Welcome to this week's edition of "Five Wide Fullbacks," the last of the off-season. As always, we've got five questions and five answers. Let's get rolling.
1. We're so close to football season now that we can just about hear the brass buzzing the victory march in the distance, can feel the thrill in the air as the kicker sets the ball on his tee and the crowd begins their low drone: "gooooo . . . ." Where will you be one week from tomorrow morning, when the Fighting Irish FINALLY take the field against Navy? You're not going to Ireland, are you?
Alas, I will not be in Dublin next Saturday. I will be in the next most-Fighting-Irishy place to it, though, so I'm not complaining. The REAL question for those of us not crossing the Atlantic for kick-off is what it will be like watching ND play so early in the morning - 9:00 a.m. EST. The noon (EST) kick-off for the Pitt game last season felt terribly early, so this will undoubtedly be a bit strange.
One straight-ahead idea for embracing the morning kick-off? Transform the usual football-watching fare into something more breakfast-appropriate. Slip a fried egg between your chips and your salsa and you get juevos rancheros. Combine a few eggs with your spinach and artichoke dip for a nice omelet. A slider becomes a passable breakfast sandwich when you swap a biscuit for the bun and add an egg. Brats are close enough to a breakfast sausage as-is, really. Make this golden Irish Cream cake in muffin tins, and you've got your breakfast pastry.
Alternatively, we could go with the full Irish breakfast, but no thank you - no, really - on that blood pudding.
2. What is that thing pictured right there? Is that a . . . helmet? Because it looks an awful lot like an abomination. What more is there to say?
Last week the great "swatch watch" culminated in the unveiling of the 2012 Shamrock Series uniform - met with some moderate to sincere disdain, and some applause. Then there was the accompanying helmet, which has been met with near universal lament and outrage. (I like it quite a bit, but that is neither here nor there.)
Now that the unveiling has passed and the comments bewailing the abomination/helmet have quieted, it is likely that none of us will really think about it at all until the day or so leading up to the Shamrock Series game vs. Miami on October 6th - most won't think of it until the Irish take the field. The game will be played, the teams will return to their locker rooms, and most will likely not think of that abomination/helmet ever again.
I would like to know (1) how the response to the abomination/helmet evolves when we see them in-game and (2) what those utterly outraged by the abomination/helmet are feeling while they watch the Irish crush the ‘Canes.
3. Do you ever get the sense that a Notre Dame football season would make a great epic poem?
Only all the time! Let's go down the list of conventions.
An epic poem begins in medias res - in the midst of things - and here we are, in the thick of fall practice, game prep, QB competitions, shifting depth charts, and so forth, with the season about to begin. Check.
The setting and themes are vast and affect multiple nations? Well, the Fighting Irish are competing for glory in multiple countries and at the far reaches of the continent this season. Check!
The epic poem begins with an invocation addressed to a muse. Hmmm . . . ah, yes! The victory march that precedes the contest: "Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame - wake up the echoes cheering her name; send a volley cheer on high - shake down the thunder from the sky." Check. Then a statement of theme? As the team takes the field: "Here come the Irish!" Check.
Epic poems include the use of epithets - like "Irish Chocolate" and "Faircatch Goodman" - and long lists of things - like rosters, depth charts, and NCAA rulebooks. Check and check. They often also include very detailed accounts of battles. This is the play-by-play. Check.
Epics include long, formal speeches. We've got press conferences, locker room speeches, and informal but three-hour-long commentary from Mayock, Hammond, and Flanagan, our epic narrators. Check.
Many epics feature the hero's descent into the underworld. Ah, yes. Michigan. Check.
Divine intervention in the affairs of men, a staple of the epic? Touchdown Jesus. Check.
Every good epic has its epic heroes, who thrive in battle and on their long journeys, who falter and overcome. Every team has a few of these. Michael Floyd. Harrison Smith. Manti Te'o. Tyler Eifert. Check.
The epic hero often returns home at the poem's end, and the Fighting Irish certainly do the same come December. And it is always bittersweet. Check.
Now, where's that epic poet?
4. Who will we be talking about on September second? Okay, mid-day on September first?
Cierre Wood. With all eyes on quarterbacks, cornerbacks, and freshmen these last few weeks, plus the hybridization of the slot and running back positions, it seems that little attention has been given to the anchor of the ground game. When I sat down this week to watch a bit of the Navy and MSU games from 2011, the guy who really stood out to me was Cierre. I think he'll catch everybody's attention when he hits the ground running in Dublin.
5. Everett Golson is our quarterback. Yes, it's true, and we're all very excited about it. Predict the best, the bad, and the unexpected that will come of Golson's being behind center.
Yes, Everett Golson is Notre Dame's starting quarterback. Good news, indeed.
The best thing about this: Mobility. Mobility, mobility, mobility. At the quarterback position.
The bad thing about this: I just can't imagine Golson making it through the season unscathed. If he suffers an injury and has to sit, whether for a half or for the rest of the season, we'll be at a tough impasse: start a second brand new, inexperienced quarterback (Andrew Hendrix or - who knows? - Gunner Kiel) or return to Rees and hamstring a Floyd-less offense? Either way, losing Golson (I shouldn't be thinking this JUST as we've gotten him, I know) would very likely affect the team's record. Here's hoping he stays healthy and gives the Irish stability at a position that has precariously lacked it under Coach Kelly.
The unexpected: That Golson's high school highlights would be accompanied by a tune from The Last of the Mohicans (a movie released the year before he was born). Bold choice.
Okay - the unexpected in 2012: Turnovers are certainly not unexpected with a young, inexperienced QB, but I'll predict that with Golson, relative to 2011, red zone interceptions and fumbles at his position will dramatically decrease, but he'll throw more interceptions overall than we'd hoped. I will also guess that Golson will catch the national media off-guard, and that they'll size Notre Dame up a bit differently when they see what he can do.
On to game week!