Thursday, August 10, 2006

Practice Report, Day 3

I'm going to go off the beaten path a little today, and try to give you a more detailed sense of how the practices are now run here at Notre Dame. So, rather than give general impressions of the day, I am going to go into detail about one particular drill.

Prior to this drill, the offense had gone through walkthroughs, installing a 3 WR set (the first team had Grimes in as the 3rd WR). They were walking through various plays, and the second and third teamers were standing in as defensive players. At this same time, the defense was doing installations on the other field.

After the installation, and prior to the drill I detailed, the quarterbacks ran a drill with the receivers where all 5 quarterbacks would do their drops together as 5 receivers went into routes. All 5 QBs would throw to their respective receivers. There were no defenders. This was (presumably) just to work on the timing between QBs and receivers.

Finally, the drill I took detailed notes on began. The offensive skill players were matched up (in formation) against the defensive backs and linebackers (also in formation) who had come back from their installation on the other field. The linemen for both offense and defense were doing their own drills elsewhere.

This drill started with the first team offense matching up with the first team defense. There were three receivers (McKnight and Grimes split out, Samardzija in the slot), a tight end (Carlson got the nod at first, but they rotated in Freeman with the first team as well), and a back (Walker, but Prince got a few reps with the #1s as well). The first team defense was Wooden and Richardson at safety, Zbikowski and Ndukwe at safety, and Thomas, Crum and Thomas lined up at linebacker (although I think I remember seeing some other LBs rotated in - I was having trouble keeping my notes accurate with the substitutions). The drill itself ran very quickly, so I could only keep brief notes about the action. Also, there were a lot of substitutions, so if it suddenly seems as if Darius is working with the third team or Gallup is working with the first team, that's becauase they were. I didn't have time to record who was working with who on each play.

One of the first passes thrown was a perfectly placed ball thrown by Brady to Rhema, who made a nice diving catch near the sideline in tight coverage. This was nice to see: Rhema was clearly back in shape and making athletic plays, Brady's accuracy (which had been off in some of the drills) seemed even better under pressure, and our defense had excellent coverage in place (McKnight was in double coverage).

As I said before, Prince got some reps with the first team, and another of the early passes was a dumpoff to him in the flats, where he took the ball and started a nice run. Something I noticed that he needs to work on is that he jukes too much. When a defender challenges him, rather than a quick move and then turning on the jets, he does a couple too many moves, and other defenders are able to catch up. His speed is impressive, and if he can learn to use it like Reggie did at SC, he will be special.

Carlson ran a great route on the next play, and got himself wide open in the middle of the field. Brady threw a nice pass over the linebacker who had just gotten beat (I think it was M. Thomas, but not sure), and Carlson had his hands on it, but couldn't haul it in. He needs to work on his hands, 'cause we need to be able to depend on him to take advantage of those opportunities so that Brady has confidence in throwing to him.

Demetrius Jones was the next quarterback to step into the drill, and I wasn't impressed.

One one of his first passes, he delivered a bullet to Barry Gallup, Jr, who despite the ball hitting hi in the chest, couldn't haul it in. One of the defenders (I didn't catch the number) made a spectacular diving pick. Gallup's hands looked suspect in practice today. I had previously seen him bobble a couple of kicks during punting drills, he was the only receiver to drop a pass in the 5 QB drill, and he couldn't haul in a pass that hit him in the chest.

Demetrius (for the third straight day) didn't deliver passes down the field. He seemed hesitant in the pocket, and would always check down to his tight end or running back. His check downs displayed incredible accuracy on both touch passes and bullets for short passes, but he just wouldn't throw down the field. Prince showed some impressive route running against the first team, catching a nice bullet pass thrown by Demetrius while being blanketed by Travis Thomas (who looked great in coverage).

Darius caught a nice pass in the flats and showed his now familiar moves in the open field. Prince caught a couple more checkdowns from DJ, and showed good speed, with too many juke moves.

Jones also had a problem with telegraphing his passes to the defense. On one pass, where Demetrius had looked downfield, thought about throwing, and then didn't, Steve Quinn jumped all over DJ's check down route, and picked his pass to the running back, taking it to the house. DJ's throw to the back was slow and indecisive as well.

Quinn threw a great pass into tight coverage for #46 Michael Planalp (TE), but he couldn't haul it in, despite a great diving effort.

Junior Jabbie got excellent separation from Vernaglia on a short route, and DJ threw a perfect pass hitting Jabbie in stride, which Jabbie followed with one good move before being wrapped up. Overall, the defense was very solid throughout.

On the next several plays, Jones continued to look hesitant about throwing downfield before dumping it off short. Marcus Freeman had a few good catches during that stretch, showing good hands, if not great speed.

Zach Frazer impressed during this drill. He has a good arm, and can throw bullets with good precision. He looked confident and decisive compared to DJ. He had a superb bullet pass (medium range) to Konrad Reuland, who hauled it in in stride, but was wrapped up immediately by the defense.

This just in - Richard Jackson is FAST, with really good moves. He got free past the corners several times. Frazer, unlike Jones, did have the confidence in his deep ball, and every time Jackson got loose, he delivered a rocket downfield. He overthrew Jackson every time he tried it, but he didn't underthrow it into coverage (which is nice) and showed that with some work on his timing and long range accuracy, that Jackson could be a legitimate deep threat that we've been looking for.

Barry Gallup did have one highlight reel moment in an otherwise unimpressive day, when he got excellent separation on a drag route, catching a bullet delivered by Frazer in stride before turning upfield for a decent gain. He also caught another short pass from Frazer, but on that play Frazer looked short too soon, as he could have hit Jackson downfield if he let the play develop. In fact, Gallup's short game wasn't that bad. He also caught a couple of curl routes from Sharpley. Gallup's only medium range catch was a perfectly delivered pass from Sharpley.

Frazer did make one bone-headed mistake, telegraphing his throw on a curl route, which Mike Richardson made him pay for, picking his pass and taking it to the house. That throw was also partly Robby Parris' fault as he didn't do a very good job selling his fly route before tucking into his curl.

Sharpley seemed confident and poised during his reps, but also struggled some with his accuracy. He threw a pass behind Freeman, which Marcus made a great adjustment to to haul in the catch. On the very next play, Sharpley overadjusted, overthrowing Prince, who was again blanketed by T. Thomas. He had a good throw to Gallup at medium range, but the very next play threw short on a pass attempt to Parris, who made an excellent adjustment, diving to make the catch behind him. Sharpley, like Frazer, wasn't afraid to go downfield, but he badly overthrew (who else) Jackson who had gotten past his defender for the third time.

Sharpley had excellent patience in the pocket, waiting for routes to develop, but without a pass rush, it was hard to tell whether he might have waited too long. He delivered several passes to Grimes, who had an excellent day all around; I never saw him drop a catchable pass, and he got decent separation fairly often. The last throw was a Sharpley pass that Terrail Lambert batted down.

So there you have it, my detailed coverage of the passing drill.

My impressions:

Brady Quinn will be Brady Quinn again this year. He has all of the tools, understands the offense, and has an excellent feel for when he can and can't deliver into coverage. He doesn't make mistakes, and is light years ahead of everyone else.
Demetrius Jones needs to develop some confidence. He plays hesitantly and doesn't really step into his throws. He has excellent touch on his passes. He is very athletic and will probably grow by leaps and bounds when he settles in. I still want to see him run, and see him throw a deep pass.
Frazer is very good. He has an excellent arm, and good confidence. He can make all the throws, although he has a tendency to put too much on every throw - he needs to develop some more touch. He also needs to study the playbook and mork on his decision making.
Sharpley needs to work on his accuracy. He understands the playbook, knows where the passes are supposed to go and when, but he just can't seem to consistently get them there perfectly every time. Maybe it's a little unfair to compare him to Brady, but I don't think he will ever develop to be a great passer. A very good passer, but not great.

Rhema McKnight is healthy and ready to go. He actually impresses me more at this point than Samardzija.
Jeff Samardzija's name didn't come up much during drills, and he didn't have a lot of passes thrown his way. However, every time a pass came near him, he caught it, and he is so unassuming and workmanlike in practice, I forgot sometimes to make notes of his catches.
David Grimes, right now, is the clear #3 guy. He understands the offense pretty well, makes catches, runs good, disciplined routes, and has very good speed.
Richard Jackson will be a star when he learns this offense. His moves and speed coonsistently dumbfounded the corners he lined up against. I can't wait for this kid to develop into a legitimate target.
Barry Gallup needs some time working on his hands. He dropped far too many balls today for me to get excited.
George West needs to work on his route running. He looks very good with the ball in his hands, but he doesn't get separation from the defenders so the QB can put the ball in his hands.
Parris also needs to work on his routes. I didn't notice him all that much, except when he made mistakes. He needs a lot more time to develop.

Tight Ends
John Carlson is a great route runner with decent hands. If he can improve his hands from decent to good, he has the skills to be Brady's go-to guy inside.
Marcus Freeman has very good hands, but need to work on running cleaner routes.
Konrad Reuland has all of the physical tools to be succesful at tight end, but he still has a lot of learning to do in this offense.
I don't remember seeing anything from Will Yeatman. Sorry.

Running Backs
Darius is going to do what Darius does - consistent, hard running with good moves and unparalleled vision. His hands are good, and he is very good at securing the ball before looking upfield.
Munir Prince, who I have penned in as the #2 tailback with T. Thomas playing defense, is very fast. He needs to be more decisive and rely more on his speed and less on juking defenders. He needs to unlearn his high school habits.
Junior Jabbie looked good. He's fast with good hands, good moves and very good speed. He is a very complete back, but hasn't really shown me anything as far as power running.

I won't be at practice today, but I will hopefully get a chance to watch the team again on Friday.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Lessons on Journalsim

For Weinke, Carroll, and Hamnick - please take note of this article, written be a REAL journalist, as an example of how to criticize Coach Weis.

Exhibit #1: QUOTES!!!
" 'Am I happy with his X's and O's? The answer is yes, without question,' said one prominent Notre Dame booster who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal from Weis. 'How could I not be? But am I happy with how he has treated some key alumni and supporters like myself? No. He has treated some of us horribly. He has already alienated some boosters, alumni, members of the athletic department and others around him. He at times can be arrogant, moody and nasty.' "

You see? He didn't have to name the source, but he clearly has one, and does not fall back on generalizations. And he quotes Coach Weis. And Robert Kraft, Weis' former boss (see below).

Exhibit #2: Balance
" 'I think he's an awesome coach,' said Patriots owner Robert Kraft. 'We won three Super Bowls and Charlie was a big reason why. He will make Notre Dame a winner. The school is very lucky to have him. They should cherish him.'"
Oh, and this is another quote. From a real source that actually has a legitimate opinion. Also, the writer points out that while some people have been rubbed the wrong way by Weis' attitude, there are also bunches of people that love everything Weis stands for.

Exhibit #3: Integrity
" The alumnus I spoke to tells of stories of booster clubs being snubbed by Weis and his staff and lower level athletic department officials being treated with a lack of respect. Since it is difficult to verify these stories, they will not be repeated. But the booster insists he is not being overly sensitive and he is not alone in his feelings."
This reporter heard some stories that he thought might be damaging, but chose to display some integrity and NOT report unfounded and baseless accusations that lack corroboration.

Do I agree with the writer of this article, that Coach Weis is gruff and is burning bridges?


Do I respect his integrity in writing a well-researched and properly corraborated story? You bet.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Thanks, Blue-Gray Sky!

This blog has been added to the blogroll at Blue-Gray Sky, in my opinion the best Notre Dame blog out there.

I wanted to thank the guys at BGS for counting me worthy to be included on their site.

Practice Report, Day Two

I stayed for much more of practice today compared to yesterday, and I got some good looks at our team today, especially the running backs and defensive backs. As you can see, I also took some pictures with my camera phone as the players were shuffling off the field. I apologize that the pictures are so crappy. I'll try to take some pictures with a real camera sometime this week and post those, but for now this will have to do.

Practice started with some calisthenics, during which the team sang "Happy Birthday" to John Sullivan. Then they split off into positions, and the first group I watched was the

Running Backs

Darius was solid in all aspects of drills - he was quick on his feet, the best hands and feet during blocking drills, and appears to have built up a little more power in the offseason (see photo). He is without question the clear starter in this group right now, and none of the healthy players will challenge him.

James Aldridge was not participating in contact drills, but he did participate in the agility drills, and let me tell you, this guy is a monster. His physique and leg drive remind me of Adrian Peterson, the Heisman hopeful playing for the University of Oklahoma. I can't wait to see what this kid can do when he is 100% - he has the potential to be a superstar at running back. His injury is going to prevent him from competing this year, but next year Darius will have to work his tail off to keep Aldridge from taking his starting position. I believe our running backs will be the strength of our team next year.

Freshman Munir Prince is certainly a speedster. Watching him during 11 on 11 drills, he certainly has another gear when he goes through a hole in the defense. He did some work on kick returns, and he needs a lot of work on technique to get into the mix there, as he has too much tendency to juke around and run east-west, rather than relying on his jets to shoot through the defense. However, he has a lot of potential, and can combine with Aldridge to be an impressive 1-2 punch in years to come.

Freshman Luke Schmidt looks more like a linebacker than a running back, and when he touches the ball, he's looking for someone to run over. He doesn't have many moves, but also hasn't really needed them. He got ripped into by Coach Haywood during blocking drills for not being physical enough. After a few minutes with the running backs, I wandered over to watch the

Defensive Backs

I was most interested to see how true freshman Darrin Walls (#2) and Raeshon McNeil (#8) looked in drills, as well as checking on the status of our returning starters.

Darrin Walls has some great feet and speed, but needs to put on some strength to be able to challenge receivers at the line of scrimmage. His burst when reacting to the passer is excellent, and he will certainly be in the mix at corner this year.

Raeshon McNeil, however, appears to have an edge on Walls right now. McNeil looks more physically ready to matchup against receivers, and also has an excellent burst. He was very tenacious in pass defense, and the only comments I heard the coach direct his way were warnings not to grab the receiver. McNeil is my favorite (based upon today's drills only) to slide into the nickel package.

Ambrose Wooden and Mike Richardson are still the starting corners, and both showed why today. Their reactions were much sharper than any of the other backs, and they were very disciplined in their pass defense drills.

Freshman Leonard Gordon practiced with the corners today.

At safety, Tommy Z stood out. He looks bigger than last year, like he bulked up for the fight. However, he still looked amazingly fast, and nobody on this team has better acceleration in their first two steps than him. When he decides to go, he GOES.

Ndukwe played very smart, very disciplined in drills, and made no mistakes that I saw. He isn't as fast as Tommy, but he still has good burst, and while they still aren't in full pads, Chinedum's hitting skills are very good based on last year, and he seems to be the favorite to stay in at starting safety.

The other players participating in drills were very good, but nobody in particular (besides McNeil) stood out. All around, I'd have to say our defensive secondary looks to be in very good shape.

11 on 11 drills

I spent much of the 11-on-11 drills today talking to a classmate (and fellow blogger) Tyson (read his blog here). However, I did catch some of the action. Linebacker Anthony Vernaglia appeared to be all over the field on 2nd team defense; I noticed his number at least three times making good plays.

For part of the 11-on-11 drills David Grimes was slotted in with the first team (with the Shark running with the 2nd team). He looked solid today, and didn't drop any passes (that I saw).

Rhema McKnight looked athletic in his routes today, but he had his share of drops. The coverage by our defense was excellent, but there were several times when he got his hands on the ball and just couldn't haul it in.

The big play of drills actually had nothing to do with Brady, as Evan Sharpley hooked up with George West on a deep completion. Brady went deep a couple of times, but never connected. Our defensive line got some excellent pressure on Brady several times today. Also, Brady was pretty consistently forced to throw to his checkdown receiver thanks to the excellent coverage downfield. Coach ran the hook and ladder play several times during practice, presumably to force the defense to stay disciplined in their coverage.

I kept looking for Demetrius Jones to throw a deep ball, but he kept settling for the short underneath pass rather than airing it out.

Munir Prince looked very fast in 11-on-11 drills, and Travis Thomas got a couple of reps as promised. On his first carry, Thomas looked very fast. On his second carry, the defense looked like they went all out against the run, as at least 6 guys got to TT in the backfield.


Coach Weis set up a pressure situation for Carl Gioia at the end of practice, where if he made a 35-yard kick, the team didn't have to run. If he missed the kick, the entire team had to run 8 80s.

When Gioia nailed the kick right down the middle, the team went nuts and rushed the field like they had just beaten USC.

After Practice

After practice, several players jumped in the ice baths set up at the sidelines, and fans stood along the ropes seeking autographs. Brady stayed on the field with Demetrius Jones for a good 20 minutes after practice working on their footwork before hitting an ice bath himself. As the players filed out, I got a good close look at most of them. Brady was the most impressive looking, as his arms are absolutely RIPPED. He looked like he could have ripped my head off with one hand.

Tommy Z looked very strong, and Jeff Samardzija looked more muscular than he did last year at this time. Rhema is in pristine condition, and so is James Aldridge. A couple of the tight ends looked a little out of shape, but other than that the team as a whole looks as if they took well to Coach Mendoza's training regimen.

I swung by Recker's to grab a sandwich after practice, and as I was eating, Coach Weis came out of the interview room across the hall. I said "Hey Coach" and he smiled and waved at me before ducking out the door and hopping on his golf cart. I am such a geek - that little exchange made me as giddy as a schoolgirl.

I'll be at practice again tomorrow, but I have other plans for Thursday.

GO Irish!

2006 Spring Opponent Preview - Southern California Trojans

Top player: Dwayne Jarrett, WR
Make-or-break player: John David Booty or Mark Sanchez, QB
Biggest offensive strength: Wide Receivers
Biggest offensive weakness: Running Backs
Biggest defensive strength: Linebackers
Biggest defensive weakness: Defensive Backs
Spring Depth Chart

Southern Cal has been the bar by which every other program has been measured over the past three years, but the Trojans have some major holes to fill this year. Granted, they have multiple 5-star recruits at every position that they need to fill, but the departure of Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, LenDale White, Winston Justice, Dominique Byrd, and Taitusi Lutui to the NFL will have an impact. Also, a slew of off-the-field turmoil may have an impact on this team going into the season - Jarret is (as of this writing) ineligible due to improper benefits received from Matt Leinart's father, their twin corner tandem has left the team in the wake of a positive steroid test, and several other players (including Mark Sanchez) have been embroiled in off-the-field problems.

The biggest loss for this offense actually happened before this past year - the departure of Norm Chow for the NFL. While USC's offense didn't skip a beat last year with Chow's departure, the experience of Leinart, Bush, and others under Chow was invaluable. The new offensive coordinator, Lane Kiffin, does not have Chow's resume when it comes to developing players, and we will soon find out whether he is up to the task of developing this year's starter, either John David Booty or Mark Sanchez.

The other big question for this team is the running back position. USC is loaded with prep talent at the position, but injuries and academics placed the Trojans in the position that they had to run their first-team fullback as their tailback for the spring. Chauncey Washington is projected as the starter, but the new quarterback combined with the lack of an experienced back to keep the pressure off could spell problems for the offense. Add to this that the offensive line has a couple of question marks, especially at left tackle, and this will not be the same offense we've seen the past few years.

That said, they will probably still be a Top Ten offense simply based on talent alone. Dwayne Jarrett will be open (if he's eligible), and team speed alone should get them through the heart of their schedule.

The defense will be good again this year, as Carroll always seems to churn out a quality defense year-in year-out in his double role as head coach and defensive coordinator. This linebacking corps may be the best in the nation when you consider both talent and depth. They don't have much experience on the defensive line, but their physical tools and natural talent should be enough to overcome this weakness. The Trojans return only one (average) cornerback - who they moved to safety. They'll have plenty of speed in the defensive backfield, which can make up for a lot of mistakes, but they will be outmatched and confused by an elite and complicated offense like the Irish will field.

If Notre Dame played the Trojans during the season opener, I'd pick the Irish handily over this team. However, because the Trojans have all season to develop their talent before the game, and the Irish have to play in the Coliseum, this game has the potential to be an upset of the (hopefully) undefeated Irish.

However, the Irish also have an entire season to work on their team chemistry, and the Irish have a couple of cupcakes (Air Force and Army) preceding this game, while SC has two of their toughest games (Oregon and Cal) immediately preceding the ND-SC game. This means that the Trojans will be physically beaten up a little, while the Irish will have plenty of time to heal up and prepare to invade Troy.

I'm picking the Irish to win this game and go undefeated on the season, but the Trojans will certainly cut their grass to putting green short, to try to take advantage of their speed against what is perceived to be a slower Notre Dame team. Don't be surprised if super-speedster Munir Prince sees some time in this game (he had the same 100-meter dash time as Reggie Bush in high school - 10.42).

How about Game of the Century part 2? And no Reggie to push Matt over the goalline to steal this one.

9/2at ArkansasW
9/23at ArizonaW
9/30at Washington StateW
10/14Arizona StateW
10/28at Oregon StateW
11/04at StanfordW
11/25Notre DameL

Monday, August 07, 2006

Practice, Day one

I took a couple of minutes out of my busy schedule today to wander over to the Bookstore here on campus and check out the first day of practice.

New Developments

Travis Thomas, LB/RB

Coach Weis confirmed yesterday in his press conference that 2nd string tailback Travis Thomas would be moving to linebacker to vie for a starting position at the newly renamed Will (formerly Apache) or weak linebacker spot.
Travis Thomas looked pretty good today lining up with the first team defense. He didn't appear hesitant or confused at any time, and was very good in coverage.

George West, WR
I was a little surprised today to see George West line up with the second team at receiver, as I would have expected frosh phenom Richard Jackson to get the nod ahead of him, but he looked pretty good. Decent hands, good speed, decent route running. I wouldn't read too much into him lining up today, though, as I'm sure that the battle for 4th receiver will be a fluid one (I think Grimes has pretty much locked up the 3rd WR spot as of right now).

Geoffrey Price and Mike Annello, P
Our punting situation looks pretty good. Price was booting consistently high, tight spirals down the field today, making Annello's kicks look downright wobbly and weak in comparison. I don't think this will be much of a competition.

Carl Gioia and Ryan Burkhart, K
Carl Gioia seemed to be our most consistent PAT kicker today in drills, and true frosh Ryan Burkhart looked like a freshman in his first fall practice.
Burkhart may improve over the course of camp, however, as Coach Polian was tweaking his mechanics after every kick. Burkhart does look like he has a leg on him, and I didn't get to see any long-range kicking work today.

Punt returners
I'm not sure whether this is even worth noting, but during today's punting drills, Tommy Zbikowski was nowhere to be seen. The punt returners practicing today were Jeff Samardzija, George West, Barry Gallup, Jr., and Munir Prince. Their may be any number of explanations for Zibby not practicing there today, and I am confident that he is still going to be our starting punt returner. I'm a little curious about seeing the Shark back there, though...

Freshman running backs
Coach Weis confirmed yesterday that stud frosh RB James Aldridge was hobbled this camp recovering from knee surgery, and with Travis Thomas working on defense, we got a good look at incoming freshman running backs.
Munir Prince
A shifty runner with a good burst (like Darius), there is a lot of potential here. He appears to have better top speed than Darius, but nowhere near the vision.
Luke Schmidt
A big, bruising back, Schmidt looks more like a linebacker than a running back, and when he gets the ball, he looks like a runaway freight train. This kid looks like he can HIT.

Backup Quarterbacks
While Brady ran the first team offense, sophomore Evan Sharpley and the two frosh QBs, Zach Frazer and Demetrius Jones were rotating in with the second team. David Wolke, last year's backup, was passed on the depth chart by Sharpley in the spring, and decided to transfer to a I-AA school this summer.
Evan Sharpley
With his experience from last year, Sharpley looked more comfortable in the pocket than either of the incoming freshman, and displayed a solid, consistent level of play.
Zach Frazer
Frazer has a cannon for an arm, but he needs to work on his mechanics and develop a quicker release. He cocks his arm back before throwing the ball, and will have to work on that to really develop as a passer.
Demetrius Jones
I didn't get to see Demetrius use his legs much, but he looked decent aas a passer, with very good touch on his short passes. I didn't get to see much display of arm strength.

Notable fitness levels

Chinedum Ndukwe
Looks like he has trimmed down, and seems to move and react much quicker than last year. This should greatly improve our team speed and ability to react going forward.
Derek Landri
Became a beast over the summer. Last year he played in the 260s, small for a defensive tackle, and used his speed to get through blocks. He now weighs about 285, and doesn't look like he has slowed even a heartbeat. He may even be faster. This kid could have a monster breakout year.
Sam Young
This kid is a giant. He looms over people.
Chris Stewart
We saw Stewart at bowling last year, and he looked fat. He didn't appear to be in shape, and I was concerned about his athleticism. Apparently, Coach Mendoza's workouts have really worked on this kid, 'cause I swear he's lost 50 pounds of fat since last winter. He is still immense, but no longer appears out of shape, and looks like he has added a considerable amount of muscle. This kid will be an immovable object that absolutely manhandles people when he learns technique.

I'll be going to practice for a little while every day this week, so stay tuned for regular updates.

Media Day fallout

Yesterday was Media Day for Notre Dame football, and there was plenty to get excited about in the press conferences from Coach Weis and Brady Quinn.

But before I can get to the really juicy stuff, I feel like I should address the worst piece of hack job reporting I have ever seen (even worse than the Carroll/Weinke articles I wrote about previously).

Because I don't want to link to this writer's newspaper and give him the internet hits that justify him writing something like this, here is the text of the offending article:

Good Charlie, Stubborn Charlie, a fact of life
Al Hamnick
Charlie Weis is as blunt as a butter knife when he warns the media: "Just follow protocol. That's all. Follow protocol."
Jump when he yells JUMP! Don't second-guess, sneak around, or be a distraction. Then, and only then, can you expect player accessibility and a sound working relationship with the football department. Disobey his wishes, pay him no mind and you're treated like a leper, banished from the pressbox.
It's Charlie's way, or the closest you'll get to Irish football is the car radio. Behind the scenes, away from cameras and tape recorders, we're told he's got the people skills of a prison guard. And a temper to match.
What's so frustrating is that Weis can be genuinely charming one moment, a tyrant the next. He had that split personality as an NFL coordinator with the Jets and Patriots, and continues to irritate other coaches at Notre Dame with his moody nature and short fuse.
A large number of alumni reportedly are upset by his behavior. As long as the Irish win, they'll bite their lip. But if the program struggles, his critics will multiply like roaches.
Notre Dame's Football Media Day was Sunday morning, not Saturday, if you can believe that. The media turnout could've been better. We have a Catholic university, on a church day, a traditional family day, basically forcing some to work.
It didn't take Charlie long to flex some muscle. Former Times Sports Writer Jeff Carroll, now working for the Irish Sports Report, was informed by school officials that he could not ask questions of Weis, his staff or players during the three-hour session. It seems Weis and senior associate athletics director John Heisler weren't happy with some of Carroll's reporting endeavors.
Here's an idea: Have someone ask the questions for you.
Personally, I think the intention was to embarrass Carroll, publicly.
Right off the bat, Weis said he appreciated the media showing patience and allowing coaches and players to use their summer to kick back and relax. He said working with us is important to him. But with high expectations, Weis doesn't want his team to buy into the hype and start looking too far ahead.
As for player accessibility, Weis usually allows media the standard 20 minutes ("that everybody whines about") before practices -- all of which are closed -- once a week. Next Saturday morning, he'll throw the media a bone by having the entire practice open, followed by a bribe -- lunch.
"Please follow protocol. Don't try to steal behind the scenes to get to any of the guys," said Weis. "We've been pretty accessible.
Meeting the Rolling Stones backstage is easier to do.
Twenty minutes to chase down local products Jeff Samardzija and Carl Gioia of Valparaiso, plus Merrillville's James Aldridge, is sufficient if you're able to clone yourself.

There are so many problems with this article, it boggles the mind.

First - nowhere in this article does the writer ever appear to have actually talked to anyone at the University of Notre Dame for a comment on the freeze-out of writer Jeff Carroll. He doesn't mention that Carroll violated Notre Dame's access policy regarding its players in publishing a quote from recruit Paddy Mullen (taken out of context) in their ethically questionable articles earlier this summer.

Second - nowhere in this article does he attribute any of his conjectures about perceptions of Coach Weis. He mentions "a large number of alumni," but apparently can't get any of that large number to go on the record. Fishy. He also makes the claim that Coach Weis "continues to irritate other coaches at Notre Dame." That's some pretty heavy lumber to swing without actually naming any names. He doesn't even have a vaguely attributed quote in the story, like "someone close to the athletic department." If he is reporting on stuff he has heard off the record, then he has already violated the confidences of a slew of alumnni and persons within the athletic department for even mentioning the issue.

Third - He states as fact many things which are simply untrue. He says that the turnout at the Media Day was disappointing. From all other accounts, including Mike Frank of Irish Eyes, the auditorium for the press conferences was standing room only, and attended by more press than any other team's media day. He whines about the level of access, complaining that 20 minutes before practice isn't enough access for him to write his stories. What he fails to mention is that that is 20 minutes EVERY DAMN DAY that he has full access to the players. Coach Weis is even opening an entire practice to the media, which is far more access than media get at many other universities. He attacks Coach Weis for being overly protective of his players, making him out to be some kind of bad guy for limiting access. Weis is responsible for making sure that his team is focused on the goal of winning football games, and as importantly, making sure that the team does not run afoul of NCAA rules. To criticize him for minimizing the distractions for his football team is petty.

Fourth, and finally the worst transgression - This writer is good friends with Jeff Carroll, and is writing this hack job as a swipe at Notre Dame because the petulant Carroll, after being informed that he could not ask any questions during media day, whined to anyone who would listen in the press room, calling the University of Notre Dame a "Mickey Mouse organization." The author decided to compromise his journalistic integrity because Coach Weis hurt his friends feelings. And then failed to disclose his personal relationship with Jeff Carroll. He seemed to think that disclosing Carroll's former relationship with the Northwest Indiana Times was enough. It wasn't.

He accuses the University of Notre Dame of attempting to publicly embarass Carroll by denying access. If the University of Notre Dame wanted to publicly embarass Carroll, they would revoke all press passes from the South Bend Tribune, and issue a press release blaming Carroll for the lack of access, detailing how Carroll violated the team's access rules. Instead, Carroll was quietly informed of his status just prior to the press conferences - a mere slap on the wrist for a malicious and borderline libelous series of articles. It was Carroll that made his freeze-out public by crying like a little baby about it. It was Carroll that childishly stood in the front of the press conference, hoping that ESPN2 would catch him petulantly harrumphing everything that Coach Weis said. It was Carroll that brought this upon himself.

And then he doesn't have the guts to write about it himself, he has to send his friend in to do the dirty work. These people are a disgrace to their profession and should be fired.

2006 Spring Opponent Preview - Air Force Academy Falcons

Top player: Gilberto Perez, DL
Make-or-break player: Victor Thompson, WR
Biggest offensive strength: Offensive line
Biggest offensive weakness: Receivers
Biggest defensive strength: Interior line (defensive tackles)
Biggest defensive weakness: Linebackers
Spring Depth Chart

Like the rest of the service academies, Air Force struggles to recruit players that can match up physically with the rest of Division I-A.

However, Coach Fisher DeBerry has consistently been competitive at Air Force with the talent he gets, and was one of the rising stars in college football. As a matter of fact, Air Force is coming off of their first back-to-back losing seasons since DeBerry took the helm 23 years ago. However, DeBerry and Air Force haven't been the same the past few years. To add to their woes, Fisher caught the foot-in-mouth disease, and made racially insensitive comments last year.

DeBerry will need a successful season this year to rehabilitate his image, as nothing heals better than winning. However, he is starting a new quarterback this year, and lost his leading receivers from last year's squad.

Incoming junior QB Shaun Carney has some talent at the QB position, and if WR Victor Thompson can step up his game, the Falcons may have a good year - even a bowl game. However, I don't think that Thompson has the tools necessary to stand out on this team.

The defensive should be stout against the run, but against elite offenses like the Irish, their pass efficiency defense was ranked 112th last year, and there aren't any stars on the horizon that can help them improve much on that front. With the talent they have on the defensive line, don't expect many teams to run the ball against them.

While Air Force is normally far more competitive against the Irish than the other service academies, this year the Irish strengths play into the Air Force weaknesses, and the Faclons don't really have any weapons to threaten the Irish with.

9/9at TennesseeL
9/23at WyomingW
9/30New MexicoW
10/12Colorado StateL
10/21at San Diego StateL
10/28Brigham YoungL
11/3at ArmyW
11/11Notre DameL
11/24at UNLVW
12/2at TCUL