Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Irish Blogger Gathering: KICKOFF

1. The big news of last week was Dayne Crist winning the starting QB spot. Are you happy with the outcome and how comfortable are you with Crist as the starting quarterback for the 2011 season?

I'm very pleased with the outcome. My horse in this derby was Crist from day one simply because I feel he has a much higher ceiling than Tommy Rees. People's opinion of Dayne tends to be jaded by the memories of the Navy debacle and the first drive of the Tulsa game. The reality is that he flashed real promise at times last year. It's unfortunate that he ended his campaign on such a sour note, but let's not forget the fact that he had spurts where he looked like the 5-star stud he was billed to be.

There are two main things that will determine just how successful Dayne is this season. The first is the most obvious one: he has to stay healthy. I won't go so far as to say he's completely made of glass but...the ligaments in his knees are made of glass. He has to stay on the field even though Kelly is unleashing him in the running game.

The second thing is he needs to iron out the inconsistencies from last season. The biggest problem Dayne had was he'd go 7 of 12 in a quarter, but it'd be seven completions in a row followed by five consecutive incompletions. While you love the hot streaks, those cold spells kill drives and break any rhythm the offense hopes to obtain. He's never going to be deadly accurate like Clausen was, but if he can limit those cold streaks Dayne can be a very, very effective quarterback in Kelly's offense.

2. A lot of people say you see the biggest improvement between year 1 and 2 after a coaching change. What area do you hope to see the biggest improvement in 2011?

This is tough because the improvement from the first part of last year to the final four games was so drastic. Where do you choose to go from there? I suppose I'll head back to the quarterback position. In Kelly's offense, the signal caller is the guy who can be a flat-out superstar with monster statistics (see: Collaros, Zach and Pike, Tony). When Notre Dame was so effective with Rees all they did was ask him to manage the game and not screw up. I want to see quarterback go from a question mark to a strength. Based on Kelly's track record I don't think that's particularly far-fetched.

3. I think we've all covered this year's highly touted freshman class quite a bit this off-season already so instead, who do you see as this year's Corey Mays? Mays played primarly special teams for 3 seasons before a breakout season as a 5th year senior in 2005. Who on the Irish roster can pull off a similar performance this season?

There isn't a Corey Mays that will emerge as a relatively high profile starter, but there is a senior who has done little to date that'll emerge as a major (albeit relatively silent) contributor: Andrew Nuss.

Nuss had a great spring and was just barely beat out by Chris Watt (who is a MONSTER). He's versatile enough to swing between the guard positions and tackle and will play major minutes even though he's not billed as the starter. It's a huge coup for this staff to have the depth and flexibility Nuss provides.

4. Theo Riddick is a player I've been touting all off-season and think the is ready to become a big name in college football. What player on Notre Dame's roster who hasn't yet broken out are you expecting to put up big numbers in 2011?

I was on his bandwagon last year and I'll stick with it this season: Jamoris Slaughter. He couldn't stay healthy last season, but now that he's 100% Slaughter is primed to show exactly why he was tapped as the clear-cut starter last season. Yes, Zeke Motta improved drastically over the last part of the season and seems to finally be fulfilling the potential he flashed as a 4-star recruit...but Slaughter is even better. He's a fluid athlete and a big hitter; if he stays healthy he'll be an unexpected star that finishes top five on the team in tackles. If he doesn't, the Irish have a more than capable backup ready to step in.

5. Notre Dame plays a legit opponent in South Florida unlike a lot of teams around the country. How do you see this game playing out and does it help or hurt Notre Dame that they play a BCS conference opponent this weekend while Michigan plays Western Michigan?

South Florida is a very good team with a very, very good up-and-coming coach. They also have an offensive line that's been completely overhauled and will be facing an Irish defense that is bloodthirsty after five consecutive stellar performances to end the 2010 campaign. Many people are wary of this game and I understand why, but in the end this won't be as tight as many predict.

I think that ultimately this game helps Notre Dame. A solid test out of the gate forces the team to focus from day one--there's no sleep walking through a Kent State or a I-AA school the first couple weeks. Let the Skunkbears feast on a cupcake before our showdown next week. The Irish will be fresh off a victory over a legitimate Top 25 level team. A win over the Bulls means a confident team will be entering The Big House. A win over Western Michigan will still leave plenty of question marks for Brady Hoke's boys--especially when Denard Robinson looks mediocre at best under center.

6. Stealing this one from my IBG pre-season questions from last year - who is the Notre Dame player the Irish can least afford to lose this season? For the sake of getting some different response, you can't use Michael Floyd or Manti Te'o here.

As tempting as it is to pick Cierre Wood, I'll go with Gary Gray. The depth at cornerback is frighteningly thin and if Gray gets knocked out then there could be a gaping hole on one side of the field. Some fans still seem slow to appreciate Gray, but I'm here to tell you he's the best cornerback to suit up in blue and gold since Shane Walton--and by season's end there won't be anyone arguing with me.

7. Obligatory pre-season prediction question:

Notre Dame's final record (noting the losses): 12-1...I really don't know who it'll be against though. Not Stanford or Southern Cal.
Notre Dame's bowl game and opponent: Fiesta Bowl vs Boise State
Final ranking for Notre Dame: #4
Best opposing offensive and defensive player ND will face in '11: Andrew Luck, QB - Stanford (Duh)....Shayne Skov, LB - Stanford
Best opposing coach ND will face: Mark Dantonio
Notre Dame game you won't miss for anything: Southern Cal...nothing short of a coma will keep me from this game.
Notre Dame game you could watch on DVR: Southern Cal...because I'll be at the game. It's Notre Dame football, don't insult me by acting like I'd DVR a game.
National Champion: Alabama
Heisman Trophy Winner: Landry Jones

Monday, August 22, 2011


Didn't have time to put together a column yesterday as my body and wallet recovered from the wreckage of Friday and Saturday, but here's a little gem I stumbled across. I'd been looking for the NBC intro song that I grew up listening too forever and finally someone posted it.

Who knew you could get so attached to a version of the Fight Song that was laced with an electric guitar?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Get That Blood Pumping

It's Thursday and we're 16 days away from kicking off the 2011 campaign. How about a lil' Rudy to fire everyone up?

16 days.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Irish Blogger Gathering: The De Ja Vu Redux

Her Loyal Sons has thrown up the opening tip of the IBG season. Let's get to it.

1. Go to youtube, pick a song that a) applies to your life in some way and b) will serve as the unofficial 2011 Fighting Irish Football Anthem. Extra points if you entirely avoid any band with members born in Ireland. Disqualification for any use of Freekbass. Embed the video for that song in your answers and explain why it’s so fitting under both qualifications A and B.

After much deliberation, I'm going with: "Ali in the Jungle" - The Hours

How does it pertain to my life? This isn't a forum you visit to read tales of woe, you come here to read about ND football and wonder how Bill gets to keep his name on the site when he posts once for every lunar eclipse. Let's just say some unexpected events turned my world upside down in May and put me at rock bottom.

How quick did I get up? On the golf course it took about five days.
Off the course? Upgrades everywhere. The swagger is back.

It should be obvious how the song can serve as an anthem for the 2011 Irish. All you need to make a YouTube video to pump you up is lace in highlights from the horrendous first nine games and back them up clips from the final four. Notre Dame Football was seemingly dead in the water (again) when Tommy Rees was picked off in the endzone against Tulsa.

The team was being shredded in the media, destroyed by the majority of Irish Nation, and ridiculed by its own student body. Brian Kelly went from savior to the worst coach since Kucharich seemingly overnight. The suggestions that he was in over his head, that he was just too "small timey," were running wild.

But it's funny what a four game win streak and a loaded defensive recruiting haul can do to flip perspective. The players and coaching staff deserve all the credit in the world for staying the course and not closing down shop after the disastrous month of October. Unlike Weis' teams the previous two years, they put their noses to the grindstone and found a way to finish the season strong despite being completely ravaged by injuries.

Let's keep that momentum rolling into 2011. The giant that is Notre Dame football is awakening...it isn't quite Lazarus reborn, but for Irish fans who have suffered through the Davie, Willingham, and Weis Eras it sure feels like it.

2. Now that you’ve got your unofficial anthem rocking the home office, predict the single biggest play, positive or negative for the Irish, that will occur this season in a Notre Dame football game. Color this prediction with situation, players involved, opposing team, and even weather conditions. It’s the pre-season. Let’s see what your imaginations are doing.

First, let me set the scene for you:

With 2:04 remaining in the final quarter, Dayne Crist scrambles right on a quarterback keeper and barely gets over the goal line in the north end zone to take a 31-28 lead over Southern Cal. The undefeated Trojans, led by their insufferable head coach and golden boy quarterback, burn their first three downs and gained only one yard on their final drive. With 1:32 left, they call timeout facing a 4th and 9 from their own 26 yard line.

An electric crowd fueled by countless shotgunned beers and unhealthy levels of adrenaline rises up for one last stand. The sense of de ja vu is almost too much; every last fan in the stands knows how this movie ended last time, when a Notre Dame Moment was snatched away. They dig deep and summon whatever is left of their voice and energy and unleash it toward the field as Matt Barkley comes to the line.

Manti Te'o and Harrison Smith wave their arms, egging the Irish Faithful to get even louder. It's completely deafening as Barkley gets under center, yet he looks to his left and decides to audible.

The crowd gets louder.

The ball is snapped. Robert Woods breaks down the left sideline and gets separation from Robert Blanton. Barkley sets his feet and gets ready to deliver another crushing blow to the Notre Dame Faithful.

Until Manti Te'o buries his helmet into the chest of the Southern Cal quarterback. The ball is jarred loose and floats gently into the hands of freshman Aaron Lynch. With a full head of steam Lynch makes a beeline for the endzone, angling right toward the student section. The stadium explodes with a sound that had been absent from the House That Rockne Built since 1993.

A sound signaling Notre Dame is officially back.

3. I’m a fan of the cinematic hit, “Kicking and Screaming.” I know, it’s a film you all love too. So naturally we’d all like to re-live that moment when they’re playing “Would You Rather.” So let’s do so: Would you rather suffer a humiliating loss to Michigan this year, or a humiliating loss to Southern Cal? Why? And stop eyeing that chicken across the street, perv.

Wow, talk about pick your poison. I'll have to go with Michigan and the main reason is because I plan on October 22nd being one of the greatest days of my life. That can't happen if the Irish lose, let alone get blown out.

4. Great teams require leadership, and with Notre Dame being the only truly national college football program in the country, a great Notre Dame football team requires national leaders. So pick one. Name a player on the Irish roster in 2011 who will lead the nation in a particular, official NCAA category. Also specify how much he’ll lead the nation by indicating his national rank in that category. Note: You must be predicting this leader to finish at least as high as 10th in the nation in your chosen category. Bonus Points: Don’t pick David Ruffer – the best player on the Irish Roster.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Michael Floyd finds a way to stay healthy. If that turns out to be true, he's going reel in an Irish record 19 touchdown receptions which will place him tied for first in the NCAA with someone who lines up out wide for Hawaii.

5. You’ve already done more parsing of Brian Kelly’s words than is healthy since he first took a podium in this pre-season. What’s the single most surprising thing he’s said in that time?

"We're so focused on the run game right now." - August 10

Why? Because I think the heads of half the people on ND Nation exploded.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

WeNeverGraduate: RELOADED

Is it coincidence that my life was turned upside down the very night I posted an article proclaiming to Irish Nation that I actually like Mark May? Probably not.

(Just in case, I renounce my previous statements complimenting Mark May. Sorry Mark, rather be safe than sorry.)

The point of this post is to announce we're reopening the doors:

Tuesday, we'll kick things off with the preseason Irish Blogger Gathering hosted by the guys at Her Loyal Sons. From there, who knows? Maybe we can pry Bill into a Two Dudes, One Post. Maybe we'll open up the mailbag. Maybe we'll bring Hinkle in for a guest spot from his new home on the West Coast. Hell, throw out some ideas and we'll run with them.

Get the internet version of Paul Revere and tell him to sound the horn. We're back because dammit, we need to provide another website to entertain the Lord of Shots, Zeiser, and Drake at work.