Notre Dame, Pinkett Roll To Pitt Stop
By Paul Attner, Washington Post Staff Writer
Nov. 6, 1982
Before today's game against No. 1-ranked Pittsburgh, Notre Dame Coach Gerry Faust tried to inspire his players by recalling the seven previous times the Irish have upset top-rated teams.
Now he can add No. 8 to that list.
With freshman tailback Allen Pinkett, former star at Park View High School in Sterling, Va., scoring the last two touchdowns, including a 76-yard beauty, Notre Dame gave Faust his first taste of Irish glory, 31-16.
Except for an early season victory over Michigan, Faust has had an unsteady tenure at Notre Dame. But now, 19 games after he left his coaching job at Cincinnati's Moeller High School, Faust finally may have completed the transition.
Ironically, it was his much-criticized, dreadfully dull offense that was most responsible for ending Pittsburgh's eight-game winning streak, including seven this season. It was only the Panthers' fourth loss in four years.
Notre Dame (6-1-1) turned a newly installed flea flicker pass play into a 54-yard touchdown and a 17-13 lead early in the fourth quarter. Then an end-around play that gained 17 yards set up Pinkett's second touchdown, from seven yards, ending any comeback dreams by Pittsburgh.
In between those two scores, Pinkett silenced the 60,162 fans who jammed Pitt Stadium by turning a simple tailback sprint draw play into a scintillating touchdown against the nation's No. 7-ranked run defense.
Pinkett, who gained 129 yards against Navy last week in his first start, broke one tackle at the line of scrimmage, shook off another three yards later and then moved between two defenders before breaking clear. He completed the 76-yard play without a Pitt player near, giving Notre Dame a 24-16 margin that even Pitt quarterback Dan Marino couldn't overcome.
Not with Pinkett around. He is a 5-foot-9, 175-pound runner of the Tony Dorsett type who finished with 112 yards on 10 carries.
"I was looking to cut back at first because they are so aggressive," Pinkett said. "But when I started to cut, I saw two guys waiting for me. I decided then to run it straight up field. Then I saw two more guys closing on me. I tried to get to a little funnel or void or vacuum or bubble, whatever you want to call it, before they came together. After that, I was just afraid someone would catch me from behind."
For awhile, it appeared Notre Dame would be working from behind all game.
The Irish, who hadn't thrown a touchdown pass until last week, gained only 117 yards through three quarters, mainly because quarterback Blair Kiel and his receivers appeared to be working from different play books.
But two special team mistakes by Pitt (a fumbled punt and a personal foul on another punt) set up a field goal and touchdown for Notre Dame to offset effective work by Marino. He had appeared to grab control of the game by directing the Panthers on a 98-yard, 18-play, 8 1/2-minute scoring drive early in the second half.
That drive ended with a one-yard run by halfback Bryan Thomas to put Pittsburgh ahead, 13-10. Marino, who passed for 314 yards (26 of 42, no interceptions), was being protected so well by his massive offensive line that it seemed only a matter of time before the Panthers stopped making the game so close.
Instead, it was Notre Dame that broke away.
With almost 15 minutes remaining, Pinkett left the game for senior Phil Carter, who had been the starting tailback before running ineffectively recently. There was a good reason for the substitution. With the ball at his 46, Faust wanted to run the flea flicker, but in practice last week, Pinkett kept messing up the pitch part of the play.
So Carter got a chance to be part of the glory. He took a handoff from Kiel, and then stopped and pitched the ball back to the Irish quarterback. Downfield, receiver Joe Howard (from Washington's Carroll High School) has slipped behind substitute safety Rick Dukovich, who was playing for injured Tom Flynn, Pittsburgh's best secondary back.
"As soon as I got the ball, I could see Joe was wide open," said Kiel, who twice today had called audibles out of the flea flicker because the Panthers were in the wrong defense. "If I had thrown a perfect spiral, it would have gone over his head. I guess I should be glad it wobbled, because Joe had a chance to catch up to it."
Howard's touchdown gave Notre Dame a 17-13 lead. Pittsburgh responded with a 47-yard Eric Schubert field goal, his third of the game, to close to within one point. And the Panthers were on the verge of going ahead moments later, only to have receiver Julius Dawkins lose a fumble on the Irish 23.
Two plays later, Pinkett scored on his long run. The next time Notre Dame had the ball, the Irish moved 65 yards in only six plays, with Pinkett breaking two more tackles before going in from the seven to wrap up things.
"I think we got some respectability back, coming from behind like we did," said Faust. "It was a tough week for us. It was cold all week and on Tuesday the lights were out on our practice field and we couldn't throw the ball."
Today, however, the lights went out, possibly for good, on Pittsburgh's dreams of a national championship.
"The kids are taking it pretty tough," said Pittsburgh coach Foge Fazio. "They felt they lost it, that they didn't get beat. But mistakes killed us."
Not to mention Allen Pinkett.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Notre Dame, Pinkett Roll To Pitt Stop
Today's press conference with Coach Weis was put online free for all to hear.
Here's the link.
Some high quality dentist-waiting room caliber muzak for the first 30 minutes so fast forward to the 38:14 minute mark to hear the acutal press conference.
Posted by Pat at 3:02 PM
(Ed. note: We're very proud to have Pete of MajorlyEnglish joining us this fall as a guest contributor to BGS. Pete's a senior at ND right now, and he'll be sending us dispatches from campus from time to time, in between classes and parties at Turtle Creek. To kick things off, here's a guide for all those fresh-faced, wide-eyed youths currently spilling across campus for the first time this fall. Enjoy.)
Dear Notre Dame Class of 2009 (you know, Freshmen),
As you and your parents pulled up to campus for the first time in your Toyota Siena, no doubt you felt overwhelmed, and perhaps a little frightened. Would you get along with your roommate? Can you handle the increased workload? Will you ever make any friends? Well, let me tell you, impressionable freshmen, all those are secondary to what should be your primary concern: football season. Yes, this Saturday, the golden helmets will explode onto the field of battle for another great season of Notre Dame football.
Maybe some of you have older siblings that have shown you the ropes in regards to Notre Dame football. Perhaps even a few of you have been smuggled into the student section to see a game. However, you will always make those mistakes during football season that place the neon-flashing FRESHMAN sign on your back. Just like that girl you hooked up with at TC that has a really nice personality, it’s inevitable.
The morning of that first home game, you wake up, struggling to settle your Dis-Oriented mind, hearing people already cheering outside. These weekends are precious. What do you do to make the most of them, and more importantly, how do you not look like an idiot in the stadium?
I give you the Freshman Football Guide. As a senior at Notre Dame, I will let you know how to handle yourself during football season. It’s not just going to stadiums and screaming until you’re hoarse; it’s much more complex than that. So, sit down, turn off your five-channel television, and enjoy.
- Classes after two o’clock on Fridays should be avoided like the Hanta virus. Not only will you be stuck listening to your Calc professor while the campus is slowly stirring to life, but you’ll slowly learn to hate everyone around you who doesn’t have to.
- Road trip, road trip, road trip. At least once in your college career, pile you and your buddies into a car and go to basically anywhere you can reach on a full tank of gas. Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue trips are mandatory. Not only do you get to see another stadium, engage in some friendly jawing with opposing fans, and generally make a scene when your team wins in their house, but you also get a newfound appreciation for Notre Dame’s campus every time you return.
- Pep rallies are a blast, but remember, you’re there for a purpose: to make noise. Cheer the players, applaud the speakers, salute the coach, but be sure to stay energetic, no matter what.
- Another note on pep rallies: Chuck Lennon is always like that. He just is.
- If you want to, buy this year’s “The Shirt.” Support the charity, it’s a good cause, but keep that pee rag out of the stadium. Opt for an old school jersey, former “The Shirts,” or just go naked. Anything but that “The Shirt.”
- On Saturday mornings, stay away from the dining halls. Not only will they be overwhelmingly crowded with the influx of visitors to campus, these visitors will have no idea how to navigate through the aisles of food. If you do go for breakfast, be prepared to see 8-year olds spilling waffle batter, moms standing idly around while they crane their necks searching for their families, as dads futilely look for that damn grapefruit. And besides, your only sources of sustenance before the game should exclusively be prepared outdoors, and consist of either meat, cheese, or meat with cheese on it.
- Rub Rockne’s nose. If you don't know what I'm talking about, find out. It’s good luck for you, for me, and for the football team.
- Here’s an important thing to note: know when your family is coming in for games, because their presence will drastically alter your pre-game plans. If they’re coming in to town, do all the touristy things. See the team leave Mass, watch the Irish Guard inspection, listen to the band before the step off Bond Hall, eat a steak sandwich on South Quad. Trust me, if you don’t do these things with your family, you’ll never get around to doing them, and everyone should see them all at least once.
- Now, if your parents aren’t coming to town for the game, do the studenty things. Wander around the JACC parkings lots, and go to tailgates. Great fun to be had there.
- With that in mind, I’m not going to tell you how to live your life, but if you choose to live it with Natty Light prominently involved, be very careful at tailgates. People get in trouble with the SBPD at these tailgates, even when people are with their families. There’s really no way to avoid it, so if that’s a risk you’re not willing to take, stay sober or stay away from the parking lots. Also, some guy punched a police horse there last year. So stay vigilant, and keep an eye out for thirty-five-year-old undercover narcs posing as students. When they ask for a beer, they don't want to share in the fun: they're there to bust you.
Now, onto the really important stuff, Inside the Stadium:
- First the basics, cheer when we’re on defense, be quiet when we’re on offense. Got it? Good.
- Whenever the defense is on the field in a 3rd down situation, those are often dubbed “key plays.” As such, the student body tends to shake keys on those plays, because it’s very clever. However, shaking keys is ONLY acceptable if it is a byproduct of your entire body convulsing as you force as much sound from your larynx as possible.
- A Note about Noise: Noise should start when the opponents are in their huddle calling the play because there's always some guy in there thinking mostly about sex or partying and only peripherally about the game and will miss his assignment or the snap count if there's lots of noise. Noise should continue until the ball is snapped, but it is a waste of your vocal chords to yell after the play has begun. St. Mary's chicks have a tendency to continue yelling until they are told the play is over.
- TV timeouts are usually 1 minute 30 seconds and sometimes 2 minutes long, so don't waste your voice by screaming at the top of your lungs during the time-out. Watch the guy on the sideline. Affectionately called "Oven Mitts," this referee wears bright orange gloves, and his presence on the field indicates commercial time. While he is on the field, save your voice, but as soon as he steps off, resume screaming your brains out, unless, of course, EVERYBODY has been yelling throughout the ENTIRE time-out so the opposing coach cannot communicate with his players on their sideline.
- Note from Pete: I found this comment made on the article to be of invaluable information, and trust me, your bleeding throat will thank you. Credit goes to O'D.
- While the band and all the lovely dances that go with it are great fun, don’t forget the reason you’re there. You didn’t pay $168 to dance the Jig, you can do that at my place for $12. Enjoy the dances and cheers, provided that you never ignore the game for it.
- If someone throws a marshmallow at you, throw it again.
- “The Wave” is an insult, and depending on how it is used dictates who it insults. If it’s in the 3rd quarter, and we’re up by over 18 points, “the Wave” says, “Yawn, this game is already over, let’s amuse ourselves.” If it’s in the 3rd quarter and we’re losing by a touchdown, it says, “Yawn, I hate our football team and would rather be at home watching Elimidate reruns.” If you find yourself so bored during a close football game that you want to start “the Wave,” don’t be. Only break out “the Wave” if the game is decidedly out of hand, and only if we’re winning. And if you do it, get two going in opposite directions simultaneously, because that looks cool.
- Officer Tim McCarthy’s jokes are always funny, even when they’re kinda not. Laugh accordingly.
- Always salute the coach, provided that he is actually coaching and not just standing there while his assistants drive the program into the ground.
- There are times when rushing the field is OK and times when it is not.
- Times when OK: We beat USC or Michigan and they are more highly ranked than us. We beat a Top #10 team. We win in the last minute against a Top #15 team.
- Times when NOT OK: We beat an unranked team. We beat a team by 4 when we were up 21 at halftime. We beat Boston College, Purdue, or any service academy.
- To further emphasize this point, never, ever rush the field against BC, Purdue, or a military academy. Rushing the field implies ecstatic overjoyment, while we should always expect to beat these teams, thusly negating any field rushing.
- A note on BC: They are not our rivals, they are like our 12-year old brother, an obnoxious pain in our side, and they always suck.
- A note on Navy: While we beat them every year, we respect their team and what they do for our country. Always show them respect as such.
- At the end of the game, no matter what the outcome, always stay to salute the players. They poured their hearts out for you, the least you could do is fight sore knees for 10 more minutes to show your appreciation. Furthermore, always stay for the Alma Mater, it’s a special right as a member of the Notre Dame family to sway to that song.
- Finally, and most importantly, always get your parents to take you out to dinner after the game when they’re in town. It’s the best meal you’ll have in months.
If you take these few simple lessons to heart, you’ll be bleeding blue and perhaps gold in no time. And if you already happen to be bleeding blue, you may be a horseshoe crab.
Posted by Pete at 8:03 AM
Monday, August 29, 2005
Every ballplayer worth his salt needs a nickname (or two).
Travis Thomas Trav; T-Trav; Tommer
Leo Ferrine the Iron Ghost
Darius Walker Herschel; Dynamite
Trevor Laws the Judge
Brady Quinn Quinny
Geoffrey Price Jeff
Tom Zbikowski Zibby; Piston Hurricane
Victor Abiamiri Abs
Chris Frome Ethan
Asaph Schwapp Thunderball
D.J. Fitzpatrick Sully
John Sullivan Fitz
Bob Morton Mr. Salty
Maurice Stovall the Pompatus of Love
Jeff Samardzija Sammer
Ryan Harris the General
Mike Turkovich Mikey T
Dan Santucci Tooch
Dan Stevenson D-Steve
Mark LeVoir Shaggy
Paul Duncan Dunc; Donut
Anthony Fasano Phat Tony
Rhema McKnight Mac
Matt Shelton Thumper; the Collierville Express
Rashon Powers-Neal the Secret Weapon
Brandon Harris Maestro
David Grimes Grimey
Ambrose Wooden the Wood Man
D.J. Hord Missouri Breaks
Brian Beidatsch Double B
Labrose Hedgemon Spiderman; the Lawn Wrangler
Derek Landri Rawhide
Brandon Hoyte the Hurt
Corey Mays Mayday
Maurice Crum Junior
Anthony Vernaglia Tony Verns
Steve Quinn Steve Quinn
Chinedum Ndukwe the Duke; Duker; Chin Music
David Bruton Bru; Et Tu
Terrail Lambert Highlander
Derrell Hand Hoss
Posted by Jay at 11:53 PM
The depth chart for the Pitt game has finally been released and contains more than a few interesting bombshells.
- No one played more minutes in 2004 than John Sullivan. But now he's the #2 center behind Bob Morton, who slid over from left guard. Starting in Morton's old left guard spot is Dan Santucci. Morton was the #1 ranked center coming out of high school and played center in 2003 so it's not a huge change, just more of a surpise considering how much time Sullivan spent there last season. Still, I'd expect Sully to get plenty of minutes and Weis has said as much. In fact, Weis has said that ND has four guys (Sullivan, Morton, Santucii, and Dan Stevenson) for three positions (LG, C, RG). Having depth and flexibility is great, but I'm also a big fan of continuity at center. Nothing kills a drive faster than a botched snap.
- Both backup tackles are true freshman. Even with our lack of linemen, no one predicted this. Turkovich (LT) and Duncan (RT) impressed causal observers at practice and must have done the same to the coaches if they are in the 2-deep only months after their senior proms. But regardless of how bright their future is, the fact they are one twisted ankle from starting is just as much, if not more, a factor of our complete lack of OL depth than it is their own individual talent.
- Sticking with the freshman theme, seven true freshman are listed on the depth chart at either 2nd string or a very close 3rd string. And that doesn't even count David Grimes, who Weis has mentioned as the #1 option at punt returner, and D.J. Hord, who is still being considered for kick returner. Over half of the incoming 15-man class, a class that was ranked as one of the weakest recruiting classes in recent memory, are already prime backups. On the surface there doesn't appear to be a single cause for the appearance of so many underclassmen. Personally, I think it's a mix of better-than-expected freshmen, a lack of depth at multiple positions (probably the biggest reason), and a message from the coaching staff to the upperclassmen that no position is safe and seniority means nothing anymore. Whatever the reason, expect to see a handful of freshmen see the field against the Panthers.
- Our defensive tackles are a bit on the small side. We've pointed out Pitt's undersized defensive line before, but ours isn't all that big at the right defensive tackle spot. Landri looked good when he played last year and is extremely quick for a down lineman, but at 263 pounds, he'll need a few breathers and that's where ND's shallow DL depth comes into play. In fact, both our starting defensive ends are bigger than our tackle backups. If Wannstedt is dead-set on establishing a power running game, this is where he might attack the most.
- Weis is trying to send a message. Obviously the depth chart is not the total number of players that the Irish will bring to Pittsburgh, and Charlie admitted as much during the press conference that around 15 slots are still open "on the bus to the plane to Pittsburgh" and practice performances this week would determine who gets them. It's interesting to note that rather fill in who he thinks might get the spots (like say Sharpley as the #3 QB or Justin Hoskins/Jeff Jenkins as the #3 RB), Weis is content to leave the list blank. It's nice incentive for those who think their backup job is safe and extra motivation for those who really want to claim a spot on the travel squad.
- Chase Anatasio is still one of the leading contenders for kick returner. After spending last year returning kicks with a broken bone in his foot and, to put it nicely, rather subpar special teams coaching (the fact a guy with a broken bone in his foot was still returning kicks being a big indicator of such), it will be interesting to see if Chase looks improved. Fan favorites Wooden and Hoskins are also in the mix along with former walk-on Harris and freshman Grimes, but honestly I'd rather not see everyone get a chance to return kicks on Saturday. Ideally, Pitt will kickoff once, and that's about it.
Posted by Pat at 5:54 PM
Rather than re-invent the wheel here, we've decided each week to just toss a link over to nd94e's excellent recruiting results roundup that he does for IrishEyes. It's a great way to keep tabs on Irish verbals and guys who are still on Charlie's wishlist.
If you were at one of the games listed and you still want to share your thoughts, feel free.
And in what appears to be growing trend, instant video of recruits is making its way onto the recruiting websites. Last week, Irish Illustrated featured Raeshon McNeil's first game while this week they have footage of John Ryan and Robby Parris. Meanwhile over on IrishEyes, Demetrius Jones' debut at Soldier Field was caught on film for armchair talent evaluators everywhere.
Posted by Pat at 4:15 PM
The season is only days away so we'll try to finish off the position previews ASAP. Here's a look at the linebackers who will be gunning for Quinn and Walker all season long. All stats from 2004.
Brian Bennett. 35 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 0.5 sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR.
H.B. Blades. 108 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 3 INT, 2.0 sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR. Returning Starter.
Derron Thomas. 19 tackles.
Linebacker is looking like the strength of the Pitt defense and Blades (right) is the headliner. Wannstedt moved Blades from the outside to middle linebacker to get the 6'0", 245 busybody involved in more plays. Taking over the weakside linebacker position is senior Brian Bennett, who started every game in 2003 on the strong side and had over 100 tackles, but was beaten out by Blades last season. Derron Thomas is the most inexperienced starter so the sophomore will need to make an impact to keep his starting spot on the strongside. Depth: Pushing Thomas for the starting slot is Clint Session, who was #2 on the team in tackles last season. Backing up Bennett is J.J. Horne, who is a big weakside linebacker at 6'3", 235 and has been a spot starter the past two years. Scott McKillop so far has the edge on becoming Blades' backup in the middle. The upside of the competition is that Pitt should have a deep rotation at linebacker this season with plenty of strong and fast bodies to choose from.
Chris Graham. 6 tackles.
David Harris. 10 tackles, 1 FF.
Prescott Burgess. 27 tackles, 1 INT, 2 FF. Returning Starter.
Michigan's situation at linebacker is anything but clear, as most of the spots still seem up for grabs. But don't confuse lack of a depth chart as lack of talent, as there are a good number of quality players vying for a starting slot. The buzz around Chris Graham is considerable and his exceptional speed makes up for his relative lack of size (5'11", 225). Harris (left) was praised by Carr for having a strong spring and looks recovered from a serious knee injury that sidelined him back in 2003. Burgess had a strong finish to 2004 and the converted safety will bring added speed to a position that at times had trouble with mobile quarterbacks. Depth: Scott McClintock is actually a returning starter and finished 4th on the team in tackles last season, but he appears to have been beaten out for a starting slot. Still, look for him to see the field often. Shawn Crable brings plenty of size (6'5" 247lbs) to the position while John Thompson adds plenty of speed and athletic ability. I mentioned Pierre Woods and LaMarr Woodley in the D-Line Preview, but they could also see time lining up as linebackers.
MICHIGAN STATE Linebackers
David Herron. 95 tackles, 8.0 TFL, 3 sacks. Returning Starter.
Kaleb Thornhill. 32 tackles, 4.0 TFL, 1 FF.
SirDarean Adams. 2 tackles.
With one of the younger linebacking groups on our schedule this year, Michigan State will be counting on instant production from an inexperienced, but talented group. The leader of the unit, Herron (right), is a converted fullback who transformed into a decent pass rusher and should help the defensive line get pressure on the quarterback. Last year he finished 4th on the team in tackles. Thornhill is a versatile linebacker who can play inside or at the hybrid "Bandit" position, which is a somewhat similar, but more NCAA-friendly, version of ND's Apache linebacker. This season however, the 6'1", 240 Thornhill will start out as the Spartan's middle linebacker. After defensive star Eric Smith was moved to safety, SirDarean Adams looks to be the new starter at the Bandit position. He is the most inexperienced of the group, but adds a lot of speed to the position and is going to be counted on to aid the Michigan State secondary. Depth: A high school teammate of Tom Zbikowski, Eric Andino had an impressive spring and should see his playing time increase as the season progresses. Steven Juarez, one of the seven JUCO's brought on to help this year's Spartans, is also expected to add even more speed to the linebacking unit.
Evan Benjamin. 105 tackles, 10.0 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 3 INT, 2 FF. Returning Starter.
Joe Lobendahn. 100 tackles, 13.5 TFL, 3.0 sacks, 1 FR, 1 FF. Returning Starter.
Scott White. 83 tackles, 12.0 TFL, 5 sacks, 1 INT, 2 FR, 1 FF. Returning Starter.
More talented than most might think, the linebacking corps is a strength for the Husky defense and will help keep them in games this season. The three returning starters are not only were the three leading tacklers on last year's team, but have a total of 96 college football games under their belt. Benjamin is a converted safety who has the speed to drop back into pass protection but at 6'0", 215 is one of the smaller linebackers the Irish will face. In fact, all three linebackers are not exactly "big" by D-1 standards and rely more on speed to get the job done. Lobendahn (left) is the force in the middle and the leader of the group. White, like Evan, uses speed more than power to get to the ballcarrier. Depth: Dan Howell played in every game last season and even started against Washington State so many hope 2005 will be his breakout season. Kyle Trew and Tahj Bomar should also expect to see time.
Stanford Keglar. 61 tackles, 4.0 TFL, 0.5 sacks. Returning Starter.
George Hall. 92 tackles, 6.0 TFL, 1.0 sack, 2 INT, 1 FR. Returning Starter.
Bobby Iwuchukwu. 40 tackles, 4.0 TFL, 0.5 sacks. 1 FR. Returning Starter.
As at every other defensive position, Purdue returns all 3 starting linebackers. However, this is still a relatively young unit with only one senior on the depth chart. In fact, the inexperienced backups are expected to eventually be even better than the starters in front of them. Iwuchukwu (right) is the lone senior and will look to provide leadership and guidance for the rest of the talented linebackers. Manning the middle is George Hall who is a big run-stopper at 6'2", 250. The weakside is being held down by sophomore Keglar who finished 4th on the team in tackles during his first year as a starter. With a year under his belt, he should be even more productive. Depth: Perhaps the biggest name in this group is freshman Kyle Williams, who, while only around 210lbs, is already being fitted with All-Big Ten expectations. Look for him to play more and more minutes on the weakside as he learns the defense. Cliff Avril started four games last year when Iwuchukwu went down with an injury and is another player with a bright future.
Dallas Sartz. 48 tackles 3.5 TFL, 1.5sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF. Returning Starter.
Oscar Lua. 13 tackles, 1.0 TFL.
Kevin Rivers. 25 tackles, 3.0 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF.
USC will have a young linebacking corp this year, but one that will not want for speed or strength. Sartz (left) is the leader of the defense and is a very steady and dependable linebacker. Rivers played last year as a freshman at defensive end as a pass rushing specialist and will be the linebacker most often lining up on the line of scrimmage, looking to sack the QB. His speed is his best weapon but he's also strong enough to be excellent at defending the run. Lua has the unenviable task of replacing Matt Grootegood in the middle and will need to be productive if USC wants to keep up their impressive defensive output. Depth: There is a lot of talent waiting in the wings with all-everything recruit Thomas Williams pushing Rivers at the strongside while JUCO All-American Ryan Powdrell is challenging Lua for the starting gig in the middle. And the influx of talented freshman Brian Cushing, Rey Maluaglaga, Luther Brown, and Kaluka Maiava give the Trojans even more talent to fit into their defensive schemes.
Justin Leuttgerodt. 26 tackles, 1.0 TFL, 1.0 sack.
Cameron Jensen. 103 tackles, 11.0 TFL, 1.0 sack, 2 INT. Returning Starter.
Paul Walkenhorst. 107 tackles in 2002.
Jensen (right) is a team leader and led the team in tackles last season. He will be counted on to be help out against the run in BYU's 3-3-5 defense. Leuttgerodt, a highly recruited JUCO, will help out on the outside and add even more size (6'4", 240) to the Cougar run support. Walkenhorst has battled injuries during his career, but when healthy adds a huge (6'5", 252) presence to the BYU defense. Depth: Washington State tranfer Aaron Wagner will be ready to go if Walkehorst succumbs to injury once again while Dan Bates and Bryan Kehl are expected to see plenty of time this season. A number of other young players will help contribute to a deep unit that will be one of the strengths of Coach Mendenhall's defense.
Omar Gaither. 92 tackles, 12.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 2 INT, 2 FF. Returning Starter.
Kevin Simon. 5 tackles, 1.0 TFL.
Jason Mitchell. 57 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 1 FR.
Backing up their talented and deep defensive line, Tennessee will bring a talented and deep linebacking corps to South Bend this November. Kevin Simon is one of the better middle linebackers that the Irish will face this season, but he has had trouble staying healthy. Joining Simon on the Butkus Award watchlist is Gaither (left) who is very well-rounded as a strongside linebacker who can play the run but also is capable of dropping back into pass coverage. Mitchell will use his outstanding speed on the outside and should be a blitz threat all game long. Depth: As per usual, Tennessee has an assorted mix of strong and fast athletes, waiting their turn to see the field. Jerod Mayo has impressed the coaching staff and teammates alike in recent scrimmages. Jon Poe, Marvin Mitchell, and Daniel Brooks also look to contribute to a very deep squad.
David Mahoney. 85 tackles 12 TFL, 5.0 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF. Returning Starter.
Rob Caldwell. 15 tackles, 1.5 TFL.
Jake Biles. 7 tackles.
Tyler Tidwell. 11 tackles 2.0 TFL, 1.0 sack.
Mahoney (right) is the only returning starter on the Midshipmen unit and his veteran presence will surely be needed to bring a long a group of young and inexperienced players. Caldwell and Biles are the new faces in the middle of the linebacker line and will rely on their speed to stop the run more than their 220-lb frames. Tidwell checks in a 216 lbs and is more of a safety playing linebacker than anything else. His strengths are dropping back into pass coverage. Depth: Navy took a bit of a hit when heralded sophomore Keith Lisante left the program. Former QB Jason Monts will add depth to the middle.
Kellen Pruitt. 80 tackles, 3.0 TFL, 1.5 sacks. Returning Starter.
Kelvin Smith. 53 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 INT.
Jerry Mackey. 106 tackles, 7.0 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 FF. Returning Starter.
An underrated linebacking corp, Syracuse will field a very fast, athletic, and deep group this season. Smith moved to the middle in the spring and looks to stay at that position in the fall. The problem is, that's where Mackey started last season and led the team in tackles. After missing the spring with an injury, Mackey will have to work hard to regain his starting spot in the middle. If he does, Smith will move back to the outside. Pruitt (left) is a two year starter on the outside with very good pass protection skills. Now on the strongside, he will be called on more this year though to help with run support. Depth: In addition to all three starters, the entire 2nd team for Syracuse returns as well. Backing up Pruitt is special teams contributor and sophomore Vincenzo Giruzzi, who is considered the fastest linebacker on the team. Former defensive end Tommy Harris will start out backing the weakside linebacker spot while Jameel McCain will contribute at middle linebacker.
Jon Alston. 62 tackles, 14.5 TFL, 10.0 sacks, 1 INT, 2 FR, 3 FF. Returning Starter.
Michael Okwo. 39 tackles, 4.0 TFL, 1 FR.
Kevin Schimmelmann. 58 tackles, 3.0 TFL, 1.0 sack, 1 INT, 2 FF. Returning Starter.
Timi Wusu. 20 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks.
Another 3-4 defense and another star linebacker in Jon Alston (right). Outside linebacker Alston is considered one of the best in the Pac-10 and along with two year starter and inside linebacker Kevin Schimmelmann will be the leader of the Cardinal defense. Joining Schimmelmann along the inside is Michael Okwo who doesn't have much experience at linebacker but was name 1st Team All-Pac 10 last year as a special teamer. The 4th outside linebacker position isn't completely solid as a few players are still fighting to be named the starter. Wusu, a track decathlete and former football walk-on, missed the spring with injury and is going to have to play well to see the field first. Depth: Challenging Wusu are Udeme Udofia and Emmanuel Awofadeju, who are both around 6'4", 240. Michael Craven and Mike Silva are also looking for playing time and add experience to a deep position.
2005 Opponent Analysis and Ranking
Linebacker is a tough position to predict before any games have started. The position can be filled with a variety of players and it's not unusual to see a former running back, defensive lineman, or safety show up in this unit. With so many new coaches on the schedule this year, it's even harder to try and figure out the starters, as multiple players are given shots in fall camp to impress the new guys making out the depth charts.
This year seems a bit of a mixed bag at linebacker. Some teams like Purdue and Washington bring back plenty of experience and production. Others are expecting new guys with litttle playing time to beat out more veteran players and be instant impacts on the defense.
One trend does seem to be a hell of a lot of linebacking speed (as opposed to size). Plenty of teams are putting their fastest players on the field and appear to be willing to perhaps give up a bit in the size department to make it happen. Of course, this doesn't automatically mean it will be easier to run on these teams. Rather, it seems a result of more teams (the Big 10 especially) moving towards more pass-happy offenses.
Here's my take on how our opponents shake out at linebacker.
1. Tennessee - Simon's health is the key to keeping this spot. Plenty of experience and depth.
2. Purdue - Experience, production, and a future star in Williams on the bench.
3. USC - Lacking experience, but way too much talent not to be productive.
4. Michigan - New faces and an added emphasis on speed. Quality depth.
5. Washington - Veteran experience and proven production. Strength of the Husky football team.
6. Syracuse - Joins Tennessee as only opponent with two Butkus Award candidates.
7. Pittsburgh - Blades is a top level player. Need surrounding cast to compliment him.
8. Stanford - Alston is one of the Pac-10's best. A squad that could move up these rankings by the end of the year.
9. BYU - Like Blades at Pitt and Alston at Stanford, Jensen is a great linebacker surrounded by average talent.
10. MSU - Herron is a quality linebacker and there are some talented linebackers hoping to make a mark.
11. Navy - Should be a decent group, especially with Mahoney, but not enough to move out of 11th place.
Next up, and finally, secondaries.
Posted by Pat at 3:00 PM
Sunday, August 28, 2005
Weather's looking pretty good for Pitt, but that's not the kind of forecasting we're talking about. Time to get on the record and break out our Season Predictions.
Game 1: this Saturday @ Pitt.
|Dylan ||Jay ||Mark ||Michael ||Mike ||Pat ||Sean ||Teds ||Confidence |
|W ||W ||W||W||W||W||W||W||100%|
Mark - I still can't believe we lost to a team that got beat by Nebraska and went to OT with FURMAN. Just do what we did in 2003: bracket their go-to receiver, stone the running game, and push it down their throats.
Mike - Pitt's DL leads to excessive "Darius for Heisman" exuberance on ND message boards.
Sean - Win, 35-23. Wannstedt has half a moustache and parts his hair in the middle like it's 1984. 'Nuff said.
Game 2: September 10th @ Michigan.
|Dylan ||Jay ||Mark ||Michael ||Mike ||Pat ||Sean ||Teds ||Sanguineness |
|L ||W ||L||W||L||L||L||L||25%|
Dylan - Man-boobs gets us at home, before we work out the kinks.
Sean - Lose, 28-24.
Mark - I will take every opportunity to bust Carr for being a crap coach on the road. That being said, they have lost one game at home in the last four years. They are a whole different team in the Big House.
Michael - I'm predicting a win.
Mike - The home team has won every game in this series since I was in junior high. Michigan is the home team.
Game 3: September 17th vs Michigan State.
|Dylan ||Jay ||Mark ||Michael ||Mike ||Pat ||Sean ||Teds ||Buoyancy |
|W ||W ||W||W||W||W||W||W||100%|
Sean - Winner, 31-17.
Mike - This is the year we finally stop taking dumps against the Spartans.
Dylan - Time to get back on steroids, Sparty.
Mark - John L. Smith has a screw loose. Drew Stanton is a difference-maker at QB, but if we lose to these guys yet again I might just take a crap in my hat.
Game 4: September 24th @ Washington.
|Dylan ||Jay ||Mark ||Michael ||Mike ||Pat ||Sean ||Teds ||Optimism |
|W ||W ||W||W||W||W||W||W||100%|
Sean - 42-14, okay?
Mike - win that feels like a loss; anything less than a 50 point margin of victory will be a disappointment. Let's steal a page from Spurrier's book and go with the onside kick on the opening kickoff. I'd be confident with that against UW's special teams.
Mark - Woof, woof. Kent, meet Charlie.
Dylan - "45 points is a lot of points to relinquish, okay? We tell our young men that football is a contest that one cannot win when giving up more points than are scored."
Game 5: October 1st @ Purdue.
|Dylan ||Jay ||Mark ||Michael ||Mike ||Pat ||Sean ||Teds ||Positivism |
Dylan - We'll win. I don't care how much of their defense is back.
Mark - Yeah, they killed ND last year. Overall, they were a 7-5 football team that couldn't score against teams in the big ten. Tighten up our performance on special teams and red zone offense and we win. (Oh, and coverage schemes on their 3-yard line.)
Mike - West Lafayette inferiority complex has thoroughly permeated Purdue's players and coaching staff. Even they know they shouldn't go undefeated in the regular season. Since they don't play UM or OSU they will have to lose this one.
Sean - a 23-17 loss.
Game 6: October 15th vs Southern Cal.
|Dylan ||Jay ||Mark ||Michael ||Mike ||Pat ||Sean ||Teds ||Hopefulness |
Dylan - Win. 'Nuff said. On this day, the echoes that Davie tried to smother with a pillow in 2000, will be awakened.
Mark - Still way too much talent for them, too little depth for us. But we might actually score some points in the second half.
Mike - a loss, but not nearly as ugly as Willingham's routine 31-point pantsings.
Game 7: October 22nd vs BYU.
|Dylan ||Jay ||Mark ||Michael ||Mike ||Pat ||Sean ||Teds ||Color |
Dylan - From this day forward, as it once was, there should be no analysis wasted on the BYU game. It was a "W" when they signed the contract.
Mark - Unless his last name is Nagurski, I am not impressed by dudes named Bronco. Maybe Charlie will teach the offense how to pick up the blitzes that this cat likes to run. I think he will.
Mike - We'll surpass last year's rushing total against BYU on our first drive.
Game 8: November 5th vs Tennessee.
|Dylan ||Jay ||Mark ||Michael ||Mike ||Pat ||Sean ||Teds ||Jocundity |
Dylan - We beat them last year, on the road, in spite of our shitty coaching staff. We'll beat them this year.
Mark - Phat Phil doesn't impress me as a game day coach. Two weeks to get ready. Potential upset (despite my prediction).
Game 9: November 12th vs Navy.
|Dylan ||Jay ||Mark ||Michael ||Mike ||Pat ||Sean ||Teds ||Bullishness |
Dylan - Win. Pluck only goes so far.
Mark - A crap ND team last year owned their best team in forever. Win.
Mike - A win, although Johnson is one of the better coaches we'll face this year.
Game 10: November 19th vs Syracuse.
|Dylan ||Jay ||Mark ||Michael ||Mike ||Pat ||Sean ||Teds ||Orangeness |
Dylan - Win.
Mike - Win.
Mark - If we lose two in a row to Syracuse, it's time for seppuku.
Game 11: November 26th @ Stanford.
|Dylan ||Jay ||Mark ||Michael ||Mike ||Pat ||Sean ||Teds ||Aspirationalism |
Mark - A game that scares me. Harris is a good fit for Stanford and Teevens recruited some decent talent. Should be closer than most think but ND will grind them down and win.
Dylan - We will keep their "Director of Tracking Opponent Touchdowns" busy.
|Dylan ||Jay ||Mark ||Michael ||Mike ||Pat ||Sean ||Teds |
|Pitt ||W ||W ||W||W||W||W||W||W|
|Michigan ||L ||W ||L||W||L||L||L||L|
|Michigan State ||W ||W ||W||W||W||W||W||W|
|Washington ||W ||W ||W||W||W||W||W||W|
|Purdue ||W ||L||L||L||W||W||L||W|
|Southern Cal ||W ||L||L||L||L||L||L||W|
|BYU ||W ||W||W||W||W||W||W||W|
|Tennessee ||W ||L||L||W||L||L||W||L|
|Navy ||W ||W||W||W||W||W||W||W|
|Syracuse ||W ||W||W||W||W||W||W||W|
|10-1 ||8-3 ||7-4 ||9-2 ||8-3 ||8-3 ||8-3 ||9-2 |
Extra Credit questions...
• Identify a possible upset game; that is, a game we should lose but may be able to pull off.
Mark - USC. Big question marks for the Trojans on defense. And no one is talking about their kicking game. That is also a question mark. Two weeks to get ready.
Dylan - The upset games are obvious. We, as of right now, have no business beating USC or Tennessee (leaving aside the fact that we beat them last year). If these games were on the road, I'd consider them lock losses. At home, I like our chances of rattling the Poodle (sans 3/4 of his brain trust, avec a QB coming off elbow surgery) and Phat Phil, especially since there will no doubt be a renewed emphasis on defending the home turf.
Michael - Michigan. I'm predicting a win. Charlie should be able to outwit their defensive coordinator Jim Herrman, who has driven UM fans crazy the last few years. They can't make up their mind whether they're a 3-4 or a 4-3 defense, their safeties are a huge question mark and they have to replace both starting corners. Even though it's on the road, and we'll be an underdog, I think this is a game we could win. Offensive match-ups are favorable to us, and it's going to come down to our pass rush and our back seven's ability to defend the pass.
Mike - Michigan. While their offense should be much better than last year, I don't see any improvement to the defense that we ran on last year.
Pat - Michigan. Weis should save a few tricks for Carr and Co. up in Michigan. Our new offense plus their leaky secondary and questionable defensive coaching equals possible upset in Ann Arbor.
Sean - I'm going with Tennessee. They'll be coming off a brutal SEC stretch and Weis has two weeks to prepare.
Teds - Clearly, I think it's Southern Cal. They're ripe for the taking, and ND's record following bye weeks as well as the odd things that happen when #1's come to town speak for themselves. I know that Charlie will talk about taking them one at a time, but this is the game on the schedule I suspect he has circled in his head as the one that could immediately elevate the program as well as establish his legacy.
• How about a pitfall game? (A stub-the-toe game, a shit-the-bed game). That is, a game we should win, but might blow.
Teds - BYU. It's the one right after SC, and you can't always coach away a letdown.
Sean - Depending on how emotional the SC game is, I could see us coming out very flat for BYU the following week, especially since it's sandwiched between SC and Tennessee.
Pat - Michigan State is a possibility. Crazy Legs Stanton is the big X-factor. Emotion will be sky high for Weis' first home game. Will the players lose their cool early? MSU has had our number of late and could steal another one late in the 4th quarter.
Mike - MSU. We have quite the history of shitting the bed in this series.
Michael - BYU. Even though we lost to them last year, and there is good reason to expect we'll be up for the game and ready to exact revenge, it's after the USC game...potential let-down game. Additionally, Bronco Mendenhall's 3-3-5 defense isn't easy to prepare for, and at the same time, the defense will have their hands full trying to prepare for the new Air Raid offense that Cougar offensive coordinator Robert Anae brought with him from Texas Tech. Both sets of coaches will have their hands full with gameplanning and both the players and coaches might have a rough week depending upon what happens against USC.
Mark - Pitt is a potential trap, right off the bat. No one is going to convince me that ND isnt a more talented team, but it's on the road and it's the first game of the Weis era. There are bound to be some kinks to work out.
Dylan - Pitt. We should win the line of scrimmage and minimize Palko. But we might not.
• Who's the team MVP going to be?
Dylan - Darius Walker, who will rush for 1,500 yards.
Mark - The O Line. If they live up to their potential ND is going to be able to run and pass and protect the defense. If they don't....
Michael - Brady Quinn. The quarterback is the most important player in this offense...hands down.
Mike - Quinn. About as obvious a pick as Hawk Harrelson picking Frank Thomas as his "pick to click" for 534 consecutive games in the mid-90s, but sometimes the obvious pick is the right one.
Pat - Brady Quinn. Boring pick, but if Weis' offense has any impact on this team, it's going to benefit Quinn the most. The Mighty Quinn cliches will be worn out by October as Brady works himself into a Heisman candidate for 2006. MVP - Defense - Brandon Hoyte. For all the talk about the Apache backer and the changes made to the secondary, Hoyte has sort of gotten lost in the shuffle. Not only will he lead the Irish in tackles, he will be the easy pick for defensive MVP not only for his athletic skills, but also for his leadership abilities.
Sean - Quinn is too easy a choice here. He would be my pick but to go contrarian, I'll go with Darius Walker. I think people get very caught up in the passing game with Weis' offense, but Walker has a legit chance to go over 1,200 yards this season.
Teds - Brady Quinn. If this team exceeds expectations this season, it's likely to be the offense carrying most of the load. I don't know that the lightbulb will go on quite as violently as it did for Carson Palmer in his final year, but I expect to see Quinn establish himself as one of the better QBs in the country this season.
• How about a surprise or breakout player for this season?
Teds - Rashon Powers-Neal. I think his flexibility makes him an attractive weapon to Weis and the offensive staff, and I expect him to play as big a role in the offense as anyone aside from Quinn and perhaps Walker.
Sean - Corey Mays. Talented guy finally gets his chance.
Pat - Rather than pick some freshman or sophomore, I'm going with a senior. Maurice Stovall. Many Irish fans have resigned him to Built Like Tarzan, Play Like Jane status but this is the year he guarantees himself a big NFL payday. He'll lead the team in receiving touchdowns.
Mike - Ferrine. One of the CBs has to emerge.
Michael - Corey Mays. A lot of new names on defense, but Mays will be a stalwart run-stopper in the middle.
Mark - Brian Beidatsch. He follows in the tradition of Ryan Roberts and Greg Pauly, that is, unsung guys who eventually broke out.
Dylan - My surprise player is Ndukwe, and it's not that big a surprise. I see the emergence of a bigger, badder Tom Carter.
• Finally, any general expectations for this year?
Dylan - I expect Charlie to live up to the hype. I expect the team to be disciplined and to play up to their ability, rather than down to Ty's. I will be satisfied with an 8-3 season, given that none of the three are Syracuse, Stanford, Navy, BYU, or MSU. If we beat any of the three best teams on the schedule in addition to beating the other eight, I'll be ecstatic. I'm sure Charlie's asking them, "Why not now?" That's how I feel, too.
Mark - I'd like to see a fundamentally sound football that doesnt beat itself, doesn't mail in games (BC, Syracuse, etc in 2003, Stanford and Pitt in 2004), improves over the course of the season and plays to its potential. We can be good, but there is paper thin depth. Our first 22 can play with any team in the country. Our second 22...
Michael - Even though my W/L prediction came out to 9-2, I think somehow we'll end up at 7-4 or 8-3. I just want to see an unpredictable offense which can put points on the board...I want us to be like Cal, a team which can wear teams down with a power running game and attack with a potent passing offense. I expect us, with the talent onhand, to be able to do that. On defense, I just want to see a more active secondary...we need more ballhawking from our corners and safeties. Only 5 interceptions last year from our secondary, and 1 of those was a hail mary at halftime of the Michigan State game. We have to find a way to create more turnovers on defense. I don't expect us to dominate, and I think we'll give up some yardage, but we have to force turnovers somehow. I also want to see us have a few mercy killings, so the back-ups can finally get some valuable playing time and we can rest starters.
Mike - Want to see - major improvement in the return game. It would take a lot just to bring us back to mediocre. I would like to see us be far better than mediocre. Don't want to see - injuries to Quinn, OL, or DL. Llloyd's pendulous mammaries. Keith Jackson. Bob Davie. The freshman part of the student section attempting to start the wave during critical third downs of close games. The Halls Fruit Breezers screaming fan of the game. Our coaching staff sporting the homeless Belichick look. Ushers approaching me at the games I am able to attend. Bill Kirk's roving binoculars and cameras. The crooked arm of the law while I am tailgating.
Pat - Things I don't want to see: the swinging gate on PATs, kickoffs bouncing before we pick them up, 12-men or delay of game penalties coming out of a timeout, uninspired play, playing against Stanford with bowl eligibility on the line.
Things I do want to see: our offensive line punish opposing lines and wear them down, knocking teams out in the first quarter, sticking with the run when the run is working, giving the starters the 4th quarter off in a few Irish blowout wins, special teams touchdowns, 50+ yard plays, winning a damn bowl game, opposing teams, coaches, and assorted media members wondering what the hell changed from last season's team.
I expect that win or lose, the Irish will be in every game this year. I expect players, especially the younger ones, to look better at the end of the season than they did at the beginning of the season. I expect Notre Dame to win games that people thought they wouldn't win. I expect people to realize that Notre Dame is on the fast track back to football respectibility.
Posted by Jay at 7:40 PM