Saturday, October 8, 2011

Numbers Behind The Streak

37 straight games are quite impressive for a bunch of guys that weren't supposed to be anywhere near the top of one of the best conferences in the country. But the Fighting Irish are, and will most likely add more come next season with a veteran squad. As the first Big East team ever to post consecutive unbeaten records at home, there are more impressive facts behind this streak.

5 - Ranked opponents the Irish beat at the JACC
5 - Games Notre Dame scored less than 70 points
11 - Contests the Irish scored 90 points or more
18.1 - Average margin of win against opponents
24 - Opponents held under 70 points
83.8 - Points per game average during the current streak
2-0 - Versus the SEC
18 - Big East wins (every conference team except for Georgetown)
10.5 - Average margin of Big East win
78.7 - Points per game against Big East opponents
68.2 - Points per game Big East teams averaged against the Irish
18-12 - Average of Big East squads record during the streak

Most naysayer’s will claim that Notre Dame didn't have the hardest home schedules the past few years. I say the heck with that, because NO Big East team ever did this in the league's existence. Especially with so much parity in college basketball in recent seasons, this accomplishment makes it even more spectacular.

As the lone senior, Rob Kurz, ended his Joyce Center career, one can wonder how long the streak will last with a solid core group coming back. The Irish should break the overall school unbeaten streak next season with a few wins before the brutal Big East portion kicks in.

Hopefully with a little bit of luck and a sure bet Top 20 squad, the Irish will try and make an encore repeat undefeated season next year!

USC the Next Ivy League School?

Southern Cal has toughened their admissions process to get the best students in the World!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Fugetaboutit! Irish To Bounce Back Against Rutgers

It could be real easy to sulk and mull over what could have been last Wednesday when the Irish had an opportunity to beat Connecticut. Thank goodness for Rutgers! Yes, Notre Dame has had it struggles in New Jersey, 3-7 all time at the RAC; but the Irish are facing the last place team in the league. The Scarlet Knights, losers of five straight, are dead last in the conference in scoring (62.9 pts per contest), FG % (40.0%), 3pt. FG% (31.0%), and have the most turnovers (15.3 a game). Did I mention that they have only two wins in league play?

Even though Rutgers has beaten Pittsburgh on the road, the Knights are 1-5 in the Big East at home. The Irish can improve their road record to .500 with the win, and still keep on pace for their second consecutive first round bye in the Big East Tournament. Notre Dame just needs to get out of the gates early and not let up, like the Seton Hall contest.

Luke Harangody will dominant in the post when he faces a fairly small Rutgers defense. Rob Kurz will bounce back after having an off game behind a strong family contingent in the crowd. Kyle McAlarney will have some family and friends in attendance, which means another solid performance for the Staten Island, NY, sharpshooter!

If it comes down to Free Throw shooting, the Irish will dominate. Notre Dame owns a decisive advantage from the charity stripe over its opponents. The Irish have outscored their opponents 392-198 from the line in 23 games and 2007-08 against BIG EAST foes. Rutgers is one of the worst in the conference, shooting only 64.9% from the line. OUCH!

The key for the Irish will be strong guard play from Tory Jackson, and bench production from Ryan Ayers, Luke Zeller, and Jonathan Peoples. If Notre Dame can get around 20 + points from their reserves, the Irish will win easily. Look for the Irish to deepen their bench on Sunday for their 19th win of the season.

Prediction: Notre Dame 89 Rutgers 70

Baseline Bits

~ Notre Dame leads the all-time series 13-11 with 19 of those contests taking place since both schools became members of the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96. The Irish have won each of the last two meetings, including last season 73-66 win at the RAC on March 3, 2007, which marked the final regular contest of the 2006-07 campaign.

~ The Irish have won 16 of their last 19 games and are off to an 18-5 start through the first 23 contests of the season for the second consecutive year. The best start for an Irish team following 23 games under head coach Mike Brey was in 2002-03 when that squad raced to a 19-4 start in his third season at the helm.

~ Luke Harangody recorded a career-best sixth straight double-double against Connecticut on Wednesday night when he scored a career-high 32 points and matched his career-high with 16 rebounds. It also marked the first time in his career with six consecutive double-doubles. In the last six contests, he has averaged 26.2 points and 13.0 rebounds.

~ Harangody has 14 double-doubles on the season and 14 in the last 19 contests, including nine of 11 BIG EAST games. The last Irish player to register six consecutive double-doubles was Ryan Humphrey in 2001-02 when he ended his career a double-double in the final 11 games of his career.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Irish Look to TKO Cardinals Tonight

Tonight’s matchup of Big East heavyweights is slated to go the distance, as long as, the Irish have the same energy it did in their last major road contest against Connecticut. Despite the loss to the Huskies earlier this month, Notre Dame was in it towards the end after missing shots they’ve normally made during the season. However, against Louisville the Irish will have to be on their “A” game to pull out the most important game of the season to date.

With a win tonight, the Irish will be in the thick of it for the regular season championship, as well as, having the coveted first round bye in the Big East Tournament. But there might be too many “ifs” for Notre Dame this evening.

1.) If Tory Jackson can play under control and know that he doesn’t necessarily have to take it all on himself.

2.) If Notre Dame can hit their Big East leading average (40.9%) from 3pt. range.

3.) If Jonathan Peoples and Luke Zeller can provide meaningful minutes and points.

4.) If Rob Kurz, Luke Harangody, Zach Hillesland, and Ryan Ayers can win the battle of the boards.

Something has to give as Notre Dame has the highest scoring offense in the league (80.8), while Louisville combats with the second-best scoring defense in the Big East (60.5). To make matters worse for the Irish is the 37.5 field goal percentage defense for the Cards, ranking fourth nationally. Louisville has held 16 teams under 40 percent shooting this season, including 10 of its last 12 opponents. The Cards held Syracuse to 29.1 percent shooting two games ago. 15 of Louisville’s opponents have scored 60 or fewer points this season. So the Irish will see an unrelenting defense and a deep bench tonight.

On the flip side, the Irish do have a few things in their favor tonight. If it comes down to the wire and to free throw shooting, Louisville is one of the worst in the Big East. The Cardinals are shooting 66.2% from the charity stripe. Louisville is also middle of the pack in 3pt. FG % too at 34.7.

After the Syracuse win, many alike were discouraged by the fact that the Irish were out rebounded by a huge margin to the Orange. As the best rebounding team in the Big East, Notre Dame should dominate the boards defensively, as the Cardinals are the second-to-worst offensive rebounding team in the Big East. Louisville does have some decent size, but can 6-11 David Padgett really bang around with Harangody? We shall see.

Speaking of Luke, he would be just the second Big East player in the last decade to average 22 ppg and 11 rpg in conference play for a season. (Georgetown's Mike Sweetney did it in '02-03.) Only five players have averaged 22 and 11 in league play for a BCS conference in the last decade. If he does not get the Big East POY, then there is no justice in college basketball.

Year Player PPG RPG
'07-08 Luke Harangody (Notre Dame) 22.4 11.9
'07-'08 Michael Beasley (K-State) 28.3 11.9
'07-'08 Tyler Hansbrough (UNC) 24.5 11.6
'06-'07 Kevin Durant (Texas) 28.9 12.5
'02-'03 Mike Sweetney (G'town) 25.1 11.4

Harangody will definitely get his points tonight; that is not the issue. Whether or not a few others can step up and have solid games is the question. A win would mean a whole lot tonight, but a loss would not be devastating either. With that said, I’m still sticking to my midseason prediction that the Irish will end the regular season 24-6 and lose this contest.

Prediction: Notre Dame 72 Louisville 80

Baseline Bits

~ Louisville leads the all-time series 13-8, including 8-1 in Freedom Hall.

~ This will be the third time the two schools have met as BIG EAST foes with each team winning on its home floor. The Cardinals earned an 89-86 overtime victory against the Irish on Feb. 4, 2006 and Notre Dame came back last season to post a 78-62 victory at the Joyce Center which snapped an eight-game losing streak.

~ The Irish have won 19 of their last 22 games and are off to a 21-5 start through
26 contests of the season which also matches the best start by an Irish team under head coach Mike Brey.

~ Notre Dame ranks in the top 15 of the NCAA statistics in two categories: assists (4th-18.6), rebounding margin (10th-7.5) and three-point field goal percentage (7th-40.9).

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Close, But Still No Love For The Irish

What a week the Fighting Irish had on the hardwood. First it was a hard fought, 13 point win over West Virginia on Thursday. Then Brey’s Boys did it again on Saturday, as they held on to defeat Connecticut 73-67, in front of a near sellout crowd. For those efforts, the Irish are still not in the Top 25 of either the AP or ESPN/USAToday Polls. So why no love for the Irish?

During today’s ESPN Sports Nation chat with Bracketology guru Joe Lunardi, one Irish fan posed a simple question. In typical ESPN anti-Notre Dame fashion, Lunardi retorts with a crappy answer:

Mike B. (Notre Dame, IN): Joe, Why no love for the Irish? They have the 3rd longest home court winning streak in the nation, a current 10 game winning streak, and quite possibly one of the best big men in the country in Luke Harangody. So why are they not in the Top 25 polls, or better yet, only an 8 seed?

Joe Lunardi: (1:31 PM ET ) It couldn't possibly be that Notre Dame will be the last team in America to play a true road game, could it??

Here’s another Sports Nation chat from today with ESPN columnist Andy Glockner. At least I can live with this ass clown’s response:

Frank (Boston): Notre Dame may be the best team in the Big East this year, T or F? They are right up there as the best passing and shooting team in the league, and their defense/athleticism is up a tick from prior years with McAlarney, Jackson, Hillesland and Harangody. Watch out for my IRISH!!!

Andy Glockner: (2:31 PM ET ) False, but ND was another one of my preseason sleeper teams, so I have liked them from the get-go. McAlarney is a little up and down at times (with Saturday being one of the ups), but he's been good, which has helped because Tory Jackson has been down a bit this season. The fact that they have two guards that can handle and create helps, and they have come to realize that Harangody inside is their meal ticket. Plus, they apparently can’t lose at home. I had no idea they had the third-longest home winning streak in the nation until I watched them beat WVU. If they can get a couple quality road wins in league play, I'll feel better about their overall upside, but this is a good team.

How in the world did this moron end up writing for ESPN? A good journalist, especially a college basketball junkie, would know that the Irish are sporting the third best home court winning streak at 30, behind Memphis (40) and BYU (39). I'm not sure if this is typical anti-Notre Dame, or just plain stupid. I guess anyone could be an ESPN columnist these days. Wow!

At least Luke Harangody is getting the proper attention he rightly so deserves. Harangody was named BIG EAST Player of the Week as he averaged 21.7 points and 10.7 rebounds in a 3-0 week for Notre Dame, which extended its overall winning streak to 10 games and its home-court streak to 30 games. Harangody had 29 points and 16 rebounds in a 69-56 win against West Virginia and delivered 14 points and 10 boards in a 73-67 decision against Connecticut. He began the week with a 22-point effort in a 77-58 win against North Florida.

For the season, Luke is averaging 18.1 ppg (71st in the nation) and pulling down 9.5 rebounds per contest (27th in the nation). He has also recorded 10 double-doubles in the Irish’s 14 contests.

Baseline Bits:

* As for the actual rankings that came out today, the Irish are currently 27th in the AP and 29th in the ESPN/USAToday Polls, respectively. As for the other Big East Conference members, Georgetown is 7th (AP) and 8 (ESPN), Marquette is 15th (AP) and 16th (ESPN), Villanova is 19th (AP) and 17th (ESPN), Pittsburgh is 20th (AP) and 18th (ESPN), while West Virginia is 30th and Syracuse is 36th in the ESPN/USAToday poll.

* The Irish start the season 2-0 for only the second time in Big East play. Besides the Irish, Syracuse and DePaul are 2-0, while Georgetown is 1-0 in the conference.

* So far, the home teams in the Big East Conference have been holding their own. Only three teams have one a conference game on the road, Georgetown (@ Rutgers), Connecticut (@ Seton Hall), and Cincinnati (@ Louisville).

* The current ESPN Bracketology Bracket is out and the Irish currently stand pat as the 8th seed in the East Region. Notre Dame would face 9th seed Kent State in the first round, and a possible matchup with the Top Ranked North Carolina Tar Heels in the second round. If the season ended today, the Big East would have a total of nine teams playing in March Madness:

Georgetown # 2 (East)
Marquette # 4 (South)
Pittsburgh # 6 (Midwest)
Notre Dame # 8 (East)
West Virginia # 8 (Midwest)
Villanova #9 (West)
Providence #10 (East)
Syracuse #10 (South)
Connecticut #11 (West)

* CBSSportsline’s Bracket has the Irish as a 9th Seed, with possible opponents being Ohio State, St. Mary’s (CA), or Gonzaga. The Irish’s latest victim, UConn was the other 8th seed.

Irish Look For More Rocky Mountain High Magic

The second round game of Notre Dame and Washington State will be more like a chess match of strength versus strength. Notre Dame's high octane offense will try and get something going against the stingy Cougar defense. Just like the George Mason game, Washington State will try and dictate the tempo with their slow, methodical style.

Washington State, like the Irish, goes about 7-to-8 players deep and is lead by guard Derrick Low. Low is the Cougars top scorer at 14 points and their leading three point shooter (39.7%, 64th in the NCAA). 6-10 center Aron Baynes is Washington State's leading rebounder at 5.8 per game. Below are the Cougars national averages:

Scoring Offense - 213 (67.1)
Scoring Defense - 3 (57.1)
Scoring Margin - 10 (10.0)
FG% - 24 (47.8)
FG% Defense - 94 (42.2)
3pt. FG% - 52 (38.1)
FT% - 50 (73.3)
Rebound Margin - 176 (0.1)
Assists - 137 (13.7); Taylor Rochestie 77 (4.6)
Turnovers - 4 (10.3)
Assist-to-Turnover Ratio - 12 (1.33); Rochestie 9 (2.72)

Even though the Cougars are a great defensive team, they do, however, lack on getting the rebounds. They also give up high percentage shots which will bode well for the Irish, who shot exceptionally well against George Mason.

Keys to the Game:

Fast Start. Like Thursday's game, Notre Dame needs to come out of the gate early and control the tempo of the game and force the Cougars to run.

X-Factor. Last time it was Zach Hillesland as he held Folarin Campbell to four points. Tomorrow it will be Tory Jackson who needs to control the Irish offense. If Jackson can penetrate, find the open shooter, and limit his turnovers, the Irish will be hard to beat. Hillesland will also be counted on to duplicate his stout defense and 11 rebound performance as well!

Make every possession count. If Notre Dame is subjected to Washington State's slow ball control game, the Irish will have to give Luke Harangody a touch every possession. Whether Luke makes a move or dishes it out, the offense will have to go through him.

See the 3, Be the 3. Kyle McAlarney, Ryan Ayers, Rob Kurz, and Luke Zeller, could have another good shooting night. If Washington State concentrates down low, like George Mason tried to do, the open trey will be there for the taking. Look for the Irish to connect on double digit field goals from behind the arc.

Prediction: Notre Dame 77 Washington State 72

Irish survive and advance to the Sweet 16 to face top seed North Carolina!

Buzz Around Team Camps 12/18/08

Here's the latest Buzz Around Team Camps for this Thursday, December 18th:

San Diego St. via
Brady Hoke, San Diego State's new football coach, said yesterday that he is in the midst of ongoing discussions with Ball State Athletic Director Tom Collins and Cardinals offensive coordinator Stan Parrish regarding the latter's potential hiring as the Aztecs' offensive coordinator.

Under Parrish, who worked with Hoke for six years at Michigan before joining Hoke's staff at Ball State in 2005, the Cardinals ranked 11th nationally in total offense during the regular season.

On Tuesday, ESPN reported that Parrish, who likely will coach Ball State in Hoke's absence in the GMAC Bowl on Jan. 6, is in line to become the Cardinals'head coach. Parrish and Collins denied the report. Attempts to contact Parrish yesterday were unsuccessful.

“Obviously, (Parrish) is the logical choice,” Hoke said. “In talking with Stan and with Tom Collins, I think they're still going through the gyrations of everything that goes along with a situation like that. (Parrish) hasn't made a decision, but we'll have more contact and see where it goes.”

Michigan via
Following a season in which the University of Michigan football team allowed the most points in school history, defensive coordinator Scott Shafer has resigned.

The university announced the resignation in a news release Tuesday afternoon.

"Scott and I agreed that moving in a different direction was in the best interest of the program," Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said in a written statement. "I appreciate Scott's hard work on behalf of Michigan football the past year. He is a good football coach, a good person and a true professional. We wish him well in the future."

Michigan St. via
Michigan State running back Javon Ringer has added another honor to his nation-leading 477 carries and 1,590 rushing yards and school-record 21 touchdowns. On Tuesday, Ringer was named first-team All-American by The Associated Press.

"By playing for Michigan State, I've been fortunate enough to have an opportunity to perform on a national stage," Ringer said in a statement released by MSU. "In this offensive system, I've been asked to play an important role, and that's certainly not something that I've shied away from.

"I've taken my share of hard hits, but I've been fortunate to play the entire season with just some bumps and bruises. I also have to give credit to all of my teammates, but especially my offensive line, fullbacks and tight ends. Those are the guys that gave me room to showcase my ability."

Last week, Ringer became MSU's 77th All-American when he was selected to the Walter Camp All-America team. He was the first Spartan running back named to the team since Lorenzo White was a consensus selection in 1987.

Stanford via
Adding another impressive honor to his 2008 season, Stanford defensive end Tom Keiser was named to the Sporting News All-Freshman first team today. Keiser, who finished among the Pac-10 Conference leaders in sacks and forced fumbles, earned a spot on's All-Freshman second team last week and also garnered honorable mention All-Pac-10 accolades.

Keiser burst onto the scene as a redshirt freshman in 2008, ranking third in the Pac-10 Conference in forced fumbles per game (0.25) and was 10th in the conference in sacks (6.0). The Wexford, PA native played in all 12 games, compiling 24 total tackles (17 solo efforts) and two pass breakups.

Keiser is one of only two Pac-10 players to land a spot on the Sporting News All-Freshman team, joining Arizona State defensive tackle Lawrence Guy.

Washington via
With an offensive coordinator hired, defensive coordinator now becomes the most high-profile opening left on UW's coaching staff.

Rocky Seto of USC turned it down Tuesday and explains why in a blog item in the Orange Country Register.

Former New Mexico coach Rocky Long has been rumored as another possibility. Sarkisian said only that he had a couple of guys in mind and that no offers had been made.

Louisville DC Ron English has also been rumored, but this report says he is also in the mix to be the head coach at Eastern Michigan and one source indicated English wasn't all that interested in coming to UW.

Indications are also that DeWayne Walker doesn't have much interest in coming to UW, either.

The story with English mentions instead that Walker could be a candidate for the DC job at LSU, one of several big-name schools that has an opening for coordinator, including Clemson, Syracuse, and most recently Michigan, which opened Tuesday.

Pittsburgh via
Pitt Coach Dave Wannstedt formally announced yesterday that freshman Shayne Hale (Gateway) has moved from linebacker to defensive end. Wannstedt said Hale had a good scrimmage Monday at defensive end and "has a chance to be real good there." ... Redshirt junior defensive back Dan Cafaro was named a finalist for the Rudy award, which annually goes to a college football player who "demonstrate exemplary character, courage, contribution and commitment as members of their team." The award is named for Rudy Reuttiger, former Notre Dame player and inspiration for the movie "Rudy."

Syracuse via
The Syracuse University football team could sure use another tight end. Here's one who apparently is looking for a new home. This was reported by John Jiloty of

Inside Lacrosse has learned that Will Yeatman has asked for and received his release from Notre Dame and is in the process of transferring. The 6-foor-6, 260-pound lacrosse attackman and football tight end played one season for the Irish lacrosse team. In 2007, he earned honorable mention All-American honors after scoring 21 goal and 25 assists.

His next destination is unknown, though a source told IL that it most likely will be a school where he can play both lacrosse and football. The release is still being finalized and it likely will go through, according to a source and an online article by the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.

Southern Cal via
Linebacker Rey Maualuga was announced Wednesday night as USC's most valuable player during the team's annual awards banquet at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza hotel.

Maualuga, a senior from Eureka, also has been selected to several All-American teams, was the Pacific 10 Conference defensive player of the year and won the Bednarik Award.

Maualuga sat out one game because of a knee injury but still has a team-best 73 tackles and also two interceptions for the Trojans, who resume practice today in preparation for the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl game against Penn State.

Other team award winners: Senior defensive end Kyle Moore (most inspirational); sophomore center Kristofer O'Dowd (offensive lineman); senior defensive tackle Fili Moala (defensive lineman); senior kicker David Buehler and senior defensive end Clay Matthews (special teams).

Quick Kicks
Maualuga and safety Taylor Mays were selected to the All-America and the Sporting News All-American teams. . . . Linebacker Brian Cushing was selected to's All-American team. . . . Jared Blank, USC's assistant director of football operations, will join Steve Sarkisian's staff at Washington as director of player personnel. Former USC graduate assistant Demetrice Martin was hired to coach the secondary. . . . The Trojans are tentatively scheduled to practice today through Sunday at 1 p.m. and Monday at 11 a.m. They will be off Tuesday through Christmas Day.

Hawaii via
The Warriors spent the past three days working on techniques and fundamentals. But they already have studied videos of the Fighting Irish, and crafted a game plan. Because of the extra days afforded for bowl preparation, McMackin used the final hour of yesterday's practice "to have some fun and get some looks" at developing players.

"It was really competitive," McMackin said. "They were going back and forth. It was fun. You've got to have some fun when you're playing this game, especially deep into the season as we are."

Monday, October 3, 2011

Irish Have Tough Road to Hoe

As the regular season and conference championship games conclude this weekend, the overall statistics of Notre Dame still might be a little hard to swallow for several Fighting Irish fans.

Although this year's numbers are better than last season's 3-9 squad, it still didn't pan out the way Charlie Weis and the Irish had hoped for.

Offensive Statistics

Rushing: 98th (113 ypg)
Passing: 46th (231.4 ypg)
Total Off.: 74th (344 ypg)
Scoring: 85th (22.6)

With some incredible skill position players, specifically at wide receiver and tight end, I'm a little disappointed in the overall numbers, especially the scoring average. This football team, inside their opponents 30-yard line, did not finish at the rate you wanted to see them finish off drives. In the second half of the season they did not get the ball into the endzone. There were too many field goal attempts for one's liking. So I'm very disappointed in the scoring average being 85th in the country. Just too much talent there to be scoring that low.

Total offense, I have to say is very disappointing at 74th among the Football Bowl Subdivision teams. That passing offense at 46th is livable, but everything in the world about the Irish offense gets better if they could run the football than 98th in the nation. Passing should have been better, especially the way things heated up from the second half of the Michigan State game through the third quarter of North Carolina. Top 25 easily with the receiving corps of Golden Tate and Michael Floyd.

Defensively, this was an area of concern many Irish fans alike had coming into the start of the 2008 campaign. Luckily, they improved drastically from last season.

Defensive Statistics

Rushing: 96th (195 ypg)
Passing: 2nd (161.5 ypg)
Pass Eff.: 22nd (111.78)
Total: 39th (327 ypg)

Notre Dame's pass defense, statistically, ended up very, very solid. You would have to say that is was a decent number when they couldn't get to the opposing quarterback frequently. It could have been a lot worse, as I understand sacks don't take away from the pass defense numbers. But at the same time you're asking a lot from your secondary to cover pretty well when you don't get pressure on the quarterback.

The Irish didn't see many great QB's this season until last week when Southern Cal's Mark Sanchez popped up on the their schedule. I wouldn't qualify Sanchez as a great QB, but a very good one. The defense was indeed shredded at times during the season because they didn't get to the quarterback. And that has to be a point of emphasis next season, as well as, getting a defensive line that can push people around. That will only make it a whole lot easier for the Irish to excel in 2009.

And what happened to this defense that wanted to attack? They blitzed a lot in the early going, but if you noticed they called off the dogs a lot during the second half of the season. Well if you're not going to get there, why take the gamble?

Two other statistics that were glaring was the turnover margin and tackles for losses. The Irish were 84th (-.42) and 112th (4.3 tfl avg.), respectively. That definitely has to change or we'll see some wholesale changes in the football offices.

Speaking of changes, here are the "for certain" candidates that will be seeing pink slips in the near future for the Notre Dame staff:

John Latina (Offensive Line Coach)
Ron Powlus (Quarterback Coach)
Mike Haywood (Offensive Coordinator)
Reuben Mendoza (Strength and Conditioning Coach)

Once these changes will be made with suitable, proven replacements, the Irish tread into the spring with hopes of a better 2009.

For now, there's still some unfinished business to attend to in Houston!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Bad Hand Dealt Along Irish Defensive Front

It's been a rough two weeks defensively for the Fighting Irish football team. First, Pat Kuntz was not enrolled at the University anymore and was taking classes at Ivy Tech in Indianapolis. Citing "personal reasons", Kuntz has been known to have had academic difficulty in the past. Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) prohibit Notre Dame in disclosing any information regarding Kuntz's situation. So if you can put two and two together, Kuntz was dismissed for academic difficulty and can hopefully return in the summer on probationary status. Basically what this means is if Patrick can shore up his academic deficiencies, he should be back with his Irish mates in the summer before two-a-days.

This week, Derrell Hand's career reportedly could be sidelined for good with a spinal cord injury. With a thin line on defense already, losing both Kuntz and Hand was a major blow to the Irish's 2008 season. That now leaves six players (Justin Brown, Paddy Mullen, Andrew Nuss, Emeka Nwankwo, Kallen Wade, and Ian Williams) with EIGHT combined starts! It doesn't look good when you face the likes of Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue, in weeks 2, 3, and 4 of the early season.

Out of the six, only three have actually played in games. Justin Brown has played in 26 games, while starting in six throughout his career with the Irish. Paddy Mullen has had some spot duty, alongside some special teams play in three games last season, while Ian Williams played in all 12 games last season, starting two of them, as he earned Freshman All-America honors.

If all of the current verbals solidify their commitments, the Irish will add four top notch players to the defensive line. Sean Cwynar, who's currently enrolled, Ethan Johnson, Hafis Williams, and Brandon Newman, could definitely push for immediate playing time. Look for Chris Stewart to possibly make the switch over again to add some depth. Newman and Cwynar should definitely see action right away, while Johnson will compete soon once his knee heals properly.

With such a young and barely tested group, the Irish should have their hands full early on, or do they? Looking ahead at next year's schedule, the majority of the teams the Irish face in the first quarter of the season, will have about two returning starters along the offensive line. Overall, there are 27 returning starters on Notre Dame's opponents roster. That's an average of 3 returning starters. Below is the breakdown:

San Diego State (4-8) 1 returning starter (Trask Iosefa)
Michigan (9-4) 2 returning starters (Justin Boren and Stephen Schilling)
Michigan State (7-6) 2 returning starters (Roland Martin and Jesse Miller)
Purdue (8-5) 2 returning starters (Zach Reckman and Zach Jones)
Stanford (4-8) 3 returning starters (Ben Muth, Alex Fletcher, and Chris Morielli)
North Carolina (4-8) 4 returning starters (Kyle Jolly, Aaron Stahl, Calvin Darity, and Garrett Reynolds)
Washington (4-9) 2 returning starters (Ben Ossani and Ryan Tolar)
Pittsburgh (5-7) 2 returning starters (CJ Davis and Joe Thomas)
Boston College (11-3) 3 returning starters (Matt Tennant, Cliff Ramsey, and Anthony Costanzo)
Navy (8-5) 1 returning starter (Anthony Gaskins)
Syracuse (2-10) 3 returning starters (Ryan Durand, Corey Chavers, and Jim McKenzie)
USC (11-2) 2 returning starters (Butch Lewis and Jeff Byers)

With the exception of Boston College (11-3), the teams with three or more returning starters across the offensive line had a combined record of 10-26! So with a youthful defensive line, the Irish might not have that much of a disadvantage. Obviously there are a few "IFs" that could help make or break the defensive line for Notre Dame.

1) "If" Pat Kuntz can come back, the Irish won't have to speed up the learning curve for the incoming Freshmen;

2) "If" all the verbal commits stay on track, Notre Dame will have 10 players to compete for playing time;


3) "If" the NCAA adopts the NFL clock rules, offenses will have to work on minor adjustments. Next month, Dave Perry will head up a 12-person panel that will "look long and hard" at implementing the NFL's timing system when it convenes in Indianapolis. The NFL clock rules that the NCAA could implement would be: 1) The clock doesn't stop on first down; 2) Penalties stop the clock in the final two minutes of each half; and 3) The Play clock begins at 40 seconds.

Not that the those are significant changes, but it will give offenses some extra work in camps if it does pass.

Notre Dame is resilient. They are called the Fighting Irish for a reason, correct?
"Sometime, when the team is up against it -- and the breaks are beating the boys -- tell them to go out there with all they got and win just one for the Gipper...