Notre Dame starting quarterback Everett Golson stood in the pocket, ball in hand, and examined his options. After consideration short in time but long in mind, Golson began his throwing motion, planted his foot and completed his pass to the open arms of a defender. It would be one of the few completions Golson would make on the day.
Fighting Irish running back and underdog hero of last year’s Shamrock Series against the Miami Hurricanes, Cam McDaniel, took a handoff and was immediately engulfed by a horde of defenders.
Desperate to find any semblance of offensive rhythm, and to counter stifling defensive pressure, Notre Dame’s offense attempted a reverse, only to be downed behind the line of scrimmage by waiting defender, Ishaq Williams. Such was the norm for the Fighting Irish offense at the 84th annual Spring Game, causing many Irish fans to only find relief from the bottom of a brown paper bag after repeated inhalations.
Relax. Make plans for your upcoming Memorial Day weekend. Dust off your grill, and if you live in the Midwest, study pictures of the sun now so you remember what it looks like when it finally reappears. Brian Kelly has cemented himself as one of the elite coaches in college football, and the Fighting Irish are on the cusp of true stability, something South Bend hasn’t seen since Lou Holtz roamed the sidelines.
One look around message boards and fan sites and it becomes apparent Notre Dame fans seem to have an obsession with panicking. If the sky isn’t falling, Irish fans are unhappy It’s almost as if Brian Kelly’s winning has ruined a recent tradition of ND fans centered on grumbling and assuming the worst, forcing an identity crisis.
“If Notre Dame isn’t out of contention by October, which they have been for two decades, what else can I complain about?”
Fresh off signing the best Fighting Irish recruiting class in decades, Notre Dame fans have begun jumping off ledges in droves regarding the recruiting class of 2014. “But we’re not in the mix with enough big names,” they say, never mind the fact that at this point last season three of Notre Dame’s eventual 5-star signees were either committed to different universities or had shown no interest in the Fighting Irish. To make matters worse, it’s not even an accurate statement.
Notre Dame currently ranks 12th in national recruiting rankings, though the ranking doesn’t paint the most accurate picture. The best way to measure recruiting success involves averaging out star rankings, a method which minimizes any distortion that comes from one program signing more players than another. Notre Dame possesses an average star ranking of 3.67, with only one other university in the top 12 ranking higher: Michigan at 3.8. Notre Dame is tied with Florida, LSU and Miami, which is pretty good company for any program, let alone one whose fan base thinks it’s struggling in the recruiting department.
But why look deeper for facts when blanket assumptions and worry are so much easier to reach? Notre Dame rushed for 1,659 yards and 9 touchdowns last season, and while graduations and an early departure have removed a good many players responsible for that production, there’s no reason to assume Notre Dame will be unable to run the ball in 2013. Yet, when Notre Dame averaged 0.4 yards per carry in the Spring Game, fans panicked. Does Atkinson have what it takes? Is the offensive line going to be able to recover from the losses of Mike Golic Jr. and Braxston Cave? With fear taking hold, there was no reason to consider the fact Notre Dame offensive lineman, Chris Watt, woke up the morning of the Spring Game with a sore back, so Brian Kelly withheld him from the game, moving freshman Ronnie Stanley to offensive guard to take his place, a position he had never played. But of course Notre Dame’s rushing attack would thrive with a true freshman playing out of position against the likes of senior All-American candidate and 340 pound monster, Louis Nix, right?
The same could be said for Irish signal caller, Everett Golson. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly raved about Golson’s progress during Spring practices, and Golson himself told ESPN in March his goal was to become a Heisman candidate. Yet when Golson went a measly 6/13 for 98 yards and 1 interception in the Spring Game, fans worried whether his breakout truly was imminent, forgetting he was one of the lone bright spots against the Crimson Tide, putting up 270 yards in the air against one of the best defensives in the nation. Will Golson break out and place his name in the Heisman mix? Maybe, and maybe not. But it’s a very safe bet Golson is closer to being in the Heisman race than he is to the numbers he posted during the Spring Game.
The two-time defending champions, the Alabama Crimson Tide, had 9 turnovers in their Spring Game. Michigan State used a converted linebacker at running back. Spring games are nothing but glorified practices offering an opportunity for fans to pack their stadiums one last time before summer finally takes hold.
If you’re a Notre Dame fan and you like to panic, it might be time to find a new sport to follow. Brian Kelly’s got this.
Scott Janssen is a blogger for the Huffington Post and has authored several nationally-featured articles as well as co-founded a nationally-featured non-profit organization. In his spare time he takes his NCAA Football ’13 online dynasty way too seriously and alienates those around him by discussing football 24 hours a day. Scott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.