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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Forecasting a Strong Resurgence

posted by Scott Engler
Phil Steel recently projected Notre Dame to finish 7th and tabbed the Irish as a dark horse for the National Championship. Steele notes that the Irish have 15 returning starters and lost 38 starts due to injury last year (15th most in nation) on young team he thought would finish higher last season. Whether Steele is correct or not, anyone looking at the fundamentals of this Irish team has to expect dramatic improvement this year. Notre Dame this season can be the surprise that Penn State was last season.

The Irish special teams made a quantum leap last year showing that Brian Polian can do more than recruit (at which he's one of the best in the country.) Our kicking game turned from putrid to very good. Punting was consistent and the return games finally showed signs of life.

On defense the Irish will have one the most talented backfields in the country. The linebacking corps finally has an influx of athleticism and the front four, while young, has a lot of talent. But it's the coaching change upfront that and at the coordinator position that could have the most impact. Hart and Young give our young lineman a fighting chance. Oliver was not thought highly of by players or coaches. If they can staunch the run inside (and our defensive backs should allow us to overplay the run) this defense could be very good. Moving Tenuta to full-time defensive coordinator was a smart move. The two-headed approach to coordinating the defense was misguided. Ironically, known for blitzing, Tenuta's teams have been very good run stoppers.

On offense Charlie's taken control back and given his nature, this is a smart move. I expect Clausen to dramatically improve his TD to Int ratio this year, in fact I think he'll have a breakout year. The line is finally matured and is receiving new coaching from Verducci who appears to be steeped in fundamentals. I love the idea of moving Olsen down to center as Wenger has been a weak spot. Having Trevor Robinson on the line will give the Irish another road grader type run blocker. Duncan, by all reports, is solid to very good. But it's the skill positions that excite me the most. Along with Clausen, we're going to have one of the best receiving corps in the country and there's little doubt that Rudolph will join the long tradition of stellar Irish tight ends. Finally the addition of Tony Alford as running backs coach will pay big dividends. Armando Allen looked like a different running in the Blue-Gold game. If he can control 4.3 speed, I think he'll finally start breaking longer runs and be much more productive in the Weis offense all-around.

As much as I've criticized Weis, it's fact that the Irish were bereft of senior talent the last few years. I'll trot out this graph one more time to show the dramatic upswing in older talent for the Irish.

Seems I've been equally attacked for being pro-Charlie and anti-Charlie and the truth is I'm neither. I want him to succeed, can see many shortcomings, but can also see where he's come in with unusual circumstances.

More than a backer or anti anything I'm a trend follower and the biggest slacker who follows college football. All I do is watch popular opinion form and feed on itself until it over shoots the mark and then I write a contrarian article based on facts that don't match with reality.

"Things are true, until they're not." A smart man once said this... okay it was me. We all aspire to improve, I seek humility.

Popular opinion is almost always wrong, simply because by the time a thought has permeated the masses, the assumptions that underpin that thought have almost certainly changed. If you're looking for a college football indicator of this phenomenon, it's this, by the time ESPN is on the bandwagon, the wagon is already at or near its apex.

And this long-winded introduction applies to Notre Dame football how? Because most experts are missing the mark on Notre Dame by looking at the last two years. The underneath fundamentals are strong, the schedule is favorable and despite Weis's shortcomings as a motivator and in emphasizing scheme over fundamentals, it's hard to see the Irish not going to the BCS this year. And if they build momentum and start believing in themselves, this team is talented enough to win every game.

As I posted on Rock's House, expect the Irish to get a lot of love the next two months. There's too much talent on this team for even Lee Corso to miss.
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "experts" are rarely right.

6/25/2009 09:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Don in LA said...

Good Post Rock. And, I for one appreciate that you balance your writing with both positive and negative observations. I think that's called objectivity. And, it's far more enjoyable to read than the constant complaining that seems to dominate most Irish football blogs.

The problem with many Irish fans is the belief that we are entitled to win, and that our athletes will somehow defy the logical order of college football; talented, experienced teams win.

Would prefer that Charlie have better record at this point. But, I'll take CW and his ability to recruit over TW and the path to oblivion any day.

6/25/2009 11:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Jim Kress said...

"I pray that Urban Meyer is ready to make the move to South Bend at that time."

That's an AWFUL thought. I get nauseous just thinking about it.

Urban Meyer has shown he's an unprincipled liar who deceives his recruits, recruits criminals for his team, violates NCAA rules and generally is scum.

We can do MUCH better than Urban Meyer if a new coach is required - and I don't think one will be.

6/25/2009 12:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Weis is a lucky guy. He made the best of a talented upper classmen team when he took over, he road that out for two years before the bottom fell out. That situation though, hiding the rot underneath, did enough to keep him employeed through 2007 and last year. Then in 2008, a team that could have easily finished 10-3, stumbled a lot and took a lot of lumps. They were so much more better than 7-6, but that finished gave Weis enough ammo to make the changes to his staff and inspire those players to take it to the next level. This year, the pieces will come together for Weis so well, many of us are going to wonder how he ever managed 3-9. None of this would have been possible if he hadnt had exactly what happened to him happen. Good and bad, it is allowing a perfect situation for a breakout year.

6/25/2009 01:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When a person speaks or writes anonymously they can say the stupedist things.
Charlie’s record would have been much better if he had not followed TW who was a poor coach and far worse recruiter but he accepted the job knowing the poor job TW did and that 2007 was going to be bad. 2008 was some better but not good and this year can be great. I hope so! as for Urban Meyer he is a good coach but not a good person and he is not the type of person that Notre Dame needs or (now that ND knows the type of person he is) wants. No he will never coach at Notre Dame NEVER.

6/25/2009 02:07:00 PM  
Blogger Clay said...

We do not want Urban Meyer at ND. He barely even pays lip service to discipline. His players break into impound yards to steal cars and unload AK-47's on crowded streets with impunity.

Weis can go 12-0 and prove that he is a great coach or 9-3/10-2 and prove that he is a great recruiter but an average coach. I think instilling the killer instinct in this team will be the difference, and I think Weis will do it.

As for 2010, we lose both O tackles. Does that cause anyone concern?


6/25/2009 02:52:00 PM  
Blogger The Rock said...

Looks like we lost a few comments int the crossfire. Apologies.

6/25/2009 03:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Urban Meyer rocket will soon crash & burn. He is leaving a trail of used & abused high school recruits throughout the state of Florida. Many High School coaches in the state have tired of his tactis & no longer want any part of him. Soon the well will dry up he will have no choice but to ply his trade & slight of hand tricks in some other region of the country. He sees a kid he likes. He hires the recruit's dad or calls another coach & has the coach make roon for the guy on his staff. If I know this, certainly the NCAA does too.

6/26/2009 12:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the critiques of Urban Meyer's character are greatly exaggerated.

He is a great coach, loves ND, and yes, he seems to get a bit carried away in the competition of recruiting.

Still, I expect the day when we will be very happy to have him.

6/26/2009 05:41:00 PM  
Blogger Clay said...

Rock, have you seen the post on BlueGraySky about not contacting recruits? I sincerely hope that it is not ND fans contacting certain recruits via social networking sites, but I think you should do a similar post dissuading Irish fans from doing anything like that. NDNation.com needs to come out strongly against that practice.


6/26/2009 06:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Urban Meyer gets carried away in the competition of recruiting the same way Slick Rick Nueheisel does.

6/28/2009 11:13:00 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

I'm thinking 8 wins max. Too many Irish fans are too optimistic every year.

6/29/2009 08:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would love an Irish resurgence but anyone who believes we belong in the same sentence as USC or Florida right now isn't watching enough games on Saturday. This is the same thing I said in 2007 and 2008 when I was chastised for believing that we were in trouble in the short-term.

Sure, the "star ratings" are one way to evaluate talent but you also need to consider the balance of your team. Recruiting multiple WRs with star ratings of 4+ means nothing if you have an offensive line that's mediocre at best. Without improved blocking schemes, toughness, and the proper diet/conditioning program for the big guys up front, that "4.1 star rating" means nothing to me.

I'm forecasting a 9-3 season mainly because of our easy schedule (for a change). We should go 11-1 but teams that win that many games typically have the ability to do 2 things which we haven't yet: 1) close out games against inferior teams (see Cuse and Navy) and 2) feature a dominant running game to keep the defense off the field and burn clock.

A good season for us would be a 9 or 10-win campaign with a victory in the Gator Bowl, with our sights set on a 2010 title run. There are still too many holes with both the O & D lines to think that we could hang with the likes of the top 10 teams in the trenches, teams that feature a certain toughness and depth that we don't have yet.

Hopefully the Irish prove me wrong but they didn't in 2007 or 2008.



7/03/2009 10:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peter is the only one thinking straight.
It feels like I have been read this same article for the past 3 years. How the Irish are underrated, how THIS is somehow going to be Charlie's year, how the talent has finally grown into talent.
Would love for the Irish to succeed but I think the only big thing happening this year is Weis getting the axe after another subpar season.

7/03/2009 08:48:00 PM  

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