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  • Talent, Coaching and Chemistry

    by SEE

    (The Rock Report) – Talent

    At this point, nothing matters but performance. But as the chart on the left shows, Notre Dame will emerge this year from the upper level talent dearth that is finally working its way out of the system in 2009.

    This chart, based on WTF68’s analysis, is an updated analysis of our talent weighted by the seniority of the class. The method used was a star rating by scout multiplied by a “seniority factor” a percentage weight applied to the star rating based on the seniority of the player. So a 5-star like Clausen would only be worth 3.5 stars his sophomore year, but over 4 stars his junior year and 5-stars his senior year. The idea behind the madness is to weight the star rating (which is really potential) by maturity and development, which varies by position. Offensive Linemen, Defensive Linemen and Quarterbacks usually take the longest to develop, so their “seniority factor” is lower than the norm. The “seniority factors” are in the table below.

    5th Sr Jr So Fr
    OL 100% 100% 90% 70% 50%
    DL 100% 100% 95% 75% 55%
    QB 100% 100% 95% 70% 50%
    All else 100% 100% 100% 85% 60%

    It’s pretty similar to the method I’ve used before, except that analysis focused just on impact players by class. The stories are remarkably similar. (And when others use this methodology, just remember who brought it to you first.)

    Essentially this method adjusts for how old a player is. For example, Trevor Laws didn’t really excel until his 5th year, so even a highly regarded recruit like Laws, like most players, takes at least three years to reach his potential. These kids are literally still growing and filling out. As promising as, say, Rudolph is (and he still is skinny,) he was still a liability blocking for most of the season.

    Some commentary from WTF68:

    - I do not offer this model as an excuse for our poor play in 2007 and 2008. However, I do think it helps to argue that lack of experienced talent played a part in our struggles. No excuse in 2009, and certainly none in 2010.

    - We’ll be stacked in 2010. We really should contend for the national championship.

    - On this basis, Urban Meyer did a hell of a job at Florida in 08. Their
    experienced talent was good (roughly equal to ND in 2005), but not great.

    - If anything, I think the percentages probably understate the value of
    having a bunch of tough, smart, seniors and 5th year guys on the field.

    I was talking to an ex ND player the other night and he was complaining that we have all of these 5-star recruits, but they weren’t playing like it. Now part of that is coaching, but a lot of it is age. Our best recruits were sophomores and freshmen last year. In fact, every skill player on offense, Allen, Clausen, Floyd, Tate and Rudolph was a sophomore or younger. I liked BGS’s talent analysis, but what was missing, IMO, was the age factor. You have to account for teams that have maturing talent, like Penn State in 2008. Their talented recruiting classes came to a head last year. The same was true of Notre Dame in 2005, as Quinn’s talented class finally matured.

    You’ve seen this argument before, the bottom line is that there’s no talent excuse to be had in 2009 and we’ll have “ id="SPELLING_ERROR_12">USC level” talent in 2010.

    That orange line? That’s Urban Meyer’s Florida team from last year. The red line? That’s USC from last year. Clearly the bar is high, but as Urban showed, good coaching can dramatically improve the raw material and make it “mature” faster.

    That’s where the coaching part of the equation comes in.

    Coaching

    And the last two years have been a coaching disaster. We hung on to Oliver and Latina a year too long and ND has paid the price for that. Mike Haywood wasn’t someone who meshed with the rest of the staff either and he certainly had no business being an Offensive Coordinator or calling the plays at ND. That said, very happy he found a great job to move on to.

    By adding Verducci, Hart, and Young and subtracting Latina and Oliver, Notre Dame should see an immediate payoff in 2009. If those lines can even improve 20%, there’s no reason ND won’t be BCS bowling in 2009. Frankly, if we’re not, Weis should go.

    You’ll know if the coaching has improved when you see average or forgotten players start to make an impact. One thing I’ve noticed over time is that when a good coach comes in the middle rises. Take a look at USC and Florida’s rosters and you’ll notice they have a lot of five-stars, but also a lot of no-names (see Clay Mathews) that dot the roster. I would expect to see players like John Ryan, Mo Richardson and Scott Smith contribute significantly. Not necessarily those specific guys, but players who are in their positions.

    Chemistry

    You hear this word all of the time, but what does it mean? It means that players and coaches are aligned in their goals (they believe they’re on the same team,) they trust each other, they have skin in the game and they believe they can win. From what I’ve heard, ND pretty much struck out on all of these the last three years. Another framework that’s pretty popular in the corporate world is the Five Dysfunctions of Team, which are:


    1. Absence of trust among team members.
    2. Fear of conflict.
    3. Lack of commitment.
    4. Avoidance of accountability.
    5. Inattention to results.Some say those five describe the ND administration on the whole, but that’s another article…
    Now that Weis supposedly has a group of coaches that are on the same page, he should better be able to replicate the give and take in the coaching offices that he experienced at New England.

    If the coaching was really that dysfunctional, no surprise the the players were rumored to be as well. There was a dearth of leadership in the upper classes (this year will be the first year that no Willingham signees are on the team.) Of course, that’s not an excuse either as Carroll and Meyer were able to bridge this gap quickly at USC and Florida.

    Summary

    There’s reason to believe that the Talent, the Coaching and the Chemistry will all be improved in 2009 and so there’s reason to hope and possibly believe. Weis has shown he’s capable of learning, but this year will be his biggest challenge.

    The believer in me looks at all of these improvements and thinks, we have to improve to a BCS caliber team given all of the factors that have changed. The skeptic in me thinks that, as omahadomer says, you pretty much are what you are by your fourth year and that if Weis is still learning on the job, we’ll probably discover three more things he has to learn after this year.

    The skeptic in me right now outweighs the believer, but the believer is a hell of a lot more fun in the meantime.

    I choose to believe.

    Until the season gives me a reason not to.

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