With the first half of the season under wraps, it's time to grade out this team at the halfway point in the season.
A rough start in the first game carousel certainly set this whole offense off on the wrong foot, but as Jimmy Clausen has settled into the offense, he has shown an ability to manage the game and avoid the game changing mistakes. He has a long way to go to become a weapon. One of Jimmy's strengths is spreading the ball around, havng 5 receivers averaging over 20 yards per game. Helping the grade is Sharpley's quiet readiness and patience as the backup.
Jimmy Clausen: B-
Evan Sharpley: A
Demetrius Jones: W
Running Backs: F
Although our rushing woes are largely due to the offensive line, truly great running backs can gain positive yards more often than not just by running hard and bringing the wood. Aldridge has shown flashes, but flashes aren't nearly enough to redeem the nation's most disappointing rushing team. This is a situation where the final grade is worse than the sum of the parts.
James Aldridge: C
Robert Hughes: B
Armando Allen: C-
Travis Thomas: D
Junior Jabbie: C
Asaph Schwapp: D-
The receiving corps has been a major disappontment this year, as the passing offense hasn't really opened up, except briefly during the Purdue game. The big surprise here is that our leading receiver is not the experienced David Grimes (played in 12 games last year), the phenom Duval Kamara (true freshman), or the explosive Golden Tate (26 YPC average). It is the quietly reliable Robby Parris, with 178 yards on 15 catches, for an 11.9 yard per catch average. Not flashy, but getting the job done. These receivers need to do a better job of creating plays.
David Grimes: D
Robby Parris: B+
Duval Kamara: A
George West: D
Golden Tate: B
D.J. Hord: F
Tight Ends: C
Largely hamstrung by the offensive line failures keeping him in on max protect, Carlson's numbers are nowhere near where everyone expected them to be at this point in the season. That said, perusing the season statistics I was surprised to find that Carlson is leading the team in receptions, with 18. He could have graded out higher if not for a few untimely drops. The young tight ends are gaining valuable experience, but haven't contributed as receivers as of yet.
John Carlson: C
Wll Yeatman: B
Mike Ragone: C
Konrad Reuland: W
Offensive Line: F-
Despite recent improvements, there is no way that this unit gets anything other than a big fat F for failure. John Sullivan was supposed to be a leader and a calming force on this unit, but all I've seen thus far is a center who can't even take care of his own assignment, much less help the rest of the line with theirs. All of the starters get F's,
John Sullivan: F---
Paul Duncan: F
Sam Young: F
Mike Turkovich: F
Dan Wenger: I
Matt Carufel: W/F (he left the team mid-season as a starter. Demetrius Jones and Konrad Reuland I understand, as they had been passed. But this guy was starting, and quit the team. I don't even want him to come back. Screw him.)
Chris Stewart: D (would have been an F but for his decision not to quit on this team)
Thomas Bemenderfer: B
Eric Olsen: C
Taylor Dever: C
Offense Overall Grade: F-
The stats don't lie: Last in the NCAA in total offense. Last in rushing offense. Last in sacks allowed. Next to last in scoring offense. 109th in passing offense. 108th in passing efficiency.
This offense is the worst in the NCAA at the halfway point, and that is quite simply unacceptable.
They had better step up their game. NOW.
Defensive Line: A
This may be a generous grade for a D-line that is part of the 96th worst rushing defense in the country, but they get a boost for effort. Trevor Laws is leading the team in tackles and has become a force inside, week in and week out. Pat Kunz is doing an amazing job as an undersized nosetackle.
Trevor Laws: A+
Pat Kunz: A
Dwight Stephenson, Jr.: B
Derrell Hand: C
Paddy Mullen: C
Ian Williams: C
Justiin Brown: B-
The recent breakout of Maurice Crum, Jr. has saved this unit from a failing grade. The linebackers were not getting enough pressure on the QB, and had given up far too many yards against the rush early in the season. I hope that the UCLA game marked a turning point for this unit, as they looked damn good.
Maurice Crum, Jr.: C+
Joe Brockington: D
Toryan Smith: C
John Ryan: D
Kerry Neal: B+
Anthony Vernaglia: F
Scott Smith: D
Steve Quinn: D
Brian Smith: B
Morrice Richardson: D
I don't care what you say, this secondary is the 4th best unit in terms of pass yards given up, ranking in the rarefied air of LSU, South Carolina, and Clemson. And even if you consider pass efficiency defense, we are still in the top 25, ranking near undefeateds like Cincinatti and Boston College. Against the opponents we've faced, that is quite simply a stellar achievement.
More importantly, it signals a major change from years past. Consider this: the longest pass we've given up this year was a 51 yarder against Penn State, which didn't result in a touchdown. Last year? 88 yards for a TD against Purdue. 2005? 85 yards for a touchdown against Ohio State.
Minter is gone, and the new boss has fixed the one thing that has haunted us under Minter - giving up the big pass play. Corwin Brown has cut a full two yards off of opponent's average yards per pass from 7.7 and 7.8 in 2005 and 2006 to only 5.7 in 2007. Eveybody gets at least a B.
Tom Zbikowski: B+
David Bruton: A+
Darrin Walls: A
Terrail Lambert: B+
Ambrose Wooden: B
Leo Ferrine: B
Raeshon McNeil: B
Munir Prince: B
Kyle McCarthy: B
Sergio Brown: B
Jashaad Gaines: B
Harrison Smith: B
Ray Herring: B
Leonard Gordon: B
Defense Overall Grade: B
This would have been much, much lower a grade if not for the UCLA game.
This defense single handedly took this team on its back and drug it out of the gutter. Also, I was a little more forgiving of the poor scoring defense (74th in NCAA) considering the poor positions the offense put them in.
After the opponents we've played thus far (the 3rd toughest schedule in the country), and the ineptitude of our offense, our 41st ranking in total defense is a major achievement, and gives this young team a strong foundation to build upon.
No kickoffs returned for touchdowns guarantees a passing grade, and 0 touchbacks guarantees that I'm not giving out an A. We give up a little too much yardage on returns, but not so much that it's a major concern.
Nate Whitaker: B+
Brandon Walker: B-
Kickoff Return: B
We haven't broken any really impressive runs on kick returns, although we've seen the potential in these young kids. Golden Tate ranks 62nd in the country in kick returns, which isn't great, but it's not horrible either. No major blunders here, so they get a solid B.
Golden Tate: B+
Armando Allen: B-
Junior Jabbie: B
Geoff Price was a preseason All-American at punter, but a long string of inconsistency by him, when we needed him most, killed his grade here. Overall, though, his punting is average. I'm just dinging him for not meeting expectations.
Having Eric Maust around is encouraging for the future.
Geoff Price: D-
Eric Maust: B
Punt Return: D
The punt returns haven't been the strength that it should have been at this point. Penalties on big returns have robbed the Irish of golden opportunities at crucial times, which could have changed games. Zbikowski's returns have been good when he's had some space to run.
Tom Zbikowski: A
Field Goals / PAT: F
The Purdue game alone was enough to give this unit an F for the first half of the season. UCLA was encouraging, but it isn't enough to overcome a season long weakness for this team.
Brandon Walker: B (4/5 FGs, 5/6 PATs, 1 blocked kick)
Nate Whitaker: F (0/1 FGs, 1/2 PATs)
Field Goal / PAT Block: F
No blocked kicks, and opponents have gone 13/15 in field goal attempts. We aren't getting any disruption here.
This grade includes player development, as well as in-game strategy.
Head Coach Charlie Weis: D-
Weis had to see this coming with the recruits on hand. However, he wasn't able to be successful in fielding a competitive football team. The only reason this isn't an F is because Weis was willing to change strategies when things didn't go as planned, and the team has improved as a result.
Offensive Coaching Staff: F
The offense is bad. Really bad. And there is no excuse for that.
Charlie Weis, playcaller: F
Michael Haywood,, Offensive Coodinator & Running Backs Coach: F
Rob Ianello, Receivers Coach & Recruiting Coordinator: B (credit for top ranked recruiting class)
John Latina, Offensive Line Coach: F-
Ron Powlus, Quarterbacks Coach: B
Bernie Parmalee, Tight Ends and Special Teams: C
Defensive Coaching Staff: A
Brown has worked wonders with this defense, making it the strength of the team, rather than a weakness, and did so very quickly.
Corwin Brown, Defensive Coordinator: A
Bill Lewis, Defensive Backs Coach: A
Jappy Oliver, Defensive Line Coach: A
Brian Polian, Linebackers and Special Teams: F-
Team Overall Grade: F
You are what you are, and right now you are a 1-5 football team. There's no chance of an A come the end of the season (and a B- would require us to win out), but if this team continues to make strides, they can earn a passing grade by season's end.