5 Things I’d Like to See from Notre Dame in 2007

ryan-burkhart.jpgHere’s a quick list of some things I’d like to see out of the Irish in 2007. Some of these are minor things that some teams take for granted (like wish #’s 4 and 5), but they are things that could mean the difference between a win or two throughout the season.

  1. A Kick Return for a Touchdown – I posted about this a couple weeks ago. Notre Dame hasn’t returned a kick for a touchdown since the 2002 season when Vontez Duff returned one against Navy. Notre Dame certainly has players who have big return ability – Armando Allen, Munir Prince, and Golden Tate all come to mind. George West showed some ability in returning kicks as well last year. The blocking on kick-offs, however, might need the most work. How many times did we see kickoffs where a hole opened up so that someone even had a reasonable chance to take one all the way? Not too often.
  2. Touchbacks – Lots of Them – This one goes without saying, but its time Notre Dame had a kicker than consistently put the ball in the end zone. Notre Dame kickers managed to send just 13 of 75 kicks (17.3%) into the end zone.
  3. A 50+ Yard Run – Other than Brady Quinn’s 60 yard scramble against USC, the last Notre Dame player to break a 50 yard run was Julius Jones in 2003. The Irish have gone three full seasons without a single running back break a 50 yard run. In fact, Notre Dame’s had just two runs of 40 yards or more in that time as well – a 40 yard by Darius Walker in 2004 and Travis Thomas’s 43 yard run on the fake punt against Penn State this past season.
  4. Real 4 and 5 Wide Receiver Sets – When Notre Dame lined up in 4 and 5 wide receiver sets this past year, they generally lined up 3 receivers along with tight end John Carlson and running back Darius Walker – which almost negates the purpose of five wide receiver set. It would be nice to see Notre Dame line up 4 or 5 legit wide receivers and really spread a defense out. The only problem is – will the Irish have 5 wide receivers ready to play?
  5. 3rd and Short Conversions – It’s been a while since a 3rd and 1 and 3rd and 2 didn’t make me just a bit nervous. Over the past two seasons I’ve felt more comfortable on 3rd and 6 and 3rd and 7 than those short yardage situations. It’s about time Notre Dame had an offensive line and running game that could pound out those situations without being predictable and using a QB sneak every time. It almost cost Notre Dame the UCLA game when their last fourth down conversion was stuffed. Robert Hughes is a big back who should help in this area and he is physically developed enough to play this year.

The amazing thing here is that I just made it through an entire post about areas of improvement for next year and not a single one pertained to anything on the defensive side of the ball. I kind of like of the concept behind this post, I think I might turn this into a series of articles on the main site since there won’t be much else to write about between now and the start of spring practice.

Your thoughts? What are some other things along the same lines as these that you’d like to see from the Irish in 2007?

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  2. I can see not wanting the celebration after a TD but I dont know about you but when those DT, DE or LB’s make a huge hit or sack and raise there fists and pump up it, that gets me going and the crowd.
    I agree about not giving up the run also. We gave that up way to many times last year even when we were down a TD. It also seemed like we waited to pound the ball on 4 and inches and by pound i mean brady qb sneak it up the middle. We have a beast in James Aldridge baring his health and very fast back with allen. We should break a few this year. Go ND.

  3. Boffo, Cloudy! I totally agree with that sentiment. Nothing is more intimidating than a team that plays like their opponent isn’t worth recognizing.

  4. Great post. i would like to see a DB come up and make a hit at full speed instead of a shoelace TD saving Tackle by Zibby. Play with intensity on Defense.

  5. While we’re on the subject of “things I’d like to see…”.

    This is something I’d like to see a lot less of (even none of it ever); Celebrating after a play. How bogus! Look like idiots! It has become more like “Having a party after a play” after each and every play. Boring! I’d like to see ND players walk back to the huddle like They’ve been on the field before. I absolutly hate watching players behave like idiots no matter what team a player plays for.
    If any players read this, here is a suggestion for you after you make a great tackle. Walk away and say and do nothing, It’ll psyche-out the opposing player. And if the whole team does it, it will demoralize your opponent almost like having another player playing for you. Also it’s so effin Macho!

  6. Zibby as an outside backer, I was thinking more of him being the weakside, taking on the tight end. I heard some speculation during the year that he had ballooned up to the 215-220 area, so that’s what I was working off of, weight-wise. If he’s a 230lb weakside linebacker that can tackle with authority, cover the TE or the slot (if needed) and stretch out running plays, I’d be happy. He always seems to be at his best near the line of scrimmage, and I don’t think that he’d have a great shot in the pros as a Safety, given that he stares into the backfield a little too often.
    But, I digress.

    -It would be nice to see a 200-yard rushing game from a single back next year or even a 250 total yard rushing day on a few occasions. Let’s impose some wills up front and let all of these blue-chip RBs show us what they’ve got.
    -A dominant cover corner. Between Gary Grey, Darrin Walls and Raeshon McNeil,
    I think there’s a decent chance of that happening. Maybe Terrail Lambert steps up and locks some guys down, which would be nice, too.
    -Fire on defense. In 2005, the defense, while it wasn’t dominant, at least played with some attitude and fire. It seemed like all that was gone this past year. Let’s start smacking people around and drawing some lines.
    -A solid starting QB. Everyone seems to think that this is a position for ND that is going to be good in a year or two. I’d like to see it in 07. I think that Jones, if he gets a firm grasp of the system, would be nice to see on the field. This may sound like heresy, but I’d love to see Jimmy Clausen, if he doesn’t prove to be the clear #1 in spring ball, take a Redshirt and soak up that playbook page by page. I’m of the camp that I’d rather see four stellar years of Jimmy Clausen than one shakey freshman campaign followed by three good years. If the QB class from 06 is so good, with Frazier and Jones, let them show it for a year before Jimmy wins us those four straight championships.
    -This is a pet project kind of thing for me, but I’d like to see them do something with Munir Prince. With the crowded backfield, I’d like to see him get on the field somewhere other than tailback. CB or WR maybe. Just a thought.

  7. Things I would like to see…

    1-Keep the ground game. We abandoned the ground game too many times last year leaving us with plenty of long 3rd down conversions. Counter action would be nice especially with our young O-line and fast RB’s. We don’t want to be one dimensional. We need to establish a solid run/pass combo, which should leave us open for some great play action down the road. We have a great combo of RB’s this year. I’m excited to see Allen, Hughes, Prince and Thomas in the backfield. Talk about a Thunder/Lightning combo!

    2-I too would like to see Zibby and Marice Crum Jr be on the outside backer position. They have plenty of speed and strength to be a factor in coverage and blizting schemes. Our defensive line needs to be physical and move upfield to force the double teams. I thought Travis Thomas did an alright job at LB last year as well, but we need someone bigger, faster and stronger to play inside. Even maybe having Crum play inside and have Thomas on the outside (if he can bulk up a bit)

    3-Special teams improvements. Enough said.

    4-A FIELD GOAL KICKER!!!!! One that is reliable. Gioia gave me a heart attack everytime we kicked. Some points on the board are better than none. We got to the point that we were again too predictable in scoring range. We would go for it on 4th down because Gioia really couldn’t hit the broaside of a barn. Hopefully Walker can help with this. All we need is consistency here.

  8. 3rd and short conversions: I got my wish having Hughes come to ND. I feel he is the missing piece ND has needed for the last two seasons. Those third and short problems should disappear once he gets a handle on the speed of the college game. Not only that, should he play well the defense will be on the field much less and will give the opposing offense less time to whittle away at the ND secondary.

    On the Touchbacks game: The rules change if it goes through will negate any real chance for Touchbacks. I think as well this rule change will make the game much longer, especially with more offensive minded teams who will score more often which would end up slowing the game down Hourwise. The clock rule game has gotten enough out of the placement of the kickoffs it is time to look elswhere to shave time off the game clock such as, less or shorter commercials and tv times out.: Should the ball placement remain the same, I too would like to see more touchbacks and a better special teams play.

    I have no idea how you can forecast getting more 50plus yard runs other than to have the opposing defense be caught out of position more often. We’ll need a lot of speed at reciever and tailback. Maybe G. Tate and A. Allen will be that answer. It sure wasn’t West, Grimes, Walker or Rhema Mcfumble in 06.

  9. I think that breaking big runs could have a profound effect on the way the pass game opens up. By drawing more defenders in the box, the deep passes will open up especially with the playaction getting involved. However, in order to break a big run the offensive line must be able to get to the second level (i.e. linebackers). In the past few years the O-line hasn’t even been able to handle the D-line…let alone get a block or even a chip at the second level. I would like to see a quicker hitting run attack…not the slow developing plays we have grown accustomed to be stuffed in the backfield. Also, I would like to see Notre Dame toughen up and run more often isntead of concentrating on being too cute or trying to outthink the opponent with draws, screens, and different offensive sets. Sometimes I wonder how Coach Weiss thinks a playaction pass would work when the offense hasn’t even run the ball yet…let alone effectively. I would think that they will try to do more than this with a young QB next year, but you never know.

  10. In a 4-3 D, Zibby on the outside makes some sense. He’d be about the size of Travis Thomas, who was serviceable at that size last year. But in a 3-4? I can’t imagine someone who today is about 6’0″ 210 being able to bulk up enough to handle an offensive tackle, especially in the run game. Other 3-4 schools like Virginia have outside backers in the 235-255 lb. range, and are 6’1″ – 6’5″. He’d be better served to slim back down to his Jr. weight and be a veteran presence in the secondary. Crum Jr. can lead the front 7, while Zibby directs
    the secondary.

    As for Paskorz in the middle THIS year, I wouldn’t rely on freshman, especially before they get on campus. Darrin Walls is a talented player, but he got burned as a freshman, so even blue chip athletes need time to adjust. I’m not saying Paskorz can’t handle it at some point, but its a lot to ask someone to adjust to college life, a new team, a new scheme, a new position (he primarily played RB in HS), add 10-20 lbs of muscle, and ask him to start.

    Things I’d like to see include:

    – Commitment to the ground game. Keeps that D off the field while protecting whoever our inexperienced QB is.
    – An aggressive front 7. ANY secondary is going to get burned when the QB feels comfortable in the pocket.
    – Better special teams in the kicking game. That onside recovery for a TD by USC was a telling slap in the face.


  11. Yes, move Zibby to outside backer. I agree totally. I have been saying this to my friends for months. If he adds about 10 pounds and keeps most of his speed, I can only imagine how big of matchup nightmare that will be for opposing offenses.

    Why isn’t anyone talking about Maurice Crum Jr.? I think he needs to be put back to outside linebacker. Him and Zibby on the outside? Scary. Of course, that brings up the issue of “who’s going to play in the middle?” I’d like to see Toryan Smith step up and if that Paskorz kid is bulking up like Charlie says he is, I’d love to see him get some playing time. Watching some of his high school film shows me that he’s got one hell of a mean streak.

  12. Reply to BoB,
    BoB, In Charlies first year we beat Michigan. You stated that he had no major Victories over that list of schools. I think the 5th year sr’s that are coming back are a good group and will help the new talent. Let John Carlson not come back for a 5th year? Are you an Idiot? There will be a lot of young talent on the field next year and I expect the 5yr guys to help them out a lot.
    Now for the article-Id like to see kickoff returns for touch’s. I think armando allen is lightning fast and hear golden tate is fast as well. I dont know if this is a good idea or not but moving Zibby to linebacker? Toughts on that?

  13. I believe that Notre Dame will be a force in the 2008 season. I feel that we could easily be a 9-3 team this year with losses to michigan, USC, and one other(forgive me I don’t have the schedule at hand). I feel that one more recruiting year at defense with Corwin Brown running the defensive side of the ball will be good. I think that the young kids who play defense will be more willing to hear what a guy who has coached defense at the NFL level has to say rather than a coach who has had two, well lets say less less than desireable years with this program. I think if this new defensive scheme shows a vast improvement over the past two seasons kids eyebrows will start to raise and attention from the nations elite will go from well maybe, to “yes” I want to be a Notre Dame football player. I feel that as long as coach Weis is here we will continue to bring in the nations best offensive player’s (i.e J.Clausen, Armando Allen, and Matt Romine). We lost the defensive player’s on our list this year due to the questions about the defensive coaching staff and then one player left due to not fitting in the new defense (to small). This will be a good team soon now that Coach Weis’ players are here and Mr. Willingham’s are on the way out.
    Lastly to the individual who wrote give weis two more years. Use some since Charlie Weis is the best thing to happen to this university since Lou Holtz. What do you want to do bring in someone else to so he can rebuild with his scheme and wait 3to4 years or worse bring in another mediocre coach like willingham and Davie to lead your team to 6-6. Be a fan stop whinning.

  14. I think that the big problem this past year is what was mentioned earlier, that being the overall physical toughness of the offensive line. Notre Dame was able to compete with the best of the best in 2005 with a bend but don’t break defense because of the ability to play keep-away clock control football, and that is directly related to the offesive line. Levoir and Stevenson not being there to anchor the line really through a wrench in that. Don’t get me wrong, Sam Young is going to be a great player for Notre Dame as early as next season, but he was still just a freshman last year, and filling the void Levoir left with a true freshman, is not going to happen over night. I think getting a group of talented, tough guards like Olsen and Carufel in there will make a big difference as well. The defense however is going to have to really begin to step up though until the younger guys adapt to game day. They realy have to start playing tough on defense, and not bend but don’t break because if something bends enough, eventually it will break.

    Notre Dame will be young next year, but I believe they will be more talented on both sides of the ball than what most expect. Not to mention, they are coached by Charlie Weis. Notre Dame could be a surprise team next year, and be right back in another BCS game, if this young talent begins to come through.

  15. Here’s one I would like to see. Our safety’s at least once in a while jamming the line of scrimmage. It drove me nuts watching them always playing 8 or 9 yards off the line in that cover two package and getting burned constantly. What’s the use of having a physical safety like Zibby if he’s not out there disrupting some receiver’s routes once in while.

  16. All good points, especially regarding the long runs. It seems like every other team is capable of breaking the big one when you check the box scores. Part of it has to do with the type of back Darius Walker was, but a lot of blame has to fall on the offensive line as well… As far as things that would be nice to see on the defensive side, how about DBs making plays when the ball is in the air? There hasn’t been a single DB I’ve trusted in this department since Shane Walton graduated. Now every time you see the QB unload the ball deep downfield you immediately assume it’s going for a big gain. I think I make the Peyton Manning face as soon as the ball leaves the QB’s hand. A lot of times the receiver is wide open which makes for an easy catch, but even when there’s tight coverage you rarely ever see the hand go up to make a play. That’s something that theoretically should be easy to correct, but we unfortunately saw no improvement on it in 2006.

  17. Confidence! Attitude(Not arrogance)and REAL nastiness(not cheap stuff ,no strutting)Toughness up the middle(D line, Middle LB ,Safety)All along the Oline!Recklessness and abandon on special teams!

  18. Don’t pour your heart into #2 coming to fruition. In suggesting repealing some of the clock rules instituted last year to speed up the game, the NCAA is now looking for other ways to maintain the shorter game time achieved this last year. One proposal is kicking off from the 30 yard line, rather than the current 35.

    Translation for Irish fans: if the Irish couldn’t get touchbacks from the 30 last year, chances are Brandon Walker or Ryan Burkhart won’t be able to improve enough in that department to cover the greater distance. If the proposals go through, it also wouldn’t surprise me to see Weis re-focus on special teams, like he touted coming into year one.

  19. I have oftened wondered why other schools can get key play from Freshman. Florida for example, Percy Harvin and Tim Tebow both contributed significantly to their team. Ohio State’s running back. USC’s running backs. Texas quarterbacks. We see Freshman playing in big schools all over the country. Why does it seem other big name schools (winning schools) get Freshman involved, right away? Other than Sam Young, Notre Dame did not seem to get significant contributions from what was a top 5 Freshman recruiting class (2006)? Are we really recruiting the best talent in the country? Or, is it that we give too much allegiance to juniors and seniors that aren’t performing? Excuses I’ve heard–Charlie Weis’ offense is too difficult for Freshman to learn. I don’t think Charlie Weis’ offense is more difficult than Florida’s. And, what about defense? Where are the freshman on defense? I am a huge Notre Dame fan. I want to win. My recommendation, don’t bring back 5th year seniors. Let’s build for the future. If they didn’t have the talent to win in their first four years, let them go. Are we expecting them to lead us now, when they have failed in the past? I am willing to sacrifice one season (2007) to play last year’s recruits and this year’s recruits to build experience for the next year (2008). Many of you are probably going to say that the 5th year seniors haven’t failed us? Well, I disagree. Notre Dame should always beat the service academies, they should always beat Purdue. I don’t consider Notre Dame football successful if we can’t beat a big name school. USC, LSU, Michigan, Ohio State, Florida, Texas. I believe Notre Dame football hasn’t been really successful–a serious threat since Lou Holtz. I think Mr. Weis should get this year and next year. If he can’t compete with the aforementioned teams and beat them, say goodbye.

  20. I absolutely agree with the “kickoff return for a TD” portion of your list. I was at the Nebraska game in 2000 when Julius Jones took that kickoff straddling the south goal line and took it all the way to the student section. I don’t think I have seen one other play in my 10 years of going to ND games that compared to that single return (Maybe Zibby’s punt return against SC in 05 comes close but I had to catch that one on TV so I can’t compare the two directly). The ND fans were going nuts, the Nebraska fans (and there were plenty of them around me) just deflated and you really felt like ND was going to pull it off.

    We need more of that.

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