A couple days ago I made a post about 5 things I’d like to see in 2007. Well, today I’m going to switch gears and talk about some things I don’t want to see in 2007. This list includes things that we saw plenty of in 2006 that I’m hoping we don’t see much of in 2007.
5. Dropped Passes
Against USC, Notre Dame was plagued by dropped passes and it really had an impact on the outcome of the game. Notre Dame wide receivers had a number of opportunities to make plays but couldn’t come down with the ball. Had Notre Dame did a better job holding onto the ball int he first quarter, chances are they wouldn’t have fallen behind as badly as they did. Rhema McKnight in particular had a couple drops against USC and again against LSU. With a new starting quarterback though, Notre Dame will need to have the receivers hold onto to every catchable ball they get their hands. Having an almost entirely new cast of receivers, however, makes this a question mark heading into the season. David Grimes, who figures to be the #1 receiver next year, did show some sure hands in 2006 as the #3 receiver behind McKnight and Samardzija. Let’s hope Grimes running mates can show the same kind of sure hands that he has.
4. Linebackers Getting Run Over
Maurice Crum and Travis Thomas were both playing out of position last year. Crum was too small to be the middle linebacker in a 4-3 defense and Thomas was pretty much too small for any linebacker position. Both played admirably though and played tough. Still, Notre Dame’s linebackers were run over last year far too often. Adding some size in the middle in the form of Toryan Smith would be a nice start here. Crum will probably still be in the middle as an inside linebacker in the 3-4, but if he has someone with Smith’s size next to him, it should help free him up a bit. The Irish should add even more size to the linebacker spots on the outside with guys like Morrice Richardson, Kerry Neal, and Kallen Wade all being guys who were too big to be linebackers in a traditional 4-3, but are perfect fits as outside linebackers in a 3-4. Notre Dame’s linebackers were a major liability in 2006 – hopefully we see some vast improvement here this year.
3. Ineffective Safety/Corner Blitzes
Rick Minter liked using corner and safety blitzes and were usually saw a couple a game. The problem in 2006 was they were almost never effective and almost always ended up giving up big plays. Minter’s safety and corner blitzes didn’t fool anyone and the blitzing defensive back was usually picked up rather easily. With a new defensive scheme we should see an entirely new blitz package from Brown. The 3-4 defense is all about giving offensive different looks and bringing pressure from different angles which in theory should help improve the Notre Dame pass rush. Thankfully Mike Richardson and Nedu have graduated, because, no offense to them, but if I had to see either of them sent in after the quarterback in one of Minter’s blitzes I might go insane.
2. As Many 4th Down Attempts
Let me start off here by saying I love Weis’s aggressiveness and the trust he has in his offense to convert fourth downs. What I don’t love is how Weis’s lack of trust in his defense and special teams forced Notre Dame to go for it on fourth down far too many times. Because Notre Dame didn’t have a kicker they felt comfortable with outside of 40 yards (the Irish converted just 1 of 4 field goals from 40 yards or more), Weis was forced to go for it on fourth down more often than even he probably would have liked. The problem here for 2007 is that the Irish still may not have that kicker. Notre Dame’s defensive woes against teams like USC may have forced Weis to go for it on fourth down too much in the first half as well because he knew he would need to put up a lot of point to win. I hope Weis stays aggressive on fourth downs and goes for it often, but I’d also much rather see Notre Dame find a kicker and a defense that doesn’t force the offense into more fourth downs than they need to face.
1. Tom Zbikowski being moved to Linebacker
There has been a ton of talk of moving Zibby to linebacker across all of the different Notre Dame websites for the past two years, but I for one hope he doesn’t even get a look at linebacker. Maybe in 4-3 defense he could have added enough weight this off-season to play an outside linebacker position, but even that was a stretch. Zibby will be a 5th year senior and rarely do position moves for 5th year seniors pay dividends. Corwin Brown just got done turning Kerry Rhodes into a pro-bowl caliber safety for the Jets and with the help of defensive backs coach Bill Lewis, I think we’ll see a much improved Zbikowski this year. Remember, Zibby was not the safety usually seen trailing a wide open wide receiver down field throughout the year. Forget about Zibby adding weight and moving to linebacker. Let’s see him slim down a bit to his 2005 size and become the dominating safety many felt he would become a few years back.
As always, leave your comments below with some things you hope we don’t see much of in 2007.