Holy Carp. The season’s almost here. That was fast!
And with the new season comes a new series of Subway Domer’s creation: The Irish Blogger Gathering. This week, Frank over at UHND hosts and submits the 7 questions below. He’s also posting links to all the responses to his questions, so after this, head over to Frank’s and check out his answers and the replies of all the other Gatherees…
1. Name one offensive players and one defensive player you are most excited to see in the new systems and why.
On offense, Shaq Evans. He’s clearly the most physically gifted athlete on the offensive side of the ba On offense, TJ Jones. It’s got to say a lot about the kid’s abilities to have beaten out Duval Kamara for the starting job, and I’m curious to see just how much can be said. Kamara may, at times, have moments where you wonder where his head is, but he’s still a former holder of a couple of freshman ND WR records, blocks during run plays very, very well, and is, himself, quite athletically gifted. So for TJ to beat an “incumbent” out really raises some eyebrows on my forehead. Just above my eyes.
On defense, if you’re not interested in seeing what Kerry Neal looks like, then you must be into some pretty lame topics of conversation. Written off by practically everyone outside of the Irish coaching staff, the kid’s emerged as a starter in the new defense while getting high praise from the head man himself in press conferences. The kid started 5 games his freshman year after showing up as one of the few bright spots of the 2007 season, started 11 games in 2008, fell off the map, and managed to get just 5 more starts in 2009 on one of ND’s most historically pathetic defenses. America loves a good come-back, and I’m 102% American.
2. Whatâ€™s one reason you think Brian Kelly is the right coach this time. Whatâ€™s one reason you think he might not be?
Look, this is the sort of prognosticating that usually makes us cringe, and given the number of times we’ve been bitten, we’re pretty damned shy at this point. After the last 3 coaches, I can barely walk outside of the house. But Brian Kelly is a winner. He’s always been a winner. And he’s been a head coach AND a winner for a long damned time. Currently, the guy’s carrying an 18 game regular season win streak into the season, and as much as the former guy may have hated losing, we get the sense that Kelly simply loves winning. There’s a difference there in a touchy-feely, all-day management seminar sort of way. A real difference. We swear.
Of course, he may not be the guy for all the usual reasons: he’s only coached as “small timey” schools (like Ara before he arrived at ND). His system is ill-suited for cold-weather games at ND (like Weis’ offensive system). He’s not John Gruden (like Lou Holtz never will be). Honestly, we can’t see any actual facts that disprove the notion that Kelly could be “the guy.”
3. A lot of people are labeling Purdue, Boston College, and Michigan State as toss up games. Considering Notre Dame beat all three of these teams during the disappointing 2009 season, do you consider these games toss-ups or games you expect Notre Dame to win?
I expect a win against Purdue no matter the circumstances. I demand it. It may be irrational, but even if we were putting a paraplegic QB up against the Boilermakers, I’d demand a win. We’re 53 and 26 against Purdue. We’re 7 and 3 against Purdue in the 00s. Hell, we nearly beat Purdue in 2007! A loss to Purdue is as unacceptable as a loss to Navy and has less panache.
Boston College, frankly, knows how to put together a defense. And so we are forced to consider them a toss-up. The Irish didn’t score more than 20 points against BC in the Weis era. And 2007 aside, that Weis era was pretty prolific. BC game, I dub thee “Toss Up.”
Michigan State is coached by Mark Dantonio, a coach I always think might be one of the elites until I’m reminded that he’s 22 and 17 at MSU and has yet to win a bowl game. Frankly, this is a middling crew that hasn’t been able to capitalize for even a moment while their co-state-school where the other 30% of all their classmates attended for a while has sucked harder than a Jennifer Aniston feature film. I’d be back to demanding wins against this crowed, but we’re 9 and 9 against them in the last 20 years and 2 of ND’s wins came under Willingham so they nearly don’t count. Toss up.
4. Whatâ€™s one reason you think Notre Dame could shock the world and pull of another 1964-type season? Whatâ€™s one reason youâ€™re concerned we might see more of a 1997-type season?
The reason I think they could have another 1964 is that I can’t escape the parallels my heart wants to see between Kelly and Parseghian. That and the pants-load of talent that Weis recruited. Really, if things go “according to plan,” then major success for the Irish should be less “shock the world” and more “world wonders what the hell took these guys so long.”
But it’s not 1964. And granted, it’s not 1997, either. You can’t buy a gallon of gas for a buck, Hong Kong is under China’s rule, and the Notorious B.I.G is still cool, but also dead. Still, all that ’97 stuff is a lot closer to today than that 1964 stuff. And while there’s a pants-load of talent on the roster, and quite possibly an excellent coach on the sidelines, the ND of today is facing a much more level playing field than it did in 1964. Every team has players with actual athletic ability (aside from Purdue). The climb back to the elites may take more than a single season.
But there’s never any reason to think this will be 1997 all over again. ND isn’t being coached by Bob Davie.
5. Which freshmen do you see contributing the most on the field this year (outside of TJ Jones â€“ thatâ€™s too easy)?
Prince Shembo. Dude’s name is PRINCE SHEMBO. I mean, c’mon. It’s fate. Like Golden Tate. Dude’s parents did not mess around when bestowing that name. Same reason I’m naming my firstborn son “Azzkicker McPrime.”
So yeah, the name plus the fact that Kelly seems to look for reasons to mention him in public. Maybe Kelly’s just excited to get to claim that he knew Prince Shembo (you must always say his full name, by the way) back before Prince Shembo was big.
6. Other than Dayne Crist (too easy again) who is the one player Notre Dame can least afford to lose to injury for any significant period of time?
Trevor Robinson. 22 games played. 14 games started. All in 2 years. And for good reason: When he plays football, he plays the way it’s supposed to be played. And without him on the field for a significant period of time, the rest of the OL – starters and 2nd stringers alike – wont have that frame of reference on how to play the game. Game film teaches. We need Trevor for the game film. Oh, and the bludgeoning he applies to defensive players. That’s good too.
7. 2010 Season Predictions
- Notre Dame record – 7 wins (Purdue, Michigan, WMU, Tulsa, Utah, Army, SoCal), 5 losses, 1 much-debated bowl game that results in another win.
- Bowl game for Notre Dame with opponent – Barely. Beef O’Brady’s Bowl in St. Petersburg, Florida vs. Houston
It sounds Irish, so it’ll be fun!
- Final ranking – Not Ranked, but also receiving votes thanks to the solid finishing of the year.
- Opponent with the the highest final ranking – Pitt
- Notre Dameâ€™s offensive & defensive MVP – Crist and Te’o
- Best opponent offensive & defensive player – Dillon Baxter, USC on offense and Greg Romeus, Pitt on defense
- Best opposing coach – Jim Harbaugh. Yep. Seriously. Look at the schedule. He’s, at worst, the 3rd most lunatic head coach on that schedule.
- Game you are most excited to watch SoCal. We might be pretty good by then, and they might be broken down.
- Game you wouldn’t mind watching on DVR I always mind, but if I must pick, then I pick Navy.
- Heisman Winner – Quizz Rogers, Oregon State
- Purdue game prediction – ND wins 24-17
So, there ya have it. I’m sure you’ll all agree with out thinking, no? Stayed tuned for the next gathering, where we get to ask the questions and watch the crowd squirm uncomfortably. There will be pie.