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Irish Blogger Gathering: Running Another Holtz Out of South Bend Edition


The Mouth of the South gives can't-miss predictions on the 2011 season, this week's matchup against the Bulls, and Notre Dame's likely opponent in the National Championship Game--hint: their former starting quarterback reportedly has quite the leg.  We'll also examine indisputable video evidence that Coach Kelly will win multiple championships. 

1. The big news of last week was Dayne Crist winning the starting QB spot.  Are you happy with the outcome and how comfortable are you with Crist as the starting quarterback for the 2011 season?

My reaction to the news of Crist’s anointment as our starting savior—er, quarterback—Coach Kelly didn’t make the choice.  Crist did it with his work ethic and play. 



Kelly’s been sowing misinformation like a Soviet spy.  He has set up shop in Skip Holtz’s head, which he will use as his South Florida summer home.  First we hear that Crist is incredible, then that the statistics are so close that the more you look at the stats, the murkier the QB race becomes.  Kelly was clearly pushing Crist while pumping up Rees.  Save all of the "Rees is a winner" talk.  Our defense and running game were the winners against Utah, Army, SC and Miami.  That’s no knock on Rees.  Tommy is a talented-enough and icewater-in-his-veins backup who has shown that he can manage games and make some beautiful touch throws.  It’s just that his arm strength can make him too-predictable for the better defenses.  We saw this when he did his best Pat Dillingham imitation against USC.  We were not amused, Mr. Rees.


          We’re in excellent shape at quarterback with Messrs. Crist and Rees.  Better shape than we’ve been in for as long as I can remember.  We have a veteran with plenty of game experience, a laser for an arm, and decent mobility.  We have a less-sexy but unflappable backup who can manage games and make a few timely big plays.  And we have a couple of mobile youngsters that are itching to give opposing defenses fits. 

2. A lot of people say you see the biggest improvement between year 1 and 2 after a coaching change.  What area do you hope to see the biggest improvement in 2011?


          First, offensive testicular fortitude.  Allow me to explain.  This football program’s complete ineptitude over the past 15 years has been difficult.  Our complete inability to run the football over the eight-year hell that was the Weisinghavie era was like public castration.  It’s time for The Fighting Irish to take back their manhood.  The defense did it at the end of last season.  Now it’s the offense’s turn to grab ahold of their destiny by running the ball with authority.  We’ve been unable to do it for so long that we’ve put it on a pedestal. 

         But there’s no secret to it.  Like Holtz said, you do best what you practice most.  Kelly has made no secret that during fall camp he focused early and often on running the ball, and on building the toughness necessary to pound the rock.  Like the Isralites returning to the Promised Land after wandering the desert for forty years, we Irish fans have finally found what we’ve been searching for: not schematic genius, nor young-man-molding prowess, but a coach who knows that toughness triumphs.  Sure you can argue with my metaphor—"But Mouth, this is more like the Israelites getting mana from heaven.  A national championship would be the Promised Land…"  You can also argue that this was a simile, not a metaphor.  And you’d be right, but still… I fully expect that our renewed emphasis on toughness and determination will be on full display this Saturday. 


          We know that Coach Kelly’s teams take a big step offensively in year two.  What a lot of people looking at our program, Irish fans and pundits alike, don’t realize is that Kelly’s career run/pass ratio is pretty close to 50-50.  This is scientific, empirical fact.  Kelly now has a just-mobile-enough signal-caller that he doesn’t have to treat like dad’s Ferrari.  He has four, 4-5 star running backs, a stable of mean tight ends, and an offensive line that is likely to finally have the intemperate disposition to match their strength, athleticism, and recruiting accolades.  "We really like our offensive line," said Coach Kelly.  The Irish will once again run the football with authority.  We will take back our manhood.  Saturday it begins.

          Second, I fully expect our defense to make the jump from good to elite.  I dub them The Hit Squad in anticipation of their impending murderous rampage. 


    Hit Squad Caporegime Manti "K.O." Te’o 


3. I think we've all covered this year's highly touted freshman class quite a bit this off-season already so instead, who do you see as this year's Corey Mays?  Mays played primarly special teams for 3 seasons before a breakout season as a 5th year senior in 2005.  Who on the Irish roster can pull off a similar performance this season?


          Jonas Gray is a true senior that has a lot of athletic ability, hasn’t made an impact in his first three years, but has a chance to have a big senior season.  Jonas does not need to blaze a trail.  He must only follow the script that Robert Hughes wrote for him last year.  If he does, he has the ability to be a Ray-Rice-type of back.


          Barring injury, no one else really has a shot at winning this award.  I’m rooting for Danny McCarthy, as my involvement with One Foot Down began when I called out Whiskey for claiming that Sergio Brown was a better player than Kyle McCarthy—honestly, Whiskey.  D-Mac is supposed to be more athletic than his older brother, but injuries and Harrison Smith have really kept him off of the field.  Mike Ragone sounds primed, but the coaching staff seems to be looking at him more as a blocker and at Eifert, Welch, and maybe Koyack as field-stretchers.  Brandon Newman and Hafis Williams are just buried on the depth chart.  Ditto on Steve Filer and Deion Walker.  Cwynar has played too much and too well to be considered for this award.  Andrew Nuss will be a part of the O-line rotation, but I don’t think that he has quite the opportunity that Gray has.  We’ll need to use Jonas liberally to avoid beating up an already-depleted backfield. 


          Jamoris Slaughter is probably the better candidate, since he's already been tabbed a starter.  If you keep reading, however, you’ll notice that I’m not afraid to go out on a limb.


4. Theo Riddick is a player I've been touting all off-season and think the is ready to become a big name in college football.  What player on Notre Dame's roster who hasn't yet broken out are you expecting to put up big numbers in 2011?


          Lots of candidates here.  But if we listen to the Coach Kelly, it has to be Darius Fleming.  No offense to Mr. Fleming, and don’t tell him I wrote this, but Darius is not a good given name for Mr. Fleming.  Darius is famous for getting embarrassed by a badly-outnumbered Alexander The Great.  I fully expect that Darius "The Great" Fleming will return the name Darius to greatness as he plays his way to rave post-season reviews and an early-round draft pick.


5. Notre Dame plays a legit opponent in South Florida unlike a lot of teams around the country.  How do you see this game playing out and does it help or hurt Notre Dame that they play a BCS conference opponent this weekend while Michigan plays Western Michigan?


     Just so the readers know that humility is not one of the writer's weaknesses, I’ll quote… myself!  Taken from a discussion earlier today with one of my fellow former Manorites:


I think that we damn well better beat the spread.  ND [fans] are really building up South Florida.  If you listen to the pundits, you'd think South Florida is '93 Florida State or Miami from the early 00's.  I'm sure they're pretty talented and fast, but we have four and five star starters backed up by four and five star 2nd teamers at EVERY position.  Our front seven on D is especially stacked.  They can run.  I think that the days of us getting absolutely pants-ed by mobile quarterbacks are over.  We have a veteran offensive line.  [USF] replace like 3 starters.  None of their skill players are big names, though they do have [a] good little return specialist. 


Bottom line, I don't think [USF will] have much success on offense against our defense.  We'll be subbing guys in and out, and we'll start beating them up and wearing them down by early second half.  And while I'm sure that their D can run, I don't think that they'll be able to keep up.  I think we'll run the ball fairly well, and a diversified attack will have their heads spinning. 


Most importantly, I think Kelly is bringing back that killer instinct.  Our days of underachieving are done.  I say 35-10. I think we know that this team has the strength and athleticism to kick South Florida's [expletive deleted].  It's just whether they actually do it.  I say they will.


I liked my former roommate’s response:


Anything less than a 17 point or so win would be surprising to me.  I think this will FINALLY be the year we start kicking the [expletive deleted] out of teams that we are supposed to kick the [expletive deleted] out of.  Like you said, sure USF is a quality opponent and they'll win 8-9 games, but there were ND teams under Holtz with less talent than our current team who would consistently dispose of teams like USF without any trouble and I firmly believe those days are about to return. 


Well said. 


6. Stealing this one from my IBG pre-season questions from last year - who is the Notre Dame player the Irish can least afford to lose this season?  For the sake of getting some different response, you can't use Michael Floyd or Manti Te'o here.


     We could take Te’o’s loss more easily than losing Floyd, but I’ll play by the rules. Cierre Wood, which I’ll know knock on.  We’re counting on C-Dubs to be a playmaker for us—we’re hoping to be "rolling on dubs," one might say—and there’s no proven commodity behind him. 


7. Obligatory pre-season prediction question:


Notre Dame's final record (noting the losses): 13-0


Notre Dame's bowl game and opponent:BCS National Championship Game vs. LSU. I’m clearly pandering to my friends and family in south Louisiana—best wishes to everyone from my hometown of Chalmette, Louisiana as we remember those lives and homes destroyed in Katrina—but LSU is extremely talented, and well-coached lucky.  And being Jordan- Jefferson-less makes the Purple and Gold even more dangerous.  LSU hasn’t been this Jordan-Jefferson-less in years.  Their level of Jordan-Jefferson-lessness simply cannot be ignored. 


Nor can the level of luck with which ELLESSHEW plays.  You need to hand it to Les Miles.  He recruits excellent talent and athleticism across the board and lets luck handle the rest.  He also recruits extremely diverse players.  Consider that the team’s starting quarterback could also be its starting kicker. Miles has, er had, a quarterback that could use his legs both to get out of trouble and to get into trouble.  Make no mistake—only graduation will stop Jordan Jefferson.  And a  felony arrest warrant.  So, yeah, not graduation, just the warrant.