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

1 comment:

  1. "Notre Dame's final record (noting the losses): 12-1"