Thursday, January 3, 2008

IrishGlory Q&A

It has been a while since I have answered some questions so I thought today would be a good day to do that. I really enjoy reading the questions from you all so keep them coming to! The new year has re-energized me and I can't wait for the high school all-star games this weekend. I am already counting down the days till spring practice. So here goes...

Q: [paraphrasing] It appears that the play of the Irish offensive line has steadily declined since 1996 and bottomed out this year. To what do you attribute this to?

A: There are a lot of parts to this question and not one single factor you can point to because the decline spans 3 different coaching regimes. In general, however, I agree with your premise that the play of the O Line has deteriorated over time. A tremendous factor in the period from 1996 until Charlie was hired was complete lack of offensive identity. When Lou Holtz left, many wrongly perceived the Irish offense to be stale and in need of "modernizing." Bob Davie sought to be the architect of this "modernization." From Jim Colletto to Kevin Rogers, I don't think even the coaching staff knew what the identity, the staple, of their offense was. Was it a passing offense? Option? Power running? The coaches tried all of them, never settling on anything. For years prior, the Irish had a tradition of mammoth O linemen who punished people in the running game. In this period, they lost that identity, and once that is lost, it is difficult to recapture. After Davie was shown the door, Ty Willingham came in promising to bring this identity, the West Coast Offense, to ND. All talk, no action. The offense Ty and Diedrick created was like a ship without a rudder, it was throw things against a wall and see what sticks. Nothing stuck. No identity. Combined with horrendous recruiting, what I will generously call inadequate coaching, and lack of depth, it is not surprising that O line play disintegrated. Charlie is not blameless. While the offense was prolific during his first 2 years, I never saw dominant O line play. I believe the skill of Brady Quinn and his receivers and Darius masked many deficiencies on the O line. Lack of physicality has been the common factor that I will point to with the line under Charlie. Let's hope he gets that fixed this offseason. He has also largely been hurt by the poor recruiting and lack of depth left by his predecessor.

Q: Would you please share your thoughts on the Omar Hunter situation?

A: I have deliberately avoided writing on this subject because it has been so thoroughly covered by others, who have done a fine job bringing out all the key points. My thoughts are these... Omar Hunter is going to be a phenomenal football player. He is the top defensive line prospect I have seen this year (Everson Griffen was my top D Line prospect last year). Losing him AS A PLAYER is a tremendous loss. However, what the Irish need is guys who have talent and are committed to being at ND. We saw this year that guys can have all the talent in the world but if they are not connected to the team and connected to the university, then they don't do you much good. ND has talented NG recruits in Brandon Newman and Hafis Williams (and possibly Mike Martin). As far as recruiting tactics go, this is a dirty business folks. Some guys (ahem Urban) play the game dirtier than others, but if you want to battle with the big boys, this is the nature of the business right now. Wishing everyone would be honorable and truthful doesn't make it so. Charlie said when he was hired that he wanted to battle for the best players and we would win some and lose some. We lost this one. We have won far more than we have lost this year in recruiting. I for one am elated that we are again battling for the top guys. The alternative is going back to the Ty days and battling Syracuse and Baylor for recruits.

Q: With Bill Parcells now running the Miami Dolphins, do you see Charlie leaving to become their head coach?

A: NO!!!! Among the innumerable reasons why this won't happen, and they have been discussed many times before, if Charlie ever were to go to the NFL, you can be assured that it would not be to the AFC East as long as Bill Belicheck and Tom Brady are in New England. Charlie is extremely close to Tom and remains a trusted friend of Bill Belicheck. No chance he chooses to throw away the relationship with Belicheck (see Mangini, Eric) and compete against them twice a year. Charlie is the ND coach and I believe he will be the ND coach for years to come.

Q: Do you think there will be any surprise recruits down the stretch for Notre Dame?

A: If there is one thing I have learned, it is that there are ALWAYS surprises down the stretch in recruiting. Sometimes good, sometimes not good. I feel ver comfortable with the guys the Irish have on board and are still targeting. Mike Martin, the NG other sites have reported as now being recruited by ND, could be a pleasant surprise down the stretch. I guess if I had one curiosity about this current crop of recruits it would be that I thought the Irish would target at least one more true offensive tackle prospect because I believe the guys they have landed, with the possible exception of Lane Clelland, are all interior guys and I don't think Clelland will be ready to contribute for a while. I take this to mean they are confident in the development of Matt Romine and Taylor Dever.

Q: If you had a top 3 pick in the NFL draft this year, who would you pick and why?

A: Great question! This may surprise some, but I would take Jake Long of Michigan hands down. True LT stud prospects are next to impossible to find and when one falls in your lap, you take him, lock him up, and make him your cornerstone bookend for a decade. Just look at what a guy like Joe Thomas did for the Cleveland offense this year. Long is a notch below Thomas in my view, but he is still exceptional. I am not sold on any of the QBs this year being elite franchise QBs and Darren McFadden is excellent, but not as valuable in my view as Long. I can find an excellent back elsewhere, I can't find a cornerstone LT elsewhere.

Thank you for the questions and keep them coming! GO IRISH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Face Mask said...

Good work as usual IG.I had considerd the poor recruiting that brought about the lack of depth on the O-line and the poor coaching that has been inherent along with the recent lack of veteran play makers that brings this into the lime light but you hit the nail on the head with the lack of identity.The lack of physicality could be put on the lack of identity also.I for one would like to see the team get back to pushing people around.The Omar thing is one of the evils of todays unethical atmosphere where from the head coaches down to the recruits,a mans word means absolutly nothing.

IrishGlory said...

Unfortunately, you are correct on the current state of recruiting. It is what it is though and in order to compete for the national championship, you better be prepared to battle for more than a year to land these top guys. A verbal commitment is like winning the Iowa caucus. All it means is that you now have the crosshairs on your back and everyone is targeting you. You still have to recruit the kid the same way you did before he "committed."