Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Moving Forward

I have decided not to write up a recap of the Notre Dame-Air Force game from this past weekend. I thought about it and I just didn't see what would be gained by writing that. The issues that manifested themselves against Air Force are the same issues we have been talking and writing about all season. Instead, I am going to go against the grain of many of the other ND sites I have seen and talk about the future, moving forward. What do we have? What do we need?

What the Irish Have:

1. A Quarterback - I have said it since the beginning of the season. Jimmy is the present and future at QB for the Irish. There will certainly be bumps along the way, as there are for every freshman QB, but he has the talent, poise, and leadership ability that you need from the QB position. What excites me most is his leadership ability. Jimmy is a fiery competitor who will not accept losing. In the offseason, however, expect Jimmy to assert himself. I firmly believe that by this time next year, #7 will be firmly entrenched as the offensive leader of this team.

2. Talent at the Offensive Skill Positions - With Aldridge, Allen, and Hughes at RB and Kamara, Parris, and Tate at WR and Ragone and Yeatman at TE, the Irish have plenty of skill position talent to compete, and more is on the way with this recruiting class.

3. Exciting Young Outside Linebackers - The future is exceptionally bright for Kerry Neal and Brian Smith. As Coach Weis has said, the arrow is pointing straight up for those guys. I believe Kerry Neal is the better pure athlete of the two, but I love the passion Brian Smith brings to the game. I will predict here and now that Brian Smith is an Irish captain before his career is over.

4. Talent and Speed in the Secondary - Irish fans have been pretty critical of Bill Lewis and the Irish secondary and to be honest, I think it is largely unwarranted. Every secondary gets beaten occasionally. The Irish pass rush has been inconsistent (to be kind) and that makes issues look worse than they really are. Darrin Walls, Terrail Lambert, and Raeshon McNeil are a great foundation at CB. David Bruton will likely enter next season as a defensive captain and there will be quite a battle for the other safety spot.

5. A Very Good Head Coach - This is the one I know I will take heat for. Coach Weis has made mistakes this year. If you asked him, he would tell you that himself. However, he is still the same guy that led the Irish to 2 BCS games in his first 2 years. He did not forget how to coach. I do believe that Coach Weis has learned more this year than in any of his previous years in coaching. Coach Weis will continue to improve and develop, will continue to dominate on the recruiting trail, will make the necessary changes both in style, staff, and scheme, and will bring the Irish back.

What the Irish Need:

1. Leadership/Unity from Players - The Irish desperately need some guys to step forward, take the bull by the horns, and assume the leadership mantle that has been largely vacant all year. The coaching staff can yell and scream and demand accountability from players, but this thing won't get turned around until some players step up and demand accountability from each other. Too often, it seems that Irish players view their performances in a silo. They worry about taking care of their own responsibilities and figure that it is up to the other guys to worry about their performances. The players on this team need to demand excellence not only from themselves (first and foremost), but also from their brothers. The O line is the perfect example. I like Sam Young. I like Mike Turkovich. I like Eric Olsen. However the O line is a position that demands teamwork, chemistry, cohesiveness. If 4 guys do their job, and 1 guy makes a mental error, the whole play could fail. It can no longer be acceptable for players to be satisfied if they carried out their responsibilities. Think back to a guy like Jeff Faine. Other members of the line that played with Jeff would tell you they feared the guy. They didn't want to let him down. They knew if they screwed up, it wasn't just a coach that would be in their face, they would have to answer to Jeff. The Irish need 2 or 3 of those type of guys to step up on each side of the ball. What gives me hope is that I see potential candidates. The possibilities I see are: Dan Wenger, Jimmy Clausen, Eric Olsen on offense and Pat Kuntz, Brian Smith, and David Bruton on defense.

2. Improved Special Teams - Like it or not, the Irish will still be fairly young next year. With the schedule ND plays year in and year out, special teams has to be a rock that you can depend on. It hasn't been for quite some time. That must change.

3. Attitude Adjustment - I can't sugarcoat this. I do not like the attitude of this Irish team. They are passive. They don't stand up for one another. They wait for things to come to them rather than taking the fight to the other team. And finally, after this draining season, they look mentally defeated to me. The Irish need to come back next year with a different mindset. They cannot allow teams to take liberties with their QB, they cannot hang their head after 1 bad play, they cannot tiptoe to the play and hope they don't make a mistake. Simply, they cannot accept that the ways things have been is the way things will continue to be. They need to take ownership of this program.

4. Consistent Running Game - This goes without saying. So much of the history of the Irish football program is tied to a dominant running game. While I always want a balanced attack, this team will not tap its potential until they develop a dominant running attack. The Irish have the RBs. They should have the O Line with progress. Now they need the punishing mindset and the commitment from Coach Weis in his playcalling to bring back a punishing rushing attack. This doesn't mean we need to run the ball 50 times a game. What I want to see is a team that can run the ball when it wants to and when it needs to. I want to see a team that on 3rd and 3 or less can call a running play and KNOW that they can make the yardage.

5. Infusion of Talent and Numbers - The Irish need to sign the currently committed recruits and land a few more. Plain and simple.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. What are your thoughts?


Anonymous said...

Well, I agree with some of your comments regarding present and future talent, but I disagree with your coaching assessment. CW was never really a head coach. He worked with already proven talent. This team is young, but more than that, they look poorly coached. Players stand around after making an initial hit. They look bewildered. . .unsettled in their own shoes. That's a coaching problem. ND on paper has better talent then the two service academies, but couldn't get the job done. This team wasn't prepared correctly and their lack of progress through the season suggests no reason why we would see major improvement next year. IF you have great talent, at the college level, it needs development to be successful. This coaching staff hasn't even shown us hints that they can get it done. Now, about the play calling. . .

Martin said...

Every losing team has one thing in common: poor fundamentals. It's obvious this team is not well practiced- I suspect CW spends the majority of time on X's and O's instead of honing basic techniques. So, you don't see O-line blocking guys down the field and pancaking them, though they have the size, and you don't see aggressive linebacker hits that come from high confidence. As a player if you know you can throw someone's d*** in the dirt, the X's and O's come easily.

Face Mask said...

Another thing great teams and coaches have in common is brutal practice sessions.Its a contact sport you learn to hit at practice.Control the line of scrimage,fire off,beat the man in front of you.Then hit somebody else,punish the guy with the ball,trough a block dowm field.Nobody pushes you or your team mates around.Put the fight back in the fighting Irish.Sorry guys I got carried away,but that is what I want to see next year,and the rest of this year.

IrishGlory said...

Jim - I hear where you are coming from. However, I think your last sentence is short-sighted. You wrote:

"IF you have great talent, at the college level, it needs development to be successful. This coaching staff hasn't even shown us hints that they can get it done."

I think that is overly harsh. What were Brady Quinn, Jeff Samardzija, Mo Stovall, etc. before this coaching staff arrived??? They seemed to develop those guys pretty well. David Bruton is another example. That kid came to ND as a gangly athlete. He was so far from being a college safety it wasn't even funny. He has shown remarkable development under this staff. I could give many other examples. I am not saying Charlie has pushed all the right buttons. He hasn't. But to say this staff hasn't developed any players is not correct.

IrishGlory said...

Based on what I am hearing, a lack of physicality and toughness in practice will not be a problem any longer starting in the spring. I believe the players are in for a very long spring practice based on what I am hearing.

Face Mask said...

That is the best news I've heard IG,intensity on the practice field = intensity on game day.GO IRISH!!Practice hard,win big.