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Cool Heads Analyze Fighting Irish Woes

Posted: 2007-11-29

A few Cyberzahmbies offer their opinions about what went wrong during the 2007 football season and how it can be fixed.

DD writes:

My take:

  1. Charlie didn't have them ready. The opener set the stage for the entire year and it was a mess. The half-assed attempt at the spread option, offensive line deficiences, etc. etc.
  2. Three bad recruiting classes. Yes, I rank the current sophomore class as a poor class at this point. Very few played well. Darrin Walls was good, but otherwise, they looked pretty average. Sam Young, Dan Wenger, Eric Olson all played poorly much of the season. Robbie Paris and George West are good to average receivers. The sophomore linebackers, Toryan Smith and Morrice Richardson didn't even play much as best I could tell. Neither of them could beat out an average Joe Brockington. James Aldridge was OK, but without blocking it was hard to tell. Hughes looks better. Overall, the sophomore class really underperformed in my book. That left us with true freshmen, many of whom played, played a lot and played well, and fifth year seniors as the two good classes.
  3. Uncertain leadership. It was never really clear who the team leaders were. The fifth years were trying hard, but it wasn't working. With Brady's departure, there was a big leadership gap, which no one filled. The uncertainty and youth at the qb position contributed to the problem.


A fair assessment, but I also think that you have to top that off with an inexperienced head coach who couldn't handle that mess, one who had never seen such a situation before.

CW is learning on the job. I hope he shows quicker promise,or at least the capability to seek and take advice from others who may have been there before.

I don't see where he needs to include Bill Bellicheck in that group.

Let's hope next year gets off to a quick start.

A



I wouldn’t write off the sophomore class just yet. Many- especially the OL were playing for the first time. It’s one thing for an underclassman to come in and play as a true FR or SO when surrounded by 4th and 5th year guys, but it’s another animal when they are out thee with other first year players. I think the real issue was the complete lack of talent in the JR and SR classes, and the fifth year guys (exception with Laws and Carlson) provided zero leadership on the field and likely stunted the growth of the underclassmen.

Sobo



That was a good summary Dave. I do agree with Sobo though that the overall youth of the team hurt the soph class and likely contributed to their disappointing play. If these guys were sprinkled in among polished upperclassmen some of their mistakes would have been covered and they would have gotten essential mentoring as time went along. We might have noticed their outstanding contributions rather than there consistently "poor play." Lacking the top performing older guys around them, they were on their own and their youth was repeatedly exploited.

It should also be factored in that though "The O-line Blows" is a popular mantra, that the sack total was also influenced by young backs who couldnt block blitzing line backers and a young QB who couldnt make decisions quick enough. I'm not saying that the O-line didnt blow, but the youth behind the O-line also contributed to the sack total and lake of a passing game... which also made it harder to run... You can say that the coaching sucked. Maybe. But maybe being so young in so many places is the real explanation.

Note that that many of the top teams have OLDER QBs. Matt Ryan at BC is a fifth year senior. Dennis Dixon at Oregon was also a 5th year senior. Oregon was scoring a TON of points. They crushed Michigan and beat USC. The team had 200 yards in the first quarter against Arizona. Dixon goes down and they losde to a shitty Arizona team and get SHUT-THE-HELL-OUT by UCLA. Chase Daniel? Not exactly a freshman. The Ohio State QB sat a round a few years until getting his chance this year. The Oklahoma is a freshman in eligibility but wasnt he red-shirted last year. And look at who he is playing with. And so on. After all, the truth is that Quinn, a couple of receivers and a decent senior back covered up a lot. My point is that running out a TRUE frosh at QB with a youthful O-line and backs got us EXACTLY what we deserved...

The surprising thing is that we are all surprised.

I am not an apologist for Weis. I dont think he understood the situation or reacted to it very well. Obviously, he shoulda had Sharply out there on Game 1 and kept him there. With the cast around him, no way was Clausen ready. And it seems obvious now that Weis had few clues about how to develop such a young squad. He had never been there before. Going to the Patriots in the offseason? That's his call. Why should any of us have an opinion? I hope that will not be the only place he gets advice from. It's his bed. He needs to make it. Or not. On the bright side he has shown that he CAN win 10-11 games with good people in skilled positions. He will again, and then some because the defense will be better.

During the Stanford game they said that 18 of 21 ND starters will be back.

Another factor external to the ND inner circle is the larger puzzle being worked out nationally in college football. ND can run, but cannot hide from the parity in play here. It's simply harder these days to RECONSTRUCT a winning program. ND is sitting there these days with Nebraska, Alabama, Miami, Colorado. Can you imagine being a Cornhusker? It's not that these programs are not TRYING to rebuild. They just cant seem to do it. Why? What are THEY doing wrong? Is ND doing the same things wrong? It's obvious too that the spread offense fixes it so that more teams are in the hunt. You need the right people, sure, but look at what Appalachian State and Oregon did to Michigan. Ask Ohio State if it wants to play WV or MO. These teams just look like fun. This makes it harder overall to get back on top.

The point here is that Weis really has some tough work ahead. A young squad will get older. What is not certain is whether he has the skills to develop his young talent AND if he understands enough about college football overall to win 10-11 games consistently.

We'll see.

J



Here is one more interesting stat. If you look at the 24 starters in the Stanford game (O, D, and kickers) 16 were true FR or SO. That doesn’t include the “redshirt” Jrs like Duncan, Turkovich and Grimes who would be sophs at most other schools. That kind of youth will have a tough time competing with 22-23 yr old players regardless of talent.

Now we just need to develop them so they can be the big dogs in the next couple years.

Sobo



John,

I mostly agree. Lots of things to correct and due to parity, it's no easy task. The spread option, if that's what you call it, is a great equalizer, much as the Academies have used the option for many years. How else do you explain teams with no great advantage in talent, being so difficult to stop. You point out the Oregon, Mo, and Applachian State as good examples.

All that said, my view on the sophomore class is based primarily on comparison to our own freshman class. Two freshman linebackers, Smith and Neal, ending up being much more impactful than any of the sophs. John Ryan, a sophomore, played a lot, but made damn few plays that I recall. Of the sophomore receivers, West and Paris were decent, the others didn't do much of anything. Freshmen Kamara and Tate show a lot more potential, I think. Clausen and Hughes could be very good. Yes, the sophs are young and some of them will be pretty good, but they are not showing themselves to be a class around which to rebuild a program. I just don't see that level of play in the sophomore class. Thus my assessment that we've had three poor recruiting classes in a row. The sophs not being as poor as the juniors and seniors.

D.D.



Weis is a big FFF!

Gabes