Welcome back to the OFD Mailbag! We had a good response last week, but we still need your questions! Silly or serious, I'm here to answer them all. Shoot us questions @OFDMailbag or to the OFDMailbag@gmail.com accounts, or attach an orange slip of paper to a carrier pigeon directed towards the golden dome. As always, questions come from real OFD readers, unless you didn't purchase your reader directly from the Notre Dame ticket office. If your ticket reads "Noter Dame vs Texis", it's probably not real.
Without further ado, let's get into the sixth edition of the OFD Mailbag:
No Way, That's Great. WE'VE LANDED ON THE MOON!
My questions are about the toughest away game on the schedule.
1. How do you think our defense will manage against DeShaun Watson? What's the best way to contain him?
2. The Clemson blogs are all talking about Malik "disrespecting" them with his "we could play them on the moon" comment. As I'm sure that you agree, that comment is going to be on every locker in Clemson's locker room come game day. Is Malik trash-talking the team's collective head into the Tigers' mouth, or is he pulling a Joe Namath?
I think that this season, the Clemson Tigers will go as Deshaun Watson goes. They're only returning 10 starters TOTAL across their entire team, and Watson is going to have to take on a lot to keep them in the hunt for an ACC title.
He's a great passer, and a serviceable runner who honestly reminds me of Everett Golson in that regard. He doesn't have the same penchant for turnovers in his young career, but he's got the arm to make all of the throws.
I think the way that a team can stop Watson is two-fold. The first is to beat up on him. The Clemson offensive line has 4 new starters this season and I can hear BVG salivating all the way over here. Blitzes will likely come early and often against the Tigers, assuming the ND secondary can hold up.
The second part of "the plan" would be to throw some confusing coverages at Watson. He's still only a Sophomore, and didn't play a full season last year due to his injury, so the more complicated, the better. If he starts taking advantage, then you can fall back on simpler man-type coverages and solid tackling. Clemson's MO on offense will likely be getting the ball to their playmakers Mike Williams and Artavis Scott and letting them do their thing, especially if the offensive line is having issues. solid tackling will be objective number one.
Malik's "moon" comments are the type of thing that really gets one portion of fans pumped up, and another really upset.I am personally in the "pumped up" camp -- I love this type of brash leadership from one person on a team. If it's the whole team (cough, Weis-era, cough), then it's cause for concern. Malik isn't writing checks he can't cash here, in my opinion. Who cares if it's bulletin board material for the Tigers? It's a big game either way, everyone is going to be up for it regardless of if it's on the moon or in South Carolina. Though the passing game may suffer if it's on the moon due to the whole gravity situation.
ND Fan Has Obsession With Past; Water is Wet; Fire is Hot
First off, I love the mailbag. It's my favorite recurring segment after the Film Room. (Does qualified flattery work?) College Football is a constantly changing monster. Not only is personnel fluid; so is the game itself. What works for today's game will be obsolete in 5 years. But some qualities are always important: strength, speed, smarts. My question: what ND players from a past era would be able to excel in today's game? We need to go far enough back that the game is significantly different, so let's say from before 2000.
Qualified flattery works well when I also do the film room posts. Double points for you, sir or madam.
I'll pick a couple players from before 2000 who I think would excel today, one obvious, and one a little less so.
Raghib Ismail would be a perfect fit in today's world of wide-open, top speed spread offenses. He would be getting the ball in a plethora of different ways, like Percy Harvin did at Florida under Urban Meyer. He would cause folks a ton of headaches.
The other player I can see wreaking some havoc in today's game is Todd Lyght. He likely wouldn't be a cornerback in today's defensive landscape, but I can certainly see him as the roving safety in a 3-3-5 defense. He had the size and ability to play any secondary position, and strength to play against the run. All keys to cover that Rover position in the 3-3-5 or 4-2-5 defenses prevalent today.
Sunshine, Rainbows, and the Notre Dame Secondary
As a life-long, under-30 fan who has known little other than cruel disappointment, preseason is a yearly internal battle between my (justified?) bitter pessimism and my renewed blind optimism. I have at least minor concerns pretty much everywhere except O-line and receiver. My biggest concern, though, is the secondary.
Farley is solid and smart as a nickel who doesn't have to play every snap and is one of the leaders on the team. I'm also sold on Cole Luke. I think he'll better than KVR this year who, if I'm being honest, doesn't quite deserve talk as the best corner in the nation. He's legit, but a freshman All-America season followed up with a disappointing sophomore year and a year away shouldn't garner this much praise. I'm still worried that Shumate and Redfield just might not get much better this year. I feel like I heard the same things this time last year about how they were ready to play well. The bodies are there and they have some talent, but most of them outside of the starters are either young or injury prone. Also, I keep wanting to expect the same production from Avery Sebastian as we got from Cody Riggs, who was huge, but he's coming to us from probably the worst secondary in NCAA history. If he plays a lot it probably means the guys in front of him aren't doing too well.
Right now I firmly believe that each unit will gel and rampage through this season. Experience obviously tells me otherwise, but for the sake of this question let's assume every other position group crushes it this year, but the secondary faceplants. And by faceplant I mean little to no improvement over last year.
You and me both on the internal battle. Usually this is the time of year when I go full kool-aid and start shooting rainbows out of my rear end. I was talking with a friend and legitimately talked myself into 12-0 by the end of the conversation. It's a scary time for all of us.
So the secondary. I actually disagree with a lot of what you have written here -- I think KVR will be the best corner on the team (but Cole Luke is still right there), I think Farley slips a little bit this year, I think Redfield will have a solid season. That being said, I agree with you on a lot of points also, the biggest of which is Shumate at the strong safety position.
I think we're going to be seeing several players come into that position over the course of the season, and have a safety-by-committee approach, which is not something we want to see.
To calm your fears, however, it really appears from early practice reports that the freshmen members of the secondary are coming in VERY positive. Nick and Nick (Coleman and Watkins) appear to be holding their own and will likely provide some strong minutes to the secondary.
While I agree with you that there are some big concerns in the secondary, I am hopeful that the Irish can throw enough bodies at the problem to keep it under control, and have a productive unit throughout the year.
Please be sure to submit your questions to @OFDMailbag or OFDMailbag@gmail.com. We can't guarantee delivery if you're attempting to send from the moon, but we hear that Malik knows a guy.