Thursday, March 23, 2006

Talking Irish | by Pat

Plenty of stuff coming out of Media Day after Charlie and the rest of the coaches sat down to give their thoughts on the current state of the program heading into spring practice. Here are the links to get you started.

Weis Presser. Pretty much a mandatory read for any Notre Dame fan. Here are some selected highlights:

On expectations. "I think out of all of the objectives that we have for the spring, the number one objective of this football team is to raise their own expectations." "I know that I am not satisfied with the season that we had last year. And I am hoping this time around that raising the expectations should be a rather simple task."
On 5th Year Players. "Fifth-year guys, we have eight scholarship guys that are going to be coming back for a fifth year: three on defense and five on offense. Derek Landri, Chris Frome and Mike Richardson are coming back on defense. And on offense, Dan Santucci, Bobby Morton, Brian Mattes, Rhema McKnight and Marcus Freeman. So they are the eight guys that have applied and will be returning for a fifth year."
On Injuries. Weis listed Chris Frome, Abdel Banda, and D.J. Hord as doubtful for spring practice. He also mentioned that the following list of players will be entering the spring a bit banged up and will be limited on a varying basis: Maurice Crum, Joe Brockington, Kyle McCarthy, Victor Abiamiri, John Sullivan, Brian Mattes, and Justin Hoskins.
On Blue-Gold Captains. "We do have honorary coaches like we did last year; quite an eclectic group on defense with two guys named Golic, both Mike and Bob, they are going to be our two defensive coaches for the game. On offense we got two guys that you guys might not have heard of, but one is named Rocket Ismael and the other one's name is Jerome Bettis. We also are going to have two honorary captains for the game. One team will have Pete Duranko, the member of the '66 National Championship team. I think that he will be one of our honorary captains and the other honorary captain will be somebody that wins the auction from the Center for the Homeless because they are auctioning off an honorary captain and that will be the other one."

On Will Yeatman. "Now, we will have 25 scholarship players coming in this summer; not 24. What I did was after Joey Hiben decided to leave the team to concentrate on academics, I then flipped Will Yeatman's scholarship from lacrosse to football. I didn't want to short change myself and leave myself a man shy at the tight end position. I had this resource that I want to try to protect for a year, but what I didn't want to do is short change myself and leave myself a man shy at the position. So Yeatman is on a football scholarship; not a lacrosse scholarship."

On the off-season star. "...Marcus Freeman definitely going through this offseason was easily, by far, the most improved player we had going through the spring. It was a night and day difference. I think if you asked any guy on the coaching staff, anyone would have said that the most encouraging thing coming out of the last couple of months was the looks of Marcus Freeman."

On recruiting. "Every time we look at a player, I try to look at these guys: Can this guy help us win a National Championship. Not can this guy play at Notre Dame. Can this guy help us win a National Championship? Because, to me, that should be the goal. If you are the head coach at Notre Dame, that should ultimately be your goal."

On Brady winning the Heisman. "Here's my feeling: If he wins the Heisman Trophy, that probably means we win the National Championship. So sign me up."

Assistant Coach Quotes. Also a good read. Every coach offers up his ideas and though the theme is similar throughout, it's a good chance to read what each coach has planned for the spring. My favorite quote came from Coach Haywood on how the team defines success and team goals.
"What some people may call success, we don't necessarily believe is the best football we could have played. We're setting our goals a little bit higher and expectations a little bit higher. During the off-season, it started with ourselves. We go through and do a self-evaluation of each individual coach on offense -- the things we did well, the things we didn't do well -- and how can we improve. From there, you do an evaluation of the players. What runs did certain running backs do well and what runs didn't they do well? This is where you have to improve. And then, you go through schemes and that's where we're going to work on each individual player and each individual scheme to get better as a team.

A few thoughts on the whole media day blitz.

• Love seeing more Irish legends coming back and helping out with the Blue-Gold game. Coming off the big Super Bowl win, Bettis will be a big draw although the Rocket and the Golic brothers are certainly no slouches given their rich history on the playing field and in the media (ESPN Gameday/ESPN Radio/Saved by the Bell: The College Years).

• It's fun to bring up the whole Saved by the Bell thing with Bob Golic, but for those who didn't realize just how good Bob Golic was, consider this. In 1978, Golic finished the year with 152 tackles from his linebacker spot. This year Brandon Hoyte and Maurice Crum combined for 149 tackles.

• It's also a great touch that Weis included Pete Duranko as an honorary captain for the game. The presence of Duranko, currently battling ALS, will mean that vital players from the national championship teams of '66 (Duranko), '77 (Golic), and '88 (Rocket) will all be on hand to help out.

• It will be interesting to see if Will Yeatman will see the field as a freshman now that he is on a football scholarship. The 6'6" 255-pound athlete was one of the top lacrosse recruits in the entire country so he should bring a lot of size and athelticism to the team. I wouldn't be surprised to see him get in during mop up duty in three or four games.

• It's incredible to think of just how thin the depth chart is at offensive line. With John Sullivan being held out due to shoulder surgery, that leaves just seven scholarship offensive lineman ready to line up and play this spring. If any of those guys go down with injury, Weis might have to have Coach Mendoza suit up.

• Not sure why Coach Parmalee and Coach Oliver felt the need to wear nametags to Media Day. I would certainly hope the media have figured out who they are by now.

• Weis' response to how he plans to upgrade the pass rush ("I'm not telling") was great. Then again, with all new linebackers, I doubt the answer is a mix of exotic blitz packages. Could Abiamiri be headed to weakside defensive end? Developing....

• Production has its privledges I guess. Number of football practices that Samardzija gets to skip in order to play baseball. Nine. Number of football practices that Evan Sharpley gets to skip in order to play basketball. Zero. I think Weis' quote sums it up.
"Well, if Sharpley were going to start at first base hitting 25 home runs, I think he might be over there with the baseball team. But he's not."
With Samardzija splitting time with baseball and DJ Hord more or less out for the spring, there should be golden opportunities for Chase Anastacio, Darrin Bragg, David Grimes, and George West to battle for that 3rd receiver spot. Aside from Rhema McKnight, those are the only four healthy wide receivers practicing full-time this spring.

• Likewise, with Brian Mattes reportedly battling through a foot injury, Paul Duncan and Mike Turkovich have a great opportunity to snag that starting right tackle spot.

• Lastly, an interesting shift in coaching duties. Coach Polian has moved from assistant defensive backs coach to assistant linebackers coach. Considering Polian was a three year letterman at linebacker in college, he should have some idea how to coach it. With all the turnover in the linebacker position and the wide-open battles for the starting spots, I like the idea that there will be another pair of experienced eyes watching closely and giving advice during the spring. Grad assistant Jeff Burrow, who played defensive back under Minter at Cincinnati, is expected to help out Coach Lewis even more with the defensive backs now and that just makes sense as well.