Saturday, April 26, 2008

Digging into the Draft | by Pat

Today's Draft Day and we'll get to find out the new home of guys like Laws, Carlson, Sully, and Zibby. It seems like it was just yesterday that we were following the high school recruitment of Zibby on and by the end of the weekend he'll move on to the next step of his football career. While waiting to hear those ND names announced, here are some links to help pass the time.

First up, some human interest stories on the major Irish draft prospects. The Chicago Tribune covers the pre-draft jitters of the Irish quartet -- Laws, Carlson, Zibby, and Sullivan -- most likely to be drafted. Trevor's relationship with his brother is covered in one article while his homestate Minnesota paper highlights his strengths as a football player. USA Today has a short draft profile on John Sullivan while his Greenwich hometown paper covers the local angle. Carlson's local paper ran a nice piece on him while the larger Star Tribune did a similar rundown of the Minnesota native. Michael Rothstein documents Zibby's post-Combine workouts and the Chicago Tribune talks Zibby and Da Bears. Joe Brockington talks about his hopes for playing in the NFL for his hometown paper. There's even a story on Ambrose Wooden and his decision to end his football career and start his business one.

Some of the Wonderlic scores are being listed now. Assuming these scores are accurate, the ND players fared very well. John Carlson scored a 40 (out of a possible 50 points) which is the highest score of the listed players. Sully earned a 35 and Laws picked up a 30 while Zibby notched a 26.

ESPN's Todd McShay felt the need to mock draft all seven rounds and, for posterity, here are where he slotted the Irish players. John Carlson: 2nd round, #56 - Packers. Trevor Laws: 2nd round, #59 - Colts. John Sullivan: 4th round #101 - Rams. Tom Zbikowski: #103 - Falcons. Joe Brockington: 7th round, #235 - Cowboys. Feel free to add your guesses in the comment section. You can follow their actual draft post with this draft tracker, set to Irish players only, or the current draft in total.

Finally, here's a great read of Chinedum Ndukwe's roller coaster draft weekend last year as he sweat out the draft for the full seven rounds. Here's a brief excerpt but make sure to read the whole thing.

With the impact of Rich Braham's retirement settling in, the Bengals wanted a young player at center behind veterans Eric Ghiaciuc and Alex Stepanovich. Santucci hadn't played much of the position at all, but he was smart, tough, and had the build.

Now the Bengals were down to their last pick, No. 253. There were more crossouts than names left. Video directors Travis Brammer and Kent Stearman were starting to break down the draft room and getting ready for rookie camp.

And the guy the Bengals almost took in the fourth round was, just like in the movies, still there.

"Even though he had the top grade of anybody left, there was still discussion," Coyle said. "Did we already have a guy like that and did we need bodies someplace else?"

But the grade carried the day.

"The last two times I called him, it had been pretty grim. When I called him to tell him we'd picked him," Cioffi said, "it was like a parade."

Friday, April 25, 2008

Theo 101 | by Pat

When it rains, it pours. Just last week Notre Dame was sitting with one publicly committed recruit for the Class of 2009. That number is now up to four with the recent commit by New Jersey running back Theo Riddick. Riddick visited ND the week before the Blue-Gold game and after another college trip, he decided to announce for the Irish at a school press conference.

"It was just a great experience" visiting Notre Dame, said Riddick, who led Immaculata to a 12-0 season and a state Non-Public Group III title in 2006 and a 11-1 season and a berth in the Non-Public Group III title game last season. "I blended straight in. That's when I knew I wanted to go there."
Riddick also credited academics as a big role in his decision making process.
"Academics were really important to me. Football was second. You can’t play football forever but my education will last forever."
At 5'11", 190 pounds, Riddick selected the Irish over 12 other college offers including Penn State, Pittsburgh, Boston College, and Virginia. After his junior season where he rushed for 1, 192 yards and 13 touchdowns while missing three games with an ankle injury, he was named 1st Team All-Conference and 2nd Team All-State. It was his second straight year listed as a 2nd Team All-State selection as he was on the list his sophomore year as well. has the back listed as a 4-star recruit and the #142 overall recruit in the nation. hasn't ranked him yet as they apparently are planning on unveiling a Top 750 list very soon. (Top 750? Yeesh.) has a great set of free highlights on Riddick and this Youtube clip of his final game from last year includes a few quick highlights of him taking short passes and turning them into long gains. He's #3 in the white jersey and the plays are back to back starting at the 0:53 mark.

Landing Riddick and Cierre Wood means that ND is likely done with running back recruiting for the year, although, like Wood, Riddick also plays defensive back. He plays free safety for his high school and doesn't appear to have a preference for where he plays in college.
"To be honest, it doesn't really matter to me," he said. "Whatever gets me on the field the fastest."
I'm no recruiting guru, but he looks great with the ball in his hands in those highlight clips and pairing him with Wood on the offensive side of the ball would be a excellent combo. Apparently Theo agrees and looks forward to playing with Cierre.
"I honestly believe I can compete with him. We'll be very, very lethal," said Riddick, who has pondered January enrollment but is leaning toward arriving in the fall with most of his classmates. "I think we should have fun. I'm very, very excited to meet him."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Stockton Locked In | by Pat

New Jersey defensive tackle Tyler Stockton was a heavy Irish lean going into the Blue-Gold weekend and the latest verbal coming out of it. One of the things that helped seal the deal, according to the 6'1" 280 pounder, was the fan support.

"The fans, the fans here are unbelievable," said Stockton, who plays at The Hun School in Princeton, N.J. "That's the kind of fan base I want to play for. I mean, they love their football, so I'm excited."
Stockton's other scholarship offers came from a geographically diverse group including Penn State, Tennessee, UCLA, Georgia Tech, Michigan State, and California. So far he hasn't been ranked by, but has him listed as a 4-star recruit and the 157th ranked recruit overall. ESPN hasn't ranked any recruits yet either, but they already list Stockton on the roster for the ESPN Under Armor All-Star game this coming January. (Nothing goes wrong when our DT recruits go to that game, right? Just kidding, we'd never lose a committed defensive lineman from New Jersey.)

Included in the story about the All-Star game is the ESPN/Scouts, Inc. film review of Stockton which starts out like this:
He possesses one of the most explosive get-offs in this class. He is extremely quick off the ball and consistent. Opponents lined up against him better be prepared to get hit and jarred backwards. In addition to being quick, he will also stay low, quickly shoot his hands and on contact generate power from his lower body. He will physically hit a blocker so hard and so quickly he will snap his head back and put him on his heels.
Sounds good to me. You can check out his highlights here and judge for yourself. The third member of the recruiting Class of 2009, Stockton is being considered as a future nose guard and certainly will be more than just a space eater in the middle. While playing the same position in his high school's 3-4 defense, he was disruptive enough to be named MAPL Defensive Player of the year, First Team All-State Prep and First Team All-Area as a junior. From the sounds of things, Stockton is quick enough that he might be able to slide out to the end like Trevor Laws did this past season, depending on how much more he grows. He also plays golf for his high school, which isn't something you see from a 280 pound nose tackle very often. This is probably a good spot for a snarky Willingham reference, but I'll pass.

The Irish are still going to be thin along the defensive line in 2008, but depth is slowly being established, especially on the interior of the line. With a young starter in Ian Williams, Brandon Newman and Hafis Williams showing up in the fall, and now Stockton for 2009, the Irish are finally starting to build depth at the one position that has given Charlie some trouble recruiting-wise his first few years.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Snapshot Irish | by Pat

Many thanks to those who sent in their pictures from this past weekend's Blue-Gold game. Irish photogs ND Eddie, Laura, Subway Alumni, John M. and Terry W. were all kind enough to send in their shots and there are some great ones included. Here is a direct link to the slideshow. Enjoy and thanks again to all those who contributed photos.

Frontal Assault | by Jay

A screenshot from the Blue-Gold game showing one of the base fronts of our defense:

Might this be the starting 7 come the Fall?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

CW lands CW | by Pat

Really, we're starting to get spoiled here. For the third straight year, a 5-star recruit from California publicly committed to the Irish during the Blue-Gold Game weekend. (Ok, technically Dayne Crist went public the day before he flew out, but I'm counting it). Following in the footsteps of Clausen and Crist, Oxnard running back Cierre Wood ended the suspense and announced his choice for the Fighting Irish on Saturday. Wood is the second recruit in the Class of 2009 and a huge get for any program, let alone an Irish one coming off a 3-9 season.

As one might expect, Wood's high school coach is effusive in his praise of his star player.

"He's a special player," said the Saints' fourth-year coach. "He not only is a great talent, he has the heart of a champion. He's willing to work hard and he's a good person, too."
With offers from schools like Southern Cal, Florida, Nebraska, Auburn, and UCLA, Wood narrowed his choice down to the Bruins and the Irish before his trip. His mom accompanied him on the trip out for the Blue-Gold game weekend -- getting the mom on campus is always one of ND's main recruiting goals -- and Wood liked what he saw enough to make things official.
"I just feel comfortable," said Wood, who on Saturday picked the Irish over UCLA, "and felt like I needed to be there."
This is just fantastic news as the 6'0" 195 pound Wood is the highest ranked running back recruit to pick ND since the rivals and scout started their databases in 2002. On, Wood is the #1 running back and #3 player overall in the nation. On he's the #3 RB and #19 recruit overall. If you want to get a glimpse of him in action, here are a few options. His highlights on rivals are long, but only of his sophomore year, when he was named California Sophomore Player of the Year. The Southern Cal recruiting site on ESPN has some new film on him as well that is worth checking out. Youtube has a few quick highlights from one of his junior year games.

One common trait mentioned in the various write-ups on Wood is that he's an athlete first and running back second. In fact, when StudentSports named him a 1st Team Nike Underclass All-American, they put him in the "athlete" slot rather than as the running back. Some reviews even mention that he could be equally adept at playing safety in college as running back, ala Tony Driver. For his high school, Wood plays just about anywhere he's needed.
The Santa Clara High standout lines up at running back, of course. But he also regularly plays wide receiver on offense and cornerback and free safety on defense. When the special teams are on the field, Wood is the punter, punt returner and kick returner.
I realize it's a fools errand to look at high school stats and try to extrapolate out any type of college production. Still, it's hard to read things like the following and not look forward to what he might do while wearing an ND uniform.
Ventura County Star
Stardom came calling for the junior running back in 2007. Wood scored 42 touchdowns, rushed for 2,612 yards on a mere 178 carries [BGS ed note: that's 14.7 yards per carry], caught seven passes for 191 yards, excelled at cornerback with 50 tackles and three interceptions and, oh yes, led his program to its first CIF-Southern Section championship in 42 years.

L.A. Times Varsity Insider Blog

This guy's a player: Another amazing performance by all-everything Cierre Wood of Santa Clara. Wood rushed for 151 yards (giving him 408 in the last two games), scored three TDs, intercepted two passes and blocked a punt in the Saints’ 33-7 victory over Flintridge Prep.

Ventura County Star
, again
Wood had a 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a 63-yard TD run in the first quarter, and a 12-yard TD run in the second. The sensation junior would have three more touchdowns, but they were called back because of penalties.
The accolades and gaudy stats will likely continue to pour in for Wood next year and he should keep his 5-star status as the ever turbulent recruiting rankings do their usual reshuffling over the next few months. In the meantime, Wood's name and shiny 5-star status under the"Notre Dame commit" list will be a big boon to the Irish recruiting effort. Jake Golic kicked off the class but Wood will lend the star power that will make it easier for the coaches to sell ND as they cross the country during the spring evaluation period now underway.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Irish O top Irish D | by Pat

Another successful Blue and Gold game weekend is in the books. The big news from the weekend was the public commitment of 5-star running back Cierre Wood and 4-star defensive tackle Tyler Stockton. We'll have more on the latest talented duo to join the Irish shortly, but for now let's recap the latest installment of ND's final spring scrimmage.

As far as spring games go, this one actually had a bit of suspense as the offense needed a 4th down TD pass and subsequent extra point to pull out a 47-46 "win" over the defense. With the winner getting a steak and shrimp dinner while the loser gets franks and beans, no doubt that final pass from Clausen to Kamara made their fellow offensive teammates happy.

If you weren't one of the announced 30,286 people at the game, the next best thing is the video recap on They have highlights up on the main page as well as every play from the scrimmage and the post-game presser with the coaches and the players. The South Bend Tribune is also getting into the video act with a bit of a video journal that includes fan opinion and game highlights. Picture-wise, we're getting some very good shots from fans who attended that will be up in a day or so. In the meantime, the SBT has an excellent photo album from the weekend with some great action shots, including the banner pic at the top of this post.

The MVP awards went to Robert Hughes for the offense and Harrison Smith for the defense. (I wonder when the last time two freshmen won the MVP awards.) Hughes was the pick for the offense after picking up 100 yards and a TD on 22 carries while Smith's interception return for a TD was the high point for the defense. Jimmy Clausen put up a so-so 183 yards on 10 of 27 passing with a TD and an interception, but wasn't helped out by a handful of drops from the receiving corp. The leading tackler was Morrice Richardson with seven. Here's the official box score for the game if you want to see how other players did and figure out exactly how the defense scored 46 points. John Walters has a comprehensive review of the game while scrolling through Michael Rothstein's live blog of the game adds a bit more detail.

As with any glorified scrimmage, it's not the best idea to read too much into what happened. Individual effort, as in the case of Hughes, Smith, and others is pretty easy to gauge, but we really didn't learn much about what we're going to see in the fall. Was the OL solid in run blocking due to renewed emphasis on technique and fundamentals or because our defensive line will be a trouble spot. Or both? Are our receivers going to have trouble getting separation all year or will we have a tough secondary? Or both? A more detailed spring practice recap is probably in order, but for now the big takeaways from the spring are that Clausen is looking like the real deal at QB, Hughes just might be the best of a talented trio of running backs, the OL seem to play with more passion at the very least, the defense seems to be responding to the Corwin Brown-Jon Tenuta coaching, and we're likely to see a lot more blitzing from them in the fall.

If you were at the game, feel free to add your own scouting report in the comment section.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Come on up for the rising | by Pat

The annual Shirt tradition may not be everyone's cup of tea, but my first impression is that the 2008 version is pretty good. Bonus points for the Grantland Rice "blue, gray October sky" reference of course.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Tune in, Turn on, First down | by Pat

We're only a few days from the Blue and Gold game weekend and it's time to talk logistics.

If you aren't going to be on campus for the weekend, your chances to follow along with the game are somewhat limited. We're still trying to run down the available media options so if we miss something, please drop a note in the comment section and we'll update the list.

First off, the ND student radio station, WVFI, will once again broadcast the game and you can listen to their play by play online at the WVFI website. Michael Rothstein will also be live-blogging the game from the press box at his blog, Irish Insights. If you want to show off your fancy iPhone or Blackberry and leave comments on BGS with your take on the action, feel free to do so. If you sneak in a backpack TV transmitter, that's cool too.

Speaking of those at the game, we've had some pretty solid success the past few years with putting together a photo slideshow from the Blue Gold weekend and once again invite anyone who is on campus to email us your game weekend photos. The Shirt unveiling, the player breakfast, incoming freshman or recruits roaming the sidelines, honorary team coaches, tailgating, plays during the game, whatever you want to photograph, send it our way. You can email the pics directly to bluegraysky (at) and we'll combine them all together and share what we get. If you take any video as well and wind up putting it on youtube or the like, drop us an email too and let us know so we can link it here.


While the game is never a sell-out, don't expect to wander in just before kickoff and get a great seat. Construction will be blocking off just about half of the stadium. I imagine the good seats will go fast.


Due to construction currently underway at Notre Dame Stadium, sections 20-36 will be closed for the Blue-Gold Game. There will not be any seating in the lower bowl of the west side of the stadium (press box side) from goal post to goal post.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Skywriting: Almost There edition | by Pat

We're in the home stretch as spring practice concludes with the Blue and Gold game this Saturday. Here are a few random bits of news and opinion that cover the past few days and weeks as we start to look forward to this weekend.

Men on the Move. A few players have been getting reps at different positions in the last few practices although none are exactly surprises. Harrison Smith has spent time working out with the linebackers lately as ND appears to be looking at him manning an outside linebacker role in passing situations. With David Bruton and Kyle McCarthy holding down the starting safety spots, Smith apparently has been impressive enough in practice that the coaches are trying to find ways to get him on the field. Last year when ND went to a nickel or dime package, often McCarthy would come in as the strong safety and Zibby would move down into the box. It sounds like they are looking to Smith to fill a similar role in '08. The best part about this is that the All-Smith linebacking corp is now becoming a realistic possibility. Just once during the season I hope to see Brian, Harrison, Toryan, and Scott line up in the front seven.

Meanwhile, the running back unit added a few new faces as Barry Gallup and Steve Paskorz have moved over from wide receiver and linebacker respectively. Both were primarily running backs in high school so the transition shouldn't be that tough. With Paskorz being slotted for fullback, I wonder if that makes Luke Schmidt's transition to tight end/H-back a more permanent one. Either way, it should provide more fullback depth, more competition for Schwapp, and more of a running threat out of the fullback position. For those who plan on keeping an eye on the newest backs during the Blue and Gold game, make note that Paskorz has switched from #50 to #30.

Speaking of the Blue and Gold game, Charlie announced that Golden Tate will in fact be with the football team the rest of spring practice while Evan Sharpley will miss the Blue and Gold game in order to play with the baseball team. Eric Maust will miss one more practice but will play in the Blue and Gold game.

Up in the Booth. Charlie mentioned another subtle change in the coaching setup Monday after practice. As part of his new offensive coordinator role, Coach Haywood will move up to the press box during the game. As Haywood begins to call plays for the first time in his career, I'm glad he'll be removed from the chaos of the sideline and Weis apparently agrees.

Realistically as an offensive coordinator, you can see the game so much better upstairs. I gave him the choice which place to go. As an offensive coordinator if you didn’t have checks and balances on the field to make sure he could get everything passed onto the offense, then he would stay down on the field. Just think about it, you could lay all your charts out; you have the down and distance tendencies; it isn’t just sitting there with a call sheet. You can see what they do in different areas. As the game goes on, you can be charting what they are doing and you can actually see it in front of you instead of having to memorize it and visualize it in your head. I would say that almost any other offensive coordinator that you would talk to, other than being able to be sighted on the side lines, would like to pull themselves away from that and actually be able to see the field.”
I suspect this means that Coach Parmalee (and Charlie too I suppose) will take on more responsibility with the running backs during the game as Haywood won't be on the sidelines anymore to work with them. All in all this isn't big, or even surprising news, but I figured it was worth mentioning.

Up in the Booth II: The Return. For those who prefer a Hammond-less Notre Dame football experience, two familiar voices will be back in the fall as Allen Pinkett and Don Criqui will continue to provide radio play by play coverage for all ND games.
Pinkett’s representatives and a high-ranking representative of ISP spoke about one month ago and details have been ironed out since to. ISP was happy with the product but will still make some changes.

“The format will change a bit from last year. ISP is looking to add an hour-long pre-game show and an hour-long post-game show,” Pinkett explained
ISP still hasn't announced all of the affiliates that will be carrying the games. Expect that to come out sometime in the summer.

Brooks Brother. Finally, we've been a bit late in mentioning that Reggie Brooks has officially joined the football office as the newly created Manager for Monogram/Football Alumni Relations.
Brooks will work directly with both Jim Fraleigh, executive director of the Notre Dame Monogram Club, as well as Irish head football coach Charlie Weis on numerous projects related to the club and former football players.
Brooks has done a great job with the pre and post-game work on and it's good to see him take on more roles with the football program. And now, according to Notre Dame blog guidelines, we are duty-bound to include a Reggie Brooks highlight video. Enjoy.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Charlieball | by Pat

Likely due to a lack of depth at certain positions (QB, TE, DL), the upcoming Blue and Gold game is switching from the normal 1st team vs. 2nd team setup to an Offense vs. Defense matchup. The scoring system will be changed to something reminiscent of such Davie-era spring games as the 74-40 Blue and Gold game of 2001.

For those who are going to attempt to keep score at the game, good luck. The full breakdown can be found on but here are the highlights.


1st Down 1 point
Explosive Play 2 points (10+ yard run/20+ yard pass)
Field Goal 3 points
Touchdown 6 points
Extra Point 1 point
2-point Conversion 2 points
Blocked Punt 3 points

Defensive Stop 2 points
Sack 2 points
3 and Out 3 points
Missed Field Goal 3 points
Turnover 6 points
Turnover for Touchdown 10 points
Missed Extra Point 1 point
Missed 2-point Conv. 2 points
Blocked Field Goal 3 points
There will also be non-contact red jerseys, presumably for Clausen, and no kickoffs, which has been standard operating procedure the past few years. Rosters will be released in the coming few days.

Update: has released a few more scoring rules that will added to the game. They read as follows:

• If, while running multiple runs, a batsman does not touch the ground beyond the popping crease before he returns for the next run, then the umpire at that end will signal one short, and the number of runs scored is reduced by one.

• After a goal is scored, the Keeper of the team scored upon throws the Quaffle back into play. Capturing the Snitch earns the Seeker's team 150 points, equivalent to 15 goals scored by Chasers

• Flags (Calvinball Equipment 2.3) shall be named by players whom shall also assign the power and rules which shall govern that flag for particular moment in that particular game(Figure 1.6).

• A waza-ari can be earned by: 1) a throwing technique that is not quite an ippon (for example the opponent lands only partly on the back, or with less force than required for ippon); 2) holding one contestant in a pin for 20 seconds; or 3) when the opponent violates the rules (shido) three times.

•Each player will stand inside a circle and have tennis balls thrown at him by the other players. Anybody who catches a rebound moves up to the death line for a closer throw.

•The game is played with six players on each team and six rubber balls. The object of the game is to eliminate the opposing players. Once all the players on team are eliminated, the opposing team wins!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

120 Minutes | by Pat

Last week we took a look at some of the notes and quotes from the opening 20 minutes of the first few practices. Now we get to dig into the data dump following this past Saturday's two hour open practice. But before we get to all of the links and videos, a comparison is in order.

Last year, at the open media practice, the Irish practiced running the ball but stopped short of taking each other to the ground whenever possible. Here's a quick clip to refresh your memory. Check it out. Players were running around, but were under orders to pull up rather than really lay into one another.

Counter that with the emotion on display in this video clip from Saturday's practice. Seems just a bit different, right?

Of course, it will take a bit more than a few practice scuffles to get ND back to where they need to be. But it sure is fun to watch the team do more than half-speed drills. This program has not been without energy and passion since Charlie took over. But watching the various videos from this past Saturday, it seems the team, top to bottom, are enjoying themselves a lot more than in the practice videos from years past. Let's hope reality matches perception.

Getting to clips of the team practicing running drills this past Saturday, you can get a real apples to apples comparison with last year's video. The latest drills start about 1:20 into this practice summary video. (This video also includes some other practice highlights including Eric Olsen's response to the defense after the Irish Eyes drill scuffle linked above and Sam Young's attempt to become ND's top secret super-sized punt returner. And a tip of the hat to Subway Domer who posts these youtube-ized Irish Illustrated practice videos.)

If you want to start at the beginning and get the full practice rundown, both Michael Rothstein and Ben Ford have long, but well worth it, recaps. has an excellent video collection including the normal practice report as well as the O vs. D running plays, the red zone work, and WR vs. DB drills, and the OL & RB group drills.

The major points coming out of the day seem to boil down to Clausen being impressive in his accuracy, the aforementioned spirit and energy of some of the drills, and the fact that the whole team had to run when Brandon Walker missed a end of practice field goal.

The South Bend Tribune had a nice story on Walker, his work to regain his confidence, and discussion of who he's working with to improve his accuracy.

But he does have a few on speed dial. At the top of the list is Irish teammate Ryan Burkhart, a junior-to-be from NorthWood High, who has made quantum strides himself this winter by all accounts. Then there's former Ohio State kicker Josh Huston, whose father, Denny, was Walker's kicking coach in high school.

"They live right down the street," Walker said. "So I call him every once in a while if I have technique issues. I kick with him in the offseason. Findlay, Ohio, (High School) is pretty well known for kickers. Five out of the past six kickers have gone on to play Division I, and the guy behind me is on the same tract. I stay in contact with those guys."
I confess that the "quantum strides" mention along with Burkhart has piqued my curiosity. Hopefully it's in the area of kickoffs. To restate the painfully obvious, ND needs to find a big and consistent leg there. Last year's primary kickoff specialist, Nate Whitaker, isn't listed on the team roster anymore so presumably he's left the team.

Now that we're about halfway through spring ball many of my hopes and worries have remained the same. Nothing has risen up to assuage my concern about the thin and inexperienced DL while at the same time I've seen little to dampen my thoughts that Clausen the OL will be very much improved. Like I wrote earlier, it's just not spring practice without those familiar optimistic thoughts rising to the surface, but there are still those nagging fears that aren't going to go away so easily. What's your take so far? What do you hope to see at the Blue and Gold game?

Monday, April 07, 2008

Golic is a Go | by Pat

Another year, another Golic. After his brother kicked things off last year, Jake Golic accepted a scholarship offer on the spot and became ND's first public commit of the 2009 recruiting class. It was more or less expected that Jake would commit assuming he got an offer and Jake didn't deny it in the least.

"I wasn't waiting for offers. I was waiting for Notre Dame the whole time. I couldn't really care what happened besides that. I was just waiting for Notre Dame to come."
A self-reported 6'5" 220 pounds, Golic played tight end as well as a bit of wide receiver last year, but will come to South Bend as a tight end. His other official listed scholarship offer was from the home state UConn Huskies, although he reportedly had been receiving interest from a number of other programs. Last season Golic hauled in 410 yards and 2 touchdowns on 21 receptions,

Neither nor have ranked him yet, but he did receive some praise last year during the camp and combine circuit. The summer before his junior year, he was named 1st Team Nike Underclass All-American at the conclusion of the national Nike camps. Later in the year he was listed as an Honorable Mention WR/TE at this past winter's US Army All-American Combine (the only TE who made the list). Check out this highlight video for clips of him both at the Nike camp and playing for Northwest Catholic this past fall.

With Mike Ragone, Kyle Rudolph, and Joseph Fauria all having at least two years left when Golic gets on campus, Jake won't need to be pressed into service and will have time to add weight and strength. In the meantime, he will help get the ball rolling on the 2009 recruiting class.

Taking a look at scholarship numbers for the latest recruiting class, if you add up the players who will have eligibility left for the 2009 season, approximately 69 of the available 85 scholarships will be accounted for. That leaves about 16 open scholarships for the latest recruiting class. That number will go up likely due to natural attrition or if any of the five eligible 5th year seniors (Sharpley, Schwapp, Hord, Washington, McCarthy) do not return. In all likelihood, Notre Dame's 2009 recruiting class will number around 20 players.

Friday, April 04, 2008

20 minutes | by Pat

It seemed like spring practice just started and we're already a third of the way through it. Today marks the 6th of 15 practices and the Blue-Gold game is rapidly approaching. So far, the media has been limited to the first 20 minutes of each practice so the amount of relevant information has been limited. There is only so much one can glean from watching players stretch their hamstrings and run over and around inanimate objects. Still, there have been a few bits and pieces of info to come out already. Here's a sampling.

• The race to replace Zibby has a definite front-runner. Coach Weis said yesterday that Kyle McCarthy is the clear favorite to man the starting strong safety spot opposite free safety David Bruton.

"You're going to have to do a lot to beat him out," Weis said. "He's very knowledgeable of the position, and he's brought a lot of toughness. The thing I like more than anything is how sound of tackler he's been in this camp."
Sergio Brown is pressing, but for now McCarthy is the starter. Throw in Ray Herring, Leonard Gordon, Jashaad Gaines, and Harrison Smith and ND has a solid collection of depth at the safety spot. The next step will be seeing how they perform on the field.

• Elsewhere on the defense, Mo Richardson has been taking most of the first team reps at the open defensive end spot. It's an interesting choice as the 260 pound junior isn't the same player as the 300 pound Trevor Laws was last year or what the 285 pound Pat Kuntz will be in the fall, assuming he returns. His presence on the first team is a big clue that Brown and Tenuta are shaking things up from last year. At this point it's premature to speculate on how Brown and Tenuta plan on using Richardson -- DE in a 4-3 front? situational pass rusher? -- but it's pretty clear they are prepping him to see the field in the fall.

• Speaking of Pat Kuntz, he's been spotted hanging around the practices, which is a good sign that he will return. Will Yeatman has been showing up to all of them too, so it's likely that he'll be back as well.

• Over on the offensive side of the ball, it's too early to gauge any OL progress. The one thing that I noticed is that early enrollee Trevor Robinson looks like he fits in with the rest of the linemen. That is to say, he's not going to need a year or two to gain size. He's already big. Can't wait to watch him and the rest of the OL in the spring game.

• Another offensive guy that I noticed is Asaph Schwapp. While most of the talk has been about the weight gain of guys like Sam Young and Jimmy Clausen, Schwapp looks like he's slimmed down some from last year. More importantly, he's running without a knee brace for the first time in over a year and doing the lateral bag drills that he used to skip. Will a lighter and more agile Schwapp translate to better blocking out of ND's fullback position? That's my hope. Asaph is one player I'm really pulling for this upcoming season.

• If you're a fan of crusty old coaches who would sooner swallow their whistle than be labeled a "player's coach", then you're already probably a fan of Coach Tenuta. Put earmuffs on the kids and check out one of the already popular videos of Tenuta at work with the linebackers.

• Charlie and Coach Polian took a trip to visit Frank Beamer and talk special teams. I'm pretty sure all the special teams woes are fixed now. Seriously though, when Weis talked about the meeting, he briefly touched on the punt return aspect of special teams and being more aggressive.
"Obviously, he spends a lot of time trying to scheme a block of the week, so to speak. That is one of the things they have hung their hat on, but there is risk/reward there. I mean, if you want to bring it after it every time, you have to be willing for everyone in the place to boo you every time you rough the punter at the same time. So there is give and take. His feeling is, when you’re the head coach, you can do that because if they’re going to be booing someone, they’re going to be booing you anyway. So he figures, what the heck, go ahead and do it.”

Is that a risk you will want to take more often?

“I can see me doing that (laughing); I can definitely see me doing that.”
The thing is, thanks to Trevor Laws and Derek Landri, ND blocked more kicks and punts the past two years than Virginia Tech did. Unless ND really revamps its punt rush to yield more blocks, we likely will see the block numbers go down in 2008. Still, there is more to bringing pressure than just blocks. The more rushed kicks, the better chances of big returns or shanks. And of course there is a lot more improvement needed special teams wise than just pressuring kicks and punts.

• One last thing. Given how limited access to practice is, I find it a bit funny just how many different outlets are assigned to report on those limited 20 minutes. If you need your fix, you can check practice reports from an assortment of websites including Irish Eyes, Irish Illustrated, Blue and Gold Illustrated, the photo and video summaries of practice at those three sites, Michael Rothstein's Irish Insights blog for the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, Brian Hamilton's Around the Bend blog for the Chicago Tribune, Ben Ford's blog for the Elkhart Truth, and of course's video coverage of each practice and media interview. The only site that doesn't provide a near instant blog-style practice reaction piece shortly after practice is over is the South Bend Tribune, which settles for adding in any relevant practice tidbits in Eric Hansen's next day article. By my count that is eight different media outlets covering practice daily and doesn't include near daily stories from the Observer, the occasional spring stories that crop up on the national media sites like ESPN, and blogs like this one that round up what we find interesting from the previously mentioned sites and post it up for posterity.

Maybe the limited practice access is a good thing. Just imagine the information overload if everyone could hang around practice as much as they like and we fans could spend all spring parsing the importance of Robert Hughes gaining 43 yards in a mid-practice scrimmage versus James Aldridge's 37. We'll get a glimpse of what it's like once again as ND holds its one "media open" practice tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Navy beats Notre Dame!! | by Jay

Just kidding -- rest easy. I photoshopped the above image. That would never happen. April Fool's!