Beware of the Blue/Gold All Star… Sometimes – Part I

As we close in on the annual Blue and Gold game this weekend, memories of MVP performances from unlikely sources are always conjured up. Every year it seems some player comes out of nowhere to have big Blue/Gold games only to fall back down the depth chart and not play much when the following season begins. At the same time, the Blue/Gold game has been a spring board to breakout seasons for plenty of Irish stars over the years as well. 4392623_nd_blue_gold_gameThis week we’ll be posting a series of posts about past Blue/Gold Game stars who faded back into obscurity, those who used the Blue/Gold game as the jumping off point for strong careers, and then a look at which Irish players could fall into the previously mentioned categories this year. Today we start off with the past stars who faded back into obscurity after the annual scrimmage.

Past Blue & Gold Game All Stars

  • 1995 – Charles Stafford (5 Touchdowns) – In the second half of the 1995 Blue/Gold Game, Stafford caught five, yes FIVE, touchdown passes from Ron Powlus. Stafford ended up catching just 4 passes for 72 yards without a single touchdown during the ’95 season.
  • 1997 – Clement Stokes (139 yards on 24 carries) – Stokes made a habit of big Blue/Gold games and in 1997, he took home MVP honors with a big rushing day. During the season, Stokes ran for 351 yards on 75 carries.
  • 2000 – John Owens (3 Sacks) – Owens had a big day rushing the passer in the 2000 game and had Irish fans thinking we had a possible big play pass rusher, but during the regular season Owens logged just 1 sack and 9 tackles and would end his career at Notre Dame as a tight end.
  • 2003 – Chris Olsen (11 of 25 for 146 yards) – Olsen took home offensive MVP honors in the 2003 Blue/Gold game and then ended up transferring to Virginia before the start of the 2003 season. Olsen never ended up making an impact at UVA either.
  • 2006 – Travis Thomas (104 yards on 8 carries TD) – Thomas ran for an 83 yard touchdown en route to the offensive MVP honors in 2006, but would end up moving to linebacker in fall camp.
  • 2007 – Junior Jabbie (87 yards on 13 carries) – Jabbie took home offensive MVP honors in 2007 while out rushing fellow backs Travis Thomas, James Aldridge, and Armando Allen. During the ’07 season Jabbie was relegated to 5th position in the running back rotation and finished the season with only 35 yards on 10 carries.
  • 2008 – Robert Hughes (100 yards on 22 carries TD) – Just last year Robert Hughes ran the ball with some power in winning offensive MVP honors, but wound up getting passed by classmate Armando Allen in the fall and ended up running for just 382 yards on 112 carries in 2008.

Reasons For the Unlikely Big Performance

The format for spring scrimmages inherently produces unlikely MVPs and big performances by placing starters against backups and upper classmen against under classmen. This makes it easier for experienced juniors or seniors to take advantage of freshmen or sophomores who aren’t quite ready for game action.

Certain positions are more likely to produce the unlikely MVP as well. The list above is heavy on running backs because the position in one in which minor injuries are frequent. Coaches are not likely to play their best players if they have any sort of injury in a game like the Blue/Gold game.  This creates opportunities for players farther down the depth chart to have big games.

Coaches are also more likely to reward upper classmen who may not have seen much playing time in their careers during the Blue/Gold game.

There is also the psychological factor involved – especially with a coach like Charlie Weis. Giving a backup an opportunity to make some plays can light a fire under a starter who might be practicing like their starting position is already set in stone. Giving backups opportunities in scrimmages can help breed competition in practice heading into fall camp.

On the other hand, there’s also examples of players who have breakout performances in the Blue and Gold game who go on to have big years.  Tomorrow we’ll take a look at some of these performances.  In the meantime, feel free to post about any other Spring Game all stars from the past in the comments below.

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  1. Junior Jabbie caught a screen pass and took it 60 yards downfield against Stanford.

    That play was longer than any Armando Allen ever had from scrimmage after 4 years of starting.

    I really doubt Jabbie was the 5th best back that year…more likely Charlie was keeping promises he made on the recruiting trail.

  2. Kyle is was a precursor for the disaster of a season ahead in 2007. I was at that spring game. Ugh.

  3. In ’07 it seemed like we couldn’t complete a pass in the spring game, and ended up keeping the ball on the ground most of the day. I remember Jones threw an early pick, as well as a TD, but none of the other QB’s (Frazer/Clausen/Sharpley) really did anything.

  4. Does anyone know if the game can be watched on line? Hopefully we get a recruit or two by the end of the day as well.

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