by Mike Coffey
The folks who put together the Irish Blogger Gathering were kind enough to invite me to participate for the upcoming season, and I thank them and will do so with gusto.
I got the opportunity to ask five … er, three questions of Keith Arnold over at Inside the Irish, who provided his responses below. I was, in turn, queried by the guys at Her Loyal Sons, where I provided my thoughts. Rounding out the group for this issue are the guys at Subway Domer, so be sure to check their article out as well.
EK: While watching the game, which (if any) non-early-admit incoming freshman’s name popped to mind with the thought “He’s definitely going to make a difference when he gets here because we need the help”?
KA: Probably two names, one on offense the other on defense. Running back Greg Bryant should be really interesting to watch. With his pedigree, he might be the type of natural talent that can walk in and get some carries. It’d be fairly unprecedented in the Kelly era (even Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt were part-time players), but I’m not sure George Atkinson is a work-horse type back, and while I really think Cam McDaniel is going to be a productive college player, I’m not so sure he’s a guy that’ll keep the ball out of Bryant’s hands. (Saying that, watch Tarean Folston walk in and make an instant impact…)
On defense, as much as I want to say Max Redfield or Jaylon Smith, I really think Eddie Vanderdoes is going to play a lot up front. While it was nice to see Kona Schwenke and Tyler Stockton have nice spring games, I think Vanderdoes walks onto campus ahead of those two veterans on the depth chart. We haven’t seen a guy like Vanderdoes along the front of a Notre Dame defensive line. I’m curious to see if he’s the type of guy ND thought they were getting when Shaun Cody stood the Irish up at the altar. Vanderdoes is a freaky athlete, and without Chase Hounshell, you’ve got to think he’ll see even more time than Sheldon Day did last year.
EK: Speaking of early admission, we have a lot of examples to point to as players have been admitted in the January of their senior year in high school and have matriculated through Notre Dame. Some have stayed, some have not. Some have succeeded, some have not. While the need to “keep up with the Joneses” likely makes the program impossible to change, do you think the program has been successful for college football in general and Notre Dame in particular, and why or why not?
KA: Notre Dame’s track record with early-enrollees hasn’t been entirely sparkling. Watching guys like Gunner Kiel, Tee Shepard, and Aaron Lynch leave school after showing up early reminds you that it’s a complex decision. Calling a program like this successful for college football — or even Notre Dame in general — is almost beside the point. It’s happening. And like so many other things that come down the NCAA pipeline, it really doesn’t matter if it’s good for the kid/school/process.
At Notre Dame, I do think the university does their best to make sure that the kid has a shot to succeed. In situation’s like Shepard’s, what that means gets far more complicated, but in other situations that don’t work out (Kiel, Lynch, Spencer Boyd), it likely would’ve ended the same way if the student-athlete enrolled in summer like everyone else.
EK: There have been a lot of changes in the makeup of the Blue/Gold game in the past 10 years – scoring method, personnel groupings, etc. What change do you think has been the most beneficial, and what change would you like to see eliminated?
KA: I gave up a long time ago on hoping that the Blue-Gold game would fulfill all of our dreams. At this time of year, who doesn’t get over-excited to see their favorite team play? While the marketing department doesn’t want you to believe it, the Blue-Gold game is probably the 15th most important practice of the spring to the coaching staff. For the most part, there are two goals: 1) Don’t get anyone hurt, and 2) Don’t show anybody anything interesting on tape.
I think all the scoring/personnel tweaks are a direct result of having some roster deficiencies that are almost cleared up. But for my money, I’d love to see a draft incorporated, something like what USF did this spring. (Cue Springsteen) Back in my day on the baseball team, we did a Blue-Gold fall series of baseball games, and the draft was always a ton of fun.
Pitting Bob Diaco’s Blue Team vs. Chuck Martin’s White Squad would be wonderfully entertaining. But I think the competitive nature of all parties involved would likely end up showing far too much schematically, if only to end up with bragging rights through the summer.