In a noon press conference, Coach Weis introduced today our new defensive coordinator, Corwin Brown, and our new Quarterbacks coach, Ron Powlus.
Corwin Brown, for those unfamiliar with him, is of the Parcells-Belichik-Groh-Weis coaching tree. In fact, Coach Weis said that after speaking with Belichik, Parcells, and Crennel, that only one name was mentioned by all three - Coach Brown. Coach Brown was brought up in the Belichik defense, which has been notorious at the Patriots for being successful even when there are injuries - at one point, they had a wide receiver in defensive coverage. He doesn't have any coordinating experience, but he should bring some more intensity to the defense.
With these changes, I see the team improving in four key areas:
(1) recruiting - Powlus was in charge of on-campus recruiting for the last two years, and he has been tremendous in closing the deal with a lot of visiting recruits - as a Pennsylvania kid, I expect Coach Powlus to be in charge of the Pennsylvania-Ohio region. Brown is a Chicago kid with lots of contacts in the Chicago area, and he will be tasked with rebuiilding the once impenetrable pipeline of Chicago kids to Notre Dame.
(2) youth - Many people look at youth and inexperience as a disadvantage, but I think that in this context, it works in our favor. Young kids don't have bad habits, and they will be learning from the best. Corwin Brown will have the benefit of Coach Weis above him, and Coach Lewis below him, both of them teaching him how to manage the defense and assist him with the managerial aspects of his new position. Powlus, himself a former ND quarterback, will have one of history's best quarterback coaches teaching him the ropes as well in Coach Weis.
(3) energy - Coach Brown is an in-your-face guy with a lot of intensity and energy, which hopefully will help this team to play with more passion and pride. Too often under Coach Minter, the team looked like it was going through the motions. The only times I recall the defense playing inspired was when Coach Weis took it upon himself to get them fired up. Now, he won't have to bother. The youthful energy also will help us in recruiting - look at how Petey the Poodle over in South Central is doing with his "I'm a young energetic coach... Energetic, anyway!" routine. It will bring some vitality to a program that needs a shot in the arm.
(4) a new slate - This is a program in transition, suffering through the last painful shudders of a coach that nearly destroyed the program (don't believe me? count the seniors left from Ty's second recruiting class...). This is a program that has overachieved under Coach Weis tutelage, and is on the verge of taking the next step, from perennial BCS contender to perennial National Championship contender. The conventional wisdom believes that next year will be a "down" year, with this team going 7-5 or 8-4, and getting a berth in the Cotton or Gator bowl. I am not ready to give up the ghost just yet, however. We'll have a young QB, and an inexperienced defense learning a new system, but the talent level is really starting to ratchet up.
Talent Level in Transition
2006 Starters Scout.com Ratings
Ashley McConnell (started due to injury of Schwapp)
2007 possible starters' Scout.com ratings: (ty's recruits in italics, my projected starters in bold)
Jimmy Clausen (QB)
Justin Trattou (DE)
Sam Young (OL)
James Aldridge (RB)
Konrad Reuland (#2 TE)
Tommy Zbikowski (S)
Travis Thomas (RB/LB)
Trevor Laws (DL)
Ambrose Wooden (CB)
John Sullivan (OL)
Terrail Lambert (CB), Gary Gray, Darrin Walls (CB - pick 1 for nickel back)
Raeshon McNeil or Sergio Brown (S = pick 1)
Michael Turkovich, Chris Stewart, Bartley Webb, Dan Wenger, Matt Carufel, Eric Olsen, Chris Little, Matt Romine, and Emeka Nwankwo (OL - pick 3)
D.J. Hord, Duval Kumara, Greg Little or Golden Tate (WR - pick 1)
Kallen Wade (DE)
Geoff Price (K)
John Carlson (TE)
Maurice Crum (LB)
Joe Brockington (LB)
Asaph Schwapp (FB)
David Grimes (WR)
Ian Williams (DL)
Toryan Smith (LB)
Ryan Burkhart (K)
As you can see, the slow transition from 3 and 4 star kids to 4 and 5 star kids is coming around, and when we get all of the pieces in place, this will be one hell of a football team. This will be the last year we will see any of Ty's recruits, and if recruiting stays on course, you can expect fully 1/3 of the team to have 5-star talent by 2008.
You know who this team reminds me of? USC 2003
My pre-preseason prediction: 9-3, with an outside shot at a BCS berth. I predict losses to Michigan and USC, and a third loss to either Penn State, Georgia Tech or UCLA.
Best case scenario: 11-1, in the national championship game (we would have get lucky to split the games against Michigan and USC, and play to the maximum of our potential to win all the others)
Worst case scenario: 7-5, in the Insight Bowl. I just don't see us losing more than 5 games - we should handle Navy, Air Force, Duke, and Stanford easily, and I can't see this team doing worse than 3-3 versus Penn State, Georgia Tech, Michigan State, Purdue, UCLA, and Fredo. The other two losses would be to Michigan and USC - Michigan has too much experience, and USC has too much talent.