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A Short Tale of Redemption

Finally, the seniors stepped into the void these last two games and provided a foundation for the youngsters to build on. They went out with heads high knowing that Notre Dame is now on an upward track. Trevor Laws deserves some sort of stalwart award for never giving up all season and always bringing pressure no matter what the game situation. He fell one tackle short of tying the record for tackles in a season for an ND defensive linemen. His performance has been a given, what hasn't been a given is players stepping up to unify the team across classes -- this was a divided team for most of the season and given the class makeup and talent disparity, it's not a huge surprise except to the extent that it affected the team. It looks to me like it has finally happened. Players picked each other up off the turf, the linemen defended Clausen like they should and the players took real joy in their and their teammates performances. It finally feels like the transition of leadership has happened.

Notre Dame's leading passer, rusher and receiver are all "true" freshmen. That's unheard of. If you break out the yards and points by this offense, both categories are dominated by true freshmen. BTW, don't let failed sports writers looking to "hair pull" for attention and eyeballs mislead you, it's incredibly important to have a passionate leader like Clausen on the field. It may not fit into a model of what some want, but their wants are not only irrelevant, but childish. Leaders come in all styles, it's refreshing to see a quarterback play so hard and care so much. If he didn't play injured, take a career's worth of hits in a year, say the right things and still put up far better numbers than Brady Quinn in their comparative freshmen year, it might be a bit silly. But, it's not. ND has found itself a vocal and talented leader for the future. Of course he still throws his deep balls like a fade, but that's another issue. Kudos to Clausen for an outstanding freshmen year under incredible duress. Obviously Hughes and Allen are going be very good players, but it's not clear either will prove to be the breakaway threat ND's looking for. Kamara is a Stovall clone, but also lacks the instinct for yards after the catch. I believe we're going to be looking at Tate, Goodman and Floyd to bring that extra element to the passing game.

There's a lot to look forward to, but also a lot of worries. The offensive line has started to come together, but is a long way from being there. For perspective, Iowa inked it's fab five offensive line the same year Notre Dame signed up their studs and Iowa (with a decent junior class,) even with Ferentz (a running minded coach who coached OL) has had real trouble up front. A perfect illustration of why you can never, ever leave the cupboard bare on the OL. Regardless of H.S. accolades, some offensive linemen don't develop until they are seniors, so that pipeline has to be full. You need numbers and talent on the OL, but actually numbers more than talent because the hit ratio for OL is exceedingly low. They're just hard to gauge.

Defensive line is the next worry. Justin Brown, Ian Williams and Patrick Kuntz at least give us a nucleus for a decent line. But it's the still high school seniors who have the ability to carry Notre Dame into the upper echelon of college football. Cynwar, Hunter, Williams, Johnson and Newman are going to have to play a lot next year... and while that's promising, it's never a good thing to have to play freshmen on the line... ever.

The third major concern is our inside linebackers. What happened to their development? If there's not a coaching change here NDNation will be deeply surprised.

The final major concern is our special teams. Except for Laws blocking field goals, there is nothing special about them. Teams win championships on the backs of their special teams and Notre Dame has been improved, but still woeful here.

It's tough to tell what's happening on the coaching front, but it's clear we need to fix the offensive line and fast. As noted, Oregon and Iowa both faced similar situations to Notre Dame's this year. Oregon lost Dixon and their offense fell apart -- so there's a glimpse into ND's QB situation at the start of the year. Iowa is rebuilding their offensive line and struggled through the end of the year. They're looking at progress and are in a very similar situation to Notre Dame. So coaching is an issue, playcalling is an issue, but young talent is still the major problem, IMO.

So here we sit on the back end of a 3 win season, but with many problems awaiting us. While I expect the team to be better overall next season and while our skill position situation looks very promising, our line situation is, at best, unclear. I have hope, but with the mess things are right now, medium confidence we're going to dramatically improve. We're not going to have the defensive line talent to be a real force next year (we will in the freshmen class) and that will hinder our chances against top level teams and leave us vulnerable against mid-tier teams like, unfortunately, we are right now.

In the meantime a thank you to the seniors for their effort over the years and for setting the course for future progress. There's so much young talent to get excited about, but until they mature and until we are fully restocked in the trenches, it's going to be hard for me to get excited about possibilities for next year. At the beginning of this year I wrote that we had far too many question marks to have any expectations for this year. Unfortunately, I think last year's expectations are going to be next year's reality. Don't get me wrong, I think top 10 is possible, but not unless we get the O-line situation sorted out.

Lou Holtz Pep Talk

Send me an email (that link on the right) with your favorite ND YouTube video or make your own and we'll try to upload it to the player. I _______ love Lou.

Laws, Clausen, Hughes, a W and our Biggest Problem

Trevor Laws, with 104 tackles so far this year, has tied Ross Browner for number 2 on Notre Dame's all-time tackle list for defensive linemen. If Laws can rack up 9 more tackles next weekend he'll tie Steve Niehaus for the top spot. His career represents everything the Fighting Irish (excellence in the face of adversity) stand for and he deserves to be remembered with the best of our defensive linemen.

Despite the most frustrating year in recent ND history, Laws and the other seniors played an inspired final home game while the youth movement began to take hold.

Clausen is better than Quinn at this same point in their careers despite being hit like a tackling dummy throughout the season. He hasn't just had to overcome a turnstile offensive line, but bone spurs, a stomach strain and a hip pointer. The kid has shown great leadership and poise for his situation and on Saturday really started to look like a seasoned quarterback. He stepped up in the pocket, showed much better arm strength on his intermediate passes (he still needs to work on the deep ball,) and great situational awareness. If not for drops and the throwaways, his stat line would look so much better. For a freshman battling through injuries, Clausen has really turned in a stellar first year performance. His touchdown pass to Grimes was an NFL throw (as was his dropped out pass to Kamara.) Clausen's accuracy will make him better in Weis's system than Quinn.

I've always liked the feet of Robert Hughes and it's clear he's going to be a load to handle as he matures (as if he could get any bigger.) He has Bettis-like feet and balance, a rare combination in a big man. The one thing that may hold him back is his top line speed. Armando Allen is showing quickness, but not yet the vision or top end speed in the open field. Both are very good backs that can carry Notre Dame far, but it's still not clear that either will be the breakaway threat that Notre Dame needs to soften up defenses. And let us not forget this was Duke. USC and Michigan aren't going to miss as many tackles. Still, very encouraging. Meanwhile Running Back recruit Jonas Gray is leaving some serious cleat marks on his Michigan H.S. football rivals.

With just over seven minutes to play and down by eight, Detroit Country Day senior running back Jonas Gray, hurt leg and all, wanted the ball in his hands to do what he does best -- make plays.

"I told coach I was hurting a little bit, but keep feeding me. I was just playing off of adrenaline and heart, and we weren't going to lose this game," Gray said.

He didn't disappoint, exploding for two long fourth quarter touchdown runs of 30 and 61 yards -- the second giving Country Day a 29-22 lead over defending Division 4 champion Zeeland West with two minutes to play.

But Zeeland West's Tyler Pike then hooked up with a streaking Travor Lake for a 52-yard touchdown pass with only 45 seconds remaining. That score resulted in a successful two point conversion and a Dux lead, but Gray's biggest impact was still to come -- this time without the ball in his hands.

Country Day coach Don MacLean looked into his bag of tricks and found the hook-and-ladder play.

With 34 seconds remaining and Country Day on its 47-yard line, quarterback Stefan Ede dropped back and found a wide-open Patrick Leary, who caught the pass and promptly pitched it to wide receiver Bennie Fowler.

With Gray downfield delivering a key block, Fowler scampered down the right sideline into the end zone, punching the Yellow Jackets' ticket to the state finals with a 37-30 win.

"We've run that play three times now for touchdowns this season. It's one of those special things. I'm just so proud of my kids," MacLean said.

The Notre Dame-bound Gray's monster day looked like this: 304 yards on 29 carries and four touchdowns.

Most encouraging the evolution of Coach Weis continues. He's now punting the ball when he should rather than betting like a drunk in Vegas and seems to have changed his play calling mix to take into account some of the execution issues. It's also good news to hear that Coach Weis is still looking to break down what went wrong this season and will be reaching out to the Patriots for guidance. He says he's going to look at both schematic and teaching issues -- well -- about time IMO, Weis has shown too much confidence in his ability that doesn't match up with the reality of the college game.

That said(written) the solution here seems to be painfully obvious. Either find a scheme that fits with Latina and the OL talent or get rid of Latina. Latina is by all accounts beloved and a very good coach, but the fit has to be right and it isn't right now. Having green offensive linemen is a killer on offense, but, remember, our line couldn't protect or run the ball last year either. So, there's an very obvious disconnect here that's limiting everything Notre Dame does. There was so much wrong on this team this year, but most of it boils down to the offensive line. It it's a problem two years in a row, it's more than just talent. If we fix the O-line/scheme problem, we fix 90% of what's wrong with our offense. I'm not saying Latina is the problem, but it's clear the line is a problem.

And with Clausen, Crist, Allen, Hughes, Gray, Goodman, Kamara, Tate, Floyd, etc. giving ND it's greatest set of skill players in recent memory, Weis needs to take a honest look at what's not only possible, but probable in the college game. If it's his scheme, simplify it. If it's the teaching, replace Latina. If it's both... fix both. We're set for a great run, but only if we figure out how to block. I firmly believe Weis moved to solve ND's biggest previous issue by hiring Corwin. He now has to address a more inward problem that may cause him to make some tougher choices.

Without the blocking, it doesn't matter how great your scheme is or how good the play calling. Conversely, if you're blowing people off the line of scrimmage (shout out to Stewart for his progress and potential,) the play calling is secondary. Because of the lack of any seniors and only two juniors on the OL our lack of cohesion and execution is somewhat understandable, but as noted, this is two years in a row of atrocious blocking.

We don't need to win the Rocks, Papers, Scissors match-up as much as we need to with the war in the trenches.

Lou vs Charlie and Senior Day

The following post is from Moff who worked on Holtz's staff:

I obviously have very fond memories of the 1986 team and hold those players (including our own Mike Haywood) in the highest regard for the way they continued to fight despite starting 1-4. However, I would be hard pressed to argue that the job Holtz did in 1986 was superior to the job Weis did in his first year, or that the 1986 team had substantially more "fight" than the 2005 edition.

The situation Holtz inherited was a hell of a lot better than what Weis and his staff were handed. Just compare the recruiting rankings of the classes Coach Faust left for Holtz and the number of players on the roster in 1986. Nonetheless, Weis damn near had in us in the National Championship game, and if you want to see the epitome of a motivated, emotional ND team, re-watch the 2005 USC game or the winning drive against Stanford. Prior to the Fiesta Bowl, I sat in a bar in Tempe with a member of our 1988 National Championship team and we marveled at the job Weis had done in his first season.

It was absolutely amazing to us, even though we had both woken up at 5:00 a.m. for the puke fests (albeit I simply had to watch) and otherwise had a front row seat for the Holtz rebuilding project. As best I can recall, the 2006 team also demonstrated as much fight and emotion as Holtz's 1987 team (my senior year as a FB manager). And that's saying something given that the 1987 team played the toughest schedule in the country and beat the hell out of some excellent teams along the way.

However, I don't know how you demonstrate more fight, backbone and emotion than the 2006 team did when they came roaring back against MSU and UCLA. The team's impromptu pep rally with the Band following the MSU game was inspiring: That was one fired up football team. And let's not forget the impromptu pep rally led by the players after the Army game: [Flash: FatTFMP9NjM&rel=1]

Believe it or not that was less than a year ago. Seems like Charlie had a pretty good rapport with a lot of those guys who were lining up to hug him. To say the least, the 2006 edition didn't look so hot in the last regular season away game against a top opponent, and got shelled in the bowl game, but so did Holtz's second team. It is only this year that I see a marked difference in terms of the "fight" and emotion.

Obviously, I am not happy with the way this year has unfolded and I challenge you to curse a bluer streak than I have this year in the privacy of my own home. However, I am doing my best to keep some perspective. As Lou used to say, no situation is ever as good or bad as it seems, and people far smarter than me warned me that this was going to be a season that Weis would have to "survive" given the situation he inherited.

I also know from personal observation with far more mature and talented ND teams, that once things start going badly, the emotional effects can snowball and the team can play below the level of which it is capable and the level at which it is being coached, and less than stellar attitudes can emerge among a few. In terms of the differences between Lou and Charlie's third years, I try to imagine what 1988 team would have looked like if there were a recruiting class missing, and you therefore removed the senior leadership from the likes of Ned Bolcar, Wes Pritchett, Frank Stams, Flash Gordon, Corny Southall, George Streeter, Mark Green, Andy Heck, together with Juniors like Tony Rice, Anthony Johnson, Mike Stonebreaker, Stan Smagala, Pat Terrell, Jeff Alm, Tim Grunhard and so many others including the likes of Zorich. It did not take a Lou Holtz to bring out the "fight" in these people in 1988, and I believe these guys would have played just as hard for Charlie Weis.

I believe we have players like this coming up through the ranks and in the current recruiting class. Despite what we have all suffered through this season, I remain hopeful and do not intend to give up my seat on the Charlie Weis bandwagon. He has acknowledged his shortcomings this year. However, he remains a very smart coach and his work ethic is beyond reproach. He has dispelled the myth that ND cannot recruit.

It is now self-evident that we are and always have been capable of recruiting top talent, and we are currently assembling the type of talent needed to win a national championship. Charlie also recently said he would make sure going forward that all of his assistants are excellent teachers. This is critical, and should lead to improved fundamentals, confidence and morale. Once that is re-established and we have a balanced roster, Weis has already shown (in the NFL and at ND his first two years) that he can direct properly trained and experienced players to championship level play on a consistent basis.

The attitudes can improve quickly with a little success as demonstrated in the photo and video above. In the meantime, we need to stick together and support this team. I know how bad I felt about the way my senior year ended and we were a Top 20 team with a Heisman Trophy winner, so it has to be absolute hell for these guys. Here's to hoping the seniors can pull it together and walk off the field for the last time as winners.

The Void and Beyond

Fumble, dropped passes, missed tackles and a game killing fumble.

Notre Dame wasn't killed by coaching mistakes, it was mistakes by upperclassmen last week. And I'm not 'blaming' players here, I support them and wish them the best and don't think there's much purpose in blame, but, regardless, this is an undeniable problem. As has been reported here, there's a chasm, not just in talent, but in attitude between the underclassmen and many upperclassmen on the Irish campus and it doesn't appear it's getting better.

By accounts many upperclassmen have drifted into apathy. The result is very little player leadership on the team that's already desperately low on upper level talent. Who's responsible is tough to say. It's likely a combination of coaching style, low numbers, discouraging results and an obvious disparity in talent. I'm no shrink, but as the old baw coach would say with spittle coming out of his mouth and snot rockets flying... it is what it is.

Unless there's a dramatic influx in maturity, it isn't likely to get better this year. But there's a good news story here as well.... the underclassmen are determined to turn this around and believe they will. The sophomores, the freshmen and the new recruits all believe they'll bring a national championship to Notre Dame and that's why you're not seeing defections from underneath and why the best class in the country continues to get better. They can see the talent coming in and want to be apart of it.

Jimmy Clausen looks excellent for a freshmen and is starting to get his arm strength back. He's going to be better than Quinn once he gets blocking, Floyd (can you tell how much I like this kid?) and other young receivers take over starting roles. Armando Allen is flashing Julius Jones like speed on the outside. Duval Kamara is one of the best freshman wide receivers we've had at Notre Dame. The young line will likely come together next year.

On defense, we're looking at the best crop of incoming defensive linemen and linebackers in over a decade.

That commitment to excel in the future, far from discouraging the younger players, is unifying them and the current recruits right now. The future talent is just as unmistakable in the lower classes as is the disarray on the team right now.

One of those factors will sort itself out, it would be a shame in the upperclassmen don't rise to the occasion for their final two games.

For those of you who are 'mad' about Charlie's performance this year, I don't blame you, but bitching doesn't do anything positive right now. Charlie will be judged on his 2008 performance and given what he has to work with, that makes perfect sense. This team got away from him, but there were so many factors out of his control it's impossible to pinpoint the root cause of the problems. He's not getting fired. So, get over it. The only thing moaning does is poison the well -- there's just no way that the angst helps the situation as is. Now, if he struggles in the future, I'll be right there with you, but he has to have something to work with. When he did, he put together a very surprising first year run and a solid second. Next year will tell the tale.

I can assure you that you're all going to be excited, every one of you, on signing day.

You're also all going to be excited by spring ball.

My philosophy is to support the coaches unless it appears a change is not only necessary, but possible. I'm not sure it's necessary and I know it's not possible so what good is complaining?

I can see a very bright future ahead, even though it's hard for me to look past the pain of this past year.

The Laws of Averages

Notre Dame defensive lineman Trevor Laws has played himself into the first round of the NFL draft and is the runaway leader in tackles among defensive linemen across the country. Laws is the only defensive linemen in the country ranking among the top 100 of defensive players in average tackles per game. He's the best defensive linemen we've had since Bryant Young and some now think that Laws may be better. In a year of suffering and under performance, Trevor Laws has been the MVP of this team and a role model for younger players and recruits like Williams and Hunter who show Laws type promise.

1Erin Henderson, MarylandLBJR95260112 12.44
2David Vobora, IdahoLBSR107351124 12.40
3Will Dunbar, UABDBSR8554297 12.13
4Scott McKillop, PittsburghLBJR96840108 12.00
5Jordon Dizon, ColoradoLBSR119338131 11.91
6Chris Chamberlain, TulsaLBSR106950119 11.90
7Curtis Lofton, OklahomaLBJR106349112 11.20
7Durell Mapp, North CarolinaLBSR106943112 11.20
9Dan Connor, Penn St.LBSR116360123 11.18
10Gerald McRath, Southern Miss.LBSO105259111 11.10
11Solomon Elimimian, HawaiiLBJR9475299 11.00
12C.J. Spillman, MarshallDBJR105653109 10.90
13Matthew Castelo, San Jose St.LBSR105552107 10.70
14John Haneline, Bowling GreenLBJR9425496 10.67
15Daniel Holtzclaw, Eastern Mich.LBJR114770117 10.64
15Mike Humpal, IowaLBSR114671117 10.64
17Nelson Coleman, TulsaLBSR104759106 10.60
17Lamar Myles, LouisvilleLBJR106442106 10.60
19Frantz Joseph, Fla. AtlanticLBJR9425395 10.56
20Clayton Mullins, Miami (Ohio)LBJR105451105 10.50
21J Leman, IllinoisLBSR116054114 10.36
21Sean Lee, Penn St.LBJR114866114 10.36
23Thomas Keith, Central Mich.LBSR105647103 10.30
23Bryant Haines, Ball St.LBSR105548103 10.30
23Beau Bell, UNLVLBSR106340103 10.30
23Marcus Riley, Fresno St.LBSR105647103 10.30
23Antonio Baker, Louisiana TechDBSO104855103 10.30
28Danny Lansanah, ConnecticutLBSR103963102 10.20
29Joshua Mauga, NevadaLBJR7294271 10.14
30Wesley Woodyard, KentuckyLBSR105546101 10.10
30Brandon Spikes, FloridaLBSO106338101 10.10
32Russell Allen, San Diego St.LBJR9543690 10.00
32Spencer Larsen, ArizonaLBSR106238100 10.00
34Michael Tauiliili, DukeLBJR9414889 9.89
35Adam Kadela, NorthwesternLBSR114860108 9.82
35Jordan Lake, BaylorDBSO115850108 9.82
37Trevor Laws, Notre DameDLSR10435598 9.80
37Dave Philistin, MarylandLBJR10405898 9.80
39Patrick Chung, OregonDBJR9464288 9.78
40Lawrence Wilson, ConnecticutLBSO10445397 9.70
40Vincent Rey, DukeLBSO10445397 9.70
40Braxton Amy, UTEPDBSO10673097 9.70
43Cergile Sincere, Fla. AtlanticLBSR9483987 9.67
44Alex Kube, Northern Ill.DBFR10405696 9.60
45Anthony Felder, CaliforniaLBJR10455095 9.50
46Darran Matthews, Eastern Mich.LBSR115054104 9.45
47Jamie Silva, Boston CollegeDBSR10583694 9.40
48Chip Vaughn, Wake ForestDBJR10543993 9.30
48Sean Weatherspoon, MissouriLBSO10514293 9.30
50Dante Floyd, New Mexico St.LBSR114458102 9.27
51Joe Brockington, Notre DameLBSR10454792 9.20
51Bo McNally, StanfordDBSO10573592 9.20
53E.J. Savannah, WashingtonLBSO10583391 9.10
53Tavares Gooden, Miami (Fla.)LBSR10553691 9.10
53Davonte Shannon, BuffaloDBFR10533891 9.10
56Erique Dozier, Bowling GreenLBJR10315990 9.00
56Joe Henderson, UABLBJR10365490 9.00
58Drew Fowler, Air ForceLBSR11376198 8.91
59Worrell Williams, CaliforniaLBJR10444589 8.90
60Pat Maynor, StanfordLBJR9463480 8.89
60Ashlee Palmer, MississippiLBJR9483280 8.89
62James Laurinaitis, Ohio St.LBJR11376097 8.82
63Evan Lee, TulaneLBJR10434588 8.80
64Adam Leonard, HawaiiLBJR9384179 8.78
65Cornelius Brown, MissouriDBSR8412970 8.75
66Demetrius Jones, San Jose St.LBSR10384987 8.70
67Walter Thurmond III, OregonDBSO9562278 8.67
68Jamarca Sanford, MississippiDBJR8422769 8.63
69Joe Fields, SyracuseDBSR10483886 8.60
69Matt Hewitt, ArkansasDBSR10414586 8.60
69Jonathan Goff, VanderbiltLBSR10483886 8.60
69Jack Williams, Kent St.DBSR10652186 8.60
73Kelly Poppinga, BYULBSR9334477 8.56
74Mark Dodge, Texas A&MLBSR11336194 8.55
74Alvin Bowen, Iowa St.LBSR11643094 8.55
76Derek Burrell, Kent St.LBJR10355085 8.50
76Koby McKinnon, Arkansas St.LBSR10434285 8.50
76Jordan Murray, ArmyDBSR10562985 8.50
79Will Patterson, IndianaLBSO11534093 8.45
79Joe Pawelek, BaylorLBSO11385593 8.45
81Caleb Bostic, Miami (Ohio)LBSO9364076 8.44
82Xavier Adibi, Virginia TechLBSR10374784 8.40
82Clinton Snyder, StanfordLBSO10552984 8.40
82Nick Watkins, ClemsonLBSR10523284 8.40
82Mike Dorulla, Ball St.LBSR10345084 8.40
82Dennis Keyes, UCLADBSR10543084 8.40
82Quin Harris, Louisiana TechLBJR10345084 8.40
82Steve Tate, UtahDBSR10533184 8.40
89Jon Copper, VirginiaLBJR11484492 8.36
90Matthew Harper, OregonDBSR9363975 8.33
91Andrew Sendejo, RiceDBSO10552883 8.30
91Robert James, Arizona St.LBSR10503383 8.30
91Emmanuel Cook, South CarolinaDBSO10681583 8.30
91Boston McCornell, Western Mich.LBJR10374683 8.30
95Austin Thomas, IndianaDBSO11553691 8.27
95Dominique Barber, MinnesotaDBSR11642791 8.27
97Reed Williams, West VirginiaLBJR9334174 8.22
97Corey Small, Fla. AtlanticDBJR9601474 8.22
99Brandon Sumrall, Southern Miss.DBSR10513182 8.20
100Derrick Richardson, New Mexico St.DBJR11513990 8.18

The Void

So here's a coach who went 9-3, 10-3 his first two years at the helm, something that hasn't happened since Lou.

He went to two BCS games. Yeah, we were over-matched, but that's because we drew the top teams out there.

He's recruited three top ten classes in a row for the first time since Lou.

He inherited two upper classes that are bereft of both top talent and numbers -- that had the second toughest opening schedule in the country on a team that doesn't have one senior offensive lineman.

And now he can't coach?

I'm not happy. No one is. Best Buy probably has had a run on Tvs after screens were smashed on Saturday.

But I've never read so many off the wall judgments on a coach in one week -- I've heard every absurd idea in the world questioned this past week -- as if each judgment were obvious fact. I bring up the same facts for perspective, because you can't really judge everything take all of that into account.

Weis needs top talent and a very good line to coach his offense. He'll have most of it by next year and will have it all in two. Before Weis got here Quinn, Samardzija and Stovall were all relative busts. In Weis's first year Notre Dame's offense went from putrid to potent.

There was talent there, but there was also coaching. For the record, it was the Eagles who called Weis a genius after the Patriots won their third Super Bowl. You would think Weis made it up himself the way some are talking. When you're called a genius by one of the best defenses in the NFL, that says a lot. This is a man picked by Belichick to coach an offense that won three Super Bowls and was universally regarded as one of the best in the NFL.

ND fans were apoplectic with the thought Weis could go back to the NFL.

Weis can coach offense.

Brown looks like he'll be an excellent defensive coach.

Both can recruit.

At the beginning of this year Weis tried the spread option and, as BGS showed, it could have and probably should have worked. It didn't.

But it wasn't because Weis made the wrong choices at QB, yet you would have thought that was everything if you listened to fandom. The fans clamored for Clausen. Clausen went in and got killed. The fans clamored for Sharpley, he proved very inconsistent. It's clear now that we didn't have any good choices at QB. But it seemed so obvious at the time.

Do I think he should have ran more? Yeah. I've been very critical of Weis's play calling. It's a hellstorm of bad this year, but, as always, there's a lot more to the story.

As happened on Ty's team, there's a rift between the new and the old. The talent's in the younger classes and the upperclassmen simply can't lead this team... they don't have the numbers or the talent. And I'm not disparaging the players, but it's a problem. Have you ever seen a company takeover where the more talented company is underneath the older company? That's what's going on behind the scenes at ND. It's not the player's faults. It's the administration's which let this program disintegrate and the older players are caught in the transition. It's coaching, it's talent, it's the schedule, it's lack of numbers, it's chemistry... it's everything this year and they all work to reinforce one another.

But don't forget, this was an inherited mess and we gave the keys to a coach who's used to coaching only top players and we gave him the keys knowing he faced a black hole of talent. Is it coaching in the end? That's certainly a huge part of the story, but some coaches are better coaching from the top than others and to be frank, we didn't hire someone who had a history coaching up and scheming for below average talent... we hired an NFL coach with experience coaching the best talent.

Was it a mistake? Still too tough to call and I'm not saying Weis will succeed. This is not a blanket defense of Weis. His success is definitely open to question and going for it on 4th instead of kicking the field goal was pure brain lock, but Holtz had his fair share of brain locks over the years as well.

We do know that Weis can coach a prolific offense when he has the talent, we do know he's recruited well and it certainly appears that Brown can coach.

Every fan thinks he or she knows it all at some point and the fact is they don't. Just like we didn't know the quarterback situation. Because of the inherited circumstances, there's a ton of reasonable doubt right now.

Weis will have his men as juniors next year and while that's certainly not perfect, it will be enough to know which way the program's headed. In the meantime one would hope we could find a way to beat Air Force, Duke and Stanford, but I'm afraid we're just playing for next year. And I know, it should never be that way, but we lost to ________ Navy.

The wheels have come off. All bets are off.

"Wise men are cautious where fools are sure."