Finally, FINALLY, F-I-N-A-L-L-Y, we are just a week away from the start of the 2019 Irish campaign. By Notre Dame standards, this has been a reasonably quiet, calm offseason. Let’s consider that:
- This is easily the surest the QB situation has felt from one season to the next in the Kelly-era;
- There were no major surprises on player departures. Sure, the Derrik Allen transfer earlier this month was not predicted, but given his inability to make the depth chart to date, it cannot be viewed as a major blow to 2019’s prospects;
- A promising coaching staff remained intact. Retaining coordinators Chip Long and Clark Lea despite at least minor flirtations by Long elsewhere is a big win for Kelly and the program. The Elko defection after just one season hurt. It seemed like a major step for Brian Kelly to break away from long-timers that he happened to know (See: Denbrock, VanGorder, Martin…). Getting an opportunity to build with young and promising coordinators at the helm for more than a season is an important step in this process;
- It can’t be lost that the team is building on consecutive 10-win seasons. The Irish are Top 10 in the initial polls and feel closer to the top than they do to needing a rebuild.
I’ll confess that to make football and blogging and exposing myself to the Internet for the fool I am to be fun, I have to triage my time and energy. That means that I typically don’t read a lot of football stuff between April and August. There are very bright, very dedicated people out there who do. They do a tremendous job, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for them. From Pete Sampson at The Athletic, to the ND Insider guys (Eric Hansen, Tyler James, Carter Karels), the Irish Illustrated staff, Blue Gold Illustrated, and the folks at 247 Sports just to name a few.
So, while I pay for some of these folks on a personal level, I wanted to provide those of you who are hoping to get up to speed in a hurry a method of doing so that wouldn’t cost you a penny. It’s what I’m calling “The People’s Free Guide to ND Football.” I wanted to take some of my favorite pieces from the past few months from a variety of sites/blogs that I enjoy, and compile them into a means of understanding Notre Dame’s make-up and expectations leading into the 2019 season.
I love the collegial interaction among the many ND blogs available. I love sharing ideas and inviting people to check out other’s impressive work. The People’s Guide to ND Football includes posts from NBC Sports’ Inside the Irish, 18 Stripes, Notre Dame, Our Blogger, UHND, and One Foot Down. Notably, it contains no links to HLS posts. So, we have that going for us. By no means is this meant to be an exhaustive list of everything I’ve read or found worthwhile. Rather, I tried to parse this down to the essentials.
One time in my professional career, I had to conduct a deposition on a topic I was not overly familiar with. To be fair, I did not want anything to do with this matter. Some extraneous forces required me to take it on. The day before the deposition, I called up a friend who was far more nuanced in that particular subject area. My question/request of him – Tell me the five things I need to say at this thing tomorrow to avoid seeming like an idiot.
Consider the People’s Guide to ND Football to be my advice to you on the things to read to avoid sounding like an idiot this Fall.
There’s a skill to writing a good primer. I thought Eric Murtaugh’s Mega-Primer was the best one I read. The 18s Preview does a great job of hitting a lot of points, mentioning a lot of the relevant names, and doing so without too much muck. Sometimes the muck is good. It can even be fun, but damn it, we’re one week out! This’ll help you get up to speed in a hurry.
Once you’ve read the 18s version, head on over to NDOB for Andrew and Alex’s back and forth. The NDOB guys always add some levity but (surprisingly?!) know their stuff too. We all have questions, but their end goal of asking the q’s that go a long way towards defining success in the soon to start campaign is spot on.
Offensive Indicators/Things to Watch
If writing is any indication, despite everyone’s fair questions about what’s going to happen with the linebackers and corners, far more electronic ink was spent penning things regarding the offense. Perhaps the questions are just too overwhelming to conceptualize? I get it. Sure, the team lost Tranquill and Coney, and yep, how the guys do that replace them will matter a lot, but so little is known about the likely replacements that it was just tough to write anything that wasn’t pure speculation. By contrast:
UHND provided an excellent reminder that there’s plenty of room for offensive improvement from last year, despite the obvious departures, simply resulting from a little continuity.
NDOB did something really bananas, and seriously (no, seriously!) discusses the RTDB dynamic of 2018 compared to previous seasons and what 2019 needs to do better.
Is WR1 or RB1 more important to this year’s campaign? OFD considered just this topic.
Finally, 18s reminds us all why the relative success of the offense versus defense matters a great deal in the context of yards per play.
Players to Watch
This is the bread and butter of preseason writing. The endless additions and subtractions make the roster watch the most important (and time consuming!) thing to do. Not uncommon are LISTS. Who is awesome? Who is not? Who should we watch? Who has the best fashion? Who sounds most like a Boy Band member?
I get it. I really do. But, honestly, I do not need lists to tell me Ian Book and Julian Okwara are both really good and really important. There are, however, derivative consequences to ranking players I love. Most of these deal with identifying the names not in the Top 25 Most Likely to Succeed Performers, but those guys that would (I suppose) rank in that 25-55 range that typically mean a lot more to the eventual outcome of the season.
Douglas Farmer at NBC is the man who now compiles the aggregated Top 25 players list. Far more intriguing then those 25 are the “just misses and others receiving votes.” Everyone’s pre-season boyfriend, Kyle Hamilton, is on this list. If ND truly has a great season, I think at least a few of Houston Griffith, Kevin Austin, Shayne Simon, TaRiq Bracy, and Kyren Williams (all also on this list), along with Hamilton will have made more than a nominal impact and in retrospectives be deemed “too low.”
Along the same lines, players currently in a back-up role and players replacing (or expected to considerably assist in replacing) departed stars lists are also more fun than Top 25’s.
Then, there are the unsung heroes who won’t crack the positional depth chart but will contribute on special teams. OFD’s predictions were fun and a good introduction to some of the younger guys not named Hamilton.
Finally, with fall practice concluding and the team officially into Week 1 prep, Greg Flammang’s post-camp stock report is a near perfect Cliff’s Notes to the players who moved based on the camp reports provided by Kelly.
When it’s time to take a hollistic approach, every team will experience (relative) ups and downs. Some units improve. Others get worse. In a weird plot twist, the WR corps will be a strange follow to see how they start compared to how they finish. Camp injuries to Cole Kmet and Michael Young will have a substantial impact on Ian Book’s expected distribution. The present depth chart suggests folks like Lawrence Keys and Tommy Tremble will (ahem) receive additional early season opportunities. And then, there’s the case of Kevin Austin. Let’s hope he’s far more Dex than Steph.
While HLS will have its own version of the ND Roster coming out soon, I thought 18s’s visualization (albeit a TAD colorful) is a good summary of where the consensus has landed to date for each position.
Watching this Fall
Going to a game in South Bend? Hell yeah you are! So, do it the right way. (OFD)
And, if you’re gonna get drunk while you’re there and yell at the players, yell at them with the CORRECT pronunciation. (OFD)
And for you stat nerds, there’s ALWAYS numerical history in the air. Here are a few milestones 18s has identified could be reached this year.
Relax, pop a Xanax, avoid that Four Loko Seltzer stuff, get me (Moons) tickets to the UGA game, play with your dog, tweet stuff at Gottlieb. Whatever, gets you ready. Just also take the NDOB’s advice on context.
I love you all, and yes, if I didn’t include your article, it was very, very personal. Yes, your’s!
- Who the _______ am I Watching? ND’s Depth Chart (Literally) by the Numbers (Part II) - August 29, 2019
- Who the _______ am I Watching? ND’s Depth Chart (Literally) by the Numbers - August 27, 2019
- The People’s Free Guide to ND Football 2019 - August 26, 2019