by Mike Coffey
Taking down Option Team #1 proved to be an easy task, so it’s time for Option Team #2. I got the answers below to my five … er, three questions this week from Keith Arnold over at Irish Insider. My answers went to Ryan Ritter at Her Loyal Sons, so duck over there and check them out. You can see the balance of our discussions about Midshipmen and what makes them tick at Strong and True and UHND.
Me: We saw a lot of Tarean Folston and Max Redfield last week, and even though it was garbage time, both looked quite capable. Do you believe this should translate into more meaningful playing time for one or both?
KA: Yes for Folston, no for Redfield. I tend to think Folston might take a larger share of the running back pie down the stretch if he capitalizes on his opportunities, something I think he did a decent job of last week.
As for Redfield, getting snaps against Air Force is one thing, but playing safety in the Irish system isn’t the easiest thing in the world. A mistake by a safety in Bob Diaco’s scheme often turns into six points, and heaping that onto Redfield, who is a gifted athlete but still developing physically and mentally in this system, might be tough. But if the Irish handle their business against Navy and Pitt, then let’s see what happens.
Getting snaps is the first step. Getting snaps that matter is the next one.
Me: This will be the second week in a row Notre Dame will participate in its opponents’ post-game ceremonies. Some folks think this is fine, some do not. What do you think?
KA: If it honors a program like Air Force, Navy or Army, I’m all for it. (It’s not like they’re standing behind USC and holding two fingers up.)
That said, I think there’s a delicate balance to this, and during the Charlie Weis regime I think it probably went a little overkill. Plus, it’s easier to stand behind the opponent when you lay it on them and win by 35. But losing the game changes things quite a bit.
That’s part of why I was happy that they got rid of the alma mater after losses. I’m all for the students in the stands to link arms and sing together, but forcing guys to stay on the field, especially when there are dozens of cameras pointed at them, just looking to see something they want to criticize, isn’t worth the newfound tradition.
Me: Some people decry Ken Niumatalolo as coaching his teams to play “dirty”, hitting after the whistle and whatnot. Others believe such aggressiveness is necessary for a team that gives up a significant combination of height and/or weight and/or athletic ability at just about every position. What side do you come down on and why?
KA: Dirty play is dirty play, whether you’re serving our country or not. There are elements of Navy’s offense that toe that line very close, and as the game moves towards eliminating things that are unsafe, the Midshipmen (or Georgia Tech, or anybody that runs cut-blocking schemes and plays through the echo of the whistle) need to adapt.
I often think back to my high school hockey career when I think of Navy football. As a shorter guy that liked to mix it up, I knew it was hard for a ref to call a roughing or charging penalty on a guy six inches shorter than the guy he was hitting. Psychologically, that plays into Navy’s mindset as well, and credit Niumatalolo for taking advantage of it.
I don’t blame anyone for disliking Niumatalolo. He’s a brash guy that is unapologetic about rubbing people the wrong way. But he’s a good coach that’s done a lot of good at Navy. While it’s rarely discussed during broadcasts for obvious reasons, I don’t think it’s too sacred to question the techniques of the Midshipmen, especially after some really questionable blocks/plays that have happened over the past few years.