Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sergeant Slaughter | by Pat

Showing no signs of slowing down, the Irish recruiting momentum continues to chug along. This week, Georgia defensive back Jamoris Slaughter -- a first ballot addition to the all-name team -- publicly committed to Charlie Weis and Notre Dame. The 9th defensive member and 16th overall in the recruiting class of 2008 is now the second defensive back in as many weeks to commit to ND.

“It was the best school for me,” Slaughter said. “I know they can help you out on and off the field and academically. They have good alumni support. And they wanted me to come in and play early.”
Slaughter chose the Irish over offers from LSU, Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma, Alabama, and many others. On the recruiting sites, Slaughter is a 4-star recruit listed as the 16th best safety on Scout and the 6th best safety and member of the Top 250 on Rivals. Here's a free highlight video of him in action with commentary from a Rivals reporter. Over on ESPN, he's a member of the Top 150 watchlist.

At 6'0, 180 pounds Slaughter primarily plays safety for his high school in Georgia, but will be considered for cornerback at Notre Dame. Both he and Robert Blanton have the size to disrupt the wide receivers and bring a more physical aspect to the Irish pass defense. It will be interesting to see if this indeed is how they are used as Coach Corwin Brown works to install the 3-4 defense. At the very least, Slaughter is a versatile player that will help out somewhere in the defensive secondary and he doesn't seem to mind where.
“I really don’t have a preference,” he said. “I’ll play wherever they need me most.”
One of the noteworthy things about landing Slaughter is that ND has once again gone into Georgia to land a recruit. ND has always had some some success recruiting Georgia, but getting four players in the last two years -- and four defensive players at that -- is a credit to the hard work that Coach Bill Lewis has been doing at Notre Dame. Corwin Brown certainly deserves kudos for the yeoman's job he's been doing with recruiting this year, but Coach Lewis has done a fantastic job the past few years recruiting the southern states. Of course, Charlie's visit to Slaughter's high school back in May seems to have gone well too. Weis also impressed Slaugther apparently during their conversations with each other.
“I really like him,” Slaughter said. “He cares about you a lot. He’s not worried just about football. He cares about your education. He wants to make sure you get to class.”

Looking at the past two full Charlie classes and the one currently in progress, ND has signed and/or received commits from players in 25 different states. And the only states with as many or more players than the four from Georgia are California (7), Florida (6), Illinois (6), Ohio (5), Indiana (5), and Pennsylvania (4). That's a pretty good mix of traditional recruiting grounds and talent-rich states.

Of course, Slaughter does seem to be one of those recruits who didn't seem adverse to leaving his home state. In fact, his favorite team was more Michigan than Georgia growing up.
Slaughter surprised himself by choosing Notre Dame over his beloved Wolverines.

“I was never a big Irish fan,” Slaughter admitted. “I was always a big Michigan fan. I’ve been a Georgia fan too, but I mostly like Michigan.

“I just thought this was best for me.”

BGS Bits | by Pat

Will Yeatman was recently interviewed by Inside Lacrosse and offered up some good quotes on playing both football and lacrosse at ND for the next four years.

“I mean, there was one point in the spring where we played Air Force on a Friday, Denver on a Sunday and then had spring football practice on Monday,” said Yeatman, in South Bend for summer classes. “That was about as bad as it got. I remember that practice Monday. My legs were toast. But I got through it. And I said, ‘Man, if I can get through that, I can get through anything. … So, I guess, right now, I’m looking at it thinking four years. Lacrosse is so much fun. I love the guys on the team. I love the coaching staff. I wanna say four years. But at the same time, we’ll see what happens. Right now, the plans are four years of both. And if anyone tells you otherwise they’re lying. I get so many people saying, ‘You’re moving to offensive tackle. You’re not playing lacrosse.’ But that’s not happening.”
The fact that he's not going to add much weight while playing lacrosse combined with ND's solid offensive line recruiting should keep Yeatman off the offensive line. Hopefully he'll be able to stick with both sports, but that's one heck of a workload. Make sure to check out the rest of the article for the story about Weis singling out Yeatman in front of the football team for his lacrosse accomplishments.

"Touchdown Irish!"

It appears that ND and Westwood One are parting ways and ND will seek a new radio broadcast partner next season. Rumors have ESPN Radio and ISP Sports among the two major new suitors with ESPN Radio being a favored front-runner. One of the interesting sidebars to this story is the possible return of ND play-by-play legend Tony Roberts.
The major remaining question is whether Notre Dame would attempt to have Roberts return to the booth in 2008. Although school officials insist they leave on-air talent issues to their broadcast partners, Roberts is hopeful.

His strong ties to Notre Dame remain. Next month he will emcee the second annual Notre Dame Coaches Kickoff for Charity, a $1,000-per-plate event in Beverly Hills that will feature Charlie Weis, Lou Holtz and Ara Parseghian.

"Charlie has spoken [to Notre Dame officials] on my behalf," Roberts said. "Maura Weis and my wife are like two sisters. They invited us to New York for their St. Patrick's Day festivities at the New York Athletic Club. They'd love to see me back there.

"I'm telling you, from the day I got dumped I've been praying. Broadcasting for Notre Dame is the greatest job in the world."
Don Criqui did a very good job broadcasting ND games last season and his calls of the MSU and UCLA come-from-behind victories will go down in Irish lore, but Tony Roberts is the voice of Notre Dame football to many Irish fans. It would be great to have him back in the booth.

Track Star

Following up on being named Tennessee's 2006 Football Back of the Year, incoming safety Harrison Smith was just named Track Athlete of the Year by the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

Body by Bartley

If you're wondering just what the football team does to stay in shape while home for the summer, one local sportswriter attempted to find out by mirroring Bartley Webb's off-season workouts while Bartley was back in Arkansas during the summer.

Getting a shot

Switching gears and looking to the pros, Maurice Stovall just might be in the starting lineup for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this year as he's being given a serious shot at supplanting current starter and former first round pick Michael Clayton.
"He started for us last year as a rookie; that's no mistake, " Gruden said. "It's no mystery, really. He's 6 foot 5, he's in great shape, he's a reliable guy, he's tough as hell and he wants to play. At least that's what he's showing out here every day. He's a guy that gives us a size factor, I think a physical playmaker and a guy that's going to make for a real interesting camp."
That's great news for a player that really put in the hard work to have a stellar senior season back in 2005.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Alive and Kickin? | by Pat

With the new starters across the board on offense and defense getting most of the pre-season attention, the Irish special teams units aren't much more than an afterthought. However, there's a reason that Charlie assigned all the assistant coaches to help out on special teams this year. As a new defense finds its footing and a revamped offense attempts to live up to the lofty output of previous years, it will be hard for ND to duplicate the +16.6 average margin of victory from last year. Games will probably be tighter, and the margin for error in special teams will be much smaller. How well ND is able to pin teams deep with kicks and punts and turn failed drives into points via field goals just might be the biggest factor in how many games ND winds up winning in 2007.

Let's take a quick spin through the Irish special teams and see what we know (and what we don't know) heading into 2007.

Field Goals. This is probably the #1 question on special teams, so let's get to it first. Last year, kicker Carl Gioia tied for last in the NCAA in made field goals per game, and the Irish were second in the nation in 4th down conversion attempts. In other words, Charlie avoided field goal attempts like the plague.

With a young offense bound to make mistakes, going for it on fourth might not be as attractive, so ND is going to need to find a good kicker. Gioia has moved on, and so far the contenders -- walk-on Nate Whitaker, sophomore Ryan Burkhart, and freshman Brandon Walker -- have a combined zero collegiate attempts under their belt. Whitaker appeared to be leading for the job in the spring, but I imagine it will be an open audition for the trio right up until the Georgia Tech game.

In another aspect of the field goal unit, we'll have to see who will replace sure-handed holder Jeff Samardzija. Evan Sharpley did the honors in the spring game, he's my guess to have the job. Hopefully he'll get a chance to run one into the end zone like Jeff did against Purdue last year.

And on the field goal block unit, it will be tough to match Derek Landri's impressive four blocked field goals, but look for Trevor Laws to once again get his hands on at least one kick.

Kickoffs. With the new NCAA rule pushing back kickoffs from the 35 yard line to the 30, it's safe to say that Irish fans shouldn't expect many touchbacks in 2007. Burkhart took the majority of kickoffs last year and is credited with 8 touchbacks on 45 attempts. What the stats don't show however is that two of those touchbacks were in the high altitude of Colorado Springs, one was a ball that hit the 12 and rolled through the receiver's legs, and one was after a penalty moved the kickoff to the 50. Credit him with only a legit four.

Taking advantage of the same google map technology that led to the recruiting map, we charted Burkhart's kickoffs in ND stadium from last year (cough...nerd alert). As you can see from the map, when those kickoff starting spots are moved back five yards, Burkhart is going to have trouble reaching past the 10 yard line consistently (especially towards the south end zone) without noticeable off-season improvement. This is why Brandon Walker has a very good chance at taking over the starting kickoff duties from day one.

With the new kickoff depth and ND's uncertain kicker situation, it will be doubly important that the Irish kick coverage team improve. ND was one of only six teams last year to allow more than one kickoff return touchdown, although to be fair ND had many more kickoffs than most teams. Bringing down last year's 19.95 yard return average will help a young Irish team in the field position game immensely.

One last kickoff issue that I hope is addressed is that of the onside kick. We all hope that ND won't have to resort to it, but if they do, it better not look as ugly as the one Brian Cushing returned for a touchdown last season.

Kickoff Returns. Here's some hope for improvement. Last year ND's kick return game wasn't anything special, as ND failed to return a single kick for a touchdown, and the overall team average was 39th best in the nation. But special teams is one area where a talented youngster (even a true freshman) can make a big impact. David Grimes was respectable last year (his return average was good for 28th in the nation) but I expect him to cede his kick returning duties as he takes on the role of #1 wide receiver.

In his place is a collection of very fast and talented players who just might be able to give this special teams unit a noticeable improvement. Among George West, Darrin Walls, Munir Prince, Barry Gallup, Armando Allen, and Golden Tate, ND has a number of speedy options to try out this fall. If the blocking is able to make a few holes (and with the increase in talented and athletic underclassmen who typically make up special teams units, that's a reasonable assumption) I'm betting ND is going to get a kickoff return for a touchdown somewhere along the line in 2007.

Punting. This is one area where ND should be fine: Geoff Price returns after having the 5th best punting average in the nation last year. He's in line for the post-season punting awards and All-American honors, and he'll continue to be a weapon in the battle for field position. ND should also have some decent depth behind him with preferred walk-on/ND baseball pitcher Eric Maust, as well as Brandon Walker, who also punts.

On punt coverage, hopefully David Bruton will continue his headhunting ways, tracking down opposing punt returners and dropping them for little or no gains. If his duties at free safety get him taken off the punt coverage unit, then it will be up to one of the fast sophomores or freshman to follow in his footsteps.

We'll have to see if ND has another fake punt play up their sleeve after LSU showed that the direct snap, up-the-middle run that worked against Penn State isn't always going to work.

Punt Returns. 2007: Year of the Zibby? After averaging 14.1 yards per punt return in 2005, good for 12th best in the nation, ND's punt return average dipped to 7.4 yards, or 88th best, in 2006. Why the big drop?

Well, a big factor was Zibby's injury against Purdue at the end of September, on a punt return of all things. When Zibby was pulled from punt return duties for the month of October, ND averaged a scant 1.8 yards per punt return. That's bad no matter how you slice it. If Zibby goes down again, ND will need a solid replacement. Maybe this is where guys like Tate, Allen, and Gallup could make an impact.

ND has also had some luck the past two years blocking punts, with Chase Anastacio getting a paw on an impressive three punts in 2005, and Steve Quinn coming up with one against Southern Cal last year. Let's hope that streak continues.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Rank and File | by Pat

(Warning: recruiting-heavy post)

Recruiting rankings: you love 'em, you hate 'em, you can't live without 'em. If you're a recruitnik, these numerical lists emanating from the dark towers of Scout and Rivals stoke almost as much debate as the games themselves.

But beyond stirring up off-season discussion (and inciting all kinds of bluster and braggadocio among competing fan bases), one wonders if these rankings have any inherent worth. Do they serve as legitimate barometers of future success? Do the top-ranked players actually become college stars? And just how accurate are these self-appointed augurs of football talent, anyway?

To get a sense of it, we've been doing an annual study of the top 50 consensus players coming out of high school, and then revisiting them during their senior years of college. We wanted to see who became a bona fide star, who flamed out, who disappeared, and above all, if the "Top 50" emblem actually predicted anything. Here are our 2005 and 2006 studies.

Let's review the scoring system at work here, and how we came up with the consensus top 50:

• Final top 100 lists were gathered from Rivals.com and Scout.com
• The rankings were converted into points by giving a recruit (101-x) points, where x represented his ranking. The #1 recruit would therefore receive 100 points, and the #100 recruit would receive 1 point.
• Players who were not ranked on a list were automatically assigned a 125th place ranking, which converted to negative points.
• The total points for each recruit were compared, and ties were broken by the highest ranking on any individual list.
• In the parentheses following each player's name are his individual list rankings (Scout, Rivals).
(Last year we incorporated Tom Lemming's rankings into the mix, but he overrates ND recruits and kids from Illinois in an attempt to generate more business, so we dropped him this year.)

We also added a color code to the list to classify the booms and the busts. Blue means the guy at the minimum is an all-conference level multi-year contributer, bordering on being one of the better players in college. Yellow means the jury's still out; for whatever reason -- maybe because of an injury, or an academic issue, or time spent at a JUCO -- the guy hasn't made an impact yet, but still has some eligibility left to redeem his ranking. Red means the player had his chance, but simply didn't pan out. (In the rare case where a player switched sports or pursued another professional opportunity, we left his number black.)

Herewith, the top 50 players coming out of high school in 2004...

#1 - Adrian Peterson, RB - Oklahoma (3,1)

Peterson burst onto the scene in Norman with a scorching freshman year that saw him finish third in the nation in rushing and second in the Heisman balloting, a freshman record. Injuries slowed him down a bit the next two seasons, but he still was one of the best running backs in the country. After bypassing his senior season for a shot at the NFL, he wound up the #7 pick in the draft and now is a Minnesota Viking. College star.

#2 - Ted Ginn, Jr., WR - Ohio State (4,2)

One of the fastest players in college football the moment he enrolled as a freshman, Ginn, Jr began his Buckeye career as an electrifying kick and punt return specialist as he lead the nation in punt return yards and tied an NCAA record for punt returns for touchdowns. He continued to develop as a receiver and his junior year he led the Buckeyes in receptions and was named a 2nd team All-American. Like Peterson, he bypassed his senior year and was the #9 pick in the NFL draft by the Miami Dolphins. College star.

#3 - Willie Williams, LB - Louisville via Miami (2,6)

The recruiting diaries of Willie Williams became legend as he shared the excessive attention showered upon him in a recurring newspaper feature. Criminal charges plus reports of 11 previous arrests marred his signing with hometown Miami. He red-shirted his freshman year after tearing ligaments in his knee in a traffic accident. After a sophomore season spent as a backup, Williams then made the decision to leave Miami and, after almost transferring to West Virginia, wound up at West Los Angeles Community College for a year. There he only played in four games, but was still named 1st Team All-Conference. His last move has been a transfer to Louisville, where he should start at linebacker for the Cardinal and will have two years of college eligibility left. Future college star? Future bust?

#4 - Rhett Bomar, QB - Sam Houston State via Oklahoma (7,4)

The #1 QB prospect in the Class of 2003 redshirted his freshman year but took over the starting job the next season and threw for a Oklahoma freshman record 2,018 yards. A month before the 2006 season was to begin, Bomar and a teammate were kicked off the team for taking payments from a local car dealer for a largely no-show job. Bomar sat out the season before transferring to Sam Houston State with two years of college eligibility left. A bone-headed decision cost him his chance to be a Sooner star.

#5 - Early Doucet, WR - LSU (9,3)

The speedy wideout saw action right away and was named to the freshman All-SEC team. He continued to be an important addition to the LSU offense over the next two seasons, seeing his reception and touchdown totals grow. Going into his senior year, Doucet is considered one of the better receivers in the country and a potential first round NFL draft pick. College star.

#6 - Brandon Miller, LB - Georgia (5,7)

Despite being listed as a defensive end during recruiting, Miller has stuck at linebacker during his career at Georgia. He cracked the starting lineup sophomore year, but was hampered by injuries most of the season. As a junior he played in all 13 games, but only started five. This past spring he was moved to middle linebacker where he will start for his final college career. Coming in with a #6 overall ranking, you could make the case he deserves the bust tag.

#7 - Keith Rivers, LB - Southern Cal (12,5)

As a backup outside linebacker as a freshman, Rivers played good enough to pick up Freshman All-Conference honors. He battled injuries his sophomore year, but rebounded to lead the team in tackles with last season. With one year left in a Trojan uniform, Rivers is a potential All-American candidate and a likely high NFL draft pick. College star.

#8 - Xavier Lee, QB - FSU (10,10)

The heralded quarterback redshirted his freshman year and then only started two games in the next two seasons as Drew Weatherford's backup. With two years of eligibility left, Lee is still fighting Weatherford for the starting QB job and looking for his first real shot to lead the Seminole offense. This fall is probably his last chance to avoid the bust label.

#9 - Jeff Byers - OL, Southern Cal (1,20)

Injuries is the one word that sums up Jeff Byers's time in Los Angeles the best. After starting four games as a freshman and being named 2nd Team Freshman All-American, Byers redshirted his sophomore year in order to recover from hip surgery. Then, last season, Byers played one game before spraining his lower back. The injury knocked him out for the season again. He missed time during the spring still getting over the back injury, but is currently penciled in as a starting guard for the Trojans for this fall. Injuries likely the only thing that have kept him from a stellar college career.

#10 - Jeff Schweiger, DE - San Jose State via Southern Cal (13,9)

Schweiger saw immediate playing time as a backup defensive end as a freshman, but an injury to his foot caused him to miss the first four games his sophomore year. After that he played sparingly in a backup role. After another season as a backup, he transferred to San Jose State, where he will sit out the 2007 season before being eligible for one final season in 2008. Tough to say complete bust due to USC's talented depth chart, but the judgment is more strict when you're in the top 10.

#11 - Derrick Harvey, DE - Florida (16, 8)

Harvey redshirted and saw limited action as a sophomore before entering the starting lineup last fall and having a monster junior year. His 11 sacks was good for 20th in the nation and he capped the year with defensive MVP honors in the BCS national championship game. With two years of eligibility left, Harvey is expected to be an All-American caliber defensive end in 2007. It took him two years, but now he's a star.

#12 - DeMario Pressley, DT - North Carolina State (18, 11)

The top defensive tackle on this list, Pressley was the only player in his class to start a game as a freshman. By his sophomore year he was a full-time starter and that carried over to last year where he helped control the line of scrimmage for the Wolfpack. He briefly considered passing up his final year of eligibility to turn pro, but ultimately decided to return. A star at his position.

#13 - Dan Connor, LB - Penn State (6,24)

Another instant impact freshman, Connor finished his first year 9th in the conference in tackles, despite starting only four games. After sitting out a few games his sophomore year for discipline reasons, he started the rest of the season and finished fourth on the team in tackles. Last season many considered Connor to be playing better than teammate and All-American linebacker Paul Posluszny. Now the leader of the PSU defense, Connor has shifted to the middle linebacker spot and will contend for All-American honors himself, not to mention a shot at a 1st round NFL Draft slot. College star.

#14 - Fred Davis, TE - Southern Cal (11,19)

Davis was recruited by every school in the country as a wide receiver, but split time as a receiver and tight end after arriving in Los Angeles. Transfer rumors followed Davis for awhile, but he stuck it out and now enters his final season as the Trojan's starting tight end and leading returning receiver. A largely uneventful career with one last chance to shine.

#15 - Anthony Morelli, QB - Penn State (22,12)

The strong-armed QB saw the field as a freshman for a handful of throws and continued his backup role as a sophomore. Morelli broke into the starting ranks last season and threw for 2424 yards and 11 touchdowns compared to 8 interceptions. As he prepares for his senior year, Morelli has the skills to have a great year, but will need to continue to improve as the leader of the Nittany Lion offense. Has a chance for a great senior year.

#16 - Cameron Colvin, WR - Oregon (19,17)

The fourth WR on this list, Colvin saw the field initially as a freshman, starting one game for the Ducks before starting every game as a sophomore. That was the high point of his time in Oregon; he then fell into a backup role last season. Going into his final year, Colvin is fighting to earn the third starting WR spot on the team. Bust.

#17 - Xavier Carter, WR - Professional Track via LSU (15,22)

More a sprinter than wide receiver, Carter left the football team to focus on his true strength, track. As a sophomore, the talented runner matched Jesse Owens' long-standing record by winning a national championship in four different events. Following that season he turned pro in track and field and is still racing professionally. At this time he holds the 2nd fastest 200M time ever at 19.63 seconds. Track star.

#18 - Chad Henne, QB - Michigan (27,13)

Entering his fourth year as a starter, Henne has started 37 games in a row and was named 3rd team All-American last year. His stats as a freshman were the best in Michigan and Big Ten history and he has kept his numbers more or less constant the past two seasons. Heading into his final season he is an All-American candidate and being mentioned as a possible Heisman Trophy candidate. College star.

#19 - Brian Toal, LB - Boston College (17,25)

Toal made a quick impact on the Eagles by working his way into the starting lineup five games into the season. He finished his first year as the team's second leading tackler. As a sophomore he added goalline back to his linebacker duties. Last season, injuries slowed him down although he was able to appear in all 13 games. Rumors about a redshirt year in 2007 might mean a year off and return for a final season in 2008. College star.

#20 - Frank Okam, DT - Texas (25, 18)

Big Frank Okam only started one game his freshman year, but played enough to earn a Freshman All-American nomination from The Sporting News. As a sophomore he locked down a starting lineup spot for all 13 games and picked up 2nd team all-conference honors. Injuries knocked him out for two games as a junior but he started the other 12, earning all-conference honorable mention. He bypassed a chance at the NFL Draft and returns as one of the better defensive tackles in the country. Star at his position.

#21 - Charles Johnson, DE - Georgia (14, 37)

Johnson saw minimal playing time his freshman year and while he saw action in every game as a sophomore, still didn't crack the starting lineup. As a junior he did start every game of the season and wound up with 9.5 sacks, an SEC-leading 19 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, and 2nd team All-SEC honors. He then declared for the NFL Draft and was picked up by the Carolina Panthers in the 3rd round. Interesting in that he really only starred for one year.

#22 - Kyle Williams, LB - Prison (34, 14)

Originally committed to Iowa, Williams failed to get a qualifying test score out of high school. He then enrolled at Purdue after sitting out a semester and had an instant impact on the team in 2005 as a starting linebacker, before recurring headaches sidelined him for the rest of the season. In the off-season he was kicked off the team and soon afterwards arrested on charges of assault and attempted rape. He was recently found guilty on five of six criminal counts and faces sentencing in late June. He deserves the bust tag, but this one shouldn't be held against the recruiting sites. It's not their job to predict future criminal activity.

#23 - Calvin Johnson, WR - Georgia Tech (14, 37)

An instant star at Tech, Johnson started every game his freshman year and was named 1st team All-ACC. He kept improving and as a sophomore was named a 1st Team All-American by the AFCA and 2nd team honors by the AP and Walter Camp Association. Last season Johnson won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top wide receiver, finished 10th in the Heisman balloting, and was the #2 pick of the NFL Draft. College stud.

#24 - Lance Leggett, WR - Miami (33, 21)

Leggett saw more success initially as a sprinter on the Miami track team than at wide receiver, but he continued to develop and led the Hurricanes in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns as a junior. A knee injury knocked him out of spring practices, but he should be able to play this fall. More of a track star than football star.

#25 - Zach Miller, TE - Arizona State (23, 33)

Perhaps the most impressive start by any player on this list, Miller started every game his freshman season and was named a 2nd Team All-American by The Sporting News and Rivals.com. He was also named the PAC-10 Freshman of the Year. His numbers dipped a bit his sophomore year as injuries kept him out for three games but rebounded in 2006 by starting every game and earning Consensus All-American honors. He declared for the NFL Draft and was picked up in the 2nd round by the Oakland Raiders. College star.

#26 - Matt Tuiasosopo, QB - West Tenn. Diamond Jaxx (41, 16)

The latest in a line of football playing Tuiasosopo's opted for baseball over football and declared for the Major League Draft after high school. He was drafted in the 3rd round by the Seattle Mariners and currently is playing for the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx, the Mariners' Double A affiliate.

#27 - Chris Patterson, LB - Kansas State via junior college (45, 15)

Patterson, a star linebacker from Chicago, committed to Oklahoma out of high school, but failed to qualify academically and headed to NorthEast Oklahoma A&M Junior College. After the season he transferred back to Joliet Junior College in his home state of Illinois and earned 2nd Team All-Conference honors. After graduating, Patterson re-opened his recruiting and ultimately selected Kansas State, where he will contend for a starting outside linebacker spot. College impact pending.

#28 - Glenn Dorsey, DT - LSU (21, 47)

Making his presence felt right away, Dorsey saw action in all 12 games his freshman year with the Tigers, starting 3 of them. As a sophomore he was part of a four man rotation that saw action in every game. He started every game his junior year and established himself as one of the very best defensive tackles in the game. He was named a 1st Team AP All-American and was projected as a Top 10 NFL Draft pick, but after the season decided to return for his senior year anyway. College star.

#29 - Thomas Herring, OL - Southern Cal (49, 23)

Herring's journey to the playing field hit a snag after committing to Southern Cal when he was declared academically ineligible for admission. After sitting out a year, Herring then tore knee ligaments and was forced to redshirt in 2005. Last season, as a redshirt freshman, Herring saw limited action as a backup left tackle. He has since been moved to guard, where he will start his sophomore season as a backup. Not promising, but he does have three years left.

#30 - Demonte' Bolden, DT - Tennessee (36, 43)

Another academic casualty, Bolden did not qualify out of college and spent 2004 at Hargrave Military Academy. He later enrolled at Tennessee, but barely played in 2005, only seeing action in one game. As a sophomore last season, he still didn't crack the starting lineup, but saw action in 12 games. This coming season he is still fighting for playing time along the Volunteer defensive line. Likely a career backup.

#31 - Charlie Jones, RB - Miami (24, 57)

Freshman playing time was limited to mainly special teams duties, but Jones did see action in five games and carry the ball six times. Jones then took over the starting duties eight games into his sophomore season after starter Tyrone Moss was injured. However he was relegated back to backup duty as a junior. He should remain a backup his senior year. Largely a career backup.

#32 - Roland Martin, OL - Michigan State (52, 29)

Big Roland Martin redshirted his first year at MSU before seeing spot duty in a backup role as a redshirt freshman in 2005. He appeared in seven games, but didn't start any of them. That changed last season though when Martin nailed down a starting guard spot and started all 12 games. With two years of eligibility left, Martin appears to be entrenched at the left guard position. In line for a solid career.

#33 - Bobby Washington, RB - Eastern Kentucky via NC State (48, 35)

After signing a Letter of Intent for Miami, Washington quickly got a release and switched to NC State when the Hurricanes questioned his ACT score. He played sparingly his first two years before being switched to safety at the end of his sophomore year. Due to lack of playing time, he transferred to Eastern Kentucky, where last season he was a backup running back for the Colonels and will enter his senior year as a contender for the starting job. Bust.

#34 - Dwayne Jarrett, WR - Southern Cal (39, 44)

Another wide receiver who made an instant impact, Jarrett was name All Pac-10 honorable mention after his freshman season. He improved on that by being named a Consensus 1st Team All-American as a sophomore. Injuries cost him a few games in 2006, but he still cracked 1000 yards receiving and was once again named 1st Team All-American. He declared early for the NFL Draft and was selected in the 2nd round by the Carolina Panthers. College star.

#35 - Marcus Walker, CB - Oklahoma (35, 49)

The first cornerback on this list, Walker was a backup his first two years, although shoulder issues limited him his sophomore year. He broke into the starting lineup four games into the 2006 season and wound up being named 2nd Team All-Big 12. This past spring he ran the fastest 40 time on the team and should have a solid senior season. Above average starter.

#36 -Thomas Brown, RB - Georgia (51, 36)

Brown took off like a shot and led the Bulldogs in rushing his first two seasons on campus. He was on track to do it three years in a row when a knee injury against Vandy knocked him out for the year. He sat out spring practice to continue rehab, but should ready to go come this fall. Borderline college star.

#37 - James Bryant, LB - U. Mass via Miami (37, 59)

Recruited as a linebacker, Bryant saw time as a backup his freshman year but was then switched to fullback. The next two seasons Bryant resisted the position switch and was suspended three times for undisclosed reasons. After last season he asked new head coach Randy Shannon for a release and, if he clears academically, will play for U. Mass this season. Bust.

#38 - Eric McLendon, DT - ??? (29, 70)

The trail on McLendon goes cold shortly after he failed to qualify academically for Georgia. He attended Reedley College out in California for junior college and was a backup his first year, but that's the last thing I could find on him. Bust.

#39 - Tim Jamison, DE - Michigan (62, 40)

He started his Wolverine career as a linebacker, but a team switch to the 4-3 defense meant Jamison's future was at defensive end. He was LaMarr Woodley's backup last year but still finished third on the team in sacks. With two years of eligibility left, he's in line for a big increase in playing time as a full-time starter. Chance to be very good.

#40 - Jamaal Edwards, RB - Florida State (44, 64)

Edwards got a handful of carries his freshman year, but was redshirted as sophomore. Then as a junior he was fighting for playing time when he sprained his ACL and missed six weeks. Going into spring practice he was listed at third string on the depth chart. He has two years of eligibility left, but any playing time will be an uphill battle. Bust, although injuries certainly didn't help.

#41 - Brian Brohm, QB - Louisville (32, 78)

This is about as close as ND came to a player on this list. Brohm picked Louisville over the Irish and he has thrived from the start. He didn't start as a freshman, but was named conference Freshman of the Year. As a sophomore he ended the year as the Big East Offensive Player of the Year and the nation's second best in passing efficiency. Junior year, Brohm threw for over 3,000 yards and led the conference in passing. After bypassing the NFL draft, Brohm has decided to return for a senior year and a run at the Heisman Trophy. College star.

#42 - J.R. Bryant, CB - Florida State (59, 52)

Bryant worked his way onto the second team his freshman year and into the starting lineup for the final six games of his sophomore year. However, just four games into his junior year he was demoted to the third team where he remained through spring ball earlier this year. Bust.

#43 - Kyle Mitchum, OL - Ohio State (55, 56)

Mitchum sat out his freshman year as a redshirt and over the next two years saw more playing time on special teams than anything else. With two years of eligibility left, Mitchum is still stuck at #2 on the depth chart at guard for the Buckeyes. Bust.

#44 - Cortney Grixby, CB - Nebraska (40, 75)

The quick cornerback saw playing time as a backup his freshman year and turned that into a starting role as a sophomore. In his second season as a starter Grixby played his way to an honorable mention All Big-12 nomination. Helped out early and now is solid team contributor. Sort of on the yellow/blue line, but he's going to be a three year starter.

#45 - Leon Hart, OL - Auburn (26, 93)

The excellently named Leon Hart has played in 36 Tiger games during his three years at Auburn, but has only started two of them. That should change this year though as he entered the spring practice sessions penciled in as a starter at right guard. Sounds like a seniority-earned starting spot.

#46 - Nikita Stover, WR - Alabama (73, 46)

Stover failed to meet NCAA academic requirements out of high school and enrolled at Itawamba Junior College. He played there for two years and last year finally enrolled and played for Alabama. He didn't start any games, but pulled in 12 receptions and will look to contribute to the Crimson Tide receiving corp under new coach Nick Saban. He could go either way.

#47 - Kyle Jackson, S - Florida (70, 54)

Jackson worked his way into the starting Gator lineup as a safety, starting five games as a freshman. He then started the first six games of his sophomore year before being demoted to the bench. His reserve role continued into his junior year and that appears to be the case for his coming senior season as well.

#48 - William Morrisey, DT - Texas A&M (99, 27)

Morrisey redshirted and then, while playing in a backup role, broke his leg eight games into his redshirt freshman season. That was followed by taking a leave of absence from the team for personal reasons for the entire 2006 season and did not participate in spring drills in 2007 either. He's currently not listed on the team's roster. Tough call on the color code, but he was buried on the depth chart before getting injured and leaving the team.

#49 - Herman Johnson, OL - LSU (96, 30)

The biggest player ever to suit up for LSU played two games as a freshman but got injured and took a medical redshirt. Over the next two years he saw time as a backup guard until finally starting the final eight games of the 2006 season. With two years left, the 6'7", 351 pound behemoth is firmly entrenched in the Tiger starting lineup. Chance to be a college star.

#50 - Greg Harrison, OL - Penn State (28, 100)

After redshirting as a freshman, Harrison hurt his foot before the 2005 season and missed the entire year. Back for the 2006, Harrison started out third string on the depth chart and left the team halfway through the season. Did the injuries end his football career?



Conclusions

As this is an ND blog, the first thing that jumps out is the absence of any Irish players on the top 50 list. Inexplicably, Tyrone Willingham failed to build on his previous year's strong recruiting haul and didn't land a single consensus Top 50 player; in fact, no Irish recruit was among the top 100 on either list. To put Willingham's deficient recruiting in perspective, here's a look at the number of Irish recruits to make the final Rivals and/or Scout Top 100 list each year since the lists started.
2002 - 2 (Davie/Willingham)
2003 - 6 (Willingham)
2004 - 0 (Willingham)
2005 - 1 (Willingham / Weis)
2006 - 7 (Weis)
2007 - 7 (Weis)
2008 - 6 (in progress; Weis)
I know this is common knowledge, but it's still startling to see the numbers lined up like that.

Taking a look at this year's list and the two previous years, there are some generalized points that can be made with a certain amount of confidence:

1. The consensus Top 50 has a pretty high success rate.

The top two guys on this list were both Top 10 NFL picks after only three years of college. And there are 13 other guys on this list who were either drafted highly by the NFL or considered high draft picks before deciding to return to school. That's 30% of the list right there deemed capable of entering the NFL a year ahead of their peers.

This shouldn't be terribly surprising, as these guys started making names for themselves early in high school, and were on everyone's radar virtually from day one. Still, the percentage of players on the list who have had strong careers to this point is pretty high.

Likewise, of the 15 players with a red label, only 5 have avoided major injuries or off-the-field issues, but still didn't pan out. That's only 10% who could be called true, football "busts".

Overall, the top 50 is a pretty good indicator of future success. It would be interesting to see how its hit rate stacks up against other guru "rankings" from other sports, such as the various pre-draft rankings for professional leagues.

2. The hardest positions to evaluate appear to be the offensive line and cornerback.

Michael made this point two years ago, and so far it has generally held true. Look through the offensive lineman on this list, as well as the previous two lists and you see a very mixed bag of starters, career backups, and victims of the injury bug. Of course this is the case with all positions, but moreso with offensive lineman. The only real OL "star" from these lists is Justin Blalock, although Herman Johnson and Jeff Byers still have the chance to really make a name for themselves. (And while this is more trivia than an indictment of these rankings, OL is the only position that has failed to generate a 1st round NFL pick from all of the players and positions represented on the past three Top 50 lists.)

Cornerback rankings are a bit more precient than OL, but nowhere near what you would expect for a top 50 list. Each year a number of guys are billed as the next great lockdown corner, but they rarely pan out in college. Is it that hard to evaluate cornerbacks? Do high school highlight tapes accurately showcase a cornerback's skills? Or, perhaps, are the great college corners actually playing quarterback and wide receiver in high school?

3. Keep your Top 50 defensive tackle eligible, and he's likely to be a star.

There's really no middle ground: the defensive tackles in the Top 50 either turn out to be All-American caliber stars, or complete busts (due in large part to academics or off-the-field issues). In a way, I suppose that supports the theory that defensive tackle is one of the easiest positions to rank. There are only so many kids each year that can run down quarterbacks while outweighing them by 100 pounds. They tend to stick out like a sore thumb on recruiting tapes and that makes them easy to pin near the top of the rankings. It seems that if a program can keep a Top 50 tackle hitting the books and out of trouble, odds are he'll live up to his billing.

4. If you're Purdue and you land a Top 50 recruit, don't be surprised if he only lasts one season.

So far the Boilermakers are 0 for 2 on having their Top 50 recruits last two seasons with the team. Wide receiver Selwyn Lymon has a shot at the Top 50 list for next year and after failing to qualify academically his first year, he had a solid year last season. We'll have to see if he can fully recover from being stabbed at a nightclub this off-season, return to active duty with the Boilermakers, and break the curse.

Oklahoma has had some bad luck with these lists too, with guys like Moe Dampeer, Tony Cade, Aaron Miller, Rhett Bomar, and Chris Patterson all committing to the Sooners and leaving for various reasons. (Then again, landing Adrian Peterson probably has helped make up for some of the other misses.)

5. So far, the distribution of the Top 50 has been somewhat constant.

Rating
2005
2006
2007
Blue
17
19
18
Yellow 21
22
15
Red 12
9
14
Three years is certainly not a big enough data set to draw any major conclusions, especially given the speculative and inexact nature of handing out color coded tags. Still, we just went back to the two previous years and added up a quick tally of likely blue, yellow, and red labels based only on what we knew at the time.

It's interesting that the number of players that make an immediate and lasting impact on their team (the "blue" labeled players) has been fairly constant over this admittedly short time frame.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Blanton On Board | by Pat

The good recruiting news kept rolling in yesterday when North Carolina cornerback Robert Blanton committed to Notre Dame during his visit to South Bend this week. Yet another talented defensive player in this recruiting class of 2008, Blanton is the eigth defensive recruit this year and the first defensive back.

The 6'1", 175 pound Blanton was named 1st Team All-State and Conference Defensive Player of the Year as a junior when he racked up 147 tackles, 7 interceptions, and three blocked punts. He chose the Irish over offers from Michigan, Georgia, Virginia Tech, NC State, South Carolina, and a number of other schools. On the recruiting sites, Blanton checks in as a member of Rivals.com's Top 100 list as a 4-star defensive back and the #4 overall safety in the 2008 class. Scout.com has him as a 4-star cornerback and the #8 corner in the class. ESPN.com has him listed as part of the Top 150 Watch List.

As you may have noticed, one recruiting site lists him at safety, while another at cornerback. ND apparently wants Blanton at corner, which leads me to believe the Irish are looking at fielding bigger, more physical corners for Corwin Brown's defense. After watching the Southern Cal and LSU corners disrupt the Irish passing game by roughing up Rhema McKnight and Jeff Samardzija at the line of scrimmage, bringing in bigger corners should help ND do the same.

Some think Blanton is a merely a safety in cornerback's clothing, and while that may come to pass, the reasoning seems to be his speed. He's not a blazing fast cover corner. However, despite the common recruiting fixation with 40 times, speed isn't everything at cornerback. One easy example of this is Shane Walton, who was never terribly fast, but had great instincts and technique that turned him into a 1st Team All-American corner. That's not to say Blanton will turn into another Shane Walton, but it's just something to consider when debating if he's "fast enough" to play corner.

You can check out Blanton's highlights here. One recent recruiting update summarized Blanton as follows:

Blanton has a nose for the football, along with impeccable coverage skills at the cornerback position. He doesn't waste motion or steps very often, and he is a vicious hitter, often knocking the ball away from opposing receivers and backs. At the high school level, Blanton is the type of cornerback that opposing coaches try to shy away from, because he has the potential to force a turnover whenever he is in the vicinity of the football.
In addition to football, Blanton also runs track where he was named 1st team all-area in the high jump after finishing 2nd in the state. He also recently participated in the Nike Outdoor National Championships as part of the "Emerging Elite" sub-division. Here's a video clip of him running the Finals of the 110M hurdles (lane 3).

With young players like Darrin Walls, Raeshon McNeil, Munir Prince, Gary Gray, and now Robert Blanton, the Irish secondary has a collection of athletic corners that it hasn't had in a long time. Not all highly recruited cornerbacks turn into college stars, but having a depth chart full of them certainly does improve the odds that at least one will. And if Corwin Brown's impact on defensive play is anywhere near his impact on recruiting, then the days of ND's secondary being a national punchline are hopefully over.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Hearsay and conjecture are kinds of evidence | by Pat

The eagle eyes award of the week goes to IrishEyes poster tejen, who spotted the following mention in an article on star surgeon James Andrews.

Included on the schedule this day was a 47-year-old attorney who had blown out his shoulder during an amateur baseball tournament. There was an incoming freshman quarterback who needed a quick elbow repair in time for the start of next season. And a 14-year-old pitcher from Florida who already had blown out his elbow and was facing a Tommy John transplant far too soon in life.
Putting aside the awful fact that a 14 year old had to already resort to Tommy John surgery, it sounds like Jimmy Clausen might have paid a visit to the Alabama offices of one Dr. Andrews. Most sports fans should recognize the name of one of the best orthopedic surgeons in the world and the man attached to the off-season surgeries of a laundry list of professional athletes. If Clausen is indeed the mystery freshman quarterback mentioned in the article, and to be fair there's a decent chance it's not him, then it's good news that he was able to have his work done by one of the best in the business. It also possibly answers the question as to why it took so long to get the surgery done -- the article says the work was done on June 5th -- as I'm sure Dr. Andrews' appointment book is rather booked.

We'll still have to wait and see if Clausen really is ready to go for the start of the fall practice, but the tone of the mention in this article (again, assuming the QB in the article actually is Clausen), combined with the statement from ND, lend more support to the fact that at the very least Clausen shouldn't have to sit out all season.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Just a Slice | by Jay

The Fort Wayne J-G had a bit about Charlie's '05-'06 salary (the numbers were gleaned from last year's public financial statements submitted by ND), and it wasn't anywhere close to the $3-$4 million per year that Charlie was rumored to be pulling down. But don't let that fool you; keep in mind that the reported salary ($565,566 in Charlie's case) is simply one piece of the overall compensation package for your typical college football coach.

Take Kirk Ferentz, for example. Last summer USA Today used the Iowa head coach as a case study in a revealing article about the burgeoning riches of NCAA football contracts. (They also put together a nifty searchable database of coaches salaries for the same series). Ferentz's base salary ($1.44MM) is only about 30% of his total payday ($4.64MM), with the rest made up from bonuses, incentives, and supplemental payments. I think we can assume it's similar for Charlie. To get a realistic picture of his overall compensation, in addition to the base salary you have to factor in his apparel contracts, fees for TV and radio shows, payments for football camps, bonuses, and any built-in incentives he might have. Furthermore, we have no idea how the payouts are structured over the length of the contract; it could very well be backloaded. There's no doubt Charlie is making much more than 550k.

Anyway, the real juice in the FWJG article was this section:

Weis was one of three coaches among Notre Dame’s top five highest-paid employees in 2005-06, but he’s not the highest-paid coach.

That distinction goes to Tyrone Willingham. The school paid the former football coach $650,000 as part of his contract settlement after firing him on Nov. 30, 2004. He also received $64 in other expenses. Willingham, who will enter his third season at the University of Washington in 2007, was the highest-paid employee – or former employee – at Notre Dame.

In the last fiscal year Willingham was employed by Notre Dame, he was paid $1,939,468 in salary along with $3,259,440 in deferred compensation and employee benefits, likely due to the buyout of his contract.
How about that. I knew we still had Willingham on the company dole, but seeing the numbers in the black and white like that just makes me wince.

(Also, what's Ty going to do with the $64 he received in "other expenses"? I've got just the thing.)

Happy Father's Day | by Pat

On this day for dads, here's a fun article on Irish linebacker Mo Crum, Jr. and his dad, former 1st Team All-American and Miami Hurricane, Maurice Crum, Sr.

Crum Sr. didn't guide his son toward any particular school. He instead told him to trust his own instincts and go with his gut.

That advice led Crum to Notre Dame.

"My dad told me that when you go on your visits, you'll know when it's right," said Crum Jr., who also had received offers from Michigan State, Tennessee and South Florida among others. "Coming here, I had that feeling. I just had that feeling when you look around and say, 'Man, this is where I want to be. This is where I want to go.'"

His father supported the decision.

No matter how badly he wanted to beat Notre Dame in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Crum Sr. had grown to respect the school and its football program.

"Educationally, it's one of the best institutions in America,'' Crum Sr. said. "Area-wise, it's a great location because he's somewhat like me in that he's laid-back. It isn't a party town by any means, and we've never been that type. In my opinion, it was a perfect thing for him."
Make sure to check out the rest of the article to hear about the elder Crum's take on playing in the 1988 "Catholic vs. Convicts" game and the many games of pickup basketball that honed the younger Crum's competitive attitude.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

BGS Bits | by Pat

Transfer Watch

The signs are getting much stronger that Zach Frazer is going to transfer, but so far it appears that he's still weighing his options.

"Zach is talking to other schools," Frazer's father, David, said via cell phone Sunday. "He's doing his homework, but no decision has been made."

Zach Frazer has not asked for or been granted his release at this point. What the ND athletic department has granted the QB is permission to contact other schools and vice versa.

"Notre Dame has been working very well with us," David Frazer said. "Charlie Weis has been very cooperative and, I believe, is looking out for the best interests of Zach. And Charlie has even said, he's not doing anything to push Zach out the door. If Zach wants to stay he'd love to have him."
Zach has confirmed he's talked with Cincinnati, but that's the only one of the frequently mentioned schools -- Rutgers, Connecticut, Miami, Louisville, East Carolina, and a collection of MAC schools -- that has been verified by the Frazer family publicly.

UPDATE:

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Frazer will be visiting the UC Bearcats on Wednesday and Thursday.

Tennessee Two-Step

Incoming wide receiver Golden Tate's bid for a state championship in the 100M and 200M fell short when he pulled up with a leg injury in the 100M finals after posting the fastest 100M and 200M time in the qualifiers. Better news came a few days later after being selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 42nd round of the Major League draft. In addition to his football duties, Tate will attempt to join the Irish baseball team as a centerfielder.

Fellow Volunteer state native and incoming safety Harrison Smith had better results when he won the state championship in the decathlon. What makes his victory notable is that he only started to compete in the event a month before the state finals. According to this article, he didn't even know the technique for throwing a discus at the sectional meet. He also won state in the high jump and finished second in the triple jump and third in the long jump. All in all, not a shabby track season.

Rookie of the Year

Moving to on-campus athletes, freshman Will Yeatman capped a very successful rookie lacrosse season with a number of awards, including LaxPower National Rookie of the Year Fan Award.
Will Yeatman, a freshman attackman on the Notre Dame men's lacrosse team, was recently named the LaxPower National Rookie of the Year during the first LaxPower Fan Awards ceremony. Fans of the web site voted on the award. Yeatman led the Fighting Irish in points with 46 and assists with 25 during the 2006 campaign.

Yeatman has racked up several accolades for his fine freshman season. He copped honorable mention All-America honors from the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) along with being named the Great Western Lacrosse League (GWLL) Newcomer of the Year in addition to copping first-team all-GWLL honors. He tallied 21 goals to help the Irish boast the nation's fourth-best scoring offense by averaging 11.67 goals-per game.
His lacrosse accomplishments are to be commended and that kind of athleticism will certainly help him on the football field at tight end if he decides to continue double-dipping in both sports.

Boomer Sooner

A future matchup with the Oklahoma Sooners has been rumored and talked about for some time, but this recent article about Big 12 out-of-conference scheduling is the first time I recall seeing the 2013/2015 games mentioned in a newspaper article. Hopefully this one comes to pass.

And you are?

Finally, an amusing story from The Austin Statesman.
A priceless scene last week was Notre Dame football coach Charlie Weis, a huge Yankees fan, dropping by the clubhouse in Chicago when the team was in town to play the White Sox.

Joe Torre brought Weis around to meet the players, including Hideki Matsui. "Hideki, Hideki, come over here," said Torre. "I want you to meet someone." Matsui came over and Torre said, "Charlie Weis. Notre Dame football coach." Matsui had a puzzled look on his face. "Notre Dame football," Torre repeated. "Charlie Weis."

Matsui had no idea. He politely shook Weis's hand, bowed, and smiled.
I'm reminded of Homer Simpson at Lollapalooza ("Billy Corgan, Smashing Pumpkins." "Homer Simpson, smiling politely"). Looks like it's time to schedule another game in Japan.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

An Imagined Affair | by Pat

This one didn't even make it 24 hours.

After rumors of season-ending surgery started flying fast and furious, ESPN confirmed that while Jimmy Clausen did in fact have a procedure he will be ready to go for the fall.

A source close to Notre Dame freshman quarterback Jimmy Clausen said Wednesday that Clausen underwent a medical procedure on an elbow.

Notre Dame spokesman Brian Hardin said that Clausen would be ready when the team begins fall practice on Aug. 6.
So there you go. All this really means is that Sharpley and Jones will get some more time throwing with the team during informal summer workout sessions. Nothing that should significantly alter this fall's QB race. I guess we can cancel the "Save Jimmy" campaign and move on.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

NFL notes and quotes | by Pat

As expected, first day picks Brady Quinn and Victor Abiamiri are getting plenty of press during the latest round of NFL minicamps, but here are a few notes and quotes about some of the other ND players, from third rounders to rookie free agents, whose NFL futures are far less certain.

Rookie assignment. Cornerback Mike Richardson, a sixth-round draft choice out of Notre Dame, had a tough task in 11 on 11 drills, often lining up across from receiver Randy Moss. He held his own. Since it’s only June and players aren’t wearing pads, it is difficult to make any definitive statements about any young players, but Richardson –- at the very least –- did not look out of place.
Boston Globe



In the four minicamp practices in which Meachem did participate this week, he was overshadowed by free agent Rhema McKnight of Notre Dame, and Dante Ridgeway, who spent time toward the end of the 2006 season on the Saints' practice squad.
nola.com

"He [Rhema McKnight] is coming out of a very sophisticated system, with many similarities to some of the things we do," said Johnson said of Notre Dame's and the Saints' top-ranked offense last season. "He understands the game of football and a lot of the intricacies about offensive sets that young players often don´ż╣t have at the same stage of their careers that he has right now. That is a credit to what he learned under Charlie Weis."
NewOrleansSaints.com



Former Cretin-Derham Hall and Notre Dame offensive lineman Ryan Harris, the third-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos, has had seven minicamp practices at left tackle with the team.

"And we'll have seven more after the holiday weekend," the 6-foot-4, 301-pounder said Thursday from Denver. "We're running almost the same plays here in the pro offense that we did under coach (Charlie) Weis at Notre Dame, so that puts me a step ahead."
CBS4Denver.com



Lewis heaped praise on rookie safeties Marvin White and Chinedum Ndukwe. Both saw plenty of action because veteran Madieu Williams is sidelined with a strained hamstring.

"They're going to really have an opportunity to play a lot of football defensively for us," Lewis said. "They've shown very good thus far. I've been very impressed with both guys." With Madieu missing time, both those guys played a lot with the first unit. It's good experience and good exposure. It's not been too big for them. They're athletic and make plays on the ball."
DaytonDailyNews.com



emain from Brooklyn, MD: I'm really looking forward to seeing our latest draft picks. I was comparing this year’s with last year’s selections, which we got good production out of. The Jaguars have been very good at finding quality players (late in the draft). Being that Derek Landri was selected at 166, would you think he could be a steal or is it too early to predict?

Vic: It’s obviously too early. You really don’t know anything until you see them play in game competition. Everything I’ve heard about Landri, however, has been super positive. Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith raved about Landri during a commercial break in Wednesday’s “Jaguars This Week” radio show, and Smith isn’t the only one tooting Landri’s horn. Landri is a relatively short guy with short arms, and that’s caused him to be compared to Baltimore’s Kelly Gregg. If Landri can backup that comparison, the Jaguars will have gotten one of the major steals in this draft.
Jaguars.com



"[Darius Walker] is doing fine," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "He's got a long line ahead of him; that's [running backs] kind of the strength of our group right now, but he's getting a lot of reps at our rookie practice.

"The thing that's obvious is that he's a very smart young man and can handle a lot," Kubiak added, "Now he's just got to catch up physically with the pro game and the speed of the game, but it was very fortunate for us to get him as a free agent."
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Monday, June 11, 2007

Throwbacks for Greenbacks | by Pat

I'm sure I wasn't the only one surprised by this most recent ND press release:

Notre Dame and Adidas will honor the 30th anniversary of the 1977 National Championship team by wearing the authentic green jerseys and gold pants for the USC game on October 20th, head coach Charlie Weis announced Friday. The Throwback uniforms will be designed to replicate those worn by the '77 team.
Reaction has been mixed, to say the least; the wearing o' the green -- when to use them, and for what purpose -- has always been a lively debate among ND fans. But to us, the major story isn't really the green; it's the whole idea of marketing a "throwback jersey" in the first place, along with the timing of the announcement itself.

We can revisit the history, tradition, and viability of the green-jersey-as-inspiration tradition at a later time. For now, let's put that aside. What this looks like, on its face, is a crass, Adidas-sponsored marketing ploy disguised as an homage to the 1977 National Championship team.

According to the press release, ND will be wearing the jerseys to honor a past championship Irish team rather than as a surprise motivator against a tough opponent. Don't get me wrong, the '77 team was fantastic and definitely deserves to be honored. But why would they get an entire throwback jersey when, say, the '66 team only got a patch? And, more importantly, why release the information now, if not to give enthusiastic shoppers plenty of time to get their orders in?

Notice in the release that it isn't just Notre Dame honoring the '77 team. It's Notre Dame and Adidas. And you, too, can honor the '77 team, at just $65 a pop at a bookstore near you. It's one thing to fill up the bookstore with all manners of ND-labeled bric-a-brac and see what people will buy. But there's something sacred about the actual gameday uniform, and the further encroachment of commercial advertising into the House that Rock Built doesn't sit too well. We don't want ND teams doubling as billboards for the latest and greatest alternative jersey marketing idea. Anyone who has seen what Nike did to Oregon or Florida's uniforms would agree with that.

Notre Dame's uniform history is not nearly as immutable and timeless as many fans might think, yet at the same time, the colors and configuration of the jerseys should not be considered just another marketing toy, ripe for revenue exploitation under the guise of honoring some former players. This may have started as a benign honor for the '77 team, but given the timing of the announcement and the prominent mention of the jersey's manufacturer, I don't see how this development can be viewed as anything but another squeeze of the golden goose.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Quick Snap | by Jay

Just a little preview card for you on the upcoming season; consider this an early look in preparation for our usual positional previews.

From left to right, we've got the opponent; what they did in '06; their national offensive and defensive rankings in '06; a total of returning starters; the returning stat leaders for a few categories (passing, rushing, receiving, tackles, sacks, and interceptions -- if the box is blank, it means the leader is not returning this year); and finally a note on whether the team has a new coach or new coordinators.

The list is sorted by the combined offense & defense ranking from '06.

Opponent
2006 Rank Rank
Returning Starters

Returning Leaders
New
Coaches

Rec Off Def
Tot. Off Def
Pas Rsh Rec Tck Sck Int
USC
11-2 21 20
17 7 10
QB RB
LB
S
OC
UM
11-2 38 10
10 6 4
QB RB WR




PSU
9-4 53 15
14 8 6
QB
WR

S

BC
10-3 50 34
16 7 9
QB RB WR LB
CB
HC, OC
Navy
9-4 28 61
9 7 2

RB





GT
9-5 67 27
15 7 8

RB

LB S
OC
UCLA
7-6 71 35
20 10 10
QB RB WR SS DE CB
OC
PU
8-6 13 114
18 9 9
QB RB WR LB
S

MSU
4-8 48 88
12 6 6

RB
FS


HC, OC, DC
AFA
4-8 69 78
10 4 6
QB RB WR LB LB S
HC, OC, DC
Duke
0-12 105 105
16 11 5
QB RB WR LB DE

OC
Stanford
1-11 118 97
15 7 8

RB WR



HC, OC, DC
and just FYI...

















Notre Dame

10-3
23
65

8
3
5




LB


DC

Odds and ends:
  1. UCLA returns the most starters (20). I think they've got the best opportunity to improve on their '06 record (7-6).
  2. Navy returns the fewest (9), and I'll be shocked if they win 9 games again.
  3. Air Force returns only 10 starters, but all of its statistical leaders.
  4. Southern Cal had the 20th ranked defense and returns 10 of 11 starters. Yikes.
  5. On the other hand, Michigan had the 10th ranked defense and returns only 4.
  6. Notre Dame has fewer returning starters than any team on the schedule, and we return only one statistical leader from last year (Mo Crum, tackles).