Friday, April 30, 2010
This video is now all over the internet and the response has been exactly what you would expect the response to be. I have no defense. I just. I don't even know what to say.
All the people responsible for this should be tarred and feathered. In my eyes, you are all on equal footing with Tate Forcier.
WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS?
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
1) Given the stat-lines of Brian Kelly’s first Blue and Gold
Sprint Spring Game, it seems obvious to me that the media will be shark-feeding from now until the first game of the 2010 season over our new-found “quarterback controversy.” I mean, didjya see MONTANA SON of MONTANA throw those TD PASSES!? HE LOOKED JUST LIKE MONTANA! So let’s all do the responsible thing as “Notre Dame Blogs: Protectors of the Realm” and come to full agreeance about this so-called controversy and put it to rest right now: Nate Montana should be the starter, right?
See, I'm all aboard the glorification of backups that never play and turning them into almost mythical figures capable of unleashing the dragon on command (I'm looking at you Sexy Rexy)...provided they never end up playing. The groundswell of sarcastic worship directed at the seed of Montana is a great thing that should spawn at least one worthwhile t-shirt (Joe Who?). If he remains nothing more than Dayne's sideline caddy then his legend will grow, perhaps to monumental proportions after tossing a pair of touchdown passes in the fourth quarter of a blowout against Tulsa. However, if he is thrust into duty then Irish fans will soon be pining for the days of Pat Dillingham. That's a filthy lie, I'd live in
Ann Arbor before I pined for Dillingham.
Honestly, I'm glad to see he's making strides and if he continues to develop into a viable backup then that's great, but I'm hoping the biggest contribution he's asked to makes this fall is modeling a headset (and the aforementioned student t-shirt). You won't win many games if you have to rely on the former third-string quarterback from Pasadena Community College to run the show.
2) One of the over-arching themes of the 2010 Spring session of Notre Dame football was that Brian Kelly has been spending a lot of time trying to change the overall attitude of the Notre Dame team. To quote Kelly, “What I want them talking about is, ‘It’s me that gets that first national championship,’ not ‘I want to be the No. 1 draft pick.’ That’s what we’re reshaping.” Do you think that unexpectedly long wait-time this weekend for Golden Tate and Jimmy Clausen to receive that magical phone call from some NFL team will go noticed by any of the Irish footballers who, until this weekend, weren’t getting the message from Kelly? Was there anything this spring that you noticed that made you think that most of the team was already on board the Good Ship Greater Good and that the transformation in that regard was complete?
I don't think the wallet slaps Jimmy and Golden received have any relevance when it comes to the current team. If they would've struck gold in round one it wouldn't have either because whether or not players buy into the philosophy has more to do with their character than the fortunes of former teammates who have moved on. There wasn't anything this spring that specifically made me say "dam, this team is truly about 'team' and not 'me' anymore," but one thing that's being underestimated is the shift in leadership from Jimmy to Dayne.
You could make a very strong case that last year Jimmy Clausen had the best season of any Notre Dame quarterback in history. Week in and week out fans had the privilege of watching a veritable virtuoso go to work dissecting secondaries and tag-teaming with Golden to keep a team with no defense whatsoever competitive. People questioned his leadership in the months leading up to the NFL Draft, but the reality is the guy won the respect of his teammates over time simply by how good he was. It truly was a process though. He arrived on campus with a very clear message: he was at Notre Dame because ND provided him the most exposure and the opportunity to work with Charlie Weis who could prepare him for the NFL better than anyone else. His goals and aspirations were clearly set on the next level; college football was merely a vehicle to take him there.
Sure, by the time he was a junior guys followed and respected him, but there's no doubt his attitude rubbed off on others. By the end of last season I found myself getting angry when I saw him yucking it up and laughing with opponents at the end of losses like Pitt and Connecticut. The expression on his face said "I'm over this" and it seemed the loss that had happened minutes before had already rolled off his back.
Dayne Crist on the other hand is incredibly charismatic, natural leader. There were stories about him from the Army All-American game about recruits just flocking to him. Perhaps the most telling quote was the one from a player last August about how the team looked up to Jimmy and Dayne equally in spite of the fact that Crist had never taken a snap. When he committed--in spite of the fact that Jimmy had committed in the previous class-- he made it very clear that he chose Notre Dame for all the things fans would call "the right reasons." The guy was on the Good Ship Greater Good the moment he set foot on campus. Dayne's exactly the type of guy you need leading the attitude transformation Brian Kelly is trying to take on. It's a process that will take time, but honestly it's one I'm glad Dayne with the reins instead of Jimmy.
3) A fair number of players made a pretty good splash in Spring Ball and in the Blue & Gold Game. Name one you didn’t notice belly flopping into the big pool of opportunity and explain why that disappoints you. Or, if you really want to be creative, explain why you’re glad that particular player didn’t win any belly flop competitions.
For me it's Zeke Motta. I've got high hopes for this kid and there is still an eternity of time for him to meet and surpass expectations, but his performance in the Blue-Gold Game was disheartening. On multiple occasions he was caught out of position coming up to make a tackle which led to a few "Ole's"--most notably on the Jonas Gray touchdown run in the second half--which led to terrible flashbacks from last fall. This kid was the only guy that could cover Bryce Brown in the Army All-American practices and has shown he can get after it on special teams, but we need consistent, reliable performers in the secondary. Coach Kelly had praised him over the course of the spring so I was really hoping he'd impress on Saturday. Unfortunately he fell short.
4) Pick one quotation from Spring Ball sourced by an Irish coach and parse the living hell out of it.
"I've got to be out here motivating a 19-year-old Notre Dame football player to come out here and get after it? That's where we aren't on the same page yet." --Brian Kelly
This just underscored a thousand times over one of the fatal flaws of the Charlie Weis regime. Each of the last two Novembers Notre Dame lost a slew of games to teams with no business competing on the same level as the Irish and it was due in large part to a blatantly unmotivated and uninspired squad that took the field. Kelly's soundbites all spring painted a picture of what vices had permeated the program under Weis: entitlement, complacency, selfishness, and a lack of focus on putting in the work necessary to achieve what should be the ultimate goal of every Irish team--winning a national championship. A soft, losing culture had developed and it's clear Kelly is attacking it head-on.
5) Select one stat from the 2009 season that either troubled you greatly or made you brag to all your coworkers who cheered for teams with sucky comparable stats, and explain why that particular stat will be vastly improved or ruined in 2010 based on what you’ve seen in the spring.
Six Losses. Let's cut the crap. It's been almost two decades since we've legitimately sniffed a national championship hunt, almost two decades since the last "Notre Dame Moment," and a decade and a half since we've been sure the right guy is captaining the ship. As Lou was being pushed out the door people were clamoring that they wanted a more pro-style offense (because winning just wasn't enough). When Davie left and Ty was brought aboard he got a standing ovation at an alumni association gathering when he announced the option would not be in the playbook (he conveniently left out the fact that the only two plays in it were the bubble screen and a checkdown to the running back). With Weis we oooo'd and aahhh'd as offensive records were shattered seemingly every week whether it by Quinn, Samardzija, Clausen, or Tate (this could be labeled the era of sexiness over substance). I've had enough of dissecting stats in an attempt to find answers.
I don't care about how many yards we gained per game last year, I don't care how inexcusably dreadful our redzone offense stats were, and I don't care about the fact Sam Young had more penalty yardage than Jonas Gray had rushing yardage. It's a new era, a new regime, and a fresh start. The only stat I still care about is last year's loss column. Why? Because as it's been said a thousand times over the course of the spring, Notre Dame is so far removed from it's great successes in the past that the winning culture that existed for generations has been replaced by an acceptance of mediocrity. Last year's team was loaded with more talent than any Irish squad in the last 15 years yet somehow found a way to lose six games. Six losses. It used to be that ND classes didn't graduate seeing more than six losses over the course of their four years, now we get to digest them all over the course of six months.
Based on what I've seen this spring the losses will start to melt away this fall. Kelly is going to work rebuilding the winning culture that used to define Notre Dame and while it will take more than a year, there's enough evidence that necessary strides are already being taken.
6) Bonus: Stick figures, collage, stolen work, hotlinked photo, professionally edited photoshopping, whatever… give us a visual that best represents everything you’ve seen from spring college football, Irish and/or otherwise, in 2010.We'll go to this simple picture from Matt Cashore of the Great Dayne on the field of the Blue-Gold game. I was thoroughly convinced we were dead in the water in 2010 when he blew his knee out against Washington State so seeing him on the field in action couldn't make me happier. Brian Kelly is the new face of Notre Dame Football, but Crist will be the face on the field. I just have this feeling that in three years he's going to be one of the most beloved Irish players in recent memory. Saturday was the first small step in his physical comeback--a comeback that will go a long way in determining the speed of the entire program's comeback.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
1. The rumblings of a Big Ten expansion are getting louder and louder. Of course when it comes to We Never Graduate there is one team in these discussions that is of extraordinary relevance: the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Do you want to see Notre Dame join the Big Ten? Explain the reasoning behind your answer.
Bill: Of course I do, then you can't point to your schedule when you go 6-6. They're good for the league. They add value, they have great academics, mediocre football program, and they take the pressure off Northwestern as the nerdiest school in the conference.
Mattare: Absolutely not. I think remaining independent is a huge part of maintaining our identity as the premier brand in college athletics. We're totally unique in the fact that we are the only team that can pull off being independent thanks to our program's history and national fan base. There's really something to be said for that.
Being independent means we have total freedom and flexibility in scheduling and television negotiation rights, it means we don't limit ourselves to being a associated with a single region, and it means that we preserve a tradition that's unparalleled in college football. Scoff and say that clinging to tradition is just an unwillingness to change with the times, but tradition is large part of what makes Notre Dame so special. The ability to survive and thrive as a program without a conference is something we should never surrender.
2. Apparently this expansion could include only one team or it could be as many as five. In your mind what's the ideal number, who are the teams, and why?
Bill: One, and I would like Notre Dame, only because I don't see enough other worthy candidates. The conference is already under fire and I really don't want to water it down. As far as the rumblings that college football is moving towards super conferences--I'll be honest--I don't really know what that means. I like the familiarity that comes with 10-14 team conferences. If we had to take 3 schools I'd opt for ND, Pitt, and Rutgers.
Mattare: As long as it isn't Notre Dame I couldn't care less, but I'll play along with the exercise. I think they should take one and it should be Nebraska. I don't want to deal with the doomsday scenarios of the Big East imploding any longer so to me this would be a nice, quick, easy, and painless transition. The Big Ten would get their title game, Nebraska would generate a lot of excitement and fun new matchups (Nebraska-Michigan, Nebraska-OSU, Nebraska-PSU would all be blockbuster games), and all the people who are chirping about "a new world order" in go back to yelling at people on street corners in New York City.
3. There are columnists hypothesizing this will have a minimal impact outside the Big Ten while others think that it could send shockwaves that will kill the Big East and reshape the Big 12. When all is said and done, what do you think ends up happening and what impact will it have on the college football landscape?
Bill: At the time I'm writing this I think it only hurts, or should I say destroys the Big East. I don't think Texas or Missouri is happening, I think we end up landing three teams from the Big East at which point it is no more. Maybe they have to form a new conference with Conference USA teams or pick up Temple, Buffalo and Miami OH???
Mattare: I don't think that it's going to be as crazy as some people seem to believe. First of all, adding Texas is a pipe dream and Notre Dame is not budging on their desire to stay independent. The only reason to aggressively raid the Big East for three teams and bury it is to force Notre Dame's into the conference--which in my opinion is a lost cause.
The teams they're talking about adding in the big raid--Rutgers, Pitt, and Syracuse--won't do much to expand the Big 10 Network's footprint much because there are more Penn State fans in Jersey than Rutgers fans and more Penn State fans than Pitt fans in Western PA. Syracuse just waters down the league in terms of football so they'd almost be a burden in exchange for acquiring the Western NY area. I also don't understand why it's a forgone conclusion Syracuse would jump to the Big Ten. Are they that willing to junk their traditional rivals in basketball, their more important sport?
4. Let's make a huge assumption and say the extreme happens--the Big Ten takes five teams, the Big East crumbles, and the other conferences realign. Do you think this makes a switch to a playoff system imminent?
Bill: I do not. What changes with bigger conferences? The BCS still gets to hand out bowl bids to these conferences and all the other bowls would reach new agreements with the new conferences and everyone still gets paid.
Mattare: No. The college presidents and the majority of conference commissioners don't want it and therefore it won't happen. Every year it'll be debated and some years when there are multiple teams that have a case for a shot at the championship (like last year) it'll be more heated, but it'll all be for nothing.
I don't see any sort of "plus-one" model becoming a reality until this generation of college presidents and commissioners retires and to be honest I never see a D-1AA style playoff (whether it be 8 or 16 teams) ever coming to fruition. The powers-that-be don't want to lessen the importance of what is the best regular season in sports and, while they'll never come out and say it, the debates that happen every winter about who should be in the championship are actually great for the sport.
ON TO THE RAPID FIRE FINISH!
Mattare: Tim Tebow prayed his way into the end of round one (the only explanation for the entire world conveniently forgetting his Morelli-esque Senior Bowl performance). How do you see his pro career turning out?
Bill: I think he will earn a job as a starter and have a winning record. 0 Pro Bowls, 0 Super Bowls.
Bill: What happened to Jimmy?????
Mattare: The only explanation is he admitted to running a dog fighting ring during his pre-draft interviews. The silver lining is he landed in the perfect spot with the Panthers. He's going to light it up.
Mattare: How excited are you that the Birds traded up to pass on Safety Earl Thomas and pick a 268lb Linebacker-Defensive End tweener deluxe who went to Michigan?
Bill: Pretty pumped actually. Linebacker might be the weakest spot on our team and I like Graham's instincts...and I heard we liked Nate Allen all along.
Bill: The Skins picked up Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark, so now you have two of my old quarterbacks (Clark and McNabb). How do the sloppy seconds taste?
Mattare: Like mediocrity. The type that takes the gas in big games. Neither have anything on Sexy Rexy Grossman.
Mattare: We both experienced our first bachelor parties last month in Vegas and South Beach. What did you learn that will come in handy at our bachelor parties?
Bill: Two Days max. Any longer and you are shaving serious year off your life.
Bill: Staying with the bachelor parties, how many months could you pay your car insurance if you didn't get VIP bottle service in Miami?
Mattare: The rest of 2010...all for three fifths of Three Olives Vodka with sparklers attached to them. Bottle service is the dumbest thing we did on the trip that I'm willing to post on this site.
Monday, April 19, 2010
This entire situation is being overblown by people picking out certain lines of Swarbrick's remarks and not looking at the entirety of what he was saying. There are a lot of rumblings going on right now so of course Notre Dame is "monitoring the landscape." At the same time Swarbrick understands the history and tradition of Notre Dame Football and how important its success is to the rest of the University (something Mike Wadsworth and Kevin White never grasped). He's "monitoring" the landscape in case something absolutely crazy happens that really would force ND into a conference. The only thing big enough to do that is if there's a total realignment where D-I suddenly becomes 5-6 super conferences with the champions getting automatic bids into a playoff and if you're not in a conference you're left out in the cold. Frankly, there isn't a chance in hell that's going to happen--and, ironically, one reason is the Big Ten resisting a playoff and clinging to the tradition of Rose Bowl berths.
Swarbrick is far sharper than Kevin White. Over the course of his tenure as athletic director, White did everything he could to give away leverage little by little instead of showing a spine and holding ground. One example is the absolutely moronic BCS deal he cut that's already cost us $10mil. Another is how he allowed ND to be bullied by Purdue (PURDUE!?!?) into a long-term playing arrangement deal on their terms. Kevin White did more long-term damage to our football program than the previous four coaching failures--three of which he was in charge of hiring by the way.
We need to adopt the Augusta National attitude of sticking to our guns and not feeling the need to grab at every dollar that becomes available to us. Bill Simmons wrote (correctly) that Augusta could charge $79.99 to get all-access coverage on the internet so that you can see every hole of every round and they would've probably made MILLIONS more. They don't need the money though, just like we don't need the Big Ten's money. And let's be real: the ONLY reason to join the Big Ten would be for (short-term) financial reasons.
The biggest myth of this entire scenario is that somehow Notre Dame could be "forced" into joining a conference. That's absolute non-sense. People infer that in the new BCS there won't be a spot available for an independent such as Notre Dame. Really? If stipulations are put in so that minor conference teams like Boise State and TCU can qualify what makes people think an exception for the sport's premier brand won't continue? This argument has ZERO merit unless some sort of totally new playoff system develops where only automatic bids get to play (which is as likely as a Kevin White statue going up next to Notre Dame Stadium).
Others say that with a major conference realignment Notre Dame will be frozen out of scheduling any games of consequence once the conference seasons start, pointing to this year's slate (filled with five non-BCS conference games) as proof of how difficult it is to schedule even before this huge shakeup. The reality is the difficulty we're experiencing in attracting quality opponents is due to a self-created hurdle. The only reason we're having issues finding higher profile games is the newly adopted 7-4-1 format. The neutral site game is a fantastic idea to provide even more exposure for the football program in different locations across the country, but if we wish to do it then our scheduling needs to be 6-5-1 to allow the flexibility to play higher-profile opponents more consistently.
You better believe there's still a long, long list of teams that would be ready to come to South Bend and play in September, October, or November...as long as the Irish promised a home-and-home series. Using the 7-4-1 model doesn't allow for that because we're locked into three road games each year (Michigan-Purdue-Stanford in odd years, Michigan State-Navy-USC in even years), meaning there is only one away game open and three home games to fill with teams not requiring a return game.
That is where the real shift in the college football landscape as it relates to Notre Dame has been; the allure of coming to South Bend without a return trip the next year just doesn't exist for major conference schools anymore. That is where Notre Dame must adjust and it's philosophy must change. Instead of attempting to bully teams like Rutgers and UConn into playing "home games" at neutral sites off-campus Notre Dame should do the fair and reasonable thing and schedule the games at their normal home stadium. Swarbrick also needs to return to a more national and diverse schedule instead of locking ourselves into arrangements like the mini-Big East slate through 2020 (thank you again, Dr. White). One of the major reasons Notre Dame has remained independent is it allows the ability to schedule whoever we want to play. White's philosophy during his time as AD pigeon-holed Notre Dame more and more. That's the trend Swarbrick needs to stop.
This entire debate has only been rekindled due to the fact that the Irish have been irrelevant in the national title race for so long. When ND is on top we have more clout than anyone, we make more money than anyone, and no one can force us to do anything. The Big Ten is circling Notre Dame right now because the program is going through the first prolonged dry spell in its history. Make no mistake, Notre Dame Football will be back. Will it be soon? All Irish fans hope so. But even if Brian Kelly doesn't prove to be the answer eventually there will be someone who brings the Irish back to the summit.
The key to Notre Dame weathering this most recent storm as the product on the field gets back on track is remembering who we are and not allowing others to chart our course. Recently we've been using our clout in all the wrong places (bullying smaller programs) and not exercising it where we should (with the BCS). Notre Dame needs to change with the times; but that means adjusting it's scheduling philosophy, not joining a conference. When it comes to overtures from the Big Ten, Big East, and whoever else Notre Dame must stand it's ground.
The reality is there will never come a day where the NCAA totally freezes out Notre Dame. If we call their bluff they'll show a hand that has no true leverage. I trust Jack to know that.
Monday, April 5, 2010
To celebrate the start of spring practice I've joined the Irish Blogger Gathering coordinated by the blog Subway Domer. These are six questions ND blogs all across the interwebs are breaking down to get back into the swing of thinking pigskin.
One last thing before I start. I'd like to say a quick farewell to the blog Blue-Gray Sky. They decided to call it quits this spring which was a sad day for ND fans everywhere. For five years they provided fantastic insight and coverage of the football team and I think everyone who had the opportunity to stop by the website couldn't help but be impressed. BGS will be sorely missed.
Without further ado, the IBG questions.
1. Notre Dame is looking at vast changes on both sides of the ball. Kelly will implement his version of the "Spread," which is run at an excruciating pace, and the Irish defense will, once again, make the transition from the 4-3 to the 3-4. Asking to pick one side of the ball that intrigues you the most would be a disservice to us all. Instead, list your biggest hope and your biggest fear for both the offense and the defense.
Let's start on the offensive side of the ball. For how incredible our offensive firepower was last year we still had countless mental errors each game where we loaded the gun, aimed down at our feet, and fired. Our heart stopping finishes last year may have been responsible for weakening my heart and taking two to three years off the end of my life, but game in and game out our self-destructive tendencies pushed me closer and closer to an instant brain aneurysm. Stupid false start penalties, holding calls, and embarrassing red zone productivity all consistently sabotaged an offense that was so explosive it should never have come off the field without putting points on the board. My biggest hope is that Brian Kelly's focus on attention to detail and discipline will eradicate a lot of these issues, partially for the team and partially for my own health.
We're putting all our eggs in the "Dayne will bounce back" basket and frankly that petrifies me. Forget the fact that he's expected to learn and orchestrate a brand new offense; this is an offense that requires the quarterback to run more than any scheme we've employed since Lou left town (the Ty Willingham "Carlyle, run around and make something happen while I adjust my headset" offense of 2002 doesn't apply because they weren't designed runs). I love Dayne Crist's charisma and his potential, but a torn ACL is truly a two-year healing process. I can already picture him saying the knee feels great in August...and then admitting at the beginning of spring practice 2011 that it was probably at about 75% all year.
On defense my biggest hope is that the secondary does another 180 and goes back to being a unit that is one of the strengths of the team rather than the one that underachieves the most. In order to do that Darrin Walls, Gary Gray, and Robert Blanton need to start fulfilling the potential they've flashed in spurts, Harrison Smith needs to remember this is tackle football and not two-hand touch, and one or two of the younger guys (Danny McCarthy, Jamoris Slaughter, Zeke Motta) need to emerge as viable options. I really like the talent assembled back there (and quite honestly I like the overall talent of the entire defense); it's just a matter of whether the coaching staff will finally be able to translate potential into production.
The biggest defensive fear is that in spite of a philosophical change (from 4-3 to 3-4 and from the most bullheaded coordinator in history to Bob Diaco) we still have to outscore our opponents because we can't get stops when we need them. Cincinnati had a pretty terrible defense last season but a lot of that had to do with the fact that they had to replace ten starters from the '08 campaign (hell, Demetrius Jones was pressed into a starting role at linebacker, that's really all you need to know about the depth they had). Diaco has a very aggressive style of play (Cincy was at the top of the country in tackles for loss) and my fear is that if the young guys don't come along quickly the entire defense will be exposed and crumble just like Tenuta's did.
2. The mainstream media, and ESPN in particular, have been riding Brian Kelly's jock for about a year now, and were collectively praying for Notre Dame to fire Weis and hire Kelly. Do you agree, or disagree with this statement? What changes in media coverage do you think we will see in 2010 and beyond?
I agree about the Weis part, disagree about the Kelly part. I think a ton of people in the media were looking forward to Weis' eventual demise because he'd made such a terrible impression during his first couple years at Notre Dame. He had an arrogant, condescending attitude and burned bridges with lots of people with column space very quickly (a DC local but nationally known example: John Feinstein). So yes, I believe they were all looking forward to him devour a large slice of humble pie but I think it had more to do with Charlie Weis the person than with Notre Dame.
When it comes to Kelly to ND I don't think the media could have cared less. There are plenty of people that think that when Notre Dame is doing well it is good for college football. There are equally as many people who like nothing more than seeing Notre Dame wallow in mediocrity. I think people at ESPN would have rather seen Urban Meyer or Bob Stoops take the position just because that would've been a mega-story that would've grabbed headlines every day until Geraldo uncovered a Nike sweatshop in the basement of Tiger's mansion.
I don't see many changes in media coverage forthcoming. There will be those that constantly hate on Notre Dame whether it is rational or not (Mark May, Bob Ryan), those that gush about Notre Dame whether it is rational or not (LOOOOOOU), and those that call it how it really is (Kirk Herbstreit). Ordinary columnists will probably be less inclined to write hatchet jobs since Kelly is a more likable guy than Weis, but other than that Notre Dame will be the same polarizing team it's always been.
3. With new regime changes, players that were once lost in the muck sometimes find themselves in a situation to become key members of the team- or even starters. Identify one of those players that will be that "sleeper." Explain, in brief detail, why your guy will rise above and become the proverbial; CREAM. Oh yeah... it must be a junior or older to qualify.
If it has to be a junior or older (in the fall) I'm zeroing in on the safety position with either Jamoris Slaughter (Jr.) or Danny McCarthy (Jr.). I really like McCarthy because he's a more athletic version of his brother with a similarly high football IQ (he's just not as sound a tackler...yet), but if you press me for one I'll go with Slaughter. The biggest reason is in addition to having great quickness and above average cover skills for a safety, he brings a head-hunting, think twice about coming over the middle type hitting ability that we haven't had at the safety position since the Deke Cooper-A'Jani Sanders duo of the late 90's.
4. If you could change the Blue-Gold Game experience in any way- what would it be? Some years, the game can be quite boring and offer no real insight for the upcoming season. Are we all doomed to be underwhelmed every year, or can you make the change that makes spring ball slick like Rick on a pogo stick?
I've been to the past five spring games (four as a student, went back again after I graduated last year). I found the game to be incredibly insightful as to how the season was going to play out. I left Weis' first spring game feeling like we were going to be a transformed offensive unit after watching Brady unleash 40 yard lasers to Rhema McKnight through a blizzard (we were an offensive juggernaut). I left the '07 spring game in utter disbelief that we could be as terrible as we appeared that day (we were the worst team in school history). I'd argue it was a pretty good indicator of what was the come each of the last five years.
The spring game is what it is. Most students opt to go drink their faces off at PigTostal and couldn't care less about what goes on in the Stadium since it's just a scrimmage. Some years it'll hold more people's attention than usual because of certain storylines (like the '07 quarterback derby with guest head coaches Lou Holtz and Ara Parseghian), but most of the time it won't be anything to get worked up about. If you want to focus on something to fix let's turn attention to the pep rally...THAT is something that must be saved and fast.
5. EVERY coach talks about the importance of special teams, and says that they are a major priority for the team. Is there anything that Coach Kelly has done to back him up on his own statements? What phase of special teams would you like to see more improvement from?
If there's one thing I've noticed in just the first week or two of practice is the fact that he truly does have a hand in every aspect of the operation. Weis may have given lip service to becoming a true head coach as opposed to just focusing on offense, but he never really followed through on it. If Kelly sees something he doesn't like in any aspect of the game he's going to get his hands dirty and demonstrate why the current situation is wrong, what his expectation is, and how to go about achieving what he wants. Year in and year out we see how special teams can make a huge difference for the better (see: the Return to Glory year of 2002) or the worse (see: The Jim Sanson/Kevin Kopka/Brandon Walker Eras). To think Kelly won't take on the task of greatly improving that unit is crazy.
I'd like to see improvement across the board of special teams, but the one area that sticks out the most from last year was punting. Eric Maust was absolutely dreadful and Ben Turk wasn't all that much better. That duo had more punts travel less than 15 yards than over 50 and there came a point where I almost drove to South Bend to hold an impromptu punting tryout in McGlinn Field. It may be the most basic task Kelly has, but he needs to teach someone on the team (or someone on campus, hell I don't care) to effectively and consistently punt a ball 45-50 yards. I may snap if he doesn't.
I have only worn The Shirt in Notre Dame Stadium three times: Boston College 2002 (14-7 loss in the puke green jersey game), Boston College 2004 (24-23 loss in the rain), and Michigan 2006 (48-21 beatdown). Needless to say I will never wear it on a game day again. Ever. That being said, I think it's a cool idea and I like the fact that every year gives a new batch of people the opportunity to design a shirt that reaches tens of thousands of people while raising money for a worthwhile cause.
In terms of the color, I think it should be something that makes the student section stand out on TV. For how terrible, hideous, and fruity the French's mustard colored "Spirit Lives" shirt was in '05 the student section popped out of the screen during home games and I liked that. If I were to choose it'd be a lighter shade of green or true gold like last year's color. Blue doesn't make the student section show up at all, dark green barely does, and yellow is synonymous with cowards, Skunkbears, and Trojans.
When it comes to jerseys I'm old school. I still rock my 1996 Champion Ron Powlus #3 jersey every Saturday (it finally fits after 15 years, it used to look like I was wearing a tent) and I love it. If I had a choice of jersey it'd be just the classic early 90's Champion jersey (ND on the sleeves, gold trim) paired with helmets that are painted with real gold every week by students, not the half-assed, dulled gold ones that are prone to chipping we've had in recent years (though I must confess I enjoy whenever we have the opportunity to hear an announcer say "he gave him a golden shower"). The best uniforms in college football are simple--no need to overthink things.