Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Weekend scraps | by Jay

Short item in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review as Heisler makes the Big East 3-game agenda official. Confirms what we had been hearing lately.

The Irish, a member of the Big East in all sports except football, will play three Big East teams each football season on a home-and-home basis. All eight conference teams will face the Irish.

The news, hinted at for months, came after Big East meetings in Ponte Vedra, Fla., where Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White first confirmed the games.

"We told (Big East Commissioner) Mike Tranghese not to expect us to become members if we did this," said Notre Dame associate athletic director John Heisler. "But the Big East has been a very beneficial relationship for us, and Mike T. encouraged us to do what we could, specifically if we would consider the prospect of making more of a commitment."

Pitt had already signed Notre Dame to an eight-game deal from 2006-2015, in addition to this year's season opener at Heinz Field. The Panthers' games will count towards Notre Dame's three games each year.

Notre Dame did not ask for a two-for-one deal, Heisler said. Notre Dame will play one of the three Big East teams on a yearly basis -- expected to be Rutgers or Connecticut -- at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, reportedly for recruiting and alumni purposes.

"We have every reason to want the Big East to work," Heisler said. "It was the most attractive and might have been the only option for us to remain independent in football. So if we can do anything to help, why not do it?"

A short Tom Zbikowski profile from the Chicago Sun-Times. Starts as an update, ends as "Body by TZ".

Also, a few interesting JACC updates & articles in the SBT this morning.

Time to Re-Joyce. Now that the Gug is almost complete, the south dome of the JACC is finally the "top priority" in the atheltic facility upgrade cycle, although the timetable and final cost of the project remains uknown. There's some fundraising to do, and White and co. have to hammer out the construction timeline. Still, there's nothing like a little pre-publicity to get the juices flowing, and the overhaul sounds intriguing to say the least.
While the questions of who and when remain, what will be done is known. Arena seating, which includes 4,997 padded seats, 5,763 bleachers and 658 platform seats, will become all chairbacks of one color and drop the current 11,418 capacity by 600 to 800 seats. A state-of-the-art four-sided scoreboard, complete with high-speed video, will hang at center court.

Notre Dame also has worked with HNTB Architecture to redesign the south end of the upper arena to include a two-tiered structure that looks out onto the floor and extends into the front section of the south parking lot. The first level would house the university ticket offices, which currently reside in a corner of the second floor. The second level would be a private seating area that also opens into a banquet/reception area similar to the upper floors of the Notre Dame Stadium press box.
I dug around the HNTB website and I found this artist's rendition of the revamped facility:

I love what they've done with Juniper in the foreground, widening it and adding palm trees. And the causeway out to the Pacific Ocean behind the JACC is a nice touch.

(Kidding. That's the San Diego Convention Center, also by HNTB.)

Whatever it ends up looking like, it's long overdue. Jordan Cornette said that he's "going to miss this Joyce Center. No matter how crappy it really [was]." But frankly, I won't. From a fan's standpoint, the place is atrocious.

Day-glo seating that was oftentimes half-empty. Accordion-style wooden bleachers that belonged in a high school. For a crowded game, if you got stuck in the bleachers, your legs and knees were so crunched up you had to sit sideways. No, I won't miss it.

One of the biggest complaints over the years was the placement of the student section, and sadly, it looks like this issue won't be rectified.
Officials had hoped the redesign would pull the student body closer to the floor from their current location behind the east basket, and ring the court in the first few rows of seats. But with the way the Joyce Center is constructed, digging deeper into the floor to allow students to stand for games while not obstructing the view of those seated behind them is not an option.

Raising the arena roof to better configure the bowl also is not possible.

"We've looked at that and it's cost-prohibitive," White said. "There are some constraints to refurbishing an old house."
And speaking of "improving the atmosphere" -- which, notwithstanding physical upgrades, is the JACC's #1 problem -- Jason Kelly has a few modest proposals along those lines this morning: get rid of the cheesy halftime promotions and sleep-inducing awards presentations, lose the hamster ball races, and shelve the rubber chicken tosses, all of which kill the excitement. When you stop the game cold with something called the "Dancing Grannies", any buzz in the building just went poof:
As a segment on Letterman these little diversions might be entertaining. Inserting stupid human tricks into the natural lulls of a basketball game just pollutes an atmosphere that should be electric with so much distracting static.

This parade of mindless amusements implied a slogan the marketing department probably didn't have in mind: Notre Dame basketball. Try to sit through it.

To be fair, this goes on all over. Notre Dame didn't invent human hamster ball racing, but that's no excuse for neutralizing its home court with a glorified carnival ride that falls as flat as a participant who doesn't watch his step.

And as cute as those little kids look winding up and whipping poultry for sport, that also contributes to the impression of a basketball game infringing on the county fair.

Keeping the atmosphere pressurized requires cultivating a culture that encourages it.

That attitude can't be incorporated into a blueprint. It must be infused into the bloodstream of the place or any renovation will be only superficial.

Whatever it costs to update the Joyce Center, it deserves a comparable emotional investment.
I realize true excitement at the JACC stems from on-the-court action, but even in a breathtaking game like the Boston College barn burner last fall these hoopus interruptus moments brought the energy to a standstill and just killed the atmosphere. In this next big project for ND athletics, I hope there's a line item on the budget for Spirit Rejuvenation & Development.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Schmidt Happens | by Pat

The number of known verbal committments rose to seven with the most recent verbal pledge from running back Luke Schmidt. Schmidt is a 6'3" 230lb bruising running back/full back from Jasper, Indiana who last year finished first in the state in rushing yards with 2592 yards and second in scoring after notching 41 touchdowns and 3 two-point conversions for a total of 252 points. Checking the state records, his rushing total is good for 14th all-time. (Quick aside. Check who's 5th all-time in Indiana career receiving yards.)

The addition of Schmidt to a backfield already consisting of speedy Munir Prince and versatile James Aldridge gives this recruiting class a loaded group of ball carriers, each with a slightly different skill set. Notre Dame has told Schmidt he will fill a fullback/tight end/H-back role, which basically means he will be lining up in multiple spots on offense. Adding to his versatility, Schmidt has lined up at wide receiver on occasion (which leads me to belive he doesn't have bricks for hands) and according to his coach will line up at linebacker this fall. And to top it all off, Purdue was recruiting him for defensive end as well as tailback.

Schmidt also seems to fall into another category that Weis has been focusing on with this recruiting class: speed. So far this spring Schmidt is in the top ten in his area in the 100M dash with a time of 11.12 seconds. Considering he probably outweighs the other sprinters at meets by 30-50 pounds, that is a very impressive number. Reaching back to high school physics, if force = mass times acceleration, then I can't wait to see Schmidt with a full head of steam hit a cornerback. I hope cleat marks wash out.

There are video clips of Schmidt in action on both Blue & Gold Illustrated and IrishEyes, so if you are members of each you can play armchair scout and see why schools such as Oklahoma, Purdue, and Louisville had already offered him a scholarship. Michigan was another school that had an interest in Schmidt, but due to a low number of scholarship offers had wanted Schmidt to come to a Michigan summer camp before officially extending him an offer.

A few months back, I don't think any ND fans would have guessed that recruiting would be nearly 1/3 done before June. I think it's safe to say that we can cross "unfamiliarity with college recruiting" off the list of negatives about hiring Charlie Weis.

Friday, May 27, 2005

We're all in this together. | by Jay

Brian at the Michigan site "mgoblog" (linked below) has a great rundown on the proper etiquette and coping techniques required for recruiting season. It's hilarious, and he really does offer some good advice for those of us gripped in the throes of recruiting fanaticism/paranoia.

Lesson #1: Don't Panic...

Pencils down | by Jay

First off, a mea cupla: BGS = morons. It was soon apparent after publication of the quiz that several of our clues were either misleading or simply wrong, and of course our intrepid readers here and elsewhere quickly zeroed in on the errors and rightly took us to task. We'll document below where our original text diverged from the Truth. (Note to staff: that new fact checker Jayson Blair doesn't seem to be working out.)

On to the answers...

1. Who was Notre Dame's coach during the program's longest winning streak, how many games was it, and which opponent ended it?

Lou Holtz presided over Notre Dame's longest winning streak, a 23-game stretch that was ended by Miami in 1989. Frank Leahy coached a much longer unbeaten streak, going 39 games in 1946-1950 without a loss, but including two ties.

A couple of other "consecutive-style" records for you:

• The record for consecutive losses is 8, under Joe Kuharich, all during the 1960 season.

• The longest unbeaten streak at home is a marathon 93 games, lasting 23 years from 10/28/05 to 11/17/28 (with only 3 ties). Carnegie Tech finally knocked us off with a 27-7 victory.

• And how about consecutive games where the Irish gave up no points at all? That'd be 9 shutouts in a row, in 1903. I fully expect Charlie Weis to challenge this record in the near future.

2. What was the last away game for which Notre Dame travelled by train to get there?
a. Army (at Yankee Stadium) (1941)
b. Navy (at Baltimore) (1954)
c. Michigan State (1966)
d. Pittsburgh (1972)

Answer: (c), Michigan State in 1966, also known as "The Game of the Century", the epic 10-10 tie that ended with ND running out the clock. As related by Rocky Bleier in his memoir "Fighting Back", the train ride actually had some impact on the game:
The train ride to State was another experience. Their fans were standing on the platforms in Battle Creek and Kalamazoo, some even stood along the tracks, in cornfields and on dairy farms-jeering and holding sheet signs: "Bubba for Pope," "Hail Mary, full of grace, Notre Dame's in second place." None of that, however, was as bad as our arrival in East Lansing. As I disembarked, I noticed the metal steps were slippery with ice. Behind me, I heard a yelp. It was my roommate on the road, Nick Eddy. He'd slipped, missed his grab for the handrail, and reinjured his bruised shoulder. He was doubled over, crying with pain and with the instant realization that he couldn't play in the biggest game of his career. People called it "The Game of the Century" that year... which was not especially important, because somebody makes that statement about one game in nearly every college football season. What is significant is that even today, some experts are still calling it "The Game of the Century."
Notre Dame was ranked #1, State was #2. ND trailed 10-0 as late as the fourth quarter before pulling even. With the ball on his own 30 and 1:10 left, Ara decided to run out the clock and settle for the tie, sparking the heartarche, confusion and controversy that would live with this game forever. Bleier described the scene in the locker room:
Almost everybody was crying. The emotion of the game, the hitting and violent contact, was converted into the emotion of the locker room... the tears, the hugging, the trite phrases. Then Ara spoke to us, "Men, I'm proud of you. God knows I've never been more proud of any group of young men in my life. Get one thing straight, though. We did not lose. We were Number One when we came, we fell behind, had some tough things happen, but you overcame them. No one could have wanted to win this one more than I. We didn't win, but, by God, we did not lose. They're crying about a tie, trying to detract from your efforts. They're trying to make it come out a win. Well, don't you believe it. Their season is over. They can't go anywhere. It's all over and we're still Number One. Time will prove everything that has happened here today. And you'll see that after the rabble-rousers have had their say, cooler minds who understand the true odds will know that Notre Dame is a team of champions."
Ultimately, the tie didn't hurt the Irish, and they were awarded the National Championship after throttling USC 51-0 in the final game of the season. Michigan State ended up #2.

3. Who was Warner Brother's original choice to play Knute Rockne, in Knute Rockne: All-American, only to have the choice nixed by Notre Dame administrators?
a. Humphrey Bogart
b. James Cagney
c. Ronald Reagan
d. Clark Gable

The answer is (b), James Cagney. According to IMDB, Cagney, eager to break out of gangster roles, lobbied hard for the part of Knute Rockne. The image “http://us.movies1.yimg.com/movies.yahoo.com/images/hv/photo/movie_pix/warner_brothers/knute_rockne___all_american/_group_photos/pat_o_brien3.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.But Cagney had signed a petition in support of the anti-Catholic Republican government in the Spanish Civil War, and Notre Dame, having control over all aspects of the filming would not okay Cagney for the role.

Now, as cherished as it is among Irish fans, "Knute Rockne, All American" really isn't that great of a movie, let alone a good football flick. In fact, I don't think it would be in my top ten football movies of all time (of the ones I've seen. I'm still holding out on PCU). Okay, it's kind of cool for the scenes on campus and the sight of Ronald Reagan punting footballs, but it's no North Dallas Forty.

10 Football Movies I've Seen That Are Better than Knute Rockne, All-American: The Freshman, Remember the Titans, Brian's Song, The Longest Yard, North Dallas Forty, Lucas, Horse Feathers, Jerry Maguire, Black Sunday, and yes, Rudy.

4. One of Rocket's kick returns came against a team that hadn't allowed a kickoff or punt return for a touchdown in 37 years. Who was it?

Answer: Michigan, 1989. And as we all know, he did it twice that day. To quote a chastened Bo Schembechler: "He's faster than the speed of sound...and we didn't tackle him."

Video bonus: here's Rocket's first return. And here's #2. Clilps courtesy of Charlie Kenny, ND '63 -- and there's some more video available at his site.

I usually play these every morning when I get up, as sort of a daily affirmation. It helps start my day off on the right foot.

The image “http://www.irishlegends.com/irish/products/images/snowbowl.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.5. Rick Mirer, Kevin McDougal, and Ron Powlus each had the same thing happen during their last game in Notre Dame stadium. What was it?
a. They lost.
b. They were knocked out of the game.
c. Their last attempted pass was a touchdown.
d. Their last attempted pass was an interception.

Ahh, the first of our mea culpas. The answer is (c) Their last attempted pass was a touchdown, but originally we omitted the "attempted" and that caused some confusion.

You see, in Mirer's last game at ND, the legendary "Snow Bowl" against Penn State in 1992, Mirer actually threw the ball one more time after the touchdown to Bettis, on a two-point conversion to Reggie Brooks to ice the win. In terms of official game statistics, however, a two-point throw doesn't count as an "attempted pass", and therefore our original wording was a little misleading. A couple of keen observers called us on it. Know-it-alls.

6. Everyone knows that ND has seven Heisman Trophy winners. But over the years, there were eight players that finished either 2nd or 3rd in the Heisman voting. Name as many as you can. (Hint: a couple of them eventually did win it).

This might have been the toughest question in the quiz. A handful of names were repeatedly mentioned: The image “http://graphics.fansonly.com/photos/schools/nd/sports/m-footbl/auto_headshot/p-shakespeare-b.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Brown, Snow, Ismail, Theisman, Browner, etc...mostly people just taking wild stabs in the dark. Here's the complete list:

• Bill Shakespeare, 3rd, 1935 (first year of the Heisman)
• Angelo Bertelli, 2nd, 1941 (Bertelli was a sophomore)
• Johnny Lujack, 3rd, 1946 (eventually got it, so you can't feel too bad)
• Nick Eddy, 3rd, 1966 (Spurrier won it this year)
• Terry Hanratty, 3rd, 1968 (the Juice took the trophy)
• Joe Theismann, 2nd, 1970 (second to Plunkett)
• Ken McAfee, 3rd, 1977 (tough to unseat Earl Campbell)
• Rocket, 2nd, 1990 (screwed)

7. Who was Notre Dame's opponent in the Dedication game for the new Notre Dame Stadium in 1930? Hint: They are on the 2005 schedule.

Another misfire on our part. Originally we had no mention of the "Dedication" game, and ShermanOaks over on NDN caught us with our pants down. "The hint suggests the answer is Navy, the team ND played in the dedication game of the Stadium, " wrote Sherman. "But the first game was actually played one week earlier against SMU -- who is not on our schedule in 2005 or anytime soon."

Sherman's right: the intended answer was Navy, who played in the Dedication Game in 1930. But SMU was actually the first opponent at ND Stadium.

This one might be good for a bar bet.

8. Lou Holtz finished behind Rockne with the second-most career victories (100 to 105). What coach is third on the list?

Ara Parseghian, 95 wins. Leahy's third with 87. After that it drops off.

9. And on the flipside of that...what Notre Dame coach has the most career losses?

That would be Lou Holtz, 30 losses. Faust and Davie came damned close, with 26 and 25 respectively. Of course neither of those posers had anywhere close to 100 wins.

In perusing the all time wins & losses list, it still amazes me at just how dominant Rock was. 105 wins...12 losses. In 13 seasons. Hell, Bullet Bob had 12 losses by the beginning of his third year.

10. What are the three designs to ever appear on a Notre Dame helmet? (The little American flag on the back doesn't count.)

Okay, class...if you've been doing your required reading you know from Will's fantastic History of the ND Uniform we posted last week that the three designs were white numbers, a green shamrock, and little blue stars. A couple people mentioned a black stripe from the Lattner era, and I suppose that counts, too.

11. Notre Dame had a self-imposed bowl ban for 45 years. What bowl games bookend this bowl game absence, and who were the opponents?

We played in our very first bowl game in 1925, beating Stanford in the Rose Bowl, then we promptly went into hibernation for 45 years before reemerging for the 1970 Cotton Bowl against Texas (a loss). The image “http://www.mackbrown-texasfootball.com/images/2001_02/main_images/structure_images/wintrad/bowlcovers/70_cotton.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.I'm trying to think of an equivalent here...it's like Roy Hobbs disappearing from baseball for decades before coming back to the game, or maybe the Iceman being chipped out of the glacier by Arctic scientists and breathing fresh air again for the first time in years.

Interestingly, it was Father Hesburgh that gave the go-ahead to jumpstart our bowl participation again -- and chiefly because the $200,000 income could be used to finance scholarships for blacks and Spanish-speaking students. According to this ND Mag profile of Father Joyce, the money from the 1970 Cotton Bowl went, at Hesburgh's suggestion, to minority scholarships, reinforcing the policy that athletic monetary surpluses go for educational purposes, rather than, as the case at many big-time athletic schools, flowing back into athletic department coffers.

12. Georgia Tech plays a decent role in Notre Dame's football history. Which is not true?
a. They were the program's 500th victory.
b. They are the only program that Rudy played against.
c. They were the last team to beat Coach Leahy before he retired.
d. They were the first team to play in the post-expansion ND Stadium.

The answer, as many guessed, is (c); they were NOT the last team to beat Leahy before he retired. That distinction belongs to Michigan State, who beat the Irish in Leahy's second-to-last year, 1952.

Leahy went undefeated (with one tie) in 1953, his final year under the Dome.

13. In 1963, a Notre Dame game was cancelled on account of the death of President Kennedy. Who was the opponent?

The cancelled game was a November 23rd match at Iowa.

“That Notre Dame chose not to play Iowa in football is a small but significant tribute to a man who loved sports, the late President John Fitzgerald Kennedy,” wrote the Scholastic at the time. In comparison, every NFL football game was played on Sunday, two days after the assassination. Many college football games were also played.

According to an article appearing in the New York Times immediately following Kennedy’s assassination, Fr. Hesburgh personally pledged to the Kennedy family that 100 Masses would be offered for President Kennedy in the weeks following the assassination.

In his tribute, Fr. Hesburgh wrote, “May this sad day be not one of darkness, no triumph for the powers of evil, but the birth of a great new light that will for years to come inspire others to great deeds, come what may.”

The last time ND cancelled a game was in the wake of 9/11, when an ND-Purdue tilt was rescheduled from its September date to later in the year.

14. Four ND players have been selected #1 overall in the NFL draft. Who were they?

Another goof (!) on our part. I was going from memory on this one, but according to NFL.com, there were not four, but FIVE Irish #1 picks over the years:

Angelo Bertelli, 1944, to the Boston Yanks
Frank Dancewicz, 1946, to Boston
Leon Hart, 1950, to Detroit
Paul Hornung, 1957, to Green Bay
Walt Patulski, 1972, to Buffalo

In terms of pro success, Hornung has to be frontrunner in this group. He played 11 years, was a four-time All-Pro, two-time MVP, won four championships with Lombardi's Packers, and was a first-ballot NFL Hall of Famer. He still holds the record for most points scored in a 12-game NFL season (176).

And all of this as a running back, after winning the Heisman as a split-T formation quarterback.

15. ND has had many consensus first-team All-Americans through the years. What position on the field has produced the most Irish All-Americans?
a. Quarterback
b. Guard
c. Defensive back
d. Linebacker

This question gets a little tricky when you start looking back into the archives, because so many of the early-era guys were full two-way players and probably made their AA bonafides on both sides of the ball. Likewise, positional specifications changed over the years; do you group running backs with full backs? How about ends, tight ends and split ends?

However, in looking at the list, it's pretty clear that ND has produced more All-American Guards than any other position, with 13, and that satisfies our quiz question. Hunk Anderson, Dick Arrington, Jack Cannon, Gerry DiNardo, Larry DiNardo, Al Ecuyer, Pat Filley, Moose Fischer, Nordy Hoffmann, Mirko Jurkovic, Bert Metzger, Tom Regner, and Clipper Smith were All-American guards for Notre Dame.

The rest of the All-American positions break down thusly: Quarterbacks (10); Offensive Tackles (10); Running Backs, but not Full Backs (9); Defensive Backs, including Corners and Safeties (8); "Ends", listed as such (8); Centers (6); Linebackers (5); Split Ends and Flankers (5); Defensive Ends (4); Defensive Tackles (4); Full Backs (4); and Tight Ends (2).

16. Since the inception of the new college overtime rules in 1996, ND has been involved in five matches that went to OT. What were they, and what were the outcomes?

The image “http://www.athensnewspapers.com/images/091000/nebraska_notre_dame.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.At one point we listed the question with four OT games, but then I checked my stack of polaroids and my short-term memory kicked in and I remembered the Washington State game from two years ago. There are indeed five overtime games that ND's been involved in:

• 1996 vs Air Force. Lost 20-17.
• 1996 at USC. Lost 27-20 (ended the 13-year unbeaten run).
• 2000 vs Nebraska. Lost 27-24.
• 2000 vs Air Force. Won 34-31.
• 2003 vs Washington State. Won 29-26.

That makes Willingham undefeated in overtime, Davie .500 and Holtz O-fer. More useless trivia for you.

17. True or False: Leon Hart is the only lineman (of any school) to ever win a Heisman.

Patently false; fellow end Larry Kelley won it for Yale in 1936, the second year of the award. After that, it's been all Quarterbacks, Running Backs and Wide Receivers as far as the eye can see. Except for Hart, of course, and Charles Woodson, who frankly owes his trophy to Tim Brown.

18. What NCAA record does Tony Driver hold?

Most fumble returns for touchdowns in a single game, with two in the 2000 bout against Navy. Tony actually shares this record Minnesota's Tyrone Carter who set it in 1996.

As far as other Irish record holders go, John Carney's got a raft of kicking records on the books (Most Consecutive Field Goals Made 40-49 Yards, stuff like that). And there are a couple of other scattered achievements.

But Rocket's got the coolest record: he shares the distinction of returning two kickoffs for touchdowns in a single game with a few others, of course, but he's also the only guy in NCAA football history to do it twice in two games ('88 vs Rice, '89 vs Michigan).

19. From Knute Rockne on, ND has had 15 coaches. How many of them attended Notre Dame as students?

This is quite amazing, and the answer fully surprised me. From Rockne on, 8 of 15 coaches have been students at ND.

That's right, Rockne, Hunk Anderson, Elmer Layden, Frank Leahy, Ed McKeever, Hugh Devore, Terry Brennan, and of course, Charlie Weis all attended Notre Dame, and everybody but McKeever graduated (he transferred to Texas Tech).

So when the coaching carousel starts turning again, you might pay better attention to those folks stressing the importance of a "homegrown" coach and clamoring to keep it "in the family". Turns out tradition's on their side.

20. The namesake of this blog is taken from Grantland Rice's famous article on the Notre Dame win over Army in 1924. What newspaper was Rice writing for?

Grantland Rice penned his famous "Four Horsemen" article while a writer for the New York Herald-Tribune. UND.com's got the story:
It was 77 years ago that a dramatic nickname coined by a poetic sportswriter and the quick-thinking actions of a clever student publicity aide transformed the Notre Dame backfield of Stuhldreher, Crowley, Miller and Layden into the most fabled quartet in college football history.

"Outlined against a blue, gray October sky the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. Their real names are: Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden. The image “http://www.barnard.columbia.edu/amstud/sports_history/images/great_heroes/grantland-rice.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army team was swept over the precipice at the Polo Grounds this afternoon as 55,000 spectators peered down upon the bewildering panorama spread out upon the green plain below."

George Strickler, then Rockne's student publicity aide and later sports editor of the Chicago Tribune, made sure the name stuck. After the team arrived back in South Bend, he posed the four players, dressed in their uniforms, on the backs of four horses from a livery stable in town. The wire services picked up the now-famous photo, and the legendary status of the Four Horsemen was insured.

"At the time, I didn't realize the impact it would have," Crowley said later. "But the thing just kind of mushroomed. After the splurge in the press, the sports fans of the nation got interested in us along with other sportswriters. Our record helped, too. If we'd lost a couple, I don't think we would have been remembered."

After that win over Army, Notre Dame's third straight victory of the young season, the Irish were rarely threatened the rest of the year. A 27-10 win over Stanford in the 1925 Rose Bowl gave Rockne and Notre Dame the national championship and a perfect 10-0 record.
And lo, a blog was born.

Hope you enjoyed the quiz. If you have any good trivia questions for us, please don't hesitate to send them along, and we'll be happy to pose them to the constituency.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Eastward Ho | by Jay

There was a small item in the St. Pete Times yesterday about our AD's future scheduling agenda:

IRISH COMING?: Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White confirmed his school plans to schedule three football games with Big East teams each season, starting in 2009.

White said he has talked with USF athletic director Doug Woolard but has not discussed specific details of any future meetings. One game each season would probably be played at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, White said, but the rest would be home-and-home contracts.
Seeing as we've been playing three games a year against the Big East for quite a while now, this really isn't that big of an announcement, and with the expanded schedule, this figures to be part of the strategy to set up seven home games every year, with three or four away games and another game (or two) at a neutral site -- like the Meadowlands (as we've discussed here several times). As a certain television hero of mine is fond of saying, I love it when a plan comes together.

USF, by the way, is the University of Southern Florida, which moves into the Big East this year from Conference USA, along with former C-USA members Louisville and Cincinnati. In the reconfigured Big East, you might recall, Boston College has absconded to the ACC and Temple was kicked to the curb, which makes eight teams in the BE football lineup (as of today):

Not a great football conference; but not terrible, either. It's probably stronger with Petrino's Louisville squad than with Boston College anyway (though how long he stays put at L'ville is a factor of the coaching roulette wheel).

USF, though, isn't doing the Big East any favors. This is a school that only started playing organized football in 1997 (first game: 80-3 over Kentucky Wesleyan); only became a Division-1A program in 2001; went 8-8 in its two years in the sub-par Conference USA; has never beaten a ranked team, nor gone to a bowl game; and whose most famous football alum is the lesser of the Kicking Gramaticas. To their credit, USF seems intent on building and strengthening its program; when they were independent, they were scheduling teams like Alabama and Oklahoma on their own, and they've aggressively pursued conference membership with CUSA and now the Big East. Yet, the prospect of the Irish playing such a tenderfoot outfit seems so, I don't know...Kansas State.

Thanks to El Kabong over on NDN for the find on this item. Actually, this piece of news touched off an interesting thread on NDN, with some varied opinions on the merits of playing in NYC, the preponderance of BE football on the schedule (and the lack of SEC and Big XII opponents), and even a well-timed shot at JoePa for scheduling a limp Temple Owls team as PSU's twelfth-game opponent in '06. (This is why I don't like playing USF -- I want to be able to lord it over teams like Penn State when they hit up the pansy buffet).

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

News to me | by Jay

Mike Prater, sports editor of the Idaho Statesman, on the Potato State's #1 sports moment of 2004:

The top moment of the past season is obvious — football coach Dan Hawkins turning down potential job opportunities from places such as Notre Dame, Stanford and Washington. If he leaves, a lot of the magic we've witnessed over the past 10 months is gone. He's more than just a football coach; his presence in the athletic department raises the bar for everyone. And one of these days, he'll be the Broncos' athletic director.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Please take out a #2 pencil... | by Pat

One of the ways we here at BGS like to unwind after a busy day is to gather in the Grantland Rice Lounge (pictured above), engage in typically witty and urbane banter, and test our knowledge of Notre Dame history and lore. We feel we owe it to our readers to keep them nimble and alert-minded as well, so here comes the first of our semi-annual, fairly difficult and hopefully entertaining trivia challenges. Dylan (above right) has promised to deliver swirlies to anyone caught using google, so stay honest. No one likes a cheat.

Now then, on with the quiz...

1. Who was Notre Dame's coach during the program's longest winning streak, how many games was it, and which opponent ended it?

2. What was the last away game for which Notre Dame travelled by train to get there?

a. Army (at Yankee Stadium) (1941)
b. Navy (at Baltimore) (1954)
c. Michigan State (1966)
d. Pittsburgh (1972)

3. Who was Warner Brother's original choice to play Knute Rockne, in Knute Rockne: All-American, only to have the choice nixed by Notre Dame administrators?

a. Humphrey Bogart
b. James Cagney
c. Ronald Reagan
d. Clark Gable

4. One of Rocket's kick returns came against a team that hadn't allowed a kickoff or punt return for a touchdown in 37 years. Who was it?

5. Rick Mirer, Kevin McDougal, and Ron Powlus each had the same thing happen during their last game in Notre Dame stadium. What was it?

a. They lost.
b. They were knocked out of the game.
c. Their last attempted pass was a touchdown.
d. Their last attempted pass was an interception.

6. Everyone knows that ND has seven Heisman Trophy winners. But over the years, there were eight players that finished either 2nd or 3rd in the Heisman voting. Name as many as you can. (Hint: a couple of them eventually did win it).

7. Who was Notre Dame's opponent in the Dedication game for the new Notre Dame Stadium in 1930? Hint: They are on the 2005 schedule.

8. Lou Holtz finished behind Rockne with the second-most career victories (100 to 105). What coach is third on the list?

9. And on the flipside of that...what Notre Dame coach has the most career losses?

10. (If you've been an avid reader of BGS, you probably know this one.) What are the three designs to ever appear on a Notre Dame helmet? (The little American flag on the back doesn't count.)

11. Notre Dame had a self-imposed bowl ban for 45 years. What bowl games bookend this bowl game absence, and who were the opponents?

12. Georgia Tech plays a decent role in Notre Dame's football history. Which is not true?

a. They were the program's 500th victory.
b. They are the only program that Rudy played against.
c. They were the last team to beat Coach Leahy before he retired.
d. They were the first team to play in the post-expansion ND Stadium.

13. In 1963, a Notre Dame game was cancelled on account of the death of President Kennedy. Who was the opponent?

14. Four ND players have been selected #1 overall in the NFL draft. Who were they?

15. ND has had many consensus first-team All-Americans through the years. What position on the field has produced the most Irish All-Americans?

a. Quarterback
b. Guard
c. Defensive back
d. Linebacker

16. Since the inception of the new college overtime rules in 1996, ND has been involved in five matches that went to OT. What were they, and what were the outcomes?

17. True or False: Leon Hart is the only lineman (of any school) to ever win a Heisman.

18. What NCAA record does Tony Driver hold?

19. From Knute Rockne on, ND has had 15 coaches. How many of them attended Notre Dame as students?

20. The namesake of this blog is taken from Grantland Rice's famous article on the Notre Dame win over Army in 1924. What newspaper was Rice writing for?

We'll be back in a couple of days with the answers. In the meantime, feel free to take your best guesses.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Call Him Hardnose | by Jay

As long as we're on a history kick, I thought I'd share this Time magazine article from 1964 about Ara. It's terrific. Quite a few parallels between then and now...see how many you can find.

Nov. 20, 1964

Toilet-paper streamers festooned the trees. Strings of firecrackers chattered like machine guns. Signs were everywhere. SONS OF ERIN, UNITE! they said. RUB THEIR NOSES IN THE IRISH SOD! Sturdy young men stopped strangers, flashed their "Hate State!" buttons and inquired politely: "You wouldn't be a State man, now, would you?" South Bend, Ind., was no place for the faint of heart last week. Notre Dame, the No. 1 college football team in the nation, was taking on Archrival Michigan State—and the Fighting Irish were in a fighting mood.

The Irish had not beaten State in ten years; inside the Notre Dame stadium, Athletic Director Edward ("Moose") Krause surveyed the sellout crowd of 59,265 and sighed: "We could have sold 250,000 tickets to this game." He could have sold a million—to all the Americans, the vast Subway Alumni, to whom Notre Dame is and always has been the one and only college football team. To the Bronx taxi driver who has never seen the inside of a college but lights a candle to Our Lady every Friday night. To the San Francisco dock walloper who hasn't the foggiest notion where South Bend is but knows every player on the Irish squad. To the nuns in convents, whose radio-side prayers on Saturday go something like this: "God's will be done . . . but please let Notre Dame win." And what about the two Indiana priests who walked into a polling booth last Nov. 3 and wrote in the name of Ara Parseghian for President?

On His Knees. Down beneath the stands, wearing his lucky brown trousers and a blue sweater with NOTRE DAME lettered across the front, the Subway Alumni's candidate stood in the middle of the noisy locker room. "Everybody stay where you are!" he yelled. Then, pounding his fist into his palm, Ara Raoul Parseghian, 41, began to talk. "Boys (bang), you read the newspapers (bang). The predictors (bang, bang) say Michigan State is going to beat us. But we (bang) are a better team than they are. We're going out there (bang) and prove it (BANG)!" Then, along with the rest of the Fighting Irish, Coach Parseghian, a French-Armenian Protestant, sank to his knees and bowed his head. "Hail Mary, full of grace . . ."

Sportswriters had billed it "the game of the year." It was that—for Notre Dame and for the 35 million fans watching on nationwide TV, the millions more clustered around radios in bars and stores and barbershops. A good game might have been enough; a narrow victory would have sent them into ecstasy. What they got was beyond their wildest dreams.

In the next two hours, a great team systematically took a good team apart. Michigan State did not get a first down until it was two touchdowns behind. Only twice in the whole first half did a Notre Dame running play fail to gain. First it was Halfback Nick Eddy, spinning off tackle on the second play from scrimmage, racing 61 yds. for a TD—while Coach Parseghian matched him step for step, shouting "Go! Go! Go!" Then it was Fullback Joe Farrell, cracking the Spartan line on three straight plays for 15 yds. On the fourth play, he faked a line buck and zigzagged downfield to take a pass from Quarterback John Huarte. That put the ball on the Michigan State eight. Another Farrell fake, another Huarte pass—touchdown.

Ara Parseghian prowled the sideline, lips peeled back over his teeth. "Pursuit! Pursuit!" he screamed at the Notre Dame defense, and again Michigan State had to give up the ball. "More! More!" he yelled at the offense, and again the relentless Irish began to march. The massive (219 lbs. per man) Notre Dame line ripped gaping holes in the Spartan forward wall, gave Quarterback Huarte so much protection that he could have tied his shoe laces and still had time to pass. A screen to End Jack Snow gained 19 yds., a flare to Fullback Bob Merkle picked up 26. Then he turned Nick Eddy loose. In five carries, the 195-lb. halfback racked up 40 yds. and his second TD of the day. A pass to Snow was good for two extra points, and Notre Dame led at half time 20-0.

Anything & Everything. Back came the two teams, and the excitement leaped a notch. Desperate now, the Spartans tried anything—and for a while everything worked. They shifted from the T into a short punt formation and drew the Notre Dame line off side. They caught the Irish secondary napping, with a 51-yd. pass that cut the gap to 20-7. Luck helped a lot: two Notre Dame touchdowns were nullified. But now the aroused State defense was starting to harry Huarte. Somehow he still managed to get the ball away—sidearm, underhand, any way at all. And when he couldn't pass, he ran like a halfback—ripping out of the grasp of three tacklers for 21 yds. and a touchdown that made it 28-7. After that, the spectators stole the show. Twice, play was stopped while the sheriff's deputies chased fans around the field. That was enough to frighten even Parseghian. Off came the first team; in went the subs. Another Irish touchdown. Final score: Notre Dame 34, Michigan State 7.

The victory was doubly sweet because it was the sort of thing that wasn't supposed to happen in 1964—and did anyway. It was the season of surprises, the year the experts all guessed wrong. This was the year a Penn State squad that lost four out of its first five clobbered unbeaten Ohio State 27-0, the year Texas did not win the Southwest Conference championship, the year mighty Mississippi had to settle for a tie with weak little Vanderbilt. It was the year free substitution and the platoon system came back to college football—if the coaches were willing to take penalties to get their subs into the game. It was the year collegians outdrew the pros—when attendance in the Big Ten averaged 59,000 a game to 49,000 in the National Football League. And, most of all, this was Ara Parseghian's year, the year a restless vagabond from Ohio took over a demoralized Notre Dame team that had spent five years forgetting how to win—and taught them how again.

It all started innocently enough, with a 31-7 victory over Wisconsin. But when Notre Dame licked Purdue to the tune of 34-15, people began to wonder, including Purdue Coach Jack Mollenkopf. "They're big," warned Mollenkopf, "as big as the pros." As victory piled on victory, so did the pressure. Everybody was laying for Notre Dame. Air Force leaped into a 7-0 lead on an intercepted pass. Notre Dame still won 34-7. "That line," sighed Falcon Coach Ben Martin. "At first they came like a wave and pushed the blockers back into our quarterback's lap. Later they just picked them up and threw them back." U.C.L.A. Coach Bill Barnes thought he knew a way to beat the Irish. "Play for breaks." Barnes should have said a couple of Hail Marys. Notre Dame won 24-0.

Brokenhearted. Stanford was next: the Indians did not reach midfield in the whole first half, did not get a first down until 7 min. into the second, and fell 28-6. But one tearful Irish lineman was still dissatisfied: "I was really brokenhearted when they got that touchdown," he said. Fully recovered from an early-season injury, Navy's brilliant Quarterback Roger Staubach did his best to stop the Irish rampage —with 19 completions in 36 pass attempts. But Notre Dame's Huarte completed ten of 17 passes, and the score was the measure of the teams: Notre Dame 40-0.

After that, Pittsburgh figured to be easy pickings. The Panthers had won only two games all season. When Notre Dame scored two quick touchdowns—one on a pass from Huarte to Halfback Nick Eddy that covered 91 yds. it looked like a rout. But then everything went wrong. Halfback Bill Wolski fumbled on the Pitt two, and Snow dropped a pass on the Pittsburgh goal line. Banging away at the Irish line, Pitt picked up 199 yds. rushing—16 yds. more than all six of Notre Dame's previous opponents lumped together. Finally, it was the fourth quarter, and Pitt had the ball, fourth down and one on the Notre Dame 16. Pitt gambled on making the yard. The Irish held and eked out a 17-15 victory.

"Well," said Parseghian, "at least we won." With Michigan State out of the way, the Irish led the nation in rushing defense (63 yds. per game), ranked second in total offense (409 yds. per game), fourth in passing. Now, Iowa (season's record: 3 wins, 5 losses) and Southern Cal (5-3) were the only obstacles remaining in Notre Dame's path to the national championship and its first umblemished season in 15 years.

Ara Parseghian was not cheering yet. "With the kind of schedules you play today," he gloomed, "it's almost impossible to go through a season undefeated." But from Scollay Square to Fisherman's Wharf, the Subway Alumni, who thought anything was possible, sang still another chorus of the most famous fight song in the land:

Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame.
Wake up the echoes cheering her name.
Send a volley cheer on high
Shake down the thunder from the sky.
What though the odds be, great or small,
Old Notre Dame will win over all,.
While her loyal sons are marching Onward to victory.

"Dear Sir." The nation's best-known football foundry is a Johnny-come-lately to the game. The University of Notre Dame was barely out of the log-cabin stage when Rutgers and Princeton played the first intercollegiate football game in 1869. The Fighting Irish had a school cheer in 1879 ("Rah, rah! Nostra Domina"), but they did not have a team to cheer for until 1887—eight years after the famed Golden Dome of Our Lady first cast its glint across the Indiana plains. It wasn't much of a team at that; in two years, Notre Dame lost three straight to Michigan, prompting the coach to dash off a plaintive letter to Yale's Walter Camp: "Dear Sir: Will you kindly furnish me some points on the best way to develop a good football team?" Whatever Camp's advice was, it worked: the Irish were unbeaten m 1892 and 1893; and in 1903, they ran up 292 points to their opponents' zero.

They also began to run out of opposition. Schools in the Intercollegiate Conference (today's Big Ten) flatly refused to play them, and the frustrated Irish had to content themselves with belting the likes of Franklin (64-0), Loyola of Chicago (80-0) and St. Viator (116-7). In 1913, casting around for games. Coach Jesse Harper hooked a whopper Old Rivals Harvard and Yale had dropped off Army's schedule because the Cadets refused to sell tickets to their games. Desperate for a "filler" Army agreed to a $1,000 guarantee, and Harper's eager Irish headed East. Undefeated in four games, Army was a powerhouse—and there were chuckles all around when somebody discovered that the visitors had 18 players but only 14 pairs of cleats. Army was the overwhelming favorite: its line outweighed Notre Dame by 15 lbs. per man. and fans were so sure the game would be a slaughter that only 3,000 bothered to turn out.

The Rock. It was a slaughter all right—just like David and Goliath. In those days football was a mannerly game: teams were expected to punt on first down inside their own 20-yd. line and never, never throw a forward pass. The upstarts from Indiana punted only on fourth down—and passed the Cadets goggle-eyed. In one fantastic flurry. Quarterback Gus Dorais completed 12 in a row. His main target was a balding bandy-legged end named Knute Kenneth Rockne, who at 5 ft. 8 in. and 145 lbs. was probably the smallest man on the field. Army defenders could not help admiring Rockne's courage; the game had barely started before he was limping noticeably. Late in the first period, with the ball on the Army 30 Dorais dropped back to pass. Nobody noticed Rockne, hobbling painfully down the sideline. Suddenly, the limp disappeared; he was running full tilt toward the Army goal, reaching up for the pass. Touchdown! Before the long afternoon was over, Notre Dame's passing attack had clicked for 243 yds. and two TDs, and the unknown Indiana school had upset mighty Army 35-13.

It had to be foreordained that Rockne would return as coach. And there he was in 1918, the son of a Norwegian carriage maker, carving his name as one of the game's enduring geniuses. He pioneered the platoon system, perfected the forward pass, lifted (so the famous story goes) the Notre Dame "box shift" from the routine of a dance-hall chorus line. His teams traveled from coast to coast and South to the Gulf, playing 122 games and winning 105 over 13 seasons. Five times they were unbeaten; three times they won the national championship.

They called themselves Irish, but only a healthy handful were. Poles, Germans, Italians, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, everyone flocked to South Bend. One September, 90 high school captains turned out for the freshman team. No school in football history produced such stars: Frank Carideo, Marchy Schwartz, Johnny O'Brien and the incomparable George Gipp—Notre Dame's first All-America, who drop-kicked a 62-yd. field goal in his first college game, gained 332 yds. against Army, and died of pneumonia at 25. There was the "pony backfield" of 1924 that averaged 158 lbs. per man and won immortality on the typewriter of Grantland Rice: "Outlined against a blue-grey October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as Famine, Pestilence, Destruction and Death. These are only aliases. Their real names are Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden."

Then there was Rockne himself, the master psychologist who once ran the Four Horsemen behind a third-string line and shouted from the sidelines, "Show 'em your clippings! Show 'em your clippings!" He was the sly pessimist who advised, "Never tell 'em how many lettermen you've got coming back. Tell 'em how many you've lost." He was the locker-room orator who called his team together before the 1928 Army game and talked about George Gipp—his perfection, his ability to come through in the clutch, and his deathbed request: "Sometime, when things are going wrong and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go in there with all they've got and win one just for the Gipper. I don't know where I'll be then, Rock, but I'll know about it and I'll be happy." Notre Dame beat Army 12-6. But that was hardly surprising to Rockne: it had worked the first time he tried it-seven years before.

The Robot. Rockne died in a plane crash in 1931, and for a while it looked as if Notre Dame's football fortunes were riding the same plane: the Irish experienced their first losing season in 45 years. But in 1941, Notre Dame got a new coach—an Irishman, yet—and the leprechauns became giants again. Tough and tightlipped, Frank Leahy had nothing in common with Rockne except a ferocious desire to win all the time. His players called him "The Robot," and he drove them mercilessly. "I want to see blood on the quarterbacks' hands when you snap the ball," he told his centers. Rival coaches ac cused Leahy of teaching "dirty football," of flagrant recruiting violations, of "twisting" the rulebook with his "sucker shifts" and faked injuries. But one thing nobody could argue with: his success. With such stars as Johnny Lujack, George Connor, Johnny Lattner, Leon Hart and Ralph Guglielmi, Leahy won four national championships, ran off a string of 39 games without a loss, retired in 1953 with an overall record of 87 wins, eleven losses, nine ties.

After Leahy, the deluge. Terry Brennan took over as coach, did reasonably well (32 wins, 18 losses)—except by Notre Dame standards—and gave way to Joe Kuharich in 1959. Kuharich, a top pro coach with the National Football League's Washington Redskins, was no improvement. Over two seasons, 23 of his players had to be operated on for knee injuries. What's more, Notre Dame's president, the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh (TIME cover, Feb. 9. 1962), was determinedly hauling up the school's academic standards, saw no reason to grant exemptions to football players. The upshot: Kuharich lost 23 out of 40 games, quit in 1962 to go back to the pros (he now coaches the Philadelphia Eagles). Finally, last year it was poor Hugh Devore's turn: he reluctantly agreed to fill in for one year as "interim" coach—and suffered through a dismal 2-7 season.

Football had not really been de-emphasized at Notre Dame; it had de-emphasized itself. In the golden years of Rockne and Leahy, the $500,000-a-year take from football paid faculty salaries, built dormitories and a stadium. Now, when the cost of Notre Dame's sports program was deducted, there was barely enough left over to pay the coal bill for an Indiana winter. The Irish still wanted a winning team —"We are dedicated to excellence," said the Rev. Edmund Joyce, Notre Dame's executive vice president—but not enough to pay for it. The school awards only 30 football scholarships a year, and they are strictly limited to board, room and tuition—no "walking-around money." Under those ground rules, what coach would gamble his reputation? What coach indeed—except Ara Parseghian?

"I'm the Greatest." The wonder is that it took him so long to get to South Bend. Handsome and raven-haired, Parseghian could pose for anyone's image of the spirit of Notre Dame—wearing Leahy's shoes and Rockne's suit. He has to win because the laundry bill is too high when he loses; his wife has to change the sweat-soaked bed sheets each morning. Navy Coach Wayne Hardin delights in telling of playing partners with Parseghian in a golf match a few summers ago: "We came up to the 18th hole and had to win it to take the match. Ara stuck one on the green, about 40 ft. from the pin. He stepped up to putt, paused and asked: 'What state are we in?' 'We're in Pennsylvania,' I said. 'All right,' said Ara. Then I'm the greatest putter in the state of Pennsylvania.' He swung and, sure enough, the ball went over four or five breaks plunk into the cup."

It stands to reason that Parseghian must have been a beautiful baby. His father named him after a mythological Armenian king named "Ara the Beautiful," and his mother kept him in dresses until he was six. As soon as he graduated to pants, he started sneaking off to play tackle football with the older kids in Akron, and the only way mom could get him home was to come after him with the sawed-off broomstick she used to stir the family wash. As an eighth-grader, Ara was everybody's nomination for Toughest Kid in school—even the Board of Education's. "They were having a lot of trouble with vandals breaking windows," recalls Older Brother Gerard, 43, a Toledo businessman. "So they just hired Ara to patrol the grounds. The checks came directly from the Board of Education. He was real proud of that."

At South High School, Parseghian is remembered as a kind of Jack Armstrong with Wheaties coming out his ears. "He worked like the dickens for his S," a classmate recalls. "If he saw somebody wearing a letter who hadn't participated in athletics, he'd take it away from him and tell him to turn out for the team." Ara's mother was violently against football; whenever she went to a game, she spent the afternoon hiding under the stands, praying for Ara's safety. It would have been kinder to pray for the other fellow. South High Coach Frank ("Doc") Wargo remembers one encounter against Steubenville High, an Ohio Valley team made up mostly of miners' sons. "Ara was tough. But Steubenville had a tough fullback too. On the first play from scrimmage, the two of them met headon, and you could hear the helmets crash. Both boys went down. After a few seconds, Ara jumped up. They carried their fullback out."

Call Him Hardnose. Parseghian enrolled at the University of Akron, spent two wartime years in the Navy: then back to football he went, this time at Miami of Ohio, a small school with an uncanny knack for producing big-time coaches—Army's Earl Blaik and Paul Dietzel, Ohio State's Woody Hayes, the pros' Paul Brown, Weeb Ewbank and Sid Gillman. In 1947, a solid 190-lb. halfback, Ara led the Redskins to an undefeated season, won All-America mention and a pro tryout with the Cleveland Browns.

"Hardnose" was the Browns' name for him, for the fierce way he slammed into blitzing enemy linemen. He had a bad ankle, but he was still Coach Paul Brown's regular halfback. "He'd hurt it and I'd take him out of the game," remembers Brown, "and next thing you know, he'd be limping up and down the sidelines until he could walk on it again. Then he'd beg me to put him back in."

In 1949, another injury ended Parseghian's playing career permanently. Flicking through an opening in the Baltimore Colts' line, he cut to avoid a linebacker, sprawled headlong with a badly torn cartilage in his right hip. His hip has never been quite right since, and he is bothered by occasional arthritis.

Married, out of work, Parseghian went looking for a job. "There was only one thing Ara didn't want to do," says his brother Gerard, "and that was coach. He thought coaches had to be nuts to put up with the stuff they did." But when Miami Coach Woody Hayes offered him the freshman team, Parseghian leaped at the chance. Then everything happened at once. The frosh team went undefeated. At season's end Hayes packed off to Ohio State. And at 27, Ara Parseghian became the youngest head coach in Miami's history. "I thought you said all coaches were nuts," smirked Gerard. Sighed Ara, "Buddy, I've got the bug."

In five years Parseghian won 39 games, lost only six—and two of those victories came at the direct expense of the powerful Big Ten. In 1954, the day before Miami was scheduled to play Indiana, he deliberately dressed the Redskins in tattered old practice uniforms, sent them through a ragged workout before the eyes of the grinning Hoosiers. Next day, faultlessly attired in new uniforms, Miami upset Indiana 6-0. Frank Leahy would have approved. Next year, against Northwestern, Parseghian even sought out Rival Coach Lou Saban to plead for mercy. Saban, says a Parseghian associate, "really swallowed all that stuff." Miami upset the Wildcats 25-14, and at season's end Saban was out of a job. Who was in? Parseghian, of course.

"They'll See You." When Parseghian arrived in 1956, things were so bad that Northwestern's student newspaper was calling for the school to withdraw from the Big Ten. Northwestern had lost 27 of its last 31 conference games, had not won any game at all in 1955. The only private school in the Big Ten, Northwestern's entrance requirements were the highest in the league, while its men's enrollment (3,936) was the smallest. Why not call it quits? Snarled Parseghian: "If I thought that way, I wouldn't be here. All right, maybe it's an obsession thinking we can do what everyone says is impossible. But we can win." No U.S. Marine recruiting officer ever crooned a smoother pitch. To Chicago high school athletes who thought about going away to school, he said: "Your future business contacts are here in Chicago. They'll see you out there, they'll know all about you."

The Wildcats never wound up higher than third in the Big Ten, but there were plenty of moments to savor: a 21-0 victory over Ohio State that ended the Buckeyes' 14-game unbeaten streak, the 45-13 crushing of Bud Wilkinson's Oklahoma team on nationwide TV-and the four straight victories over Notre Dame that, more than anything else, convinced the Irish that Parseghian was the man to put a new coat of gold on the dome.

In the Spotlight. Parseghian's move to South Bend last January was more like a homecoming than an arrival. He was introduced between halves of a basketball game, and the students gave him a ten-minute standing ovation. In mid-February, 3,000 turned out in two feet of snow for a mammoth pep rally. If it was spirit they wanted, spirit he gave them. At spring training he whipped out a letter written by a former Notre Dame player who had been seriously injured in an auto accident. Rockne couldn't have done it better. Voice quavering, Parseghian read the letter to the spellbound team: "Being a Notre Dame football player automatically puts you in the national spotlight, more so than players from any other school. Don't let those fans down. Be honest with yourself. Give that second and third effort. Bring Notre Dame football back where it belongs."

The spirit might be willing, but it takes a powerful amount of flesh to make a football winner—and the most optimistic experts did not figure Notre Dame for much this year. The school hadn't had a winning season in five years; 22 out of 38 lettermen had graduated from last year's squad that lost seven of its nine games. Parseghian rebuilt the team as though he were running a fire sale.

Out went Notre Dame's old uniforms and pads ("too heavy," he said), replaced by new lightweight gold pants, plain blue jerseys, and helmets whose color was keyed exactly to the Golden Dome itself. Out went the old split T formation, with its quarterback keepers, replaced by the pro-style slot T and the dazzling stacked I—in which three backs line up in a straight line behind the center, then shift suddenly to one side or the other. Out, too, went the old system of calling signals in the huddle. "In the pressure of the game," explains Parseghian, "you don't have time to listen to somebody yell '32' and ponder which hole is the three hole and which back is the two back. The image “http://www.irishlegends.com/image/may02/AraRocky.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.We just describe our plays in the most accurate way possible—like 'power sweep right,' or 'belly sweep left.' And we haven't had a badly busted play all season."

In spring training Parseghian wandered around the field like an Arab horse trader. He spent hundreds of hours studying last year's game films, analyzing each man's potential. Finally one day he sauntered up to John Huarte, a quiet Californian who had played just 50 minutes of football in two years, and said: "John, you're my quarterback for the season. I don't care if you throw six interceptions in the first game. You're my quarterback. You're gonna live with me ten weeks this fall." Parseghian's next visit was with Jack Snow, the 6-ft. 2-in., 215-lb. end whom he had singled out as Huarte's No. 1 passing target. Between them, Huarte and Snow have already broken practically all of Notre Dame's season passing records.

Finally, there was Linebacker Jim Carroll, a 225-lb. Georgian who was to be the key man in Parseghian's prostyle 4-4-3 defense. Last year Carroll was credited with 59 tackles; this year he has already made 120, to lead the team. He shrugged off a painful knee injury to stack up a last-ditch Pitt drive two weeks ago, and he was easily the angriest man on the squad last week when newsmen suggested the possibility of Michigan State's upsetting the top-ranked Irish. Maybe that's because he is Irish. "Listen," he growled. "We're No. 1. I've played with losing teams all my life, and nobody's going to take No. 1 away from me."

Nobody is going to take it away from Ara Parseghian either—not if the everliving, ever-loving spirit of Notre Dame can help it. On a "Clobber Board" in the Notre Dame locker room, messages supposedly sent by rival teams are posted to stoke the fires of effort. "Your luck has run out," read one signed The Panther. "I will beat you this Saturday because I am bigger and stronger and meaner than you are." Everywhere the team goes, the coach goes—instructing, cajoling, just being there to keep an eye on everything. After the Wisconsin game, Parseghian told his wife Kathleen not to meet him at the airport—"I want to go with the team to the campus." Before the Navy game in Philadelphia, local Notre Dame alumni had a motorcade all arranged to whisk Irish officials from the airport to the hotel. Parseghian turned down the car, insisted on riding in the team bus.

For Ara Parseghian, the man who cannot stand to lose, the day begins at 5:30 a.m. with four cups of coffee, usually ends with a tranquilizer and the Late Late Show. Even when he eats, he has a pencil in the other hand, diagramming a play. Is there something he has forgotten, some minuscule detail he has overlooked, some new way to win? There has to be, there always is at Notre Dame. Last week, bone-weary, he paused in Memorial Building to confront a bust of Knute Rockne. "You," he said softly. "You started all this."

Friday, May 20, 2005

Pulling Rank | by Michael

Every year thousands of college football fans generally salivate over the rankings of the recruits who signed letters of intent to play for their favorite team. Despite the fact that these kids may play different positions in different offensive and defensive schemes against different levels of competition, the recruiting "experts" generally come up with these rankings based upon their own personal opinion and the scholarship offers a player receives.

But how accurately do these rankings predict future success?

It's certainly not an easy question to answer, but I've decided to give it a shot using the rankings from February 2002. Three years have passed, and now most of those recruits are entering their fourth year of college football. Now is as good a time as any to look back and see who has panned out, who hasn't, and whatever happened to...?

This unofficial study relied upon the Rivals Top 100 list and the Insiders Top 101 list for the 2001-2002 season. The scoring system was simple. Points were assigned according to a player's numerical ranking, and obviously, if a player did not make a top 100 list, he received zero points. Points from the two lists were then totaled and the players were ranked, highest to lowest. In the case of a tie, the player who received the highest individual ranking in either list won the tie-breaker and received a higher ranking.

And on that note, here is the Rivals/Insiders consensus top 50 from February, 2002...

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#1 - Lorenzo Booker, RB (Florida State)
Overrated. Booker has played well (887 yards, 5.4 ypc) for the Seminoles but the argument could easily be made that he's not even the best RB at Florida State - see Leon Washington (#48). Booker has not nearly been as dominant as one would expect from the #1 player in a class, and to make matters worse, he's also an awful roommate

#2 - Haloti Ngata, DT (Oregon)
Ngata is without question one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the country. A starter by the end of his freshman year, Ngata missed his sophomore year with an ACL injury but he bounced back last year to finish with 46 tackles, 8.5 for loss, 3.5 sacks. To mention that he blocked 2 kicks, too. The big man is also a Heisman candidate, at least according to this guy.

#3 - Vince Young, QB (Texas)
The MVP of last year's Rose Bowl
enters 2005 as a certain Heisman Trophy contender. His off-season development as a passer (10 INTs vs 11 TDs in '04) may determine if he takes home that piece of hardware, and whether or not the Longhorns ultimately play in the BCS Championship game.

#4 - Ben Olson, QB (Brigham Young)
Overrated. After returning from his 2-year LDS mission, Olson transferred to UCLA this past winter. Many expected him to win the starting job this spring while last year's starter, Drew Olson (no relation), sat out with an ACL injury. Unfortunately for one Olson but fortunately for the other Olson, Big Ben's game had trouble shaking off the rust. Karl Dorrell and Bruin fans are holding their collective breath that their savior
will regain his old form this summer.

#5 - Chris Davis, WR (Florida State)
Big things are expected of Davis now that the depth chart has opened up a bit. After an ACL injury forced him to miss his freshman year, Davis has just 37 career receptions in 2 years. Those modest numbers are simply not good enough for a player ranked this high. He may have all the moves and explosiveness desired in a WR, but at this point Davis hasn't made the on-field impact of a top 5 player.

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#6 - Ryan Moore, WR (Miami)
Injured. Moore caught 44 balls in 2003, but only caught 9 passes last year because a sprained foot limited him to 6 games. With Roscoe Parrish gone to the NFL, it's imperative that Moore return to his 2003 form, and indications from spring practice
suggest that it's going to happen.

#7 - Kai Parham, LB (Virginia)
Parham has been a steady player for the Cavaliers but he's been outperformed by teammate Ahmad Brooks (#19). Why Parham was ranked ahead of Brooks in the first place is a little unclear, but thus far, he has certainly played more like a sidekick than a top 10 national player. I've also seen Parham listed in some places as a DE coming out of high school, which causes me to wonder if one reason he may have been ranked so high was because he may have had an impressive highlight reel where he got to the QB a lot in high school...but that's simply an inference on my part. I could be completely off the mark.

# 8 - Ciatrick Fason, RB (Florida)
The graduation of Ran Carthon left a gaping hole in the Gators' backfield, and Fason took advantage of the opportunity. He led the SEC in rushing (1,267 yards, 5.7 avg), caught 35 passes and scored 12 TDs. Next year he'll be playing for the Minnesota Vikings, who drafted him in the 4th round; Fason left UF early in order to support his wife and two children

#9 - Dishon Platt, WR (Florida State)
MIA. Has anyone seen Platt's face on any milk cartons recently? As best as I can tell, Platt signed with Florida State, but failed to qualify academically. He then decided to attend South Florida, and he was planning on going to a JUCO for a year or two before he'd be able to start at USF. But the last article I saw on him was from August 2002

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#10 - Trent Edwards, QB (Stanford)
Overrated. However, it's Buddy Teevens' fault. What's more likely, that Edwards has a ton of talent squandered in Teevens' absolutely pathetic offense, or that Edwards was overrated coming out of high school? Or, as Teevens would explain it, "With intelligent kids, transition can be more difficult." Personally, I expect Edwards to blossom this fall under Walt Harris and reemerge as one of the nation's top QBs...but for now, he falls in the overrated category.

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#11 - Devin Hester, CB/KR/PR (Miami)
Hester may be the best special teams player in the country; he's not just a return man capable of taking back every kick to the house because last year he blocked two FGs, both of which he returned for scores. The Miami staff has finally settled on plaing him at CB, although he reportedly struggled
this past spring because he relied too much on his athleticism rather than technique. The rest of the ACC is anxiously hoping he doesn't pick it up, because if he does, he could easily become one of the best corners in the country.

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#12 - Justin Blalock, OL (Texas)
After redshirting in 2002, Blalock has been a two-year starter at RT and finished last year as an All-Big 12 selection. He enters 2005 on many pre-season All America watch lists.

#13 - Michael Johnson, RB (Virginia)
Overrated. Despite his lofty ranking, Johnson has been stuck behind Alvin Pearman and Wali Lundy, who was actually a much lower ranked RB in this same class. Johnson did rush for 383 yards (6.1 ypc) last year and was a decent kick returner, so he has some talent, but Lundy has already reclaimed the starting position (which he lost to Pearman halfway through 2004).

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#14 - Gerald Riggs, Jr., RB (Tennessee)
After a slow start to his Vol career punctuated by maturity issues
, Riggs finally lived up to the hype and had a fantastic 2004. He rushed for 1107 yards (5.7 ypc) while still splitting time with Cedric Houston (also a 1000+ yard runner). Now that Houston has graduated, Riggs' numbers should reach higher stratospheres in 2005.

#15 - Brandon Jeffries, OL (Tennessee)
Overrated. Although he originally signed with the Vols, Jeffries is now at NC State. Buried on the depth chart at Tennessee, he has said the coaches suggested he wasn't big enough or strong enough to make an impact. After poor grades caused him to spend 2004 at a junior college, he picked the Wolfpack and enters the 2005 season with a chance to show the Vols staff they were wrong.

#16 - Reggie McNeal, QB (Texas A&M)
College Station has been in the shadow of Austin for some time now, and the same holds true for this Aggie QB; he plays in the shadow of Vince Young (#3). His numbers improved tremendously from 2003 to 2004, as he cut his interceptions nearly in half, threw more TDs, rushed for more yardage and improved his completion percentage from 51% to 58%. A&M's record also improved from 4-8 to 7-5 during this time as well; if the same improvement occurs this off-season, look for a monster year from McNeal and Dennis Franchione's Aggies. Of course, with all the attention on Young, no one may know about it.

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#17 - Ricardo Hurley, LB (South Carolina)
Considered by some one of the best OLBs coming out of high school, Hurley has had a somewhat inconsistent career. He played a little as a freshman and showed terrific athleticism and instincts, but injuries nagged him his sophomore year. Last year he returned to make 53 tackles but only 4.0 tackles for loss...not exactly the kinds of numbers you'd expect from someone ranked this high.

#18 - Mike D'Andrea, LB (Ohio State)
Injured. Injuries limited D'Andrea to only 4 games last year, and as a back-up player in 2003 he managed 24 tackles. D'Andrea is still not 100%, however, and in his place Buckeye LBs A.J. Hawk, Bobby Carpenter and Anthony Schlegel have stolen the show. Last year Ohio State experimented with a 3-4 alignment to take advantage of their talent at LB, but given the guys in front of D'Andrea, and younger talents like Marcus Freeman nipping at his heels, his role is a bit uncertain.

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#19 - Ahmad Brooks, LB (Virginia)
Brooks, a two-year starter, has had two consecutive seasons of 90+ tackles and was a finalist last year for the Butkus Award, awarded to the country's best linebacker. Brooks sat out spring football
to rest his knee, which bothered him at times last year, and rightfully so, there are huge expectations upon him heading into 2005. Brooks might be the first LB taken in next year's NFL draft.

#20 - Pat Watkins, FS (Florida State)
After giving it consideration, Watkins decided to return to Florida State rather than enter the NFL draft this past April. A first year starter in 2004, the 6'4 Watkins had considerable playing time his freshman and sophomore years, and he will now focus on bulking up and having a big senior year in preparation for next year's draft.

#21 - Marcus Vick, QB (Virginia Tech)
Vick played like a freshman in '03 (2 TDs vs 5 INTs in limited action), and too many run-ins with the law caused him to miss all of 2004. After pondering a transfer, he returned to Blacksburg, where he had a strong spring and was named the starting QB
. Still, most of his contributions thus far have been detrimental. Hokie fans have their fingers crossed.

# 22 - Derek Morris, OL (Ohio State)
Morris originally signed with Ohio State but academic issues caused the Buckeyes to release him from his letter of intent. He then enrolled at NC State in January '03, and he has been a starter since halfway through the '03 season. The mammoth RT was plagued with an ankle injury last year, but still played well. He'll enter the 2005 on most preseason All-ACC lists and on some All-American watch lists.

#23 - Marcedes Lewis, TE (UCLA)
Quite arguably the best TE in the country, Lewis possesses great size and speed. If Drew Olson were a more consistent QB, Lewis would be more of a household name. The second-leading receiver for the Bruins in both '03 and '04, Lewis is capable of having a monster season...but then again, he could easily end up with another 30-catch, average season. Jury is still out on Lewis.

#24 - AJ Nicholson, LB (Florida State)
When Kendyll Pope graduated, Nicholson took over his starting spot last year and shined. He made 88 tackles and 4 sacks, and now Nicholson enters the 2005 season as one of the leaders of the Seminole defense. Nicholson will be a four-year player, and he has lived up to the hype; it should be a shock if he's not at least a Butkus Award semi-finalist this year.

#25 - Zach Latimer, DE (Oklahoma)
Overrated. A dominant pass rusher coming out of high school, Latimer's lack of size has given him fits as a run-stopper. He has moved to MLB, where his size may better suit him, and he excelled this spring

#26 - Maurice Clarett, RB (Ohio State)
Clarett's career has been well-documented...he's now the problem of the Denver Broncos. When he did play, though, he was definitely one of the best running backs in college football.

#27 - Rodrique Wright, DT (Texas)
Fans in Austin breathed a sigh of relief when Wright announced he would return for his senior year. Despite some injuries that nagged him last year, Wright has managed to accumulate 181 tackles, 27 tackles for loss, 13 sacks and 5 forced fumbles in his 37-game career at UT, and he has started 32 of those games. You just don't see those kinds of numbers all too often from defensive tackles.

#28 - Darren Williams, CB (Mississippi St)
MIA. A very productive player for the Bulldogs, Williams was kicked off the team
this spring after violating "team rules." The latest rumor has Williams playing for Division 1AA Delaware this fall.

#29 - Aaron Harris, LB (Texas)
There was more to last year's Longhorn LB corps than just Derrick Johnson. MLB Aaron Harris was overshadowed by Johnson, but he still collected 118 tackles last year. Known as a big hitter, Harris will enter 2005 with lots of experience under his belt. He played as a true freshman, then began to earn some starts his sophomore year before finally emerging last year.

# 30 - Darnell Bing, SS (Southern Cal)
Entering his third year as a starter for the national champion Trojans, it shouldn't surprise anyone if Bing is a finalist for the Thorpe Award. Big and fast, he loves contact: exactly what a coach wants in his strong safety.

#31 - Deljuan Robinson, DE (Mississippi St)
Overrated. Ever since missing his first year because of open heart surgery, Robinson's career with the Bulldogs has been an up and down one
, and this spring he recently made the transition to DT. While he has played well, especially considering the personal turmoil he's faced, he hasn't played up to expectations.

#32 - Rhema McKnight, WR (Notre Dame)
McKnight has quietly moved up the Irish career receiving charts, and entering the 2005 season, he's only 59 receptions short of tying the career mark (157, Tom Gatewood). McKnight should break that record now that former offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick is coaching in the Canadian Football League.

#33 - Derek Landri, DT (Notre Dame)
Injuries had slowed Landri's first two years but in 2004 he posted the most tackles (40) by an Irish interior lineman since Lance Legree had 50 in 2000. Landri's numbers should be even better in 2005 since defensive coordinator Rick Minter wants his linemen to get into the backfield rather than tie up the OL, and Landri's quickness is definitely suited for this scheme.

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#34 - Jerious Norwood, RB (Mississippi St)
Norwood has played well on a bad Bulldog team. Last year he rushed for 1050 yards (5.4 ypc), and he had good seasons in '02 and '03 (another 1000+ yards, 5+ ypc). Note to Sylvester Croom: Mississippi State is 0-5 in games where Norwood has less than 20 carries.

#35 - Gabe Watson, DT (Michigan)
Tackles like Watson are what make 3-4 defenses possible. However, as good as Watson played at times last year, he also struggled in the second halves of games because he was out of shape, and coach Lloyd Carr called him out
on it this spring. While constantly facing double teams, Watson was still able to make 37 tackles and 2 sacks, and it should be interesting to see how new Michigan DL coach Steve Stripling impacts Watson's play in 2005.

#36 - Julian Jenkins, DE (Stanford)
Jenkins had a very nice 2004 season with 47 tackles and 5.5 sacks. Overall, he has played in 31 of the 33 games that Stanford has played since he stepped on campus. He's been a productive player but not a dominant one. Personally, I have always thought that Jenkins' quickness should be utilized as a DE in a 4-3 scheme, rather than a 3-4 scheme, but then again, what do I know?

#37 - Kedric Golston, DT (Georgia)
Overrated. After suffering a broken leg during his senior of high school, Golston bounced back to contribute as a freshman. However, injuries caused him to miss half of his sophomore season, and since then, he hasn't been the same player. In fact, he had 34 tackles in 14 games and 3 starts in 2002; in 2003-2004, he had just 40 tackles in 20 games and 18 starts. His 2005 has started off poorly, too, as he recently got into a little trouble
with the law that will cause him to miss the season opener against Boise State.

#38 - Nathan Rhodes, OL (Washington)
MIA. Unfortunately, Rhodes suffered a back injury that caused him to quit football in 2003.

#39 - Edorian McCullough, RB/CB (Texas)
After failing to qualify academically, McCullough enrolled at a junior college, and this past winter he transferred to Oregon State, where he's expected to contribute immediately at CB. However, if you haven't contributed yet, you're a bust in my opinion.

#40 - Winston Justice, OL (Southern Cal)
This could definitely be one of the most underrated recruits in the top 50. From the moment he stepped onto the Trojan campus, he has dominated. Unfortunately, after starting his first two years, Justice missed all of last year due to a "student conduct violation" that stemmed from this case. Of course, it probably didn't matter much that in 2003, Justice had gotten in trouble for soliciting sex from an undercover police officer. That said, look forJustice to have a phenomenal 2005 season before moving on to the NFL.

#41 - Marquis Johnson, WR (Texas)
Overrated. Johnson originally signed with Texas but failed to qualify, so he ended up at a JUCO. Prior to 2004, he signed with Texas Tech and last year he spent most of the year learning the offense. Anyone else wondering why you'd hear the following written about a supposed top 50 recruit?
"Johnson, who has a limited football background, got into games only briefly last season as coaches worked to refine his techniques."

#42 - DeShawn Wynn, RB (Florida)
Overrated. Wynn got stuck behind Ciatrick Fason (#8) and only ran for 217 yards last year (81 of them came against Middle Tennessee St). You'd think that he'd try to take advantage of Urban Meyer's new system and the departure of Fason, but apparently he had other things on his mind. According to this account of the spring game
, Wynn was busy running laps rather than playing.

#43 - James Banks, QB (Tennessee)
Banks started off at QB but eventually got moved to WR, where he looked like he'd be a dynamic performer. Unfortunately, off-the-field problems caught up with him. He's currently out of college football after being kicked off the Tennessee football team for failing a drug test
earlier this year.

#44 - Kamerion Wimbley, DE (Florida State)
Overrated. After a dominating spring
, Wimbley is being mentioned in the same breath as former Seminole stud pass-rushers Peter Boulaware and Reinard Wilson. With only 4.5 career sacks, though, he'll need to earn that praise on the field this fall.

#45 - Gavin Dickey, QB (Florida)
Or, not as good as Chris Leak. Take your pick. With the QBs that Meyer has brought in, and is bringing in, and considering Dickey's baseball skills, it's hard for me to believe that in a year or two he'll still be playing football. It's just incredibly hard to balance both sports when you're not a pitcher, and Dickey has been
losing valuable time according to coach Urban Meyer. "This is not a 20-hour a week offense," Meyer said. "This is a 35-hour a week offense and he's not giving us 35 hours, so he's behind."

#46 - Marvin Byrdsong, LB (Mississippi St)
MIA. Like teammate Darren Williams, Byrdsong has left the Mississippi State team because of problems with coach Sylvester Croom. Last year Byrdsong had 54 tackles and zero sacks. He has since transferred
to Northwestern State.

#47 - AJ Davis, CB (NC State)
Davis has logged time the last two years as a key nickel/dime reserve for the Wolfpack but he hasn't lived up to his recruiting hype, most of which was created by his blazing speed. He's expected to move into a starting role this fall opposite Marcus Hudson, a much less heralded recruit from 2001 who has developed into a star in the Wolfpack secondary.

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#48 - Leon Washington, RB (Florida State)
Last year's Gator Bowl MVP
averaged 6.9 ypc while racking up 951 yards in a backfield he shared with Booker. Washington's stock would be higher if Insiders actually placed him in their Top 100; he was #9 in Rivals' list.

#49 - Jonathan Mapu, DT (Tennessee)
MIA. Great early returns on Mapu's play in '02 and '03 but he decided to take his LDS mission
in January '04. Because of that, he won't be back until 2006...will it be with the Vols? Probably, but then again, you never know.

#50 - Aaron Miller, CB (Oklahoma)
See Edorian McCullough (#39). After failing to qualify academically, Miller enrolled at a junior college, and this past winter he transferred to Oregon State, where he's expected to contribute immediately at CB. However, if you haven't contributed yet, you're a bust in my opinion.

After putting this list together, I noticed some trends. These are great for discussion and future studies, and because of the small sample, I’m hesitant to draw any concrete conclusions. But here are some thoughts to throw out there...

• In the top 10, 6 players haven’t lived up to the hype and a 7th is nowhere to be found. At the bottom end of the list, 12 out of 14 players haven’t lived up to the hype. Is there possibly a bell curve when it comes to projecting collegiate football success? Are the best players necessarily the best, and could there be not that much difference between the 40th-ranked player and the 70th-ranked player?

• All of the DEs on the list have yet to make a significant impact -- or else they’ve been moved to another position. Is that a coincidence? Where do the great college pass rushers come from?

• There were 4 OL in the top 50, but entering 2005, only 2 of them had logged significant minutes. There’s a line of thinking that suggests OL is the hardest position to evaluate. Had Rhodes not been injured, he could have been the swing vote.

Are great CBs found or made? Look at the list again: Hester, Williams, McCullough, Davis and Miller. Williams was a consistent player before he ran into trouble and Hester, despite having made his mark as a kick returner, hasn’t established himself as a corner despite being reportedly the best one coming out of high school.

• Finally, if there’s something the recruitniks do well, is it evaluating DTs? Look at the list again. Golston is listed as overrated, yet he played very well earlier in his career, as did Mapu before he went on his LDS mission. Every other DT has played at least up to their expectations.

Again, this is only a one-year sample, so it's difficult to draw any hard and fast conclusions. But if there's one thing this type of retrospective suggests, it's that evaluating high school players is more speculative than scientific. And that's a good thing to keep in mind as the recruiting hype starts to heat up.