Rock's House | Cartier Field | Back Room | Political | Career | The Pit | Alumni Events | McGraw's Bench | Jake's Field | Jackson's Rink | Olympic | Fantasy Sports | Chat

Pat Kuntz Back on Campus

as per IrishinScranton. It appears both Yeatman and Kuntz will be ready to play in '08. Kuntz played at NT last year, but with the emergence of Ian Williams many are speculating whether Kuntz will be moved to DE. Kuntz was one of Charlie Weis's first recruits and one of the original tough guys brought in to change the team's attitude. Kuntz started 10 games last year and finished 7th on the team in tackles.

The Last Line of Defense

After being ridiculed and dissected for years, Notre Dame's secondary appears to be the deepest and most talented personnel group on the Irish team. In Walls, Lambert, McCarthy and Bruton the Irish return experience, speed and possibly the most talent since the 1993 team. But it's not just the first team (for once) that has ND fans excited, its the combination of talent, experience and depth. Here's how NDNation posters break down Notre Dame's defensive backfield:

OK -- by omahadomer

N.D. has some of the best experience and talent in the nation at cornerback (I didn't think I'd live long enough to write that honestly). Walls has AA potential as a sophomore. He has good speed and technique and is excellent at locating the ball. Walls needs to improve in run support but did make headway last year. Lambert at the other corner probably has the best track speed on the team, which allows him to recover from his mistakes. He does occasionally struggle locating the ball. Gray had by all accounts an excellent spring and reportedly has talent on the order of Walls. McNeil also had an excellent spring and looked OK in spot duty last year. Those four will allow N.D. the flexibility of play nickel or dime without having to risk getting a burner on a safety.

At safety, Bruton probably has the best NFL potential of anyone likely to come out this year. He's fast, tough and a tremendous athlete. Safety doesn't have quite the experienced depth of CB, but is a positive situation. McCarthy is better in coverage than Zibby was, though isn't yet the presence back there that Zibby was in terms of receivers fearing the big hit. As for depth, Harrison Smith was remarkable in the spring game and won defensive MVP honors. Gaines and Brown reportedly had good springs and it's now or never for them if they are going to be major contributors.

Last line of defense by nddl99

The starters:
CB--Terrail Lambert
CB--Darrin Walls
FS--David Bruton
SS--Kyle McCarthy

Second group:
CB--Raeshon McNeil
CB--Gary Gray
S--Sergio Brown
S?--Harrison Smith

1. The first thing that strikes me is that the *second* group above could itself qualify as a more talented secondary than some starting groups we've had before (though, with very little overall experience). One of our biggest strengths this year is quality depth. This is a big deal, too. Picture this scenario: your starting CB goes down to injury, and in the next play the newbie is immediately torched by the opposing team. Like Corwin Brown said, one mistake in the secondary and the other band is playing its fight song. It's a common occurence in college football, but I just don't see that happening this year.

2. In addition, I expect to see all the players in the second group play in situational circumstances. In Harrison Smith's case, the "situation" may well be the majority of the game. While he is nominally a safety, he took instruction part-time from both Corwin and Tenuta this summer so I expect him to play like more of a hybrid player -- perhaps even like the apache position that was part of the original Minter installment 3 years ago.

3. The first group is both capable and dynamic. God help the opponent that manages to let the ball get in Terrail Lambert's hands, because you aren't going to catch him. He lacks the hip swivel and stop-on-a-dime instincts to be a first day NFL pick, but he is talented enough to make it to the next level if he has a productive year. In high school, Lambert was regarded as one of the heaviest hitters on the team, and I'd like to see that aspect of his game brought out a little more, as he has seemed tentative at times. Walls has first day pick written all over him. He tied for the team lead in PBUs last year as a true sophomore, and he perhaps developed faster than any other sophomore on the team. He's turned out to be the crown jewel of the class. Bruton gave us quite a show with his coverage skills in center field last year, and we'll need that to continue if (as is likely) our DL lacks the front-line talent to constantly harass the QB. If Bruton can get even better (he was already good) that will free up McCarthy to play with reckless abandon in run support. Overall, the Bruton-McCarthy combo is likely to be better at pass defense, but worse at run stopping and turnover-causing than Zibby-Bruton and Zibby-Ndukwe before them. Both must compliment eachother's strengths and weaknesses to ensure both center field protection and also run defense support.

I checked again and came to the conclusion that every guy by BIG MAC

Every guy on the two deep will (barring major injury) probably make an NFL roster some day. That is impressive. Kudos to Coach Lewis and Coach Brown for some excellent recruiting.

Bruton and Walls are poised for big years by Camarillo Brillo

David Bruton is a ball hawk and a great hitter. Tough as nails. Walls has the ability to be a real shut down cornerback. Harrison Smith looked great in the Blue and Gold game. Lambert has plenty of experience. McNeil has done some good things on the field.

I think this secondary has the potential to be one of the best we've had in the past 10 years or so. Yet I am concerned because unless we dramatically improve our pass rush and overall run defense, this unit will still struggle.

Last year a true freshman quarterback (Ryan Mallett) threw 3 touchdown passes against us. Another young qb, Mark Sanchez for USC, tossed at least 2 TD passes. Brian Hoyle of MSU gashed the secondary for FOUR touchdown passes at South Bend.

Matt Ryan of BC and the QB for Purdue also had no trouble moving the ball through the air.

Probably a lot of the passing success of the QBs named above were on account of ND's inability to stop the run or get a consistent rush. Those two factors must change or else this defense will give up 24+ points per game.

It will be a challenge to generate a better pass rush w/o Laws by BIG MAC

Hopefully an improved linebacker group and an improved blitz scheme can mitigate that somewhat.

Walls is underrated in run support... by Irishlord

He was one of the few to deliver a big hit in Navy game. If he was our shut down corner- he very rarely gets the green light to explode into a running play. He is a great athlete willing to hit. There is vey little to fault him on. I thought his interception return against PSU should get him a look in the return game.

I wish Lambert was more consistent. If he steps up in that department, he could be very good as well and maybe play on Sundays.

Bruton has shown his willingness to hit and seems to play very smart. He has the physical tools so I expect him to be a real leader on the defense.

I get the feeling McCarthy understands Tenuta and they click. He needs a little more swagger which may come if the defense starts posting a bunch of 3 and outs.
I am excited about the prospects of Gray and Harrison Smith. What I have seen I like so far.

Rashon McNeil- I have to admit I didn't focus on him in the Blue Gold game. It has been reported he improved during the Spring. He is still a question mark for me, but in a positive way.

Walls will be stronger and more experienced this year by BIG MAC

That will definitely assist him in the run support aspect of his game. Kids can make a lot of progress in a year or two and physical and mental maturity are huge factors. We had an extremely young team last year. This year's team will be young also, but not as much so and I expect to see notable improvement.

A few notes by Irish in Scranton

1. Many do not realize that Notre Dame ranked third best among teams in pass defense this year, only allowing 161.6 YPG. The Irish return 3 starters from their base defense in 07. Hopefully, they can keep up the outstanding play and get some help from the front 7.

2. Although Walls and Lambert have the ability to lock down most receivers on the outside, they leave some to be desired in run support. This means the OLB position needs to be absolutely sound in reading their keys and not letting backs turn the corner.

Our defense was not the problem with the team last year by pmcdnd96

That's the bottom line. Was it on a par with the greatest ND defenses of all time? Not at all. But if the offense played as well as the defense, we would have been looking at a record more like 7-5. Still unacceptable, but nobody would have been talking about firing Weis. (Actually, I know better than that - people will talk about firing Weis every time we lose a game. But there would have been no rational basis for asking for Weis' head)

The 02 secondary was pretty good by IrishGuard

Walls, Lambert, Bruton, and McCarthy have potential to be great, but I remember Baer commenting that they could do anything the wanted re: alignment, coverages, pressure packages, etc., with Walton, Duff, Earl, and Sapp locking down the secondary.

Still, this year's DBs are going to cover a lot of the sins of the front seven. Our Lady of the coverage sack, pray for us.

This point can not be overstated by The Oak

With a talented and deep secondary, it is almost like gaining an extra defender. If our corners and free safety can lock down opposing receivers, it will free up the strong safety to help the front seven. That could be huge.

Munir Prince by InspectorClouseau

While he only spent one year as a DB, Prince's departure seems to indirectly indicate that a) we have a skilled secondary and b) playing time will be tough to come by in the near future.

While Prince's decision to transfer back to Mizzou involved a multitude of issues (he seemed to indicate that Notre Dame just wasn't the right fit), I'm sure playing time was a factor.

Prince is a great athlete who will probably exceed expectations under Pinkel (IIRC, he'll play DB there as well). That said, I think his departure indicates our secondary is in decent shape.

Walls is living up to his potential when recruited by Paddy O'Furniture

He was billed as a shut down corner, if I am correct.

The other positive is that we are deep at the position.

A negative could be that they will need to come out strong being able to play the run due to our line play, which could hurt passing.

Here's to hoping that the line will be much better than any of us are expecting.

re: Secondary by 96_ND


Depth: At both the cornerback and safety positions there is good depth at both the corner and safety positions. At corner back Walls, McNeil, and Lambert were contributors last year and we will have Gray back. I am not sure how much time Blanton will get but he may see the field some as well. I think that the safety position will be solid with the players that we have returning. Bruton, McCarthy, and Smith were each solid contributors last year and I do not see much of a drop off from the starters from last year.


Production: Unfortunately the group is somewhat unaccomplished. Last year the team only had 11 interceptions. Since 2000 the most the team has had was 21 in 2002 when Shane Walton had 7. Bruton was our team leader with 3, while there were 57 players in college football last year had 5 or more interceptions. The returning group only broke-up 15 passes according to UND stats. If we are going to have an aggressive defense this year the secondary is going to need to make plays so that we don't get burned on blitzing downs.

I think the best stat is defensive passer rating by 84david

We were 22nd in that statistic.

Efficiency Rating by 96_ND

My concern with this stat, as mentioned on RH, is that teams may have passed less against us last year since they were able to build early leads and run the clock. I think that could skew the stat in our favor, but correct me if I am wrong.

My concern still relates to the demonstrated production of a talented secondary.

Middle of the pack by gozer

63rd of 119 in percentage of passes intercepted. It should be noted though that there isn't much of a spread. One more interception would have moved us up 14 spots. One more every 3 games (4 more on the year) would have moved us up 50. One fewer on the season, we drop 8 spots. 2 fewer, we're down to 84th. Looking at the numbers, int % isn't very telling of a teams success.

Teams averaged by ND Stitch

35.5 pass attempts against us per game in '04
~34 per game in '05
~26 per game in '06
~28 per game in '07

If that information helps anybody's case, I'm not sure. But 2007 certainly wasn't the year of the run against ND any more than 2006 was.

EDIT: I didn't look at percentage of plays that were passes. It could be that the number of passes per game against was up because teams got to run a lot more plays against us. Same goes for 2006 with the funky clock rules causing 14 fewer plays per game. I guess that's next, if I can find the data online.

Carlo Calabrese is Irish

The 6-foot-2, 225-pound linebacker committed on his mother's birthday over Rutgers, Boston College, Maryland, N.C. State, Pitt, and Florida.

Analyst Tom Lemming described Calabrese as a player in the "nasty" mold Weis is looking for. "He's got a great football mind and a great football attitude... he's the type of guy you're going to have to plug him in somewhere just because of his attitude. Very aggressive, good football instincts."

"I just want the fans at Notre Dame to know that they’re getting a tough, hard-nosed player that likes to knock the crap out of people, that much I can guarantee..." (Carlo Calabrese, May 2008).

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

One thing seems certain, Irish football fortunes are going to snap back faster than the housing market. For the first time since 2005 I'm forecasting returns above guidance for the Irish. Of course, that doesn't mean much coming on the heels of last season's clusterbacle, but this season looks like a good buying opportunity.

I knew the Irish were over-hyped in 2006, because we were in prime over-hype position. We greatly exceeded expectations in 2005 and we were returning players at the glamor positions, which is all any preseason prognosticators have the ability to focus on. Yet we had significant losses and weaknesses. Michigan was in a similar over-hype position last season, after exceeding expectations in 2006 and returning glamor players at quarterback, running back and wide receiver.

Heading into 2008, the Irish are now in a prime under-hype position. Notre Dame underperformed against any expectation last year leading Athlon to rank the Irish 60th in the country in their pre-season rankings (purportedly.) But the Irish talent level is rising back to contender status and we should be in title race by 2009. This chart on the right shows four and five star players weighted to the junior, senior and 5th year classes. As you can see Notre Dame is spiking dramatically up this year (granted this was done before Rueland, Frazier, Carufel and Jones transferred,) but regardless you can see a sharp rebound for the Irish in 2008. And one reason I'm not as fazed by the defections is that everyone of those players was beaten out by a younger player.

I'm gaining slow confidence that we're going to see a significant Irish resurgence for three reasons.

First, the overall talent level is finally rising from underneath. That means for the first time in years, we're going to have heated competition at most positions. If you remember last year at the Blue and Gold game we didn't have enough offensive linemen to make a two deep. This year, we're going to have six talented and fairly seasoned offensive linemen who can almost legally drink and you have to like the potential of a guy like Chris Stewart and the attitude of players like Wenger, Turk and Olsen. And even at positions where we don't have great depth, we've at least got young talent coming in. It's certainly not a perfect mix, but it's hard to improve when your starters are young and surrounded by more young.

Second, Weis has made some very positive coaching moves the last two years. He deserves a great deal of credit for dumping Minter (they didn't mesh) and hiring Brown and now Tenuta. Those are outstanding additions and I think we'll see much better player development on defense. Additionally, Weis stepping out of the signal caller role shows great self-awareness (albeit forced a bit) and hopefully will lead to a stronger run-pass mix which will in turn set Clausen up for success.

Third, Clausen himself. Our quarterbacks were sacked over 50 times!!! last season and Clausen still put up respectable numbers. I think Jimmy showed much better toughness and field awareness than he got credit for considering almost every play was a jail break and our receivers were, to be kind, not yet ready for prime time. By the second half of this year (assuming we finally get some blocking,) I think Clausen will be playing at a very high level. Weis's offense demands accuracy from the quarterback, which is why I think Clausen could be playing at a higher level than Quinn in just his sophomore season. If our freshmen and sophomore wide receivers can reach their potential early and Hughes and Allen can create some room, we might see a dramatic jump up the offensive rankings this season.

Above all, despite poor recruiting and numbers in the senior and 5th year classes, we're finally going to have three straight classes with decent talent and numbers. We're building depth, something we never had under Davieham or in Weis's first three seasons. We're finally becoming a program school again.

And as I pointed out previously, just as everything can go wrong in a perfect storm like last season, just fixing one or two parts can snowball rapidly in a positive direction.

If this team can just start believing it can win, the Irish could become the surprise story of 2008.

Labels: , ,

Passing Inefficiency

Omahadomer has finally put some numbers behind my dead horse beaten argument that Notre Dame threw the ball far too much that last few years despite a sieve of an offensive line. If you add sacks in, Notre Dame completed... just 48% of passes attempted in 2007. More than half of our attempts went for zero or negative yards and 56 of those went for negative yards and another 9 gave the ball to the other team. What was even more shocking to me was how dreadful 2006 was in adjusted yards per attempt. Add back in sacks, and Quinn's completion % was 57% in 2006. Here's OD's analysis.
The "raw" yards per passing attempt is simply yards gained passing divided by passing attempts. An average figure for a college team is usually about 6.9 yards per attempt.

These figures are always higher than average yards per rushing attempt, which might lead one to wonder why teams ever run the ball. But running is a lower-risk proposition (lost fumbles on true running plays occur with only about 1/3 the frequency of turnovers on passing plays if one includes fumbles on snaps), the risk of a zero gain is lower and yards per passing attempt overstates the net benefits of passing.

In 2007 N.D. averaged 5.2 yards per passing attempt, which was one of the worst in the nation. But really it was worse than that. In 2006 N.D. averaged 7.3 per passing attempt (which was good) and in 2005 N.D. averaged 8.7 per passing attempt, which was excellent.

However, even those big differences understate how much better the passing attack was in 2005 and 2006 than it was in 2007. Sacks are really passing attempts too, so they should be counted as passing attempts and the negative yardage subtracted from the passing total. Moreover, interceptions should be counted as about negative 50 yards. Of course, not all interceptions are created equally. Some are basically harmless (e.g., a Hail Mary at the end of the half that's intercepted instead of being knocked down), once in awhile they're actually helpful (e.g., on 4th down the defender reflexively catches the ball instead of knocking it down which would actually result in better field position) and sometimes they're positively devastating (e.g., an interception returned 100 yards for a touchdown). But on average they deprive a team of a chance to advance the ball and at least to punt and change field position. So let's use negative 50 as a rough approximation.

So let's calculate a "net" yards per passing attempt as follows: (gross passing yardage - sack yardage - (interceptions x 50 yards))/(passing attempts plus sacks).

In 2005, Quinn's true yards per passing attempt was 7.3 yards per passing attempt and in 2006 it was 5.7. I'm not quite ready to say that these figures are the equivalent of rushing the ball for 7.3 or 5.7 per attempt, but they do suggest that a team that can put up numbers like that legitimately might favor the pass.

In 2005, N.D.'s "true" yards per rush was about 4.6 because that's what N.D.'s tailbacks who saw significant action (Walker and Thomas) averaged between them. So the 2005 might have rightfully been one where the play calls should have favored the pass.

In 2006 it was a more even proposition because N.D.'s tailbacks who got more than a few carries(Walker, Aldridge and Thomas) averaged about 4.9 per carry.

Now, if we turn to 2007, it's actually hard to see why N.D. rationally tried to throw the ball at all, except perhaps to keep teams from just playing the rush. N.D. averaged a pitiful 2.5 per passing attempt (there was no meaningful difference between Clausen and Sharpley; Clausen averaged 2.5 and Sharpley 2.6). However, while N.D.'s rushing attack was not as good per carry as it was in 2005 and 2006 it didn't see nearly the collapse that the passing game did. The five N.D. tailbacks who got carries last year (Aldridge, Allen, Hughes, Thomas and Jabbie) averaged just a hair over 4.0 per carry.

It's probably not news to anyone, but N.D. really would have been much better of running the ball more last year. I, for one, however underestimated just how much better off N.D. would have been being a run heavy team. However, if sacks are counted as passing attempts, N.D. actually attempted to pass on 54% of the plays from scrimmage, which was similar to prior years under Weis (56-44 passing in 2006 and 50.3-49.7 passing in 2005).

I hope the basic message of it from last year has gotten home to Weis and Haywood. I expect that N.D. will be more proficient passing the ball than it was last year. But N.D. needs to commit to the run and probably be a run-heavy team for next year. Unless the "true" yards per passing attempt at least doubles to the low 5's, N.D. is likely to be much better off keeping the ball on the ground for a large majority of the plays.
One hopes this two year trend is a "passing" one.

Labels: ,

A New Player in Town

Just wanted to make ND fans aware that an ND alum has gotten a really cool concept off the ground. Dave Finocchio and his partners (one's a USC grad) started a company called the Bleacher Report. The concept is very NDNation/BlueGraySkyish at its heart, that ardent fans know their stuff better than the writers who get paid to write articles. His inspiration was that someone had to be better than Jeff Carroll or David Haugh.... okay just kidding, the bar wasn't that low.

They've got a great concept going and you should check them out. Heck, they're smarter than me, they're getting paid for this stuff. Despite what that picture off on the left might suggest, Dave's a very cool guy. I met him for a couple of beers in Palo Alto last week came away very impressed... and just a tad bit jealous.

Go Irish!

The Fightin' Irish

Manners have their place. The football field is not one of them. For too long it seems that ND has been Monkified on the football field. Neutered, declawed, deboned, denied, defeated.

Thinking back, the Fightin' Irish haven't played with emotion and true grit as a team for years. Oh sure there have been a couple of games, but in many ways the team's play typified the effete lace curtain standard set by the old regime. Ever notice that niceness and politeness often give way to complacency and losing... almost becoming an excuse unto themselves because those other guys "didn't play by the rules?"

The reality is that the rules are defined by the field of play on that day. If the refs are allowing holding, you hold. If the refs are allowing physical play, you rise to the occasion and hit them in the mouth. Those who hide behind the rules are doomed to failure.
"Go out there and hit 'em, crack 'em, crack 'em, smack 'em! Fight to live. Fight to win, win, win, win!" - Knute Rockne
Every game has rules, but once you get on the field, the rules bend and sometimes break under the stress of competition. If you're going to win you have to press your man and many times the rules to the breaking point. That's life. Like Rockne said, you have to fight to live and fight to win. One of the things I give Charlie the most credit for is for not complaining about the Bush Push. USC did what they had to do and won. Those aren't the rules, but they were on that day.

And when the players do get into a fight here or there, talk a little trash or celebrate too much, Irish fans have to know, that's okay. It's part of the game. ND fans are full of micro policy police
worried that every brush with the edge will tarnish ND's reputation. Like the playground mother who won't let boys be boys because they worry how it will make them look... that we'll be like everyone else. Well, if that's fighting for victory, so be it.
"It's not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or how the doer of deeds could have done them better, but the man who is actually in the arena, who's face is marred by dust and sweat and blood." - Teddy Roosevelt
When ND won in '88, it wasn't always pretty. But guys like Stams and Pritchett would do whatever it took on the field to fight and win.

Now, of course there are boundaries and hopefully we won't look as stupid as Boston College tearing up the turf or MSU/USC planting flags. But I write this because Charlie's expecting a more vocal, more physical and more emotion filled football team this year... the Irish HAVE to play that way if they're going to win and we saw some evidence of that at the Blue and Gold game. But I expect fans to use some perspective when things don't look quite how they would have acted. We're going to look cocky sometimes and nasty at others.

Football is a violent sport and not always fair.

If the Irish are going to win, they're going to have to do it being the Fightin' Irish.

It is our legacy.

Labels: , ,

To Hell With Michigan

Come on Michigan fans, know your own damn history. Wolverine fans across the country are having a collective pantie bunch over Charlie Weis's stump speech that ended with a seeming low blow at "that team up north."

Here's what Charlie said according to the Detroit Free Press, "And then we'll listen to Michigan have all their excuses as they come running in and saying how they have a new coaching staff and there's changes. To hell with Michigan!"
As you would expect, Skunkbear nation reacted with little thought and much vitriol... using really imaginative slams such as fat jokes and calling him a "Blowhard."

It might even seem like a new low in the Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry, except it's not new at all. In fact, the line is a reference to Bo Schembechler. Turns out that Charlie is a better student of Michigan history than the majority of Michigan fans.

As ndoldtown wrote back in 2006, Bo's (he of zero national championships) last public statement about ND was "To Hell with Notre Dame." In fact, he used this phrase often as some Michigan fans know well and used it publicly. In contrast, Charlie used it at a ND only event where such "rally the troops" talks are normal fare and aren't supposed to be made public.
Charlie turned Bo's phrase in an attempt to get the faithful fired up behind closed doors after a lousy season. Oh, the inhumanity.

Bo, on the other hand was a very bitter man who used the phrase to publicy attack Notre Dame.

There's a chasm of context between the two that puts this "new information" in perspective.

So, no, Charlie hasn't reached a new low --- Bo set that standard years ago.

To Hell with Notre Dame, Bo? No, To Hell with Michigan.

Chuck Long on SDSU

Coach Long Press Conference Quotes

April 30, 2008

SDSU Football
Press Conference Quotes
April 30, 2008
Aztec Athletics Center

Head Coach Chuck Long

On having four players selected in the recent NFL Draft:
"I want to congratulate our four picks in the NFL Draft last weekend. I thought that was a very nice thing not only for our program, but for those four guys. It's just basically hard work paying off. I wish we would've had them for another year or two. But that's just the way it is, and we were fortunate to be able to coach them in the short amount of time that we've been here. So my hat's off to Kevin (O'Connell), Brett (Swain), Chaz (Schilens) and Tyler (Schmitt) for getting drafted, especially when there's only seven rounds in the NFL Draft now. Again, it's a product of hard work. Sometimes I get a kick out of guys who are seniors and may not work as hard you want, then all of a sudden after they graduate they all think they're going to get ready for the NFL. Then they work extremely hard from that point on. They only have three months to do it and they think they can work hard for three months and get drafted, but that's just not the case. To the credit of these guys, they bought in and worked extremely hard, especially this past year way back to the beginning of winter. We didn't have Kevin for much of his junior year, and to have the work ethic that he needed to have the following year is now paying off in a big way.

"I also want to give credit to the coaches who coached them. (Offensive coordinator) Del Miller really brought Kevin a long way in a short amount of time. It's a credit to Del and what they were doing offensively and playing to Kevin's strengths. Also LeCharls McDaniel and his receivers - Brett and Chaz came a long way as receivers, especially Chaz, who has been hurt off and on. Toby Neinas as well with Tyler Schmitt, who I said from the day I got here, was one of the best long snappers in the country at any level."

On what lies ahead for the coaching staff following spring practice: "We are now in the process of evaluations this week. All of our coaches are bringing the players in to talk about where they are now, how they did in the spring and the goals for the fall. We don't have a depth chart at this point, just because I want our coaches to be able to evaluate and talk to their own players first before we release it to the media. I've always believed in doing that so they don't see any surprises through the media. I don't have a quarterback depth chart. I said after the (spring) game that I'd have it by the end of the week. That's our goal by Friday as a staff to have a depth chart and see where our quarterbacks are at that point. We may have some position moves, which is always a topic of discussion coming out of spring football. As a head coach, I want to get the best 22 (players) on the field. I also want to know who the best 44 are, because those guys will play as well on special teams as role players. Those are always issues we talk about. I don't have any moves at this point, but we're discussing that and will continue to do so over the summer. Those moves might not even happen until fall camp."

On the defense's performance during spring practice:
"I thought our defense really came on. I haven't been here for every practice because of a family situation, but I thought our defense really came on this last week with confidence. We have the makings of a very good defense. We have to continue to work hard over the summer. I know it's a cliché that you always hear, but that's going to be key ... We're playing a lot more man coverage and we're feeling a lot better about our cornerback position than we've had in three years. When you have good corners, you can do a lot different things with your defense, including man coverage."

On the offense:
"Offensively, we're younger there as you know, but I was pleased with them. They had a really good spring. We worked a lot out the spread offense. We've always had the spread, but we're working less and less in terms of tightening our formations up. So we worked hard at spreading things out a little bit more, and I thought our offense really came on. The spring game was not indicative of anything. I have not put a lot of stock into the spring game, but one guy who jumped out with some toughness after being hurt off and on was (running back) Davon Brown. That's the one guy who we want to see in that spring game and he came through with some big runs. You saw his speed - he's one of the fastest guys on the team.

"Skill-wise, I think we're in good shape. We just need to keep developing and keep improving. We have young quarterbacks, but I'm very pleased with their maturity, the way they throw the football and how fast they get rid of it. They really get rid of the ball fast and make good decisions.

"The offensive line is young. We knew that going in and there's still some room to grow there. There may be possibilities down the road where we move someone with experience into that position, so we'll keep looking at that. We think they're on a good track. They're going to be a good offensive line as they grow together. We recruited the right way there and like the track that they're on. Of course, you always like to have that track be a little faster. But we have to allow them to grow and that's why this training camp is going to be big for them."

On the special teams:
"Special teams continue to grow. We always find role players on special teams. Bryan Shields is the front-runner to be our kicker. We believe in Bryan and he's got a tremendous leg. It's just matter of him being consistent and accurate. He's really no different than where Garrett Palmer was when we first got here. Garrett worked hard at being consistent and accurate and ended up making every kick in conference play last year. Now it's just a matter of coaching and having him work at it, but he's got a better leg than Garrett. He's got a live leg. Many of his footballs go over the net instead of into the net in practice, so that's always a good sign. At punter, we're bringing walk-ons to compete against (incoming freshman) Brian Stahovich. Brooks Beckman is in our camp, so that's going to be a pretty competitive position this fall. We also believe we have the best long snapper in the country in Aaron Brewer coming in. We signed him (in February) and we think in time he'll be as good as, if not better, than Tyler Schmitt and that's saying a lot."

On the schedule for the upcoming fall camp:
"It's going to be our toughest training camp practice-wise that we've ever had. We have a lot more two-a-days this year because of the way that the calendar falls in August. It will be a tough camp physically and mentally, which is what we want, especially with some of the youth coming back on offense."

On whether or not he was surprised Kevin O'Connell was drafted so high in the third round:
"No, I was not, because he has the rare combination of size, speed and arm. Most guys have the arm, but not the speed. Or, they have the speed, but not the arm. If they do have that combination, they're 6-foot or 6-1. Kevin is almost 6-6 and can run very well ... Because of his build and his height and the way that he performed last year being a 3,000-yard passer and our leader in rushing, I knew (teams) would look at him before a lot of other (quarterbacks). But I thought it was a great pick and a great situation for him, going in and learning from the best. He worked hard at it, so I'm not surprised at all."

On whether any of the three quarterbacks separated themselves during spring practice:"I think there was some separation and the numbers will bear that out. We took every snap and graded it, and we're still doing that now. We're looking at every 7-on-7 rep, every scrimmage rep and every team rep. That's the way we went into the spring. We didn't just look at scrimmage reps, because we didn't have a lot of them. So we had to look at the entire spring, and that's the way it should be. As with any player, you want your quarterback to compete every single play ... We have some young players there, but we love their leadership. They're some of the best leaders I've been around at that position."

On the improvement of the defensive line:
"It's one of our most improved units in terms of pass rush. That is one area that we have to improve on. Coach (Mike) Nelson really emphasizes the pass rush and he teaches it very well ... I think the leader of the bunch is going to be Ernie Lawson. I think he's going to be a great leader for us. We moved Jon Soto out to the edge, which is his more natural position. Last year we played him at 3-techinque, where he's rather undersized, but we had no choice. Now we have some depth, so we can keep him outside. B.J. Williams had a terrific spring, probably one of the best springs we've had of any player. We moved Siaosi Fifita from outside to inside. He's going to be more of a 3-technique with Ernie being the nose. I thought Peter Nelson also had a nice spring. He's a tough guy who will be in that rotation. The young man we need to get back who was hurt all spring is Neil Spencer. Neil had a great freshman year, but he had a back issue and we wanted to save him this spring. He'll be back in the fall. Guys like Eric Ikonne and Ryan Williams, the transfer from Ohio State, showed some promise. They're not there yet, so it'll be a big fall for them coming up. We needed to develop some depth at that defensive end position and those two guys have come to the surface right now."

Enough Reprise

The point of yesterday's article (which seems to have been lost on some) was that all of this media energy being wasted on Notre Dame's perceived arrogance could and should actually be focused on the real problems of college football. I don't believe that Notre Dame gets it all right and we all don't agree with everything done in the name of Notre Dame football, but on the "scale of bad" the negative media focus on ND doesn't even move the bad meter. It's akin to attacking a jaywalker while felonies are being committed. I don't think ND's perfect and I don't believe lower standards by other schools excuses or justifies a 3-9 season, I do believe there are a ton of insecure people in the media who get their estrogen levels charged up whenever ND makes a move and they lose all perspective.

The reason I detailed Notre Dame's success was to show exactly how Notre Dame works effectively, and obviously (choke) it's working for Boston College and Navy as well. It's not just Notre Dame, but the Irish do provide a nice model to follow. Here's a comment received from an Irish tutor:

As a tutor for student-athletes at ND, I understand what you are saying completely. ND does a remarkable job of integrating its student-athletes into an intellectual environment. The focus here is not on skirting requirements or pursuing easy majors. Most if not all of the athletes have the intellectual capacity to succeed at a university, but many come in as freshman woefully unprepared from the local primary and secondary schools. I believe the same is true for many top programs across the country. The difference is that ND has always held its athletes to the highest standards inside the classroom, on the field, and in their personal lives. The difference shows. Excellent article!
Again, the point of the article isn't to in anyway excuse a bad season (you can't excuse 3-9) and blame it on academics, it was to point out how far off the playing field agenda driven sports writers and talking heads have become in a sea of misplaced priorities and perspectives.