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OFD Mailbag: Fill It Up Again

We answer reader questions with hard hitting analysis, medium hitting care, and light hitting comedy.

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Hello friends, welcome to OFD Mailbag number 2 -- I really think we're getting better with age here. As always (meaning this and the only other time we've done this), questions are from real readers. Or someone with oddly specific ND questions accidentally typed the OFD Mailbag email address. Without further ado, let's get into this week's edition:

Flattery Will Get You Nowhere (Except the OFD Mailbag)

Thank you for launching the OFD Mailbag.  Great inaugural column.

In last week's mailbag, you wrote "we could probably line Jaylon Smith up anywhere,... and he would be the best player on the field" which is undoubtedly true.  But, Jaylon Smith didn't dominate in games last year - even when Schmidt was still healthy.  What do you think Jaylon Smith needs to do differently this year to have the impact that his talent suggests he should?

-Dave S.

Aww, shucks. Thanks Dave. Now to your question after you've buttered me up.

I think the Jaylon Smith Conundrum (TM) is something that can be explained as never doing enough while at the same time being the most impressive player on the field. Because he is so talented, so athletic, we expect Jaylon to be making amazing plays every time he's on the field. When he disappears for stretches, its for several reasons -- teams running away from him, him playing in the middle (which is just harder to see the impact on TV), or the rare occasion where he doesn't come up with a play.

I think his play last year was amazing, and I still think he needs to play better. There's the Jaylon Smith Conundrum for you. He was getting used to playing inside last year (remember, he was only a sophomore!), and then had to essentially carry the defense on his back the second half of the season. I fully expect that experience to carry over to this season and for Jaylon Smith to not only be the best player on the field, but also to make the impact that comes with that moniker. But, with the Jaylon Smith Conundrum being what it is, there's still going to be that little bit extra that he flashes that we wonder "why can't he do that every time". I will do my best to put that away, and just get the popcorn out when he's roaming the defensive side of the ball for the Irish.

The Man in the Mirror

If the point of putting your best pass protector at the tackle on the QB's blindside, shouldn't Ronnie Stanley be shifted to Right Tackle? Zaire is left handed and his blind side is on his right.

-Andre Papantonio

I truly, honestly hope that is your real name, Mr. Papantonio. To go through life hearing valet drivers, caddies, and the person at the DMV call me "Mr. Papantonio" is my true calling in life. But alas, I have no such luck.

I would also like to call attention to the auto-generated inspirational quote that was present at the footer of Mr. Papantonio's email:

Only one thing made him happy. When he lost that, then everything made him happy. - Leonard Cohen

That is the thought I have when I look at our current offensive line, following the 2007 Jimmy Clausen featuring The Turnstiles world tour that I lived through. The embarrassment of riches at OL for the foreseeable future at ND makes me very happy, which brings us to Mr. Papantonio's question about Ronnie Stanley.

In the strictest sense of general football axioms, protecting your QB's blind side is one of the most important things to take care of -- so why not move Stanley over to the right for Zaire? I can think of a few different reasons:

  • If it ain't broke, don't fix it -- Stanley had an amazing year at left tackle last season, and he's clearly comfortable there. I'm sure he could switch to the right without too much issue, but why make him do so?
  • Protecting the blindside isn't that important -- Huge caveat here, this is in the college game that I believe this. Not every team has two Lawrence Taylor lites ready to crush any dropback passer. Add in the fact that Zaire is a threat to run in both the zone read game as well as on scrambles, and he adds a bit of self-protection which doesn't require a big change like shifting Stanley to the right side.
  • Leave the road-graders together -- The projected right side of Mike McGlinchey and Steve Elmer is a big time run-game advantage based on what we've seen thus far (especially in the bowl game). While I think Stanley would serve extremely well in the run game next to either of those guys, I don't think he brings the same style/power of run blocking that is currently available there. If we're going to pound it, why not leave the best run blockers together to create an advantage for the offense?
If I was in charge of the O-Line for the Irish, I'd be keeping Stanley right where he is.

Last Time I Checked, No One Busters Wore #3

What is Amir Carlisle’s role this year? With Prosise likely starting the year getting more reps at running back, will Carlisle get a chance to earn a lot of playing time in those first 4 games? He has flashed so much potential, and I’d like to think he can be a huge playmaker this year, but I think I’m being extremely overly optimistic.

-MikeyBarrett'sSadRightHook, via the Comments (ARE YOU HAPPY YOU ANIMALS)

I really like this question. At first glance, it seems like Amir Carlisle has a free and easy go of it being the main slot option for the Irish this season. Will he have a big impact, though? I'm not so sure -- there's a few things working against him having a huge playmaking type season.

First, if the Irish really do move to a more Power-Spread attack, a lot of Carlisle's snaps are going to go to Tyler Luatua and Co., as CBK moves away from 3 wide sets to bring some more beef onto the field. I expect this will be the biggest impact to Carlisle's productivity -- but it won't be the only one.

Carlisle is certainly one of the more explosive options out of the slot position, but he still faces some stiff competition from Torii Hunter, Jr., who did some moonlighting at the position last year and stands to get some more snaps following the move of CJ Prosise to the backfield.

So are you being overly optimistic for Carlisle? I think so, but I'm not worried about the productivity of that slot position. Whether it turns into a TE blocking for a power spread rushing attack, or another member of the Irish offense stepping up instead of Amir Carlisle, I think they're in a good spot to get what they need out of the position.

Think Before You Speak, Malik

While technically not submitted to the OFD Mailbag, I thought this needed to be addressed here. Here's a non-exhaustive list of side dishes worse than coleslaw:

  • Mixed vegetables, but somehow none of the vegetables are ones you like. You get lima beans, zucchini, and crinkle cut carrots, and they're kind of soggy.
  • Shoestring french fries. If I wanted hashbrowns that were separated from one another, I'd order that. I need fries with some heft to them.
  • Wild Rice. Not really wild, actually kind of plain.
  • Guacamole with Miracle Whip. Really the fact that this exists saves most every other side dish from ever being the worst one ever.
Seriously Malik, Coleslaw's not that bad. You could have tangy salad dressing mingling in your guacamole instead. IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT?


Remember to submit your questions to the OFD Mailbag by email (, twitter (@OFDMailbag), or leaving a comment in the section below. Go Irish!