Monday, November 19, 2007

Notre Dame - Duke: The Wrapup

It really feels good to be writing this after a win. Having watched the tape, there is plenty of material for me to comment on:

1. Jimmy is developing quickly. A few things really stood out to me:
Arm strength - For those who complained earlier in the year that Jimmy doesn't have a strong arm, watch this game. Take a look at the TD toss to Grimes. Take a look at the TD toss to Duval while running forward. Then go out in your backyard and try to throw a football that distance, that accurately, while running forward.
Pocket awareness - Jimmy is beginning to believe that his protection will be there. As a result, he is stepping into more of his throws and not throwing so much off his back foot.
Field awareness - Jimmy is being smart about down and distance. He is not taking the costly sacks that he was earlier and he is even scrambling a little to gain some yardage.
Leadership - Jimmy is a fiery competitor and we see that on the field now. As he gains more experience and more "pelts on the wall" as Parcells used to say, I expect him to really take ownership of this offense. I believe that starting next year, you will see more of Jimmy's personality permeate through the offense.
Jimmy still has a long way to go, but you have to be excited about his performance and potential. Some have asked about whether the older guys like/respect Jimmy. Freshmen aren't given things at ND. They have to earn them. You know how you earn respect from your teammates? You throw 6 TDs and 0 INTs the last 2 weeks. More than that, you find a way to get your 5th year senior and captain TE a TD on Senior Day. That is what guys respect.

2. I am really excited about our RBs. Hughes had a great day, which was good to see on a number of levels. I know a lot of ND fans are jumping on the Hughes bandwagon now and discarding Aldridge. Not so fast. When healthy, James can and will be a key member of this offense. Armando Allen may be our speed back, but he is a really physical runner. He is not, by any means, a scat back. Ok, brace yourself, I am about to get in trouble again. I have gotten more comments than I can count this year about how this coaching staff doesn't develop players. I vehemently disagree and now I can give you another concrete example. For those who hold that view, do yourself a favor. Go pop in the tape of one of the first 2 or 3 games this season. Focus on the RBs picking up the blitz. It will be ugly. Now pop in the tape of the Duke game. Look at the RBs again. Night and day. Not even close. That, folks, is development. Blitz pickup is one of the toughest skills for young players to get. Mike Haywood, in particular, has done a phenomenal job with our backs this year and deserves some kudos for it.

3. WR play still bothers me. Way too many drops, too many lapses in concentration. Duval is already our #1 receiver and he is going to be our lead dog for a long time to come. You can see the confidence Jimmy has in him. However, all our WRs really need to improve their technique. Duval does the best job of using his body, but even he still needs work in that area. Robbie Parris is a big guy, but he just doesn't use his body well. That is why you see so many small CBs able to break up passes to him. There is also no excuse for the continued drops.

4. The O line had an improved game against Duke. I don't like the penalties at all, but there seemed to be more cohesiveness. Chris Stewart is a fun player to watch. He is one of those guys that just makes you smile and teases you with his potential. If he can improve his pass blocking, which is extremely poor right now, watch out. Dan Wenger looked like a totally different player at C. I never really saw the nastiness and potential that others saw from Wenger when he played guard, but when he was at C on Sat., his attitude and play just jumped off the screen.

5. Thank you Trevor Laws for a great season and for showing the next generation of Irish defenders how you go about your business and how you play if you want to be an All-American.

6. Kerry Neal and Brian Smith - Again, 2 guys just growing up in front of you. Brian Smith's fire is just contagious. They are still out of position too often, but they have the athletic ability to still make plays.

7. Mo Crum in particular, and the defense in general (minus Trevor) really need to make dramatic strides in the offseason on their tackling. Right now, you have to say that this is an extremely poor tackling team.

8. As I watched Tommy Zbikowski this year, and in this game in particular it stood out to me for some reason, it struck me that I am not at all sure that he really is a defensive player. He has never really looked natural at safety and his coverage skills are average. I really wonder what he would have looked like as an offensive player, used as sort of a mix between a guy like Chad Hall of Air Force and Wes Welker of New England. I don't have the answer to that, but it just made me wonder. Makes for an interesting debate I guess.

9. Penalties - 11 penalties is simply unacceptable. I watched the tape and reviewed all 11. You can say that some of them were borderline, specifically the Carlson celebration penalty, but the bottom line is the Irish took 11 penalties. Lack of concentration and lack of execution as manifested by the penalties, mental mistakes, and dropped passes are really what is keeping this Irish team from moving forward. It is not talent. Sure, teams like Michigan and USC out-talented the Irish. But the winnable games that we have lost like Navy and Air Force come down to the fact that those teams execute at an extremely high level and the Irish simply do not right now. By next season, I expect the execution issues to be significantly improved.

10. A win is a win. Please allow yourself to enjoy a win. I have read several boards and blogs this weekend, and there are people who just seem intent on pounding away at the negatives. I think that is just sad. Look, we all know this team is not a good team right now. We all know they made a ton of mistakes against Duke. We all know that drastic improvement is needed in any number of areas. However, the Irish won a game. I just suggest that people take a step back and allow themselves to be happy, even if it is just for a day. There is plenty of time to highlight problems. On the day you win a game, just enjoy it. I recently watched an interview with Joe Torre, former Yankees manager. Torre was asked what his biggest regret was in regards to his relationship with George Steinbrenner. Torre answered that he wished Steinbrenner allowed himself to enjoy the victories, enjoy the successes even a little. Instead, Torre said that Steinbrenner never allowed himself to be happy and was always finding problems and pushing buttons. Let's not be that way. Let's be realistic, see this Irish team and program for what it is right now, and have some fun talking Irish football.

I look forward to reading your comments!!!

1 comment:

Face Mask said...

You'r right IG,I got a big smile on my face,love to see the IRISH win.I didn't see the game but reading your report makes me think this is the first step.Now just beat Stanford and I can make it through the off season thinking that.On the positive side on the penalties,not many teams can overcome 108yds in pens.I can't tell you how happy I am to see a glimmer of our running game.HERE COME THE IRISH!!