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We Are A Nation

The following was shared by Ronald Reagan on Rock's House:

She is � in ways perhaps unimaginable by those who�ve never walked her hallowed grounds � Our Mother.

Some may assume her fame to be borne of football glory, her greatness measured merely by championships and trophies, her mystique arising solely from the legend and lore of illustrious heroes past. Some, sensing that there must be more, may invoke her academic prestige or uncommon acclaim. And some � adopting the nave premise (or the wishful thought) that she must be like the rest � may choose to blithely call into question her specialness, her inimitability, and even her relevance.

But for those of us who�ve glimpsed the famed Golden Dome gleaming in the midmorning sun, for those who�ve watched the autumnal mist settling across the tranquil waters of St. Mary�s Lake, for those who�ve spent a quiet evening embraced by the candlelit prayers of the Grotto, or simply strolled across the campus and, looking up, caught sight of Our Lady majestically standing atop the dome, surveying her university and all who call it home � for those of us who�ve been so blessed to have experienced these moments, we understand.

These are the sacred moments in which you feel yourself transported, and through which you become inextricably linked with those who�ve come before you, whose own moments of valor and victory have been inspired in and by this place for generations.

How vividly I remember my first glimpse of the Golden Dome as my parents drove me to campus for freshman orientation. We had just turned north onto Notre Dame Avenue, and there it was � stately and serene, set against a clear blue sky, shimmering in the brilliant August sunlight, seeming to grow taller and brighter as we approached.

Two days later, now alone, I took my first unguided tour of the campus. I gazed upon Touchdown Jesus, unaware that the mural�s official name was �The Word of Life.� I walked around the stadium, trying to imagine the cheers of the crowd on a football Saturday when the Irish took the field. I visited the Grotto and watched the steady stream of students whose faith compelled them to come to this sacred place and offer prayers on bended knee. I experience the breathtaking beauty that is the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, and I pondered the words inscribed above the east door � �God, Country, Notre Dame.�

As I circled the Administration Building (as it was then known), I came upon two priests who were quietly conversing. One of them called me over. �You look lost,� he said with a good-natured laugh. �You must be a freshman!�

�I am,� I confessed. �My parents just left a few minutes ago.�

He extended his hand. �I�m Father Ted,� he said. �This is Father Ned Joyce. Welcome to Notre Dame.�

�Welcome home,� Father Ned added. �Welcome home.�

�Do you have plans for dinner?� Father Ted asked after we had chatted for several minutes.

�No, Sir,� I answered.

�Good,� he replied without hesitation. �Then join us. We�re waiting for someone I�d like you to meet. His name is Emil T. Hofman and he�s the Dean of the Freshman Year of Studies.�

We went to a local restaurant (I�m not sure which one, but it was fairly nice). I do remember that during dinner, Father Hesburgh sat next to me. At one point, he turned to me and said, �So, tell me about your goals while you�re at Notre Dame. What do you want to accomplish during your career here?�

I answered honestly, and, I must admit, in a way that I thought would�ve impressed the University�s President. �I want to make straight A�s and graduate at the top of my class,� I boldly proclaimed.

Father Ted studied my face for a moment, and then leaned closer. �Son,� he said in a gentle voice befitting a man of wisdom, �I�m sure you have the academic credentials to make all A�s and to be one of these super students at Notre Dame. I have no doubt of it. But that would require you to lock yourself in your room and do nothing but study for the next four years. Now some people do that, but I don�t think they should.�

�You don�t?� I asked.

�I don�t,� he responded. �Now, of course I want you to do well academically, but I also want you to promise me that you�ll go out and live the Notre Dame Experience. You�re going to make great friends here � enjoy your time with them. Enjoy the campus. Enjoy all that Notre Dame has to offer. Don�t sacrifice the experience for the grades. This is a special time in your life, and I want you to promise me you�ll soak in everything it means to be a student at the University of Notre Dame.�

Thus was my introduction to Notre Dame.

I would come to learn over time that the experience of which he spoke was indeed made of moments just such as these, each more special than any test score, each more meaningful than a grade point average, each more brilliant than even a dome of gold.

From my window in Alumni Hall, I could see both the Golden Dome and Notre Dame Stadium � one, the iconic symbol of a world-renowned university, and the other, her celebrated field of legends.

But in between the two, I found autumn afternoons and trees ablaze with color. I found guys tossing footballs on the quad, and the band playing the Fight Song as they marched across the campus. I found the calming waters of the lakes, and the profound serenity of the Grotto. I found quiet snowfalls that could mesmerize with their magical beauty, yet could chill a Southern boy like me to the bone.

I found students volunteering their time in the service of those less fortunate, raising money for those in need, and selflessly performing small acts of kindness without the slightest thought of repayment.

I found passion and purpose, I found loyalty and honor, and I found friendships that have endured to this day.

And through it all, I found that the Notre Dame Experience, as Father Hesburgh had described it on my very first day, was more than anyone could ever grasp by simply reading a book, or writing a paper, or even becoming a valedictorian. That experience, that spirit, dwells deep within the hearts of all who�ve lived here, of all who�ve studied here, and of all who�ve come to know and love this place we call Notre Dame.

What some may find most extraordinary is that the Spirit of Notre Dame doesn�t emanate from her championships, as important as they are. In fact, just the opposite is true � the championships of Notre Dame emanate from her spirit. And that spirit is unique. It�s real, it�s palpable, and it�s clean. There�s a freshness about it that couldn�t exist if it weren�t authentic.

There stands, in a niche along the southern face of Alumni Hall, the statue of a student. He wears a cap and gown, and holds a diploma. He�s known simply as �The Graduate.�

I remember my final drive down Notre Dame Avenue only hours after my own graduation. I turned to look out the rear window of my parents� car, and, gazing once more upon the Golden Dome, watched as it reflected the last rays of the afternoon sun and receded into the distance.

In that moment, I finally came to understand the emotions of that carved scholar. Now I, too, was going forth into the world, carrying with me the lessons and the spirit of this place, excited to begin the journey beyond, but quietly wondering what would become of me.

Years later, I�ve come to embrace the wonder as part of the journey, and the journey as part of the destination. And yet something about it always leads me back to Notre Dame.

What I�ve learned to be true is that for all the spectacle and splendor of a football weekend at Notre Dame, she reserves her most treasured gifts for those quiet moments when one strolls across the campus, admiring the freshly fallen snow, breathing in the crisp, clean pine-scented air, listening to her beating heart, warm beneath the mantle that is her embrace.

These are the times when one discovers her truest blessings � the grace that must be sought, the spirit that must be nurtured, and the irresistible beauty that is Our Mother and our home.

And so it is that we willingly defend her honor on Saturdays in the fall when we do strong battle against those who would dare to take that which she has bequeathed to us. We strap on our pads, we don our helmets, and we rise up with explosive force to engage in masculine, titanic struggle for the ultimate victory of the Lady on the Dome.

Victory is a decision. And it is a decision that we make without apology. No matter the foe, no matter the price, we seek victory and nothing less. We shall not be defined by circumstance, and we shall never ask anyone for permission to succeed.

Those who openly pine for Notre Dame�s luster to be tarnished, or who brashly claim that she�d prefer to live in the glory of a bygone era, indict themselves by their very words, for it is they who do not � and perhaps cannot � understand the nature of this place.

While we rightly honor the towering achievements of those who�ve gone before us, let it be known by one and all that we hold forever firm the ideal that our greatest dreams have yet to be dreamed, our greatest works have yet to be done, our greatest heights have yet to be scaled, and our greatest victories have yet to be won.

We, the sons and daughters of Notre Dame, share a common heritage. We speak a common language, are united by a common destiny, and are inspired by a common vision. We are, therefore, a nation � bound together not simply by golden helmets or athletic fame, but more so by the very ideals that set us apart, that define who we are, that enlighten our path and enrich our journey as we navigate the glory and travail of this life.

We are poised at the front line of history, the heroes of the past standing shoulder to shoulder behind us, their mythical deeds echoing through time, supplying us with courage and hope for the future. Now it is our turn, and we are both humbled and honored by the privilege of lifting her banner high for the world to see.

We are a nation triumphant. We are a nation compassionate. We are a nation accomplished, yet forever aspiring. We are a nation sublime, a nation united, and a nation set apart, destined to be loved, to be feared, to be admired, and to be envied, but, above all, destined to prevail.

We are, in the final analysis, a nation of champions, who, with Our Mother atop the dome, stand victorious.

We are Notre Dame.

5 Keys to the season

From PeteatND's post on Rock's House:

It's presented in what I consider to be a vague order of importance (and it shows that I have too much time on my hands). Just a little fodder for criticism before the season starts.

(1) Run blocking when the defense is expecting the run

This might be the most obvious key to the season but, given that most are predicting between 8 and 10 wins, it's clear that most already assume that the OL will be vastly improved in this area.

Anyone who paid attention last year will know how atrocious we were at the power running game, and at running when the defense expected it. According to Blue-Gray Sky's excellent article Four Horses Running Downhill, we averaged 3.38 yds/carry on inside runs, 2.83 yds/carry on FB runs, and an awesome 2.00 yds/carry on "wham" plays. In another excellent article of their's, Evolution of an Offense, we averaged 3.72 yds/carry out of our 1FB/1HB/1TE formation, 2.28 yds/carry out of our 1HB/3TE formation, and a horrific 1.92 yds/carry out of the 1FB/1HB/2TE formation. It doesn't take a genius to see that these numbers are truly abominable.

We'll be using these obvious run formations much more frequently and, without Quinn, defenses will be truly expecting the run for the first time in Weis' tenure. We'd better be really freakin' improved in this area or we can forget about 8 wins, let alone 9 or 10.

(2) Pass rush by our OLBs

As most will know, outside linebackers in a 3-4 scheme are tasked with providing probably 90% of the pressure the defense brings. The good news is that ND has a lot of guys at the position who were big sack producers in high school (Vernaglia, Ryan, Neal, B. Smith, as well as S. Smith and Richardson to a lesser extent); The bad news is that they haven't a single career sack -- or even a "hurry" -- between them. In other words, the next time one of them puts even a small amount of pressure on a QB will be the first time.

We know we have talent at the position, and there is lack of experience among our opponents at OT for us to exploit. But, whenever someone absolutely has to "emerge" for a team to have success, there's uncertainty.

(3) Ian Williams

I'm relatively confident in Pat Kuntz, something I never would've expected to say after we beat out Michigan State and Louisville for him a few years ago. If you want to kill some time before Saturday, watch the 9 vs 7 drills from the open practice on UND.com -- every play is a running play with (almost) full contact on the line. Focus on Kuntz: He made a couple plays in the backfield, did a nice job of using his quickness to minimize the effectiveness of the double team, and was generally a pain in the butt. Unfortunately, Ian Williams didn't seem quite as comfortable during the 10 or so plays they showed. On one play, he was double teamed, pushed back about 7 yards, and the RB broke through and "scored".

Regardless of how effective Kuntz might turn out to be, there's zero chance he'll be able to take those double teams all year long without breaking down if he doesn't have a viable back-up. Williams has had some time to acclimatize over the last few weeks, and he'll have to show it right away against GT. If Justin Brown has to be the back-up at NT (as was apparently the case for a few plays at the student practice), it won't be a good sign.

(4) The corner opposite Terrail Lambert

Lambert is the only guy in our defensive backfield with a proven ability to make plays on the ball in coverage (aside from perhaps '05 Zbikowski). He likely was the difference in our victories against MSU and UCLA.

Ambrose Wooden has been a solid corner at times, but he has a problem with turning and making a play. In two years of significant game action, he has 2 interceptions and 7 passes broken up. He was also beaten by Grimes on a deep ball from Jones in the open practice. Walls is unproven, but did at least look darn good in the WR-DB drills at the open practice. One of them will have to step up and take on our opponents' No. 2 wideouts, because we're playing some good ones this year (Butler/Norwood at PSU, Arrington at UM, Orton/Lymon at PU, Hazelton/Ausberry at SC, Evan Moore at SU).

(5) WRs making plays against the blitz

When we do have to pass this year (3rd downs / 2 minute drills / when behind), it's no secret that we'll be blitzed. A lot. The best way, as far as I'm concerned, to negate the blitz is not with a mobile quarterback or the option, but with accurate passing and WRs that can break off their routes and make yards after the catch.

It's not really his fault, but I'm not sure if David Grimes -- after all his catches last year -- has a single yard after the catch to his name. And the other WRs are obviously unproven in that regard. Will they be able to take a 5 yard pass and take it 20 or 30 yards against a blitzing defense, or will they just get wrapped up after 3 yards?

Armando vs. Golden

I'm not sure who has the better name or the better video. Something to kill the time 'till kickoff.

A Box of Chocolates

As is the case with every new year there's a ton of optimism around ND 2007 and there are a lot of good reasons to be optimistic:
  • We might finally have a punishing offensive line that will allow us to have a power running game.
  • Rarely have we seen backs with as much promise as Armando Allen and Robert Hughes possess combined with the experience talent and leadership of Travis Thomas, five-star recruit James Aldridge and big surprise Junior Jabbie.
  • Nothing breeds optimism like having a fiery defensive coordinator talking about an aggressive take no prisoners approach that maximizes talent.
  • Our defensive backfield could be the best ND has had since 1993 (is it that long ago?)
  • There's young talent at every position you look at.
  • The quarterbacks have a lot of potential.
Now here's the problem.

Or a couple of them.

That's not an awful lot of positives.

If a fan from Oklahoma told you that the Sooners were going to start a quarterback with no previous starts operating behind an offensive line replacing three out of five starters, with new wide receivers and replacing a multi-year thousand yard rusher... you'd be a bit crazy to think that they 'should' put up good offensive numbers.

If that same fan told you that the Sooners were installing a completely new defensive scheme run by a guy who's never been a DC, starting two brand new undersized defensive lineman who weren't highly recruited in a defense that was ranked in the bottom half of 1-A... what would you think?

And, oh yeah I forgot this, the senior and junior recruiting classes may the worst back to back recruiting classes of the modern era and they've been decimated by transfers.

I know of course that other teams have question marks, but Notre Dame simply has too many to have any clue what we're going to get.

If the offensive line blocks well, the backs perform great (btw, check out wr Golden on the left at rb) and the defense plays above expectations, the Irish could still lose if a young quarterback throws a couple of pics. The difference in good and bad seasons (relative to expectations) can usually be found in the turnover column.

There are simply too many variables that have to go right to expect the Irish to win their way to a BCS game -- and I haven't even talked about the schedule.


I believe the Irish have one ingredient they've been lacking since Coach Weis showed up that could be the magic dust that leads to a memorable season.... coaching synergy.

I know I've wrote about it before, but Weis finally has a guy who's defense he knows and a guy who can motivate players. Just as important, he has a guy who can pressure test Weis's own strategies and decisions. Good coaching staff's elevate fair players to good and good players to great and do the same for each other. And as I mentioned above, Corwin's a motivator, which is a necessary ingredient in a college team.

Mix that with an influx of young talent and this year could be a redux of 2005.

I'd pick the Irish by 10 this Saturday, but Cash and JVan are going to this game and they're like the grim reapers of Notre Dame football. We should get a collection to send them both on weekend vacations on game weeks. Despite their presence, we'll notch a W. Weis didn't go down to West Virginia to go white water rafting. *Let me know if the goods (jerseys etc.) on the right are distracting and I'll tone them down.

ND Depth Chart

The official ND depth chart is out and of note Sharpley is listed ahead of Jones and Clausen but there is that conjuction 'or' in there which means it's wide open. It's Travis Thomas then anybody else at tailback. It's Justin Brown or Dwight Stephenson at DE and Joe Brockington or Toryan Smith at MLB. Probably the biggest surprise is Walls over Wooden at cornerback, as some have speculated, a sign of great competition at that position. And it looks like we're going to have some speed on kick returns with Armando Allen and Golden Tate listed as 1-2 (they just sound fast.)

Notre Dame Offense

X 19 George West 5-10 197 So.
1 D.J. Hord 6-1 196 Jr.
18 Duval Kamara 6-5 222 Fr.

LT 72 Paul Duncan 6-7 308 Jr.
70 Matt Romine 6-5 279 Fr.

LG 77 Mike Turkovich 6-6 301 Jr.
55 Eric Olsen 6-5 303 So.

C 78 JOHN SULLIVAN 6-4 303 Sr.
67 Thomas Bemenderfer 6-5 285 Jr.

RG 51 Dan Wenger 6-4 287 So.
73 Matt Carufel 6-5 295 So.

RT 74 SAM YOUNG 6-8 310 So.
75 Taylor Dever 6-5 289 Fr.

TE 89 JOHN CARLSON 6-6 255 Sr.
84 Will Yeatman 6-6 264 So.
88 Konrad Reuland 6-6 255 So.
83 Mike Ragone 6-5 230 Fr.

Z 11 DAVID GRIMES 5-10 177 Jr.
82 Robby Parris 6-4 209 So.
21 Barry Gallup Jr. 5-11 185 So.
23 Golden Tate 5-11 188 Fr.

QB 13 Evan Sharpley 6-2 216 Jr.
or 3 Demetrius Jones 6-4 213 So.
or 7 Jimmy Clausen 6-3 207 Fr.

FB 44 Asaph Schwapp 6-0 261 Jr.
32 Luke Schmidt 6-3 248 So.

HB 26 Travis Thomas 6-0 216 Sr.
34 James Aldridge 6-0 222 So.
or 5 Armando Allen 5-10 190 Fr.
or 37 Junior Jabbie 5-11 205 Sr.
33 Robert Hughes 5-11 238 Fr.

Notre Dame Defense

LDE 98 TREVOR LAWS 6-1 296 Sr.
93 Paddy Mullen 6-3 290 So.

NT 96 Pat Kuntz 6-3 285 Jr.
95 Ian Williams 6-2 300 Fr.

RDE 94 Justin Brown 6-3 261 Sr.
or 57 Dwight Stephenson Jr. 6-2 272 Sr.
97 Kallen Wade 6-5 257 So.

OLB 90 John Ryan 6-5 253 So.
53 Morrice Richardson 6-2 244 So.

ILB 40 MAURICE CRUM JR. 6-0 230 Sr.
41 Scott Smith 6-4 235 Jr.

or 49 Toryan Smith 6-1 245 So.

OLB 54 Anthony Vernaglia 6-3 234 Sr.
56 Kerry Neal 6-2 245 Fr.
or 58 Brian Smith 6-3 233 Fr.

LCB 2 Darrin Walls 6-0 180 So.
22 **Ambrose Wooden 5-11 196 Sr.
15 Leo Ferrine 6-0 189 Sr.

FS 27 David Bruton 6-2 207 Jr.
28 Kyle McCarthy 6-1 207 Jr.
29 Jashaad Gaines 6-0 203 So.
30 Harrison Smith 6-2 205 Fr.

SS 9 TOM ZBIKOWSKI 6-0 207 Sr.
6 Ray Herring 5-10 197 Jr.
31 Sergio Brown 6-1 196 So.
24 Leonard Gordon 5-11 194 So.

8 Raeshon McNeil 6-0 187 So.
25 Munir Prince 5-10 184 So.

Notre Dame Special Teams

PK 35 Nate Whitaker 5-9 170 So.
or 14 Brandon Walker 6-3 197 Fr.

P 17 GEOFF PRICE 6-3 208 Sr.
43 Eric Maust 6-2 177 So.

KO 35 Nate Whitaker 5-9 170 So.
or 14 Brandon Walker 6-3 197 Fr.

HLD 13 Evan Sharpley 6-2 216 Jr.
or 17 Geoff Price 6-3 208 Sr.

Notre Dame Special Teams

SNP 61 J.J. JANSEN 6-3 242 Sr.
39 Kevin Brooks 6-2 241 Jr.

PR 9 TOM ZBIKOWSKI 6-0 207 Sr.
11 David Grimes 5-10 177 Jr.
19 George West 5-10 197 So.
5 Armando Allen 5-10 190 Fr.

KR 5 Armando Allen 5-10 190 Fr.
23 Golden Tate 5-11 188 Fr.
2 Darrin Walls 6-0 174 So.
19 George West 5-10 197 So.

Representin' Big Blue

Pratice Reports From Cartier Field

These are NDNation poster accounts of last night's student practice:

Those punts weren't as long as you mentioned. The ball was being snapped from the 30 and getting to about the 25 or 30, which is about 40-45 yard punt. Punting distance is measured from the LOS and not where the punter kicks from, so that's just a clarification. With that being said, Price looked good.

I was encouraged by Brandon Walker. He seemed to have a consistent and solid pop to his kicks. I suspect that he will be kicking our FGs this season and Whitaker will handle KO's. Regardless, Walker will be a good kicker for us for the next 4 years. Burkhardt was nowhere to be seen except running sprints at the end.

I thought Clausen's arm looked alright. Maybe he's not ready to really let it go yet, but his motion looked fine and he didn't seem to be favoring anything. Sharply didn't look as solid as he has in the past. This could be attributed to the fact that he was running the 2-minute drill, which is a little more hectic. He threw an easy ball well behind Carlson on a crossing route. DJ's pick was poor decision, but an ever poorer decision was during his pursuit of the run back. He pulled back his throwing arm and tried to punch the ball loose, and in doing so seemed to make perfect contact with the defender's helmet. I was surprised by that a little. My one deduction from tonight's practice with regards to the QB situation was that Jimmy won't be starting anytime soon. He was doing most of the running plays, whereas DJ and Sharply were throwing the ball and running a 2-minute offense. I could be wrong, but that's my guess.

Robert Hughes doesn't look like a freshman at all. He is LARGE and runs well. David Bruton was killing on special teams punt coverage. He beat his man on about every play, and should be a valuable gunner for us this year. West, Gallup and Zibby were fielding punts. Walls was back for a few Kickoff returns. Joe Brockington looks to have put on a lot of weight since last year, which is good because he'll be taking on a lot of OG's this season. Crum looked considerably bigger too. Just a few random observations.

No surprise, Price was great at punts.

Whitaker definitely looked to be the best FG kicker tonight. As jesuitirish said below, he was 5/6 in one stretch where he missed 1-40 yarder, made the same 40 yarder the next try, then hit a 50 yarder. On the 40 yarder miss, it looked like the holder bobbled the snap to him a bit and that is what distracted Whitaker (something he needs to work on not being distracted by, just kick it like it's held perfectly and if the holder doesn't get it there, then it's on him, at least that's what I think a kicker should train to do).

It seemed to me that Clausen was in on about half the snaps that were taken between him, Sharpley, and Jones. I'd make something of that but all of Clausen's snaps were under center with 85% or so being runs while Sharpley and Jones both ran hurry-up offenses where 80% or so were passes. If all three were running similar plays, it would have been easier to infer something about it and is probably why Weis ran the practice like he did.

One thing that I noticed was that the 2-3 deep o-line seemed to get a good push and get the D-line back 2-3 yards before the RB got to the line. I don't know the reason for this (could have the d-line been told to play soft?). If both sides were playing to ability, hopefully that means the o-line is very good this year and not that the d-line is not so good (or that the 3-4 defense that is being practiced is weak against the run).

Good thing there is only about 5.5 days left to the first game. I'm anxious to get the seasons started.
There were about 1000-2000 students in attendence. Many freshmen in their new dorm t-shirts.

I will try to refrain from drawing any conclusions or making any commentary and just try to share some of what I saw.

After stretching, it was punting. Price and number 43 alternated two kicks a piece. Price was averaging about 55 yards, 43's average was about 50. Receiving the punts were West, Grimes, Gallup, and finally Zibby. West put one on the turf. Zibby was the only returner to appear to break free. Much has been made of his weight, but he doesn't appear any thinner. He does appear to be fast as shit.

Price's longest was 60 yards.

Field Goals were next. Walker made a 20 yard kick, a 32, a 35, a 40 from the left hash, but missed twice on a 40 yard kick on the right hash. My program says Burkhart wears 39 and Whitaker 33, but I seem to remember the other kicker wearing #35. I could be mistaken. He scored on a 20, a 32, a 35, missed a 40 yarder on the left hash, and then made the same kick. He then made a 50 yard kick down the center.

Kick-offs followed, with #35 and and Walker alternating. Most kicks came down on the 5 yard line. The shortest fell at the 20 yard line (kicker #35) and the longest fell on the goal line (Walker). The return tandems were Allen and Tate, Walls and West, and McNeil and Gallup. Gallup dropped one ball.

11 on 11 scrimmage.

Jimmy Clausen came out with the first team. (All commentary violently suppressed at this point). With him were Thomas, Schwapp, Hord, the expected starting OL (Duncan, Turkovich, Sullivan, Wenger, Young), and two TEs (Carlson, Yeatman).

JC ran about 30 plays. Almost all were running plays. (Cough, cough). The first personnel change was to bring in Aldridge and Schmidt. JC then threw a ten yard dart to Carlson. Nothing seemed wrong with his motion. Then Kamara, Reuland and Ragone were brought in. Schmidt saw a few carries and caught a nice 10 yard pass.

More running plays and more running plays. A pass complete in the flats to Hughes. And a 25 yard INT, picked off by #24 (fourth string safety?). On the INT I was disappointed with Kamara's lack of fighting for the ball. On the very next play, Kamara lined up on the wrong side. JC yelled at him and as he was correcting himself, Weis whistled everything dead and had some strong words for the freshman. Hord quickly replaced him.

2 more pass plays where Clausen found no one and tucked the ball to run, both times to his right.

In comes Sharpley. Same OL and Carlson. Now with Parris, Grimes, West in a three receiver set (as opposed to the two TE's JC had) and Jabbe at HB. Clausen had been operating out of a huddle, but Sharply ran a two-minute no-huddle drill. Almost every play was a pass. He wasn't connecting perfectly. He looked mostly to Carlson. A few passes behind the big TE, a drop or two from Carlson. Sharply did move the team, though, bringing them from their own 40 or so down to the red-zone, mostly with short passes to Jabbe and draw plays to Jabbe. He was hurrying up the offense, getting the snap off as quickly as he could. In the end-zone he air-mailed some balls and Weis blew the whistle.

Jones's team came out, with Thomas, Hord, Kamara, Yeatman and Carlson. He also ran something of a no-huddle, but not as up-tempo as Sharply. About 80% of the plays were passes. He connected with Thomas in the flats. He missed Yeatman. He threw a very poor INT to Walls that could have gone for 6 points the wrong way. He tripped (on the center's feet? on his own feet?) and fell down. At one point he sent two TE's wide, spreading 4 receivers and hitting Hord on a fifteen yard pass. The next two plays he hesitated, found nothing, tucked and ran.

Weis blew this whistle and brought in Bragg.

I will allow myself one comment: Asaph Schwapp is an enormous and angry man.

Why Charlie is Smarter Than Mandel

There are many answers for this, but this ajc article sums it up nicely. Charlie's taken the pressure off his quarterbacks and put it on Georgia Tech's defense and angst ridden reporters.

Jackets prepare for 3 possible QBs
Notre Dame coach won't reveal starter

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 08/27/07

Kyle Manley hasn't been himself lately.

Sometimes, he's a pro-style quarterback so highly hyped he held a news conference at the College Football Hall of Fame last year to announce his commitment to Notre Dame.

Your Turn

Who do you think will start for Notre Dame at quarterback in the opener against Georgia Tech?
Jimmy Clausen, the hotshot freshman.
Evan Sharpley, Brady Quinn's former backup.
Demetrius Jones, the athletic sophomore.

Voter Limit: Once per Hour
View Poll Results
RELATED STORIES • More Tech coverage

Sometimes, he's a junior who threw only two passes in eight games as Brady Quinn's backup.

Sometimes, he's a sophomore who has yet to play a down for the Fighting Irish but is so athletic he has been compared with Vince Young.

Manley plays all those roles on the scout team for Georgia Tech, which doesn't know which of the three quarterbacks it will face in Saturday's season opener against Notre Dame. On the subject of quarterbacks, Irish coach Charlie Weis has declared only that he won't declare. Even candidates Jimmy Clausen, the hotshot freshman, Evan Sharpley, Quinn's former backup, and Demetrius Jones, the athletic sophomore, don't know who won the job, Weis told reporters last week.

That leaves Tech guessing. Or, more accurately, not guessing and covering all three bases.

"We've got to be prepared for anything," linebacker Shane Bowen said. "There's not much we can say or do about it. They're going to come out that day with a quarterback, one of the three of them, so we've just got to be prepared for anything."

"It's not as easy as if you knew who the quarterback was," Tech coach Chan Gailey said. "It would be a lot easier if you knew."

The secrecy goes beyond the starter's identity. Unlike Tech, which kept practices open until classes began Aug. 20, Notre Dame held a single open practice, at which Clausen, the hotshot freshman coming off arthroscopic elbow surgery, never threw the ball downfield. Did that mean anything? Was it a ruse to throw off onlookers, and by extension the Yellow Jackets? Who knows?

Gamesmanship can extend beyond what coaches do when practices are open to what coaches and players say when talking to reporters.

Are people at Notre Dame really reading newspaper coverage to mine for insight into Tech?

"Every day," Gailey said.

And does Tech read newspaper coverage of its opponents?

"Every day," he said.

Does it ever yield anything useful?

"A little. Not a lot," Gailey said. "Not that's going to make a vast difference, but injuries always help. Little things here and there we learned."

In the end, though, the big things aren't really secret. Weis has a long, very public history of designing offenses and calling plays. Whoever he puts at quarterback will still be running a Charlie Weis offense, which is likely to be similar in most key respects to what the Irish ran against the Yellow Jackets last season.

"There will be a wrinkle here and there for us, but it's Notre Dame. You've got to prepare for Notre Dame," Tech defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta said. "We have film on all their games. You prepare for Notre Dame. I know probably more than they want me to know."

The secrets will be revealed Saturday.

Meanwhile, Manley plays three roles.

Imitating Clausen and Sharpley isn't much different; they're both expected to pass first and run only if necessary. But when Manley imitates Jones, he has to try to use his legs to get past Tech's defense. Manley's legs weren't really designed for that.

"We say move around the best you can," scout team coach Nathan Burton said, "and watch out for [linebacker] Philip Wheeler."

Here Comes the 'Ramblin Wreck

A quick reminder of Notre Dame's struggle in Terminus:

Brady Quinn Looking Like an NFL Vet

I was going to write a recap Quinn's NFL debut against a number one defense, but IAND75 did a better job below. You can check out the video here.
The two things that Brady's pre-season games are demonstrated are directly related to his ND experience and Weis.

He is playing with a very limited playbook and minimal experience with his teammates. This is what seems to have Crennel and Savage so worried. He hasn't had the time in the system to learn all the nuances and develop timing and raport with the starters.

What he has done is play very sound fundamental football. Solid mechanics and execution.

The other is solid mental football. He knows what he should and shouldn't be doing in these situations. He is mentally disciplined.

This is all now second nature to him. He didn't learn this in NFL training camp or game experience. It is what he learned from Weis and his ND experience. The two minute drill he ran last week was pure instinct, a direct result of all those same situations at ND and learing to do it right.

The level of his fundamental skills is high, and his mental skills and discipline even greater. It is all the more obvious when he is seen in comparison to the other Browns' QB's. They have more time in the new Browns' system, have spent more time working with the starters, and have more NFL game experience, but have less of a command of the situation. The biggest knock on both of them is costly stupid mental mistakes.

I really don't think the Browns give up much, if any, chances of winning games by having Brady start. I don't think Charlie Frye's NFL game experience gives him that much of an edge. It sure isn't visible in his play so far this year.

It may not be the NFL, but Brady has had some pretty good experience in high pressure, high power games and has proved himself. It doesn't get much more intense than the Southern Cal 2005 game.

From what I've seen the Browns would do just as well, if not better, with Brady starting instead of Frye. That's not to say that they shouldn't start Frye against Pittsburgh and give Brady a few games to learn more of the offense and experience the game from the sideline.

But it does mean that Charlie was right when he told everyone before the draft that Brady could come in and start day one in the NFL.

The combination of the public spotlight, the intense pressure, the complex pro offense, and the teaching abilities of Weis make ND the premier place to get your training if you want to be a top NFL quarterback.
The NFL gives the game ball to Quinn:
Brady Quinn delivered his second straight standout performance for the Browns, as he completed 7-of-11 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown. Despite getting stuffed at the goalline on his two-point conversion, Young still came through with 91 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown.

That's Mr. Blanton to you

Notre Dame recruit Robert Blanton wasted little time setting the tone for his senior campaign. Here are some short snippets from game one:

If anyone in the stadium didn't know of Butler's All-State defensive back and Notre Dame signee Robert Blanton, they did after the first half. With a kickoff return for a touchdown, an interception, a couple tackles on punt coverage and a catch where he smoothly bounced off a defender, Blanton's name was about every other word out of the speakers.

Senior defensive back Robert Blanton, however, set the tone. After Charest threw an interception deep in Butler territory on the first series, North Meck would score two plays later on a 9-yard Xavier Joplin run. Blanton needed about 10 seconds to erase that deficit, when he took the ensuing kickoff 96 yards for the touchdown.

Au revoir Jeffy - Hello eTruth

Bowing to popular reader demand and in our ongoing effort to cleanse our site of the leeches and hair pullers, we will no longer link or reference Jeff Carroll articles on NDNation. We will instead steer our traffic to the good work being performed by Ben Ford at eTruth, who's done a nice job covering Notre Dame. Note what an unbiased account of Clausen's press conference reads like. We'll work with our internet cohorts to highlight articles are that free of petty attacks.

And the winning quarterback is?

No one on the outside is quite sure, though I do know who it isn't. But I'm already hearing some fans whining that they're worried Charlie isn't handling this right.

Hold me, I'm Irish.

He's handling is perfectly from where I sit. Charlie told you exactly what he was going to do about the quarterback situation last week:

"But I also don’t believe in playing mind games. Let’s say you have one guy who expects to be the starter, and he is not the starter. He’s not going to tell you, but he’s going to know. Because the last thing you want to do five seconds before the game starts is have the guy go into the tank because the guy who thought he was going to be the quarterback, is not the quarterback. I’m not that dumb, I’ll make sure everyone is aware of what the situation is. I think mind games hurt the quarterback position.”
And he told you the week before that:

"They’re three different types of players. So there’s no intrinsic value of me saying which one is doing which before I go into the first game. It’s to my advantage, and to Notre Dame football’s advantage, to do it that way for the first game. I promise you, it’s not because I’m trying to hold back from the guys that are here every day. It’s that I’m trying to win the opener. I’m trying to beat Georgia Tech and it’s the only game that I have this card to play, and I’m going to hold them. My answer won’t change; it’s going to be a game-time decision; that will be my answer on this one."
So Charlie told you that he knows who the starter is going to be and his players know, but they're going to tell you they don't know. I can't understand why this upsets some people. Is it necessary for fans to "know" who's going to start? Granted, it's not as bad as petulant little sports writers throwing writing hissy fits, but it comes from the same place. There's no advantage to you knowing. It's better for ND if you don't know.

Charlie's making Georgia Tech overprepare and that's all to his advantage. Even if his trip to West Virginia doesn't add one new play to the playbook, it's making Georgia Tech think, because the Mountaineers ran all over the jackets in their bowl game.

I know that they know our offense and in addition to our offense, they know we have this athletic quarterback in Demetrius. So what if he plays? Everyone says Weis went down to West Virginia for a day, and in a day I don’t think I could throw out our whole offense and put in their whole offense. Could I have gotten a couple of ideas from them to go ahead and use? Absolutely, so now what you do is practice against a couple of those things to make sure you are prepared for those. You practice against our offense and you practice against the 34. Now if people want to sit there and say, why would Weis want to tell Georgia Tech what to do? That’s what any staff is going to do. I’m only speaking the obvious. That’s what they’re going to do.”

On Monday, when you begin to narrow the quarterback choice from three to two, how difficult will this be for the young offense to handle?

“The team will know what we are doing. Instead of a three-way race, they will know it’s more two-way, and they will know it’s either what he does; or what he does. It’s not either/or because there are three guys involved. We will run our offense, and I also add some stuff to add to the strength of that quarterback; that’s only smart football.”

It's okay that you don't know who's going to start, it really is. Fans don't need to know. Personally, I'd be surprised if we didn't see Demetrius Jones in the opener.

From Cartier Field and Rock's House

Couple of quotes from Ronald Reagan on Cartier Field:

We're fast. We're high energy and aggressive. I think it's not going to be so much a different look ... it's just going to be a feel. I think the defense has a different mindset this year. I think they're aggressive and into it and excited. And I think it's going to show." - Anthony Vernaglia

"I'm very excited about Coach Brown because I like his attitude. A team takes on the attitude of its defensive coach, and his aggressive style of teaching and coaching, I think our teams is really going to take on that personality, and I'm really excited about those opportunities." - Justin Brown

And, my personal favorite ...

"He's an aggressive coach. I think the team's identity comes from the coach. He's a real fiery guy and he's real excited and is real active with the players, so the players kind of feed off of that. Anytime I can go out there and knock some heads, I'm down for that." - Toryan Smith

Frozen moment, Notre Dame vs. Nebraska, 2001, from omahadomer:

That was a tough situation for N.D. almost no matter who was the coach. Nebraska had played two games already and N.D. was trying to open on the road, at night in front of 77,000 screaming fans. (I was there; it was loud.)

The game could hardly have started worse. NU converted on a 3rd and long on its first possession and wound up with a TD. Howard fumbled on the first play for N.D. and NU immediately converted for a TD. N.D. couldn't move the ball again but forced a fumble, couldn't move and then had a snap over the punter's head leading to an NU field goal.

LoVecchio throws an interception on the next possession. With LoVecchio in the game we now have 3 turnovers (not all his fault), no first downs and are actually negative on total yards (40 yards lost on the snap over the head).

But the breath of life is that Crouch fumbles on the next play and Dykes recovers. Finally N.D. makes a first down with LoVecchio at QB and punts out of trouble. The defense starts to get it legs and Weaver gets a sack and forces a punt.

Now into the game comes Holiday at QB and NU is clearly concerned about his running ability and can no longer jam the running lanes in the middle. Fisher breaks loose for a 35-yard run. On 4th and 7 at the NU 38 Holiday running for his life hits Javin Hunter for a 1st down. Nebraska is on its heels. Holiday scrambles for 12 yards. N.D. stalls and kicks a field goal but it's 17-3, it's the middle of the second quarter and clearly N.D. can move the ball with Holiday.

Nebraska responds with a T.D. drive to make it 24-3 and now the situation is desperate. We really need a TD to make it 24-10 but if we get it the game could be manageable. We get the 2nd half kickoff. It's not too late.

And onto the field at QB trots LoVecchio. N.D. goes 3 and out and NU leads 27-3 at halftime.

I suppose I knew it all along at some level, but it hit me then what a terrible game coach Davie was. He clearly had some foreordained QB rotation in mind and he was sticking to it no matter what.

I think we can count on Weis to stick with what's working.

The Invincibles 2007

Every year I try to pick through the bin of overlooked or under appreciated players and find some who'll beat the critics expectations. In 2005, I feel like I did well with Stovall, Wooden and Mays. Last year my picks of Thomas and Nedu didn't exactly pan out as planned, though Price came through in a big, big way.

This year's first invincible I get to pick again because everyone was so down on him last year. I didn't understand the negativity against Ambrose Wooden last year. He brings great speed to the corner position and showed toughness last year despite playing hurt. Wooden had a great 2005 and will be back this year.

So many choices on the defensive side of the ball, but I'll have to lean in with Justin Brown as choice #2. Brown has flashed the ability to attack the backfield, but never consistently. He was one of those 'project' recruits. Very good speed and explosiveness, but never the complete package. Not a surprise, most don't remember that Brown never even played football until his senior year in high school. This is from his bio:
played only one season of organized high school football but was an immediate standout ... made 65 tackles, nine sacks and three fumble recoveries in 2003 during his first season of organized football as a defensive lineman
He's changed his body around and could have a surprise year in 2007. Remember the biggest thing that good coaches do is elevate the play of the mid-tier players. When teams win championships, it's because guys like Justin Brown come out of now where to have memorable seasons.

On offense DJ Hord was just being written off a few weeks ago, but he's my invincible pick for 2007. He was a highly rated recruit, but never considered a natural receiver. He was more of a track guy with Reggie Bush like speed (a 10.4 100 meter time,) but he suffered an Achilles injury and was lumped in the disappointment bin. But the last few weeks he's really been playing well and if he can get that 10.4 speed back to go with improved hands we may have a surprise playmaker in Hord.

As I wrote above, these are the kinds of guys who are the difference between a 7-5 year and a 10-2 year. If Justin Brown can get to the quaterback, Wooden can shut down a Manningham and Hord can break one big play you never thought he would, then this team has a chance to finish much higher than #39 in the country.

Quinn Under Pressure

Quinn running a 2-minute drill effectively is nothing new, I think he played his best games when everything was on the line. Here's what I wrote about Quinn and the Pressure Myth:
But I'll go further. I think Quinn possesses a little Favre in him, but he was forced to become more of a technician under Weis because this offense simply couldn't afford mistakes. Far from this offense making Quinn, in some ways I think it constrained him. He's much more of gunslinger than Notre Dame fans saw -- but his Weis training is perfect training for the NFL. Quinn generally played the best UNDER PRESSURE, against MSU, UCLA and Georgia Tech with the game hanging in the balance. I don't think it's a coincidence that he played some of his best ball when the offense was the most open and the tempo was forced.
In case anyone needed a reminder, here's Quinn against UCLA:

And against Michigan State:

And Georgia Tech:

Brady Quinn's Debut

Jeff Carroll's Chronic Distortion

We know he's not a good stylistic writer.

We know he's not bound by journalistic ethics (as witnessed by his hack attack series last year,) but Jeff Carroll should at least, by now, know when he's making himself and his paper appear stupid. I really can't think of a word that better describes his 'commentary' on Jimmy Clausen's latest non-story.

Carroll's latest distortion attempts to create some strange linkage between Clausen's recruiting announcement, his injured arm and the fact the he was busted on a beer run as if this is some pattern. I don't get it, Jeff. Did he hurt the arm that caused the "soap opera black cloud" during his "abominable" commitment press conference causing him to drink and "run afoul of the law?"

The distortion here starts with a misleading headline: Clausen Drama Creates Doubts

Doubts among whom?

Whom Jeffy, have you talked to who has expressed doubt?

Well, turns out Jeffy hasn't talked to anyone he deemed worthy of mentioning in print who had expressed doubt about Clausen.

Perhaps, as a 'reporter,' you could ask someone, like, I dunno, connected to the team? Perhaps you could, for balance, find someone who doesn't share your distorted opinion?

Check out this next line:

Jimmy Clausen hasn't taken a snap at Notre Dame, and already his time with the Irish has been emotionally exhausting.

Again for whom?

Whom do you know, Jeffy, who's 'emotionally exhausted.'

For you? Are you 'emotionally exhausted?'

Do you really get 'emotionally exhausted' writing about a freshman? If so, that's rather pitiful. More likely, he was looking for something to write that didn't have to be based in something that's important to most journalists, facts.

So he picks this useless phrase.

No one's 'emotionally exhausted' you hack.

It gets so much worse; I won't kill you with it. Basically, he tries to rehash the Clausen announcement as justification for his silliness and then uses a strange strategy: he creates hyperbole and steps back from his own hyperbole to make himself appear objective.

That's distortion, not journalism.

We had the news on NDNation last week (a policeman was apparently running his mouth) and I personally deleted it because it was so trivial. I'd be more worried about the kid if he wasn't on a beer run in June.

He saves the worst for last. You can't help but snicker at the overwhelming stupidity wrapped up in this closing gem:

"you can't help but start to wonder whether it's worth the aggravation, whether Clausen will really play four years at Notre Dame. And you start to wonder if he should. If, for all his prodigious talent, he's worth the distraction."

I feel like I need a shower after reading that.

Now that I think about, it's all becoming clear.

Clausen Drama Creates Doubts?

The headline of the story refers to Carroll's credibility.

For that, Carroll's writing has created much doubt.

Current Recruiting Rankings

1. Notre Dame
3. Texas
4. Southern Cal
5. Miami-FL

1. Notre Dame
3. Texas
4. Miami (Fl)
5. USC

Well Trained For the NFL

If Notre Dame has one huge advantage over other schools, I mean besides the tradition, the unparalleled exposure and the top-tier academics, it's that ND players are being mentored by NFL coaches who understand what it takes to succeed at the next level. Note this blurb on Chinedum Ndukwe, an afterthought pick in the NFL Draft.

WELL TRAINED: One of the most exciting players at camp has been rookie safety Chinedum Ndukwe, who carries himself on the field like anything but a seventh-round pick. Like first-round pick Leon Hall, Ndukwe has adjusted quickly to NFL life. Ndukwe credits the big-time atmosphere at Notre Dame for the leg up on pro football: "It's a different world (in the NFL), but being at Notre Dame was kind of a different place. All the tradition and aura and hoopla at Notre Dame prepared me to become a professional athlete. At Notre Dame you're expected to act like a pro, to take care of your business in the classroom and
on the field."

Whether it's Anthony Fasano, Maurice Stovall or now Brady Quinn, Notre Dame players are making the transition to the NFL and crediting their Notre Dame experience for their success, which has been out of proportion to their draft position. With Corwin Brown now on the staff along with Bill Lewis, I'm expecting to see a lot more Ndukwe stories in the coming years on the defensive side of the ball.

Reggie Brooks Jukes Corwin Brown

ND Practice Observations

From Rock's House:

Br. Andre

1. Armando Allen is getting lots of reps. I think he is going to play a lot if he continues to progress. He is probably the worst running back in carrying the ball high and tight like the coaches want. He was corrected today by Charlie after a fumble and made to run a lap as a punishment. He also ran a little high and got stood up and absolutely hammered on one run. But I agree that he is very exciting and they are working a lot with him on fundamentals. He will probably make a big difference this year.

2. Nothing stood out in regards to the quarterbacks. I personally think it looks like a race between Sharpley and Jones. Sharpley's arm was better than I expected. Jones performed just like I expected: exciting with his legs, so-so with his arm. Clausen did some nice things and I can't put my finger on it, but it just seemed like Sharpley and Jones were going at it more. I realize that that's a pretty subjective evaluation so take it with a grain of salt.

3. Charlie got pissed and sent the whole defense on a lap around the stadium. He then stared them down when the returned.

4. When the #1 defense lined up, it looked pretty much as expected in the secondary: Zibby, Wooden, Lambert and Bruton.

5. Zibby had a nice punt return for a touchdown.

6. Ian Williams looks huge. He has some baby fat, but does not look like a typical freshman.

7. Darrell Hand was nowhere to be found (unless I missed him).

8. The freshmen sang the alma mater to the crowd after practice. The rest of the team joined them for the Victory March afterwards.

9. We won't suck at wide receiver. We may not be as good as the past few years, but it looks like we've got enough decent players to find a few who will make plays.

10. Good to see Corwin Brown heavily involved in special teams.


1. Allen was also the player who impressed and surprised me the most. One 7-on-7 running play had him juking through about three "tacklers".

2. Golden Tate saw the ball a lot. He fumbled a reverse fifteen yards behind the line of scrimmage but then picked it up and went yard the opposite direction. Maybe we should run it that way?

3. The OTHER two QBs (the walk on and Bragg) got lots of reps. I dont understand why.

4. Jones threw some very poor passes, including one deep INT.

5. Clausen did NOT look at all injured or hesitant to me. He was always next to some other blonde kid, talking. Im wondering -- was this Crist? I heard a FB mom on her cell phone saying what sounded like "Yeah, Dayne is down on the field." The mystery kid was in all the QB huddles with Powlus, so I figure he is a QB.

6. We can not put a kick off in the endzone. We can not put a kick off on the 5 yard line. We sometimes get it to the 10.

7. We have at least two FG kickers whose 30 yard kicks wouldnt have been good if the goal posts were twice as wide. #14 was the best kicker, by far. And he looked average.

8. Price punted long, high balls. The second team punter also has hang time. Why cant Price try kick offs? He has a strong leg.

9. Zibby is first team punt return and navigated a TD this morning.


Armando can definitely get the corner. He is strong enough, and did, run between the tackles.

1. He was the best kick returner IMO. On one particular return the only man between him and the end zone was Coach Polian.

2. Caught the ball well...got the corner on a nice screen play.

3. In scrimmage he ran tough through the line, made linebackers miss, and then typically they would blow it dead. (They had refs there) He just seemed to always have a chance to go the distance.

4. He did fumble once and Charlie had him think about it by taking a long, scenic run around Rocks House.

In summation- He doesn't look like a freshman physically. He is not a scatback- he has some strength, and is bigger than I thought. He is elusive, pretty physical, and blazing.

DD in the shotgun and Allen in the backfield? Speed/speed. WVU.

4. Thomas vs Hughes. Travis has a ton of talent but has just never looked natural or comfortable to me at the position. Hughes looks smooth and like he's been playing RB since he left the cradle. Just more fluid.
Not necessarily better...but not fifth on the depth chart. He looked better than Aldridge and Jabbie today.

I'm no expert, but those were my observations.

From ndwineaux:

I don't know that I'll add a whole lot more, but here goes, as 1 of the maybe 1000 in attendance today:

1. Weis is all over it as a perfectionist. Leadership is his strong suit. He even lit up an on-field security guard near us for not wearing a specific hat, as had apparently been agreed before. He doesn't miss a trick. Constant advice for the QBs and others. He caught the D with only 10 on the field for a play - the D ran a lap.

2. CW has got to be couching Clausen in an open practice. He threw 2 screens and only a couple of other mid-range passes. Even if CW does decide to not start Clausen or redshirt him, I think that Sharpley showed enough tools to be the starter, at least in practice today.

3. I agree with the others that the offense will be better than most think.

4. Armando Allen and Golden Tate will be terrific.

5. Even though he is shorter than some of the others, Gallup looks great to me. He ran all of his drills well and looked good in the scrimmage as well.

6. Either the OL is very good or the DL is not as great as we hoped. Corwin may have his work cut out for him.

7. The frosh singing the Alma Mater at the end was a nice touch.

From LoR:

but reading all of the practice updates (thank you all very much for those) it seems that CW displayed exactly what he wanted the crowd to see.

Running game- let it be known that we will run.

QB- let it also be known that much won't be known until CW diecides. There is most defintely an air of secrecy and game-playing with respect to naming a QB.

Depth- this will be huge for us and not neccessarily because of out talenting other teams. The ability to substitue freely and confidently is quite simply, the biggest improvement we have and will make all year.


* All five backs (Allen, Aldridge, Hughes, Jabbie, Thomas) seemed to get alot of reps. Would seem to be a real wide open contest for playing time. Allen is clearly the quickest and most different from the other four backs. So I wouldn't be surprised to see Allen get PT for that reason alone. Only other observation, Hughes looked more agile for his size than I would have expected. I think he was on the punt coverage team - which surprised me a bit, too.

* As someone else pointed out, Ian Williams looked huge - strikingly so. He and Kuntz are now all we have at NT. Thank goodness he isn't 275. Because I suspect he's going to have to play alot as 2nd team guy. Kuntz looked decent. I think he had a nice hit to stuff a run in 11 on 11.

* On the OLB's - Ryan is really big. He looks the size of a Mike Vrabel type OLB (we should be so lucky!) or at the very least, a Frank Stams type. He looked more agile than his size would seem to indicate. Intercepted a sort of bubble screen pass along the line of scrimmage in a drill (not in 11 on 11). Vernaglia (54?) seemed to pull up with a rib issue at one point. Didn't seem too serious.

* The defense lines up a little like the Barry Alvarez 1988 team. Big OLB's close to the line. So it sometimes looks like a 5 man front because the OLB's are right on the line, though standing up.

Watched the WR's a fair amount:

* Duval Kumara has very good hands. I don't recall him dropping a pass. He doesn't come off as being super quick or fast, but he'll catch it if it is close to his big body. I would not be surprised to see him play alot this year.

* Grimes had a nice catch on a deep pass to the corner in drills (and I think he also made a great catch on a nice pass from Jones in the 11 on 11) He is what we know him to be: a very capable and very solid receiver with good hands (except on punt returns - as he fumbled one though got it back).

* West seems to be headed towards becoming a clone of Grimes. I don't see him as a speed burner. Maybe he's really fast/quick - but it doesn't come off that way to me. But he catches the ball. Not hard to see why he's one of the top 3 receivers. Grimes and West both seem size-wise alot like the WR's Charlie had at NE during their glory years.

* Parris has good hands. Not nearly as big overall as Samardja. But seems to effortlessly catch the ball with his hands.

The above four seem to be the top four (unless I am completely blanking on someone). [Edit - Just realized I forget Hord. He played alot on 2nd team. Nothing to make your jaw drop, but capable. Again, seemed like West and Grimes - to me] Though I could see Gallup getting time as well. He's so small. But he caught what was thrown to him. He has some good quickness. He could surprise as a contributor.

As for the others, Jackson had some nice catches but he also dropped some. He seemed a little smaller than Kumara and not as polished in catching with his hands. Tate was probably the nicest surprise of the rest. He's defintely quick (think he did a punt return, too) and he is more polished as a receiver than one would expect from a HS RB. He did a reverse and fumbled it and then made something out of it (I believe that was him, anyway) showing nice moves. I was pretty encouraged on that one.

On Special Teams:

* Price is a stud. We knew that already. He seemed capable of effortlessly booting it 45-50 yards with excellent hang time. Only problem that arose was when he out kicked the coverage on what appeared to be a 55 yarder (the one TZ returned for a TD) Maust is capable. But the ball doesn't explode off his leg like it does with Price. Price has to be a top 5 punter in the nation and one of our best weapons this year. He probably has a shot at making it in the pros.

* On punt returns, I hope TZ does it all the time and Allen does it if he doesn't. TZ returned one all the way. Grimes and West are nice. But TZ and Allen seem to get your blood racing much more.

* For Kickoffs, I realize they were going from the 30, but based on what I saw we will have it tough if it is Whitaker or Walker. For the few kicks they did, Whitaker seems more consistent, Walker with a more live leg, but he gets under it sometimes and only gets it to the 15 or so. I hope he improves enough as having a lefty kick off at least changes the dynamic of the run back slightly. Nevertheless, I'd take the ball everytime we win the toss and then punt with Price, rather than hope for a good kick off.

* I won't discuss the QB's other than to say you couldn't glean a whole lot and Sharpley just seems small out there. I have no opinion on who the coaches think is leading based on what I saw. None of them looks much like Quinn.

* The first team OL of Duncan, Turk, Sullivan, Wenger and Young seemed very set.

* Whoever plays QB, hard to see anyone as the leading receiver other than Carlson. He will probably exceed his catch total from LY. A great safety valve for an inexperienced QB.

* As has been pointed out, Charlie looks very good. He must have lost alot of weight. Good for him and his personal health.

Overall, it was a nice, laid back event. Maybe 2K people - hard to say. First half hour was all stretching - nothing really. Of the next 1/2 hour, the WR drills were probably the most revealing to the casual fan. The defensive drills were of a nature that I doubt the casual fan could see much. They don't let them really crunch people. When they moved to 7 on 7 and then 11 on 11, things then started to be more interesting for a fan. And they ran alot of plays in 11 on 11 - fast pace of actions. So you got alot of football in 20 minutes. I enjoyed that alot.

Not sure I'd go again. (2 hour drive) The campus was pretty empty (Lafortune closed so trying to get lunch was harder than I thought). But it was a nice way to spend a morning with my kids and dad and see some football (and ND).

El Capitan

I see a number of posters have already reported back so I will try to add in things others have not covered:

1. Where is Aldridge? I don't recall him seeing any reps or action. I took pretty good notes, but #34 is completely absent.

2. Gallup got some reps with both return units and could be a viable option.

3. Harrison Smith performed very well with the coverage unit. The kid runs like a gazelle.

4. From what I saw today, Sharpley is the best passer of the group. From what I saw, I expect him to start against Georgia Tech. While Jones does bring a "playmaking" ability, there is a dropoff in passing ability from Sharpley to Jones.

5. It's been said, but Armando Allen looks outstanding. I think he is our most complete back and is probably going to be an upgrade from Walker. I expect him to receive the bulk of the carries. Allen also brings return skills to the table that we have not had in quite a while.

6. I expect several freshman to have significant roles this season and perform well. Allen, Williams, Kamara, and Harrison Smith should play significant time (although I expect Harrison's time to come in the form of special teams). Depending on utilization, Hughes could factor here as well.

7. Our kickers are a disaster. Maybe Holtz gave Weis his kicking curse.

8. There are too many possibilities regarding Clausen not throwing past 15 yards, so it's really worthless to discuss the implications. That said, I do not anticipate him starting this season.

9. The receivers might not be star players, but I wonder if they will not be more consistent than last season. As others said, Grimes caught everything and Hord looked pretty good, too.

10. Laws has a ridiculous goatee. Kuntz has a mohawk.

11. The personnel packages in the scrimmages where "vanilla," (3-4-4) but the defense did use some 3-4, 4-3, and 5-2 looks. Barring key injuries, I believe our defense will be an asset rather than liability this season. When is the last time we could say that?

Most everything already posted I agree with, but a few things I didn't see mentioned:

- The player that looked the most physically different to me was Maurice Crum. He always looked like a "thin" linebacker to me. But now he looks much thicker, especially his legs. On one play he really crushed Armando Allen.

- Last year I saw some of our offensive linemen pigging out at the Bruno's pizza buffet on Thursday night before the PSU game. I had been hoping that some added competition might make them consider adding a little more salad to their diet this year. For the most part, I think that is the case. All five of the starters looked to be in good shape. I thought two of the backups looked to be out of shape, but one of those is Stewart and he is considerably improved from being "a Bic Mac short of 400 lbs". The other one, I'm not going to mention his name, but he needs to work on his beer gut if he's ever going to crack the starting five.

- One thing that was posted that I didn't agree with was Raoul's comments on John Ryan looking quick. Maybe it's a psychological thing for me, but seeing a player with a number in the 90s lined up at outside linebacker worries me. If there is a slot receiver on his side of the field he needs to cover him. He does have safety help behind him, but I'm worried that on 3rd and 5 a slot receiver could run a slant route in front of him for an easy first down. I hope he proves me wrong, but I'd rather see one of our quicker guys out there and bulk him up and have him at defensive end.

- I was surprised to see Robby Parris go 2 for 4 having the ball thrown to him in a cone drill the first time through. The coach got on him quite a bit for it, and the next time he caught all 4.

- Duval Kamara jumps out at you compared to all of the other receivers. I could tell who he was even when I couldn't see his number because he was obviously taller than the other receivers. The only ones close were Richard Jackson and Parris.

- I was really hoping for Richard Jackson to have a breakout season. But it looks like he still has problems catching the ball reliably. If he can improve Weis could put him and Kamara in at the same time to have two big receivers for situations where they might want to run a fade to the corner of the endzone.

- Grimes, West, and Hord almost look like identical players out there. All short and fast. But Grimes has the best hands of the three. Gallup looked pretty quick too.

- I watched the drill where the walk-on QB was throwing swing passes to each of the running backs and fullbacks out of the backfield. I didn't see one drop, so I don't think any of the young guys have "hands of stone".

- Armando Allen caught a couple of screen passes against a live defense. It looks like Weis will be able to use him in that role the same way he used Darius Walker.

- Allen and Golden Tate did appear fast, but I'm not going to go nuts about it yet. Remember that last year everybody was saying the same thing about Munir Prince at running back, and now he is a 3rd string cornerback. I watched Munir in the 1-on-1 drills against the wide receivers and he looks like he has some catching up to do on learning coverage skills. But the good news is that when a guy with that much speed is on our 3rd string you know the team is gaining the depth that we haven't had in a while.

- Robert Hughes looks solid and I don't want him to lose a pound. I like the fact that we have a guy like Allen who would be great on turf, and a guy like Hughes who looks like he would be a good "mudder" for the bad weather games. He did look like he had a tendency to carry the ball away from his body once he got outside the tackle, which could make him prone to fumble. But that is easily corrected.

- Golden Tate showed the ability to pull away from the corner after getting behind him in the 1-on-1 passing drills. And I believe the guy he got behind was Raeshon McNeil, who isn't slow.

- The QBs have been discussed quite a bit and I agree with the consensus. My prediction is that Sharpley will be the starter and will play throughout the game if things are going well. Jones will be brought in if the team is struggling and needs a spark, or maybe he will play more extensively if Weis thinks a team is susceptible to a mobile quarterback.

- After watching Clausen I don't think he is at full strength. When throwing warm up passes he seems to shake his right elbow out after most throws. A year off might not be a bad thing for him though. It should let the hype die down and take a lot of the pressure off.

Michigan Two-step: Step 1- Non-denial Denial, Step 2-Stick Head in Sand

After orchestrating a Mike Hart attack on Jim Harbaugh for turning states evidence against Michigan, head Michigan whiner Lloyd Carr addressed the facts that Michigan herds kids into majors that won't help them and graduates just 38% of its black athletes with obfuscation:
"John Wangler, Elvis Grbac, Todd Collins, Michael Taylor, Scott Dreisbach, Brian Griese, Tom Brady, John Navarre, Chad Henne ... those guys, they all got the degree of their choice at the University of Michigan,'' Carr said. "If you would ask them, they would tell you how proud they are to have the degrees they have from this great university."
Say what? Exactly what does that have to do with the fact that you herd kids into "football majors?" Let's break this down. One, he's not addressing the underlying issue, just evoking other quarterbacks names in an effort to balance out Harbaugh's statements -- throw the dogs off the scent. And two, he just dismisses the issue as if to say "move along, nothing going on here."

Oh, and Henne doesn't have a degree yet, Lloyd. Lloyd handles these issues the same we he handles the talk of his retirement, with meaningless answers that seem to mean something on the surface, but really stand for nothing.

Here are stats compiled by Michigan Football Saturdays:
  • According to university records, 3 percent of all undergraduate degrees conferred between July 1, 2004 and June 30, 2005 were in general studies, which falls under the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts umbrella.
  • The percentage of football players currently on track to receive a general studies degree is much higher. The recently published spring football media guide shows that nearly 82 percent of scholarship players on the 2007 Michigan football team who declared a major have done so in general studies.
  • The four of 22 who did not pick general studies are majoring in psychology, American culture, sociology and sports management and communications, respectively.
Michigan Live had this to say in its article, Carr Still on Defense.
First,there's something compelling about Harbaugh - an icon in this program - taking a moral stand against a university that prides itself on balancing football and academics. Whether Harbaugh is right or wrong, he has grabbed public interest in a way that Michigan officials don't seem to fully grasp.

Secondly, many people simply believe college football players can't be students. When you couple that belief with the fact that in the last four graduating classes measured by the NCAA, just 38 percent of black football players have received their Michigan degrees, and the fact more than 80 percent of football players with a declared major are pursuing general studies, it's easy for people to believe Harbaugh.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Michigan has completely flubbed its response. Michigan could put the issue to bed with one statement from school president Mary Sue Coleman:

We want to be the best in college football on and off the field. Although we strongly disagree with Jim Harbaugh's contention that we've compromised academics for athletic success, we're committed to raising our graduation rate for African-American football players, and we're going to ask a faculty committee to examine why so many of our football players are clustered in one major.

That simple.

Just show an interest in examining graduation rates and general studies, and the Harbaugh issue goes away.

Every time someone brings it up, Carr could simply point to Coleman's statement. End of story.

Instead, Michigan has refused to acknowledge there might be areas where it could improve academic performance for football players, as if being Michigan somehow means you can't admit you're not perfect in public.

It's silly, and it has hurt both the university and the football program with the debate turning into a bizarre national family feud.

Nobody wins when Harbaugh's former teammate Jamie Morris and current tailback Mike Hart are criticizing Harbaugh in public, or when Carr is forced to publicly debate another Division I football coach over his program's academic record.

Nobody wins when there are doubts raised about Michigan's academic integrity and a beloved former player essentially divorces himself from the program.

It's time for Coleman to put a stop to it.

Maybe Michigan can do better, maybe it can't, but refusing to examine the issues only leaves open the possibility that Harbaugh just might be right.
That gets us 90% of the way the there... the missing point is that Harbaugh is right. They're facts. Michigan's football players have majors that look nothing like the rest of the school. There is no plausible reason for such a skew outside of the fact that players are either allowed to choose or are guided into general majors that enable them to play football, but as Harbaugh said, won't help them when football doesn't work out as a career (as it doesn't for most of the top players in the country.)

Is it a wonder Corwin Brown tells recruits that he would have gone to Notre Dame if was offered?

Harry Oliver Remembered

The following was shared by Br. Andre:
I received this as an email forward today. Its legit. It originates from a recent Notre Dame grad who is about to take vows with the Dominicans.

Hi guys,

I wanted to share with you an experience that I have had over the past couple days. If the name, Harry Oliver, is not familiar to you, then visit this link before you continue reading this e-mail. Even if you know Harry Oliver, you should click the link again because it is pretty sweet.

I regret to inform you that Harry Oliver died today at 11:50 am. I was privileged to be able to play some role in keeping him comfortable before his death today and that is the story I wish to share:

Yesterday afternoon, I ran into the Prior and he asked me if I had any Notre Dame Choral Music on CD. He said that there was a former ND player at the hospital, a parishioner, who was in bed and wanted to listen to some ND music. I told him that I had a few CDs on my iTunes and that I would be happy to rip some CDs. Fr. Ken then told me that he played kicker and that he had a very famous kick for ND. I immediately asked if it was Harry Oliver. Fr. Ken then told me that although he was only 47 years old, he was dying of cancer and that the end was near.

I burned three CDs: "May I Have Your Attention Please," "Here Come the Irish" by the O'Neill Brothers, and "Cantate Domino: Music from the Basilica of the Sacred Heart." I also wrote Mr. Oliver a little note letting him know that he was in the prayers of a fellow Domer. When Fr. Ken went to bring him the CDs in the hospital last evening, he was no longer responsive. Fr. Ken read him the note and started playing the band CD. He started tapping his hand to his thigh when the fight song began to play. Throughout the night, his family played the Cantate Domino CD.

Fr. Ken visited the hospital again this morning after Vestition (more to come). Harry Oliver died this morning on the feast of Our Holy Father St. Dominic. His family asked if they could keep the CDs and are making copies of them for all who were in the hospital room. They played the CDs all through yesterday and today and they brought comfort to Harry and the family.

Really, this is a happy story. Harry died with the sacraments and a Dominican friar at his side on the feast of St. Dominic. I wanted to share this story with you because it is just another reminder to me of how very lucky we are to be associated with Our Lady's University. It is amazing to me how a single run of the Victory March and all of the emotion and memory that comes with it is enough to make an unresponsive cancer patient responsive. The fact that music related to Notre Dame can be used as a tool to rally together a family at the bedside of a loved one who is about to die speaks volumes about our alma mater. I can't believe I had the chance to play a pastoral role for a Notre Dame legend. Today, I am even more proud (if that is possible), to be an alumnus of Our Lady's school.
Here is more on Harry's moment from Und.com

10. 1980 Sept. 20 #8 #14 Michigan 29-27

This game forever will be remembered for Harry Oliver's 51-yard field goal just clearing the north goalpost as time expires to push Notre Dame to a miracle two-point victory. Not only did the more than 59,000 fans profess that the afternoon's persistent wind, which was blowing against Oliver, stops before his kick, they also see Michigan denied on key two-point conversion try with 0:41 seconds remaining that would have made Oliver's kick a game-tying conversion instead of the gamewinner. The two teams answer each other with two touchdowns in the second quarter, but Michigan holds a one-point lead when Oliver misses a PAT attempt following John Krimm's 49-yard interception return in the third quarter. Notre Dame inches ahead 26-21 after Bob Crable's forced fumble sets up a Phil Carter touchdown. Michigan, however, answers with a pass from John Wangler to Craig Dunaway, setting the stage for Oliver's heroics.

And from the Irish Sports Report circa 2004:

Oliver's 15 minutes still not up after 24 years

Twenty-four years later, Harry Oliver still gets asked virtually every week about his game-ending, game-winning field goal against Michigan in 1980.

The photo is in black and white, and was snapped almost 24 years ago. Harry Oliver's left leg is outstretched in a perfect follow-through, parallel to the Notre Dame Stadium grass. His right index finger is unknowingly pointing toward the sky, perhaps a thank-you for some divine intervention.

It eats up a 2-by-3 foot chunk of wall space in Oliver's Cincinnati office, and still occupies a sliver of nearly every Notre Dame fan's mind.

"I tell you what, it seems to come up probably at least once a week," said Oliver, now an engineer in the construction business. "You know, everybody's got their 15 minutes (of fame), and I'll take every bit of this, because it's gone on for the last 24 years."

The kick came up again one night last winter when Oliver and a buddy were sitting in a bar. A woman, one he had never seen before, walked up to Oliver and asked if he was the same guy who kicked the field goal against Michigan. Her father, an 80-year-old diehard Irish fan, would love an autograph.

"I said, 'Holy cow, that's really neat,' " Oliver recalled.

Some time later, the same friend who was with Oliver at the bar that night, was in Paris. When he saw some people wearing some Notre Dame gear, he approached and asked if they knew who Harry Oliver was. Of course they did.

"He was like, 'Holy cow, I can't get away from this guy. He's everywhere. He's gone international,' " Oliver recalled.

That Oliver was even kicking that day against Michigan came about because of the misfortune of a teammate. Steve Cichy was supposed to handle the long kicks that season, but had gotten hurt the week before in a win over Purdue.

When Oliver trotted on the field with four seconds remaining, a strong breeze clocking 15 mph was blowing in his face.

"I just remember thinking, this wind is very strong,' " Oliver said. "Usually you've got a feel for what kind of chance you've got of making this kick, and I was kind of half thinking, 'I don't have a chance in heck of making this thing.' "

Irish lore has it that the wind died down right before Oliver let loose. That lore may be no lie.

"It probably would have had to stop, let's put it that way, for me to make it by three inches," he said.

Oliver never did see the ball creep over the cross bar. He was knocked to the ground by a Michigan player, but holder Tim Koegel provided some play-by-play.

"He was like, 'The ball is up in the air ... it's going to be ... it's going to be ... GOOD. It's good,' " Oliver said. "I could hear him saying that."

For a while, Oliver feared those might be the final words he would ever hear. A mad celebration ensued, and the life of the party ended up on the bottom of a growing pile before teammate Joe Gramke heard Oliver's screams and began pulling people off.

"When I got under the pile, it was getting scary," Oliver said, "because the pile kept getting heavier and I couldn't move."

Oliver finished that 1980 season hitting 18 of 23 field goals, but his senior year in 1981, he connected on six of 13. After leaving Notre Dame, Oliver was given a tryout with the Cleveland Browns, but was cut and decided to get going with his career as an engineer.

He's been at the same job for 15 years, and also has a real estate company. But ask any Irish fan about Oliver, and they'll take you back to that day nearly a quarter-century ago.

"It's probably what's going to go on my tombstone instead of when I was born or when I died," Oliver surmised. "It's going to be 'September 20, 1980. Notre Dame 29, Michigan 27.' "

Around the Nation

Join us on Sunday, August 19 as the Notre Dame Club of Philadelphia kicks off the 2007 football season with Jeff Baumhower of IrishEyes.com. Jeff works with Mike Frank to cover ND recruiting and the football team.

Space is limited at the King of Prussia Firehouse Social Hall, so register now! The cost is $30 per person, which will include food, beer, and one raffle ticket for the right to purchase USC-ND tickets at face value. You'll have the chance to buy more raffle tickets that day, with proceeds going to the Neeson Scholarship Fund.

You must be a club member and you must be present to win this raffle. For more information, contact Mike Libert.

Hail to the Undeclared

I can't help but enjoy watching Michigan shoot itself in the PR foot with that orchestrated attempt to discredit Jim Harbaugh for comments he made about Michigan pushing kids into degrees that won't get them jobs when they graduate (that's a painful sentence.) Said Harbaugh at the time, "They’re adulated when they’re playing, but when they get out, the people who adulated them won’t hire them.”

The irony is that Michael Hart (undeclared major) claimed Harbaugh wasn't a Michigan man for telling the truth. Pat Forde of ESPN actually looked into the numbers behind the accusations ( a full three months after we did here on the Rock Report, but hey, we'll take it.)

All it takes to see that is a scan of the 2007 Michigan media guide. Only 30 players have listed majors, and 19 of them are pursuing degrees in something called "general studies." That's 20 percent of the team, and 63 percent of the players who have declared a major.

Yet a university spokesman said this week that less than 1 percent of the undergraduate student body is in the general studies degree program. The spokesman said there are fewer than 200 general studies students out of an undergrad population of nearly 25,000.

And that's not all. The other declared degree programs on the football team are: movement science (three players); sports management and communications (two); economics (two); P.E. (one); psychology (one); English (one); and American culture (one). There appears to be one undeclared player enrolled in the business school and another in the college of engineering.

Only one junior has declared a major, according to the guide (in movement science). In 18 years of covering college athletics, I've never seen virtually an entire junior class without a major.
The graduation rate ranks third in the Big Ten, as well -- although it dips to 38 percent (seventh in the 11-team league) for African-American players.

A 21 year old undeclared football player with limited speed should take heed of this warning. Despite being 'adulated' during a very successful college career, Mike Hart may very well be looking for a real world job when he leaves Michigan. Perhaps in five years he'll understand the choices better and also become a voice for change. Michigan should confront this issue head-on rather than attempting to rationalize and attack others who point out the obvious.

Is it a wonder Corwin Brown tells recruits that he would have gone to Notre Dame if was offered?

He's just another Michigan man unafraid to tell the truth.

More on expected wins and losses

The point of yesterday's exercise was to see what fans thought of the the probabilities on a game by game basis and then see how that plays into a year's projections. Given the probabilities surveyed from over 3000 visitors, ND projects out to a 8-4 record. The next likely outcome is 9-3 followed by 7-4 and 10-2. El Capitan ran a program that produces 1-Million scenarios based on the given probabilities and came up with the chart below.

Why bother doing this? Because most fans look at a game they're favored in and chalk it up as a win, but then it doesn't work that way. That's because you have to be substantially better than your opponents to withstand the randomness that comes with a football game.

That's why asking "What do you think Notre Dame's record will be" is most times a useless exercise and rarely accurate.

Far more time spent on this than need be, but the bottom line is that the probabilities that ND fans voted for compute out to an 8-4 season and I'll add that when I do the same exercise with vegas odds, I expect the same exercise to predict a record of 8-4 to 7-5.

Of course, no Notre Dame fan is rational - what tho the odds and all. I predict that ND will beat expectations this year and make it to a third straight BCS game.

Rock the Greek

Fans Expect a 4 Loss Year

And that doesn't include a bowl game. According to the 3000+ ND fans who voted in our poll, ND has the following probabilities for winning against their opponents:

  • 70 GT
  • 50 PSU
  • 30 Michigan
  • 70 MSU
  • 80 Purdue
  • 50 UCLA
  • 65 BC*
  • 25 USC*
  • 100 Navy
  • 90 Air Force
  • 100 Duke
  • 90 Stanford
Looking at games individually, ND fans only expect us to lose to Michigan and USC with UCLA and PSU as toss-ups. But when you start multiplying these probabilities out over two games, these probabilities actually point to two more losses.

  • This means theres a 65% chance of a loss against either Georgia Tech or PSU according to ND fans.
  • A 70% chance of a loss to Michigan.
  • A 44% chance we'll lose to either Purdue or MSU.
  • A 62% chance of a loss to either UCLA or BC.
  • And a 75% chance we're going to lose to USC.

After that gauntlet, fans don't appear overly worried by Navy, Air Force, Duke and Stanford. For ND fans, if things were to break right, we're looking at a two loss season. If things were to break wrong, we're looking at a possible five loss season. Four losses looks likely from an ND fans point of view, but that's usually on the optimistic side. As another poster points out you can average the probablities and come up with an expected loss number of 3.8 based on an overall probability of 31.5% per game. Either way it comes out the same.

The % probability that ND runs the table? .5%.

*In the cases where two choices in a poll were statistically even, I averaged the probabilities. This occurred with USC and BC.

A reason to be optimistic

Didn't want this getting lost in the crowd. Omahadomer's take on the season:

Of course, it's the time for all fans to be optimistic. Everyone's undefeated at this point in the year.

But the usual optimism is a bit tempered for N.D. fans this year by the relatively large turnover in our personnel. Moreover, many of the fan bases of our opponents are penciling themselves in for a win figuring that N.D. will be down this year.

I, for one, will have none of it.

Of course, we have inexperience and gaps in some positions but so does everyone else. Everyone keeps doing these "player by player" comparisons of us to where we'll be next year and (somewhat less often) to other teams.

As to our opponents, the question is whether you'd be willing to swap MORE than half of our projected starting roster for theirs. U.S.C., yes. Michigan, probably. The only other two teams that are even rationally in the conversation after that are U.C.L.A. and P.S.U. but I think a fair analysis would arrive at "no."

But for me, the big thing is coaching. There are few sports (maybe no sports) where coaching is more important than it is in college football. Football lends itself more to coaching because it consists of 140 or so discrete plays making scheme and tactics more important than they are in soccer or basketball or water polo.

I'm really not worried about the offense. Weis, like Holtz, will always find a way to move the ball and score points. Holtz, taking over a team that averaged just over 20 ppg the prior year averaged 27.2 ppg his first year and never averaged less than 28.5 ppg (that in 1994) after that. Holtz's last year, N.D. averaged 37.0 ppg and that fell to 21.7 in Davie's first year.

Weis took over a team that averaged 24.1 ppg the prior year (and had averaged an anemic 21.6 ppg over the prior four years) and averaged 36.7 and 31.0 in his first two seasons.

The only fair conclusion is that offensive performance has been much more closely tied to coaching than it has to the vagaries of the talent level.

On defense, raw talent probably plays a larger role because of the more reactive nature of defense, but still coaching is no small matter. If there's a reason to wonder, it's how Brown will work out as a D.C. The fact that there has been no market, apparently, for Minter's coaching services since his departure from N.D. is probably a sign that N.D.'s coaching on that side of the ball was suboptimal. If Brown's success recruiting is any indication of his ability to get players to buy into his methods, we'll be in very good hands.

The mixture of talent and experience is also much better on defense. We are in very good shape at DB and at least good shape at LB. Like most others, I'm concerned about how the pieces may fit at DL, but I think that the 3-4 approach may be a slightly better fit with our personnel, especially if the odd fronts turn into more de facto 5-2-4 formations.

So, yeah, I'm optimistic.

First Impressions

And there's not much to go on, just video:

Kamara is freakin' big and built. Wow. He looks very quick for his size as well. A major win over USC.

Armando actually has a bigger build than you would think... more like Emmit Smith. He's definitely coming ready to play. Hughes looks like a Junior.

Keep an eye on DJ Hord... for a kid who's supposed to be just a straight liner, he looked the fastest of everyone in and out of the breaks and that includes West and Grimes.

I know Ragone's leg was injured, but he couldn't work out those arms? Looks like Axel Rose. Kids from North Jersey would kick sand in his face. Can you say gray shirt?

Then again, Clausen, who used to have a physique like Michael Jackson is actually starting to fill out and he looks a good inch taller than Sharpley.

Told you it wasn't much.

Translating Charlie

Here's a breakdown of the more important parts of the Weis PC, well, at least as seen through these eyes - with a little translation. .

COACH WEIS: I think that we have a stable program. I think that when I got here, one of the biggest issues I had is I felt that the program was a bit unstable. I think that we have stability in the program. I think that we're starting to get the numbers right as far as classes. I think that we've been very low in the number of people on scholarship the first two years, and that number is going to be getting close to right up to the limit here now. I think academically I'm pleased with the direction of the program, and now what we need to do is we need to take that level of stability and win a few more football games.

Translation: That poser do nothing coach who came before me decimated our numbers and left me with a shell of a team that I'm just starting to put back together.

COACH WEIS: I wasn't as familiar with the scheme that they were using on defense; therefore when I'm watching tape sometimes, I couldn't be - I couldn't critically evaluate exactly what I thought the problems were because I wasn't always on 100 percent the same page. Now the guy who knows the defense second after Corwin probably is me because we've been familiar with this defense for so long. So now when I look out there I can say 'was that a baseball call?' and before I could never say something like that because I didn't know exactly what we were doing on every play.

Translation: I had no idea WTH "stratego" Minter was doing the last two years... that's why I fired him and got one of my own in. Now we can pressure test each other.

Q. Could you ever envision a situation in which you would use two quarterbacks?
COACH WEIS: I can't rule it out completely. I've always been under the guise that if you have two quarterbacks, it means you usually don't have one. And to be totally honest with you, I certainly don't want to tell Georgia Tech what I'm doing because I'd rather they spent more time having to figure - well, are they going to play a true dropback quarterback? And are they going to play an athletic quarterback? There's only so much time in training camp. I'm not really in the business of passing out, giving out free information on that one. That's as honest as I can be.

Translation: I know what I'm going to do, but I can't tell you and more importantly, I don't want to tell Tech.

Q. Is there a position that you're uncertain or worried about at this point?
COACH WEIS: No, I mean I know what the cast of characters is. I mean, like everyone - Notre Dame alums and fans - is probably concerned about the offensive line because of the inexperience. I really like the offensive line. People are really concerned about the wide receiver position. Well, I like our wide receivers.

Translation: I'm going to intentionally mislead you, it's the defensive line that has everyone worried.

Q. What's Jimmy Clausen's health and practice availability for today?
COACH WEIS: I've said it before. If people want to talk about procedures and being gone for the year, okay, he's out there practicing today like I said he would be. Would I say when we're teeing off on September 1st, would Jimmy Clausen being capable of being our starting quarterback and slinging it 30 or 40 times? The answer would be yes.

Translation: Clausen could do it in a pinch, but I ain't startin' him for GTech.

Q. You mentioned that you like the wide receivers even though a lot of people outside the program haven't seen a lot from them. What do you like about that position?
COACH WEIS: Well, it's always interesting when the position body types change. You know, we've gone from the big, from Samardzija and Stovall and McKnight, those guys, to now we've got the Smurfs. But you have to remember, I've been involved with some teams that have won a lot of games where the tallest receiver was 5'10" and they have won championships. So where everyone can sell them short, no pun intended, in reality, I'm excited about the change in body types and the change in skill levels and the things they do.

Translation: You love the ones you're with and I can win with anybody. Now that I've said that, I really, really, really, want Michael Floyd.

Q. Similar question on the defensive line. After Trevor (Laws), you have a lot of guys that haven't done much on Saturdays. What did you learn about them during the spring and what do you still need to learn about them during the fall to have confidence in them?
COACH WEIS: See, there's a perfect situation. Let's use a couple of guys because right now if we started Pat Kuntz and Dwight Stephenson and Justin Brown, those guys are all guys that are high into the mix right there. They've all got very minimal time or a little bit of time in their careers, but their time is now. I agree with you, the one 'etched in stone' starter is Trevor. But other than that, there's going to be a lot of guys trying to get their butts on the field, and that's a healthy thing.

Translation: By biggest worry is the defensive line... don't you get it?

Q. When you came here three years ago, this was a team that was deficient in speed. Do you think you've been able to address that, and particularly at the running back position where there hasn't really been a long breakaway run in quite some time?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think we've got at least one guy that can run fast, okay?

Translation: Armando Allen is really, really, really, really, really fast.

Q. When you're trying to determine your first quarterback for the Georgia Tech game, are you going to factor in the quality of the offensive line and how far along your line is at that point?
COACH WEIS: We're going to do it a little bit differently. We're going to make sure all during training camp that we put the quality of line at a high level the whole time.

Translation: Chauncey left me with zero depth. Wait, I already didn't say that.

Q. You said that now you're probably the guy that can look at the defense and know the second-most about it. COACH All I know is I know what they're doing, and to me that was the most important thing because I don't have to sit in that defensive meeting room. I have a copy of their playbook and I have their call sheet, and when he says they're going to run 3 4 Will Cover Two, I've got it. I know how they're lining up, I know who's rushing, I know where the spot drops are supposed to be, I know where the re-routes are supposed to be. At least it's a language now that I understand, and they just had to learn it.

Translation: I never got Minter and I still don't. Can you imagine how hard it is to work with someone that has no clue and you have no clue why they have no clue?

Q. This spring, they were learning right along with the players?
COACH WEIS: But I think that's what happened from them until now is exponential. I think that the staff, Coach Oliver and Coach (Bill) Lewis and Coach Polian, I think they're all very sound as far as what we're doing on defense.

Translation: The assistants didn't know what Col. Custer, I mean coach Minter was doing either.

Q. The NCAA is changing and text messaging has been eliminated...
COACH WEIS: Yeah, that's a bad move.

Translation: I was killin' em with text love, now I'll have to work harder at some other form of contact.

Q. Last year Tom Zbikowski, fairly or unfairly, received a great deal of criticism. There was talk that he was overweight. How would you evaluate Zbikowski's play, number one; what are your expectations for him, number two; and three, was the press unfair to Tom Zbikowski?
COACH WEIS: Two things. I think at the start of the year, he might have been a tad overweight, but I don't think that his weight was the issue. I think him getting speared on a punt return was the issue because he was never the same the rest of the year. And I think that sometimes you don't realize because the kid is so tough, you don't realize a guy is playing with pain and borderline playing with injury.

Translation: Tommy will run you down and kick your ass. You can't run, you can't hide(and this year he won't bite on play action.)

Q. Two plus years on the job, I mean, Notre Dame changed (Dan) Devine and changed Lou (Holtz) and changed Bob Davie. I'd be curious in knowing, in the two plus years you've been here, are there times when being the head coach of Notre Dame is uncomfortable for Charlie Weis, or are you more comfortable on the job than you were when you first got here? Can you give us a picture where you are as a head coach as you begin year three?
COACH WEIS: I'm going to give you two personal answers. First of all, I bought an expensive house and dumped a lot of money into it to make sure that my family is happy. I've got indoor riding arenas, I've got outdoor riding arenas, I've got paddocks, I've got a baseball field, a pool, a playroom. I've got a TV room downstairs that's pretty sweet, pool table, ping pong table, a game room. Do you think I'm in a hurry to move somewhere else? This all comes with your question. My question was rhetorical. Let me finish (laughter).

Translation: I ain't goin' nowheres, next?

A Kinder, Gentler Nation

Really. Well, maybe just kinder. This doesn't mean we're going to lose our independent voice nor the irreverence, but it does mean we're now going to be actively working to edit out the unneeded and many times unwarranted attacks on our message boards. We've recently deleted the notorious Wailing Wall and we're going to be holding everyone to a higher standard. To that end we've (read Kabong with our input) added some new features that will allow us to quickly screen out posters who are flaming the fires so that we can highlight the many insightful posters that visit our site. We're not going to lose the character of Rock's House, but maybe some of the lesser characters to make sure that posts like RevueParty's "The Quest for Balance" below aren't lost in the noise. You'll also see some new features like Around the Nation which will highlight ND happenings around NDNation.

It's been a long time since Notre Dame has been able to put together a balanced attack on the football field. For the past three seasons, the offense has had to overcompensate for a defense that failed to hold its opponents to less than 21 points in six, nine and six games respectively. Only the offense of 2005 was able to overcompensate in the majority of those games.

Record when opponents score 21 points or more:

2003: 2-7*

2004: 1-5

2005: 6-3

2006: 3-3

For the 2001 and 2002 seasons, the shoe was on the other foot. In 2001, the Notre Dame offense failed to score 21 points in six games and in 2002, seven games. Whereas the defense of 2001 was unable to overcome the anemic offense, the defense of 2002 able to hold opponents to less then 21 points in four of those games and score a whopping six touchdowns over the course of the season, defeating both Purdue and Stanford single-handedly by scoring more points than the opposing offenses.

Record when Notre Dame scores 21 points or less:

2001: 0-6

2002: 4-3

2003: 0-6*

As you can see, 2003 was a special season where neither the offense nor the defense showed up in six of that year's seven losses.

Is it scheme, talent or experience?

There have been major scheme changes for the offense and defense in seasons 2002 and 2005, both from head coaching changes. In 2002, despite having 6 returning starters, the offensive scheme (the West Coast Offense) improved only 0.5 point per game to a sad 17.4 points of offensive scoring per game, while giving up 21 points in turnovers. The following year returned five starters and output improved negligibly to 18.3 points per game. And in 2004, eight returning starters helped propel the offense to 22.3 points per game, well below what is need to compete as a top 25 team. All three years, the offense remained a fairly but not highly talented unit. Conclusion: Despite the medium talent and good experience, Willingham's West Coast Offense was unable to make any serious positive impact on the offensive performance.

While the defense of 2002 proved to take advantage of the six returning starters and the immense talent that carried over from Bob Davie's 2001 defense, the 2003 and 2004 Notre Dame defenses defy logic. In 2003, despite having eight returning, talented starters the defense gave up and additional ten points per game over the 2002 defense and scored far less. The defense ended up giving up an incredible 24.5 points per game. In 2004, despite having 6 returning starters, the defense managed to improve only negligibly to 22.3 points per game. Conclusion: Despite a highly talented defense and excellent experience, Kent Baer's defensive scheme seemed to make the Irish defensive far worse than previously seen.

Unfortunately, the Charlie Weis era has not solved the issue of imbalance. In 2005, the Irish offense returned an incredible 10 starters. Combined with Weis's new scheme, the offense exploded for an increase of 11.5 points per game to a very respectable 33.8 points per game for the season. In 2006, the offense slid backwards five points per game, despite the return of 7 returning starters. Conclusion: Weis's scheme is explosive with a highly talented, well experienced offense and is still very good when the talent and experience begins to drain.

The defense has been a different story. Despite Rick Minter's new defensive scheme in 2005, it was unable to overcome the lack of experience (only 3 returning starters) and draining talent. The defense of 2005 was worse than the defense of 2004 by 1 point per game. Because Weis's offense was able to overcompensate for the defense, the Irish were in all thirteen games played. However, in 2006 another story emerged. Minter had nine returning starters coming back for the season. With one year of the system under their belts, improvements should have been widely evident - but they weren't. In five games where the Irish offense failed to score at least 21 points during those two season, the defense was only able to assist in three (UM 05, GT 06, UCLA 06 - plus MSU 06, despite giving up 37 points). Conclusion: Even with the high degree of experience, Minter's scheme was unable to overcompensate for the draining talent and lack of depth.

The challenge for 2007

In 2007, Notre Dame faces a new scenario. Thanks to Weis's successful recruiting efforts, talent and depth are growing on both sides of the ball. Unfortunately, this will be a team short on experience, with 5 returning starters playing on both sides of the ball (including Travis Thomas who started at LB in 2005).

The Notre Dame defensive scheme will undergo its third major overhaul in six seasons. The challenge for Corwin Brown will to execute a scheme utilizing a defensive that is gaining in talent but short on experience. Considering that the front three will be the shortest on experience and talent, it will be up to the back seven to carry the load.

Similarly, Weis's offense faces the challenge of a squad that is light on experience. The playbook from 2005 won't suffice for an offense that is replacing its backfield and two key receiver positions. If Notre Dame's offense can deliver like it did in 2005 or even 2006, Weis will have surely earned the title of offensive genius.

The key for Notre Dame in 2007 will be for both the offense and defense to show up in every game. If one is going to have an off week, the other must step up to the challenge and overcompensate for any deficiencies.

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Games Played







Bet with your head, not the other end

We're starting the annual Rock Report poll off on the right . The idea is to use these probabilities to gauge what our season is going to look like. Our first three games are listed in the poll on the right - your job is to select the "realistic" probability that Notre Dame will win the game. To set some parameter first, there are rarely 100% games in college football. ND is a slight favorite to beat GT (which would likely translate into a 60-70% probability) and underdog to both Michigan and Penn State.

Around the Nation

The Notre Dame Club of Central Illinois is conducting its annual football ticket raffle. First prize is 2 tickets to the USC game. Second prize is 2 tickets to the Duke game. Chances are 3 for $5 and the winners will be drawn on Sunday, October 11th. If interested please email Chris Perrin at chrisperrin@insightbb.com with the number of tickets and your mailing address and I will mail them out with a self addressed stamped envelope. Cash or checks are acceptable, checks should be made payable to the Notre Dame Club of Central Illinois. All proceeds go to our endowment account with Notre Dame in support of our students. Please send me 6 tickets to your raffle. Chris Perrin 1 W. Old State Capitol Plaza Suite #200 Springfield, IL 62701

St. Mary's School located in Niles, Michigan will be raffling off two tickets to every Notre Dame home game in the 2007 season. Raffle tickets are $4.00 each or 3 tickets for $10. Winners will be drawn on Wednesday, August 29th at 2:00 p.m. THESE ARE GREAT TICKETS! If interested please email Mary Amat at lamat@qtm.net with the number of tickets and your contact information including mailing address and phone number. Your raffle tickets will be mailed to you along with a self-addressed stamped envelope to be used for your payment. Checks should be made out to St. Mary's School. 100% of the proceeds go toward the catholic education of the youth at St. Mary's School.

Saturday, September 8, 2007 Kickoff 6:00 P.M. Featuring David “Mad Dog” DeMarco, local sports radio personality At half time we’ll hold the drawing for the lucky winner of the raffle for two USC vs. ND tickets (game date October 20th) Tickets are $10 each. Contact Andrea Larkin or Larry Morgan for ticket details. Get together and watch with other ND faithful, enjoy food and beverages and cheer on the Irish. Join us at The Irish Pub and Grill 1910 W. Saginaw (west of St. Lawrence Hospital) No charge beyond the food and beverages you order off the menu. Please RSVP to Andrea Larkin at LARKAND@aol.com or 337-0909.

The ND Club of Tampa Bay currently finds itself with an extra 20 reserved beds at Sacred Heart Parish center for the Ga. Tech game. I've posted on the marketplace about the availability but I also wanted to post a note in rock's house and the back room. Before I did so, I wanted to make sure this type of borderline advertising wouldn't violate any board rules. Thanks much.

Dan Zwilling '94 at zwillidp@airproducts.com.

Dear Members and Friends of the Notre Dame Club of Philadelphia,

Last month I mentioned the "Six Cs" into which the Notre Dame Alumni Association asks Clubs to focus their efforts. The purpose of this first message of two this month is to highlight items in the area of Camaraderie. A separate message will follow later in August discussing Communications.

College football certainly generates great camaraderie among the Notre Dame family. We will get ready for the 2007 season with our annual Football Kickoff Meeting on Sunday afternoon, 19 August. The meeting will take place from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the King of Prussia Volunteer Fire Company Social Hall at 170 Allendale Road. Jeff Baumhower, contributing editor to IrishEyes.com, will give us the inside scoop on the upcoming Fighting Irish football campaign and will take your questions.

The $30 ticket price includes a beef-n-beer buffet and one raffle ticket in the drawing for the right to purchase 2 USC @ ND football tickets at face value. We have about 14 pair of game tickets available through this raffle. Additional raffle tickets may be purchased ($5 each) at the meeting. You must be a Club member and be present at the football meeting to win in this raffle. To register for the football meeting, Login to the Club's website (www.ndphilly.com), click on the "Store" at the left of the page, click on "Tickets", then "Events and Dinners", and then "Annual Football Kickoff Meeting".

Two other raffles are being conducted for our remaining (~ten) pairs of USC @ ND football tickets, and for our five pairs of PSU @ ND football tickets. Winners in these raffles will win a pair of tickets to the game. To purchase these raffle tickets online ($20 each, or a six-pack of raffle tickets for $100), Login to the Club's website (www.ndphilly.com), click on the "Store" at the left of the page, click on "Raffles", then "Football Tickets", and then select your raffle ticket of choice. The raffle for the Penn State tickets will take place at the football meeting on 19 August. The raffle for these USC tickets will take place at the ND @ Michigan gamewatch on 15 September. You must be a club member, but need not be present to win in these two raffles.

Members may receive no more than four football tickets from the Club's allotment through these three raffles combined. Please contact Mike Libert (mlibert@voicenet.com) or me (zwillidp@airproducts.com) if you have questions.

Great camaraderie is also experienced at all of our football gamewatches. Please stay tuned to the website and e-newsletters for details on these events!

As always, please let me know if you have any questions / comments. Thank you for you continued support.

In Notre Dame,

Dan Zwilling '94
President, Notre Dame Club of Philadelphia