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LSU graduates less than half of the "students" who go to school there and play football, yet we celebrate them as champions.

Michigan graduates less than half of the African Americans who enroll as "students" and play football, yet this is supposedly a program that serves as a beacon for others?

graduates just barely over half of the "students" who go to school there and play football and Pete Carroll plays jokester while Trojans implode in the NFL due to character issues, yet this is held up as a model program?

That we continue to celebrate teams who use and discard student athletes is the real tragedy of college football.

Not only do many student athletes at "football schools" fail to graduate, but even for those that do graduate, many have been railroaded into majors that leave them with few options if their NFL ambitions fail (as happens for even for most 5-Star recruits.) So this is simple: If you're graduating less than half of your players in any segment and they're not being given a chance to pursue a meaningful major (see Michigan) then you're far, far worse than "arrogant"... you're an institution that legitimizes exploitation.

While all this plays out in the background (literally thousands of kids used by schools who dangle the possibility of college stardom and the NFL in front of them in exchange for their pledge to win one for the ripper) writers and talking heads stick their pens, computers and heads in the sand, ignore the obvious injustice and instead fruitlessly and mistakenly waste their time on perceived Notre Dame "arrogance."

The reality is this: Notre Dame graduates its players at an almost unprecedented rate for a top program. Notre Dame makes allowances for great athletes, but it also immerses those athletes in a culture that breeds success. Other schools wall off their best athletes and treat them like zoo attractions, living in special dorms, making them eat at "football only" cafeterias and unburdening them with high level classes.

While the majority of Michigan's players are forced into "football majors" that lead to nowhere, an examination of Notre Dame players shows that they're being "herded" into the 3rd best undergraduate business school in the country... and even players who were considered marginal students when they arrived in South Bend are succeeding because they're finally being taught how to succeed.

Here's what's different: At Notre Dame, these athletes are surrounded by competitive students AND great football players. At other schools they're treated so differently they never develop the skills necessary to compete in the real world. This isn't to say football players don't get special assistance, they do, but they're given it with the expectation that it will make them better... and it works.

The irony of the attacks of the masses on Notre Dame is that most of the attacks come from educated professionals who absolutely know better, but still can't help themselves. When Charlie Weis says he's not going to recruit thugs, part of that is just blunt talking Charlie prone to a touch of hyperbole, but part of that is fact. I won't name names, but there are kids playing in South Central who would be considered thugs by normal society; they have arrest records for assault that were known before they were recruited. They're what normal society considers thugs.

Is that arrogance to state you're not going to recruit thugs...

or is it sanity?

He's mirroring Bill Parcell's comments last year: "I don't want thugs and hoodlums on the team," Parcells said of the types of players he'll try to acquire. "I really don't. I don't want bad-character guys. I don't want problem children." - Bill Parcells

Notre Dame's won the CFA award more than any other major college football program. It's also won more national championships. It also graduates almost 100% of the student athletes who enroll there and stay for four years and it does that by supporting them and immersing them in a culture that's "inclusionary" rather than exclusionary. The team GPA has set records under Weis because he makes players become students. Notre Dame isn't the only school having success here, either.

How anyone with an ounce of empathy for the kids who are being used by big time programs can point at this as anything other than a positive boggles the senses. Look, Mario Manningham scored a 6 on the Wonderlic, not a 16, a 6. A 20 equals an IQ of a 100. Of 5 players scoring over 30 that were released, 3 were from Notre Dame.

The other day a New York Times writer of little note (yes that's the dork from Jersey on the left) decried the fact that Notre Dame wanted to play Rutgers' home games in a big time venue (and wrote that column with the tone and maturity of a jilted school girl) yet made no mention of the fact that other schools such as Ohio State aren't even giving any home games to some of their opposition. None. Zero. You play us and thank us for the privilege. He also failed to mention that Notre Dame's Big East affiliation helped saved the Big East from falling into oblivion and is the reason it's able to negotiate secondary bowl deals. What Notre Dame is doing is what's happening all over college football. Big schools are padding their schedules, moving to play more games at home and just aren't agreeing to home and homes. The rules are changing. That's the story and it's not hard to figure out.

Look at who the Buckeyes played out of conference last year:

Youngstown State (Alumni Band) Columbus, Ohio

Akron (Hall of Fame) Columbus, Ohio

Washington at Seattle, Wash.

Kent State Columbus, Ohio

And Youngstown State doesn't even get a home game out of the deal. It's an away and an away. They play in Columbus next year as well. Neither does Akron. Of course that's more money, but what about the spirit of the game? I can hear you snickering. The havenots have to play Ohio State on Columbus turf. The Buckeyes won't set foot in Akron, Youngstown or Troy all of whom are on the OSU schedule. They don't have to because they know the payday is worth it to the havenots. So Ohio Sate can schedule these teams pretty much as they want with no notion of a fair trade. The Gators are are doing the same thing. They play(ed) Western Kentucky, Troy and Florida Atlantic all in Gainesville. None will entertain the Gators for a home game.

Now, I'm not saying Notre Dame is right here (I don't agree with it)... but the lack of professional perspective by a New York Times writer is... uh... never mind. The reality is that it's happening all over the country, but this "balanced writer" would rather focus on ND "arrogance," ignore perspective and the serious problems underpinning college football which are these:
  • Players are being paid rather blatantly across the country. Want an easy story, just show up in the parking lot of any big time school or show up at their off campus apartment. No one in the media cares.
  • Players don't graduate and don't make the NFL. No one in the media cares.
  • Players graduate with useless majors. No one in the media cares.
  • Teams over recruit players (this is you Nick Saban) knowing they're going to have to kick some players to the curb. No one in the media cares.
  • Teams win while violating almost every ethical standard surrounding student-athletes. No one in the media cares.
  • Schools are scheduling cupcakes to increase their chances of making the BCS. No one in the media cares.
  • The conference superpowers engineer fictitious conference games for extra revenue, while killing the idea of a playoff. No one in the media cares.
Enough of this posing, then hiding and accusing of the Irish by the media to get attention. Enough. If you can't confront the elephant sitting on your lap swilling Bud with you on Saturday, the elephant that tells you schools are using and abusing kids, don't suddenly act as if you're now the conscience of football and vent at a school who hasn't sunk close to that level of exploitation. You should jump up on your soap box and proclaim that Notre Dame, Duke and even, yes, BC are doing things the right way instead of looking for reasons to tear them down into the gutter with the rest of college football.

In short, show some guts you collection of vapid, attention seeking hypocrites.

Recognize what's impossible to miss and embrace the good that's going on around you, because if you don't your profession (presumably your life's work) is worth exactly what a fleeting moment of air time or day of Internet hits is worth, just a small inconsequential blip on the corporate bottom line.

Aim to be something greater than a media "hair puller" looking for a reaction.

Enough of the bullshit.


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Crossing the Chasm (How ND Could Make the BCS)

To be upfront, I don't think it's likely that the Irish will make the BCS. I do think that (if the dominoes fall correctly) the Irish are capable of it. How could Notre Dame possibly get there after a 3-9 season? I think several things have to happen and they have to happen in concert with one another. To a certain extent these are dependent variables, if one happens it makes it much more likely that the others will.

1. First and foremost we can't lose our key players. These guys can't get hurt:
  • Jimmy Clausen
  • Dan Wenger
  • Sam Young
  • Ian Williams
  • Brian Smith
  • Kerry Neal
  • Darrin Walls
We could afford to lose some of these players and have a good season, but not a BCS season.

2. We're going to need several players to "cross the chasm," grow from decent players or players with promise to very good to great players. Every year that teams make a substantial leap forward, we see some key players make this leap. This list is long.

On offense:

  • Jimmy Clausen has to age up quickly. Most players in his year would still be considered freshmen. Clausen needs to make a quantum leap to a 65% passer if we're going to be top team.
  • Golden Tate needs to become a play-maker instead of a "go route" deep threat. It's obvious to everyone that he has the speed and the hands to be a special player, the kind of player that can force a defense to loosen up. I'd also like to see us get him the ball on reverses and out of the backfield. If we do that he also becomes an effective decoy.
  • The offensive line on the whole needs to make a quantum leap forward, but Sam Young and Chris Stewart have a chance to be dominating on run plays. If we can get a consistent push on that side of the line, then I expect Hughes and Allen to be able to be able to put up 100 yard games. Of course they (and the running backs) have to get better at pass blocking.
I actually feel as if these players all have a decent shot at crossing the chasm. On defense, there's hope and it begins with Mo Richardson.
  • Richardson has to make the jump from potential to playmaker. Word is that despite his size issue (not that much off Vernon Gholston) that Richardson has the strength to play defensive end. If Richardson can make this jump, the odds of Irish wins will increase exponentially. Don't rule out John Ryan finally growing into the position he should have been playing all along.
  • Ian Williams is another player who just has to get mature before his time. He was productive when he played last season, he has the size and a nice burst off the line. If Williams can make the jump along with Richardson then our chances for a good to great season go up dramatically.
  • A middle linebacker. Will someone please rise to the occasion here?
  • I'm not the least bit worried about our defensive backfield, we're as talented as we've been there in 15 years.
What gives me great hope on defense (despite the lack of seniors and 5th years) is that we seem to have a cohesive coaching staff for the first time in years. Jappy deserves credit for the performance of the defensive line last season, whether it's because of the influence of Brown or the lack of Minter, he coached up a better than expected defensive line last season. With Tenuta coaching the linebackers and Brown with the defensive backs, I'm expecting to see a completely different curve as far as player development is concerned. We could see some surprise players next year like Harrison (not Hunter) Smith. Though Smith becoming a player wouldn't be much of a surprise -- how we use him will be. What do you do with a kid that talented?

3. We're going to need our freshmen to come to the party ready to play. In order, I think Ethan Johnson, Michael Floyd, Brandon Newman and Darius Fleming are going to have to be battle ready to provide depth. I'm most excited about Johnson's ability to come in and make plays, this is a guy USC wanted badly. Floyd will be our best receiver (unless Tate improves) by the end of the season. Newman has to be able to spell Ian (and there's some good buzz on Hafis Williams as well.) Since we're apparently going to be brining the sink on every play, Fleming and possibly Filer are going to have to be able to step in and rush the passer. Luckily, this is usually one of the easier things for Freshmen to do. If these players can not only push the starters, but break through I think we'll see them immediately raise the level of play across the board. One thing that has to help with recruiting is Weis's propensity to play the best player regardless of seniority. At one time we had eleven freshmen starting last year. Of course the downside is that we're still painfully young. Most teams consider our sophomores to be freshmen, juniors to be sophomores, seniors to be juniors and 5th years to be seniors.

4. Commit to the running game. Give Clausen a breather and use our deep stable of backs. Play Action off the running game and allow our junior led offensive line to develop consistency and rhythm. Remember, even a one yard running gain can generate positive momentum. A sack is devastating. I really believe that Weis's sense memory killed us the last two years. While his situational playcalling instincts may have been right, in my opinion he still called plays as if the Patriots were executing them. And in theory, the plays should have worked, but in reality the moving parts, blocking schemes and inexperience made even simple plays look like goat ropes.

5. Complete the transformation. To be blunt, we've been told that there wasn't good team chemistry the past two years. Lack of senior numbers and talent greatly affected team leadership. Last year's team was rudderless. The real leaders were simply too young to lead and the older players were marginalized. This is actually fairly natural when you have such a dichotomy of talent and numbers between tenured players and newcomers. As I've written before, there's just no way a small number of less talented players can effectively lead a larger number of more talented younger players. With Weis's first real class now juniors, I think we'll start to see the benefits of that transition this year and it will be complete by '09.

6. The schedule has to give. I've read countless posts about how easy our schedule looks this year, but I'm not buying it, yet. Too many times I've seen us project an easy schedule only to have two-thirds of those teams gel and reach bowl games (the opposite is also true.) Looking at the schedule I do see some gimmes, SDSU, Syracuse and Navy. Other than those three I don't see absolute locks, though I do think it's more probable the Irish will see easier games against teams like BC, Purdue and Washington. North Carolina and Pitt are going to surprise some people this year and will not be easy games. I don't know what to think about Stanford. What's funny about fandom, is that fans on some of these other teams are predicting lock wins against ND this year. Objectivity is not a fan trait.

Is all of this probable? No.

Is it possible? Yes.

Barring Major injuries the Irish should be bowl bound this year, but if some of our key players can "cross the chasm" this season could be the prelude to a memorable '09.

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why your choice of school matters? Because your school helps you develop your innate brain power. John Carlson had the highest reported score (and we haven't seen them all yet) on the Wonderlic test among NFL potential draftees with a 40. Michigan's Mario Manningham led all low Wonderlic "testees" with a 6. That's right, not a 16, a 6. Of the 5 scores over 30, 3 were from ND players. Of the 3 scores over 35, 2 were ND players.

Dennis Dixon 29
Alex Brink 27
Chad Henne 22
John David Booty 14
Andre Woodson 14

Rashard Mendenhall 23
Jacob Hester 23
Felix Jones 22
Jonathan Stewart 20
Matt Forte 16
Owen Schmitt 15

Jordy Nelson 28
James Hardy 14
Mario Manningham 6

John Carlson 40

Branden Albert 19
Carl Nicks 18
King Dunlap 32
Oniel Cousins 11
Roy Schuening 28
Mike Pollak 24
Jeremy Zuttah 26
John Sullivan 35

Vernon Gholston 21
Phillip Merling 13
Lawrence Jackson 25
Jason Jones 24
Sedrick Ellis 15
Trevor Laws 30
Frank Okam 39

Zbikowski reportedly scored a 26. Well above average.

Good Rock, Bad Rock, Split Rock

I really want this team to be very good, but as I look across the team landscape I can see we're going to be dealing with both inconsistencies throughout the year and playing sleight of hand to hide our weaknesses.

On offense, we're going to have some very good success in the passing game, but also be vulnerable to a couple of problems that could lead to some brutal games and unexpected losses.

Clausen and the offensive line both look much better, but we're not there. Clausen is still behind where Quinn was going into his Junior year (as you would expect) and seems to be struggling with his progressions (okay, he doesn't look like he's going through progressions.) When he makes a throw, it's a lay--zer. He's got a hell of an arm, but under duress he's probably going to have trouble and make some poor decisions. Our offensive line looks very good while run blocking, but still has problems picking up the blitz and defending against outside speed rushers. On top of those two problems, our wide receivers are just not improving as you would hope at this point. Duval, as was noted by Mike Frank's board coaches, seems to have a concentration problem. That's not good. One dropped pass kills a drive, as does a sack and we're probably going to see a fair amount of both this year. Remember last year, over 50% of Clausen's pass attempts resulted in either incompletions or sacks. Golden Tate, if he's coached well, could be a very good receiver for the Irish. But Duval's seeming regression comes on top of poor wide receiver development last year and a regression of McKnight and Samardzija the year before. Something's not working in our development of our wide receivers. I expect us to be better in the passing game because we've improved our OL play and Cluasen has notably matured, but also to show a lot of inconsistency.

Our running game looks substantially better, but is it because our Offensive Line has improved (good rock) or that our defensive line is woeful (bad rock?) It's clear that Hughes should be the starting back and workhorse. Hughes will almost always get you positive yards either with his feet, his vision or brute strength and shows good speed in the 0-20 zone. You can win a National Championship with a guy like that. Armando Allen still looks blazing fast, be he has a tendency to run toward contact. BREAK IT OUTSIDE, ARMANDO.... BREAK IT OUTSIDE. If I'm Hayward I'd make Allen run it only outside during practice. He's a tough inside runner, but he leaves big chunks of yardage on the table because he's always trying to run it inside. Ironic, given his 40 speed. Allen seems to lack the vision and the instincts of Hughes, but his raw speed makes him dangerous.

On defense, we're going to be in for a long year unless the freshmen come ready to play. The book on ND will be fairly simple, run at us and wear us down (bad rock.) On the plus side, I haven't seen as talented a secondary as this year's in 15 years and you can see the value that seniors bring in our secondary. Lambert, Bruton and McCarthy all took 3-4 years to develop and now we're seeing the payoff. None was ranked higher than a 3-star, but with time and some good basic talent, they're turning into very good players. Behind them is a slew of talent. Harrison Smith stands out among the standouts.

We need to find a kicking and punting solution, if not it will cost us games.

Overall, a lot of positives from the Blue-Gold Game, but nothing that moved the needle one way or the other (excuse the sloppiness of grammar, got to get to work.) I would say, Saturday created some reasons for hope for a better than expected season.

We're going to be better on offense and probably vulnerable on defense.

Here are some of our poster evaluations:



1) The Offensive Line: They Played with an attacking attitude and was physical when run blocking.

2) Robert Hughes: The Kid is a horse, who has great feet/quickness (for a 235 pound RB) and He plays with a passion that fires up the rest of the offense! IMO, he reminds me of a quicker, stronger, more elusive and better version of Ron Dayne!

3) Armando Allen: I like the way He hit the hole (He attacked the line Of scrimmage and ran well between the tackles), He showed great quickness, good speed and made some sharp cuts. He And Robert will make a great 1-2 tandem!

4) Jimmy: He looked, bigger, stronger, showed much better arm strength and poise. Also, He showed improved mobility and threw well on the run!

5) Mike Ragone: He showed great athleticism for a TE (He mad a great catch, when he went over B Smith for the ball) and plays with a nasty attitude. As long as he stays healthy, He has talent to be an impact player at TE!

6) Golden Tate: He showed great speed/quickness and explosiveness (in and out of his breaks and on the bomb that he blew by Gary Gray). Also, He made a tremendous leaping one handed catch. IMO, this kid can be as good as former MICH WR Mario M, (Tate is that talented)!

7) The offense play calling was committed to establishing a power running game (A must for ND, especially this year when we must control the clock to keep a suspect run defense off the field)!

8) David Grimes - Showed good quickness and looks to be a good NBR 3-4 WR type.


1) Poor WR Play: I counted 5 passes that should have been caught by our WR’s (Duval K, Especially). Beside Tate, the rest of the WR’s did not show me that they got much separation from the DB’s. Also, they need work on running their patterns better (I blame this on our WR coach, who I feel is not a very good WR coach). IMO, because of the issues I just mentioned at WR, Michael Floyd (A great WR recruit who reminds me of EX NFL WR Michael Irvin) will play from day one as a FROSH!

2) Pass protection from our OT’s (Especially Paul Duncan) needs work (They have problems with speed rushers). In fairness to our OT’s, they will not face a better group of pass rushing DE’s (Except for USC) of B Smith, M Richardson and Kerry Neal.


I feel that this team has a chance to be a very good running offensive team and in time, a good passing team (As long as our young WR’s develop). This year’s offense will put a much better product on the field then last year’s offense. IMO, with all the experience this talented(but young) collection of offensive skill players will get this season, ND’s 2009 offense, can be a great offensive unit!


Obviously, it's hard to tell much from watching scrimmages like this, but there were a few things that stood out. Our offense seemed to have a lot of trouble getting set in time to beat the play clock. They burned a lot of timeouts and racked up quite a few penalties in such a short game. Granted, this is just spring so there's time to sort this stuff out, but I thought they should have done better, considering how many returning starters we have on that side of the ball.

Our receivers made some good catches. They weren't so good at getting open (or our defensive backs are going to be great in coverage), but they still caught a lot of passes thrown to the one place where they could catch it.

Which brings us to Clausen. He's still got his amazing accuracy. He's also a lot more confident in his arm and was willing to throw some riskier passes than he was last year. I thought that last year he was much too cautious, so I was somewhat happy to see the change. I say "somewhat" happy because it looked like he went too far the other way. Some of his passes were pretty poor decisions, like the interception for touchdown, but his pure accuracy bailed him out a number of times. The good news is that he's shown the ability to change, now I hope he can find a happy medium between being too cautious and too risky.


Armando Allen needs to learn that the sideline can be your friend. He has the speed to get there and players are not allowed to tackle you from the bench. He is losing opportunities for big gains.
It is clear Robert Hughes runs with his eyes open.
Our defense seems more adept at picking up screens and guys releasing out of the backfield. It was so frustrating last year to see backs uncovered, and know BC was going to run that screen pass any time they needed 8 yards. It would be a big boost to our defense to eliminate these problems.

Clausen impressed me. Don't forget our pass defense is supposed to be our strongest suit. He looked much better in the pocket and made accurate passes while moving in the pocket ala Montana. His arm is noticeably better.

There was improvement in the OL but some of them still need to expand their peripheral vision in pass protection.

I hope our punter just had an off day.

I was glad to see Golden Tate and Harrison Smith make big plays just because I personally want to see them on the field alot.

I will not be surprised if some of our Freshmen D-linemen see some playing time.


RClausen: 1) Still has youthful habit of staring down primary receivers. 2) Paradoxically, when the designed play broke down, he demonstrated an uncanny ability to find an open receiver and hit him with a strike. 3) Showed improved pocket presence and a quicker release, which should yield fewer sacks this year. 4) Arm is noticeably stronger, but not yet Quinn-like. Hughes: 1) We have a running back that we can begin to control games with. He picks up 4-5 yards regularly, and the tough yards when needed. He has good vision, nimble feet, and doesn't subscribe to the notion that you automatically fall down when the first guy hits you. 2) Still not much of a threat coming out of the backfield on passing plays. Allen: 1) His quickness is apparent. He is a legitimate threat to get to the corner, but still seems reluctant to do so. 2) Took some very hard shots, and still got up for more. Showed a little more toughness this spring, breaking a few tackles here and there. Tate: 1) Still raw, but he has enough speed to separate from DB's, can get vertical, and has great hands. He will become a major threat as his career developes.
Kamara: 1) Does not separate well from DB's, but he has the body to make plays in the red zone and possession situations. 2) Occasionally takes plays off, and has suspect hands. Grimes: 1) Not a homerun hitter, but he will make the defense pay if they relax on him. Has good hands, runs good routes, and ad libs well when the play breaks down. 2) General comment about our receivers is that we need Floyd to be as good as advertised, in order for defenses to fear our passing game. Offensive line: 1) Certainly more physical and aggressive. 2) Young is an absolute monster of a physical specimen. Ragone looked strangely small lining up next to him. 3) Young, Stewart, and Ragone on the right side should be able to move the line of scrimmage when we need a yard or two. 4) Less evidence of confusion and missed assignments, which is a great thing. 5) Still too many procedure penalties. 6) Jury is still out on pass protection. The format Saturday did not allow a clear perspective on this. 7) We can win six games just lining up and running the football. Defense Backs: 1) This is the strength of the team. Coverage skills and speed everywhere. Not that our receivers are a great benchmark, but they rarely got any separation. Clausen's completion percentage was low for the day, not because he was terribly inaccurate, but because it was a challenge finding an open receiver. 2) Walls is an NFL corner. 3) Harrison Smith needs to find the field. He is quick, likes to hit, and has a nose for the ball. Give me 10 more like him. 4) Gary Gray was very impressive. He was a siamese twin of most of the guys he covered. Linebackers: 1) Like the OL, this group was more aggressive than last year. 2) They will make a lot of plays this year. I fear, though, that strong running teams will move our front seven off the ball. Brown/Tenuta will have be created with run blitzes. Defensive Line: 1) There's just no ignoring that this is a weakness for the team. 2) It will help when Kuntz comes back, but the lack of size, veterans, and numbers will wear heavily on the team this year. 3) If it wasn't for this weakness on the team, I would be very optimistic about our chances in 2008.

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Got Talent?

The following was posted by Revue Party yesterday on Rock's House. Here are the highlights.
  • Of note, Irish 5th year and senior classes are only stronger than Syracuse, Washington and Navy on next year's schedule. The Irish give up significant "seniority" to Boston College, North Carolina, Michigan, USC, North Carolina and even Stanford.
  • When including the Junior class, Notre Dame jumps on par with Michigan and over Pittsburgh, but still below that of USC and North Carolina.
  • When including the Sophomore classes, only North Carolina and USC are significantly higher than Notre Dame.
Here's Revue Party's full post (I wanted to do this, but was too lazy.)

After all of the excitement from yesterday's Blue & Gold game, I figured I'd go back and compare the relative talent we have versus the teams on our 2008 schedule. I simply took each team's roster and added up the Rivals' star ratings by class. Obviously, this isn't the best way to evaluate talent but on a quiet Sunday afternoon, it was the best I could do. That's why I refer to it as "raw talent" - meaning raw numbers.

One of the concerns I have from yesterday is that the sophomore class is expected to carry a heavy load this year at key positions (Clausen, Allen, Hughes, Ragone, Kamara, Tate, Neal, B. Smith, H. Smith, I. Williams, G. Gray (maybe), B. Walker). This is still a fairly young team.

Observations from the numbers:

1. The gift of Ty Willingham's recruiting efforts keeps giving. This year, however, it's primarily in terms of numbers among the 5th years. Three 5th year seniors is the smallest number by far against our competition. We are one of only a few teams that have no 5th years along the offensive line.

2. Remarkably, the lack of much turnover among our senior class, allows us to stack up fairly well against the competition. Considering that nearly every senior this year plays a key role, that's a good sign. Unfortunately, when you combine our 5th years with our seniors, only Washington and Navy has less raw talent.

3. We've narrowed the talent gap with Michigan. The combination of Weis' recruiting and high-level defections have helped this occur. Given the level of uncertainty with a new coach, a new offense and a new quarterback, we just might have a shot to beat Michigan this year.

4. The team that should keep us up at night is North Carolina. Here's a team that has more raw talent than us though the sophomore class - adding up the 5th, Sr., Jr. and So. numbers (largely because of their large 5th year class), returns 19 starters and has a proven college head football coach on the sidelines - and the game is in Chapel Hill.

5. Pittsburgh's got some talent. While every Dolphins and Bears fan can discuss Wannstedt's head coaching prowess, he did knock off #2 WVU at the end of last year. This is a game about which to be concerned.

6. There is absolutely no reason to lose to Purdue this year.

On paper, this is a team that could go 9-3. But with a team still dominated by youth, games like Michigan State, Boston College and even Stanford could be in doubt.

Last year taught us that nothing can be taken for granted. While I believe that youth and inexperience (especially along the OL, at QB and WR - the whole offense) played a big role in last year's disaster, it doesn't explain losses to Air Force, Navy and, in hindsight, Georgia Tech.

I think most of us are going to be a lot more cautious with our predictions and expectations in 2008.

Below is the summary table, showing the incremental raw talent by class.

5th & 5th & 5th, Sr. All

Seniors Sr. & Jr. Jr., So. Classes
Southern Cal 77 153 229 303
Michigan 71 126 189 276
Notre Dame 48 123 190 281
Pittsburgh 55 117 184 244
North Carolina 67 141 210 267
Michigan State 64 111 168 225
Washington 39 77 137 213
Purdue 58 92 139 201
Boston College 67 107 154 236
San Diego St. 57 77 121 173
Syracuse 41 83 129 195
Stanford 62 103 153 199
Navy 12 16 18 46

And here's the raw data by class, as well as returning starters.

Actual Actual Actual Actual Actual Actual Returning

2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 Raw Total Starters
Southern Cal 17 60 76 76 74 303 12
Michigan 26 45 55 63 87 276 11
Notre Dame 8 40 75 67 91 281 17
Pittsburgh 15 40 62 67 60 244 15
North Carolina 30 37 74 69 57 267 19
Michigan State 25 39 47 57 57 225 12
Washington 24 15 38 60 76 213 15
Purdue 27 31 34 47 62 201 13
Boston College 28 39 40 47 82 236 11
San Diego St. 19 38 20 44 52 173 13
Syracuse 20 21 42 46 66 195 14
Stanford 21 41 41 50 46 199 13
Navy 0 12 4 2 28 46 12

* returning starters lifted from a Mike Frank analysis. Mike, if I need to remove this, let me know.

** I didn't pick up any transfers "in" which will affect some schools, such as USC (Mitch Mustain).

*** Since this was done manually, there's ample opportunity for error.

Weis to Get Wood?

The nation's top ranked running back, Cierre Wood, is coming to South Bend this weekend on an UNofficial visit. Wood averaged more than 14 yards a carry last year and has offers from every big time program in the country and headlines a what has turned into a surprisingly strong lineup of recruits coming in for Saturday's game. Including these , according to Mike Frank:

Cierre Wood
Craig Roh
Tyler Stockton
Anthony LaLota
EJ Banks
Jake Golic
Devonte Holloman
Jordan Barrett

Note, that Roh, LaLota, Barrett and Stockton are DLs and ILBs, our two weakest areas heading into 2008. Wood would be Notre Dame's highest ranked running back recruit in recent memory. Here's his Rivals highlight reel and a couple of youtubes of his performances.

Gold Flanks, Stinky Pits and ND

Offered without comment.