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The Irish Traveling Side Show

This is apparently the model the administration is using to schedule Notre Dame football into the future. In fact, rather than play a "schedule," Notre Dame is signing up exhibition games to come to a stadium near you.

Wazzu in San Antone don't work for you (gee, seems like such a natural fit?) How about UConn at Foxboro, Baylor in New Orleans, Army in Orlando or ASU in Dallas? Can't wait to see the special travel "package offerings" ND is going to make for fans to attend these games. The Disneyfication, marketing packadization of ND has reached a new low. Perhaps ND should just pay to keep a standing exhibition team at the ready and book venues around the country.

As I wrote back in the summer (All you need to know about Scheduling priorities) the problem with Notre Dame's current scheduling, as leaked to NDNation.com, is that the scheduling is being driven by the absolute wrong priorities.

The 7-4-1 scheduling "model" is based on pimping out the ND brand, selling traveling packages, dumbing down the schedule and bullying lessor teams into a "Home and screw you" relationship. It's too clever by more than half. I feel like Michael Scott from The Office cooked up this crazy concoction. White seems intent on devising schemes to "maximize revenue and cross-sell opportunities." I wrote this last summer:
An athletic director's first job at Notre Dame is to first, do no harm. Instead, we seem to have an AD who wants to leave his mark at ND while not having to listen to those pesky alumni. We've all seen the marks that have been left at other schools. No thanks.
Apparently there were no lessons learned here.

Now a couple of points. I do agree that our scheduling has to be done with an eye toward the BCS. I realize this may sound chickenshit to many, but the best teams in the country this year may have been Georgia and USC and neither made the championship game.

I get that. What I don't get his this idea that we have to load our schedule with home games (we're better on the road,) embark on this silly bastardization of Rockne's barnstorming concept and schedule an entire slate of lesser foes into the future who are too weak to demand equality.

Scheduling as an independent does take thought, but it's not that hard and trying to think our way around problems with "nifty ideas" is taking ND in the wrong direction.

Weis Accepts Academic Achievement Award

Most Awards: Duke, 12; Notre Dame, 7;

Screw Dana, Lazy Coaches, Stepping Back and Coaching Up

Charlie Weis followed his bombshell recruiting class with a couple of bombshells of his own at Friday's press conference. In the off-season Weis met with over 20 people close to the Notre Dame program, sought the advice of former AD Gene Corrigan and met with his coaches -- the result is that he's making some dramatic changes in his approach to coaching. Whether it all works or not, it's truly impossible to accuse him of uncontrolled arrogance.

Bombshell #1: Weis will turn the offense over to offensive coordinator Mike Haywood
"Now, on the offensive staff, one of the things that I've done, and you guys know that I've spent a lot of time here since the season's end to change some things around here. Well, I'm going to try to cut the proverbial -- the figurative umbilical cord and try to move myself a little bit away from being the sole primary guy on the offensive staff. So in the springtime we'll start off with the offensive staff running the offense. That means Mike will write the scripts and set it up on offense, and that means that all the offensive coaches now won't have to worry about the ever-presence of the head coach breathing down their neck all the time.

I'm trying to do this. This is a tough one for me to do, but I'm trying to give them an opportunity to run the offense with me interjecting rather than me demanding and telling them everything that we're going to do. So that's how we're going to run this in the spring.

Everyone is coaching the same positions, nothing is changing. They're all doing what they do, it's just that we're going to try to do it with the head coach less involved. My wife knows I'm going through withdrawal on this one right there."

Bombshell #2: Weis will become more approachable

"I'm actually going to spend more time doing two things; A, spending more time with the players, which I feel that's one thing I haven't done since I've been here. Since I've been here I think I've been spending so much time with the offense, I haven't spent much time with the offensive players to tell you the truth, more with the offensive coaches, and have spent very little time with the defensive players. And come 6:00 Monday morning I'm going to start changing that because although I give the staff off next week, when they go work out at 6:00 on Monday morning I'm going to be in there with them and see if I can't start being more -- I won't say more open, but more approachable with the players because I think that especially the young guys get so intimidated, they don't know that you can come in and talk about everything.

I think if we're going to play a bunch of young guys, which we did last year, I think the one thing I have to do is make sure I'm much more approachable and make sure I start working on that -- now that recruiting is over, start working on that on Monday."

"The first two years were a little bit easier to be honest with you because when you're playing with older guys, they've already been through that process. You can be harder on them because they're older and they've been more weathered. I played a lot more younger guys this year, and I think in self-evaluation, which is what you're talking about right now, I don't think the freshmen and sophomores are really quite ready for the full load, so to speak. I think you have to -- they're not going to change. You're going to bring another group of freshmen next year. They're still going to be freshmen. You're not going to change, you've got to be the one that changes."

Bombshell #3: Polian will coach Special Teams/Tenuta will coach Linebackers

"As far as special teams go, I screwed that up last year. Brian Polian is going to be the special teams coach. He's not coaching defense. He's just coaching special teams, and I'm his assistant. So the only two people who will be coaching special teams this year will be Brian as the special teams coach, and that's his, and I'm going to be his aide because since I've been here I've been talking about how special teams, special teams, special teams. As a matter of fact, I'm going to meet with Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech, who I think has done the best job of anyone in the country on special teams."

"Obviously John is going to be our assistant head coach and coach the linebackers; Jappy is coaching the defensive line; Corwin is coaching the DBs as well as being the defensive coordinator and calling the defense"

Bombshell #4: Is the one he lofted at Dana Jacbobson for her F&*k Jesus rant:

Q. And lastly, I believe you were a participant in the roast for Mike & Mike, and there was a situation involving one of the ESPN employees. If you could offer your take on that situation, what transpired that night.

COACH WEIS: Are you referring to Dana?

Q. Dana Jacobson, yes.

COACH WEIS: Well, I'll just say three things, okay. I was both personally and professionally offended by her comments. And if the situation were reversed, and that were me saying them, two things would have happened. I would have been the lead story on SportsCenter, and I would have been fired. But other than that, the University has issued an official response, and I think it's best to leave it at that.

Bombshell #5: Lazy coaches vote to keep ambitious coaches off the recruiting trail during the spring.
"Well, there's two different thought processes on that one. One thought process was there were a few head coaches that were on the road all the time and they were getting pressured by their ADs and presidents to get on the road to compete with those people. That was one thought process.

The other one is to make sure that you don't hang the head coaches out to dry in the springtime or expose them to potential bumps, no contact in the evaluation period rather than the non-contact because what happens is every school you go into, you can't talk to anyone. And I think that the presidents and the ADs and everyone else by a wide margin felt that keeping the head coaches off the road would minimize the exposure that head coaches had to being in compromising situations. The truth lies somewhere in between those two answers."
Also of note, Weis still intends to coach the young quarterbacks and he hit the recruitng road hard before the AFCA put the kabosh on spring travel.

Going to be an interesting year.

They Might Be Giants

One thing I think I think is that Charlie likes to bring in NFL bodies. This is the biggest class I can remember Notre Dame signing and it's big at every position.

Starting with Dayne Crist at QB at 6'5" 225lbs. (which is Tom Brady size.) Lining up behind him will be Jonas Gray, who at 214 pounds at just 5'11" is one thick running back. Now look who Crist will be throwing to: 6'3" Michael Floyd, 6'3" Deion Walker and 6'3" John Goodman. And that's just on the outside, on the inside Tight Ends Rudolph and Fauria are 6'6" and 6'7" respectively. That's 6.44 inches in average height.

I'm a little disappointed at the offensive line haul and Golic and Clelland will need time in the weight room, but Robinson and Cave are 304 and 294lbs respectively.

And we're just as big, if not as tall on the defensive side of the ball. Newman and Williams are both at 300lbs already. Cynwar is at 284. Johnson is already a 265lb defensive end. KLM is going to be on the milkshake plan but comes with a good sized frame.

Filer is going to be one big muchacho at 6'4" already, Fleming is 6'2" 230 and McDonald is 6'3" 220. Posluzny, despite being one rocked up unit, is the smallest of the bunch, but still at 220 pounds.

ND went for bigger corners in Blanton in Slaughter who both top 6 feet and McCarthy's listed at 6'2".

Nothing particularly insightful here, except for the fact that Weis seems to prefer players who won't have to go through too much physical maturation to see the field.

Upon Further Review

Again, I can't stress enough how important it was to put together back to back to back recruiting classes. Notre Dame's inconsistent and lazy recruiting efforts since Lou left have been as much a source of failure as coaching through three regimes.

Thankfully, Weis has figured this out and his team's tireless work means Notre Dame won't experience the same downturns the next three years.

For perspective from 2003-2005 Notre Dame signed 13 four and five star players. We signed 19 this year, 13 last year and 12 the year before. So in each of the last three years we've about equaled or bettered the talent brought in over the previous years collectively(many of whom have transferred.)

It's also important to note that the current players had a critical role in bringing in the talent this year. For example, Jimmy Clausen pushed for Dayne Crist who turned out to be the glue that held this class together. Without Clausen's unselfish assistance (since Crist will compete with him) this class might never have come together or stayed in tact.

Just an outstanding all around job, especially so after reviewing UND.com provided highlights. Here there were a few surprises.

The first is Kapron Lewis-Moore(KLM.) I was one of the many who wasn't real impressed with Kapron Lewis-Moore's junior tape. His senior film shows a completely different player, who plays lower to the ground gets great penetration and shows much better closing speed. Given his frame, KLM could be prove to me an important late add much like Brian Smith was last year. There had to be a reason Texas offered him.

Another pleasant surprise was David Posluzny, a Jack linebacker candidate. Poz showed impressive speed and very good instincts on his film. Size still remains a concern as he did have some trouble fighting off blocks, but he could be a Stonebreaker type leader in the future. Guys like Poz, Cave and Golic remind of former leaders like Stonebreaker, Heck and Pritchett.

The 6'7" Joseph Fauria is "one big muchacho" as Weis said, but he's also surprisingly fast and agile. Fauria 6'7" and Rudolph 6'6" will form an imposing tight end duo. Hopefully they can learn to block ASAP as they're going to be needed early this season.

John Goodman isn't as much of a surprise, but what was surprising was the ease with which he plays and his body control. Don't be surprised to see Goodman play QB in a spread look at some point for a change up either.

The point here is that even the players who weren't ranked highly (four) are still very good players have a chance to grow into leaders in the future.

Eyes are smiling around NDNation. Congrats to Bama as well, but let's take a look at class comparisons when the season starts... my guess is that every ND kid will be on the roster -- I very much doubt all 32 Bama recruits will be on their team.

Notre Dame's Recruiting Class Tops in the Country

College football's second season breathed new life into the deflated Irish faithful, many despondent after a 3 win season. But the Notre Dame coaches did an outstanding job of identifying, targeting and closing on the top recruiting talent in the country and Notre Dame has signed its best class since the early 90s.

Is it the top class in the country? Well, certainly in the top 3 by any measure and it has the highest average rating per recruit of any team in the country, which means we're taking very few "projects." The final ranking isn't as important, but Milton Knox and Kapron Lewis Moore could put the Irish back on top in the end. The only way schools like Alabama and Miami could sneak ahead in the point count is by signing a larger number of players, which in my mind doesn't make for the best class. They're going to lose kids from those classes.

The "best" player in this class is hard to judge, because ND skimmed so effectively from around the country, but it's a class with few holes and star talent. There are a few players that stick out as slam dunk future stars.

Slam Dunks

WR Michael Floyd doesn't just have star potential, but already star ability. He could have easily been the MVP of the Army AA game. When we lost Aurelious Benn last year to the Zook sibling parole program, one astute follower commented that the silver lining was that we would have a great shot at Floyd who just doesn't have a weakness. He's got great size, deceptive speed, will go up and take the ball away from you and then run away from you. I was amazed at how good his feet were. He could already be Notre Dame's best receiver.

QB Dayne Crist is the best quarterback prospect Notre Dame has recruited according to many watchers (and that includes Quinn and Clausen.) He's 6'5" with a gun and shown the ability to make every throw necessary. When Clausen is done, Crist will step in and star.

OG Trevor Robinson
is a massive guard who rivals ranks as the best in the country. Notre Dame has to control the line of scrimmage and TR gives the Irish a road grader who will press the current OL for playing time immediately. And he's already on campus.

TE Kyle Rudolph
is a freak of nature. Rivals top TE, he's 6'6" with surprising athletic ability. the only reason there isn't more hype about his is because he signed early with the Irish.

DE Ethan Johnson's
first step looks surprisingly like Kerry Neal's. He's just able to get up to speed so fast and close on quarterbacks before they can react. EJ may be our best DE recruit since BY.

After those five, the Irish have a bevy of four star players who have the talent to reach AA status quickly. I'll call these the layups.

Layups

OLB Darius Fleming
ILM Steven Filer
DB Robert Blanton
WR Deion Walker
OC Braxton Cave
RB Jonas Gray


By Position:

Position-wise the coaches did a very good job across the board landing targets that fit Notre Dame's needs.

QB - A+: Crist is considered either the best or in the best three at his position.

RB - B+: Jonas Gray was a backup plan for ND after the Irish lost out on their top targets. Still, a 210, sub 4.4 40 running back is a hell of a backup plan.

WR - A+: Floyd, Walker and Goodman are Notre Dame's best across the board WR since I've been following Notre Dame.

TE - A+: Notre Dame didn't just land Rudolph, the number one or two rated Tight End in the country, but Joseph Fauria who's going to surprise a lot of people.

OL - B: Trevor Robinson is the lone headliner here and he's a very important pickup for the Irish. Golic and Cave both surprised many with their performances in the All-Star Games. Cave pretty much had his way with Omar Hunter. Clelland has all the tools and is nasty and athletic, but is going to need a few years to grow. Good, solid building blocks here.

NG - B+: Really nice job here getting Newman early. Hafis Williams also has the ability to play NG and is going to shock some ND watchers when he gets on campus. He's a big kid who can move and make plays.

DE - A-: Ethan Johnson is a stud. Sean Cynwar has the size and ability to play early, though isn't as speedy as you would hope. Kapron Lewis-Moore is a big framed kid with some ability who could grow into a very good DE.

OLB - B+: Darius Fleming looks like a future NFL player. He has great closing speed and ND beat out USC for his services.

ILB - B+: Steven Filer is loaded with talent, but hasn't shown great instincts to this point. Anthony McDonald seems to be limited athletically, but is no slouch. Poz looks like a bit of a project at this point.

DB - B+: Blanton showed he could cover anyone not named Michael Floyd. Slaughter is a big time hitter. McCarthy is everything you want in a Safety (with offers from OSU and LSU) the only question about him is recovery time.

Overall this is a class without a glaring weakness combined with a lot of star potential. Just a great job all-around by the staff to keep everyone after such a dismal season. As I've been saying since our last class, once you get three top classes in a row, you're a top program again.

Now the coaches just have to translate recruiting success to the field.