Facts

Born Thomas Bradford Bemenderfer on 12/2/85
  1. Guns don't kill people. Bemenderfer kills People.
  2. There is no theory of evolution. Just a list of animals Bemenderfer allows to live.
  3. Bemenderfer does not sleep. He waits.
  4. The chief export of Bemenderfer is Pain.
  5. There is no chin under Bemenderfer's Beard. There is only another fist.
  6. Bemenderfer has two speeds. Walk, and Kill.
  7. The leading causes of death in the United States are: 1. Heart Disease 2. Bemenderfer 3. Cancer
  8. Bemenderfer drives an ice cream truck covered in human skulls.
  9. Bemenderfer is my Homeboy.
  10. Bemenderfer doesn't go hunting.... Bemenderfer GOES KILLING

Bold to Best

Back when Charlie accepted the head coaching job at Notre Dame, NDNation was fretting and beaten down by years of incompetence and placation (aka Davingham.) The operative phrase for fans was “Hold Me, I’m Irish” (used because ND fans were disappointed so often that they expected things to go wrong.)

When Charlie arrived there was a chasm of leadership and direction. Notre Dame needed a coach who wasn’t five shades of gray, wasn't willing to play the mediocrity game and wouldn't embrace lowered standards. Notre Dame needed black and white leadership -- someone who was ready to stake a flag in the ground and defend it at all costs. Someone who believed in the University and the program.

IMO, Charlie sensed this. He’s a leader by nature, but the Notre Dame job is so much bigger than leadership -- so there was a gap between what was needed and what a normal coach could be expected to accomplish.

We had morale issues.

We had talent issues.

We had major PR issues.

Our offense was the joke of college football.

Our team was soft and didn’t believe.

We had perception issues at the High School level.

Notre Dame was a mess if insecurity and conflict. It became a giant media piñata with no one willing to stand up and risk something to take the stick away from the half-brains who were swinging wildly at Notre Dame’s reputation. Everyone in power simply watched. Hell, many times they were the ones swinging the sticks.

But Charlie was willing to set high expectations in his first season and it paid off with a remarkable opening run.

He never deferred the kick-off.

He seemingly always went for it on fourth down and short.

He played a high stakes pressure game on offense. He declared his belief in himself and his University.

Ugly or crass or arrogant, you can think what you will, but I believe that Notre Dame needed Charlie Weis at the time and truth be known… I really don’t think Charlie had any real clue of what exactly needed to be done, but he sensed the void and he knew it needed to be filled with direction. It really didn’t matter what that identity was, we needed something and someone to believe in. We were on the edge of an abyss -- one more bad recruiting year and we were done until 2010.

Notre Dame needed a turnaround specialist and Charlie stepped in. Now, it really didn’t matter if he felt confident. There were moments in his press conference where you could tell he knew he was in over his head, but what was critical is that he acted confident. And I know he was scared. When your breath is short and your speech is halting… you’re scared. And Charlie’s weak voice and shortened breath betrayed him in his first months of press conferences. But it was always tempered by his words and his conviction. He faked his way through it. Remember, Belichick never let him talk.

I was going to note it at the time, but I didn’t see the purpose.

Charlie needed to step up and “represent” – and in many ways needed to overstate his case to do so. He needed to be bold.

But now things are changing and Charlie has to change with his new role. Despite how bad things look this year, with this next incredibly talented recruiting class, Charlie will have laid a foundation for the next four years that any coach could win with.

This will be the last year of uncertainty. It sucks to watch these games, but it was ten times worse with Willingham knowing it was never going to get better. Even though these are beatings, our problems are where we know we have a solution.

Clausen is a brilliant quarterback and a leader. The 'sucky' offensive line will become very good. They're simply what everyone knew they would be... young and inexperienced. What surprised me about Clausen is that he’s unselfish, tough and a natural leader on the field. He’s everything you were told he wasn’t by idiot sports writers trolling for attention.

I digress... my point is that the dynamic is different. Notre Dame doesn’t need Charlie to be brash now; it needs him to make smart, purposeful decisions. We don’t have to go for it on fourth down. We know he can run a prolific offense, so we don’t need him to take the ball if we win the toss to instill a new attitude.

He’s past that point.

As my cohort Kabong wrote, If our defense is bad, we should take the ball. And until our offense gets over its struggles we should defer if we win. We don’t need the Weis of 2005 to set a tone, we need a Weis who can take us to the championship.

The needs of his role have changed.

Now I differ in the opinion that while I think Weis has struggled at times calling this offense, there’s no disputing his offensive background. I believe Charlie covered up for his defense the last two years with conservatism. When he unleashed Quinn last year, Quinn and the offense looked spectacular, but Notre Dame also couldn’t afford turnovers and we didn’t make many. That was by plan.

I do think Charlie needs to tweak his thinking to the realities of college as I covered earlier, but I’m not worried about him as a play-caller and don't see him relinquishing playcalling -- nor would you want him to. That may be the case over time, but not after three games with a hacked OL, bad receivers and a new quarterback -- that doesn't invalidate two years of college performance and three superbowls. Everything seems bad and open to question now. We need to keep rationale and separate the real from the imagined or feared.

I do agree that this year he tried to do too much with too little, but understand that it was in an effort to make some changes to his longstanding system... something many thought he was too arrogant to do. If he hadn't changed and still failed the fans would be screaming that he's arrogant. The fact remains that we can't block anyone and until that changes, everythings going to be varying degrees of bad. Hopefully Charlie can simplify and rebuild.

Charlie was trying to make chicken salad out of ________ and instead ended up with the primary ingredient.

Everyone’s got a theory now, but we’re in the perfect storm and you can’t tell what is, or is not, a root cause. For example, last week the offense practiced playing ‘quicker’ – the result – snaps flying in the air. You fix one thing… and break another.

Until the storm settles, nothing will be readily apparent.

And while I agree we need to have hitting practices, I understand that Charlie's walking a tightrope there. You lose Laws in practice and there aren’t more than three wins on this season. At this point, it “might” be worth the tradeoff because there’s no where lower to go, but I’ve always felt he was protecting our paper thin depth. I assumed that was the reason here, but I don't know.

Can you even call it depth when no one’s any good?

So there seem like many obvious answers, but the only one I see is to fix our offensive line and get some receivers who get us some breathing room. It is clear that Charlie really needs great receivers to give him the margin of error he needs.

That’s it. Brown’s bringing in the cavalry on defense with next year’s recruiting class.

Looking into the future, recruiting, which has been our biggest concern, isn't an issue. We haven’t had three straight top ten classes since the early 90s. That’s how long it’s been and how far we’ve come. The table’s now set for a very good run. I do think Charlie really needs Michael Floyd. It may not feel like it, but the worst has passed (okay, except for SC.)

Charlie can safely ditch the bravado and just be a coach and a teacher, what everyone who’s worked for him previously universally regards him as. That doesn't mean he shouldn't be confident, it does mean he doesn't have to prove it for Notre Dame's sake anymore.

When he came to South Bend, Charlie needed to be big and he needed to be bold, it was important for Notre Dame for him to embrace that challenge, but now all he has to do is settle in and be a great coach.

What needs to be done in the short-term

The following is omahadomer's post from Rock's House:

Let's just assume for the present purposes that Weis's long term success is neither guaranteed nor doomed but rests in his hands. Clearly this season is going to be an utterly lost cause without some dramatic changes and an utterly lost season will do more than just hurt this year it will probably cost us recruits and hurt future years.

If there's anything good about what's happened it is that it has been an object lesson in the different needs of a young college team from an NFL team. In 2005 and 2006 Weis had a fairly veteran team. It wasn't deep but it had established starters and pretty good and experienced talent at the top of the depth chart in most places. It made sense to work on the mental side of the game with a team like that because that's what they needed the most and practice injuries could be devastating.

Treating the 2005 and 2006 teams like NFL teams worked darn well. The 2005 team was about 2 TD's per game better than the 2004 team and the 2006 team was pretty close to the 2005 team which was a mild disappointment but hardly horrendous.

Weis had quite evidently reached the conclusion that he badly miscalculated how to handle the team. Some of it has been bad luck (e.g., Clausen's elbow) but mostly it has been his fault. The "see what sticks" approach worked well with the 2005 and 2006 teams because that meant that we could have offensive game plans that genuinely kept other teams off balance. But that assumed some minimal level of competence in pass blocking and the like. What this team needed was a lot more physical practices and a lot more reps on the base offense and that's apparently where he's headed this week.

While cohesion is an important element in OL play, we're so far from worrying about that factor that he just needs to find the five who want to play the hardest. Romine and the transfer whose name starts with "B" (center) would earn starts from me next week just because they look like they want to hit someone. In fact, I'm not sure that there's anyone in the starting OL that I'd start next week. I haven't had the heart to look at the TIVO of the game to really tell, but at a minimum there need to be some significant personnel changes.

Weis's biggest recruiting mistake thus far has been Jones. I'm not trying to bust on the kid and I hope he does well at NIU, but Jesus son -- do you think of anyone but yourself? If you were out the door couldn't you have said something before you sucked up QB reps this week? I believe that the team spent so much time fooling around this past spring and this fall trying to install stuff that Jones could run that it has taken away from doing the basic things that got us in the endzone a lot in 2005 and 2006. That spread series to start the game had all the earmarks of something that was supposed to be run by Jones. Now Weis was an idiot for sticking with it when Jones decided to take the bus to DeKalb instead of Ann Arbor but that never would have happened if Jones had been upfront.

I'm glad Jones is gone. There, I said it. I don't think he was willing to help the team unless he could be the star and I think he resented the hell out of Clausen.

Weis has got to find out who the young leaders are on this team and play them. The guys who have been in it for themselves can take a seat on the bench or get out of town.

I would sit most of the OL. I would sit Carlson and start Yeatman until Carlson decides to block. Parris and Kamara would be my starting WR's and I'd just start throwing those quick outs like we did against BYU two years ago until they roll the corners up and then I'd run slants. Schwapp can take a seat and Schmidt can start until Schwapp figures out how to block something other than air. Clausen is the QB. He has shown toughness and poise beyond his years. He has a lot to learn (I'm sure Powlus is a decent QB coach, but one thing you don't want to listen to him on Jimmy is that stuff about holding onto the ball for 5 seconds) but he will.

I'm mostly OK with the defense. Yes they missed a lot of tackles but their effort has generally been there this year. It's just darn hard to keep your head in the game when the game starts with some screwed up notion about Allen taking the snap and it goes over his head and the offense goes backwards and gives UM the ball almost in FG range on the punt. And then two plays into the next series they fumble and all of the sudden you're down 10-0 and the offense hasn't scored a TD all year. You could have the 1985 Bears on defense and it wouldn't matter.

Weis has done a miserable job thus far this year after having done a very good job for two years. If he keeps doing a miserable job he won't and shouldn't survive. But the reason he has a chance is that he is willing to try different things. At least we aren't getting the "it's all part of the plan" crap that was all that TW could come up with.

I'm still optimistic. Not irrationally so, I hope -- but with some foundation. There is just way too much talent on this team to play like this and we've got coaches who know way too much about football to let this continue.

It all starts with finding out who wants to be part of the solution and who wants to be part of the problem. Problems to the bench or better yet off the team. Solutions to the field.

This is Notre Dame's Senior Class

from Scout.com. These are the players who have made any impact at Notre Dame. Note what's not on this list. No OL, no TE, no WR, no RB, no QB that have been able to play notable minutes.
Just sayin...

PosNat'l
Rank
Nat'l
Rating
Name
School, Hometown
Video HT/ WT/ 40 Commit DateSigned LOI? Commit School
CB 8 Terrail Lambert
(St. Bonaventure HS)
Ventura, CA

5-11/190/4.40 02/04/2004
Notre Dame
DE NR Justin Brown
(Bishop Mcnamara HS)
Forestville, MD

6-3.5/220/4.80 01/25/2004
Notre Dame
LB 59 Maurice Crum
(Tampa Bay Technical HS)
Tampa, FL

6-0/210/4.60 01/18/2004
Notre Dame
LB 18 Anthony Vernaglia
(Lutheran HS - Orange County)
Orange, CA

6-3.5/216/4.50 08/21/2003
Notre Dame

"Man Stares Into the Abyss...

and sees nothing but darkness, this is the time that he finds his character. And it is his character, that keeps him from falling into the abyss."

A wee bit dramatic. We're not a recovered patient, we're just one that isn't on life support anymore. Right now we're purging the staff infection. We've got three straight years of top ten recruiting flowing into South Bend to replace the two years of the worst recruiting classes in modern history. We've got a brand new defensive scheme and a just plain raw offense. A couple of good posts from Rock's House to clarify.

Many. many people knew 2007 would be a nightmare, but that 2009 ... by IrishSpirit

... and 2010 might be NC-runs. (They still might.) 2008 will be somewhere in between. If we can't see that we may be grossly underestimating the effects of a 10 year Monkdavieham reign and misassigning the correct causes for problems. Other than making ourselves feel better while ranting, I'm just not sure what that solves? Weis will assume full responsibility as he should, but that doesn't mean we should ignore all evidence of underlying causes. That would be like allowing the patient to blaim his heart attack on his wife's breakfast that morning, when his arteries had been clogging on his own bad diet for years.

This DOES NOT mean that Weis isn't responsible and accountable for last year, this year and the years thereafter. Ultimately as the HC, of course he is. It just means when you play with juniors and seniors who were ranked as top 40 talent and an OL 2-deep with 1 player that belongs there, you are going to have a top 40 team - for awhile. Especially against such a front-loaded schedule as this one.

Fans are fickle. That's our nature. If we had played the same teams this year but started out against Duke, Navy & Stanford - we'd be 3-0 and instead of calling for the coaches' heads, we'd be singing their praises. I'd still think we'd eventually lose 5 or more even with better scheduling, because of the lingering effects of past recruiting efforts, but maybe our younger, more talented players might have benefited from such a schedule.

At this stage of Davie & Willingham's careers we knew they'd never compete for an NC. Many of today's most skeptical posters today don't go that far. As soon as I was personally certain that BD & TW couldn't win an NC I became an early & constant critic. Going 19-6 with TW's 1 good class and bringing in 3 top 10 classes in a row tells me Weis still could do it. Until he - proves - otherwise I intend to have his back. What is the alternative? He surely isn't dumb enough to read this board.

Having spent almost 30 years working 100 hour weeks, Weis knows he's paid his dues as much as anyone else in his profession. He's very bright and hard working, so he probably feels some confidence in his ability to dictate his own future. That creates a certain long-range confidence, but I'm not sure we should mistake that for arrogance.

Because of the front-loaded schedule, Top 40 upperclass talent and the inexperience of his own recruits ... I think he too knows, and has always known, that '07 was going to be his toughest year. He also knows '08 will be a lot better and ND will be in the NC hunt most years thereafter, as long as he's around. After that, having seen his overweight Dad die young, he probably doesn't expect to live a long life - but he knows his wife and kids are now taken care of. He probably spends very little time on ESPN or NDN (true ESPN isn't as negative towards him) so why shouldn't he smile?

Willingham had one good recruit class. Weis was able to inspire and coach the kids in that class to finally beat the teams they should over their last 2 years in college. But there was no way they could also compete against the top tier teams that were benefiting from 4-5 years of far more balanced recruiting efforts - hence the blow-outs. Perhaps made more likely because Weis decided 'We're disastrously out-manned but wtf - let's try to win anyway' rather than 'We'd better keep it close so I won't look so bad'.

Weis is smart enough to not care what the media or fans think, though he understands that catering to them is the price he has to pay for playing. The best thing about him (compared to the last two knuckleheads) is that he knows with 100% certainty that - whatever happens - he is completely accountable and responsible for last year, this year and the years to follow. Maybe that's why he can maintain an upbeat demeanor more easily than we can? It's not easy to smile confidently when trying to assume 'responsibility' for someone else's game through a keyboard. Imagine if we played our own games with half the intensity he brings to his, or expected as much from ourselves in our careers as we rightly do from him?

He knows how hard he's working and he knows that, win or lose today, there is no way he intends to let anyone stop him from winning an NC or 2 before he's done. Aside: Will he? Besides the fact that - we - can't know the answer to that question, the truth is it doesn't really matter at this point. What matters the most for now is that - he - "Knows" he will.

I think Weis looks further down the road than we do and he knows exactly where he's going. We're just along for the ride. Occasionally though, you have to admit ... it can be amusing to note the irony of our own arrogance, in thinking we're actually driving his bus.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3 years ago many thought Ty had us standing at the edge of the abyss.
by IAND75 -- Anyone who followed ND closely knew that we had stepped off the edge and had fallen into the darkness. There was a real sense that we may had passed the point of no return. That even with a great coach Notre Dame could not return to the ranks of the elite becaue of a lack of talent. The lack of success would prevent us from recruiting the needed players, which would lead to greater failure, which would further inhibit our ability to recruit, which would... It seemed that the irrecoverable death spiral had almost commenced.

The hiring of Weis was the first step in trying to halt the fall and begin the climb back out. I think many sensed that we had one chance to get this right.

Some may have been fooled into thinking that Weis had accomplished the turn around, especially much of the sports media and those who follow ND casually. The reality is that Weis stopped the free fall and stabilized the program. He began the very difficult and risky climb back out of the abyss.

But he has not reached the edge. There is not a sufficient depth of talent to be somewhat self sustaining. It is not clear that all the needed pieces in the coaching staff are there. The risk still remains that we could slip and once again begin the free fall into the darkness.

This is a high risk season. It is not simply about this team's win-loss record, or Weis' legacy. It is still about the long term success and viability of Notre Dame as a major football powerhouse. Of course I want Weis to be successful. He is one of us and his heart is in the right place. Of course I want the players to be successful. They are Notre Dame students, with their own dreams not unlike those of us that have gone before.

But this is all about the long range survival and success of the program and the University.

Changing coaching staffs or players isn't an option. The people we have are the ones that are going to have to make that climb out.

I'm not going to criticize the staff or players on the boards anymore. In private I'll speak my mind. But not on a forum read by thousands around the world. It has become us against the world.

Saunders, James and Flutie were giggling with glea like little school girls after the game. They loved being able to use the term inept over and over. They reveled in pronouncing ND "that bad". We can expect more of the same from every corner in the weeks ahead.

I'm mad. I care far too much about this university to be ambivalent about this season. The risks are too great. Privately I may have doubts, but to the rest of the world this is my coaching staff and these are my players. They are all we have to finish the job of saving this program from the near fatal wound inflicted by Davies and Willingham. Failure in the long range goal is not an option.

I still believe the day will come where Saunders, James, Flutie, May, et al., will choke on their own words as they have to describe a dominant ND team week in and week out. I am not going to give up on that dream.

In the meantime I'll take solice in the knowledge that were I to die tomorrow I would go straigtht to heaven. Having sat through the GT game in east stands, and watched the Penn State game surrounded by rabid Iowa fans, and suffered through the Michigan game cold stone sober I have no doubt that any required time in Purgatory I may have accumulated has been wiped clean.


Wondering About Charlie

As promised the other day, I'll share my criticisms of Charlie, but my basic criticism is more theoretical. My biggest criticism by far was our mismatch between our DC and our OC. That one's been been solved and was the result of a having to hire by phone. Corwin could be the difference in a NC run.

My existing criticism, the theoretical one, is on offense. The effectiveness of any offense is a function of possibility (what the scheme allows for - the match-ups) and probability (execution.)

What Weis was known for in the NFL was creating those slight mismatches that allowed a highly proficient offense such as the Patriots to exploit on a consistent basis.

What I've been hinting at (and as I wrote I really don't know for sure) is that there seems to be a mismatch between the possibility of yards and momentum in our play calling -- and the probability of success. Bryan Driskell at Irish Eyes did a phenomenal breakdown of the Irish offense where he talks about how Charlie should be involving more players (note that he has real coaching knowledge - I try to pick up on trends.)

Last year Weis would continually call plays that should've worked, but for whatever reason (blown block/poor pass/drop,) didn't. I had this feeling all during the year that he was calling too many plays that were prone to execution errors even though in Charlie's mind he thought the probability was acceptable. As I wrote after Ohio State and Georgia Tech last year, I felt we could have gone to run plays that had a higher probability of success and then set up the pass.

When Charlie looks at his play sheet, he always sees something that should work. And when in doubt, Weis seems to default to the short passing game and a finesse running game off the passing game. But after it fails on an execution error again and again, you wonder if there's another play with a higher probability of execution success that could be called? The play might look good on paper and even as it unfolds, but if your players, for whatever reason are off -- then it doesn't matter. You're not going to be able to be as precise in college and the more moving parts, the more chances to miss the mark.

Extrapolating those thoughts to this year I've also wondered that while he says he fits the scheme to his talent, does he fit the scheme to the best ability of his offensive line? Should he really dumb down the offense until the OL can execute a series of plays we can count on? Again, if we can't block anybody this suggestion is pretty useless.

I readily acknowledge that I don't know for sure and that I'm venturing into territory that's out of my area of expertise, but it seems, from my point of view, that execution is often the killer this year and was last year as well. If that's the case (again caveats noted) it might be a case of the play calling being out of alignment with the execution probability of the offense. We simply need a bigger payoff to justify the risk or a higher probability play - meaning one where a dropped ball doesn't kill a drive (see Rhema last year.) Charlie's play calling looked superb to open the Sugar Bowl, but execution killed us. And that's a repeated theme. So either we can't teach the kids or there's just not enough time to get the execution down to perfection and we might need some plays that have some room for imperfection. When we had Stovall and Shark, Quinn had a lot room for execution error... he simply had to keep the ball high.

Furthermore, a running game really does some things that are off the scoreboard, so to speak, and college isn't as much about match-ups as the NFL. When we ran effectively last year, the entire offense opened up, especially for play-action. If we commit to the run... would it make it easier on our offensive line rather than having to start most plays on their heels which makes them tentative and and defense more aggressive?

I feel like I'm seeking guidance from a higher form. But I've been wondering and I know that you can second guess any decision by any coach at any time and find a reason to justify it.

It will be interesting to see what happens when this offensive line finally gels -- and it will with little notice at some point. I think Clausen looked phenomenal for a debut in Happy Valley with no real line and some vertically challenged wide receivers (I don't believe Charlie for a second would choose a smaller wide receiver all other things equal.) He looked better than Brady did most of Quinn's sophomore year, but there's obviously a lot of work to do. Most encouraging, the defense continues to play surprisingly well.

Overall, Weis has done a truly great job bringing the program back off life support. Chauncey didn't think we'd win more than six games in 2005, yet Weis has been to back-to-back BCS games and put together three straight top ten recruiting classes. Consistency of good classes is an absolutely essential ingredient in building a program and one we haven't had in over ten years! And, as we've mentioned, he's one of us. Also, Clausen is such an accurate passer, I think he'll be better than Quinn in this system, but he also needs some receivers to throw to.

All that said, this is what I've been wondering about Charlie.

The "P" Word and a Substance Bomb

Before I unload the substance bomb(from Hickster,) some readers are now raising the idea that pointing out the shortcomings of this team's talent is somehow a convenient excuse for bad coaching. It's not. I and others haven't held back criticism, we've just looked at the larger issue first.

ND Fan Shop

In fact, it's the same storyline many have been predicting for two years. I think, and thought, it was obvious. On April 4th, 2005, I wrote (88_92WSND found this in the "way back machine") the following:
While I mostly agree, the talent level drops of precipitously meaning ND will have it's best talent the next two years then have a year or two of below avg talent until this recruiting class takes hold. by SEE (April 04, 2005 at 15:16:55)
Please forget for a moment that I can't spell the word "off," my comma placement sucks or that I use the conjunction "it's"possessively. Now a quick note on the "Zero" column. I pointed out that there were zero senior offensive linemen in my last column because it's devastating to have zero offensive linemen in a senior class. I've never heard of it before. We all know that Sully is a fifth year. That wasn't the point. We have an entire class completely barren of any offensive linemen. Zero. Nada, in the place you absolutely have to have numbers. I've always believed that good teams start with the offensive line and that experience traditionally trumps talent. For example, lots of lower rated offensive lineman can become very good by their 4th and 5th years, but very few, regardless of recruiting ranking, become very good before their time unless they're surrounded by experience. Experience > talent, imo on the offensive line.

Now that's bad enough, but we also don't have one senior defensive linemen.

Not one. Think about the implications of a class with no senior linemen on either side of the ball.

Not a safety. Not a wide receiver. Not a Tight End. Darrin Bragg is back on the team so there is a quarterback.

It's not that we don't have good players in the senior class at these positions that we could coach up.

We don't have anyone.

That's what Bacchus meant when he wrote that ND's position is worse than coming back from worse than the death penalty.

Hickster really nailed it with this post from April, 2005:
2007: New starting QB. No depth with OL and 6 of top 7 players from the good 2003 recruits have already used up their eligibility.

OL
: We should be in decent shape in 2006...2007 is the problem.
- We lose 2 starters from the previous year, that are currently pencilled in as starters in LeVoir and Stevenson.
- Starting guard Morton is eligible for a 5th year in 2006.
- Starting tackle Harris will be in his last year as a Senior (no red shirt years).
- Starting center Sullivan will be a senior with 1 year of eligibility for 2007.
- 4 5th year eligible OL to choose from...current tackles Mattes and Raridon & guards Santucci and Bonelli.
- 2 Juniors with an additional red shirt year in Incarnato & Kadous (both currently listed as tackles...will probably get some interior line coaching due to depth issues).
- 2 Sophomores in Duncan & Turkovich (both listed at tackles)
- Perhaps a "Man-Child" freshman can start or get significant playing time as a back-up.
- Big issue is coaching-up players to get contributors for 2007, so the new starting QB doesn't get killed.

What we both failed to mention was the opening schedule, which creates a double whammy when you've got offensive line inexperience and not enough players to field two teams for the Blue-Gold game.

I've seen plenty of things that "look wrong" but I really can't tell if they're coaching issues until we get past obvious: we can't block anybody. If a you've got a product you can't get out of the factory, can you really tell if your sales strategy is any good? I got criticized for criticizing Charlie for abandoning the run against OSU and GTech last year. No ND fan can look at what's going on and not think of a hundred things that could be wrong. But Charlie's smart, he's well respected and most of all he cares a great deal about the team and the University(unlike three wood.) And I don't really understand the driving need to "blame" anybody at this point or any possible purpose it addresses other than fans like to bitch and blame.

But here's Hickster's post from Monday that is the must read "P"erspective post. It's worth it if you have a real interest in what's going on -- warning, it's long.
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Recruiting: 5th Year thru 2008 Classes…Facts/Trends

This is another War & Peace Outline...Good Luck!

Below is outlined the recruiting classes and players for the current 5th year players through next year’s recruiting class (2008). The categories are broken down by:
• Entire teams as a whole
• The Offensive and Defensive Teams
• Each of the Positions (no K/P…and DE/DT are based upon standard 4-3 defense…and S/CB based upon initial position) The information is taken from Scout’s database (Yes, we are using Star rankings and where recruits fall in the individual position rankling…the data should be useful, based upon the “Rule of Large Numbers” evening out any individual Star ranking disagreements).

Each of the categories are broken out by class and subtotaled by TW classes, Coach Weis classes, next year’s class, and all of the recruits/players. The matrix runs horizontally by recruiting class years…and vertically by the time/years the players have been on the team (5 = 5th years and V = Verbals). The 2008 recruiting class has 21 rather than the current 19…I was assuming we pick up a WR and OL…they are my personal selections and should not interfere with the analysis…so please do not get hung up on it). Additionally, the last category is “meet expectations” of have recruits/players met expectations…based upon quality of the recruit and current performance ( does not include current freshmen). Each section is broken down by:
• The facts … (grid…the meet expectations is an opinion).
• Trends based upon the facts
• Conclusions/Opinions/Recommendations (not always in each section)

THE ENTIRE TEAM


ALL Positions ……. | '03 | '04 | '05 | TW || '06 | '07 | CW || '08 || Tot

Recruits Signed
….. . Avg Stars…… | 3.5 | 2.9 | 3.3 | 3.2 || 3.7 | 3.8 | 3.7 || 4.0 || 3.8
….. . Players…… ... | ..8. | 18. | 15. | 41. || 26. | 17. | 43. || 21. || 105

Still on Team
….. . Stars Left….... | 3.5 | 3.0 | 3.2 | 3.2 || 3.7 | 3.8 | 3.7 || 4.0 || 3.6
….. . Players Left… | ..8.. | .8. | .14. | 30. || 25. | 17. | 42. || 21. || 93

Tot. . Top 100. ….. | ...2. | .1. | ..0.. | .3.. || ..6. | ..5.. | 11. || ..8. || 22
Tot. . Top 50 … … | ...... | .... | ...... | ..... || .3.. | ..1.. | ..4. || .5.. || 9

:
TEAM TRENDS:
• TW did do 1 isolated positive thing for this year's ND football. He redshirted 8 players...and 2 of his 5 Top 100 players from the 2003 recruiting class. This is because Bob Davie left some very good talent at certain positions (Jeff Faine at Center, so John Sullivan did not need to play ...and we had 2 excellent returning safeties, so Tom Zibikowski did not play).
• TW Quantity of recruits: TW signed only 33 players in the ‘04 & ’05 classes…of which only 22 are still left on the team. If you combine the 5th year players from the ’03 classes there are only 30 players over 3 years that are not sophomores or freshman…the 3 oldest classes make up only 35% of the allotted 85 scholarships…typically the critical classes for current year football team’s success.
• Coach Weis Quantity of recruits: Coach Weis has recruited 43 recruits over 2 years (a 30% increase in recruits) and 42 that are still on the team (should be reduced due to transfers) …close to 60% of the recruited players are sophomores or freshman. For the 2008 class he has 19 recruits that have verbaled, and we should end up with anywhere form 21-23 recruits (hopefully, we do not have defections like last year). There were 7 recruits that either publicly or privately verballed to Coach Weis last year, that backed out. Therefore, Coach Weis will most likely recruit 65 players over a 3 year period.
• Quality of TW Recruits: 2004 had an average star ranking of 2.9 (under 3.0 is a deplorable for ND…USC is now consistently over 4.0) The average over 2004 & 05 is barely 3.1…with only 1 top 100 player of 2 years (DJ Hord at 86). The interesting thing is that strong programs usually will get a higher average star ranking with smaller classes, due to be more selective…but TW ’04 & ’05 classes defied that logic…dismal quality and quanty. Even with the 2 Top 100 players that redshirted…not one recruit was a national Top 50 player.
• Quality of Coach Weis’ recruits: Coach Weis maxed out his class in 2006 and still got a 3.7 average star class, with 6 Top 100 and 3 Top 50 recruits…some of his earlier commits were of lower star rankings, but Coach Weis needed to get players on board an abandoned ship prior to the 2006 campaign (not knowing how that would turnout ahead of time). He followed that up with a smaller class of 17 with a 3.8 average star ranking with 5 Top 100 recruits and 1 Top 50 recruit (J. Clausen). If Coach Weis could have kept the 7 players that had publicly or privately verballed to him…his average star ranking would have been 4.1 with an additional 7 Top 100 recruits, of which 6 were Top 50 recruits (Yes, $41# happens...but this exodus was of biblically proportions).

CONCLUSIONS:
• Coach Weis rightfully will not use the term “Rebuilding” for this year…he can not allow his team an excuse for losing this year.
• TW left a mess that Coach Weis inherited that has been worse than any other coach at ND has inherited…good thing there wasn’t an internet during the Kuharich years or Ara would not have had the shelves stocked for ’64 or ’66 (the best Sr. class talent outside of the Leahy years). Even Coach Faust left Coach Holtz with excellent talent. I do not feel the ND fan base realizes the extent of the pandemic that TW left Coach Weis…and Coach Weis does not have the luxury of going into Junior Colleges to get immediate help.
• I am not saying that Coach Weis is without any faults, but if you realistically look at the trends in quality talent…and the lack of depth in quantity that other programs are able to groom for development over time…Coach Weis’s 3rd year will be his most difficult and challenging task. I also think it is not fair or in the best interest of restarting this program, for the fanbase to be yelping as much as been the case.
• The lack of landing the majority of the 7 recruits that we missed on last year, has most likely pushed back ND’s NC run by 1 year…those would-be freshen would need to be at least sophomores to make a significant contribution.
• A front-ended schedule and back-loaded talent is a high risk position to be in based upon the current distribution of talent…throw the kids into the pool and see if they can swim…with the sharks…there is blood in the water and comments are turning into a feeding frenzy…unfortunately
• I believe that an 8-5 season would be very encouraging performance for where we currently stand.
• Expectations, based upon the above:
o 2007…8-5
o 2008…10-3 to 11-2…only because we can see immediate freshman contribution from Hunter, Johnson, Cwynar (EE), 1 WR…and the OL getting another year to mature…aand the schedule does not look as difficult right now.
o 2009…11-2 to 12-1…the 2008 recruits will only be sophomores…with luck a NC run
o 2010…NC

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OFFENSE … ……. | '03 | '04 | '05 | TW || '06 | '07 | CW || '08 || Tot

Recruits Signed
….. . Avg Stars…… | 3.7 | 3.0 | 3.7 | 3.4 || 3.8 | 4.0 | 3.9 || 4.0 || 3.9.
….. . Players…… ... | ..3. | .8.. | .7.. | 18. || 16. | 10. | 26.. || .9. || 53

Still on Team
….. . Stars Left….... | 3.7 | 2.5 | 3.7 | 3.5 || 3.8 | 4.0 | 3.9 || 4.1 || 3.8
….. . Players Left…. | ..3. | .2.. | .6.. | 11. || 15. | 10. | 25. || .9.. || 45

Off. . Top 100. ….. | ...1. | .1. | ..0.. | .2.. || ..4. | ..4.. | .8. || ..5. || 15
Off. . Top 50 … … | ...... | .... | ...... | ..... || .3.. | ..1.. | .4. || .3.. || 7


OFFENSIVE TRENDS:
• TW Quantity: TW recruited 20% more defensive players in ’04 & o5 than defensive players…he did not have a productive offense
• Coach Weis Quantity: He recruited 53% more offensive offensive than defensive recruits…he had to make up for TW shortcomings and he was a “offensive” minded coach…and the defense did not perform well
• TW Quality: However, the quality of offensive player over ’04 & ’05 was 3.3 vs. 3.1 on defense…with only 1 Top 100 player in DJ Hord (has not made an impact yet).
• Coach Weis Quality: 3.9 avg. offensive stars vs. 3.5 defensive stars…8 (72%) of Top 100 players are on offense and all Top 50 players are on offense.
• 2 of the 7 Top 100 players that reneged of their commitments were offensive players (Benn & Little)…cannot believe WRs would not be killing themselves to go to ND based upon 2006 & 07…and lack of highest quality depth.

OFFENSIVE CONCLUSIONS:
• Specifics will be brought out in the individual position sections.




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DEFENSE… ……. | '03 | '04 | '05 | TW || '06 | '07 | CW || '08 || Tot

Recruits Signed
….. . Avg Stars…… | 3.4 | 2.9 | 2.9 | 3.0 || 3.5 | 3.4 | 3.5 || 4.0 || 3.8
….. . Players…… ... | ..5. | 10. | .8.. | 23.. || 10. | .7.. | 17.. || 12. || 48

Still on Team
….. . Stars Left….... | 3.4 | 3.2 | 2.9 | 3.1 || 3.5 | 3.4 | 3.5 || 4.0 || 3.5
….. . Players Left… | ..5.. | .6.. | ..8. | 19. || 10. | .7.. | 17. || 12. || 48

Def. . Top 100. ….. | ...1. | .... | ...... | .1.. || ..2. | ..1.. | 3.. || ..3. || 7.
Def. . Top 50 … … | ...... | .... | ...... | ..... || ..... | ...... | .... || .2.. || 2



DEFENSIVE TRENDS:
• Self Explanatory…lack of quantity and quality…TW and staff could not recruit well… and Coach Weis’ defense was a liability under the previous DC.
• All 3 Top 100 recruits under Coach Weis were CBs
• 5 of the 7 renegs from last year’s class were on defense…and they were all Top 50 recruits (Trattou, Booker, Wilson, Donald, Martin)…with the success we were receiving at DB…we needed that depth at DL and LB to come in and get some esperience in 2007 for a 2008 run…now the excellent defensive class for next year will need to do the same thing for 2008 & 2009…and their full benefits should be there in 2010…along with the rest of the recruits.
• Coach Brown has had a major immediate impact on defensive recruiting…with quantity and an average of 4.0 stars…with our 1st Top 50 defensive recruits (Johnson DE & Filer LB).

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OFFENSIVE LINE

.. ……………………………………………………………………… Position | Top|Meet Expectations
.. . Player………… | '03 | '04 | '05 | TW || '06 | '07 | CW || '08 || Tot | Pos. | Rank | 100 | +/-

5 . J. Sullivan…. ..... | 4.. | …. | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .4.. | ….. | ...9.. | .60. | =
4 . J. Kadous…....... | … | (3) | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .3.. | ….. | ..85.. | ….. | Quit
.. . C. Incarnato....... | … | (3) | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .3.. | ….. | ..58.. | ….. | Transfer
3 . P. Duncan…...... | …. | …. | 4.. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .4.. | ….. | ..22.. | ….. | =
.. . M. Turkovich..... | …. | …. | 4.. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .4.. | ….. | ..35.. | ….. | =
2 . S. Young……... | …. | …. | …. | …. || .5.. | ….. | ….. || … || .5.. | ….. | ...2... | ..3.. | +
.. . M. Carufel……. | …. | …. | …. | …. || .4.. | ….. | ….. || … || .4.. | ….. | ..10.. | .56. | =
.. . D. Wegner……. | …. | …. | …. | …. || .4.. | ….. | ….. || … || .4.. | ….. | ..20.. | ….. | +
.. . C. Stewart……. | …. | …. | …. | …. || .4.. | ….. | ….. || … || .4.. | ….. | ..43.. | ….. | ?
.. . E. Olsen……… | …. | …. | …. | …. || .4.. | ….. | ….. || … || .4.. | ….. | ..49.. | ….. | =
.. . B. Webb……... | …. | …. | …. | …. || .4.. | ….. | ….. || … || .4.. | ….. | ..54.. | ….. | ?
1 . M. Romine….... | …. | …. | …. | …. || …. | ..4.. | ….. || … || .4.. | OG. | .12.. | |
.. . T. Dever……... | …. | …. | …. | …. || …. | ..4.. | ….. || … || .4.. | OT. | ..29.. | |
.. . E. Nwankwo… | …. | …. | …. | …. || …. | ..4.. | ….. || … || .4.. | OT. | ..22.. | |
.. . A. Nuss……… | …. | …. | …. | …. || …. | ..3.. | ….. || … || .3.. | OT. | ..52.. | |
V . L. Clelland…... | …. | …. | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || .4. || .4.. | OG. | ...8... | .99. |
.. . B. Cave……… | …. | …. | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || .3. || .3.. | C... | ...5.. | |
.. . M. Golic……... | …. | …. | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || .3. || .3.. | OG. | ..27..
.. . T. Robinson….. | …. | …. | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || .4. || .4.. | OG. | ...5.. | .89. |



Offensive Line… …. | '03 | '04 | '05 | TW || '06 | '07 | CW || '08 || Tot

Recruits Signed
….. . Avg Stars…… | 4.0 | 3.0 | 4.0 | 3.6 || 4.2 | 3.8 | 4.0 || 3.5 || 3.8
….. . Players…… ... | ..1. | ..2. | .2.. | .5.. || ..6. | .4.. | 10. || ..4. || 19

Still on Team
….. . Stars Left….... | 4.0 | .... | 4.0 | 4.0 || 4.2 | 3.8 | 4.0 || 3.5 || 3.9
….. . Players Left… | ..1. | .... | ..2. | ..3. || ..6. | .4.. | 10. || ..4. || 17


OL TRENDS:
What a complete disaster
• Excuse me for being presumptuous, but I put Trevor Robinson in this 2008 class. I hope/feel that we will land 1 more quality recruit at OL…and I hope that it is him.
• OL are usually the most common position for kids to redshirt…to gain the added strength and technique to be effective. A Freshman starting is almost always the result of a major problem, rather than the recruit being ready…both Ryan Harris and Sam Young are great recruits, but they started due to big problems in the OL…even Jeff Faine redshirted.
• Biggest issue is that there are only 3 OL in the 3 classes that span from 2003 to 2005. And to expect 100% of the 5th years through Juniors (actually no seniors) defies logic and the odds. They are all starting because what is the alternative? I would expect that the average class should have 4 OL recruits recruits for decent balance…and look at what we have. I would expect that the make-up of a typical OL starting 5 (use 6 spots to starting rotation) would look something like this:
o 5th Yr. = 1 (Sullivan…to be expected, but he is the only 5th year available)
o Sr. Yr. = 2 (None on the team)
o Jr. Yr. = 2 (Both of our only Juniors are staring…when there should be 4 to choose from to start…therefore onl 1 should start
o So. Yr = 1 (should be the freshman that got some playing time…however 2 are now starting and all the reserves are either Sophomores or Freshmen…what a mess…jump into the pool kids, without any floaties).
• 2006 OL class was spectacular…but we should expect 3 of the 6 to start with 1 or 2 others eventually in the rotation. We should not expect them to be in top form until their Junior or Red-shirt Sophomore years…but due to necessity, some have been thrown in early…don’t equate freshman experience for some of these guys to be overwhelmingly positive for their development.

OL CONCLUSIONS:
• Expect better performance…but do not expect miracles with this group…this is the biggest mess I have ever seen as far as recruiting/talent…especially with a front loaded schedule.
• You have to have 100% of the upperclassmen performing at meeting/exceeding expectations…and the odds are that is not going to happen…100% of the time…and we expect our other sophomores OL to perform like Junior/Seniors Heck last year we had a 2 Star DL as our staring OG (mostly because what was the alternative). Houdini couldn’t pull off that trick.
• I would love to have a power running game…but is the talent and maturity level there for it.


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QUARTERBACK

.. ……………………………………………………………………… Position | Top|Meet Expectations
.. . Player………… | '03 | '04 | '05 | TW || '06 | '07 | CW || '08 || Tot | Pos. | Rank | 100 | +/-

4 . D. Bragg…........ | … | .2. | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .3.. | ….. | ..82.. | ….. | =
.. . D. Wolke........... | … | (3) | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .3.. | ….. | ..48.. | ….. | Transfer
3 . E. Sharpley….... | …. | …. | 4.. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .4.. | ….. | ..14.. | ….. | -
2 . D. Jones…….... | …. | …. | …. | …. || .3.. | ….. | ….. || … || .3.. | ….. | ..34.. | ..... | -
.. . Z. Frazer……... | …. | …. | …. | …. || .4.. | ….. | ….. || … || .4.. | ….. | ..9... | ..... | Transfer
1 . J. Clausen…..... | …. | …. | …. | …. || …. | ..5.. | ….. || … || .5.. | ...... | ..1... | ..4.. |
V . D. Crist…........ | …. | …. | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || .5. || .5.. | ..... | ...4... | .49. |


Quarterbacks… …. | '03 | '04 | '05 | TW || '06 | '07 | CW || '08 || Tot

Recruits Signed
….. . Avg Stars…… | 0.0 | 2.5 | 4.0 | 3.0 || 3.5 | 5.0 | 4.0 || 5.0 || 3.7
….. . Players…… ... | ..... | .2. | .1.. | .3.. || .2. | .1.. | .3.. || .1. || .7

Still on Team
….. . Stars Left….... | .... | 2.0 | 4.0 | 3.0 || 3.0 | 5.0 | 4.0 || 5.0 || 3.8
….. . Players Left… | ..... | ..1.. | ..1. | .2. || .1.. | .1.. | .2. || .1.. || 5


QB TRENDS:
• TW had the worst recruiting of QBs ever…although Sharpley is a good recruit…too much of a gap in quality recruits to place the chances on Sharpley alone…thank God Brady Quinn lifted weights…he took a beating
• Obviously Coach Weis recruited the position extremely well…especially landing Jones, Clausen and Crist…pulling 5 Star QBs from CA away from USC is huge.

QB CONCLUSION:
• Coach Weis has a great future being built at QB…but the line has to get better to protect him.
• Coach Weis made a mistakje in not playing Sharpley and or Jone/Frazer last year in some meaningful minutes…they needed real gametime experience. I want to be a good sport like anybody else, but Sharpley only throwing 3 passes last year was IMO a big mistake.


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RUNNING BACKS

.. ……………………………………………………………………… Position | Top|Meet Expectations
.. . Player………… | '03 | '04 | '05 | TW || '06 | '07 | CW || '08 || Tot | Pos. | Rank | 100 | +/-

5 . T. Thomas..…. .. | 4.. | …. | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .4.. | ….. | ..16.. | ..... | =
4 . J. Jabbe.…......... | …. | .3. | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .3.. | ..S.. | ..85.. | ….. | -
.. . D. Walker.......... | …. | (3) | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || ..3. | …... | .20.. | ….. | NFL
.. . J. Hoskins.......... | …. | (4) | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .4.. | ….. | ..13.. | ….. | T
3 . A. Schwapp…... | …. | …. | 3.. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .3.. | ….. | ..88.. | ….. | =/+
2 . L. Schmidt……. | …. | …. | …. | …. || .4.. | ….. | ….. || … || .4.. | ….. | ..26.. | ..... | ?
.. . J. Aldridge.…… | …. | …. | …. | …. || .5.. | ….. | ….. || … || .5.. | ….. | ...7... | .34. | ?
1 . R. Hughes…...... | …. | …. | …. | …. || …. | ..4.. | ….. || …. || .4.. | ....... | ...9... | 72 |
.. . A. Allen……..... | …. | …. | …. | …. || …. | ..4.. | ….. || …. || .4.. | ....... | ..21..


Running Backs… …. | '03 | '04 | '05 | TW || '06 | '07 | CW || '08 || Tot

Recruits Signed
….. . Avg Stars…… | 4.0 | 3.3 | 3.0 | 3.4 || 4.5 | 4.0 | 4.3 || 0.0 || 3.8
….. . Players…… .. | ..1.. | .3. | .1.. | .5.. || .2.. | ..2.. | .4.. || ..... || 9.

Still on Team
….. . Stars Left….... | 4.0 | 3.0 | 3.0 | 3.3 || 4.5 | 4.0 | 4.3 || .... || 3.9
….. . Players Left… . | ..1. | ..1. | ..1. | .3.. || .2. | .2.. | .4.. || .... || 7

RB TRENDS:
• The quality is getting better under Coach Weis.
• We do not have enough depth…we are not going to get a 100% hit rate on our younger RBs
• We need a good/strong RB in this class…cannot be held hostage and hope we land the “Big One” next year…play the law of averages and try to get a very good RB…I do not like having a gap of 1 year…and we only took 2 RBs this past year…need balance/depth


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RECEIVERS

.. ……………………………………………………………………… Position | Top|Meet Expectations
.. . Player………… | '03 | '04 | '05 | TW || '06 | '07 | CW || '08 || Tot | Pos. | Rank | 100 | +/-

5 . ..................…. .. | .... | …. | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || …. || ..... | …... | ...... | ....... | =
4 . C. Vaughn.…..... | …. | (3) | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .3.. | ...... | ..81.. | …... | T
3 . DJ Hord...…...... | …. | …. | 4.. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .4.. | ….. | ..12.. | .86.. | -
.. . D. Grimes.....….. | …. | …. | 3.. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .3.. | …... | ..72.. | ..... | +/=
2 . R. Jackson…….. | …. | …. | …. | …. || .3.. | ….. | ….. || … || .3.. | …... | ..63.. | ..... | =/-
.. . G. West......…… | …. | …. | …. | …. || .3.. | ….. | ….. || … || .3.. | …... | .100... | .... | =
.. . R. Parris...…….. | …. | …. | …. | …. || .3.. | ….. | ….. || … || .3.. | …... | ..44... | .... | =
.. . GB Gallup..…… | …. | …. | …. | …. || .3.. | ….. | ….. || … || .3.. | ….. | ...52.. | .... | ?
1 . G. Tate.......….... | …. | …. | …. | …. || …. | ..4.. | ….. || … || .4.. | ....... | ..37.. |
.. . D. Kamara…….. | …. | …. | …. | …. || …. | ..4.. | ….. || … || .4.. | ....... | ..8... | 63
V . J. Goodman….... | …. | …. | …. | …. || …. | ….. | ….. || .4. || .4.. | ....... | ..33.
.. . M. Floyd............. | …. | …. | …. | …. || …. | ….. | ….. || .5.. || .5.. | ...... | ..7.. | .45. |


Receivers.......… …. | '03 | '04 | '05 | TW || '06 | '07 | CW || '08 || Tot

Recruits Signed
….. . Avg Stars…… | .... | 3.0 | 3.5 | 3.3 || 3.0 | 4.0 | 3.3 || 4.5 || 3.5
….. . Players…… ... | .... | .1.. | .2.. | .3.. || .4.. | ..2. | .6.. || .2.. || 11

Still on Team
….. . Stars Left….... | .... | .... | 3.5 | 3.5 || 3.0 | 4.0 | 3.3 || 4.5 || 3.5
….. . Players Left…. | .... | .... | ..2. | .2.. || ..4. | .2.. | .6.. || .2.. || 10

WR TRENDS:
• We have excellent volume…but not the super recruits that we should be getting under the Coach Weis offense.
• Benn & Little defections hurt…we need and should land a Floyd type of quality receiver (again apologize for being presumptuous with Floyd in my list


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TIGHT ENDS

.. ……………………………………………………………………… Position | Top|Meet Expectations
.. . Player………… | '03 | '04 | '05 | TW || '06 | '07 | CW || '08 || Tot | Pos. | Rank | 100 | +/-

5 . J. Carlson.…. ... | 3.. | …. | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .3.. | …... | ..29.. | ...... | ++
4 . ... ........…......... | …. | .... | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || ..... | ...... | ......... | ….. | -
3 . J. Hiben...…..... | …. | …. | (4). | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .4.. | …... | ..14.. | ….. | Quit
2 . K. Reuland…… | …. | …. | …. | …. || .5.. | ….. | ….. || … || .5.. | …... | ..2.. | .40. | ?
.. . W. Yeatman..… | …. | …. | …. | …. || .3.. | ….. | ….. || … || .3.. | …... | ..38... | ..... | ?-
1 . M. Ragone….... | …. | …. | …. | …. || …. | ..4.. | ….. || …. || .4.. | ........ | ....2.... | 55 |
V . K. Rudolph…... | …. | …. | …. | …. || …. | ….. | ….. || .5. || .5.. | ........ | ..1.. | .18. |
.. . J. Fauria............ | …. | …. | …. | …. || …. | ….. | ….. || .4.. || .4.. | ........ | .12..


Tight Ends.....… …. | '03 | '04 | '05 | TW || '06 | '07 | CW || '08 || Tot

Recruits Signed
….. . Avg Stars….. | 3.0 | .... | 4.0 | .3.5 || 4.0 | 4.0 | .4.0 || 4.5 || 4.0
….. . Players…… . | ..1. | .... | .... | ...2.. || .2.. | ..1. | ..3.. || .2.. || 7.

Still on Team
….. . Stars Left….... | 3.0 | .... | .... | 3.0 || 4.0 | 4.0 | 4.0 || 4.5 || 4.0
….. . Players Left… | ..1 | .... | .... | .1.. || ..2. | ..1. | .3.. || ..2. || 6

TE TRENDS:
• Wow!...what can be said
• I can’t believe Joey Hiben left…an excellent hurdler/shot-putter…he had all the tools (the last guy that I remember that had those kind of tools was Ross Browner (although Ohio and Minn. Have much different talent pools…what a shame.

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DEFENSIVE TACKLES

.. ……………………………………………………………………… Position | Top|Meet Expectations
.. . Player………… | '03 | '04 | '05 | TW || '06 | '07 | CW || '08 || Tot | Pos. | Rank | 100 | +/-

5 . T. Laws...…. ..... | 4.. | …. | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .4.. | ….. | ..12.. | ..... | +/=
4 . B. Nicholas........ | … | (3) | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .3.. | ….. | ..37.. | ….. | T
3 . D. Hand...…...... | …. | …. | 3.. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .3.. | ….. | ..49.. | ….. | =/-
.. . P. Kuntz............ | …. | …. | 3.. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .3.. | ….. | ..63.. | ….. | +/=
2 . P. Mullen.…...... | …. | …. | …. | …. || .3.. | ..... | ….. || …. || .3.. | .TE. | ..35.. | ...... | =
1 . I. Williams…..... | …. | …. | …. | …. || …. | ..3.. | ….. || … || .3.. | ....... | .36.. |
V . O. Hunter..…... | …. | …. | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || .4. || .4.. | ...... | ...9... | ..... |
.. . B. Newman.….. | …. | …. | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || .4. || .4.. | ....... | ...21.. |
.. . H. Williams…... | …. | …. | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || .3.. || .3.. | ....... | ..32..
.. . S. Cwynar...…... | …. | …. | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || .4. || .4.. | ....... | ..16.. |

Defensive Tackle… . | '03 | '04 | '05 | TW || '06 | '07 | CW || '08 || Tot

Recruits Signed
….. . Avg Stars…… | 4.0 | 3.0 | 3.0 | 3.3 || 3.0 | 3.0 | 3.0 || 3.8 || 3.4
….. . Players…… ... | ..1.. | .1.. | .2.. | .4.. || .1.. | .1.. | .2.. || .4. || 9

Still on Team
….. . Stars Left….... | 4.0 | .... | 3.0 | 3.3 || 3.0 | 3.0 | 3.0 || 3.8 || 3.4
….. . Players Left… | .1.. | .... | ..2.. | .3.. || .6.. | .4.. | 10. || .4.. || 17


DT TRENDS:
• Coach Weis/Minter challenged TW in their DT recruiting…especially with the 2006 class in waiting and coming up empty. This next class is spectacular…Thank you Coach Brown…now hang onto them.
• Omar Hunter should be able to contributor right away…and Brandon Newman should be a very strong contributor going forward




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DEFENSIVE ENDS

.. ……………………………………………………………………… Position | Top|Meet Expectations
.. . Player………… | '03 | '04 | '05 | TW || '06 | '07 | CW || '08 || Tot | Pos. | Rank | 100 | +/-

5 . D. Stephenson .. | 3.. | …. | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .3.. | ….. | ..59.. | ..... | -
4 . R. Talley............ | … | (3) | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .3.. | ….. | ..64.. | ….. | Transfer
.. . J. Brown.…....... | …. | …. | 2.. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .2.. | ….. | ..NR.. | ….. | +
3 . ... ........….......... | …. | .... | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || ..... | ...... | ......... | ….. | -
2 . M. Richardson .. | …. | …. | …. | …. || .3.. | ..... | ….. || …. || .3.. | ..... | ..64.. | ...... | =
.. . J. Ryan...…....... | …. | …. | …. | …. || .3.. | ..... | ….. || …. || .3.. | ..... | ..35.. | ...... | =
.. . K. Wade....….... | …. | …. | …. | …. || .4.. | ..... | ….. || …. || .4.. | ..... | ..17.. | ...... | =

1 . K. Neal......….... | …. | …. | …. | …. || …. | ..4.. | ….. || … || .4.. | ....... | .31.. |
V . E. Johnson….... | …. | …. | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || .5. || .5.. | ...... | ...4... | .24. |

Defensive End....… . | '03 | '04 | '05 | TW || '06 | '07 | CW || '08 || Tot

Recruits Signed
….. . Avg Stars…… | 3.0 | 2.7 | ..... | 2.8 || 3.8 | 4.0 | 3.7 || 5.0 || 3.4
….. . Players…… ... | ..1.. | .1.. | .2.. | .4.. || .1.. | .1.. | .2.. || .4. || 9

Still on Team
….. . Stars Left….... | 3.0 | 2.5 |..... | 2.7 || 3.5 | 4.0 | 3.7 || 5.0 || 3.4
….. . Players Left…. | .1.. | .2.. | .... | .3.. || .2.. | .1.. | .3.. || .1.. || 7



DE TRENDS:
• Very similar to DT situation. However, the last minute defects killed ND with Trattou and Martin…both 5 star Top 50 recruits
• Ethan Johnson seems to be someone who could contribute right away…also Cwynar could get some reps next year at DE in the 3-4


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LINEBACKER

.. ……………………………………………………………………… Position | Top|Meet Expectations
.. . Player………… | '03 | '04 | '05 | TW || '06 | '07 | CW || '08 || Tot | Pos. | Rank | 100 | +/-

5 . N. Borsetti… .... | 2.. | …. | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .2.. | ….. | .97.. | ..... | =/+
4 . M. Crum........... | … | .3. | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .3.. | ….. | ..59.. | ….. | +
.. . A. Banda........... | … | (2) | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .2.. | ….. | ..NR.. | ….. | Transfer
.. . A. Vernaglia...... | … | .4. | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .4.. | ….. | ...18.. | ….. | -
3 . S. Quinn..…....... | …. | …. | 3.. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .3.. | ….. | ..NR.. | ….. | =
.. . K. Washington... | …. | …. | 3.. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .3.. | ….. | ..52.. | ….. | -
.. . S. Smith..…....... | …. | …. | 3.. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .3.. | ….. | ..80.. | ….. | =
2 . T. Smith……..... | …. | …. | …. | …. || .5.. | ….. | ….. || … || .5.. | ….. | ..52.. | ...... | +
1 . B. Smith.…......... | …. | …. | …. | …. || …. | ..3.. | ….. || … || .3.. | MLB | .30.. | |
.. . S. Paskorz..…… | …. | …. | …. | …. || …. | ..3.. | ….. || … || .3.. | SLB. | ..36.. |
.. . A. Nagel....….... | …. | …. | …. | …. || …. | ..3.. | ….. || … || .3.. | WLB | ..14.. |
V . S. Filer.....…..... | …. | …. | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || .5. || .5.. | MLB | ...3... | .34. |
.. . D. Fleming.…… | …. | …. | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || .4. || .4.. | SLB. | ...7.. |
.. . A. McDonald.… | …. | …. | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || .4. || .4.. | MLB | ...7.. | .94.
.. . D. Posluszny...... | …. | …. | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || .3. || .3.. | WLB | ..23. | ..... |


Linebacker......… …. | '03 | '04 | '05 | TW || '06 | '07 | CW || '08 || Tot

Recruits Signed
….. . Avg Stars…… | 2.0 | 3.0 | 3.0 | .2.9 || 3.0 | 3.0 | 3.0 || 4.0 || 3.2
….. . Players…… ... | ..1.. | .3. | .3.. | ..7.. || ..1. | .3.. | .4.. || .4.. || 15

Still on Team
….. . Stars Left….... | 2.0 | 3.5 | 3.0 | 3.0 || 3.0 | 3.0 | 3.0 || 4.0 || 3.3
….. . Players Left… | ..1.. | ..2. | ..3. | .6. || .1.. | .3.. | .4.. || .4.. || 14

LB TRENDS:
• Previously, a lot of quantity, but not elite quality…the 1st LB above 3 Stars in a long time is in this next 2008 class (Anthony Vernaglia was recruited as a Safety)…and to be fair, Toryan Smith had great cohorts although lower stars.
• Last year we almost had Wilson, Donald and Booker…all 5 Stars and Top 50 players…3 of the top 4 LBs in last years class.
• This year’s class is excellent…by far the best in recent memory…very close to last year’s potential class, but unfortunately we will need to wait another year to put them into the system.


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CORNERBACKS

.. ……………………………………………………………………… Position | Top|Meet Expectations
.. . Player………… | '03 | '04 | '05 | TW || '06 | '07 | CW || '08 || Tot | Pos. | Rank | 100 | +/-

5 . A. Wooden..... .. | 4.. | …. | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .4.. | ….. | ..14.. | ..... | -
4 . T. Lambert......... | … | .4. | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .4.. | ….. | ..8.. | ….. | =
.. . L. Ferrine...….... | …. | .3. | .... | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .3.. | ….. | ..25.. | ….. | +
3 . ... ........….......... | …. | .... | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || ..... | ...... | ......... | ….. | -
2 . D. Walls........ ... | …. | …. | …. | …. || .4.. | ..... | ….. || …. || .4.. | ..... | ..7... | ..82. | =/+
.. . R. McNeil…...... | …. | …. | …. | …. || .4.. | ..... | ….. || …. || .4.. | ..... | ..9... | ..92. | =
.. . M. Prince...….... | …. | …. | …. | …. || .3.. | ..... | ….. || …. || .3.. | ..... | ..38.. | ..RB. | ?
1 . G. Gray.......….... | …. | …. | …. | …. || …. | ..4.. | ….. || … || .4.. | ....... | ...6.. | ..73. |
V . J. Slaughter...…. | …. | …. | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || .4. || .4.. | ..S.. | ..14. | ..... |
.. . R. Blanton....…... | …. | …. | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || .4. || .4.. | ...... | ...9.. | ..... |


Cornerbacks.......… . | '03 | '04 | '05 | TW || '06 | '07 | CW || '08 || Tot

Recruits Signed
….. . Avg Stars…… | 4.0 | 3.5 | ..... | 3.7 || 3.7 | 4.0 | 3.8 || 4.0 || 3.8
….. . Players…… ... | ..1.. | .2.. | ..... | .3.. || .3.. | .1.. | .4.. || .2. || 9

Still on Team
….. . Stars Left….... | 4.0 | 3.5 |..... | 3.7 || 3.7 | 4.0 | 3.8 || 4.0 || 3.8
….. . Players Left…. | .1.. | .2.. | .... | .3.. || .3.. | .1.. | .4.. || .2.. || 9


CB CONCLUSIONS:
• TW did bring in some good recruits…but they did not play CB in high school…Wooden and Lambert. As always he missed on quantity and we did not have any in the 2005 class (Brandon Harrison went to Michigan after TW was let go).
• All of Coach Weis’ Top 100 recruits are CBs…excellent talent in the last 3 years.





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SAFETY




.. ……………………………………………………………………… Position | Top|Meet Expectations
.. . Player………… | '03 | '04 | '05 | TW || '06 | '07 | CW || '08 || Tot | Pos. | Rank | 100 | +/-

5 . T. Zibikowski… | 4.. | …. | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .4.. | ….. | …6.. | .85. | =
4 . T. Duerson….... | …. | .2. | …. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .2.. | …... | .... | ….. | Transfer
3 . K. McCarthy..... | …. | …. | 2.. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .2.. | ….. | ..74.. | ….. | =
.. . R. Herring..…... | …. | …. | 3.. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .3.. | ….. | ..41.. | ….. | =
.. . D. Bruton..…….. | …. | …. | 3.. | …. || ….. | ….. | ….. || … || .3.. | ….. | ..22.. | ….. | =/+
2 . S. Brown…..... | …. | …. | …. | …. || .4.. | ….. | ….. || … || .4.. | ….. | ..10.. | ..... | ?
.. . R. Gaines…….. | …. | …. | …. | …. || .3.. | ….. | ….. || … || .3.. | ….. | ...29... | ….. | ?
.. . L. Gordon……. | …. | …. | …. | …. || .3.. | ….. | ….. || … || .3.. | ….. | ...20... | ….. | ?
1 . H. Smith..…...... | …. | …. | …. | …. || …. | ..4.. | ….. || ….. || .4.. | ....... | ..25.. | … |
V . D. McCarthy..... | …. | …. | …. | …. || …. | ..4.. | ….. || … || .4.. | ....... | ..9...


Safety………… …. | '03 | '04 | '05 | TW || '06 | '07 | CW || '08 || Tot

Recruits Signed
….. . Avg Stars…… | 4.0 | 2.0 | 2.7 | 2.8 || 3.7 | 4.0 | 3.8 || 4.0 || 3.3
….. . Players….… .. | ..1. | .1.. | .3.. | .5.. || .2.. | ..2.. | .4.. || ..... || 9.

Still on Team
….. . Stars Left….... | 4.0 | …. | 2.7 | 3.0 || 3.7 | 4.0 | 3.8 || .4.0 || 3.4
….. . Players Left…. | ..1. | …. | ..3. | .4.. || .3.. | .1.. | .4... || ..1.. || 9


S TRENDS:
• Under TW, recruited good quantity, but not the elite quality that would be expected.
• Under Coach Weis/Brown getting quantity and better quality recruits…but not as strong as CB

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This year has not started off the way we would like it. I am not happy, but I understand and appreciate the circumstances that the program has to dig out from under. I am looking at this year’s performance to be more like the 1st year’s expectations…based upon the above recruiting and talent issues that are being worked through…I am looking for significant improvement as my gauge for success.

Zero

Zero offensive touchdowns through two games.

Zero rushing yards against Penn State.

Zero senior offensive lineman starting, zero on the team.

Zero transfers allowed to correct above problem.

100: % correlation between the above.

Most team's juniors are really seniors, in other words, Notre Dame's starting Junior OL are really sophomores and our sophomores are really freshmen by most standards.

Ty Willingham recruited exactly two offensive linemen in two years that are with the team: Mike Turkovich and Paul Duncan.

Two years ago, all of us who followed Notre Dame football predicted this year would happen. It's not like we're a bunch of Notredamuses here. It was obvious this was coming, just as the deficiencies on the defensive line are obvious.

If we started off with Florida International, things would be different.

Now, there were many, many mistakes on Saturday, but the most predictive problem was obvious years ago.

We knew this was coming, we were just hoping it wouldn't be this bad.

There were a lot of positives to takeaway from Saturday and some puzzling negatives which I'll look at tomorrow, but this problem was a long time comin'.

Hope and Despair

Rarely have I seen confidence shaken as it has been this past week, but a 33-3 ass-kicking by a non highly ranked team will do that to you. I could have entitled this Fear and Loathing after the past week.

ND Fan Shop

It's not hard to find reasons to despair. The one thing we thought we could count on was offensive production. The fact is Notre Dame is looking down the pike at a possible 0-3 or even 0-4 season. Heck, if you look at the odds-makers, we are predicted to start 0-4.

Now we're starting a freshmen QB, whom his high school coach says still isn't 100%, with no questions answered (at least in a positive way) and traveling to grumpy valley for a night game white out against a team bent on revenge that's favored by over two touchdowns.

Two points of hope here. The first is short term. 1st games on the whole are terrible barometers for the season. Game one is much more like a pre-season game for most teams that have new personnel. It's impossible to know what you're going to get because you're practicing against yourselves. Is your Oline really good or is your DLine really bad? Penn State certainly has some defensive line questions and if we can motivate our OLine to finally move some people off the ball, the Irish could be much more effective against Penn State. Our dbs are good and Morelli is inconsistent, again, another match-up that could bode well for the Irish.

The second is longer-term. We've got the worst possible combination of young team, front-loaded schedule to start the year. There's no doubt that our younger players are, of which we played 31 last week - the most in recent history, going to get much, much better by the time our schedule breaks. We will finish this year on a run and we will, regardless of this opening stretch, be ranked in the top 10 to start next year and never look back.

I've taken this chart out on the right just for perspective on our upper level talent. It's horrible. Next year it rises almost to the level of Texas based on our sophomore class alone.

This is not a defense of the first game. But you cannot, with any legitimacy, draw any conclusions about Notre Dame and this coaching staff until this season has run its course, just like Charlie couldn't be called a genius based on his first year. Just like I thought Charlie needed to run more against Ohio State and Georgia Tech the last time around.

Everyone wants to know if things are good or bad based on one game and the answer is we don't know and can't know. What we do know is that our talent is hitting a trough we haven't seen in a long, long time, maybe ever. As Bacchus pointed out, our numbers were worse than the death penalty received by other schools. In other words, if ND received the death penalty and filled the slots we'd be in better position than we are now. Just for perspectives sake, when Charlie took over we were one bad recruiting class from not being a factor for five years. If we didn't get a good sophomore class, as I wrote back then, we were dead for the foreseeable future and Willingham gave no indication he would bring in, even a decent class. We were literally on the brink of irrelevance. Now we're sitting on two top ten classes with a third already committed.

Now, it sucks getting spanked 33-3. It's humiliating. But we also knew this was coming two years ago. So, it's going to take some time this year.

This doesn't mean there should be no questioning of the coaching staff. When your offensive line can't block three years straight... that's development. When you can't run the ball effectively without draws, that's coaching. But sweeping conclusions at this point are nothing but emoting.

Expect a long more emoting to come. There's a chance things could turn in the next two weeks, but I doubt it.

Rhythm

When the NFL draft was approaching Tim Brown made one of the most insightful comments that no one listened to. Brown , while talking about Quinn, said Quarterbacking in the NFL is about timing and rhythm: making the right read quickly and delivering the ball on target before you get killed. That's life in the NFL.

Arm Strength, beyond a certain point, is one of those "nice to haves." Decision-making and accuracy are "must haves" in the NFL and I believe for Weis.

It doesn't matter how strong your arm is if you can't find the open receiver. Jay, over at Blue-Gray Sky, did a great breakdown of the spread. It wasn't the scheme per se, it was the decision-making and fumbling within the scheme that doomed ND.

While there were breakdowns, the running game was working on drives and the outlet passes were there.

This is not to blame Demetrius, it was his first game against the worst possible match-up and he'll play so much better we'll forget this game, but all of this Blarney about the scheme being terrible misses the point that the plays were there. What wasn't there was decision-making along with more than a few breakdowns on the offensive line.

If Demetrius completes a couple of big passes and doesn't fumble, Notre Dame conceivably could have led going into halftime. It's about decision-making as much as play-making ability.

I think that's why Jimmy Clausen is making the start against Penn State over Evan Sharpley. Sharpley probably has the stronger arm of the two, but Clausen, because he's been schooled since was a youngin', has that IT factor. He sees the field, makes a read and gets the ball off. He also has a hell of a lot of rotation on his balls, which seems to be why, much more so than muscle, his passes get there fast.

ND Fan Shop

Last fall I wrote that Clausen would be better than Quinn by his Sophomore year simply because he's very accurate (he puts the ball where it needs to be,) he makes quick decisions and he gets the ball off.

That doesn't mean I expect some miraculous day at Penn State. Clausen's in for a tough two-game stretch, but Weis needs a guy who can make the right read and get the ball there.

Pretty simple.

If Demetrius had done that and didn't break down, last Saturday could have been a whole lot different.

It's a tough game.

It's Clausen

We were told (through multiple sources) that Clausen wouldn't be ready until Michigan, so this is only a surprise in that Clausen was cleared a week early. It's clear from Charlie's press conference that Clausen had the starting job at the end of spring and would have likely had the starting job if he didn't have surgery.

Q. The decision about Jimmy, was that an easy one, or how much deliberation did you have?

COACH Charlie Weis: At the end of the spring, he was the leader of the competition at the end of the spring. And then, you know, after the spring, he had that spur taken off and then he rehabbed his way to, you know, just as we had felt, that he was going to be ready to throw full speed by September 1. But he wasn't ready to do everything on a daily basis, you know, until September 1.

So we got kind of got in that gray area where we really couldn't consider him as the starter for the opening game.

Q. Would it be fair to say if he was healthy the whole time, would he have started last week then?

COACH Charlie Weis: That's potentially the case. Still you don't know how they are going to show up in training camp because depth charts change from the end of training camp to the start of the season. So I don't know the answer to that question because, you know, could have been Demetrius; could have been Evan. All depends how things go in training camp. But in training camp, he didn't do enough. He didn't/couldn't do enough to really be in contention for that first team.

Q. In terms of Jimmy, you said at the end of spring, he was your No. 1. What was it in the spring that you saw in him that led you to that conclusion, and also this fall?

COACH Charlie Weis: Well, it wasn't from the fall. What I said is at the end of the spring, because, and really in the fall, I think that Demetrius and Evan, you know, were doing more than he was doing. So he really was a distant third until he got ready where he could throw the ball. I'm not going to play a quarterback that can't do everything, so I didn't.

I think what we felt, at the end of spring, we took every throw by every player, and running the operation and everything we do, as we evaluated as a staff, the nudge would have gone to him at that time.

But that's only part of the process. You know, that's spring. That's why you go to training camp and depth charts change in training camp.

Q. What are the things that you've seen that you've been pleased with that pushes him to No. 1?

COACH Charlie Weis: The same things that we saw in the spring. You know, managing the team, his arm's back to full go, managing the team; I think he gives us the best chance of winning.

Now working back to the Georgia Tech game: Weis thought Jones gave us a better chance to win that game over Sharpley and changed the game plan to play to Jones's strengths. Didn't work out, but I'm not sure you can fault Weis's thinking going into the game. You can fault the 'execution.' IrishinScranton broke down the sacks in painful bites.

Speaking of Clausen, below are Clausen's first practices.


No Good Options

So here are the choices - you're Weis and you know the following about your quarterbacks:
  • Clausen was not ready to start a full game.
  • Sharpley hasn't been making good decisions throughout practices leading up to an aggressive Georgia Tech opener.
  • Jones hasn't been consistent with his decision-making in the passing game.
  • None looked good at the last scrimmage.
You also know that :
  • GTech is going to bring the kitchen sink throughout the game and is good at pressure D.
  • Your offensive line is still raw and hasn't played together.
  • Your junior and senior classes TOGETHER wouldn't crack any recruiting years top 25.
  • Your wide receivers aren't playmakers.
  • Armando Allen looks good, but isn't ready to handle blitz packages.
  • Your defensive front seven is highly questionable.
  • Your playing a brand new defensive scheme and don't really know what we're going to get.
These are the choices that framed the decisions for Weis leading up to game day.

From my point of view, using Jones to spread the field was an option as good as any other Weis had to choose from for opening day. To get a better idea of what happened, READ THIS DRIVE BY DRIVE ACCOUNT via Rock's House via Irish eyes.

Here's the logic: If you can make that work you tire a defense out, give Allen a chance to shine, keep them off balance and then a passing game could be possible without a jailbreak on every play.

And it was actually working -- except for the fumbles and missed passes. We stopped ourselves. Go back and watch the plays.

My guess is that Weis weighed all of these scenarios pretty carefully and decided that a low turnover run-dominated offense with Jones offered the best opportunity to win. And while that may not have been a winner, I'm not sure there was one that would have been with our Oline. We had Quinn, Shark, McKnight, a more experienced offensive line and Walker (who could pick up the blitz and run) and we were still shut down last year. This year we had no quarterback who could make in the moment calls, new wide receivers, an inexperienced line and running backs who could not effectively pick up the blitz.

Remember that Georgia Tech sacked Notre Dame NINE TIMES on Saturday. That's almost three times the rate that Quinn was sacked last year and he was pummeled last year.

That's an extraordinary number.

No quarterback would be effective with that kind of time and blocking and starting Sharpley, as might not have led to any more points.

I do think there were two miscalculations with starting Jones in a running offense:

1. That the team could get the execution down in such a short period of time.
2. That the risk of fumbling was less than the risk of interceptions.

Some have complained about limiting Jones. Well, if Jones was green-lighted to pass, from what I saw and heard, you could expect a fair amount of Ints on Saturday and a probable worse first half. Without the fumbles, there's a good chance ND scores on the drive where DJ fumbled the second time and without the fumbles, Georgia Tech wouldn't have been playing with a short field. Despite the miscues, we had rolled up some 60+ yards on the ground near the beginning of the second quarter and we're really starting to move the ball well. That's not bad for a brand new running offense.

It's not great...

This may have been a case of where there were no good options that would help, only better execution.

I don't have a problem at all with Weis's choice here and if he pulled Jones sooner we'd be questioning why he didn't give Jones a chance. Remember, we were only three points more effective after Jones than before.

It's tempting to cast blame and draw conclusions, but with first games in transition years you often don't know what you have until you start playing.

As painful as this was, I get all of that. I understand it and while there was risk involved in th e choice, I can understand where you wouldn't predict two early Jones fumbles. From a scheme perspective it was working to some extent.

What I don't get at this point is how we can have such an ineffective offensive line year after year.

Is it scheme?

It it coaching?

I don't know.

I do know that 33-3 isn't acceptable in any year.

I also know that until you can block effectively, there aren't a lot of good options at quarterback and Weis needs to fix this somehow, someway or find a way to make teams pay.

I also know that Jones' career is far from over. Many a great quarterback has had meager beginnings in the college game, but I also think he'll have a hard time beating out Clausen after game three.

Oh yeah, JVan and Cash are officially banned from attending games together. Vannie's last games: Georgia Tech, LSU, USC and Michigan.

Draw your own conclusions.

Rock Points:
  • The Justin Brown overreaction ejection was a makeup call for Wheeler's head to head on Quinn last year.
  • Is it time to understand that Schwapp doesn't bring a lot to this offense?
  • Sam Young isn't yet the dominating OL we all thought he would be.
  • We need to find a way to get Armando the ball.
  • We need to find a way to get Armando the ball. Aldridge and Allen are beginning to "jump off the page."
  • Teams are rarely as good or as bad as they seem. - Lou Holtz