More Athleticism, Please

Starting at the end of Saturday’s game, I have personally banned myself from future “big” games on ND’s schedule. I have now attended the following games over the past 5 (now almost 6) years.

  1. The 2001 Fiesta Bowl (Oregon St. 41 – Notre Dame 9)
  2. The 2005 Fiesta Bowl (Ohio State 34 – Notre Dame 20)
  3. The 2006 ND/USC Game

One thing that was strikingly clear in each of these games was the difference in speed between Notre Dame and its opponents. In 2001, Oregon State ran out onto the Sun Devil’s field for warmups looking like my high school baseball team. The difference in the number of suited up players alone between the Irish and the Beavers was quite a surprise to me. Not only that, but Notre Dame’s organization in warm ups, compared to the OSU’s street ball style pregame routine, had me convinced that this would be a blowout I wasn’t going to forget anytime soon.

I couldn’t have been more correct. Unfortunately it didn’t go in the direction I had anticipated.

I have been watching Notre Dame football, and football in general, for going on 20 years now. I don’t claim any special knowledge of the game. My own experiences included one year of high school football during which my 130 pound frame took more punishment than I care to recollect at this time. I don’t claim any extensive knowledge of schemes or strategy, other than at a very general level, so perhaps my opinions should be taken with a grain of salt. However, in this situation, I think my amateurish view of the game makes the point of this article stronger; coming away from saturday’s game, anyone can see it. Notre Dame does not have the same athletes as the upper echelon of college football.

So how did we do it last year? How did Notre Dame so nearly steal a win from the #1 team in the country when they still had their two Heisman winning stars? Let me clarify my point. Notre Dame CAN compete with those teams, but to do so they must play a near perfect game to make up for the talent deficiency. Start throwing in mistakes, and bonehead plays, and the Irish get exposed for what they are. A team that is playing over their head. A team that is an overachiever. A team that gets exposed when it plays the very top tier of schools in college football (USC, Michigan, OSU). Minus the surprise factor that played to ND’s advantage a year ago, the Irish could not afford to make mistakes this past Saturday. They made them. USC made plenty of mistakes as well, but they were better equipped to endure their mistakes than the Irish.

This is not to say that Notre Dame did not have its chances. Passes were dropped. Passes were overthrown. JDB threw 2 interceptions and the offense did not capitalize. The Irish fumbled inside the 10 yard line, and consistently failed to capitalize in the red zone. Had they taken care of business when they needed to, things may have gone differently. Maybe with a few breaks, we’re sitting at #3 in the polls this week.

But that doesn’t change what was very obvious to me all night. USC had superior athletes, and they had a lot of them. Their receivers did not have problems getting open, and frankly, Dwayne Jarrett didn’t need to be open to make plays. Steve Smith was quiet for pretty much the entire game (Mike Richardson?), but Booty had plenty of time in the pocket to find just about everyone else. In order to get pressure on Booty, we had to bring the linebackers, which left the middle of the field wide open.

Quite in contrast, USC did not have to commit as many players to the rush in order to pressure Brady Quinn. It seemed like they could get decent pressure on the QB while dropping their linebackers into coverage. There were quite a few passes batted down not at the LOS, but by linebackers in coverage. Our receivers had a lot of problems getting open. The Trojan linebackers were fast, and their secondary was fast. Brady may have missed on a few passes and made some mistakes, but overall, I felt he played pretty well given the circumstances. I’m surprised he got through the night without throwing a pick or two.

Also in contrast was our offensive line. I hope some of the 6 guys that Charlie brought in last year are ready to contribute real soon, because we need help there. Darius may not have breakaway speed, but the problems with the running game fall on the line as far as I can tell. We need a gamebreaker, but even when we get him, he’s going to need a place to run. Not even the Rocket can run through a hole that isn’t there. As far as pass protection went, while Quinn was not sacked many times, he was constantly on the run or evading would be tacklers. You have to give your quarterback some time if you expect him to get into any type of a rhythm. Pass protection was inconsistent all night. Sometimes decent, sometimes nonexistent.

As far as playcalling goes, I can’t say I’m overly troubled by anything Charlie did. I like his super aggressive style, in contrast to the ultra-conservative Davie and TW’s of the world. It gets him burned occasionally, but it also keeps things dynamic and unpredictable. I believe when we have more talent across the board, it will make this team a lot of fun to watch. It’s tough to look like a great play caller if your running game is over matched and your wide receivers aren’t getting open.

I think the worst thing I took from this game is we’re a ways from being on USC’s talent level. That doesn’t mean we won’t be able to beat them in the near future, but it certainly means we’re going to need to play that “perfect” game to have a chance. In the meantime, I will refrain from choking myself while USC plays OSU in the title game… go Bruins…

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  1. Oh, forgot to say that *EVERY* team that plays Notre Dame plays their A game. This goes for every varsity and club sport at the Dome. It sure was that way in rugby….lol…yee haw…..but all seriousness aside…how do you recruit for that?!?!?!??!?!?!?!

  2. Look into USC’s red shirting program. How many true freshman through seniors do they have? Also look into their “Farm” system for throw away depth players who have come up from the california junior college ranks….these guys rack up the playing time that a true system like ND’s does not afford to their players. No excuses: CW has to recruit faster and smarter players who can mirror the defense Ara recruited in the Browner/Bradley years…they dominated.

    Is anybody else sick of Michigan’s whining?

  3. The days of Vinny Cerrato arent’ over they were just taking a long slumber. The first class that weis and company brought to Notre Dame was just the beginning. This second class is no different. Remember that it took Lou about 3 years but he also had talent even though Faust didn’t know what to do with it. The last 2 coaches just let the program go to hell by just recruiting average talent. There were about 5 very talented players left on the squad that Weis has now and just think about the job he has done with that group. This team has played well above their level yet again people still hold ND on a much higher level and when things go wrong all the experts in the wood work come out to slam the work Weis had done. I’ve yet to see anyone step up to the plate to offer solutions. With the group of talent that is there now and is coming you will see better play from the O Line and as far as the defense is conserned I know that Weis is working on that to. Remember people Mintor didn’t come into alot of talent as willingham did. That defense made willingham look like a god his first year but then the truth reared it’s ugly head his last 2 years.

  4. Lots of good points made on this subject. I know there’s a lot of teams that don’t get top-ranked recruiting classes yet still cobble together a top defense. Let’s not forget how they (Virginia Tech, 11 out of 12 of the SEC schools, Oklahoma, etc.) accomplish this: JUCOs. Remember those great K-State teams of the late 90s early 2000s? JUCOs. How did Bob Stoops take a failed Sooner team from mediocrity his 1st yr (hell, the Irish even beat them) to a nat’l championship in his 2nd yr? JUCOs. There’s no shame in that & I don’t blame them for doing it…but it is a fact that goes unnoticed. JUCOs, for the most part, are “practice squads” for D-1 talent athletes who only lack the academic requirements to play on major college teams. Think of them as a farm team that cultivates a player until he’s ready for “the Show”. In other words, they’re getting great experience (as opposed to high school competition) under their belt while getting their grades in order. The odds must be in a team’s favor when they can evaluate an athlete after 2 yrs of JUCO experience vs. a true freshman who may or may not have played vs. inferior talent in high school & is still green both mentally & physically. Again, not an excuse just a fact. ND has done just fine in the past by not accepting JUCOs, so I’m not suggesting that they change their admissions. It just means that there’s fewer room for “mis-evaluations” when recruiting high school student-athletes. For all teams, there will always be some “can’t miss” 5-star players who live up to expectations, some who flop, some who slip to mediocrity & some whose career is derailed by injury. Conversely, there will be the “diamonds in the rough” who mature mentally & physically or through a position change, develop into an All-American. Just more reasons why you can’t have enough talent at every position whether it’s skill players or those who control the trenches. I like what I’ve seen from Weis & Co.’s 1st two full recruiting classes, but my wish is for them to return to the halcyon days of Vinny Cerrato where he worked his magic to induce so many superstars to commit to Notre Dame and keep them in the national title hunt year in-year out. Let’s face it, since the collars at ND insisted that he leave Holtz & co., the recruiting has never been the same.

  5. I think what we all forget is how far ND has come. I look at it this way, in two years at Notre Dame, Charlie Weis has taken us to back to back BCS bowl games (something Davie and Willingham could not do), given us an offensive identity (something Davie and Willingham could not do), turned an average QB into a Heisman contender, resurrected the careers of Stoval and Samardijza, landed recruits with more athleticism than Davie or Willingham, and most importantly, narrowed the gap between us and our rivals. Yes, we lost to SC again this year, but it does not compare to the blow outs experienced by Willingham.

    This does not mean the work is done for Weis. We need a better OL, more speed on offense, more speed on defense (and a better defensive scheme). We all want instant gratification, but that never happens in college football. 19-5 in two years is pretty darn good. We just need the athletes to beat the juggernauts on our schedule. With the committment of players like Clausen, Allen, and Gray, I see that happening sooner rather than later.

  6. I couldn’t agree more about the OL this year, Frank. I thought that unit was going to be one of the better ones in the country with their skill and experience – instead they were miserable against every opponent that had a pulse. It really makes you wonder how much of ND’s troubles are a result of poor coaching rather than athleticism. Notre Dame’s roster every year is loaded with former Parade All-Americans, which sort of kills the argument that they don’t sign enough upper echelon recruits. I do think there’s something to be said for the speed issue though, since most of these aforementioned recruits happen to be linemen or QBs. However, just because you lose out on Lorenzo Booker or Reggie Bush doesn’t mean you can’t find speed at the skill positions – you just have to look harder. Take Virginia Tech, for example: they never bring in what’s considered to be one of the top recruiting classes, yet they always end up having one of the nation’s most athletic teams (along with discipline challenged, I’ll admit) with guys like Vick, D-Hall, Eddie Royal, etc. Maybe that was a bad example, but you get the gist. ND’s problems seem to be a result of poor position coaching and lack of overall speed, both of which can be fixed if they are acknowledged.

  7. The game is blocking and tackling. You learn that in third grade. Why were the Irish close last year in South Bend in the SC game? They controlled the line of scrimage and ran many more plays than the Trojans. It helps when your defense isn’t out on the field all of the time and your not always third and a bundle to go when things get pretty predictable. While the Irish secondary is abysmal, they wouldn’t be getting blown out if the OL played to its potential. They were the biggest disappointment to me. How many so called pro prospects in their senior year are there in that group? They got manhandled on a routine basis. The Irish couldn’t run the ball and Quinn was running for his life half of the time. I don’t think that is an athleticism issue.

  8. Actually, someone put a post up on the football board showing that between 2005 and 2006, the defense had actually improved (statistically) by 20%, while the offense’s numbers were 20% worse. So, at least by the numbers, the defense did improve if only a little.

  9. I actually expected SOME improvement on defense this year. However, I knew it would never be close to the top 20 caliber defense we desire. I did have high expectations on offense and figured that if we score plenty of points on offense that maybe we could overcome many of the breakdowns on the defensive side of the ball. What I did not anticipate was the breakdowns with the offensive line throughout the entire year that contributed to Brady Quinn running for his life and being sacked so many times I have lost count. There were so many missed or sloppy blocks, false starts, holding calls, etc. that ended drives and forced us to punt which ultimately put more pressure on our defense.

    What’s wrong? Lack of talent? Poor coaching? Combination of both? I have heard many players say that the problems are the result of poor execution on the field. I believe that the talent level available as well as the quality of the coaching staff at all areas dictates the level of execution that will be performed on the field. Sure we are talking about 18-21 year olds and yes they will make mistakes but the mistakes would diminish if we were improved in both of the areas of concern. It broke my heart to watch a lesser of a foe drive right down the field on us to score or see a defensive end or linebacker run right past an offensive lineman to sack Brady Quinn. God Bless Brady for making it through the year in one piece!!!

    So where do we go from here? Charlie Weis must re-evaluate the coaching staff as soon as possible to determine what is best for the future of Notre Dame football. If changes are deemed necessary (of course we all know they are) he along with the university should utilize all the resources available to go out and find the top defensive coordinator/coaches in the country and convince them that they can come to Notre Dame, recruit the best athletes, and win. Lets get back on track and get the defense back up to SPEED!!!!

  10. “‘SEC Still Sucks’ sounds like a kid for only a kid will write that as his name, has not idea what he is talking about. Knows only a little but thinks he knows a lot. Here is where a little knowledge becomes dangerous said that USC has only been good the last few years or did he say 5 yrs. He does not remember all those great teams from the past. Yes, I know, he is only a kid. Many more of you are right on, but then there is this 46yr old kid name Rick, who likes to come across as a scholar but he comes across as someone that has old timer decease. No facts, just lies and forgetfulness.”

    I’m speaking relative to more recent times. Prior to Carroll, USC was down for quite awhile. Before calling someone else a kid and spouting off about how he knows nothing, try proofreading your own post. You sound like an illiterate fool. It’s one thing to make a few typos. It’s quite another to misspell “coach” a half dozen times. I think this was my favorite:

    “And this may be a shocker for most of you, but this ND couch is also over rated and has been out couch by more than a few couches.”

    This was pretty good too though:

    “he comes across as someone that has old timer decease.”

    Thank you for imparting your wisdom on us.

  11. Art you sound bitter yourself. If you think that we can learn some manners from LA then set the example. Both sides are guiltly. As far as Weis being over rated take a look at what he’s done with what he has to work with. Stop complaining about schedule. God forbid if ND scheduls some teams like Airforce,Navy and Army. USC does the same thing. The big 10 is even worst when it come to scheduling the non conference games like Ball State, Nothern Illinois, Bowling Green not exactly heavyweight contenders are they? The big 12 plays division II teams to get things started for them.
    Talent wise there is a gape as of right now. Pete Carrol found himself in the same positions at USC when he took over and it took about 3 years to really show what he has done. Weise knows what the short comings of the team are and is moving in the right direction. Are the expectations too high yes and no. But in order to win you have to beleive that you can regardless of the cards you are delt. Before the over rated “coach” arrived ND didn’t know a thing about winning. Now they do. If you look at the incoming players and the stats for them you will see that help is on the way. Does this mean that all the recruits will make the adjustments to the next level,probably not but last time I checked the standings for the class of 2007 ND is ranked second. Not bad for an over rated “COACH”. 10 and 2 isn’t bad either. Remember Art that things do go in cycles. Wies will have the Irish once again competing for the title and USC will fall to the Irish soon enough.

    You have a nice day Art.

  12. And USC was (relative to their storied past) in the proverbial shitter prior to the arrival of Pete Carroll. Brilliant coach, gigantic asshole. That whole suicide stunt last year? Really f***ing funny. O.J., Mark Sanchez, Reggie Bush, classy lot down there in SoCal.

  13. Hey Art, are you trying to be ironic? If you had said “couch” once, I would have laughed my ass off. Try not to be so pretentious (yes, thank you, I am aware of a hint of hypocrisy) in your criticisms of others. You would be more convincing in your assessments of ignorance if you could spell or piece together a coherent sentence. Or maybe you just have Alzheimers. Ass.

  14. Nice piece but the usual B.S. remains. Stay with the facts and you will come across as a fair and knowledable person.

    Jim A-He knows what he is talking about.’USC signs 3 or 4 of the top DB and LB in the country’. True and ‘USC has a reputation for excellence. Irish Realist makes some real good points as well as others. ‘SEC Still Sucks’ sounds like a kid for only a kid will write that as his name, has not idea what he is talking about. Knows only a little but thinks he knows a lot. Here is where a little knowledge becomes dangerous said that USC has only been good the last few years or did he say 5 yrs. He does not remember all those great teams from the past. Yes, I know, he is only a kid. Many more of you are right on, but then there is this 46yr old kid name Rick, who likes to come across as a scholar but he comes across as someone that has old timer decease. No facts, just lies and forgetfulness. He talks about ‘horrible LA’ and how sad that the kids have to go to school here. First, LA is not so bad but most of the people that live in LA are the lower class Mexicans and Blacks. Please don’t start on this racist bs. because I am not, but these are the facts. All of us that live out here knows that. Second, he has already forgotten about the incident at ND stadium between these so called ND fans and the USC football team waiting to come out on the field. I was there, in the tunnel, and it was the fans that started the screaming of racist remark, four letter words in droves, and throwing of liquid containers and everything else they could get there hands on. These horrible fans in this horrible stadium from this horrible university, should come to LA and learn some manners. Remember, I am trying to sound like Rick or what he would have said.

    Here are some more facts. A very young USC team beat this ND. team. A more mature USC team will beat this ND team again next year. ND was over rated and should schedule a few more high quality team instead of the likes of Army, Navy, and Air Force to pat their records. And this may be a shocker for most of you, but this ND couch is also over rated and has been out couch by more than a few couches. I know and also was told this by a more than a few ‘high place sources’.

    Finally, my son graduated from N.D. and if I gave you his name, most if not all would know of him. A great player and now a great, fair, and honest men.

    Have a great day to all.

  15. Abiamiri, Landri, Laws, Wooden, Zbikowski were all highly coveted recruits. Everybody is infatuated with Weis’ recruiting but we still haven’t picked up anyone in the front seven. Pray to God we pick up Donald. Walls, McNeil and Gray are nice but it won’t matter if we can’t get in the backfield. Shark and Carlson have proven that a burner at wide receiver is unnecessary in Charlie’s offense. Kamara, Little, Reuland and Ragone will be nice fits for the system. The O-Line class of 2006 was crucial. Frazier was a nice pickup. Aldridge was a nice sign as well, except, truth be told, I would rather have a gamebreaker home run threat a la Armando Allen or Jahvid Best. I’m excited to have Clausen, but again let’s be realistic the hype/expectations are ridiculous. Its unlikely that he will be any better than Brady and its entirely possible that he could become the second coming of Ron Powlus. What I would really like to see is that quarterback guru of ours turn D Jones into another Troy Smith.
    Joe B, you are treading mighty close to the implication that we should lower our standards (academic and character) to accommodate athletic flunkie d-bags like Randy Moss. And Rick, there is no chance in hell that we are ranked 8th nationally in academics. US News has us about 20 and that is inflated due to high graduation, retention and alumni giving rates. I graduated summa cum laude in engineering this past spring and I am woefully unprepared for the graduate program in which I am currently enrolled. To my knowledge we are not ranked in the top ten of any major research graduate program. We are as overrated in academics as we are in football and the deluded Notre Dame faithful refuse to believe it.

  16. As an “old”, third generation alumus (Dad was head trainer under Leahy and Grandad played in 1898-99), I must agree with most of the comments, especially about athleticism. In my opinion, anyone who is a great athlete can (given the desire) be taught how to play almost any position (some exceptions perhaps at the “skill positions”).

    But let us not forget that everyting goes in cycles. It wasn’t that long ago when ND consistently beat USC, and schools like Oklahoma, Nebraska, Miami and FSU were always in the National Championship hunt (where are they now?).

    I believe that Charlie is the right man at the right time and with 2-3 more years of his recruting (witness the “steal” of Clausen), ND will once again challnge for the National Champtionship.

  17. Kevin,

    I absolutely think ND could beat any of the Big East teams. I think the entire Big East is overrated. I don’t believe that any of the Big East teams would come close to beating Michigan, USC, Ohio State, Florida, Auburn or Lsu. I believe ND has better or at least equivalent talent as those teams. I dont know whether or not Minter is the major reason the defense is sucking wind or if it is a talent thing. I am confident that Charlie Weiss will not stick with him if it is a coaching issue. I also know that from a talent level ND is not even near that of the upper echelon teams. Very few of ND’s defensive players would sniff the field of the upper echelon teams. The fact that Thomas is a starting linebacker should make it obviouse they are talent depleted. When was the last time you saw a Dlineman in the backfield out of the base package other Abiamari.

  18. Why is everyone claiming that Rutgers has no talent? Greg Schiano has done an excellent job recruiting the northeast, and even gets some players out of Florida! And as far as claiming that Cincinnati’s defense outperforms ND’s: did you catch their game against Ohio State, per chance? And like TCU would give up any less than 44 points were they to play USC. Be honest fellas: Tyrone Willingham was fired for a reason! The talent just isn’t there on defense. Compare these guys to those Holtz defenses of the late 80s and early 90s … it isn’t close. You can believe that Notre Dame’s linebackers would play like the guys at Ohio State if only Randy Shannon was your defensive coordinator if you want, but all that believing won’t make it true.

  19. I really do not see the benefit of keeping Rick Minter around for one more year. They need to find a young aggressive cor. who can recruit well. With Charlie around they will get plenty of blue chippers on offense. I think we should revisit the Charlie Strong idea. With his co status in Gainesville with the overrated Greg Mattison it might be an easy sell. Plus he has spent enough time recruiting in FL he can use his connection to bring in the solid defensive line help we need. Maybe they can get that pass rush they need. On the subject of freshman getting playing time. Let’s not forget for most recruits it is a tough adjustment to class demands. Plus if you look at the last class, I think Sam Ryan might have been the only one who came in ready to play with his size. Considering the fact of the depth problems on the roster and the fact that a lot of the guys will be changing positions ie. Morrice Richardson to the D-Line one year consentrating on strength can’t hurt. Plus you can apply for red- shirts if the player did not set foot on the field. I’m sure they have a plan in place. With the poor job of recruiting TW did I think it will take a least two more classes to get back to the elite status.

  20. Everyone has very valid points. There probably is more talent on ND than what we have seen, but we have to remember that Charlie’s team were losers for their first two years. It is hard to change that culture over night. I love Quinn and company, but mentaly they were damaged by their first two years at ND. TW was great in his first year, but had no offense and everything came unraveled during the following two years. As a fan I believe Charlie is taking the correct steps, the talent will come. We have to remember that college football is not like basketball, freshman game-changers are rare. The defense is horrible, and Rick Minter should have only one year to get things on track. Pressuring the QB is king, and even when ND brings blitzes they are usually picked up. That means that Minter is doing a poor job of utilizing what he has. He is scared to leave the secondary in one-on-one, but what does it matter, they constantly get burned regardless of safety help. Give Charlie some time, and pray that the browns fire Romeo from the Browns. Then we could have the old Patriot coordintors on both sides of the ball. The Patriots have not returned to the Super Bowl since they have left. I believe that during the Patriot’s run, we saw that talent disparities can be equalized when you have great schemes. Charlie has done it with the offense, now we must hope he finds someone to do it with the defense.

  21. I agree 100% with all of you guys, but let me tell you this I’ve rooting for ND all my life (I’m 46) and since I’m a father of ND alumns, I’m very please with the fact of the school giving more importance to the education programs than the athletics, let me explain, all of our legend players were alone in their positions I mean montana, rocket, etc. why not queen and walker and company? ’cause our school is more commited with edu than thropy and 5 years ago this fact would make me angry but now I’m ok with this and proud of our 8th ranked university in the country in edu, with a decent football program that will reports 14 to 17 millions this year just for plaay in any of the bcs games, but don’t get me wrong me and my family travelled a long way this weekend to be in the horrible LA city, and that’s where you begin to compare and feel pity for all those USC students that didn’t have the oportunity to be in a university like ours despite the result of the game (wich is in no way a surprise for nobody)just give coach weis our faith and time and all of us we’ll see maybe next year a totally different UND football team, GO IRISH!!!

  22. Steve, do you think ND could stop Louisville’s offense? Rutgers did, and I guarantee ND has more raw talent among our starters than they do! Their D-line gave up 40 lbs per man and they still pressured the QB and held L’ville’s RB in check. Coaching absolutely has something to do with it – getting your guys in position to make a play, confusing the opponent’s QB and line caller, taking away one or more of their weapons. Looking at it the other way, substandard coaching can take away even the best talent – example: John Cooper at Ohio St!

  23. I agree with your take on Notre Dame football. We definitely need more talent in many areas in order to compete at the highest level. The Irish are not a top ten team yet. John

  24. It is not the coaching or the DBs that are the issue. It is that ND lacks any true talent on either side of the line. What does it say about your depth when you havea true freshman starting at one of the tackle spots? Granted he is great and is a manchild but you never see a top 10 team starting a true freshman. Against the top teams the Oline could not hold their own. They were completely overmatched by the talent on the Michigan Dline. The D line is atrocious. They cannot get pressure or stop the run. ND starts a running back at a lineback position and has a guy out of position at Middle linebacker. If you cant get pressure just about every QB will pick you apart. The good thing is that it is changing. The Oline got some significant recruits last year and some already this year. The Dline is getting some great DE and Rush linebackers. The talent issue is definitely changing. They have gotten the DB recruits to make a difference. Just need some speed at WR to go with the big possession recruits they have on board.

  25. I think raw talent as indicated by high school recruiting ratings is over-rated in this discussion, and coaching is under-rated. I agree with NDRules that we should find a replacement for Minter. I look at Rutgers, Boise St., TCU, and even Cincinnati – none of which get anything like the talent ND has even now, but all of which turned out much better defenses than ND. We need to recruit better players in order to compete season in and season out with the USC’s and Ohio States, but we could be getting a lot more out of the current guys. I hope Charlie is trolling among the staffs of Miami, ‘Bama who just got fired, and even the smaller schools like TCU and Tulsa that actually come to play D every game. I disagree with NDRules on Bernie Parmalee – he’s done a great job with Tight Ends! Brian Polian has done pretty well with Special Teams, not so much with LB’s, so you might find an upgrade there.

  26. The problem with McIrish’s analysis is that his statistical sample is too small (3 games and the only real ‘blowout’ was the 2001 Fiesta) and there were overarching factors like USC’s homefield advantage, a USC reputation that had tremendous psychological impact on the ND players (this is probably the most significant aspect in any sport and is largely overlooked by most sports analysts unless they summon terms like ‘mojo’ or ‘momentum’) and a USC coach who empasizes ‘funball’ not football. Give Carroll his due, while he was no standout in the NFL, he is a perfect example of the ‘overachiever’ that McIrish glibly describes. ND was under tremendous pressure to prove itself, while USC seemed relaxed and ready. Groupthink and herd mentality are huge factors in a team sport.

  27. Agree with everything that’s been said. Though each of the DBs are solid players in their own right, the only current starter who has the speed to keep up with the top receivers is Lambert – and he’s certainly taken some lumps in the learning process. Hopefully Walls and McNeil begin to live up to their hype, along with incoming frosh Gray. It is a tribute to Weis that he’s put up two solid seasons despite lacking elite gamebreakers on both sides of the ball. ND has been losing out on a lot of high-profile recruits in recent years as mentioned by Joe B. Maybe the commitment of Clausen is a sign the tides are turning. I’d still like to see some track star receivers come into the fold. Kumara and Little sound like they’ve got potential, but neither are speed merchants.

  28. The lack of depth for the Irish has been talked about in the media for the past several seasons. Unfortunately, it’s been something of a taboo in Irish circles. It reared its ugly head again on Saturday. How did it happen? Prior to Weis, TW’s recruiting classes were barely even average. And how many of the Irish defenders were taken from the other side of the ball? Weis had an incredible run last year, and Irish fans forgot that he overachieved with this team. When Michigan, or USC lose a player, they send in a replacement of equal or superior talent. When Weis sends in a substitute, he does it with a prayer. This is changing, however. Weis landed a very good class last season, and he’s already received a number of excellent recruits (particularly at DE) who will contribute. To be realistic, the Irish are going to take two or three more years before they’re up there with the elite. Pete Carroll didn’t take over a program with a bare cupboard. And Michigan recruits amazing players every year. It’s going to take Weis a bit of time to restock in South Bend. Patience will pay itself off. There was a decade of total mismanagement in South Bend. It’s not going to get corrected overnight.

  29. We have to give Weis and coaching staff credit. They’ve been doing what they can with the players that were available. Obviously the majority of the current players were recruited by Davie/Tyrone. We need to give it time to where Weis gets to use his “own” players. ND has blown it on several recruits in past seasons dating back to the Holtz era (Ex. Randy Moss, Lorenzo Booker, Brian Toal, Brian Cushing, Reggie Bush, Dwayne Jarrett). I know it’s hard for us right now to accept defeat and admit that we don’t have the athletes. This always happens to us, we set the “bar” too high for the following season. Why did we expect any better from last year after getting stomped on by tOSU? We had about 90% of the same team from last year. Of course we had Quinn coming back, but the secondary was the same. The way I see it, we should accept our 10-2 record. So what if we beat the likes of Navy,NC,Army etc. We have been outplayed and yes, we don’t have the athletes. Take a look at Texas and Georgia. Why is no one bashing on them, afterall, they do have the best recruiting classes year in year out but still get beaten by unranked teams. Many people hate on us because of our schedule. Before every season everyone says, “ND will lose 2 out of their 1st 4 games”..then we start out on a roll and then those same people say “Well, look who they played, their opponents were overrated”. At the end, either you love or hate ND, simple. I think we have let all this negativity from critics,media get to us.

  30. “Because its USC and, quite frankly, they have a reputation for football excellence and, over the last decade, ND has a reputation for screwing up in the big games.”
    USC has had a reputation of football excellence for a grand total of about 5 years now, not 10. Although there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight…

  31. Everyone here has brought up some extremely valid points to make a case for the fact that the Irish are not an elite program. However some things are being losted in translation. I want to know when Rick Minter, Brian Poulian and Bernie Parmalee are going to be shown the door. Both the defensive and special team units have got to rank at or near the bottom in the country. How can we expect the unatheletic, slow-footed defensive backs and linebackers to cover the atheletes that the Irish face against the elite programs in college football. Lets drop back our linebackers 7 yards off the line of scrimmage and watch them cover Dwayne Jarret. Also how come when they blitz it comes from the edges and never line nine guys in the box and make the o-line make a decision who to pick up. You don’t even have to be an elite team to pick up those types of blitzs. Minter’s defense is the most predictable and disgraceful thing I have ever seen. How can we make average quaterbacks look like Heisman trophey canidates like Joe Daley and for that matter John David Booty. Fact of the matter is good coaches use the strengths of the players they have. What good is Tommy Z when he is 15 yards off the line of scrimmage chasing WRs. One last point I respect(man crush) Charlie for everything he is trying to accomplish. He has definiately brought back the swagger of the program. However 4th and 6 and you throw a deep ball to the corner of the endzone to a covered receiever? Not really sure what you are trying to accomplish?

  32. Jim,

    I agree w/ everything you said except the part about a good QB and speed at receiver will beat ND every time. A more accurate phrase may be: ND’s lack of speed on defense makes a below-average QB look good b/c a below-average QB & speed @ WR will beat ND’s defense every time. When the likes of UNC, Purdue, and Air Force can pass at will vs. ND, then I start wondering if I have any eligibility left.

    As far as the subject of the post…I’ve been saying that all along. If a team has to play a perfect game to compete then they’re the inferior team. The only saving grace is that Weis & Quinn will put points on the board…Willingham got boatraced & still couldn’t put points on the board.

    What concerns me is ND had this great recruiting haul last year, but none were good enough to take starting positions away from the returning O-linemen, LBs, or DBs. That’s sad. I mean USC’s 2nd stringers would star on most teams, yet a good group of frosh came in and contributed/dominated immediately due to superior talent or injury to the original starter.

    Walker is a good ‘scat back’ but you can’t be multi-dimensional if your run game consists of draws & delays. I assume Aldridge’s injury kept him from getting more acclimated to the system early in the year in order to be a threat by year’s end. I have heard nothing, however; about Luke Schmidt’s absence. Even after Schapp (sp?) went down w/ injury, Schmidt wasn’t even listed as a backup to McConnell.

    Finally, common sense tells me that ND will not fair much better in their bowl game if it is matched up vs. a team w/ speed & athleticism on both sides of the ball. Frankly, I think either Arkansas & Florida have more of this than ND, so don’t buy a ticket or reserve a room in Nawlins, McIrish, b/c it could get uglier.

  33. Of course USC had better athletes and more speed. I follow high school FB recruiting very closely and, over the past four or five years, USC has had one of the top three classes in the nation. And not just in general–in the critical skill and speed-sensitive positions. Last year was the first year in ages that Notre Dame signed a top-rated defensive back (McNeil and Walls). USC signs three or four of the best DBs and LBs in the country EVERY YEAR! Last year, they got Taylor Mays who rated the best athlete in the country. Why? Because its USC and, quite frankly, they have a reputation for football excellence and, over the last decade, ND has a reputation for screwing up in the big games. Actually, the #10 rating is probably questionable…ND only played three top 25 teams all year…they striuggled to beat one (G. Tech) and got blown out by the other two. Why? A good QB and speed at receiver will beat ND every time. The Irish need at least three more great recruiting classes at DB before they’ll be competitive with the top tier of teams…

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