Yes, you read the title correctly: The Subway Domer has pulled a recruiting coup for the IBG and NDNation has joined the fold.
For the post Blue/Gold Game edition, we got the first crack at asking questions of Mike Coffey, aka El Kabong, of NDNation. He, in turn, has asked his questions three of Kieth Arnold of Inside the Irish who will eventually have Subway’s answers up. And you can find my answers over at The Subway Domer this week. Eventually, we will have the Strong and True blog back in the fold once they find someone to fill Josh Flynt’s shoes.
Without further ado, here are Mike’s answers to my questions:
1) Needless to say, the offense struggled mightily, especially in the red zone. Do you feel that this a sign of future offensive struggles or a chance to praise the Irish defense?
I believe it’s neither.
The Spring Game is a difficult thing to analyze. We ND football fans haven’t seen a meaningful snap in three in a half months (or more, depending on how you felt about the bowl game) and won’t see one for another four months. We’ve got a jones to see the players in action in a game-like atmosphere at the location we all associate with great games, and the Spring Game gives us that. Trouble is, given the familiarity the players have with each other’s abilities, the general knowledge of the plays being run, and the well-known tendency of coaching staffs in general (and this one in particular) to play things close to the vest in a non-competitive situation, it doesn’t give us much else.
No doubt the defense “showed” more than the offense during the scrimmage. Maybe they were more motivated. Maybe they took advantage of the temporarily poor OL depth or the larger number of dinged-up players on offense. Maybe Chuck Martin didn’t want to show off too much in a situation that didn’t matter. Maybe our defense is really really good and when our offense goes up against a less-talented group, it’ll be their time to shine. Maybe the the red-jersey rules limited Everett Golson in ways we won’t see when Temple comes to town.
In the words of Edward Nygma, too many questions. Guessing which (if any) of the possibilities are true is just that — guessing. We know we had a good defense last year, and nothing that happened Saturday showed us any different. We know the offense had its issues last year at times, and nothing that happened Saturday showed us any different. Unfortunately, until that first snap on August 31st, that’s what we’re left with, and I don’t want to color the perception of what happens at and after that snap with judgments based on guesses.
Given the caveats of answer #1, I was interested in seeing a couple things.
The OL was low on bodies, so I went in expecting them to have problems. I thought they performed relatively well given the limitation, but certainly wasn’t wowed. I would have liked to see their ground game performance more, as that’s what I expect will drive the success or failure of the unit next season. I enjoy ND being able to redshirt freshmen offensive linemen to allow them to grow and get more seasoned, but it’s possible we won’t have that luxury this year.
Given the change in depth at the position, I was also interested in comparing Malik Zaire to his competitors, both physically and (to an extent) emotionally. I found him to be very refreshing in both aspects. I thought his passes had good power and accuracy, certainly moreso than Andrew Hendrix. He seemed to exhibit a reasonable confidence for a freshman. It remains to be seen if we’ll see him behind center at any point, and I’d expect Brian Kelly and the staff will do their utmost to preserve a redshirt year for him. Having said that, however, if Golson has the improvement we all expect, it’s not a given he’ll be behind center for a third year in a row, and perhaps some experience for Zaire will leave ND in a better position for 2014. If they don’t, Rees once again was his workman-like self, and while he has his limitations, I wouldn’t be prepared to throw the season away if the situation meant extended time for him at QB.
As I noted above, Zaire’s performance made me interested in seeing what he’ll be able to do, especially on the ground to keep defenses honest. C.J. Prosise certainly is more than serviceable at a position of need. I liked George Atkinson, but if he doesn’t learn to keep those pads down, he’ll miss more time this year.
But I would say the guy who stood out for me was Chuck Martin. Even though he’s the OC for an offensive-minded coach, he’s putting his stamp on the game plan. He probably never will run the ball as much as I’d like, but he’s shown he respects the need for (at least a semblance of) balance. For a guy who spent most of his time on the defensive side of the ball prior to ND, that’s a great thing to see, and had Brian Kelly’s chat with the Eagles gone a different way, I’d be comfortable with Martin at the helm.
Hope springs eternal at Notre Dame — and after the wonderful rebirth of Notre Dame football in 2012, that never rings more true than this year. The 84th annual Blue-Gold game is upon us this weekend, and there’s quite a few things that I’ll have my eyes on — here’s a few of them (in no real order):
5. Players returning from injury - Lo Wood. Alex Welch. Austin Collinsworth. Amir Carlisle. Chase Hounshell. These are just a few of the big-name injuries from last year, all guys that were primed to make significant contributions to the team. These guys still find themselves presented with serious opportunity — in several cases there are still starting spots up for grabs if they play well enough. Hopefully these players can show that they are healthy again and ready to make a positive impact.
4. The early-enrollees - These are the really fun guys to watch — not only are they shiny new toys for the coaching staff to play with, but there’s no real risk if they disappoint. After all, they are essentially seniors in high school, so they can’t reasonably be expected to contribute much right away. However, this year is pretty exceptional because WRs James Onwualu and Corey Robinson have both REALLY impressed in the spring — both are guys that are on place to not only play this fall, but play a lot. It will also be fun to watch Malik Zaire run around a bit (though there’s no way that he can have a real grasp of the offense yet) and see if Steve Elmer or Mike Heuerman can bring anything to the table.
3. The big voids - It’s college football, so of course players graduate or leave for the NFL — this year we have three positions that will be losing huge contributions from 2012: MLB, TE, and RB. With Manti gone, it’s a three-way race between Carlo Calabrese, Dan Fox, and Jarrett Grace. With Eifert gone, it’s Ben Koyack, Troy Niklas, and Alex Welch battling for the top spot (Alex Welch was picked to be my sleeper last year before going down with the ACL — I really still think that he will turn some heads). And with Cierre and Theo moving on, we have George Atkinson III, Cam McDaniel, and Amir Carlisle all fighting for a large portion of the reps. All three of these positions will likely have by-committee approaches to replacing the lost production, but it would be pretty nice to see some players elevate themselves above the rest and become stars.
2. Everett Golson’s improvement - Quite frankly, our offense couldn’t have been much worse last year, and it was mainly due to poor quarterback play. Fortunately we were able to win despite of its limitations, and now Golson has an almost-full season of experience under his belt, in addition to numerous offseasons of preparation. Brian Kelly has raved about the strides that Golson has made in leadership, and no longer should there be any excuses of not knowing the playbook. I expect him to be worlds better than last year, which should allow Notre Dame to rise to another level.
— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) April 16, 2013
Just to clarify, I’m still the biggest Tommy Rees fan in the world, so don’t get it twisted. But because of how things have shaken out, it’s Everett’s job to lose. <3 you guys.
1. The defensive line - This unit is probably the hardest and most frustrating to evaluate in the Spring Game considering it is going toe-to-toe with our offensive line, but I am just ecstatic thinking about how good it can be in 2013. I am thrilled that Kelly finally decided to make our line insanely huge by putting on more weight, and with Tuitt, Nix, Day, Schwenke, Springmann, Jones, Stockton all in the mix before we even add a stud set of freshman, all Notre Dame fans have to love the potential here. While Tuitt won’t play this weekend, it will still be interesting to see the push we get inside.
What won’t I be watching much? The scoreboard. We really need to find a new system and get rid of these crazy rules.
One of the things I wanted to do this off season is see where Everett Golson fits in among his peers, and, thanks to the statistics nerds at www.und.com, I was able to pull all the data I needed (except for 1998) (WTH?) from the source, as it were. So, with a data-set of 21 years, I looked at each QB’s Total Passing Yards (TPY), Attempts (Atts), Completions (Comps), Completion Percentage (%), Touchdowns (TD’s) and Interceptions (INT’s). To qualify, a quarterback had to start four games in a season. So, without further ado, please, if you will, this:
A few things jump right out: 1.) how good was Brady “The Mighty” Quinn? 2.) how gaudy (and futile) were Jimmy Clausen’s numbers? and 3.) how different things could have been for Dayne Crist if…. if….. dammit, Dayne. But when you look at players getting their first starts, Everett’s numbers are surprising, even to an unabashed Golson fan such as myself. His 2405 total passing yards bests the first seasons of Ron Powlus (1729), Brady Quinn (1831), Dayne Crist (2033) and Jimmy Clausen (2007). 2405 is eighth-best going back to 1992 which, again, is not too shabby given the company.
When you look at rushing numbers, though, Golson’s numbers really become more interesting. They add a dynamic missing with other Irish signal callers. His 298 (net) rushing yardsand six touchdowns put him fourth on a list going back to 1992, one that sees 2001 Carlyle Holiday in first with 666 (net), 1999 Jarious Jackson in second with 464 (net) and seven touchdowns and 2000 Matt LoVecchio in third with 300 (net) and two touchdowns.
Three times (here, here, and here) I either extolled Golson’s duality or compared him to Kevin McDougal, whose 85 net rushing yards and four touchdowns now seem meager by comparison. But remember LAST offseason? When Tony Rice said this?
You know what, he may be right…
Aah, the world of college football recruiting. A never ending process. The 2013 class is signed and looks primed to fill the gaps and make an instant impact. We also already have four commitments to the 2014 class: Greer Martini, Jay Hayes, Justin Brent, and Jimmy Byrne.
Let’s take a look at each offensive position group to try to gauge what we need and who our top targets currently are. Given our last few recruiting classes were near full, (barring transfers or early departure for the pros) I’d say around 14 spots will be left for the rest of the class. This is a good problem to have, one we haven’t had in ages. Top targets listed here are the targets believed to be the most “gettable”, targets that have interest in ND and an offer from ND.
* indicates fifth year option.
|Freshman||Zaire (If he redshirts this year)|
Top Targets- Brandon Dawkins, John Wolford
Assessment- Coach Kelly said he’d take a QB with every class. Not taking one is always a risk considering injuries and transfers. Whether or not taking a QB every year contributed to Kiel’s transfer is debatable, but having Zaire makes his transfer much more comfortable. Golson will have two years of eligibility left, and Zaire four (assuming a redshirt) after next year. I believe that still keeps us in pretty good shape.
|Senior||Atkinson McDaniel Carlisle*|
|Sophmore||Bryant Folston (redshirt year this year?)|
Need level- Low
Top Targets- Sony Michel, Jalen Hurd, Elijah Hood
Assessment- Atkinson, McDaniel and Carlisle* will all be going into their Senior year. Not sure if all of the first three will still be RBs after next season, but the eligibility will be there. This bunch of backs gives us the chance to really only go after the elite talent. RB is another position you like to take every year, but considering the depth and the lack of available scholarships in this class we may not take anyone with less than 5 stars. If we don’t take anyone this will become a position of need the following year.
|Junior||Ferguson Brown Neal|
|Sophmore||Onwualu Robinson Fuller Hunter|
Need level- Low to Medium
Top Targets- Mark Andrews, Terry Googer, Corey Holmes, Josh Malone, Jacob Mcrary, Michiah Quick, Artavis Scott, Thadeus Snodgrass
Assessment- Similar to the rest of the skill positions, we are relatively deep at all the receiver positions. However, Massa is a converted QB and hasn’t seen much action. Let’s say 1 or 2 of these young men don’t pan out. We’d still be okay at the position, but we’d like to have some security. I’d expect us to take one or maybe even two WRs if the right kids join, but wouldn’t be panicked if we didn’t. Some of the younger WRs seem to have pretty good potential. We’ll see how they turn out.
|Senior||Koyack Niklas Welch*|
Need level- Medium to High
Top Targets- Nic Weishar, Jeb Blazevich, Tyler Luatua, Ian Bunting
Assessment- I believe we will have a very good starting TE out of these five, possibly even two really good TEs. The potential is there to have an elite tight end, as we’ve grown accustomed to over the last few years. However, not having a backup at any position is a risk we shouldn’t afford. Welch is recovering from a season ending injury, sometimes you never make it back. Furthermore, there were more than a few times we reaped the benefits of the mismatches this type of athlete can create. Niklas and Eifert on the field last year had to be a nightmare to try to gameplan against, even if we didn’t do it that frequently. A miss here isn’t the end of the world, but it’d make TE a huge need the following year with the gaps left by three leaving.
Need level- Low to Medium
Top Targets- Mason Cole, Jamarco Jones, KC Mcdermott, Orlando Brown, Braden Smith, Bentley Spain, Natrell Curtis, Alex Bars
Commits- Jimmy Byrne
Assessment- The loss of Nichols hurts a bit at this position. We have one commit, but expect this to be hit harder. We’d like to get at least one more in this class. The ability to redshirt players in the trenches helps immensely. Further, being able to go live without being concerned about injuries can be a factor in late season games, as was recently touched on by Coach Kelly. This looks a little bare, but if some of the interior lineman are versatile enough to slide outside we would be able to fill any holes left by injuries/going pro/graduation etc.
|Senior||Martin Hanratty Hegarty Heggie*|
|Sophmore||McGovern Bivin Montelus|
Need level- Low to Medium
Top Targets- Same as outside lineman.
Assessment- Three Seniors on the inside, and another potential 5th year. With three spots inside (two Gs, one C) and four seniors this would look to be pretty ideal. We’d have experience across the board and a sub if the unthinkable happened. After that, it seems to dwindle a bit. Just one junior, but this years strong class of three will be sophomores. I’d say we need to take at least one here, possibly two. It’s the same arguments as the exterior lineman with regard to redshirting/going live.
Losses of Kiel and Nichols create a little more need, but nothing that becomes an immediate need. For the offense it seems that we have got to the point that we have the luxury of targeting only the elite talent at the skill positions. The best teams are often at this point and this allows them to target the “difference makers”, that top level athlete that can win you football games almost by themselves. On the OL C/G maybe an issue, but we just hauled in a great class of OL so it’s not panic time if we strike out this year. With the small # of spots available and a nice full depth chart, we should compete for only the best of the best this year. The other side of the coin is keeping the depth chart nice and full requires full recruiting classes if you can get quality players. I believe it will be easier to fill any perceived needs for this class, and give us the chance to really get out there after the blue chips.
Let me extend a hearty welcome to the Irish Mob! Admittedly, I am not in the habit of welcoming mobs, since I usually associate the word with the Paris Mob and that brings to mind the Reign of Terror. Not that I have any problem with our opponents suffering a four-year-long reign of terror as a result of our Irish Mob; but perhaps we could have chosen a more ethnically appropriate epithet for these lads – say, the Hooligan Crew. Since our own nickname is a rehabilitated slur, why not set to work making the modern notion of football hooliganism into something more honorable and less…mob-like.
Professor Kelly will have many things to teach you once you arrive here in beautiful Notre Dame, Indiana. I call him Professor Kelly because, at heart, he is a teacher, and you will learn much from him and his fellow coach-instructors. In the meantime, permit me to do my own small part in preparing you for your glorious arrival in la terre au bord Du Lac.
1. Graduate from high school and don’t dirty your hands with any foolish disciplinary infractions. The first task you only have accomplish once; the second will be a continuing obligation while you’re here. Some of your fellow mobsters have already achieved this and are with us even now. But if you can’t do just these two little things in the next couple of months, Notre Dame really will be like Paradise for you – something you will never see in this life.
2. Be afraid to fail. You have 126-years-worth of very big shoes to fill, with the most recent being some of the most prodigious. You are about to join a team that won each of its regular season games last year. No other group of athletes in the country (that weren’t sitting in the national naughty corner for systematic cheating) can boast of such an achievement at this, the very highest level. Not even that Southern cult-vehicle before which the Irish fell. So failure, or anything less than excellence and your personal best will not be acceptable. And that is a Notre Dame tradition that I myself started. You see, if at any point after November of 1842, I had failed, this place would be a typhoid-ridden swamp surrounding a graveyard, or a charred ruin marked by a sad commemorative plaque. Never give up, never yield, never stop believing.
3. Get to know two sets of very important initials: ND and CSC. Respond to the first like a bull to a red cape. Respond to the second with a profound bow. Everything you own or use from here on out will bear the noble cypher of the interlocking ND – your clothing down to your skivvies, the food you eat from the waffles to the tray that bears them, and the oblong ball you either handle or protect. This symbol should be symbolically branded on your heart. Some of you may choose to ink it upon your bodies. But don’t go too far with the tattoos. You are neither sailors nor Samoan warriors – we have both, and both manage to handle body art with taste and decorum. As for CSC, any man who bears those initials beside his name has many powers. Respect him. He will be your teacher, your rector, your mentor, or your guide. A couple of them can throw you out of this University so fast it would make your head spin…figuratively. But all of them can forgive your sins…literally.
4. Be prepared for a lot of intercourse. With your professors, you classmates, the other lads living in the hall with you, your teammates, your coaches, and even with journalists and reporters. The exchange of ideas is the fuel that fires the University. Your learning will be constant and will occur with every discussion you have with every person you meet. And be prepared for this to be the only use of the word “intercourse” that you will know for the next four years.
5. Get familiar with that structure we call a Library. Across the millennia and around the world, libraries have been repositories of the intelligence of civilizations. At Notre Dame, our Library is one of three landmarks you can see from anywhere on campus. It is where you will research and where you will study. Sometimes it is where you will sleep, and occasionally it becomes a 13-story pub (or so I’m told). At all times, it is an image of The Lord who beckons you to the Library with open arms. The Library is at the opposite end of the lawn from the Stadium, but they are not opposed. They are the two foundation stones of your success here at Notre Dame. That is your challenge…and the other Challenge requires one more beer than a 12-pack (or so I’m told).
6. Don’t bother getting to know your hometown Alumni club. They already know you. Notre Dame Alumni are like the Three Wise Men – they know who you are and where to find you as though guided by a divine sign in the sky. Just make very sure they never bring you gifts. You lads come from coast to coast. But believe me, you are never more than a few short miles from an Alumnus who will do anything for you. And that goes for now, for the next four years, and forever and ever. Amen. Alleluia.
7. Stop cutting your hair and shaving your beard. Professor Kelly doesn’t seem to mind the hirsute woodsman look, and I enthusiastically endorse it. My patriarchal visage graces many a location across our campus. You will see that I enjoy flowing locks and a very full beard. Like Moses. And like Moses, I have led you to the Promised Land.
8. Finally, start praying. That’s not meant to be an ominous warning. That’s just what we do a lot of here – praying. I don’t really care how you do it. With hands held high, or on your knees; in a church or a chapel or a field; with a book or a candle. Your success will depend on your ability to ask for strength and give thanks for blessings. And in that regard, let me introduce you to the primary administrator of all our prayer requests and blessing distributions. One more set of initials, three simple letters, but the most important of your next four years here: BVM.