Her Loyal Sons http://www.herloyalsons.com/blog A Notre Dame Football Blog Sat, 01 Aug 2015 08:41:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.3 Friday Roundup: The “Declaration of iNDependence” Episode http://www.herloyalsons.com/blog/2015/07/31/friday-roundup-the-declaration-of-independence-episode/ http://www.herloyalsons.com/blog/2015/07/31/friday-roundup-the-declaration-of-independence-episode/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 10:00:21 +0000 http://www.herloyalsons.com/blog/?p=30243 Yes, I used “ND” in the middle of a word. I don’t care. Eye-roll away. Anyways, after yet another week full of hot takes on why Notre Dame’s independence is the worst thing ever and should bar them from the college football playoffs, I felt it was time to devote a whole episode of the […]

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Yes, I used “ND” in the middle of a word. I don’t care. Eye-roll away.

Anyways, after yet another week full of hot takes on why Notre Dame’s independence is the worst thing ever and should bar them from the college football playoffs, I felt it was time to devote a whole episode of the Friday Roundup to the topic. If you want a singular thing to pass on to someone that wonders why ND thinks it’s so special and is independent, share this episode. If you want to show someone that a strong conference is likely nothing more than a narrative, share this episode.

I go start the episode with a history lesson that many Irish fans are quite familiar with: Fielding Yost and the Western Conference membership that never was. From there, I talk about how Notre Dame went from struggling to survival to a powerful national brand in the modern era and why they manage to stand alone as the sole independent in the Power Five. Finally, I concluded with an in-depth discussion and analysis of the Power Five and their scheduling habits.

FCS scheduling, out-of-conference cowardice, and inflated numbers of top 25 opponents are all discussed in detail. Even better, you can find the proof in the pudding below as I have a huge spreadsheet with all the data linked.

As always, spread the word about the show. Subscribe on iTunes (and leave a review) or head over to Podbean and get your fellow Irish and college football fans to do the same. I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the growth of the show thus far. Many thanks for that and let’s keep it going!

The Roundup

In this episode:

The Booze

Lots of work went into this episode. My Excel-fu and ranting was fueled by a lot of hot take rage. As I said in the show, it’s time to mellow out this weekend and get more Dude-like via a multiple White Russians.

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Two Lists to End July http://www.herloyalsons.com/blog/2015/07/30/two-lists-to-end-july/ http://www.herloyalsons.com/blog/2015/07/30/two-lists-to-end-july/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 09:00:22 +0000 http://www.herloyalsons.com/blog/?p=30237 Earlier today Matt Brown of Sports on Earth dropped his updated list of the Top 100 Players for the 2015 Season. This seemed to dovetail quite nicely with HLS’s “Know Thyself, Know Thy Enemy” series (which will return next week after a brief hiatus). Obviously, this is prime time for making lists, “getting on the […]

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Earlier today Matt Brown of Sports on Earth dropped his updated list of the Top 100 Players for the 2015 Season. This seemed to dovetail quite nicely with HLS’s “Know Thyself, Know Thy Enemy” series (which will return next week after a brief hiatus). Obviously, this is prime time for making lists, “getting on the record,” and making sweet predictions. The blogger/writer/pundit glory that comes with pointing to something you wrote in June or July knows no bounds. However, I find myself oddly drawn to these lists.

Sometimes they help key me into a player that perhaps I haven’t paid enough attention to. Other times, they help me see where I disagree with some dude (or dudette, I’m equal opportunity here) that I’ve never met. For instance, While Brown had all of the QB’s I mentioned in last week’s KTKTE: QB piece, had he been writing it, the opponent to watch he’d have selected would be DeShaun Watson who Brown rated as the number one college quarterback in the nation coming into 2015 (He had Kessler at #2, Zaire at #24, and Golson at #25 among QB’s). Look, we’re quibbling a bit, but this decision surprised me a touch. Clemson lost a lot of weapons (as did USC), but Watson’s also coming off a torn ACL and lacks the experience of Kessler.

Needless to say, they’re both really good. Tex compared a lot of things to jumping off of things earlier this week, but for me, the worst part of “Fear Factor” was always the nasty things they made them eat. Facing either of these guys will be a lot like having to eat a mummified testicle (you can choose the animal…goat…bull…Whale Wolf) while listening to DJ Freakbass on the loud speaker and not throwing up. In other words, I’m not looking forward to it. But that’s the point of reading and considering these lists. I enjoy reading these lists even if I don’t 100% agree with them.

I went through Brown’s list and figured out how many players each opponent on ND’s schedule, along with ND had, and well…..it’s NOT all testicle consumption and base jumps! In fact, the Irish tied with USC for the greatest number of players on the list at 5 a piece (Ohio State, Michigan State, and LSU are all expected to be pretty good in a real spoiler alert as they each had 45 players on the list…or thereabouts….45 in an SEC-math-course-kind-of-way at least). Clemson and Pitt both checked in with 2 a piece. Virginia, Stanford, Georgia Tech, and Navy all had representation as well. Oh, and you’re not reading that wrong, Texas did not have anyone mentioned, and their mascot apparently tweets about not coming to ND.

For those of us who follow Notre Dame day after day, year after year, I don’t think the players identified on the list are shockers. What is shocking, to me at least, is to see that so many Irish players are being nationally valued at an extremely high level. Usually these types of lists come out and there is a collective groan from Irish faithful about how the team’s players are being disrespected. No such groan will be forthcoming this year, but be careful…

After all, this is just a list of players. Not a list of top teams, depth of talent, cohension of scheme, or general execution. This year is still far more about those types of things than it is about lists of top players. But dang it, it’s nice to feel invited to the national party. It feels even better that by the next time I write the calendar will read “August.”

So, let me finish with a list of my own. Moons’ Reasons for Why Notre Dame Should be Forced to Join a Conference:

 

1…………………..

 

Players Making Browns’ List (Rank in Parentheses):

Notre Dame

Will Fuller, WR (93)

KeiVarae Russell, CB (87)

Sheldon Day, DT (84)

Jaylon Smith, LB (19)

Ronnie Stanley, OT (7)

 

Navy:

Keenan Reynolds, QB (97)

 

Georgia Tech

Justin Thomas, QB (88)

 

Stanford

Joshua Garnett, OG (66)

 

Virginia

Quin Blanding, S (49)

 

USC

JuJu Smith, WR (100)

Max Turek, C (46)

Adoree Jackson, CB (44)

Cody Kessler, QB (14)

Su’a Cravens, LB (8)

 

Clemson

Mackensie Alexander, CB (42)

DeShaun Watson, QB (10)

 

Pittsburgh

Tyler Boyd, WR (36)

James Conner, RB (35)

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Most Have to Play Thirteen to Get to Twelve http://www.herloyalsons.com/blog/2015/07/29/most-have-to-play-thirteen-to-get-to-twelve/ http://www.herloyalsons.com/blog/2015/07/29/most-have-to-play-thirteen-to-get-to-twelve/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 07:00:40 +0000 http://www.herloyalsons.com/blog/?p=30226 As we head into the second season of the college football playoff, a number of coaches took shots at the Irish, arguing that Notre Dame needs to be in a conference with a playoff in order to be considered for a spot in the sport’s final four. Yesterday, Dan Wetzel crushed those “intellectually lazy opinions” […]

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As we head into the second season of the college football playoff, a number of coaches took shots at the Irish, arguing that Notre Dame needs to be in a conference with a playoff in order to be considered for a spot in the sport’s final four. Yesterday, Dan Wetzel crushed those “intellectually lazy opinions” by pointing out that the Irish play a twelve game schedule that is every bit as tough, if not tougher, than any of the conference pretenders.

In case you haven’t heard, Missouri’s Gary Pinkel said that Notre Dame should be forced to join a conference. Simple as that, really. Yesterday, Frank Beamer said that Notre Dame needed to join a conference or play thirteen games. Duke’s David Cutcliffe said that mandatory conference-membership was the “only way to a level playing field.”

We all know another one, though: the other guys can stop playing FCS opponents. Basically, if you’re not playing a FBS school, you’re looking to put the cheer squad through its paces. FCS schools are different from their FBS counterparts in a few important ways, the biggest of which is that FBS teams offer 85 athletic scholarships and draw more than 15,000 fans per game. Simple things, on paper, but they entail an enormous capital investment on the institution. And, while enough FCS players make the NFL to make me mention it, and enough FCS schools pull upsets, it’s just not equal.

Find it at The Helmet Project

Find it at The Helmet Project

 

find it at The Helmet Project

find it at The Helmet Project

So, who are the complainers playing? Well, Missouri opens against the Southeast Missouri Redbirds. Maybe there’s some sectional or regional appeal there, like when the Irish play Michigan, but Michigan’s at least in the FBS. And, Missouri didn’t play the Redbirds last season. Instead, they played South Dakota State. You may know them as the “Jackrabbits.”

Find it at The Helmet Project

Find it at The Helmet Project

Clemson’s going to open the 2015 season against the Wofford Terriers, best known for their fight song, God Loves a Terrier. Duke plays North Carolina Central. Even Pitt gets in on the FCS-capades with Youngstown State. FSU will play the Mocs, out of Chattanooga. At home.

So, let’s start with getting everyone to play a complete non-FCS schedule. Because, let’s face it, if you’re playing the Mocs en route to the conference championship, you’ve only played eleven games.

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Four-Down Territory: Notre Dame’s 2015 Schedule http://www.herloyalsons.com/blog/2015/07/28/four-down-territory-notre-dames-2015-schedule/ http://www.herloyalsons.com/blog/2015/07/28/four-down-territory-notre-dames-2015-schedule/#respond Tue, 28 Jul 2015 09:51:49 +0000 http://www.herloyalsons.com/blog/?p=30130 Tex did an admirable job breaking down the opponents by fear index, but I’m going to take a slightly different tack. This is the first in a series of posts that break down aspects of Notre Dame Football into four major storylines. In this installment, we’ll look at one opponent for each month of the 2015 […]

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Tex did an admirable job breaking down the opponents by fear index, but I’m going to take a slightly different tack. This is the first in a series of posts that break down aspects of Notre Dame Football into four major storylines. In this installment, we’ll look at one opponent for each month of the 2015 schedule to see if we can find key inflection points that will help us determine how the season is trending.

We here at HLS are doing our best to bring you through the pre-camp summer doldrums (please, nothing go horrendously wrong). I found myself thinking, “Self, what would be a good confidence indicator for each month of the football season?” and so I decided to answer that very question below. Here are the tipping points of each month of the Fall 2015 campaign — if ND manages to succeed at 3 or more of these 4 junctures, fans should feel pretty good about bowl season.

August

Injuries on the Roster (or in our hearts)

KVRThe last several seasons ND fans have been treated to excruciating losses in the offseason: recruits, injuries, suspensions, and defections have all thinned the numbers and the (blue) hairs on heads of many alumni. Brian Kelly & the coaching staff made their best recruiting pitch and managed to keep Sheldon Day and Ronnie Stanley out of the NFL and on campus for another year, but Everett Golson has opted for a fifth year under the watchful eyes of the Tallahassee Police Department, Jimbo Fisher, and the Florida State Football Program. RB Greg Bryant is out the first quarter of the season, while Bo Wallace, a former recruit, won’t make it to campus.

Ishaq Williams and Keivarae Russell are back on campus, but Ishaq’s athletic eligibility hasn’t yet been confirmed — if we avoid further losses in the offseason, fans should feel confident that the ND staff has won the “season before the season”.

And don’t think this is an incident isolated to Notre Dame — Michigan, FSU, UGA, and Ohio State have all faced threats of offseason losses.

September

Georgia Tech (#RTDB)

GaTech LogoFinally (finally!) the option offense returns to Notre Dame Stadium…run efficiently and effectively by Paul Johnson’s Georgia Tech squad. Lou Holtz lovers (you know who you are) will marvel at the precise execution of the visitors, and Tech’s success in 2014 has made beelievers out of skeptics of old-timey football formations. Assuming the Irish take care of business in their home opener against Charlie Strong’s Texas Longhorns, this will be ND’s toughest assignment in the season’s first month.

Notre Dame will get a second chance to see the option vs. Navy (albeit with different athletes and a different scheme), but this September test will determine whether the Irish are counted among the elite as the calendar turns to October.

3rd Down

Southern Cal

The USC Trojans fell to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 20-16 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Saturday November 27, 2010. (Shotgun Spratling/Neon Tommy)

The USC Trojans fell to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 20-16 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Saturday November 27, 2010. (Shotgun Spratling/Neon Tommy)

IF the Irish have run the gauntlet unscathed until the leaves change (which also presumes a road win in Death Valley), Southern Cal comes a-calling for a night game. SC is getting plenty of preseason love as a playoff contender, and the Trojans manhandled a decimated ND squad last year in Los Angeles. The Irish can match SC’s premier talent, but solid fundamentals in critical spots will be the difference between winning and losing.

And speaking of Clemson & South Carolina, fun fact: In an age where the Rebel flag cannot fly on South Carolina state grounds, SC’s white horse is still named “Traveller” after Robert E. Lee’s old mount. This must mean something, especially since someone wrote about it just now on The Internet.

November

Stanford

Courtesy of Daniel Hartwig (via Flickr)

Courtesy of Daniel Hartwig (via Flickr)

The Irish wrap their season out west against the Stanford Cardinal, and the final month of the season (and postseason opportunities) will hinge on the outcome of this game. Each of the last 3 meetings in this rivalry have been within one possession, so expect this one to be close. Assuming the Irish have fewer than two losses heading into Thanksgiving weekend, ESPN (and Gary Pinkel) may be forced to consider the squad as a playoff contender.

Want to know how ND’s season is trending? These are your four monthly bellwethers. Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments.

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Recruiting Roundup: Mid-July links http://www.herloyalsons.com/blog/2015/07/27/recruiting-roundup-mid-july-links/ http://www.herloyalsons.com/blog/2015/07/27/recruiting-roundup-mid-july-links/#respond Mon, 27 Jul 2015 10:00:22 +0000 http://www.herloyalsons.com/blog/?p=30193 Good morning! Recruiting just went through a “dead period,” but you would never know it by the amount of stories that have been produced in the last two weeks. I’ve collected them all and present them to you as one giant post. If you’ve been slacking on your recruiting reading, this is a great opportunity […]

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 Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly at BCS Championship Media day Jan. 5. (Courtesy of Matt Velazquez, via Flickr)


Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly at BCS Championship Media day Jan. 5, 2013. (Courtesy of Matt Velazquez, via Flickr)

Good morning! Recruiting just went through a “dead period,” but you would never know it by the amount of stories that have been produced in the last two weeks. I’ve collected them all and present them to you as one giant post. If you’ve been slacking on your recruiting reading, this is a great opportunity to catch up.

4-star DE MCTELVIN AGIM (ARKANSAS)

4-star WR/RB DAMIAN ALLOWAY (CALIFORNIA)

4-star S DEONTAY ANDERSON (TEXAS)

5-star DE OLUWOLE BETIKU (CALIFORNIA)

4-star OLB DANIEL BITULI (TENNESSEE)

5-star DL JOEY BOSA (FLORIDA)

4-star LB CAMERON BROWN (MARYLAND)

4-star S BRANDON BURTON (CALIFORNIA)

3-star S KOREY CHARLES (FLORIDA)

4-star WR CHASE CLAYPOOL (BRITISH COLUMBIA)

4-star QB SEAN CLIFFORD (OHIO)

4-star WR DONNIE CORLEY (MICHIGAN)

5-star WR NATE CRAIG (FLORIDA)

4-star WR DYLAN CRAWFORD (CALIFORNIA)

4-star CB ERIC CUFFEE (TEXAS)

5-star OLB BEN DAVIS (ALABAMA)

4-star WR KYLE DAVIS (GEORGIA)

5-star OL WYATT DAVIS (CALIFORNIA)

3-star WR DIVINE DEABLO (NORTH CAROLINA)

3-star CB OBI EBOH (TEXAS)

4-star TE LUKE FARRELL (OHIO)

4-star S JORDAN FULLER (NEW JERSEY)

4-star DB CHAUNCEY GARDNER (FLORIDA)

5-star DT RASHAN GARY (NEW JERSEY)

4-star/3-star OG DYLAN GIBBONS (FLORIDA)

5-star/4-star DB DeANGELO GIBBS (GEORGIA)

4-star DB MALEIK GRAY (TENNESSEE)

4-star CB DAMAR HAMLIN (PENNSYLVANIA)

3-star OLB AARON HANSFORD (D.C.)

4-star RB ELIJAH HOLYFIELD (GEORGIA)

4-star ILB DONTAVIOUS JACKSON (TEXAS)

4-star S LAMAR JACKSON (CALIFORNIA)

WR/DE JAYDEN JERNIGAN (TEXAS, NO RATING)

5-star QB HUNTER JOHNSON (INDIANA)

4-star S BRANDON JONES (TEXAS)

5-star ATH JACK JONES (CALIFORNIA)

4-star CB JAYLON JONES (TEXAS)

3-star ILB JONATHAN JONES (FLORIDA)

3-star S THOMAS JONES (SOUTH CAROLINA)

3-star/4-star RB TONY JONES JR. (FLORIDA)

5-star LB CALEB KELLY (CALIFORNIA)

TE TREVOR KENT (KANSAS, NO RATING YET)

TE COLE KMET (ILLINOIS, NO RATING)

4-star ATH RICHARD LECOUNT (GEORGIA)

4-star CB DAVID LONG (CALIFORNIA)

4-STAR ATH CHASE LUCAS (ARIZONA)

4-star OT JOSHUA LUGG (PENNSYLVANIA)

5-star LB NATE MCBRIDE (GEORGIA)

4-star OLB JEFFREY MCCULLOCH (TEXAS)

4-star RB ANTHONY MCFARLAND (MARYLAND)

4-star WR JAVON MCKINLEY (CALIFORNIA)

4-star ATH BYRON MURPHY (ARIZONA)

3-star DE ADETOKUNBO OGUNDEJI (MICHIGAN)

4-star S JEFFREY OKUDAH (TEXAS)

4-star DE JULIAN OKWARA (NORTH CAROLINA)

4-STAR WR DONOVAN PEOPLES-JONES (MICHIGAN)

4-star S ANDREW PRYTS (PENNSYLVANIA)

4-star ATH DEMETRIS ROBERTSON (GEORGIA)

LONG SNAPPER JOHN SHANNON (ILLINOIS, NO RATING)

3-star ILB JONATHAN SMITH (NORTH CAROLINA)

4-STAR WR DARNELL SOLOMON (FLORIDA)

3-star WR MARQUEZ STEVENSON (LOUISIANA)

3-star DB CHACHO ULLOA (CALIFORNIA)

4-star DB DONTE VAUGHN (TENNESSEE)

5-star WR TYLER VAUGHNS (CALIFORNIA)

4-star WR BINJIMEN VICTOR (FLORIDA)

4-star S JOEJUAN WILLIAMS (TENNESSEE)

4-star TE BROCK WRIGHT (TEXAS)

4-star LB BRYCE YOUNGQUIST (CALIFORNIA)

MULTIPLE RECRUITS

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Notre Dame Football: Fear Factor http://www.herloyalsons.com/blog/2015/07/27/notre-dame-football-fear-factor/ http://www.herloyalsons.com/blog/2015/07/27/notre-dame-football-fear-factor/#comments Mon, 27 Jul 2015 10:00:21 +0000 http://www.herloyalsons.com/blog/?p=30213 Traditionally, Biscuit will peruse the upcoming Notre Dame schedule and give his predictions, rating his confidence via dancing leprechaun GIFs. Today, I am taking a slightly different spin on that process. I will examine the schedule and rate how terrified I am of each game. Let’s be honest–as Notre Dame fans we are, at some level, panicking […]

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Fear-factor-logoTraditionally, Biscuit will peruse the upcoming Notre Dame schedule and give his predictions, rating his confidence via dancing leprechaun GIFs. Today, I am taking a slightly different spin on that process. I will examine the schedule and rate how terrified I am of each game.

Let’s be honest–as Notre Dame fans we are, at some level, panicking and fear inevitably take hold before every game. So this exercise is more than fitting.

Anyone remember the show Fear Factor? The concept was to more or less scare or gross out the competitors in a series of stunts. In theory, the show would find a contestant’s worst fear and exploit it for the audience’s entertainment. In practice, the show would be better called “Fear Roulette” as it seemed like a rarer occurrence that someone would end up so terrified that they couldn’t complete their task.

I feel to properly rate these games based on fear, I use my biggest fear: heights. To be more specific, it isn’t just heights, but more of a fear of falling from them. So if there is some kind of railing or safety harness involved, I’ll only be slightly terrified. Otherwise, I’m losing my mind.

So with those ground rules in mind, let’s play the first ever Notre Dame Football Fear Factor.

Texas

I’m trying to think of an opener that has had more unknowns on both sides than this one. Texas is still in a rebuilding process with Charlie Strong with question marks all over the place. The Irish come in with Malik Zaire taking the helm in only his second ever start.

For me, this game is the equivalent to being placed on the edge of a bungee jump and being shoved off the edge without warning. Sure, I have a safety harness and a bungee that should save me from going splat on the ground just as ND has several returning and proven starters that should be able to handle this situation. However, shove me off the edge of a bungee jump and I’m going into full panic hoping that everything was properly secured and OH DEAR GOD PLEASE DON’T LET THE CHORD FAIL COMPLETELY.

Just like any bungee jump, you have only two possible results and the no-so-great result is going to have some rather permanent results moving forward. Losing this game could end up disastrous for an Irish team relying on a young, new QB to lead them the rest of the way.

@Virginia

Despite that this is the first road game of the season, this shouldn’t be much of a challenge. Virginia has only finished above .500 once in the Mike London era (now entering year six).

This game is a roller coaster. I have very little fear of roller coasters. They are incredibly safe and a ton of fun. You may have a couple of sections that make your stomach turn, but everything ends up being okay.

Except when it does and the car flies off the damn track. Example: Northwestern.

Georgia Tech

I am terrified of this game. Absolutely freakin’ terrified. Could we have not had Navy before the Bees? I feel like getting a dose of the triple option from a team that has a height and weight restrictions would help. But no, the first taste of the triple option this season will be coming from a team that last year beat Clemson and Georgia in back-to-back weeks, almost beat Florida State for the ACC Title, and easily dispatched Mississippi State in the Orange bowl.

Have you ever seen those guys that jump off cliffs in a squirrel suit?

The whole concept looks easy. Spread your “wings” and the suit appears to do most of the work. Defending the triple option also appears quite simple in theory as well. Stay on your assignment, contain the edge and don’t get beat to the outside, and everything ends up working out.

In practice, things are never that simple. One mistake and you go splat in a hurry.

Massachusetts

Notre Dame has yet to ever schedule an FCS team on their schedule, but this is about as close as it gets. 2012 was their first year in the FBS and their first three seasons have netted five total wins.

Five.

This is like jumping off a diving board–not even a high dive, just a regular diving board that barely has any spring. There is no fear here. Sure, you might sting yourself on the water if you get cocky and sloppy, but nothing that you can’t recover from.

Of course, you could completely forget how to swim as soon as you hit the water and drown. And, honestly, that would pretty much describe ND if they lose this. They would have had to completely forget how to play football and we might just consider dismantling the entire program because of it.

@Clemson

BASE jump.

On the road, against what should be one of the toughest opponents of the season…hold me.

There will be very little room for error in a place known as Death Valley in front of what will be the toughest crowd that the Irish will have to play in front of. Either you pull it off and throw your chute open in enough time to survive (but possibly still break a limb), or you panic in front of the situation and RIP.

Navy

So after facing off against Georgia Tech, this second run against the triple option should be easier….right?!

If playing the Bees is a cliff dive with a squirrel suit, this game is a solo skydive. Freeze up a bit in pulling your chute? No problem, you have plenty of time before your meeting with the ground to remember how to do it. Chute fails? You have plenty of time to deploy your backup.

Of course, complete failure on a dive means that you will be leaving a nice crater in the ground for everyone to see. And in the back of your mind that fear will always be there because you are very familiar with bad things happening here in recent memory.

Southern Cal

One of the huge narratives last season was how often Notre Dame struggles the week after Navy, going 2-3 in the Brian Kelly era (and both wins within a single possession).

So now, Notre Dame will face of against their biggest rival the week after Navy. Oh, and this is probably one of the best teams that ND will face all season to boot. ESPN has a preseason power ranking, FPI, and Southern Cal comes in at 13, the highest of all ND opponents. To top it all off, Cody Kessler is 12/1 at Bovada to win the Heisman (only three players have better odds).

This should as much fun as…

I can’t even watch that whole video without freaking the hell out.

@Temple

After that terror ND gets Temple after a bye week on the “road”. I use quotation marks because I have a feeling this will turn into last year’s “away” game against Syracuse which was without a doubt a pro-ND crowd.

This is like flying on an airplane. Beyond a little bit of turbulence, there really isn’t much that will shake me up on a plane–unless the whole thing starts crashing down of course.

@Pittsburgh

I’m not even sure what to think about Pitt these days. Read this homecoming review from a famous terrible-food-making Pitt alumnus and you’ll really wonder about the sad state of Pitt football. Paul Chryst’s three seasons have been a 6-7 and 7-6 sandwich with 6-7 serving as the bread.

Despite that impressive mediocrity, they still managed to beat Notre Dame in their last meeting in 2013. That game also happened to be at Pitt as well.

I equate this game to climbing up on my roof for any reason. The slope isn’t that severe, but it’s just enough to terrify me. Couple that with the fact the roof is old with loose shingles and areas of the roof that sag/give far too much for comfort and yeah, I’ve had borderline panic attacks up there.

The chances that I’m going to fall off my roof are slim, but if I do it’s not just going to hurt like hell–it’s going to be really damned embarrassing.

Wake Forest

Man, does Temple-Pitt-Wake look a lot better than Clemson-Navy-Southern Cal. This should be another game of little worry for this Irish. Keyword: should.

I’ll equate this to going on the Texas Star at the State Fair. At a little over 200 feet, I’m not even worried that something disastrous like a car falling off would happen. I’m more worried that I would do something stupid like drop my phone from that height.

Boston College

These dudes have gone .500 in the first two years of the Steve Addazio era coupled with two bowl losses. Last year’s Pinstripe Bowl, however, might be the most hilarious loss possible.

This will be the annual Shamrock Series game. So, despite the game being held in BC’s backyard, Fenway Park will be packed to the brim with Irish fans. Also, ND is undefeated in Shamrock Series affairs.

This game will be walking across the Grand Canyon Skywalk:

Sure, it’s totally safe, but my mind would keep thinking about the potential disasters involved. I would be holding on the the rails for dear life and walking only on the steel beams because that is a long way down if that glass breaks. I don’t care if it could support the weight of multiple airplanes, I’m not risking disaster because I know terrible things happen.

And terrible things happen when playing Boston College. I am not going to link them, we all know them far too well.

@Stanford

Stanford is a total wildcard in my eyes. To me, they are a reverse Texas as I believe they are on a steady decline since Harbaugh left. The reason for this is their QB situation. Kevin Hogan has been hardly inspiring and there was even talk that he would transfer. Despite my personal questions with their QB or my feeling that they will begin a decline, there is no doubt that Stanford will still be a solid team that will give ND a run for their money.

This game will be just like this poor guy doing the SkyJump in Vegas:

This is on a whole other level than a bungie jump as it’s a “controlled” free fall. I attended a wedding in the Stratosphere and this thing freaked me out from the reception room because every 20 minutes or so you just see a body fly past the window. Going up to the bar where this thing lives…NOPE.

Here’s the other kicker to this “ride”: it costs over $100. Look, if I’m going to blow over $100 in Vegas, I’m going to go play blackjack or craps instead of purposefully jumping off a building.

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Friday Roundup: The “Chat with Tyler” Episode http://www.herloyalsons.com/blog/2015/07/24/friday-roundup-the-chat-with-tyler-episode/ http://www.herloyalsons.com/blog/2015/07/24/friday-roundup-the-chat-with-tyler-episode/#respond Fri, 24 Jul 2015 10:00:48 +0000 http://www.herloyalsons.com/blog/?p=30190 Every now and then, the Friday Roundup will go Notre Dame football-heavy and this was one of those episodes. In this episode, I have a good chat with Tyler James of the South Bend Tribune and NDInsider.com. We talk about the NDInsider.com preview magazine, thoughts on the upcoming Notre Dame season, and I turn the […]

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Friday RoundupEvery now and then, the Friday Roundup will go Notre Dame football-heavy and this was one of those episodes. In this episode, I have a good chat with Tyler James of the South Bend Tribune and NDInsider.com. We talk about the NDInsider.com preview magazine, thoughts on the upcoming Notre Dame season, and I turn the tables on him and ask some of the questions that they asked the incoming freshman.

Also appearing in this episode: the latest on the Ohio State QB situation, a nice little rant on the SEC making excuses, and a moment of Nix that once again features Cardale Jones.

The Roundup

In this episode:

The Booze

Yes, I admitted that I was partaking in the cheap stuff this weekend. I am not ashamed of my Coors Light and you can’t make me feel bad about it.

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Where Are They Now? Tim O’Neill http://www.herloyalsons.com/blog/2015/07/23/where-are-they-now-tim-oneill/ http://www.herloyalsons.com/blog/2015/07/23/where-are-they-now-tim-oneill/#respond Thu, 23 Jul 2015 09:00:06 +0000 http://www.herloyalsons.com/blog/?p=30151 Some kids instinctively know they are going to become a teacher, or a doctor, or a fire fighter; and some kids instinctively know they are going to one day play football at the University of Notre Dame. Tim O’Neill was one such kid. He dreamed of playing football at Notre Dame and all of the […]

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Some kids instinctively know they are going to become a teacher, or a doctor, or a fire fighter; and some kids instinctively know they are going to one day play football at the University of Notre Dame. Tim O’Neill was one such kid. He dreamed of playing football at Notre Dame and all of the rituals that accompany the mystique that is Notre Dame … tapping the famous “Play Like A Champion Today” sign on the way out of the locker room, running out of the tunnel into Notre Dame stadium, and of course that hallowed moment when your cleats hit the cushion to the tune of thousands of screaming fans. How does a 5’6”, 165 running back from the heart of Wolverine country manage to get the Notre Dame football coaches to take note of him and eventually earn a scholarship position on the Fighting Irish football team? Take a walk with me along the journey of a walk-on who just wouldn’t give up: Tim O’Neill.

Q: Growing up in Michigan, how did you become interested in attending and possibly playing football at Notre Dame?

A: “I grew up in the heart of Michigan Wolverine country but I always carried a torch for the Fighting Irish. My family history is the same as many other kids who follow in the footsteps of parents or sibling who also attended Notre Dame, and I grew up with a great love of the University. My brother Mike went to Notre Dame and was a walk-on full back under Coach Holtz and played behind Rodney Culver and Jerome Bettis. He didn’t play much … as you can imagine! My father also went to Notre Dame, he graduated in 1961; my grandfather graduated in 1926, and my great-grandfather graduated in 1906. That’s one impressive Notre Dame Legacy ahead of me and as you can guess I was pretty brain washed when it came to ND.”

“My wife and I were married in the basilica at Notre Dame, my parents were also married in the basilica and my grandparents were married in the log cabin chapel by the grotto. Notre Dame is a very special part of our family history.”

“With the deep affinity that I have for Notre Dame, I always wanted to play football at ND. There was no other place that I wanted to be. It honestly was a dream come true to attend Notre Dame, to walk onto the football team and eventually become a scholarship player. It was really special.”

“I was a pretty decent football player in high school, but at 5’6” and 165 pounds there were not a lot of schools offering me scholarships to play college football. I took a trip to the University of Michigan but they didn’t give me an offer. I knew my only opportunity was going to be to walk on somewhere and prove myself. I thought about maybe going to a Division II or Division III school but my parents always taught me to dream big. I put a video together along with a letter of recommendation from my high school football coach, John Walker, and sent it off to a bunch of colleges and universities, but the only response I really wanted was from Notre Dame. I received a call from Coach Bob Chmiel, the recruiting coordinator under Coach Holtz. I answered the phone half asleep and heard on the other end, ‘Hi, this is Coach Bob Chmiel and we’d like for you to come to Notre Dame and walk on the team.’ I really had no idea exactly what that meant but I got my physical and joined the team after classes had started my freshman year. I will always be grateful to Coach Chmiel for the opportunity.”

“I secured a spot as a walk-on but that came with no promises of playing time and no scholarship; but they liked what they saw and I made the team. There were 105 players at fall camp that year and only myself, Matt Sarb, and John Crowther made the team as freshman walk-ons after classes had started.We recruited ourselves to be at Notre Dame because we wanted to be there. We worked summer jobs to help finance our education and we were there because we truly loved the University. I had five amazing years at Notre Dame and I have absolutely no regrets. I can look back and honestly say that I wouldn’t have done anything differently and that I gave 100 percent. I worked harder as a Notre Dame football player than I had ever worked in my life, both physically and mentally. It was full of ups and downs, successes and failures, along with the inevitable disappointments when you thought you were going to get playing time and didn’t; but in the end it was absolutely worth it.”

everydayeveryplay“While I was at Notre Dame I started writing a journal to document my experiences as a walk-on for Notre Dame. When I started writing (during my sophomore year), it was more of a diary at first, a reflection at the end of each day. During my fifth year I wrote a lot more. Finally, a few years after graduation, I got around to compiling the entries into a book and publishing my story. I didn’t write it to make money, I wrote it because I truly believe in its message: to not underestimate yourself and your dreams and what you’re capable of doing. The book is called Every Play Every Day; My Life as a Notre Dame Walk-on and I’m fortunate that it is now in its second printing.”

“I wanted to portray a realistic look at the experiences of a Notre Dame walk-on and the sacrifices that it takes to follow your dreams and go after what you want. In order to succeed you often times have to give up some fun things, but in the end it was absolutely worth it. I didn’t drink my entire time at Notre Dame, but that was my personal choice. I didn’t want to be working out and sacrificing my body during the week, only to break it down and have to start all over after the weekend.”

Q: Did your coaches make you feel like a walk-on? What was your perceived status on the team?

A: “I don’t think they intentionally treated us differently, but that being said, I think you definitely had to earn their respect and rightfully so. They were invested in the guys they had recruited, the guys they had gone into their homes and talked with their parents. On the flip side of the coin, I think college football in general is a meritocracy. If you are the best person for the job then you should play. It’s definitely hard to get playing time as a walk-on but it’s not impossible. Take a look at Joe Schmidt, it’s definitely possible. There were guys I looked up to that were walk-ons that had earned significant playing time like Anthony Brannan, Jonathan Hebert, and Jeremy Juarez, and I tried to emulate their work ethic. I don’t want to make it sound like there was a bias towards scholarship players, but as a walk-on you have to work harder in order to get your chance. Once you get the chance, then it’s all on a level playing field and all you can really ask for is to be given that opportunity.”

Q: Did the scholarship players treat you differently because you were a walk-on?

A: “No, not at all. I think they looked at us as a football player. If you were a good football player they respected you. If you were lacking in talent, then they viewed you that way. I didn’t look at the scholarship players any differently. We were all equal and working towards the same goal, to win all of our games. In that respect we were one team. That’s how we approached it. Some of my best friends at ND were scholarship players. There was no dichotomy in the locker room. I think they respected us more because we had to work hard in order to maybe get a chance to play. They respected the fact that we weren’t on scholarship and were still going through everything they were going through.”

Q: What was it like playing under Bob Davie? Tyrone Willingham?

A: “When everything fell into place for me it was under Coach Willingham so I will always have an affinity for him. He was a walk-on at Michigan State and so he valued the walk-on role and could identify with what we were going through as walk-ons.”

“Coach Davie saw me practice every day. I was running the scout team offense against our first team defense every day and I know he respected my attitude and approach to practice every day. He had me speak at the Stanford game pep rally my junior year and I will always be grateful to Coach Davie for that opportunity.”

“Coach Davie and Coach Willingham had very different personalities but they both had positive qualities which they brought to the table. Coach Willingham changed my life forever by giving me a scholarship to play football at Notre Dame. After the football banquet, Coach Willingham would be there until 1 AM signing autographs. He was always the last person to leave from events. That’s who he was. On the flip side, he always felt the media didn’t belong in his business, that his players and coaches were most important to him and who he cared about. He would get down and do the workouts with us. We respected that.”

“But, we could also see, when he wasn’t getting the results on the field, that the pressure on him increased greatly. He started out 8-0, ranked number three in the country and then it just fell apart from there. It’s all about results in college football. That’s the reality. You have to win. You have to have integrity. And you can’t only excel in one area; you have to excel in it all.”

“I have stayed in touch with Coach Willingham as well as Coach Buzz Preston, my running back coach. They’ve always been good about lending a helping hand if you need it or sending you a congratulatory message on your marriage or new baby. They never forget their players.”

Q: What’s the most unexpected opportunity that you’ve been given as a Notre Dame football player?

Stay tuned for more in the “Where are they now?” series!

Stay tuned for more in the “Where are they now?” series!

A: “I graduated from Notre Dame in 2003 and in 2009 I heard about the tryouts for a Notre Dame alumni football game versus the Japanese national team that was going to happen in Tokyo, coached by Lou Holtz and Tim Brown. I was 29 years old at the time and trained for 7 months to make sure I was going to make the team because they were only going to take 50 guys. I viewed this as a once in a lifetime opportunity, to be able to play one game for Coach Holtz. What an honor.”

“I was seven years old when I went to my first Notre Dame game with my dad which was the Notre Dame vs. Michigan State in 1987, and Tim Brown ran back two punt returns for touchdowns in that game. I went home after that game and sent a letter to Tim Brown, asking him if he’d sign his name on this paper and send it back to me. He sent it back to me postmarked from Dallas, Texas, during one of his breaks from school, and it read, ‘Best Wishes, Tim Brown # 81.’ I kept that on my wall all through school.”

“I ended up making the alumni team and got to go to Japan and play the Japanese national team. Tim Brown was the wide receiver coach and that was the position I got to play for that game. Being a part of that was such an amazing experience. I was able to take my future wife to Japan and she was able to see me play football for one game since she had never seen me play in college. It was almost surreal to me. It’s one of the highlights of my life. I can see why Coach Holtz was such a successful coach. Tony Rice was 40 years old, and I was 30 years old and Coach Holtz coached us like it was the Super Bowl. He demanded excellence from us. He was there to win and you had better be there ready to win, too. Hearing him speak for a week at practice was worth everything.”

Q: Had you heard of Rudy before you attended ND? 

A: “I had heard of Rudy. I had watched the movie and loved it. When people hear you are walking on at Notre Dame they inevitably make that comparison. I didn’t want to be Rudy, though; I wanted to be Emmitt Smith or Barry Sanders. I wanted to win the Heisman. And in my mind, I truly believed I was capable of achieving those things. That’s how I approached every day of practice, every game, everyday of the offseason, that if I got my chance, my opportunity, I would be ready for it.”

“During my freshman year at Notre Dame I didn’t play one play, but I think I earned the respect of the coaching staff. I would be the opposing teams’ starting running back in practice and go against the first team defense every day and I took pride in that. My first opportunity came my sophomore year when I got two carries against Arizona State. Then in my junior year I played in one game where Coach Urban Meyer put me in against Navy in the Citrus Bowl. He put me in as a wide receiver, even though I didn’t normally play wide receiver, but he wanted to reward me and I will always respect him for that.”

“It’s very difficult to stay positive when you don’t get much playing time.”

“Then Coach Willingham came in and that was my final year at Notre Dame. I really felt that it was my year and that the hard work of the previous four years had finally paid off for me.”

“The week before the kickoff classic, Coach Willingham called me into his office and told me I was going to play that year under a full scholarship. (He also told two of my teammates that same day that they were getting a full scholarship as well: Chad Debolt and Jason Halvorson.) That was one of the best days of my life. That was a very powerful moment. It proved to me that if you want something bad enough and make the sacrifices that you can do anything.”

“You’re always hoping to be rewarded but you don’t always get it. A lot of my walk-on friends and teammates didn’t get the opportunities that I got. They put in the work, and that doesn’t take away from their hard work, but it doesn’t always end the way you think it should.”

“I started on special teams on the punt block team my senior year and had nine carries at tailback for 74 yards. It was not record-breaking but it was awesome for me. It didn’t matter that it was against Rutgers and we were up by 40 points … it was my opportunity. We started out ranked number three in the country that year, but lost three of our last four games and finished 10-3.”

Q: Where has your career taken you since your time at Notre Dame?

A: “I studied finance at Notre Dame with a minor in theology. I really enjoy finance, but I really enjoyed theology, too. I knew that I wanted something that was fast paced, challenging and a meritocracy like I experienced at Notre Dame. I interned at Lehman Brothers in New York City on the financial side of Wall Street. It wasn’t on the trading side and I wasn’t generating revenue for the firm, which is where I really wanted to be. I applied for various trading jobs with a lot of Wall Street firms that were recruiting, and got an interview with Salomon Brothers and got a job in the sales and trading analyst program. I spent a year doing mortgage sales in Chicago and a year in high yield and credit default swap trading in New York.”

“When I was in mortgage-backed sales in Chicago I had a great mentor in John Russell, who was a Notre Dame graduate and a good mentor to have. He took me under his wing and I worked there for two years and still ask him for advice.”

“Most recently I am in Houston, Texas. I came to Houston with Citigroup in their commodity trading group. Currently, I am a managing director at Sequent Energy. Sequent Energy is one of the top natural gas marketers in the United States and I manage our financial trading exposure in the Western and Midwestern United States and I work with a great and talented team of individuals, led by our president Peter Tumminello. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do what I do without the lessons I learned as a Notre Dame football player. It set me apart in interviewing. It helped me get my foot in the door and once I got my foot in the door I didn’t let anyone slam it on me.”

Q: What was your biggest challenge as a Notre Dame student-athlete? How did Notre Dame prepare you for life after college?

A: “For me, I think my biggest challenge was overcoming the stereotype of being undersized. People have it in their mind that you have to be a certain size to play football, and for me in particular,running back. Overcoming the perception that my size was a disadvantage only made me better. On one hand I was smaller, but on the other hand I was harder to tackle. I was also quicker which made me more difficult to catch. I worked hard to be on equal footing with the other running backs that were bigger than me.”

Q: What advice would you give current student athletes?

A: “I would tell them don’t underestimate yourself, your goals, and what you’re capable of achieving. There are going to be a lot of times when you are discouraged, when you think the coach doesn’t like you, when you’re being picked on. Stay the course, work hard, and good things will happen. It may not happen in the time frame you think it will happen, but if you stay focused and believe in yourself you will get there in due time. Also, don’t let other people’s expectations of you define who you are. Always have higher expectations for yourself than anyone else.”

I’d love to give a big thank you to Tim for stopping by the blog! You can read more about Tim in Volume II of Echoes From the End Zone: The Men We Became due out in 2016. Stay tuned for more stories in the “Where Are They Now?” series!

Cheers & GO IRISH!

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Know Thyself, Know Thy Enemy: Links! http://www.herloyalsons.com/blog/2015/07/22/know-thyself-know-thy-enemy-links/ http://www.herloyalsons.com/blog/2015/07/22/know-thyself-know-thy-enemy-links/#respond Wed, 22 Jul 2015 17:58:20 +0000 http://www.herloyalsons.com/blog/?p=30081 Moons kicked off our “Know Thyself, Know Thy Enemy” series with a look at the quarterback position. I definitely recommend you read that. Here’s what others around the Notre Dame community are writing about our team and our “enemies” in the past week or so: FROM OUR SITE Rejected mottos for the 2015 Notre Dame […]

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Courtesy of ESPN

Courtesy of ESPN

Moons kicked off our “Know Thyself, Know Thy Enemy” series with a look at the quarterback position. I definitely recommend you read that. Here’s what others around the Notre Dame community are writing about our team and our “enemies” in the past week or so:

FROM OUR SITE

OFFENSE

DEFENSE

GENERAL STORIES

SEPT. 5: TEXAS

SEPT. 19: GEORGIA TECH

SEPT. 26: MASSACHUSETTS

OCT. 3: AT CLEMSON

OCT. 10: NAVY

  • Podcast: Michael James of the Bird Dog Blog joins Reuben and Randall on Irish Sports Talk to preview the Mids’ season. (39:11)
  • General preview (Irish247)
  • In his mailbag, Keith Arnold addresses how the “Navy hangover” that has hurt Notre Dame over the past decade. (Inside the Irish)

OCT. 17: USC

OCT. 31: TEMPLE (AT LINCOLN FINANCIAL FIELD)

NOV. 7: AT PITTSBURGH

NOV. 21: BOSTON COLLEGE (AT FENWAY PARK)

NOV. 28: AT STANFORD

MISC.

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Know Thyself, Know Thy Enemy: Quarterback http://www.herloyalsons.com/blog/2015/07/22/know-thyself-know-thy-enemy-quarterback-2/ http://www.herloyalsons.com/blog/2015/07/22/know-thyself-know-thy-enemy-quarterback-2/#respond Wed, 22 Jul 2015 10:00:33 +0000 http://www.herloyalsons.com/blog/?p=30147 Traditions are good things. Whether it’s field turf or pumped in stadium music, continuity from one year to the next is part of the rich fabric of Notre Dame, college football, and blogging about Notre Dame college football. As a new writer to HLS, I am humbly tasked with beginning this year’s “Know Thyself, Know […]

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Traditions are good things. Whether it’s field turf or pumped in stadium music, continuity from one year to the next is part of the rich fabric of Notre Dame, college football, and blogging about Notre Dame college football. As a new writer to HLS, I am humbly tasked with beginning this year’s “Know Thyself, Know Thy Enemy” series. Over the coming weeks, the HLS staff will home in on one player from a variety of position groups and compare him to the stiffest competition the 2015 schedule can offer. This week’s edition starts with the quarterback position.

Irish Player to Watch:

Everett Golson Malik Zaire, Junior

6’0”, 222 Lbs.

Recently I’ve been Netflixing (is that a word?) a lot of “The Office” episodes. The U.S. version. I’ve already seen every episode. Heck, I’ve probably seen every episode at least two times. I’ve been doing it because the show’s mindless and comforting. At this point, I know the jokes that are coming, and even if I didn’t, I could figure out what’s coming next because the episodes are all so similar. Someday I have a dream of an ND offseason being like that. Particularly as it relates to the QB position. Boring. Redundant. Predictable. This was not that offseason.

The Music City Bowl was indeed music to many fans’ ears and eyes. Swagger-master Malik Zaire got his chance to start a game and took advantage. The rush heavy spread option attack saw some extended play with positive results. The 263 ground yards represented the 8th highest game total of the Brian Kelly era. If we further limit that query to games versus Power 5 teams, only the 2012 Miami game and the 2011 Purdue game amassed better rushing totals. There were a lot of firsts in that game for Zaire: first start, first rushing touchdown, first bowl MVP award, and plenty to build upon for the 2015 season.

It’s important to remember, though, that we don’t really know all that much about Zaire. As andrewwinn discussed earlier this offseason, 103 snaps doesn’t tell us much about Zaire’s potential. Zaire’s just as likely to be Dayne Crist/Tommy Rees as he is to be Brady Quinn (in terms of production) if we’re just considering the snaps we’ve observed. No question that Zaire is a different type of player than his immediate predecessors, Golson included. Where Golson appeared to struggle with mental demons as much, if not more, than on field demons, Zaire has done nothing but exude supreme, unwaivering confidence in his own abilities. It’s Clausen’s self-confidence with Golson’s physical gifts. Whether Zaire and new coordinator Mike Sanford can harness these skills will go a considerable way in determining the success of the 2015season.

It seems fair and reasonable to anticipate the team running more with Zaire under (or more appropriately behind) center. His natural skill set lends itself to a power option attack. Sanford’s background with both Stanford and Boise State involved a healthy dose of power running, and the stacked Irish offensive line is built to run. However, the stable of running backs is shallow, and even shallower to start the season with Bryant’s suspension. Quarterback has no experience behind Zaire’s limited experience so the team cannot afford for Zaire to get hurt meaning balance is still key.

The dwindling memories but stubborn resolve of the #RTDB’ers will force the conversation back to the 2012 season being both Kelly’s most successful and most rush heavy play mix. Zaire’s equipped to appease this crowd. However, it wasn’t just running the ball more that made the 2012 team successful. Zaire’s got a big arm to make throws with. He’s a player that will want to extend plays and awe the crowd, but he must avoid Rees and Golson’s propensity for turnovers. The corollary to 2012 that does not get press is that 2012 was the only season in the Kelly era in which the offense had an interception percentage* low enough to finish in the top half of CFP teams (27th nationally). The team can’t abandon the pass. Zaire must take advantage and be efficient with his pass attempts. Save the football. Save the team. Or something like that. You get my point…

(* “Interception Percentage” is the number of drop backs t0 pass that resulted in an interception)

Enemy Player to Watch

All of them, Cody Kessler, Senior

6’2”, 215 Lbs.

Just recently the “watch” lists for all of college football’s awards were released letting us know who ESPN should start framing narratives around. One such award is the Davey O’Brien Award which is presented to the nation’s top quarterback. Six of Notre Dame’s opponents (Clemson, GA Tech, UMass, USC, Stanford, and Navy) will boast watch list members this year.

Aside from six of Notre Dame’s 2015 opponents, other guys on the watch list: Connor Cook (MSU), Marquise Williams (UNC), Taysom Hill (BYU), and Gunner Kiel. Notre Dame really needs to adopt Gary Pinkel’s plan of joining a conference so they could tack on some FCS opponents and avoid all of these quarterbacks. I finally get what he was thinking.

Okay, back to the task at hand. In 2013, Tex selected Kevin Hogan as the enemy to watch. He’s still around and is a watch list member, but the Irish have actually handled Hogan pretty well. Both of ND’s scary as f— option opponents, Navy (Keenan Reynolds) and Georgia Tech (Justin Thomas) boast O’Brien watch list members as well. You bet I’ll be watching them, and drinking heavily while doing so. But, even with all of these options there’s a guy on there that led me to learn the art of dry walling after punching out many a hole in his honor: USC’s Cody Kessler.

You might remember Kessler from such performances as his one man re-enactment of the Tommy Lee Jones classic Blown Away. In case you were wondering, the ND fan base is represented by Jeff Bridges in this scene. Staring around, looking at the rubble, unsure what in the world happened but knowing exactly who the hell did it. I can’t live…with or without you.

Kessler’s final line in the 2014 game:

372 yards, 6 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 80% completion percentage.

Screw him. I used to average that in NCAA Football 2011 (RIP) with Dayne Crist. I mean, “ND QB #10.”  So, he’s not all that special.

Only, Kessler actually is that good. That Kessler didn’t finish in the Top 11 for Heisman voting last year is an indictment of just how silly that voting actually is. Among Kessler’s national finishes last year:

3rd in completion percentage (1st among Power 5 players) – 69.7%

4th in touchdown passes (2nd among Power 5 players) – 39

T-10th in fewest interceptions – 5

3rd in passer rating – 167.1 (Only 2 ahead: Mariota [won Heisman], J.T. Barrett [5th in Heisman voting])

While Kessler lost 3 of his top 4 targets from 2014 including his BFF Nelson Agholor, the Trojans do not lack for speed or skill at the receiver position. Kessler excelled in year 1 of the Sarkisian tenure, and he comes into 2015 as trendy Heisman pick making him worthy of all the derision you loyal readers can muster.

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