Last weekend most of the One Foot Down staff spent a couple days in South Bend meeting each other, mixing it up with the Notre Dame internet community, and also watching that wonderful spring rite of passage known as the Blue-Gold Game.
These are the events and conversations that unfolded.
Friday, 6:30 PM- Whiskey, The Coach, Eric, CW, and Burger in the hotel
Everyone introduces themselves, and the discussion starts to flow. Many topics are brought up but they focus mostly on the quarterback battle and what we expect the next day during the spring game, as well as Coach's crazy recruiting stories from the 1980's.
8:30 PM- 4pointshooter arrives
"Oh, this is real" 4pointshooter says as he walks in the door. Yes, the OFD staff are real human beings!
CW later bounces to hang with some friends while the same is true for 4pointshooter. The four left continue drinking all the beer and shooting the breeze. Sleep finally calls around 1 in the morning.
Saturday, 9:30 PM- Jim arrives to take Whiskey, Coach, Eric, and Burger to the stadium.
Whiskey realizes he forgot the spring game tickets once we arrive at the stadium parking lot. Epic fail. Thankfully it was a 5 minute ride back to the hotel.
10:15 to 11:30 AM- General meet and greet at the North gate, plus a short tour around campus.
We're getting noticed with our OFD tee-shirts on---people are staring.
Eric: A security guard in the JACC asked me, "So what is this OFD anyway?" I think we all got that form of question in one way or another.
Before the players walked from the JACC to the stadium, blhereux1991 stopped by to say hello and tagged along with us through the game. He told us all kinds of inside info on the "issues" from the perspective of a band member then swore us to secrecy. It was cool having him kick it with us.
Whiskey: Stephon Tuitt was in the front. Man that kid is a beast. Kona Schwenke looks pretty monstrous too. Maybe its just the hair. I think his hair would win in a fight against most people. Andrew Hendrix came out last. I was surprised by him physically. He didn't look very big at all. If I was guessing he's 6'2" max but probably more like 6'1".
Jim: Many players were showing off their new hair-dos in support of The Bald & The Beautiful (a cause anyone can get behind). Some had their heads shaved, others with a pink streak to show support. Are you going to question a football player with some pink hair? Me either...
4pointshooter: I am utterly shocked at how much bigger these players are compared to the ones I saw when I was on campus just 2 years ago. The Niklas, Springmann and the O-Line are all gigantic men.
Burger: Tony Springmann's hair is every bit as awesome in person as you would think. The pink accent is a nice touch.
Eric: I tried to size up Golson, and I gave him 5'11" which I think is possibly 56.4% accurate.
12:15 PM- Walking in the stadium to our seats
We ended up on the 50-yard line on the press box side. Walking in Eric asks the crew if he'd be a loser if he purchased a game program. "Yes" everyone said quickly.
Behind us is a large pack of Harumphers. Throughout the game they will proceed to loudly complain about all things, especially the lack of fullbacks.
Eric: Seriously though, those guys were annoying as hell.
Jim: I was glad to hear the "insider" info from the Harumphers. I am not saying that any of it was correct, but glad for the information regardless. Useless fact/Exhibit 1: Apparently Spond and Fox were fighting it out for a starting spot this spring. against one another. The reader should probably ignore that they play different positions to fully comprehend that one.
12:30 PM- Pregame observations
Whiskey: Ben Turk looked great punting the football in warmups. Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood were back fielding those punts. Cierre didn't look comfortable with that at all. I don't think he caught a single punt.
Burger: Watching Wood try to field punts was maybe my favorite part of the game. Please don't ever put him back there, CBK.
Eric: Turk looked like a friggn' All-Pro punter, that's for sure. I love Cierre to death, but he can't be a punt returner.
Jim: I have been saying this from the beginning--can we see Toma field some punts? Please?
Whiskey: Hendrix and Golson both throw darts. Kiel has great touch and throws a really nice ball. I would classify his passes as accurate and pretty. Great utilization of his chest.
Eric: It's still funny watching the arm strength of the three versus Rees. Hendrix still throws the hardest but Kiel and especially Golson are not that far behind. From a smooth and pretty looking standpoint, Golson and Kiel jump out at you compared to the other two.
4pointshooter: No one has mentioned how the 10 or so 2013 recruits that were on the field beforehand looked like giddy little kids... wait... they actually are aren't they?
Jim: First time watching TR throw in person. Yup, he still shot-puts the ball. No wrist action what-so-ever.
Eric: DaVaris Daniels looks like an uber-athlete. He's still pretty skinny but his first step was insane and he's just dripping in athleticism.
Eric: Tony Springmann is so damn big it's not even funny. He stood next to Niklas for a while and had almost a couple inches on him. Players in full pads were coming up to him in his street clothes and he's just towering over everyone. He's seriously scary large.
Jim: Bobby D was chatting up the recruits. Do Want? No--Will Have.
1:30 PM- Blue Gold Game Live Observations
Here are some thoughts from watching the Fighting Irish live in the stadium.
Pretty Impressed with the O-Line
Eric: Without a doubt the biggest strength on the team. Some of the starters barely played, and the backups played really well and really got after it. I thought they were opening some big holes and giving the running backs plenty of time to make plays.
Jim: Ed who? Methinks this Hiestand guy knows a thing or two AND teaches it.
Burger: I was a little disappointed to see Hegarty struggle, but Lombard looked good. I saw him firmly plant Sheldon Day (I think) in ground on one play. The kid brings it.
The Tight Ends Looked Great---Without Niklas Even Dressing
Eric: I was surprised how long Eifert stayed out there. It was really obvious how important the tight ends are now with Eifert splitting out wide nearly every snap on the field and Koyack and Welch holding it down on the line. This group looked fantastic, and that was without Niklas!
Jim: Base set will probably be with 2 TEs. Any complaints? I wouldn't think so--the TE is the new FB after all. Harumph!
Burger: I was impressed with Koyack and Welch looked good blocking. We even ran Power O a couple times (Harumph!). It's pretty obvious Eifert won't be on the line very often next season.
Riddick is Poised for a Big Season, Will Wood Still Start?
Eric: Riddick looks ready to go---bigger and more focused. Really excited to see him now as he looks like a running back again and has so many moves it's ridiculous. I still think Cierre is poised for a major season. He's this team's number one running back and he looks like it out there. I think he'll be the most steady and consistent from this position by far.
Whiskey: Riddick looks great. Get him touches please!
Jim: Not sure how many schools can match-up with a 1-2 of Wood and Riddick outside of Oregon. Theo looks much, much more comfortable in the backfield.
GA3 is Going to be Fun but Frustrating
Whiskey: GAIII is nice and electric with the ball in his hands. If he can figure out how to consistently hold onto it he might be fantastic.
Jim: Who cares if GAIII is a little tall for a RB? His quickness and ability to stop and start were ridiculous. Four points of contact though George.
Eric: Obviously Atkinson has skills bursting out of every pore of his body. I think we're finally over his awkward running style, but he has to refine his game and learn to hold on to the ball. I'm keeping my expectations at a reasonable level, but he has to play a lot this season.
Burger: It was a little strange seeing GAIII in the backfield with EG considering GAIII is bigger than Golson, but I would love to see more of that in 2012. Just hold on to the ball, George!
Play Clock Problems are Maddening
Eric: How much should we take away from this game on this topic? Sure seemed like the quarterbacks were still struggling to get the playcall set. I know the massive amount of substitutions taking place didn't help. And I'm pretty sure whoever was running the playclock kept resetting it too quickly. Probably controlled by NBC, right?
Whiskey: The play calling operation was in the street on Saturday. There was a ton of running personnel packages on and off the field and the whole operation still looked broken. I really hope that was specific to the way the staff had scripted the scrimmage. For now I will continue to dream of the day that CBK's offense lines up and gets plays off at a pace that more closely resembles his offense at Cincy. I'll hold out hope that they get to Oregon speed at some point.
Jim: Too much subbing. I would like some better tempo on offense.
Nix Stood Out on Defense
Whiskey: Kona Schwenke running with the 1st at the Nose and Nix was running with the 2s. That's encouraging for depth and a little discouraging about Irish Chocolate. If he's not running with the 1s he's likely in the doghouse for not giving 100%. He looked nice and disruptive when he was out there although he did draw two personal fouls for late hits on the QB. Is he carrying the yellow flag torch for Lynch? I really hope he snaps out of it between now and the fall. If Nix can focus and push himself the sky is the limit for him.
Eric: I'm glad that Schwenke improved a lot this spring and that he was rewarded with captain status for the game, but Nix is the real deal. This has to be a ploy to push Louis because they know how good he can be because there's no way that Schwenke is as good as Nix. We saw what he did last year, and throughout this game he was paired with the bottom of the depth chart and he was still making plays. Nix is awesome.
Jim: All you need to know on Nix you saw on the second play he was on the field. He got double teamed, shed the blockers and knocked the pass down at the line of scrimmage. If Lou brings the requisite intensity this summer/fall, reward the guy with a few goal line carries. Free Irish Chocolate!
Underwhelmed with Spond
Eric: Pretty disappointed with Spond overall. He played a lot and didn't seem to be making any plays that were positive and he looked bad a couple other times. Then again, he looked like an All-American during last year's BG Game. It's probably best to not make too much of it.
Jim: I think Spond looked okay, was a bit out of position at times. Not sure if this had to do with missing significant time due to injury last fall or not. Councell really played well though, and will be pushing for #1 reps in the fall. Also, I took way too many pictures of that kid.
McDaniel Can Ball
Jim: Run CMC looked like he has been playing CB for quite some time. Give me more players from Texas, please.
Eric: He's got ridiculous quickness and burst. I hate the thought of him languishing at corner for the next season or two. I hate moving him away from offense but it's understandable. He's so quick that only he can beat himself when trying to cover someone. Pretty impressed with his coverage out there.
Still Think Daniels Could Start on the Outside
Eric: Very encouraged with what I saw from Daniels. Just a tremendous over the shoulder reception and another tough one over the middle as well. He almost scored on a go route and beat his man before losing his footing a little bit. He's the future on the outside and I hope the future becomes the present very quickly.
Jim: I think Daniels will continue to improve as the season goes on. Athleticism is out of sight and I fully expect a few highlight reel quality plays this fall.
Whiskey: Daniels has the potential to be very good and I think he will get there. The only question is when? If he puts in the work this summer he could really come on and have a nice season this fall.
Ishaq was Hot & Cold, But it was Nice to See Some Hot
Eric: I was just happy to see Ishaq making some plays out there. He whiffed big time on a tackle in the backfield against GA3 which led to a huge gain, but I was very excited with how well Williams looked both on the line and dropping back into coverage.
Jim: I think he was more hot than not, and is showing plenty of signs of a break-out season. Does he continue to grow and eventually move to a DE? The other guy who had a great day on Saturday was Anthony Rabasa. He could add a much needed pass rush presence from the outside LB spot. He took the #2 reps at Cat behind Ishaq and made quite a few nice plays.
Eric: Rabasa really played well. He's not huge but he plays really physical and is really quick and nasty out there. I'd be completely fine with Ishaq playing defensive end. I'm still scared of someone so big dropping into coverage on a regular basis even though he did this pretty well during the game.
Did Moore outplay Werewolf?
Eric: I continue to like Kendall Moore the more we see of him on the field. I was a little disappointed with the way Grace played---I thought he'd be more active and making some plays out there. Is no one else bothered by a major lack of presence from the Werewolf on Saturday? NO ONE HUH? FINE.
Rees is Rees
Whiskey: Rees still looks like Rees. When he sailed that pick I had flashbacks to more than a few not so pleasant memories. He's a known quantity. I still think Rees will continue to be the starter until someone else steps up and is consistently more productive while also taking care of the football.
Eric: Other than the beautiful throw to Daniels over his shoulder, I thought Rees had a terrible day. I really don't know what else to say. If you didn't know he was last year's starter and had all this experience, you would think he's the 3rd team backup all the way.
Jim: Tommy didn't do much to help himself, including refusing to run for a first down on 3rd & 1 with eight dropping into coverage. He should officially be a "Break Glass in Case of Emergency" QB in the fall.
Hendrix is Uncomfortable?
Burger: I'm pretty confident Hendrix has all the skills to be a great quarterback for Notre Dame, but he needs to learn to harness his talent. He needs to learn he doesn't need to throw every pass through his receiver's chest. And also to avoid throwing it at linebackers. Of all the quarterbacks, he's probably the biggest project.
Jim: The Voodoo Child only has one speed on his throws. He should work on touch passes all summer long. I think he might just try a little too hard instead of letting the game come to him.
Whiskey: From my vantage point Hendrix looked okay. Better than Rees at least. But he also inexplicably threw one of his picks where he hit Ishaq Williams right in the chest from 10 yards away. Either his vision is sketchy or he just hits the panic button every now and again when things break down. He just doesn't look quite ready to take the job. He runs pretty well, and has a really strong arm but still just doesn't look comfortable out there.
Eric: Hendrix just does everything in a real weird and goofy way. He's got a cannon, but his throwing motion just seems weird. His running style is physical but it's just really weird to watch. All around weird for me. He's got the tools, but still needs a ton of polish. Nothing he did really made me think he's better or worse than what I previously believed.
Golson Played Well
Whiskey: Golson still looks a little raw but has the most upside of the three QBs by far. He had really solid numbers on the day and he took pretty good care of the football. I really like this kid and hope that he can come on strong enough over the summer to win the job.
Eric: The big thing for me was that Golson was very accurate. It was blatantly obvious that he can make plays that no one else on the roster can make. The understanding of the offense and getting the playcall right is still a big concern, but he looked phenomenal at times. His arm strength really stood out from the moment he stepped on the field. He completed three passes on the day that showed off ridiculous arm strength and zip---Golson makes it look easy too. He made another strong case to be the starter.
Jim: I think that at this point, the only one keeping EG from winning the starting job is EG. He is the most dynamic of the QBs, but needs to develop in a hurry over the summer. I especially enjoyed the sprint option in the red zone and his creativity on a couple of busted plays.
Eric: I was physically aroused by the sprint option run by Golson.
Burger: ...and physically ill by Rees running the same option play.
4pointshooter: I ran to the bathroom to puke
Kiel Opened Some Eyes
Eric: I wasn't really all that surprised with what Kiel showed. Hello, he was a 5-star quarterback! He just has so many tools and seems to have all the ingredients, he's so tempting. But he's going to have to take it slow. He was throwing to like 5th team receivers during the game so he couldn't do much, but damn if Kiel isn't a major talent.
Whiskey: Kiel is going to redshirt. I'll be shocked if he doesn't. That said I was really pleasantly surprised with how well he moved. I didn't really glean that capability out of the recruiting process. As mentioned in warmups he also has a really good arm and a spectacular chest.
Burger: I really liked the way Kiel moved around. The kid is bursting with talent. He's going to be quite good for someone in 2014 when he transfers in August.*
4pointshooter: Kiel moves really well - he's going to be a player that ends up somewhere between Dayne Crist and Andrew Luck and there are respectable writers and bloggers all across the country who have concluded that Kiel could be the guy down the line but yea I concur with the notion that he'll be redshirted.
Jim: Kiel has been learning the position probably since he was 4 or 5 years old. He can make all the passes, is a physical runner and really opened some eyes with his quickness. The offense is probably more than he can handle right now, but he is the real deal.
3:30 PM Postgame
Burger finds the stash of FieldTurf hiding inside the stadium concourse. Moments later, Troy Niklas is outside signing autographs being all tall and stuff.
4pointshooter leaves the group for another engagement and the rest of the group head to Eddy Commons for some dinner. After, Jim heads back to Indianapolis while Whiskey, Burger, and Eric get together with some fellow Notre Dame bloggers and message board aficionados. Great time. They stumble back to the hotel around midnight to talk things over with The Coach who was holding down the room in their absence.
"Looks like that Golson kid is in the lead with Rees at number four," he said.