I once had far too many beers with one of my favorite ND Alums when he looked me right in the eye and said "You are in the presence of drinking greatness." That was almost 12 years ago but I remember it like it was yesterday. A truly classic quote from one of my favorite guys to split a couple of cases with. As I sit here about to jump into the fray with the esteemed members of the Irish Blogger Gathering that quote came to mind as being very appropriate. I was so psyched when I got the email from Subway Domer that I cranked up the Celtic Chant on repeat and did a few laps around my man room while pounding a sixer just to make sure I was in the right mind set. That said spring football is upon us and hope springs eternal especially for over zealous Irish fans like myself.
This week’s questions have been put forth by the master of ceremonies himself Subway Domer. So without further adieu….
1. Take your temperature. A) What sort of things are you looking for the team to work upon to help the 2009 season? Group improvements, players improvements, new fertilizer... whatever. As general a question as you will find. B) Same question, but instead of just the 2009 season- the future of the program as a whole.
2009- The Offensive Line must get it together and establish a consistent ground game. I know this is an answer that is both boring and obvious but from my perspective this issue is truly the crux of the upcoming season. With a decent running game everything else will fall into place for the offense. It will also parlay itself into more time of possession and those breaks will pay great dividends for a defense that in my opinion is on the verge of being great.
Future- The staff must continue to recruit at a high level. There is no substitute for elite talent. Great players make average coaches look like geniuses and can elevate great coaches into legends. Talent is only one part of what I call the three part equation that every program consists of but in my opinion it is the most important of the three. I already beat this subject to death in my 2009 Talent Analysis series of posts so I’ll digress.
2. It remains to be seen if I will be traveling to the spring game. My wife may have objections to yet another birthday of hers being used for a game that essentially doesn't count. (I know, I know- she just doesn't get it.) Don't you think it's about time that the spring game was televised? You know ESPN is dying to get inside that stadium for a live broadcast. I don't think it would interfere with the NBC contract, and if it does- why aren't they televising this?
NBC should televise it themselves. Why the hell not? It’s a win for ND fans and the dumb ass network. I’d bet a case of your favorite beer that the ND spring game would get better ratings than the NHL playoffs. Air it on the front side of an NHL playoff game and the NHL playoff game would better ratings too. If NBC is not smart enough to do it then by all means bring in the World Wide Leader. I could sure as hell use a full fledged ND Football Saturday in April.
3. What position battle will be decided this spring? Which one will have to wait for summer/fall?
Great question. I’ll address a couple of individual positions and a couple of groups. I know, I know I’m talking about 90% of the team. Sorry, I’m too psyched to help myself.
For the spring
Left Tackle- Will Duncan take over or will Dever, or Romine step up? Is Robinson moving over from Guard? Robinson needs to be in the mix on the offensive line period.
The defensive backfield should shake out in the spring as all the players I expect to be in the mix are on campus with the exception of Gray. I think the only two sure things are K Mac at Strong Safety and Walls reclaiming one of the corner spots. McNeil and Blanton will battle for time on the other corner but where does Sergio Brown fit in? Sergio needs to be on the field. Is Harrison Smith definitely moving back to Free Safety? We should have a good idea in a few weeks.
Tight End- I expect Rudolph and Ragone to be 1-2 in the spring but they could flip flop by the end of fall camp depending on how long it takes Ragone to knock the rust off. Regardless they'll both play a lot if healthy. The two TE sets will be much trickier for opposing defenses.
#3/4/5/6 Wide Receiver- Tate and Floyd have the #1 & 2 spots locked up like a pair of Chinese Finger Cuffs. Behind them the Kamara, Parris, Walker battle will get hot and heavy in the spring. I expect Evans to join the mix come fall camp and it wouldn't surprise me to see Cierre Wood get some looks in the slot as well if he's the open field game changer that's been advertised. These guys will all compete for time but it will likely be an ongoing battle that stretches well into the season. Nice problem to have.
The Defensive Front 7- This will get partially settled in the spring once the 3-4/4-3 base decision is public and the positions are updated and or re-named on the depth chart. Bottom line it starts with who will and who won’t have a hand down at the line of scrimmage which the Tenuta/Brown brain trust should have figured out by now. That said in the same fashion as the Wide Receivers the individual position battles will likely be ongoing into the season. The soon to be sophomore class is well stocked at DT, DE and LB and all those guys all have the potential to push for time. Throw in Stockton and Motta who are already on campus and its gets even more interesting. Then of course there’s that kid from Hawaii who is en-route this summer. Regardless of how it shakes out the two deep should be very solid going into the season.
5. Name your 5 favorite players and change their jersey number. Tell us why…
I’ll start by saying that in my view of the game single digit numbers don’t look right on any player with a hand down on the line o
f scrimmage. Single digit numbers should go to running backs, receivers and defensive backs that are total ass kickers only. That's my primary rationale behind most of these.
Ethan Johnson- Change from 9 to any number in the 90's. With a 90's # he'll look like a complete beast that will slap you in the head, and step on your chest en-route to blowing up your backfield.
Kyle Rudolph- Ditto drop the 9. Be a Tight End and wear 80 something. With that you can't beat a bad ass tight end as they cause all kinds of problems for defenses. Rudolph is well on his way.
Sergio Brown- Sergio is a bad ass. As a result he should drop 31 and go single digit, maybe 9 after the two aforementioned give it up. Sergio rates it. He plays like a Hellfire Missile hot off the rail with "up yours" painted on the side of it.
Kapron Lewis-Moore- KLM also needs any number in the 90's. He's a true sleeper going into the season with the coolest name on the team. He should look the part. 89 on the defensive line doesn’t look quite right to me either.
Brian Smith- Brian Smith looks like Mike Singletary. He’s got those crazy eyes that look like they might burn a hole in your chest and he's a bad ass. Change from number 58 to 50 and I'll start having flashbacks.
6. Last year two sophomore's won the MVP awards for the Blue-Gold Game (Harrison Smith and Robert Hughes). Predict who this years MVP's will be using the same criteria. (Same class- 1 OFF. & 1 DEF.).
Soon to be Sophomores Michael Floyd and Ethan Johnson. Both are well ahead of the power curve going into their Sophomore season.