Saturday, April 07, 2007

With the 6th overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft, the Washington Redskins select

Brady Quinn?

I just finished reading this article on ESPN, and they asked Brady the following question:

What teams have you met with so far?
Quinn: The Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Browns.

Those of you that know me, know that I am a HUGE Washington Redskins fan, having grown up in Vienna, VA just outside of DC (home of Joe Theismann's restaurant, where I met him once when I was really little - I wish I could meet him again someday...).

And on NDNation's message board, when someone asked what NFL team would be the best fit for Brady Quinn, regardless of draft position, my opinion was that the Washington Redskins are the best fit.

The Redskins are loaded at receiver, with four players that have been the #1 or #2 player at that position in the past few years with another team. Santana Moss - New York Jets, Antwaan Randle El - Pittsburgh Steelers, James Thrash - Washington Redskins, and Brandon Lloyd - San Francisco 49ers.

The Redskins have exactly the type of tight end that Brady is used to throwing to in Chris Cooley.

The Redskins have a great running game which will take a lot of pressure off of the QB, and an excellent line that will give him time to throw.

The defense (unlike the Irish defense Brady is used to) is good enough to keep them in every game.

All they have been missing for the past few years is a quarterback. Brunell is way past his prime, and I'm still not sold on Jason Campbell. Brady Quinn could walk right in and start from day 1.

And if they did land Brady, I would bet that they would launch themselves to the top of the NFC East, and be a Superbowl winner within three years.

Unfortunately, the smart money right now is on Brady going to the Cleveland Browns with the 3rd overall pick. If the Redskins want him (and dear God I hope they do), they should trade up, probably with the Lions, to get him.

The Redskins don't seem to want to stay where they are at #6, having offered the pick to the Bears in exchange for linebacker Lance Briggs. The smart money for the Redskins among the draft gurus is for them to take Gaines Adams or some similar acquisition to shore up their pass rush.

However, Dan Snyder doesn't like the smart money. He likes to move all in, taking big risks. And he likes the publicity of the big moves as well (remember the Portis-Champ deal?).

Don't count out the Skins in the Brady Quinn lottery. The last QB they picked out of Notre Dame worked out pretty well. This one could, too.

Another familiar name is Irish...

David Posluzny, the younger brother of former Penn State linebacker and 2-time Butkus award winner Paul Posluzny, didn't wait around to see if JoePa and the Nittany Lions would offer him a scholarship.

After this past week's visit to South Bend (his 5th), the junior decided that the opportunity to receive any Ivy-league quality education and compete every year for a national championship was too much to pass on. (His words, not mine) Therefore, after receiving a scholarship offer from Coach Weis while he was in town, he called Coach Weis back and accepted, becoming the fifth member of next year's recruiting class.

He joins Mike Golic, Jr. this year (son of Mike Golic, Sr. - ESPN analyst) and Jimmy Clausen last year (brother of the Clausens that played QB at Tennessee) as a name many other recruits will recognize going into this recruiting season.

While talent is of course the first consideration when offering a player, these types of commitment generate their own buzz, not just during recruiting, but throughout the player's time here. Each year, analysts for the games love to talk about connections between the players and other famous people. How many times during the NCAA basketball tournament did you hear stories about Joakim Noah's tennis playing father (and Swedish beauty queen mother), Darryl Strawberry's baseball playing father, or Pat Ewing Jr.'s basketball playing father? How many times have we heard that Brady Quinn's sister married Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk? For the next four or five years, we'll be hearing about Dave Posluzny's brother in the NFL, Jimmy Clausen's brothers that never quite measured up to his ability, and endless discussion of Mike Golic Sr. (I'm curious to see how daddy Golic balances his son's success with his journalistic duties)

This high-profile talk will only shine a brighter spotlight on the Irish football program, providing Coach Weis with that many more tools to use in recruiting in the future. Kids like to be in the spotlight, and the amount of media coverage of the Irish should not be lacking anytime soon. Heck, even during the off-season we may hear incessant talk about Irish football, with Jeff Samardzija embarking on a promising career in baseball, and Tommy Z has a similar decision to make this year in regards to boxing.

An exclusive NBC contract, most of our away games (usually in prime time) on ABC or CBS, 60 minutes interviews of our coach, and numerous profiles of players and their relationship to other stars. No lack of media coverage here.

One thing we do lack? Off the field stories that seem to predominate in the offseason. No football players engaging in home invasion and assault. No players shooting off their semi-automatics weapons at nightclubs or throwing down in a parking garage. No star wide receivers getting stabbed in the chest during a bar fight and then being thrown under the bus by their coach. Oh, and those are just the stories goin around today.

On days like today, it's good to be Irish.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Spring Practice News & Notes

I finally got a few minutes to myself today, and got to listen to Coach Weis' press conferences from spring practice. Based upon his observations and comments, here's how I feel about our team at this point.

First and foremost, our running backs are scary good. James Aldridge is a bruising back with a second gear. Armando Allen doesn't look like a freshman. Junior Jabbie is impressive. And that's just the young'uns. Travis Thomas is moving back to running back full time, and is penciled in as the starter, but the depth here is very very very good.

Weis knows better than to give any hints about the quarterback battle. Each of the four scholarship QBs get one week at #1, and Coach Weis will whittle it down to 2 after spring practice is over. Even cleverly crafted questions are being deflected, and Weis is as tight lipped about this as anything.

Only the captains are safe. Carlson is our tight end. Zibby is our safety and punt returner. Sully is our center. Laws is a starting defensive end. Mo Crum is a starting ILB. Everything else is up for discussion. Everything.

Burkhart is still struggling to develop any confidence in the mind of the coaches, being passed for now on the depth chart by a walk-on kicker, NAte Whitaker. Unsurprisingly, Geoff Price will continue to handle the punting duties.

Wide receiver isn't looking so good. Grimes' experience places him in the lead. West has looked good so far. Everyone else is in "the pack." My dark horse favorite, D.J. Hord, has looked rusty. It's still to early to tell with him until someone knocks the rust off. Literally.

Our defensive line, after Laws, needs some time to develop. Stewart is still early in the learning process, and nobody else seems to stand apart.

Inside linebacker competition isn't as close as I'd hoped. We have solid starters (Crum, Brockington) and then the guys fighting for second. The reports of Toryan Smith's ascension may have ben exaggerated.

Outside linebacker is a mess. Vernaglia looks good, but the rest is unclear.

The secondary is very good and very deep, but after Zibby, we are still looking for people to grab onto the other starting positions.

Offensive line is shaping up fairly solidly. Weis claims that the starting lineup isn't set yet, but it looks to me from his comments that our lineup (from right tackle to left tackle) will be:
Young Wenger Sullivan Olsen Turkovitch

Allen and West are both competing at kick returner, but Zibby is far and away the best punt returner. And Zibby likes it that way.

Most importantly, these kids look like they are having fun.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Spring Positional Battles: The Front Seven

Because this is a discussion of spring ball, I've included the names of incoming freshman without any discussion of their potential contributions. Therefore, the talented incoming players could throw a wrench into the works here.
I'm excited about the front seven this year, though. The switch to the 3-4 has given us a lot of depth at all of the positions, whereas under the 4-3 we would have been loaded at defensive end, but short on both DTs and LBs.

In the 3-4 the most important characteristics of the nose tackle are size and strength. In order for the system to function smoothly, the nosetackle's job is to take up space and blockers on the inside of the line, allowing the players around him to fly to the ball and make tackles.
Chris Stewart Sophomore 6'5" 340 lbs.
Scout 4-star (OL), Rivals 4-star (OL)
One of last year's most highly touted O-Line prospects, Stewart is literally a man-beast. He came to campus at 6'5" and somewhere between 360 and 375 lbs. He's lost a lot of weight in Ruben Mendoza's strength and conditioning program, but he has size and strength in spades. Right now he's listed at 340 lbs, and some people have placed him as low as 320. With all of the young depth available on the O-line, moving Stewart to nose is a no-brainer. As a matter of fact, I told several of my friends when Corwin Brown was hired that I thought they should move Stewart to nose tackle. If he works out as well as he is capable, he is exactly the type of anchor we need for this defense to work.
This is good, because the drop off in size from Stewart to the next D-lineman is significant. Next in line is projected starter at DT, Trevor Laws, who comes in at 295 lbs. Therefore, any of the depth at the DT position below could be moved here, but for now, this is Stewart's job to lose.
Pat Kuntz Junior 6'2" 272 lbs.
Scout 3-star (DT), Rivals 3-star (DE)
Kuntz has the physical skills from all reports, but some people have wondered about his motor. He is apparently a really nice kid, and there is some question whether he can develop the nastiness and aggressieness needed for this system. If there were a game today, Kuntz would start at nosetackle ahead of Stewart. However, I expect by the end of spring (or at latest this summer) to have him penciled in as a starter at the DE position, as he is considerably smaller than Stewart at 6'2" 272 lbs. He might back up Stewart at the nose, in addition to starting at end.
Derrel Hand Junior 6'3" 287 lbs.
Scout 3-star (DT), Rivals 3-star (DT)
Hand could challenge Kunz for one of the DE positions, but because he has more size, I'd like to see him move in to NT to back up Stewart instead of Kunz. However, with our depth at end, both Kunz and Hand could stay inside, pushing Stewart, leaving the defensive end battle to the players listed below.
Ian Williams Freshman 6'2" 294 lbs.

Defensive End
This position in the 3-4 refers to the other two down linemen in the base system. They need to be able to play actually three positions. Their primary job is that of a traditional defensive tackle - take on linemen, shed them and stuff the run. On passing downs with no blitz, they may become defensive ends. Also, in some blitz packages, they need enough mobility to drop into underneath coverage.
There will probably be a considerable amount of rotation at this position to take advantage of the depth we have. Under the 4-3, we would have very little depth on the line, as the
Trevor Laws 5th year Senior 6'1" 295 lbs.
Scout 4-star (DT), Rivals 4-star (DT)
A returning starter from last year's squad, Laws is a solid starter at the defensive end. Listed at 6'1", he's a little short. Under the 3-4, his height could be a problem in some zone bliz schemes - he just can't hope to cover a 6'5" tight end or receiver on a crossing route. However, I expect the blitz packages to largely revolve around the other DE, allowing Laws to be almost a NT/DT hybrid instead of a DT/DE hybrid, helping Stewart plug up the middle.
Paddy Mullen Sophomore 6'5" 285 lbs.
Scout 3-star (TE), Rivals 3-star (TE)
Listed as a tight end coing out of high school, Paddy Mullen has been moved to defensive line due to the sick level of depth at tight end. He has good size, and his tight end background means he will excel at dropping into pass coverage in zone blitzes. Mullen has great speed and a good motor for a kid his size, and could push for playing time sooner rather than later, depending on whether he can pick up the defensive mentality. In fact, if Mullen continues to grow, he could move inside and become one of the most athletic noseguards I've ever seen.
Dwight Stephenson, Jr. 5th year senior 6'2" 257 lbs.
Scout 3-star (DE), Rivals 3-star (LB)
A fifth year senior, Stephenson came back to the team for a reason, and that is because he expects to start or at least play a significant amount of time. As a veteran, he has the most experience and development of any non-starter, but the new system levels the playing field between veterans and younger players somewhat. I expect him and Mullen to battle for the starting end position opposite Laws if Kunz stays inside. However, despite Stephenson's experience, I expect Mullen's athleticism to push him ahead on the depth chart
Kallen Wade Sophomore 6'5" 240 lbs.
Scout 4-star (DE), Rivals 3-star (DE)
One of the defensive jewels of Weis' first full class, Wade hasn't yet broken into the starting lineup. However, he is an excellent athlete, and his presence goes a long way to improving the overall depth and athleticism of this unit. He'll play a lot on special teams, and will wait patiently in the wings for his turn to shine.
John Ryan Sophomore 6'5" 244 lbs.
Scout 3-star (DE), Rivals 3-star (DE)
Ryan wasn't the best defensive end prospect in his class, and has several more highly touted players sitting ahead of him on the depth chart. I haven't heard much about his development, and am unsure whether he'll ever see the field on defense. He will be a productive special teams player, though.
Justin Brown Senior 6'3" 255 lbs.
Scout 2-star (DE), Rivals 2-star (DE)
One of the last remaining players from Willingham's incredible shrinking class, Brown is a big underdog in terms of athleticism, being only a 2-star recruit. However, the mere fact that he is still on the team at this point shows that he has heart and dedication, which I'll take over athleticism any day of the week. He may not start, but at this point he has earned the right to contribute.

Outside Linebacker
If nosetackle is the cornerstone of the 3-4 defense, the outside linebacker is the mortar. They are asked to do a lot more than a traditional 4-3 OLB. These guys are generally DE/LB 'tweeners, although depending on the interior personnel you could go almost into a safety/LB hybrid as well.
Anthony Vernaglia Senior 6'3" 233 lbs.
Scout 4-star (LB), Rivals 4-star (ATH)
The crown jewel of Willingham's Incredible Shrinking Class, Anthony Vernaglia (much like the rest of his recruiting class) has underperformed to date. Although Darius Walker, Maurice Crum, and Terrail Lambert all have started considerably more than Anthony, none of them were as highly touted out of high school. Last year, after struggling through all of the changes in the program, Vernaglia was finally pushing for playing time when he injured his knee. Now fully healed, this is chance to redeem himself. Corwin Brown actually recruited Vernaglia when he was at Virginia, and has had nothing but praise for him this spring. Vernaglia should start at outside linebacker, and could be the breakthrough athlete on the team this year.
His overall athleticism (he was listed as an athlete by Rivals) should make him a superb 3-4 OLB, where he would have struggled anywhere in a 4-3.
Morrice Richardson Sophomore 6'2" 235 lbs.
Scout 3-star (LB), Rivals 3-star (DE)
The mere fact that one of the major recruiting services placed Richardson at defensive end and the other placed him at linebacker tells me that he is the prototypical 3-4 outside linebacker. Equally capable of rushing the passer as dropping into coverage, his relatively untouted skills at either of the traditional positions makes him a standout at the 3-4 OLB.
Scott Smith Junior 6'3" 244 lbs.
Scout 3-star (LB), Rivals 2-star (LB)
Steve Quinn Junior 6'2" 231 lbs.
Scout 3-star (LB), Rivals 3-star (LB)
Part of Weis' abbreviated first class, Quinn and Smith weren't very highly touted out of high school. Neither has really showed themselves to be a standout at this point, but there was a reason that Weis gave them scholarships. Weis was very selective with his scholarship offers in that shortened year, preferring to hold on to scholarships for his first full class rather than simply bringing in bodies. I don't have a sense yet for how either will contribute, but I'm hesitant to count them out.
Steve Paskorz Freshman 6'1" 215 lbs.
Aaron Nagel Freshman 6'1" 215 lbs.
Kerry Neal Freshman 6'3" 234 lbs.
Harrison Smith Freshman 6'2" 205 lbs. [more likely at safety, but could grow]

Inside Linebacker
The 4-3 requires their inside linebackers to be big and strong, and not necessarily quick. However, under the 3-4, there are two inside linebackers, and they aren't primarily responsible for the A gap on every play, as the nose tackle takes on that task. This allows the inside linebackers to be more like the outside linebackers in a 4-3, quick to the ball and sure tacklers.
Maurice Crum, Jr. Senior 6' 225 lbs.
Scout 3-star (LB), Rivals 3-star (LB)
The returning starter from last year's team, I complained quite a bit about Crum being stuck inside in the 4-3 scheme. Under the 3-4, though, it doesn't bother me. He built up enough strength playing inside last year, but he can also use his speed more from the ILB in a 3-4, especially on zone blitzes. The more I think about Crum in this position, the more excited I get.
Joe Brockington Fifth year Senior 6'1" 235 lbs.
Scout 3-star (LB), Rivals 3-star (LB)
Brockington started to impress the coaches towards the end of last year, and continues to develop well going into the spring. Brockington has quietly played his role for the last few years, as the Irish churned out quality linebackers ahead of him. Crum passed him on the depth chart, but he continued to work hard and try to improve. Now, he is in position where the position is his for the taking. I expect him to be penciled in as the second starter coming out of the spring, but he will be pushed hard by Toryan Smith. I know he doesn't want to get passed again, and Toryan Smith's presence should push him to be the most improved player on the team this year.
Toryan Smith Sophomore 6' 244 lbs.
Scout 3-star (LB), Rivals 3-star (LB)
Although only a three star recruit, the buzz and expectations about this kid sound more like a 4 or 5 star recruit. Everyone is talking about him pushing for playing time and impressing the coaches. I think he'll play a significant amount of time this year, but won't start. He'll allow the other inside linebackers to get breaks and stay fresh throughout the game. This position could be one of those areas where Weis names three people for two starting positions rather than two clear starters and a backup.
Kevin Washington Junior 6'1" 240 lbs.
Scout 3-star (LB), Rivals 3-star (LB)
Washington was equally as touted as T. Smith coming out of high school, but for some reason has not generated a lot of buzz. He could push into the rotation at linebacker, but I haven't heard his name mentioned by any of the coaches in a while.
Brian Smith Freshman 6'2" 230 lbs.