Friday, October 21, 2011

Irish Blogger Gathering: BEAT SC Edition

I've been on a hiatus from blogging for the past few weeks, as I've been focusing on my practice.  However, as I have the hosting duties for the USC Irish Blogger Gathering, I've managed to muster up the time to put a little something together for you guys.  Maybe a "little" something is misleading, as my fellow bloggers seemed daunted by the task laid before them.  But it's SC week.  You gotta give a little extra.

1.  I'm taking an old friend of mine to the USC game.  They were born and raised in South Bend near Notre Dame, and developed a dislike for the University at a young age from dealing with the frustrations and messes that come from Notre Dame home football weekends.  She's never been to a Notre Dame game before (she's an Ohio State fan).  We're going to go tailgate and do all the usual tailgating stuff.  Any suggestions on what I could do to help her let go of her animosity towards Notre Dame?

Since I'm the one hosting the IBG this week, I'm going to hold off on answering this one myself, and see what my fellow bloggers have to say on the subject.  I'll repost my favorite answers here.

Keith at NBC Sports: You’re not in the business of converting somebody. Leave that to Brian Kelly. Let the game and environment speak for itself. If she doesn’t like Notre Dame any better after Saturday, save your next USC ticket for someone else next time!

Matt at We Never Graduate: I hate to be the one who breaks this to you, but she’s a Buckeye fan. She’s not salvageable.

Steve at Gameday 40: Now as to your friend, since its a night game you should have plenty of time on your hands to see all the sights and you might be able to charm her with a few of our traditions... Most non-domers I’ve given the tour to really are impressed by the tradition and remark how it really is different than most other college-football environments.  (Steve, your objections have been noted.  And overruled.)

Subway Domer: Haters gonna hate.

Frank at UHND: Walk around campus on Thursday or Friday and hit up all of the sites before a lot of people arrive on campus.  Go to the Grotto and light a candle.   Listen to the trumpets in the Dome on Friday.  Rub Rock’s nose. Go to the Midnight Drummer’s Circle on Friday night.  Ever since I stopped attending pep rallies, I’ve gone to the drummer’s circle instead and I still love it. On gameday, make sure to tailgate early so you have time to hit up the player’s walk to the stadium and the band’s concert.  Lastly, make sure to make at least one trip to the Backer during the weekend.

2.  On a related note, do you have any suggestions for improving the Notre Dame game weekend experience generally?  Are there traditions lost that you'd like to see restored, or new ideas that you'd like to see implemented to improve the gameday experience?

There is nothing on earth quite like a Notre Dame football weekend in my eyes.  Everything about it, from the tailgating, the walk, the concert on the steps, step-off and the traditions that come with the game itself are amazing.  The only thing I would change is to try and work with the ushers to foster a more fervent crowd.  I've actually been asked to calm down by an usher for simply cheering for my team.  I wasn't being disrespectful or rude, just really loud and passionate about the game on the field.  I'd like to see the stadium expand and offer some luxury suites where the old fogeys could go sit and enjoy the game and get out of the good seats where we need louder younger fans who aren't afraid to get up and yell with the Irish.

I also think that they need to change the pep rallys.  Put it back in the Stepan Center, with student-only admittance.  Put up a big screen and some speakers on the Irish Green for everyone that wants to hear the speeches.  But the purpose of a pep rally is to fire up the team - not to put on a song-and-dance for the fans visiting town.

3.  (a) USC is (and always will be) our biggest rival.  Do you agree or disagree with this statement?  And if you agree, why do you feel that this is such an important rivalry? (b) Rank your top 10 college football rivalries and provide justifications for each. 

USC is our biggest rival, and one of the greatest rivalries in all of college football.  I think it is such an important rivalry because these two teams, throughout history, have had something to say about each year's national title and Heisman Trophy.  Here are my top 10:

1.  Army/Navy
No game inspires more fervency than this one.  Relevant?  Not so much.  But there is no better tradition anywhere in sport than when these two teams face off.  It's not just football - it's patriotism.

2.  Michigan/Ohio State  "The Game"
Surprisingly, I rank this ahead of the Notre Dame / USC rivalry.  It's always played at the end of the season in two of the best stadiums in the country.  It often has an impact on the national title, and there is a special kind of hatred between the two teams.

3.  Notre Dame/USC
There is so much that makes this rivalry great.  There is a great mutual respect between the schools, but also plenty of hate when it comes to the football programs.  Notre Dame represents the midwest blue collar conservative persona, and Southern Cal is the glitz and glamour of Hollywood with all of it's excesses.  They're 2,000 miles apart.  It's spanned most of the history of the sport.  And there is no other rivalry that has had such a huge impact on the National Title and Heisman Trophy over the years.

4. Oklahoma/Texas "Red River Rivalry"
This one is awesome because it's always played at the neutral Cotton Bowl midway between the two schools, and the stadium is split down the midddle between Crimson and Burnt Orange.  Two historically powerful programs that often have national title implications on the line.

5. Alabama/Auburn "The Iron Bowl"
An in-state rivalry that inspires some of the most intense hatred of any of the rivalries.  Alabama in many ways is the crown jewel of the SEC, and this is their most hated rival.  And Auburn isn't exactly a pushover, either.

6. Florida/Georgia fka "Greatest Outdoor Cocktail Party"
A rivalry that (until recently) touted the tailgating as the primary focus of the rivalry gets big-time bonus points.  Two powerful SEC schools that inspire some intense feelings, and two great stadiums.

7. Lafayette/LeHigh "The Rivalry"
This one's called the rivalry because no matter what division they play in, these two schools have been going at it longer than anyone else.  It's the most-played and longest uninterrupted rivalry in football.

8. Harvard/Yale "The Game"
Two of the best teams from the very early days of football have been doing this longer than almost anyone, and was often the game that decided the national title.  They are two of the most prestigious and historic universities in the country.  Also, bonus points because MIT students like to set up elaborate pranks during the game.

9. Cal/Stanford "Big Game"
This one makes this list almost entirely because they get bonus points for "The Play."  Inarguably one of the most dramatic ways to end a game in one of the most historic rivalries in the country.

10. Missouri/Kansas "The Border War"
I didn't want to put any team on the list twice, as I believe that you're really only entitled to one truly great rivalry per school.  And this rivalry goes back to the days before football - heck, before the Civil War.  Read your history books.

4.  Southern Cal is 5-1, with their only loss on the road at Arizona State.  They are unranked, sitting right behind us in the "also receiving votes" category.  How good is Southern Cal this year?  How do you see this game playing out?

I'm cautiously optimistic.  The team seems to have worked out most of its turnover issues, and Tommy Rees' numbers look good.  But I still shudder at some of the passes he throws.  He's actually becoming a gunslinger, which is a ticking time bomb for this team.  But as long as we keep our turnovers to a minimum, I don't think Southern Cal can keep up with the Irish firepower.  SC's defense will struggle to slow down the Notre Dame offense, and Notre Dame's defense will find ways to slow down SC's offense (although they are a potent offense and will get plenty of points.

Notre Dame 37, Southern Cal 31

5.  It appears that with a win over USC, we'll re-enter the Top 25 rankings.  Now that we're halfway through the season and have some actual evidence available to us from real games, how do you see the rest of the season playing out?  Predict:

(a) Notre Dame's final record (indicating where we will lose if at all): 10-2

(b) Notre Dame's bowl destination, opponent and outcome: Sugar Bowl versus Alabama.  Notre Dame wins an ugly defensive struggle, 17-14.

(c) The BCS Championship game and result:  LSU loses to Wisconsin.

(d) Notre Dame's final AP ranking: #6 

(e) The winners of the major awards, including:

(i) Heisman Trophy: Trent Richardson

(ii) Home Depot Coach of the Year: Bret Bielema

(iii) Davey O'Brien Award (best QB): Andrew Luck

(iv) Doak Walker Award (best RB): Trent Richardson

(v) Fred Biletnikoff Award (best WR): Michael Floyd

(vi) Chuck Bednarik Award (best defensive player): Luke Kuechly, Boston College

Go Irish! Beat SC!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Irish Blogger Gathering: Chicken Little Edition

1. Let's go ahead and talk about the big pink elephant in the room. After two absolutely horrid, heart-breaking, and downright mind-boggling performances, how do you feel about this team moving forward? Are we simply a bad team or a team that just hasn't put it together yet? This is your chance to talk Irish fans of the ledge...or push them over.

This is really the question, isn't it? There's the camp of pessimists, who wail and gnash and rend their clothes and declare the end of the Kelly era. And there are also those that BELIEVE! We will overcome, because HERECOME THE IRISH!!!!>?! lol

But the real truth is that this is a talented team in transition. While we were completely capable of winning either of the last two games, Irish fans have tasted the bitter pill of defeat once again. Gone, our national title hopes. Gone even, our hopes for a BCS win. Disappointed? Hell yes. But the reason I'm not a knee-jerk "FIRE KELLY!?!!>!!" fan is that I watched these games...

This team is good. REAL good.

4.5 turnovers per game.  Let's talk about the big pink elephant in the room, okay?  Averaging over 500 yards of offense per game (13th in the NCAA, far ahead of any of the opponents on our entire schedule).  And our total defense is 52nd in the country, not too shabby...

But we have one glaring issue.  -9 - our turnover ratio.  We have controlled the majority of the game, but then our offense has this bad habit of turning the ball over. Especially in the red zone.  Until we correct this, we are a terrible team that can't beat anybody.  Give a freshman a shot at QB at this point.  Find somebody who will take care of the ball.

And don't get me started on the stupid penalties by upperclassmen.

So, for right now, let's just let our legs dangle over the cliff.  If we win tomorrow, we can back away from the edge.  We lose again?  I'll be the first lemming over.  This is where we separate the men from the boys.

2. It's time to put on the headset and step into the shoes of Brian Kelly. In the first quarter, it seemed like your message and plan to recover from the USF disaster worked, and then the rest of the game happened. How do approach this week? What message do you give your players?

Just hammer it into their heads that they would be 2-0 if they could hold onto the damn bowl.  They are already a disappointment in the eyes of the Irish faithful.  How do you want to be remembered?  As a team that played like the Keystone Cops and bumbled away an entire season?  Or as a team that has learned how to win, running off 11 straight victories en route to a number 1 preseason ranking next year?

Both of these options are still on the table.  It's time to step up and remember that you are Notre Dame.  WE are Notre Dame.  What tho' the odds be great or small, ol' Notre Dame WILL win over all.  Get it done, boys.

3. Keep that headset on, you are still playing Kelly. Based upon what you've seen these last two games, do you see players that need to start riding the pine or are you still confident in your depth chart?

I have no confidence whatsoever in the quarterback depth chart.  Run full live scrimmages in practice this week, with full contact on the QBs, 1s-vs-1s.  Give each quarterback five series to start from their 20 yard line.  Best stat line wins the starting job on Saturday.

4. Overall, how do you feel about Rees' performance against Michigan?

4th Quarter drives:  3 and out.  Rees fumble at Michigan 7 yard line. 3 and out. Rees 29 yard pass for a touchdown. Not a bad finish to the game, put us in the lead with 30 seconds left.  But the dismal performance in the 4th quarter prior to that last drive cost us the game.

5. Let's talk about something happy: the Irish running game. After a 198 yard performance by the Irish do you feel that this rushing attack led by Cierre Wood (134 yards) is for real or have we not run into a tough enough defensive test yet?

It's for real.  And I would do nothing but run the ball in the red zone.  I'd rather come out with a field goal than nothing.  If we'd gotten field goals instead of each of the redzone turnovers this year, we'd be 2-0.  When you're in range, run the ball down their throats.

6. Looking ahead to Michigan State, how do you gauge them? Is this the best team that we've faced off against yet or is this just an untested team that beat up on two cupcakes in Youngstown State and Florida Atlantic?

Both.  They will be a good football team, but they don't know that yet.  They know that they were beating up on cupcakes.  They know they're going to get some stiff competition this week.  But we are far more battle tested that MSU.

7. Is the key to winning simply not turning the ball over or do you see other crucial keys to beating Sparty?

Just hold onto the ball.  We can do exactly what we did the last two games, just don't turn the ball over.  We fix that, this team will roll over people.

8. Obviously every week should be a must win, but I think there is definitely more of an urgency this week. How crucial is this game for the rest of our season?

Critical.  This game makes or breaks the season.  Win, and we can be this year's Virginia Tech.  Lose, and everybody starts to lose faith.

We'll see if this team has what it takes tomorrow.  All the chips are on the table.  Don't know about you, but I'm betting on the Irish.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Irish Blogger Gathering: Michigan Sucks Edition

1) Well that result really sucked. Please describe how you feel about the loss using lyrics from a pop diva (eg Brittany Spears, Rihanna, etc) song. Bonus points for video or pictures. (something good has to come out of last week)

"I know it wasn't right
I can't even sleep at night
Can't get it off my mind
I need to get out of sight"

"What started out as a simple altercation
Turned into a real sticky situation"

Rihanna believes that Michigan sucks...

2) While we all want to move on, last week's game can teach us many things about the '11 Irish. After seeing what Week 1 brought us, do you find yourself more confident, less confident, or still confused as hell about our chances vs the Skunkbears? Why?

More confident, provided we can protect the football. I'm willing to chalk up some of the sloppiness with the ball to first game jitters. But we doubled up SFU in yardage, and despite shooting ourselves in the foot repeatedly, we still only lost by 3. Clean things up, and the team I saw on Saturday is capable of competing with anybody in the country. And Michigan sucks, so we should be able to win easily.

3) Other than QB, which position group pleasantly surprised you this past week? Which disappointed? What player absolutely MUST see more time in Week 2? Again, no QBs.

Running back pleasantly surprised me. Although we got in the whole too early to really utilize our running game, Cierre Wood averaged almost 5 yards per carry. If that continues, and we can avoid the blunders that put us into an early hole, we will roll over some teams on the ground this year.

I'm not sure I would identify a particular player that must see more time in Week 2. I like the rotation we have, and I'm not sure that giving any individual player more time will help anything. I like what I saw from Louis Nix, so I guess if forced, I'd pick him.

Michigan sucks. (I'm trying to put this in every answer, which is hard when you ask about our team...)

4) Tommy Rees will lead the Irish Offense this week. Do you agree with Coach's call? Either way, what part of Crist's game will the Irish O miss the most, if any?

I was a big supporter of Dayne Crist. But at this point, it appears that all Tommy Rees does is win. He may not have the measurables that Dayne has, but every time he's been in the ball game, he's beaten the opponent. And that includes Tulsa and South Florida - he was trailing both times when he went in, and while he was QB, we scored more points than the opponent. Until such time as that changes, I say we go with the hot hand.

We'll miss Crist's athleticism. He may not be the truly mobile quarterback that Hendrix or Golson is, but he does have a stronger arm and better escapability. Without Crist, the receivers and O-line need to step up their game a bit. But Michigan sucks, so even if they don't, we should win.

5) What's the key to beating the Wolverines this week? Just 1 thing. Not 2. 1.

Protect the ball. Michigan sucks when they don't get turnovers, and would have lost badly to Western Northeastern Southerly Michigan last week if they'd protected the ball.

6) Make your Over-Under Picks:

Over-under on Floyd's receiving total for this coming weekend: 154 Under. The Wolverines have more talent on defense than USF, and they will be looking to shut down Floyd. Whatever was bothering Riddick needs to disappear, because he can have a very big game as a result.

Over-under on Robinson's rushing total: 100 Under. I think that the defensive goal will be to contain Denard Robinson and force Michigan to beat us through the air. We struggled last year against him, but I think that the switch to the pro-style offense and the improvement of our defense since last year means that we will contain Robinson on the ground. Plus, Michigan sucks, and Denard Robinson plays for Michigan. So he sucks.

Over-under on ND Number of Turnovers: 2 Under. The offense is going to be so focused on protecting the ball this week, I'll be amazed if we turn the ball over. It may hinder production a little bit, but I know these guys will be completely focused on playing mistake-free football, rather than going out there with guns blazing.

Over-under on Number of Times Kelly is caught Purple Monstering Out: 2 Under. Coach Kelly has heard the criticism, and will adjust his behavior accordingly. I think this is BS, as all great coaches yell at their players. I don't understand why people are freaking out about this. I like the fire and passion from the head coach, and I think it rubs off on the team.

Over-under on ND Total Yards: 425 Under. To complete the sweep of under predictions, I think the Notre Dame offense will be productive, but conservative. I'm tempted to take the over on this one, but I think Notre Dame will be focused on protecting the ball and controlling the game, rather than airing it out for big yards.

7) Michigan: Just Another Opponent, Enemy, or Rival? Explain. 1 Bonus point for each use of the word 'suck'.

Michigan sucks. Your Rival doesn't suck - they've earned your respect. Just Another Opponent may or may not suck, but usually you don't care enough to say that they suck, regardless of how much they actually suck. Your Enemy sucks. They suck big time. And you want the entire world to know exactly how much the suck. And as enemies go, Michigan pretty much puts the suck in sucktitude. They suck so badly, that the wind reverses every quarter when they switch sides. They are the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked, and I can't wait to see them suck on Saturday.

8) It's Michigan week. Name 1 thing in the world that sucks as much as Michigan, if you can.

I got nothin'. Next to suck in the dictionary, there's a picture of that big block M.

9) RichRod is back, announcing for CBS. Can't wait to see how that goes. Bet he's horrible.

Yeah. I bet he is too. He was a coach at Michigan. So he sucks. Just like Michigan sucks. And you can't wash that kind of suck off.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Video Update: New Notre Dame Music

There's some new music floating around the internets related to Notre Dame, and the blogosphere is trying to get it out there for people. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Irish Blogger Gathering: Holtz walks the sidelines again...

1. The big news of last week was Dayne Crist winning the starting QB spot. Are you happy with the outcome and how comfortable are you with Crist as the starting quarterback for the 2011 season?

I'm extremely comfortable with the outcome. Dayne has the most playing experience, was a 5-star quarterback prospect out of high school, and by all accounts has the best leadership and grasp of the playbook. If not for the questions surrounding his recovery from the knee injury, this would be a no-brainer. Since he appears to have answered those questions, this is the right choice.

I expect Dayne Crist to embrace the opportunity, stay healthy all year, and etch his name among the great players to play quarterback at Notre Dame.

2. A lot of people say you see the biggest improvement between year 1 and 2 after a coaching change. What area do you hope to see the biggest improvement in 2011?

Consistency. Towards the end of the year in 2010, the offense started to consistently move the ball, and the defense was shutting people down. This team had its up and downs last year, and quite frankly has since the last time Lou Holtz roamed the sidelines. This season, beginning with this game, is an opportunity for Brian Kelly to defeat the ghost of Lou Holtz. By defeating not only another Holtz, but also the idea that Notre Dame will find a way to let you down in the end. If this team performs consistently, week-to-week, as well as they performed against Miami the last time they took the field - this team will be in the national title talk. Whether this team can find that consistency of intensity remains to be seen. If they do - watch out.

3. I think we've all covered this year's highly touted freshman class quite a bit this off-season already so instead, who do you see as this year's Corey Mays? Mays played primarly special teams for 3 seasons before a breakout season as a 5th year senior in 2005. Who on the Irish roster can pull off a similar performance this season?

Steve Filer. He's slotted in as the backup at outside linebacker behind Darius Fleming, tied with incoming freshman Ishaq Williams. That's some stiff competition. But what Steve Filer has at this point is nothing to lose. He's been leading the team in tackles on special teams for a while now. That's heart. He's giving everything at every opportunity. He may just surprise some people this year.

4. Theo Riddick is a player I've been touting all off-season and think the is ready to become a big name in college football. What player on Notre Dame's roster who hasn't yet broken out are you expecting to put up big numbers in 2011?

Dayne Crist. I know, I know. He's technically the incumbent starter. But he did not play his first year before backing up Jimmy Clausen as a sophomore. One knee injury later, and Crist had to rehab to become the heir apparent to JC. Another knee injury, and he had to rehab and retake his spot against an undefeated quarterback after his junior year. This just feels like the year that he puts it all together and avoids injury. And if he performs to his potential, he will put up Heisman-like numbers with his supporting cast.

5. Notre Dame plays a legit opponent in South Florida unlike a lot of teams around the country. How do you see this game playing out and does it help or hurt Notre Dame that they play a BCS conference opponent this weekend while Michigan plays Western Michigan?

I see Notre Dame winning this game comfortably in the 2nd half. The first half, Notre Dame will play well, but so will South Florida. The game will be close, with the Irish having a slight edge. In the second half, however, we will see the difference in talent between the two teams. They both are very well-coached, but the Irish simply have bigger guns. A couple of athletic plays by the Irish, and what was a close one gets away from the Bulls.

Assuming that's how this plays out, this helps the Irish immensely. The Irish have gone toe-to-toe with a fairly highly rated team picked by many to win a BCS conference. The Wolverines played a MAC team - halfway decent at best. The Irish will already be playing at full-game speed and intensity when they roll through the Skunkbears.

This is why I'd look out for the winner of the Oregon-LSU game. Coming out of that, their next 5 or 6 opponents are going to feel like child's play. I'd always prefer to test the team early and have them come out victorious than warm-up against a squad less talented than my scout team...

6. Stealing this one from my IBG pre-season questions from last year - who is the Notre Dame player the Irish can least afford to lose this season? For the sake of getting some different response, you can't use Michael Floyd or Manti Te'o here.

Cierre Wood. The depth at almost every other position means that losing our starter does not mean a drop-off in talent. This is no knock on Jonas Gray - I wouldn't be entirely surprised to see Jonas as the feature back by season's end. But every team in the country these days runs two backs - you simply can't overwork your workhorse, or risk injury or fatigue at the most important part of the season - year's end. You need to have a legit #2. If we lose Cierre, that puts Jonas Gray on an island. The freshman will see some time, but you can't expect them to read the zone blitzes against a seasoned team like Southern Cal or Stanford. Cierre Wood needs to stay healthy for us this year, and deliver the kind of performance he's capable of.

7. Obligatory pre-season prediction question:
Notre Dame's final record (noting the losses): 13-0
Notre Dame's bowl game and opponent: Allstate BCS National Championship Game, New Orleans, LA vs. University of Alabama Crimson Tide
Final ranking for Notre Dame: #1
Best opposing offensive and defensive player ND will face in '11: Offense: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford Cardinal; Defense: Luke Kuechly, Backup College Eagles
Best opposing coach ND will face: Nick Saban, Alabama
Notre Dame game you won't miss for anything: The Championship, duh! Regular season: Southern Cal v. Notre Dame. I'll be hosting the IBG for this one! The stars are slowly aligning for this matchup to be epic...
Notre Dame game you could watch on DVR: Sacrilege! I'm going to re-read this question as "A catastrpohe on par with: (1) very close relative has just died and you must attend the funeral; (2) freak lightning strike puts you in the hospital; or (3) a tornado hits and takes you to Oz, where the game is only broadcast on Versus (not available in Munchkin Land); has somehow caused you to miss some small part of the game. As you were forced by God himself to miss part of a Notre Dame game, which game would you choose to have to miss even a single moment of:" at Wake Forest. If we are trembling about visiting BB&T Field (yes, I had to look that up) at this point in the season, we're in all kinds of trouble...
National Champion: Notre Dame
Heisman Trophy Winner: Michael Floyd

Word. Let's drink the Kool-Aid...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Irish Blogger Gathering: Preseason Multimedia Extravaganza

1. Go to youtube, pick a song that a) applies to your life in some way and b) will serve as the unofficial 2011 Fighting Irish Football Anthem. Extra points if you entirely avoid any band with members born in Ireland. Disqualification for any use of Freekbass. Embed the video for that song in your answers and explain why it’s so fitting under both qualifications A and B.

I picked this song for a bunch of reasons. First, I was there on Sunday at Lollapalooza, braving the scorching heat and pouring rain to see the Foo Fighters live in concert. Second, I feel like this song embodies the kind of transformation that this football team and myself have been going through.

I think I lost my way
Getting good at starting over
Every time that I return

I'm learning to walk again
I believe I've waited long enough
Where do I begin?
I'm learning to talk again
Can't you see I've waited long enough
Where do I begin?

I left the security of an established firm at the end of January to start my own practice. While I was confident in my skills as an attorney, I was completely unprepared for many of the trials and tribulations that come with running a business. I knew how to handle the cases, but I felt like a child learning to walk again when it came to things like trust accounts, marketing, pricing, etc. But I was willing to take the risk and start over because I had waited long enough at my previous firm for some kind of recognition from the partnership of my achievements at that firm. And starting on day one, I've asked myself many times when I walk in my office door in the morning - "Where do I begin?" But as time has passed, I've slowly gotten the hang of it - just like learning to talk or walk again.

The Notre Dame football team is in that position now as well. They've walked the walk in the past - 11 national championships, 7 Heisman Trophy winners, the most consensus All-Americans. But since we lost Lou, we've lost our way. We've turned time and again to coaches with glaring holes (sometimes literally) in their coaching pedigree. Davie had never coached before, and was unprepared for the spotlight of the Notre Dame stage. O'Leary lied on his resume. Willingham was fast-tracked through his coaching career, rather than patiently learning the ropes and practicing the dedication to be a coach at this level. Weis' brash arrogance in his own intellect hamstrung the team, and his lack of head coaching experience meant that he didn't know how to put together a defense.

But they are learning to walk again. We've finally hired a coach with enough head coaching experience at progressively higher levels of competition who has developed a system of coaching which has led to success after success. But the program had forgotten how to walk the walk. So they're learning to walk again. Learning what it means to represent the University with the greatest tradition of winning football in all the land.

We've waited long enough.

I think I found my place
Can't you feel it growing stronger
Little conqueror

As I've grown into this exciting new phase of my life, I've started to see how well the life of a solo attorney fits my demeanor and lifestyle. I have the flexibility to work a schedule that suits me, to work on the kind of cases I want to work on. I can focus on helping the client, rather than simply focusing on the bottom line as my previous partners cared about. And as the practice develops, I can feel it growing stronger. I'm developing better relationships within the legal community, rather than being insulated by the firm. I feel like I'm ready to conquer the legal world, one step at a time.

Likewise, there is a quiet confidence among not only Notre Dame fans, but also the media and people knowledgeable about college football, that Notre Dame has found it's coach, and is ready to retake its place at the pinnacle of college football. Even the haters aren't so quick to dismiss the Irish. Those who follow the program can feel it growing stronger. Many even believe that the Irish are poised to conquer the football world this year.

Forever, whenever
I never wanna die
I never wanna die
I never wanna die
I'm on my knees
I never wanna die
I'm dancing on my grave
I'm Running through the fire
Forever, whatever
I Never wanna die
I Never wanna leave
I'll Never say goodbye
Forever, whatever
Forever, Whatever

As I'm completing my detailed business plan for my new business, my confidence in this practice as a lifetime commitment is growing. The more I grow into it, the more I realize that this is what I want to do forever. I'm getting ambitious about the future and starting to plan for not only sustainability, but also growth. I'm willing to take the extra risks necessary to run through the fire and never let this die.

And that's the fire and intensity that's starting to grow within the football team. Floyd coming back for his senior year, and ResLife trusting the new coach to discipline him appropriately. Te'o bypassing his mission to pursue football as his calling from God to represent his religion and his family. Eifert stepping up to replace All-everything Kyle Rudolph. Young kids (4 of the top 10 defensive ends in this year's class) seeing the potential and jumping on the bandwagon. The passion and intensity that the Irish played with towards the end of last season has carried through.

Can't you see I've waited long enough?

We may not be there quite yet. The pieces are coming together, and there are big things on the horizon. But all that stands between us and our dreams is our own talent and dedication. And with an all in mentality, we will get there.

BONUS videos:

And I wonder
If everything could ever feel this real forever
If anything could ever be this good again

2. Now that you’ve got your unofficial anthem rocking the home office, predict the single biggest play, positive or negative for the Irish, that will occur this season in a Notre Dame football game. Color this prediction with situation, players involved, opposing team, and even weather conditions. It’s the pre-season. Let’s see what your imaginations are doing.

Michigan stadium. Night. The stadium is absolutely rocking with 100,000+ drunken Michigan fans. The Irish have been struggling with the noise all night, and have had a few really questionable calls on big plays that have allowed Michigan to stay in what otherwise should have been a lopsided ball game.
It's 4th and goal, from the Irish 1 yard line. There are 3 seconds on the clock at the end of the game, and the Irish are trailing 24-20. Notre Dame lines up in their jumbo set. They snap the ball, and Dayne Crist hands off to Cierre Wood. Cierre dives over the line of scrimmage, being met in mid-air by a Michigan defender right at the goal line. But wait! Cierre didn't have the ball. Crist rolls out to the right. Michael Floyd is triple covered in the middle of the end zone. But Eifert is standing all alone at the back corner! Crist rifles a perfect spiral right into his waiting hands. Touchdown Irish as time expires! The Irish team rushes the field, as the Michigan faithful fall dead silent. Final Score: Notre Dame 26 Michigan 20

3. I’m a fan of the cinematic hit, “Kicking and Screaming.” I know, it’s a film you all love too. So naturally we’d all like to re-live that moment when they’re playing “Would You Rather.” So let’s do so: Would you rather suffer a humiliating loss to Michigan this year, or a humiliating loss to Southern Cal? Why? And stop eyeing that chicken across the street, perv.

I threw up a little in my mouth when reading this question. It's sort of like asking whether you'd rather be tortured by the rack or Chinese water torture. Forced to pick between the two, however, I'd pick Southern Cal. I think SC is a better team, talent-wise, than the Skunkbears, and we just beat them last year. Losing to Michigan as they are adjusting to a new coach and new scheme as we're supposed to be hitting our stride, especially that early in the season, is more than I can stomach at this point.

That said, for the first time in far too long, I'm not anticipating any humiliating losses of any kind this year. The defense is too strong, and the offense will score plenty of points. We may lose a game or three, but not in blow-out fashion.

4. Great teams require leadership, and with Notre Dame being the only truly national college football program in the country, a great Notre Dame football team requires national leaders. So pick one. Name a player on the Irish roster in 2011 who will lead the nation in a particular, official NCAA category. Also specify how much he’ll lead the nation by indicating his national rank in that category. Note: You must be predicting this leader to finish at least as high as 10th in the nation in your chosen category. Bonus Points: Don’t pick David Ruffer – the best player on the Irish Roster.

Michael Floyd. National rank: #4

Michael Floyd is a special talent at wide receiver. There will be a lot of people rolling coverages to him, but the talent at the other receiver positions will mean that will be short-lived. I expect that at the end of the year, Michael will be a legit Heisman contender, and go over 1,500 yards on the year.

5. You’ve already done more parsing of Brian Kelly’s words than is healthy since he first took a podium in this pre-season. What’s the single most surprising thing he’s said in that time?

Q. Are you happy with where you are one year into turning a corner and making this an elite college program?

COACH KELLY: That to me is more about your message and it's more about what your players need to believe when they come here. Our recruiting has changed in that we're recruiting young men that you're coming to Notre Dame to play for our Lady. Your not coming here to hang your hat because you're going to the league. If you want to do that, there are other schools for you. We may not get some of those guys that have that attitude. They could be eight star, nine star players, whatever is the highest star is out. If they fit that mentality, we won't recruit those guys.

We're starting by recruiting guys that want to be at Notre Dame, get their degree, play for Notre Dame. That's when it started. It didn't start because we changed the locker room or we did more collegiate things. It was really about that paradigm shift in terms of attitude.

We are a Catholic University. It is integral to who we are and what we do. And for the first time that I can remember since Lou Holtz, we have a coach that isn't afraid to talk about recruiting kids to play for Our Lady. He's not making the Catholic nature of our school a turn-off for players from other religions - there's a renaissance of Mormon players on our roster. But he gets it. He gets who we are and what we do. And he is building the program around the three pronged character of this university - a commitment to our Catholic heritage, dedication to academic excellence, and the pursuit of championship level athletic performance.

His message, in many ways, hearkens back to the messages of Holtz, Parseghian and Leahy. He knows what it takes, and he's embracing it wholeheartedly. No fancy chains as a gimmick. No jersey color changes to pump the team up. Just a consistent, day-to-day approach to demanding excellence from our student athletes.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Irish Blogger Gathering Episode IV: A New Hope

So, the offseason has been filled with all of the minutiae that comes with starting your own law practice, meaning that my blogging hobby has been on indefinite hiatus.  However, as one of the founding members of the Irish Blogger Gathering, I couldn't let my comrades in arms down, so I'm signed up for another season of blogging with the best of the Notre Dame blogs in the entire blogosphere.

This year's IBG lineup has changed somewhat.  We still have some of the hardened veterans returning to their starting positions, but there is also some talented youth pushing for some significant playing time.  Here's the list of this year's IBG blogs:

  • Subway Domer 
  • Her Loyal Sons 
  • One Foot Down 
  • UHND 
  • Irish Round Table 
  • Inside The Irish w/ Keith Arnold 
  • Domer Law 
  • We Never Graduate 
  • ND Tex
  • ND Football 2011 
I'll be hosting the USC IBG this year, which I expect to be the biggest game of the season.  Each week, the IBG will have a different host blog that will pose 4-6 thought provoking questions which the rest of the blogs will put their two cents in on.  All of the answers will be collected at the host blog for your reading pleasure.

Tomorrow, Her Loyal Sons will weigh in with the first set of preseason questions, so stay tuned for another exciting season of Irish football in the blogosphere.  Go Irish!

Friday, March 04, 2011

Notre Dame Draft: 20 years of Notre Dame Football

One of the projects currently underway in this, the slow season for college football, is the Notre Dame Draft - there are 6 blogs from across the Notre Dame blogosphere that are participating in a draft of the best Notre Dame players of the last 20 years. Once we each draft our teams, we'll post the teams and argue about who has the best team.

The blogs participating are:

Domer Law (me!)
Her Loyal Sons
Irish Illustrated
Subway Domer
We Never Graduate

Because the draft is ongoing via telecommunication technology (e-mail, text, etc.), it may take us a while to complete the full 28 rounds. However, I'm going to try to update this posting after each round to keep you up to date on where we are.

RoundOverall SelectionPlayerPositionSelector
11Rocket IsmailWRUHND
 2Brady QuinnQBDomer Law
 3Ricky WattersRBHer Loyal Sons
 4Bryant YoungDTWe Never Graduate
 5Jimmy ClausenQBSubway Domer
 6Chris ZorichNTIrish Illustrated
27Manti Te'oILBIrish Illustrated
 8Jeff BurrisSSubway Domer
 9Aaron TaylorOTWe Never Graduate
 10Justin TuckDEHer Loyal Sons
 11Jeff SamardzijaWRDomer Law
 12Todd LyghtCBUHND
313Jerome BettisRBUHND
 14Ryan HarrisOTDomer Law
 15Jeff FaineOCHer Loyal Sons
 16Michael FloydWRWe Never Graduate
 17Bobby TaylorCBSubway Domer
 18Golden TateWRIrish Illustrated
419Tom CarterCBIrish Illustrated
 20Luke Petitgout OTSubway Domer
 21Michael StonebreakerLBWe Never Graduate
 22Shane WaltonCBHer Loyal Sons
 23Mirko JurkovicOGDomer Law
 24Anthony WeaverDEUHND
525Bert BerryOLBUHND
 26Demetrius DuBoseLBDomer Law
 27Ron PowlusQBHer Loyal Sons
 28Renadlo WynnDEWe Never Graduate
 29Grant IronsDESubway Domer
 30Rick MirerQBIrish Illustrated

Monday, February 14, 2011

Elite Notre Dame Basketball?

So, I'm primarily a Notre Dame football fan. And when it comes to basketball, I'm a Hoosier at heart, having briefly started an IU basketball blog before I realized that maintaining two blogs is too much work.

That said, I couldn't let this season pass without posting about the Notre Dame basketball team.

I've been a Notre Dame basketball fan for a long time. I grew up cheering for Georgetown, and my undergraduate experience made me into a die-hard IU basketball fan. However, my grandmother (God rest her soul) used to take me to Notre Dame basketball games growing up. She was a season ticket holder to Notre Dame football and men's and women's basketball. I always enjoyed attending games and rooting for the Irish, but they were always a good team, never great.

Apparently, all of that is beginning to change.

This year's Irish are currently ranked 7th in the nation, and from what I've seen, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see this Irish make a deep run into the tournament. Indeed, with a couple of breaks, they could win it all.

I've attended several games at Purcell Pavilion, and I've watched almost every game since mid-season. This team is a veteran team that doesn't make many mistakes. They don't turn the ball over much, are superb at moving the ball around, and will outhustle opponents.

Ben Hansbrough has grown into a legitimate Player of the Year candidate, but he's not a solo star. What makes Ben impressive is his unselfish style of play, which elevates the rest of his team. When he needs to, he can put the team on his back and will them to victory. However, he doesn't often need to.

The Irish are a team that can't afford injuries to their key players. They've been developing some additional depth, particularly inside with the recent development of Jack Cooley and outside with the growth of Scott Martin. However, what makes this Irish team dangerous is the combination of Hansbrough, Abromaitis, Scott and Nash.

Those four players all have their particular strengths, but the combination of all four of them on the court creates match-up nightmares for opponents. Tyrone Nash is a 6'8" forward that plays strong in the post, but has the ball-handling skills to run the point when needed. Carleton Scott is a 6'8" forward that plays with great length and is a defensive force that will hurt you inside or out on offense. Abromaitis is another 6'8" forward that is a great pure shooter. Put Hansbrough's versatility to shoot the ball or drive the basket, and that foursome is fearsome. With freshman Eric Atkins emerging as a superb ball handler and passer as a true freshman, and you have a complete team concept that is tough to beat.

Indeed, when Carleton Scott went down, the Irish struggled on the road, losing to Syracuse, Marquette and St. John's during that stretch. This is the kind of team that, with Scott in the lineup, probably wins every one of those games.

The Irish can play at whatever speed they choose, from the slow-it-down burn offense they choose to employ against teams that want to run up and down the court to the high-flying offense they can employ when they have a clear advantage in athleticism.

What that means is that this year's Irish is not a team I'd want to meet come tournament time. Experience is huge come tournament time, and in the era of one-and-dones, the Irish lineup is practically ancient. They know each other well, and they run the offensive and defensive schemes with an efficiency that makes it tough to overcome.

There is still quite a bit of basketball to be played, but don't be surprised if this year's Irish do something special.

Regardless of how the season ends, I know that it will be difficult for any future Irish teams to supplant their place in my heart. To me, they exemplify everything that Notre Dame stands for - doing things the right way, and doing them better than anyone else.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Here Come the Irish: 2011 recruiting and preview

Okay, so I've been a little MIA lately. Quitting your job to start your own law practice will do that to you. But now that the dust has settled somewhat, I thought I'd put in my two cents on the much-ballyhooed recruiting class that Kelly and Co. just inked on Feb. 2.

I've spent the last week absorbing a lot of what's out there about this year's class, and my general impression is that this will in fact be the class that brings about the oft-mentioned "Return to Glory." I've tried my best to find fault with the class, and there are some misses, including an elite running back.

But it's what this staff did at the top of the class that has everyone excited.

If you've followed Irish recruiting for any amount of time, you will remember miss after miss on elite recruits on the defensive line. Elite defensive line recruits like Justin Trattou, Omar Hunter and Gerald McCoy haunt Irish memories. And those misses have led to year after year of mediocre performance by the defensive line. There were bright spots - Victor Abiamiri and Trevor Laws come to mind - but we didn't have the talent and depth we needed to control the line of scrimmage on defense.

Which is what makes the recruiting haul this year so impressive. We didn't just land one or two elite recruits up front. We landed arguable the strongest pass-rushing class anywhere in at least a decade. Perhaps longer. Maybe ever.

Aaron Lynch - Scout: #10 overall, #2 DE, Rivals: #28 overall, #3 strongside DE
Ishaq Williams - Scout: #20 overall, #4 DE, Rivals: #16 overall, #2 weakside DE
Stephon Tuitt - Scout: #44 overall, #10 DE, Rivals: #22 overall, #2 strongside DE
Ben Councell - Scout: Not ranked overall, #32 OLB, Rivals: #91 overall, #5 weakside DE
Plus, three other talented defensive end prospects in Carrico, Rabasa and Springmann.

That's a great recruiting haul over a 4-year period, much less a single year. Depending on how these guys develop, one or more could move outside to the linebacker or inside to the nose. Regardless, we have significantly upgraded the pass-rushing talent, and that will make it difficult for teams to pass against us with that much depth coming off the corners.

With the way that Manti Te'o plays, and what we've seen from 2010 defense towards the end of the year, there is certainly plenty of reason to get excited.

This recruiting class suddenly makes next year's team a legit contender as long as one of the quarterbacks step up. This recruiting class conjures up memories of 1973, when Notre Dame signed bookends at defensive end in Browner and Fry. They won a title as freshmen.

Indeed, it's not out of the realm of possibility for this team to win them all next year. I'm not going to go so far as to actually predict such a finish, but a quick look at the schedule makes it look like a definite possibility:

South Florida - I wouldn't take Skip Holtz and the Bulls for granted - this team beat Clemson in a bowl game last season. But, the talent differential and being unlucky enough to be the first opponent of the season means this should be a W for the Irish.
Michigan - The Rich Rodriguez era crashed and burned, and the Wolverines were repeatedly spurned by their anointed Michigan men Jim Harbaugh and Les Miles. The stumbled onto some unproven potential in Brady Hoke, but there are still too many holes in recruiting, particularly at the skill positions, to expect that the Irish will lose this one.
Michigan State - It took them a trick play in overtime after the play clock had expired to beat us at the beginning of the season, before we hit our stride. Michigan State is a stable program and will certainly challenge us, but an improved team should be able to win over Sparty.
Pittsburgh - The Pitt team we beat last year took a beating this offseason when they hired and fired Mike Haywood then turned at the last second to Todd Graham, of the prolific Tulsa offense. That confusion, however, has killed their recruiting class, dropping them out of the top 50 classes. That high flying offense is dangerous, but I have trouble believing that we'll lose this game.
Purdue - It's Purdue - count it as a win. They couldn't even beat my Hoosiers last year. Their recruiting class was disappointing at best, and none of their classes have ranked in the top 50. Win.
Air Force - How much hype have you heard about the 2011 Falcons? Bueller? Bueller? We should be able to handle this team, as long as we don't get caught looking ahead to USC.
Southern Cal - We took care of the USC monkey this year, and they are on probation. They will still be talented, but I don't think they'll be better next year (most likely worse), and I'm positive we will be better. Should win.
Navy - Navy has had our number lately, and they destroyed us last season. However, the loss of Ricky Dobbs, a healthy Michael Floyd and the defensive upgrade should lead to a return to form next year with the Irish beating the Middies.
Wake Forest - 3-9 last year. And coach Grobe has already said he wants to redshirt his whole freshman class if possible. Win.
Maryland - Maryland won a bowl game in impressive fashion, but they will be yet another team trotting out a new coach in Randy Edsall. Coach Edsall has shown that he can build a program, but it should take some time. Some big losses on both sides of the ball, and a recruiting class in the bottom half of the ACC.
Boston College - A young team that will improve each year, but we beat them soundly last year, and they are coming to Notre Dame stadium. New offensive coordinator could mean some struggles on that side of the ball. I'm always worried about BC, especially when we could be very highly rated and they thrive on being the spoiler. But we should win this game.
Stanford - Stanford was great last year, and kicked the crap out of us. Most of the team will be back, including Andrew Luck. But, they have a new head coach in promoted offensive coordinator David Shaw. They should still be a very good team, but come the end of the season, I'm betting that Notre Dame will have more to play for, and will be clickiing on all cylinders.

A lot can happen between this early in the spring and the season - young players will step up and become household names and there are plenty of examples of new head coaches having immediate success. However, it's hard to look at the schedule right now and believe that we won't have a chance to win every game.

Other recruits to watch:

Everett Golson, QB A true dual threat quarterback who fits Kelly's system perfectly.
George Atkinson III, WR A great athlete being recruited as a wide receiver, it will be hard to keep his speed and athleticism off of the field.
Matt Hegarty, OL Consensus top 10 offensive tackle recruit - won't play early as he needs to bulk up, but has a great frame and technique.
Troy Niklas, OL/DL Not sure where he'll end up, but he has the frame to play tackle or nose. If he plays on defense, could be the middle of an epic defensive line. Snatched him from the clutches of USC on signing day,