Monday, April 25, 2005

Opponent Spring Wrapup | by Pat

Earlier we took a look at what was in store for ND's 2005 opponents this spring. Now that our own spring practice has finished up, here's a look at what other teams accomplished this spring.


The obvious change is that we are not playing Pittsburgh anymore. We are playing Pitt. The name and uniform change is all part of Coach Wannstedt's plan to get back to the roots of Pitt football, much like Weis has done at Notre Dame. Another fan favorite route that Wannstedt is taking is bringing back Pitt's running game, which finished last season ranked 105th out of 117 teams.

One player looking to help out in the rushing department is fresman Rashad Jennings. The 6'1 235 running back rushed for 118 yards on 19 carries in Pitt's annual spring scrimmage. The reports are that he was very tough to bring down and always got yards after contact.

That last point however highlights something that I mentioned in the previous Pitt spring update. Wannstedt is putting the defensive emphasis on speed over size. Taking a look at the summaries of the spring scrimmage, the following four were the starting defensive lineman: 6'2 245lb Joe Clermond, 6'2 225lb Nick Williams, 6'2 240lb Chris McKillop, and 6'4 285lb Thomas Smith. Outside of Smith, those are some small lineman. I bet Darius Walker, Travis Thomas, and Rashon Powers-Neal can't wait for September 3rd. Expect to see a lot of 2 TE sets against the Panthers.

For more info on Pitt football, here's a great Q&A from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


Coming into the spring, the Wolverines were looking for someone to step up and become the obvious replacement for departing wide receiver Braylon Edwards. Steve Breaston, finally completely healthy for a spring practice session, had a strong spring and should be Chad Henne's favorite target in the fall. Apparently though he had to fend off a fiesty Lloyd Carr (right) who showed incredible burst and a flair for the dramatic during receiver drills.

Michigan wrapped up their spring with a normal practice and skipped their usual spring scrimmage due to injuries. So while there wasn't a public show of just how the team looked, various practice reports have commented on the improvement in the defense. It seems that in order to help out the young, inexperienced secondary that an emphasis was placed on improving the speed of the front seven.

Michigan still has some questions about the upcoming season, but as usual they appear to be a stern test for Notre Dame's second game next season.


Michigan State has spent the spring trying to whip its young secondary into shape. On offense Drew Stanton is the far and away #1 QB with the backups much less experienced. That should sound familiar to all Irish fans.

The Spartans had their public spring scrimmage in the middle of the spring practices and the backup QBs took plenty of snaps as the young defense gave up some big plays but also had some of their own. With Stanton the leader on offesne, coach Smith is looking to his running backs to continue the Spartans effective ground attack next year. (good bar trivia here - Michigan State lead the Big 10 in rushing yards per attempt last season.)


Some ND fans are already sick of hearing Willingham stories and anecdotes. Well, it's not going to stop and most likely only going to get worse heading into our matchup on September 24th. Best just to accept it and not grant him "He Who Must Not Be Named" status.

As for Washington spring practices, the media are already complaining about the lack of access at practice, but that seems to be normal operating procedure anytime a coach limits media access.

Washington's spring game was on Saturday and ended with a 3-0 score, with the only score coming off a 13 play, 45 yard drive that was capped by a field goal. Husky fans were hoping that one of the four contenders for the starting QB job (Casey Paus, Johnny DuRocher, Carl Bonnell, and Isaiah Stanback) would make a move to the top of the depth chart, but currently Willingham has not named a starter.


Brandon "The Dark Knight" Kirsch is now the QB for the Boilermakers and that's not the only change to the Purdue offense. Coach "Rings" Tiller spent the spring working some option attack running plays into Purdue's usual quick passing attack. I assume the option is being put in to take advantage of the mobility of Kirsch, but I wonder if getting knocked around by linebackers on option pitch plays will affect him and his throws in Purdue's timing based pass attack.

The defense, lead by Ray "Hammer" Edwards, will be their strength of the team next season as they return all eleven starters. That was evident during the second team scrimmage of the spring where they forced nine turnovers. The offense though did improve when they held their annual spring game on Saturday as the Gold Team beat the Black Team 24-21 in front of 2000 cold fans.


With Matt Leinart out all spring, John David Booty and Rocky Hinds had a competitive spring to see which one of them will be be the first QB off the bench next season. Booty seems to be the favorite to back up Leinart, but Hinds put on a pretty good show during their final spring scrimmage.

Reggie Bush didn't practice much, but Chauncey Washington, Desmond Reed, and Michael Coleman kept impressing fans who gathered to watch the practices. It seems that the past few years of excellent recruiting have kept the Trojans loaded with good players. Now it just remains to be seen if the new coaching staff can put them in position to succeed and not let off the field issues become a distraction.


After initially declaring that no one had grabbed the starting QB spot, new BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall reversed himself and named John Beck the starting BYU quarterback going into the summer. In their annual spring game, Beck outperformed the other QBs, but Mendenhall took a few more days to name him the starter.

Still, Cougar fans are extremely happy with Mendenhall's performance as coach thus far. Many are happy with his efforts to reconnect the program to BYU's storied past (like I said, easiest way for the coach to make quick fans). One of the most noticable changes that Coach Mendenhall made to the BYU program was to bring back the traditional uniforms with the large block Y on the helmet. Hopefully in the fall the uniforms will be filled with actual athletes.


The big news of the spring out of Knoxville is the release of quarterback Brent Schaeffer from the Volunteer football team. Schaeffer was already in trouble for assaulting another Tennessee student and once Erik Ainge had beaten out Schaeffer for the starting QB spot.....sorry, let me try that again. Schaeffer was already in trouble for assaulting another Tennessee student and it seems that lack of participation in class was the final straw for Coach Fulmer.

There have been other off the field incidents surrounding the Volunteer program, but on the field Ainge has been rapidly improving at quarterback and the nation's #1 recruiting class will undoubtedly help give Tennessee added depth in the fall.

In the Volunteer's annual Orange and White spring scrimmage Fulmer instituted a modified scoring system that rewarded defensive plays with points. This resulted in a 60-50 Orange win. Here are some video highlights of the game.


Navy's Blue team defeated Navy's White team 9-7 in Navy's annual spring game. Not much else to say. They are still going to run an option attack, this year presumably with Lamar Owens as the starting quarterback. They are still going to play physical football and never give up. They are still going to be big underdogs to Notre Dame. Hopefully we can get back to comfortable victories over the Midshipmen.


Another team that implemented a Davie-esque style of scoring for its spring game was Syracuse. In the end, the 'Cuse defense held on for a 34-30 victory over the offense as new head coach Greg Robinson works to implement the West Coast offense in upstate New York and tries to inject some fun into the Orange football program.

Currently junior Perry Patterson and sophomore Joe Fields are competing to become the starting quarterback for the Orange. Coach Robinson, who coached with Notre Dame's Coach Haywood at Texas last year, is also looking for a starting running back, but it looks like Damien Rhodes has the lead in that race.

Check out this link for some video highlights of their spring game, complete with a rockin' soundtrack that would feel right at home on The WB.


The Cardinal will the be the fifth team Notre Dame plays next year with a new head coach. And while I hope someone can tell me if that's a record or not, it has to be close. Anyway, Stanford will continue to throw the ball around under Harris, although it's likely the offense will perform better than it did under Teevans.

The position of fullback has been reintroduced to the Stanford starting lineup after an absence of a few years while Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football Harris is still trying to figure out a steady starting five for his offensive line. Still, that didn't seem to be an issue as the offense scored eleven touchdowns in Stanford's annual spring scrimmage. Of course, when you are playing against your own team's defense it's hard to tell if that's good news or bad, so I'll let you interpret the impressive scoring output however you want.