Thursday, February 28, 2008

28 Days Later | by Pat

While we gather up all of the various links, reactions, and stats from the recent NFL Combine, here is some good news to tide you over. We're only 28 days away from the start of spring ball. released the spring practice dates and they are as follows:

2008 Spring Football Practice Dates

Wed. March 26
Fri. March 28
Sat. March 29
Mon. March 31
Wed. April 2
Fri. April 4 - Notre Dame Football Coaches Clinic
Sat. April 5 - Notre Dame Football Coaches Clinic
Mon. April 7
Wed. April 9
Fri. April 11
Sat. April 12
Mon. April 14
Wed. April 16
Fri. April 18
Sat. April 19 - Blue-Gold Spring Football Game
You may notice the ND Football Coaches Clinic taking place over the weekend of April 4th-5th. What is interesting about the Clinic this year is that ND has opened the doors to all fans and not just high school coaches (or crafty ND fans posing as high school coaches).
On Friday, April 4, participating coaches and fans will have an opportunity to attend the FCA luncheon as well as a hosted dinner and social hour on Friday evening. Those involved in the weekend's activities will have a tremendous experience - including interactive presentations from Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis, the Irish coaching staff as well as visiting coaches.

Chalk-talk sessions will provide attendees with an excellent opportunity to become familiar with various coaching techniques and a chance to know the coaches and other visitors. In addition to various presentations, participants will get an exclusive look at the '08 Fighting Irish team practice as well as tour the Notre Dame Stadium locker room and peruse items from local exhibitors.
Hopefully the added fan element won't disrupt the chalk talks too much, which typically focus more on strategy and technique than updates on which ND player is going to play which X and which O. Still, it's a great opportunity for the motivated Irish fan to get an upfront look at the personalities and coaching styles of the various assistants as well as the chance to watch a ND practice, armed with plenty of new football knowledge.

ND just announced that Mount Union head coach Larry Kehres and Grand Valley State head coach Chuck Martin will be speaking at the clinic in addition to keynote speaker Bill Polian of the Colts. I can't say I mind the fact that two college coaches with 11 collegiate national championships under their belt will be hanging out at ND over the weekend. For those wondering who other than Bill Belichick would be a possible Weis target for advice, I have to imagine he'll have a few chats with Kehres and Martin.

As for the Blue and Gold game, no mention yet on game time or possible honorary coaches, but info like that will likely hit the wire shortly. Feel free to put your guesses in the comment section.

Monday, February 25, 2008

There Will Be Blitzing | by Pat

We were finally officially introduced to our newest assistant coach late last week when linebackers coach Jon Tenuta sat down with the media for a quick Q&A. Tenuta was short and to the point as he offered his take on how he and Corwin will co-exist and how he will work with the ND players.

Q. How do you work together? Charlie said you're going to kind of an 'idea guy'.

COACH TENUTA: Obviously, with my experiences in where I've been and what I've done, with the packages that I have, and Corwin and his package, we just kind of melt the packages together. If something good, something's bad, whatever, and work it out and game plan together and get ready for practice. Obviously some of my ideas but most of his will go into spring ball, then we'll go from there. I've got to learn the players and what they can do first and foremost and adapt to that aspect."

Q. I believe you mentioned you ran a 4-3. Do those mesh? I know a lot of times Notre Dame uses four down linemen. Is it easy to adjust and put things into?

COACH TENUTA: If you look at my package and the fronts that I played, my ends dropped and they were like a linebacker. So I may be a 4-3 personnel guy, but I've been a 3-4 personnel guy. So the whole package meshes together, that's not a problem.

Q. Is it a fair description in terms of how you run your approach with players?

COACH TENUTA: I think sometimes I was that way. But it depends on the week, and who we were playing and how they were reacting to what we were trying to get done.

But I'm a no nonsense-type guy, discipline-type guy. I believe in the little things. I'm a big fundamentalist when it comes to football.
It's one thing to just read the words, but listening to Tenuta you can just tell that he's here to coach football and everything else is secondary. The whole video can be found on, but subway domer put up a youtube clip of highlights from Irish Illustrated. Listening to his booming, smooth as gravel voice, it's not hard to imagine our linebackers are in for a tough spring, which hopefully will translate into a tough fall for opposing offenses.

Now that he has your attention, it's a good time for us to take a look at his past and see what we can glean about MR. TAH-NOO-TAH. After playing defensive back for Virginia, Tenuta followed the usual nomadic career of a young coach until landing his big break as defensive backs then defensive coordinator at SMU. A few years later he was named the defensive backs coach for his hometown Ohio State Buckeyes. For four years he coached the Buckeye secondary before taking over in 2000 as the Ohio State defensive coordinator. In those five years, Ohio State had four first round DB draft picks (Shawn Springs, Antonie Winfield, Ahmed Plummer, Nate Clements). From OSU he went to North Carolina for a year before switching to Georgia Tech for six seasons.

And all along the way , Tenuta developed and built up a reputation as a blitz-crazy coordinator who never wants the opponent to have a minute's respite.
Q. Can you talk about your philosophy with the linebackers? At Georgia Tech you did a lot of blitzing. Do you envision that here as well?

I'm an aggressive attacking guy, so obviously, I hope and Corwin is, too. So we're going to attack and get downhill and make things happen.
But there is more to being a good defensive coach than just saying "Let's Blitz!" over and over again. How exactly does he do it?

You might think that just a blitz happy coach loves to focus in on the quarterback and let everything flow from there. You'd be wrong though as Tenuta's primary focus is the running game.
COACH TENUTA: "I think philosophically first and foremost, you have to stop the run, first and foremost. You have to stop the run or they'll run the clock on you. Now with these wide open offenses and the way people throw the ball. Philosophically we want to confuse the front five the offensive linemen and not let the quarterback set his feet. So to me, you have to be the one that dictates and don't let them dictate to you."
In Tenuta's worldview, you cripple the rushing attack first, prevent 2nd and short, and force teams to lean heavily on the pass. And that's when the fun starts.
"We have to match up to their top run plays first," Tenuta said. "Now, when you get them into second-and-long, third-and-long, you attack their protection scheme and make the quarterback uncomfortable."
The stats do bear out Tentua's focus on the running game as in the eight seasons he has been a defensive coordinator since 2000, his defenses have been in the Top 20 in rushing defense six times and never lower than 42nd his first year at Georgia Tech. Overall, his total defense rankings have been in the Top 25 six of eight years with a 27th place finish one other year. His low mark in total defense was 50th, again in his first year at Georgia Tech.

For an example of the "making the QB uncomfortable" theory at work, here is a description of one of the frequent Tech blitzes.
While offenses have bread-and-butter plays, Tech has a bread-and-butter blitz: Two linebackers come around the left side while the defensive end on the right side drops into underneath pass coverage with the remaining linebacker and strong safety; the cornerbacks bail out and backpedal deep; and the free safety stays deep in the middle of the field.

Tech is left with three deep, three under and five-man pressure.

If you have a strong stomach, you can see this particular blitz in action against Notre Dame. It's the fourth sack, about a minute into the video. Another thing to note is the wide variety of blitzes that resulted in a Notre Dame sack.

It will be interesting to see how Tenuta meshes his stop-the-run-first approach in with Corwin, as rush defense likely won't be one of ND's strong points in 2008. The tweaks and adjustments they make will be vital as the Irish DL will be inexperienced and thin next season. But when it comes to making the QB uncomfortable, the Irish do catch a break as many of the toughest teams on the schedule next year will be breaking in new quarterbacks.

Moving from other teams players to our own, his former players seem to acknowledge he is a tough coach on the practice field, at least initially.
"Probably as a freshman, you hate playing for Tenuta, [GT linebacker KaMichael] Hall said. "As you grow older and you understand what's going on, you love it."

"He's very disciplined, very no-nonsense," Hall said. "I know a lot of the guys respect that. There are no other defensive coaches like him that I know."
As for recruiting, that is still the so-called "known unknown". It was fairly well-reported that Tenuta's recruiting responsibilities were light at Georgia Tech and he was left to spend countless hours in the film room while others were out working the recruiting trail. That won't cut it at ND, especially since he is replacing one of the best recruiters on the staff. Throw in the fact that Charlie can't hit the road again during spring evaluations and it will be vital for Tenuta to get out there and convince kids that Notre Dame is the place for them.

If Tenuta still has aim on landing a head coaching position, his stint at ND will give him ample opportunity to shore up his recruiting reputation and increase his chances for a high profile coaching job in the near future. In the meantime, he can get to work turning the Irish defense into one of the more formidable units in the country.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The rest of the story... | by Pat

Yesterday we touched on the major story of the latest Charlie presser, but it was hardly the only topic of importance. He's the rundown on the other three major items of note.

First and foremost is the case of ND special teams, spared from being the worst aspect of the 2007 team by the ineffective offense.

As far as special teams go, I screwed that up last year. Brian Polian is going to be the special teams coach. He's not coaching defense. He's just coaching special teams, and I'm his assistant. So the only two people who will be coaching special teams this year will be Brian as the special teams coach, and that's his, and I'm going to be his aide because since I've been here I've been talking about how special teams, special teams, special teams.

As a matter of fact, I'm going to meet with Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech, who I think has done the best job of anyone in the country on special teams. I've already set up an appointment with him. I don't know whether or not I'm bringing Brian or not at that time, but I know one thing: I've got to figure out a better way of getting special teams righted, and I think (Beamer's) done the best job of anyone I know in college football with special teams.
A new year, a new approach to special teams. Let's just hope this is the one that finally works I guess. Having Coach Weis personally spend more time with the units is a good thing and Coach Polian finally will get to focus on special teams without any other positional responsibilities. Still, Coach Polian has been working in some aspect on special teams for all three years so a drastic makeover in one off-season might be asking a lot.

Now, ND has had some very bright spots on special teams...Zibby returning punts...Bruton and Anello on punt coverage...Landri and Laws blocking kicks...well-timed fake kicks and punts...Price and Maust punting...but overall, of the "big 5" areas (kickoff coverage, kickoff returns, punt returns, punt coverage, field goals) ND has come up short in many of them. Will a re-dedicated emphasis by the head coach and the continued upgrades in the talent levels of the younger players that typically make up many special teams units be the ticket? At the very least, ND needs to find a dependable and accurate field goal kicker. Easier said than done.

Speaking of kickers, Charlie addressed the kicker issue in a Q&A series ($) with Irish Illustrated. Irish Insights reproduced this section about kickers before getting a response from Coach Bobby Clark.
Irish Illustrated: Most people are thrilled with the (recruiting) class. But some have questions as to why you didn't go out and get another kicker.

Weis: My feeling was that there wasn't one out there that I said, 'We need to get him. After this spring is over, if we don't feel good about our answer, I'll beg the soccer coach (Bobby Clark) to give me the best he's got. It isn't like I haven't thought this through. We've got a whole bunch of kickers right here on campus. They just happen to be playing a different sport.I'm going to give our guys the spring. If that doesn't work, we're going to go poaching.

II: Does the soccer coach know that?

CW: "(Laughing) He will now."

II: Are you confident that the answer at kicker is currently on the team?

CW: "Yeah, I think so."
My guess is that Charlie is banking on Brandon Walker to work out that nasty slice on his kicks. Walker has the leg to be a good kicker for ND, but will need to iron out whatever technique or mental roadblocks tripped him up last year on longer kicks. (5-5 inside of 30 yards, 1-7 on longer kicks with two being blocked)

Bobby Clark had a few good lines about loaning a soccer player to the Irish football team.
"If there is something that would work, maybe it could work," Clark said. "But it could be very difficult. It could be easy if it was different seasons."...

And, as Clark, who is one of the more humorous coaches on Notre Dame's campus, quipped: "I don't know if any of our guys can kick a football. I don't know if they can kick a soccer ball sometimes."
The second major issue that Charlie addressed was the hiring of Jon Tenuta and his confidence level that Jon will integrate seamlessly into the coaching staff.
So you knew from afar what you were getting, but I think that more importantly, he understood right from the beginning, I said, here's the way it's going to be, here's what I'm looking for. It was really important -- we spent an entire week, Corwin, Jon and I, round robin conversations for an entire week. This wasn't like it happened in a day. We spent a week's worth of conversations going on to make sure that we could blend this, before he understood what the offer was going to be, and then it was can we all three of us mutually coexist. I think that we came up with a ringing "yes" when it was all said and done. So everyone knew how the dynamics were going to work.
I was never really worried about how Tenuta and Brown will get along, but it's great to hear that they spent a week checking and double-checking just to make sure that this thing will work out for everyone's benefit. Honestly, I am really excited to see how this plays out this spring and into the fall. Those who claim that Tenuta was this year's top recruit just might be right. Charlie confimed that Tenuta will be coaching the linebackers and I can't wait to see what he is able to do with the young talent ND has at linebacker. Tenuta is scheduled to have a press conference on Thursday, so we'll have more direct quotes from ND's newest coach shortly.

The last of the major issues that Charlie mentioned has to do with head coach recruiting.

The American Football Coaches Association apparently has decided that head coaches can not go on the road and recruit during the spring evaluation period immediately following spring ball. We could make a cheap joke about the timing of this rule that limits a head coach's recruiting responsibilities and the recent appointment of Ty Willingham as AFCA president...and it looks like I just did. Seriously though, this will definitely have a negative impact on ND.

Charlie was one of the very first coaches to spend the entire month of spring evaluation on the road. The normal routine for spring evaluation was that assistant coaches would spread out and canvas the local region, hitting up the traditional high school powerhouses as well as those out of the way towns with the star junior player. When Charlie started his month long trek, coaches like Pete Carroll had started to make more personal spring visits, but it was still not a widespread practice. Carroll soon upped his travel miles as did other recruiting-oriented coaches like Urban Meyer and Ron Zook. Others have started to follow suit, but the new AFCA ruling has put a stop to all of that for now, freeing up coaches for more golf and the rubber chicken circuit. Charlie's new plans don't include golf, but they do include more interaction with ND alumni clubs.
Now, this time allotment now, after the spring game until right before Memorial Day, that month or so, that month of change, it will allow me to do a few things. Obviously the number one thing is spend more time with our own players. That's the one thing it'll do. Obviously my wife and kids, I'll get to see them a little bit more, especially when my kid is playing baseball. I'll get to see him play a little bit more than I have in the past.

But the other thing that I haven't been able to do since I've been here -- when I got here, we came and made a statement that every year we'd go to the Rockne dinner, and because of the amount of time I was going to spend recruiting, that was going to be it for alumni associations or Notre Dame clubs.

But now I've got this month of time, so I met with (Notre Dame Alumni Association executive director) Chuck Lennon a week or two ago, I went over to his office and I sat down and I told him I was going to give him some time during this time, and we went over a game plan.

Each year the Alumni Association awards different clubs at different levels for what they've done, production, whatever. I'm not exactly sure, but there's anywhere from eight to 10 award winners. This year there happened to be 11. So what I'm going to do is during that time frame where I would have been on the road recruiting, I'm going to go meet or go visit with all 11 of those associations to kind of pay them back for being award winners. Chuck is going to notify them all today. He's all jacked up now. He's pumped, as you can imagine Chuck; he isn't a guy who lacks for adrenaline to start off with.
Having more time for the players is a good thing and it never hurts a coach's popularity to make a few alumni club appearances. Still, as a team that requires a national recruiting approach moreso than a reliance on local talent, ND will be affected by this new rule more than most. The good news is that Corwin Brown proved to be an excellent recruiter over the past year and no doubt will be hitting the pavement all month in an effort to get the ND name out to as many recruits and high school coaches as possible.

One last item as mentioned by Charlie involves the futures of two current football players. Bartley Webb and Darrell Hand are indeed done with football for good for medical reasons. Both are expected to stay in school and Webb will stick around the football office as a student assistant. That puts ND's available scholarships for the 2009 recruiting class around 15 before factoring in additional scholarships gained via attrition or 5th year players not coming back. In all likelihood ND will probably take 17-20 players in the next recruiting class baring any major unforeseen changes.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Nobody's Fault But My Own | by Pat

As the losses started to mount this past year, a number of fans starting calling for Charlie to fire an assistant coach or two, and for someone to take the blame for the unfathomably bad 2007 season. However, at his latest presser, Charlie Weis did the unexpected, and in essence, fired himself.

Now, on the offensive staff, one of the things that I've done, and you guys know that I've spent a lot of time here since the season's end to change some things around here. Well, I'm going to try to cut the proverbial -- the figurative -- umbilical cord and try to move myself a little bit away from being the sole primary guy on the offensive staff. So in the springtime we'll start off with the offensive staff running the offense. That means (offensive coordinator) Mike (Haywood) will write the scripts and set it up on offense, and that means that all the offensive coaches now won't have to worry about the ever presence of the head coach breathing down their neck all the time.
The decision to hand over play-calling is a surprising one, one that Charlie explained in further detail to Dennis Dodd.
"My question is, 'Was I the head coach or was I the offensive coordinator?' Which one was I? My answer is I was probably too high a percentage offensive coordinator and not a higher percentage enough a head coach. I'm flipping those percentages."
When everyone was looking for a scapegoat, Charlie spared his coaching staff and made himself the one to blame. An honorable decision, yes, and certainly a turning point in the Charlie Weis Era. But will it prove to be a good one? Plenty of good can come out of this decision, much of it hinging on Coach Haywood and his adeptness at taking over playcalling. Accountability for Haywood -- and all the assistant coaches -- just went up several notches, with Charlie roaming around. Not to mention, it will make ND a more attractive destination to future offensive coordinators who know they will do more than just hold a copy of Charlie's laminated play sheet (Haywood, for instance, gets to list offensive coordinator on his resume and really mean it this time.) Charlie summed it up thusly:
I think that sometimes when you have a number of good coaches, sometimes they get stymied or stifled a little bit when you have a very domineering presence when the head coach is also involved in the offense. They know that I reserve the right to change some things, they know that I can interject things, but at the same time I want to give them an opportunity to do it, so that's what I'm going to do.
But even more than that, by stepping back Coach Weis can finally become the supervisor of the program instead of just a glorified unit coordinator. And according to Charlie, his first step is re-connecting with the players and becoming more approachable.
So therefore as I look at it, we're going to be playing those kids, and a lot of those freshmen and sophomores that you played last year are really only in the program for the second or third year, might have only played for one year. And I just felt that too many times when a guy makes a mistake, the only thing they're concerned about is getting yelled at, versus when you make a mistake, being concerned about letting your team down.

So I'd like to move in the direction that if a guy made a mistake he was more concerned that he was letting his teammates down than worrying about the fear of is Weis going to yell at me. The fear of a kid, the younger guys, too many times they play with that mentality. So what do you do? You get it so that they know you better so if you yell at them they know that it's not personal.
Despite the new approach, Charlie's innate personality probably won't let him magically transform into a "player's buddy" type of coach. He's still gruff; he's still Jersey. But it is good to see him acknowledge that toning down the "I'm not your friend, I'm your coach" mentality was a needed step.

Charlie's decision is hardly a unique one. Two other notable examples of play-calling coaches who took a step back and handed over the OC duties are Georgia's Mark Richt and Cal's Jeff Tedford (both linked pieces are worth a read). But what strikes me is just how big of a change this was for Charlie, personally. He had to eat a lot of crow, and acknowledge that much of his early bluster about Xs and Os and "schematic advantages" didn't amount to a hill of beans last year. The biggest worry was that Charlie would stick with the status quo, and given his healthy ego, that wouldn't have been a surprise. Giving up playcalling, as he said, is probably the hardest thing he's had to do in his football career. Scheming and strategizing was obviously what he loved most.

But I think with these moves, he's overwhelmingly shown that he's not afraid of critical self-analysis, and not afraid of switching things up when they're not working. Let's just hope this last play call is the correct one, and turns out to be the kick in the pants the program needs right now.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Signing Day postscript | by Pat

Before we close the 2008 recruiting books completely, here's a collection of quotes, anecdotes, and the ever popular BGS recruiting roundtable.

Quotables. First off, let's start with one of the best quotes of the entire recruiting process. Here we have Braxston Cave, talking about Urban Meyer's attempt to recruit him.

"(He) had me talk to his wife, so that was kind of interesting," Cave said.

The context of the conversation didn't exactly wow Cave.

"Basically, the weather and how they were on the boat and all this stupid crap," Cave said.
That's the kind of attitude you want in a center.

Runner-up is probably Dayne Crist on competition.
"Going to a school where I'm not going to be pushed and everyone's saying, 'Yeah, you're going to start right away,' you're not going to get any better," Crist said. "You're going to fit where you're at and just kind of ride it out. I want to be pushed. I want to be a better player altogether.
No Country for Omar. For the sake of posterity, here's the finale to the Omar Hunter saga. The defensive lineman heard rumors that his future position coach, the one that had been recruiting him all along, and the one that ultimately enticed him to decommit from ND, might be on the move. Meyer and Mattison assured Omar that Mattison wasn't going anywhere ("I got a voice mail left to me last night by a coach that was recruiting me that coach Mattison was leaving Florida to go to Baltimore," said Hunter. "They told my coach the same thing. That's how things got started. That got to me a little bit, but I found out that wasn't going to happen.") Hunter, apparently placated, faxed in his Letter of Intent. The very next day it was reported that Mattison was likely gone and before he even officially announced he was gone, Florida had already hired his replacement. Meanwhile, two other open assistant spots are still unfilled.

You have to chuckle, and not out of sour grapes over losing Omar. I find Mattison flying the coop a bit funny, given Hunter's excuse back when he decommited from ND. After rumors of him keeping his switch to the Gators quiet, Hunter went public by saying that he was "not really sure about the coaching staff there [at ND]."

Hard Knox, and other ones that got away. A handful of guys were mentioned down the stretch as possibly signing with ND, but ended up going elsewhere. Los Angeles running back Milton Knox stuck with the UCLA Bruins over ND. This was the only actual decision on Signing Day and while he was leaning towards the Irish initially, his family convinced him to stay and play for the hometown Bruins. ND's been in the winning side of the parental involvement issue plenty of times so we can't complain too much. Besides, it's rarely a bad decision to stick around and play for the local team, especially when it's a quality university like UCLA.

A quick rundown of slightly earlier decisions include Florida defensive end Keith Wells selecting Ohio State, offensive lineman Kenneth Page picking Clemson (and saving you from reading any bad 30 Rock jokes from me), and running back Cyrus Gray winding up with Texas A&M.

Finally, defensive tackle Mike Martin decided to stick with his original pledge to Michigan and will be a Wolverine. Good luck to a great kid. That put the final tally of head-to-head recruiting wins this year against Michigan at a whopping 16-3 in ND's favor. (Going forward, the Irish and Wolverines might not go after so many of the same offensive players given the different styles of each program's offense. We shall see.)

Once again we all huddled into the BGS Lounge for a stirring debate about the merits of this latest recruiting class.

Biggest Get?

Brian: Michael Floyd. After the Arrelious Benn fiasco last year, the Irish needed a bona fide "can't miss" prospect at wide receiver. With no disrespect to the other receivers in this class, which is arguably the finest receiver haul in school history, it was lacking such a prospect until Floyd came along. Just as importantly, he committed to ND soon after witnessing our depantsing at the hands of Southern Cal, and it's hard to overstate the importance of such a coveted player committing at a time when many pundits speculated that we could begin to see defections.

Pete: Ethan Johnson. No Weis team to date has been able to muster a respectable pass rush, but with the snagging of Johnson, along with a couple other stocky brutes along the D-Line, hopefully that will change in the coming years. Also, the departure of Laws, the issues with Kuntz, and the injury to Hand basically means these guys are coming in in high demand.

Michael: Dayne Crist. The QB is the most important cog in the Weis offense. Always has been. Always will. The other pieces are important, but the QB's mastery of the offense will play a large role in determining future success.

Mark: Ethan Johnson. There'd be swingin', swayin', records playin', and dancin' in the streets if this kid committed yesterday. But he didn't - he committed last June. He's easily the most highly touted defensive recruit to sign with ND since Abiamiri. He was USC's #1 defensive recruit on the West Coast. He plays a position of (significant) need for ND.

Pat: Trevor Robinson. Crist or Floyd are both great choices, but I think having an ass-kicker on the offensive line that makes it easier for them to do their jobs is the biggest get in this class. I expect Trevor to play early and often at ND and leave with a handful of team and national honors.

Mike: Ethan Johnson. Johnson has the potential to excel as a run-stopper and as a pass rusher. On paper, he's the perfect 3-4 defensive end.

Teds: There are prospects like Floyd, Johnson and Rudolph who are uncommonly talented and stand to pay big early dividends because ND hasn't recruited players like this for some time, but in retrospect, I think the biggest pickup may have been Dayne Crist. If 2007 taught Irish fans anything, it's that the Charlie Weis offense is a pale imitation of itself when you don't have stability at quarterback. Given that, landing Crist -- quite probably the best traditional QB prospect in the entire class -- on top of Clausen a year ago should provide ND quality of depth at that position for the first time in a number of years and sets the team up for a smooth succession plan a couple seasons down the road. Furthermore, Crist has already shown a glimpse of great natural leadership skills in the way he has taken charge of holding this recruiting class together from the inside in spite of an awful season that could have easily led to a number of defections. Though it may have seemed like gluttony at the time he committed, I suspect that ND fans will someday view his addition to the program as every bit as meaningful as that of Clausen.

Biggest Miss (not named Omar Hunter)

Teds: You know it's been a successful recruiting campaign when you can mull this question over without a half-dozen names popping into your head all at once. Honestly, it's unchartered territory for me as an Irish fan, and I've been following this stuff for well over a decade now. In something of a tossup between Sabino and Cyrus Gray, I'll give the nod to Etienne Sabino because the linebacking corps looked awful rough around the edges last year and seems to be a unit where a talented newcomer could really make some headway.

Dylan: Kenny George. Weis totally dropped the ball here, as we have absolutely no players over seven-and-a-half feet tall. Just one more hole in the depth chart left unadressed...

Mike: Etienne Sabino. He loved Corwin Brown, and Brown loved his potential. Sabino was excited enough about Notre Dame to take a visit on his own dime in July. Unfortunately, Sabino found South Bend sufficiently un-exciting to cross Notre Dame off his list.

Brian: LB Etienne Sabino, who ended up at Ohio State. Five-star middle linebackers don't go on trees, but basically, I'm upset about this because I think Sabino is a bad-ass name for a defensive stud to have. He could have been a latter-day Michael Stonebreaker. Perhaps we never had a chance to keep him from going to Columbus, though, since the name Etienne is from the French for "Lover of Finely-Knit Vests".

Pat: I hate to break up the Sabino party, but I'm going with offensive tackle Matt Patchan. I have high hopes for Lane Clelland (and Matt Romine for that matter), but an athletic left tackle is worth his weight in gold. Patchan has the makings of a great player and would have made ND's future left tackle depth extremely reassuring.

Pete: I'd have to go with an amalgam of Knox, Cyrus Gray, Ryan Williams, and Carlton Thomas. Not to take anything away from Knox, but RB seems to be the area that Weis' staff had the most "misses." Of course, having three talented RBs in the first two classes may have had an impact, but I think it's still ideal to get 2 RBs a class.

Class Sleeper?

Brian: Braxston Cave. Not only is he already one of the emotional leaders of this class (and how often can you say such a thing about a class before it even gets to campus?), but with the eyes of a bloodthirsty alumni base watching him in ESPN's Play In Our Game Or We Will Break You All-Star Freakout, Cave more than held his own against that scurrilous turncoat Omar Hunter. Plus, as with Sabino, the name "Braxston Cave" is just flippin' sweet. It joins "Golden Tate" as potential names for the villain in the next Rocky movie.

Michael: Lane Clelland. The "What have you done or me lately?" crowd was way down on him during/after the recruiting all-star games, but he was tabbed to play LT by the staff. Their evaluation couldn't have been that horribly askew.

Teds: Hafis Williams. His ratings were underwhelming in large part because his coach made tape of him harder to find than that of a boozy ESPN bimbo telling the son of God to, well, you know. But some rival coaches in the area regard Williams as the best defensive lineman the state of New Jersey has produced in a number of years. Brand me as irrationally exuberant if you wish, but it's not beyond the realm of possibility that Williams might someday make Irish fans forget the name Omar Hunter.

Mike: I think a lot of people are discounting Lane Clelland in light of reports that he was overpowered in San Antonio. However, the AA Bowl was during Clelland's wrestling season, and the need to make weight had him playing way below the weight he will play at in college. Still, I don't know if you can really call an AA Bowl participant a sleeper. Instead, my pick is Hafis Williams. Williams was an early offer who the coaching staff had rated above several highly decorated DL recruits. If their evaluation is accurate, Williams should be a big contributor.

Mark: Hafis Williams. I'm a Jersey guy, what do you expect? Seriously though, coaches in North Jersey who faced both Trattou and Williams over the last couple of years are of the opinion that Williams is the better DL.

Pat: Anthony McDonald. I think McDonald was overshadowed a bit in this class by his own high school teammate, Dayne Crist, and fellow linebacker recruits Darius Fleming and Steve Filer. He strikes me as the kind of player that won't get quite the fanfare of his classmates, but before you know it is leading the team in tackles. Hopefully my poor track record at guessing the class sleeper doesn't doom McDonald.

Parting Thoughts.

Mike: Never believe a self-proclaimed recruiting guru whose first name is "Tom" and last name is a small rodent.

Teds: What strikes me most about this class isn't the star power and the quality from top to bottom, but rather the astonishing precision with which the Irish staff executed its plan for recruiting during this campaign. ND offered fewer than 70 recruits this past year and landed exactly one-third of them. Nearly 70 percent of the prospects who officially visited campus this year ended up signing with the Irish. Four of the first five players they offered in this class committed to ND. As a matter of fact, you can go down the list of scholarship offers chronologically and find that the Irish were picking these prospects off at a rate of nearly 50% well into the 40's. To operate with that sort of efficiency in a business where the most talented targets have myriad options and it's not "win or lose" but rather "win or lose...or lose...or lose..." is all but unheard of. Our recruits' laundry lists of "other schools" comprises major national powers ten times over.

And to manage this feat in spite of concurrently suffering through a 3-9 season is doubly remarkable. For our staff to walk that minefield and come out on the other side with only one casualty stands as one of the impressive feats in the recruiting business over the past 20 years. And it is a credit not only to the dedication of Charlie Weis and his assistants but also to the kids themselves, who surely withstood a veritable mountain of propositions, barbs and criticism from rival coaches, friends, and perfect strangers yet stood strong by the school they pledged with. For any Irish fan who has been dismayed in recent years with a perceived lack of enthusiasm and commitment on the field of play, this group joining the team in the fall is already battle-tested and gives every indication of restoring that sense of pride in Notre Dame football.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Last Minute Addition | by Pat

Before we move on from the recruiting Class of 2008, here's a look at the 23rd and final recruit to pick the Irish; Texas defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore.

His recruitment as Signing Day approached, KLM's went back and forth a few times between Texas A&M and Notre Dame before he ultimately chose the Irish.

“Basically, what changed my mind was I talked to my mom about the possibilities after college, and I’m not saying A&M is a bad college, but I feel like at Notre Dame, I can succeed a little more, that’s no disrespect to A&M at all,” Lewis-Moore said. has the whole story of the last minute flip-flop, but the basics are that he went from being an A&M commit to taking a late January trip to ND to recommitting to A&M to switching once more for the Irish.

At 6'4" 230 pounds, Lewis-Moore was recruited as a defensive end/outside linebacker. His initial roster listing at ND is at defensive end so he's probably getting plenty of advice on how many protein shakes to put down each day. Other than the Irish and Aggies, KLM also picked up offers from Texas, Michigan, Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas Tech, and others. The 2nd team All-District honoree was listed as a 4-star recruit on and the 13th strongside defensive end while had him listed as a 3-star recruit and the 32nd best defensive end. ESPN listed him as the 19th best defensive end. Kapron also plays basketball where he averages a double-double and puts the shot for the Weatherford track team.

As the fifth defensive end in the current recruiting class, KLM fits a different mold than the other four. In a standard 4-3 defense, Brandon Newman, Hafis Williams, Sean Cwynar and Ethan Johnson would all likely be slotted as defensive tackles. KLM however, would still play the defensive end role. Coming in with a tall, skinny frame like Justin Tuck and Kallen Wade once did, KLM will probably need a bit of time to add weight and strength. However, as his highlights on show, he has the potential to grow into a quality edge rusher for the Irish.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Yeatman yanked | by Pat

Caught up in the good news of Signing Day was the disappointing news of tight end Will Yeatman's recent arrest.

St. Joseph County prosecutors charged Yeatman with a Class A misdemeanor of criminal recklessness and a Class C misdemeanor of operating a vehicle with a blood-alcohol level above .08.

According to the charges, the criminal recklessness misdemeanor stems from Yeatman "driving a car on a pedestrian sidewalk on the campus of Notre Dame." According to the probable-cause affidavit, Yeatman had a blood-alcohol level of .11 at the time of his arrest.
Yeatman has been suspended by ND from both lacrosse and football for the spring semester, which is a big blow to the lacrosse team. Yeatman was a potential All-American this season as a sophomore. The immediate impact to the football team is a bit more muted. Yeatman is in line to take over the #1 TE duties from John Carlson, but his lacrosse responsibilities would have limited his appearance at spring practice anyway. Last year he missed half of the spring practices.

In the meantime, ND is left with only one scholarship tight end for spring practice. Mike Ragone is going to get plenty of reps but ND will have to dip into the walk-on ranks when practicing two tight end sets. That is, unless someone like Luke Schmidt gets cross-trained at TE in a H-back type of role.

Charlie Weis did not say if he expected Yeatman to be back in time for the season in the fall. When Rashon Powers-Neal was pulled over for a DUI in the fall of 2005, he was suspended from the team for the entire semester. If Yeatman's punishment is similar, then he will likely be back in time for the 2008 season.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Crossing the Finish Line | by Pat

"After the record that we had, as disappointed as everyone was and obviously me at the head of the pack, I think our program needed this boost. This is a significant boost."

-Charlie Weis, 2-6-08

Charlie's third full recruiting class is in the books and it's his best effort yet. 23 recruits officially became members of the Notre Dame family yesterday after what was an extremely impressive recruiting performance by the entire football staff. Without further ado, let's get down to the nitty gritty.

• The Official Notre Dame Signing Day Press Release
• Charlie Weis's Signing Day Press Conference (Transcript /Video)
• 2008 Recruits Bio and Highlight videos
• Offical Signing Day show video
• Inside Signing Day video
• The South Bend Tribune - 2008 ND Recruits

As always, the press conference transcript is a must read. This year has some extra video options including new highlight video footage of all the recruits and the Inside Signing Day video which provides a behind the scenes look at the ND 'war room' on signing day. For all those who wonder what it's like for the coaches on Signing Day, you can now watch the faxes roll in and the coaches on the phone congratulating the recruits. Those who can't access the videos via the streaming link can download them through iTunes, although the behind the scenes video doesn't appear to be available there now.

Rank 'Em

Watching the coaches call the recruits, it's clear they are all very excited about the incoming group. And for good reason if you consider the final rankings of the class by the four major rankings sites.
2nd - Rivals
2nd - Scout
2nd - CSTV
9th - ESPN
Only ESPN prevented a clear sweep of the #2 spot (Alabama was the #1 pick by all except for ESPN's choice, Miami). All in all, one of the best recruiting hauls in a long time.

What we said

Going back through the past 12 months, here's what we said about each recruit when they publicly committed. We don't have one for Kapron Lewis-Moore yet, but that's coming shortly and the link will be updated when we post it.

QB - Dayne Crist, Nate Montana (invited walk-on)
RB - Jonas Gray
WR - Michael Floyd, John Goodman, Deion Walker
TE - Kyle Rudolph, Joseph Fauria
OL - Braxston Cave, Lane Clelland, Mike Golic, Jr., Trevor Robinson

DL - Ethan Johnson, Sean Cwynar, Brandon Newman, Hafis Williams, Kapron Lewis-Moore
LB - Steven Filer, Darius Fleming, David Posluszny, Anthony McDonald
CB - Robert Blanton, Jamoris Slaughter
S - Dan McCarthy

Bloodlines. We started to note this as the recruits began picking ND, but it bears repeating. The football bloodlines in this class are impressive. To wit:
Mike Golic, Jr. - father Mike and uncle Bob were stars at Notre Dame
Dan Posluszny - older brother Paul starred at Penn State and currently is a Buffalo Bill
Anthony McDonald - father Mike played for Southern Cal and the L.A. Rams
Lane Clelland - older brother Lance was an offensive lineman at Northwestern
Joseph Fauria - uncle Christian starred at Colorado and in the NFL.
Dan McCarthy - older brother Kyle is currently a safety with the Fighting Irish
Nate Montana - father played football at Notre Dame. Not sure what happened after that.
Braxston Cave - named after former Irish running back Braxston Banks
Deion Walker - named after Primetime Deion Sanders
Ok, so the last two are a bit of a reach. Still, lots of football talent flowing in the families of the current latest Irish recruits.

Two out of Three. According to Coach Ianello, Notre Dame extended 66 official scholarships offers. Of those 66, 33 made a trip to campus to check things out. In what is a very impressive hit rate, 23 of the 33 players that visited campus wound up faxing in their letter of intent. We don't have the numbers from prior years on hand, but it's unlikely they are much better.

Can he kick it? One position of interest and concern that wasn't addressed in this current class was kicker. Or was it? At 280 pounds, defensive end Sean Cwynar took over kicking duties for his high school team when their starting kicker went down with an injury. Cwynar took kickoffs, extra points, and even nailed a 33 yard field goal in the state semifinals.

Double Dip. Some recruiting fans like to use a windowing function when looking at recruiting classes and look at two-year totals. It helps to see how each classes compliment each other and helps to identify possible areas of need for the following class. Here's the breakdown of what ND has brought in in the past two classes.
QB - 2
RB - 3
WR - 5
TE - 3
OL - 7
DL - 7
LB - 8
CB - 3
S - 2
K - 1
O Captain, My Captain. If you're looking to get really ahead of yourself and predict future team captains from this class, Dayne Crist, Braxston Cave, and Jonas Gray certainly have a great shot based on the way Coach Weis lauded their leadership in keeping the current recruiting class a close knit group. Then again, Robert Blanton and Michael Floyd have already spent some time as NFL team captains....kinda. Blanton was named a Carolina Panthers Community Captain, which included on-field recognition at a home game, for his work with the local community. Floyd served as an honorary captain for the Vikings for their Monday night matchup with the Bears as a reward for being Minnesota's Mr. Football.

Your Honors. I'm just cribbing this straight from the press release because they did all the hard work for me. Here's the collected honors, awards, and Top 100 lists assorted acheivements of the Notre Dame class of 2012.
* Four members of the Parade prep All-America team - quarterback Dayne Crist, linebacker Steve Filer, wide receiver Michael Floyd and running back Jonas Gray.
* Five players who received All-America accolades from USA Today - first-team selections Robinson, Floyd and tight end Kyle Rudolph, plus second-team picks Filer and defensive back Dan McCarthy.
* Eleven players rated among the top 100 nationally by CSTV and Tom Lemming - Crist (eighth), Floyd (13th), Rudolph (19th), linebacker Darius Fleming (31st), Filer (35th), defensive lineman Ethan Johnson (51st), Robinson (64th), wide receiver Deion Walker (76th), Cwynar (86th), defensive back Robert Blanton (90th) and offensive lineman Lane Clelland (99th).
* Seven players rated among the top 100 nationally by - Rudolph (20th), Crist (25th), Floyd (27th), Johnson (32nd), Robinson (37th), Gray (72nd) and Fleming (89th).
* Seven players rated among the top 100 nationally by - Floyd (16th), Rudolph (21st), Crist (45th), Johnson (49th), Fleming (56th), Walker (58th) and Filer (72nd).
* Seven players rated among the top 100 nationally by Sports Illustrated/ - Walker (22nd), Rudolph (23rd), Filer (24th), Johnson (26th), Floyd (28th), Crist (45th) and linebacker Anthony McDonald (68th).
* Ten players rated among the top 150 nationally on the ESPN 150 list - Crist (22nd), Floyd (29th), Johnson (82nd), defensive back Jamoris Slaughter (86th), Gray (89th), Fleming (94th), Walker (103rd), Rudolph (105th), Filer (115th) and offensive lineman Braxston Cave (125th).
* Eight players named to the EA Sports All-American Team - Filer and Floyd (both first-team picks), Robinson (second team), Crist, Goodman, Gray, McCarthy and Rudolph (all third-team selections).
* Fifteen players selected for the U.S. Army All-America Bowl in San Antonio last month -defensive back Robert Blanton, Clelland, Crist, Cwynar, Filer, Fleming, Floyd, offensive lineman Mike Golic, wide receiver John Goodman, Gray, Johnson, McDonald, defensive lineman Brandon Newman, Robinson and Rudolph.
* Three players selected for the Under Armour All-America Game in Orlando last month - Cave, Slaughter and Walker.
* Seven players named to Detroit Free Press Best in the Midwest team - Rudolph (second), Floyd (third), Filer (seventh), Gray (13th), Fleming (17th), Cwynar (18th) and Goodman (20th).
* Three players named Gatorade Player of the Year in thier home states - Filer (Illinois), Floyd (Minnesota), McCarthy (Ohio).

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

I'm So Excited...I'm So Scared! | by Pat

Tomorrow is National Signing Day, the culmination of months of hard work, anxiety, celebrations, and disappointments. It was also a trying time for the coaches and recruits involved.

Whether you are the type of fan who doesn't pay much attention until the names are signed on the dotted line or the guy that is calling in "sick" in order to devote your fullest attention, the steady stream of good and bad news definitely makes for one of the most noteworthy days of the college football year.

ND is currently poised to have one of the very top classes in the nation, but after last year's Signing Day bloodbath, it appears no one is taking anything for granted. Servers will groan as Irish fans hit refresh constantly on their favorite recruiting site, hoping for those so-sweet magical words "All faxes have been received".

Helping to feed the addiction, has ramped up their coverage of Signing Day.

The big ticket item will once again be the Charlie Weis press conference, starting at high noon.

Immediately following the presser is what I think is a first for Notre Dame. There will be a 90 minute Signing Day show featuring a few of ND's coaches. Use the same link as above to get the show.

[Reggie] Brooks and [Mirko] Jurkovic will be joined by Notre Dame Recruiting Coordinator and Wide Receivers Coach Rob Ianello at the top of the show, followed by a player-by-player breakdown of the Irish signees, including exclusive video footage. Irish head coach Charlie Weis will also stop by the show to chat about the incoming class of 2012.
Some might consider this all a bit much, but such is the current state of recruiting. Many schools have big donor/alumni parties in order to herald in the latest class of program saviors, but ND has normally shied away from such activities. Having an online post-game show of sorts is a nice middle ground to acknowledge the immense fan interest without going overboard.

One of the tidbits in the press release that caught our eye was the inclusion of fan submitted emails.
Send a question or comment for Reggie Brooks, Mirko Jurkovic, Coach Ianello or Coach Weis to Your question could be selected to be answered on the show live.
At this point, we'd invite ND fans to think of some intelligent (or not) questions and fire them off. Given the disparity between ND's success in recruiting and lack thereof on the field, I'm sure there are countless questions we'd all love to hear answered.

Here are a few we'd ask of Ianello and Weis just to get things started.

1. What the hell happened with Omar Hunter?

I realize the likelihood of getting a straight answer out of this is about as likely as Charlie personally granting team BGS an all-access practice pass, but someone's got to ask it.

2. How did you change your approach to recruiting this year as compared to the last two years?

This one will probably be covered by the media during the presser, but still is an interesting topic of discussion. After the late defection by Justin Trattou and last minute defections by Greg and Chris Little, surely something was changed in the way ND communicated with the recruits and encouraged recruit to recruit communication. What was it?

3. Was it a conscious plan to lock up the bulk of the class before the season began?

This follows along with the second question, but it might be interesting to hear more about how they went about landing so many early public commits this year. 18 of the currently 22 publicly committed players pulled the trigger before the end of July.

Which recruit that signed with Notre Dame was the hardest to convince?

Rather than more platitudes about the recruits that have always loved ND, it might be fun to hear about which ones were a real struggle to sign.

5. Just how many people involved in recruiting are tasked with tracking the various rumors and new stories on the multitude of recruiting sites? What are your thoughts on the and's of the world?

It would be interesting to hear what Ianello and Charlie think about the role the bigger recruiting sites have in the process of recruiting. Some coaches hate them. Others embrace them. Where does ND stand?

This is just a start. Topics like interaction with rival coaches on the road, the increase of negative recruiting, how to deal with recruiting when the team is 3-9, etc... are all good fodder for questiosn. So feel free to add your own question in the comment section (using the email link above to actually send them to ND as well is ideal). It's not likely that most of these will be answered, but there's no harm in asking. I suspect a few intelligent and well-crafted questions will pop up on the show.

By the way, for those who really, really like National Signing Day, Mike Golic, Jr. will be signing and faxing his letter of intent on the Mike and Mike show around 7am. You can tune into ESPNRadio or watch it all go down on ESPN2. I guess he has an in with one of the people on the show or something.

Monday, February 04, 2008

SkyWriting: Coming and Going | by Pat

• While we have focused on the NFL prospects of Zibby, Laws, Carlson, and Sully, they aren't the only ND players getting ready for the draft. Joe Brockington was the subject of an article in the Lebanon Daily News as he is working hard with speed coaches in anticipation of the upcoming NFL Draft.

With the help of personal trainer Joe DeFranco, who’s worked with NFL players like New York Giants offensive lineman David Diehl and Dallas Cowboys fullback Deon Anderson, and former Olympic sprinter Butch Reynolds, Brockington is putting in the time necessary to improve his speed.

But he also admits it’s a bit annoying to know his football future hinges on something other than his on-field performance. “I think it’s pretty frustrating,” said Brockington, “because you’ll have guys who can run, but can’t play worth a lick (rated ahead of him). But I’m not too worried about it. I just want to get out there and prove to people I can play.”

As of now, Brockington hasn't been invited to the NFL Combine (Zibby, Laws, Sully, and Carlson are the only four invited so far) so he will have to impress at one of the ND Pro Days. The rest of the article talks about Brockington's journey to ND as a Ty Willingham recruit through his role as a senior starter under Charlie Weis. The most interesting part of the article was near the end.

In addition, if the NFL doesn’t come calling in April, Brockington has a standing invitation to intern in Notre Dame’s athletic department and begin a career in sports management.
Hopefully Joe will get his shot to prove he can play, but if not, it would be great to have him back at ND.

• Now, while Brockington might be back, senior Leo Ferrine has officially moved on.
Leo Ferrine, a cornerback who played in 28 football games for Notre Dame with two starts the last three years, expects to use his final season of eligibility at the University of Delaware, his father said Sunday.
At Delaware, Ferrine will be join up with former ND defensive end Ronald Talley. Ferrine's classmate Anthony Vernaglia also appears to be looking for a school where he is eligible to play right away.
Starting linebacker Anthony Vernaglia was offered the chance to come back for a 5th year, but he declined that offer.

Vernaglia will graduate in May and transfer to a 1AA school to play football next year and pursue his masters.
• Also moving on to a new University is one of Notre Dame's strength and conditioning coaches.
Michael Joseph now is West Virginia University’s new director of strength and conditioning.

...At Notre Dame, Joseph worked with the head strength coach with football, assisting with workouts, testing, conditioning, speed and agility training in-season and off-season. He also had the same responsibilities in baseball, volleyball and softball.

In addition, his duties included supervision and maintenance of the facility and equipment and scheduling of all student-athletes for the school’s 27 sports.
WVU was very glowing in their praise of Joseph. Hopefully ND will be able to fill his shoes with another quality coach.

Tuck Rule(s) | by Pat

While the entire Giants defense played outstanding in the 17-14 upset over the Patriots in last night's Super Bowl, Justin Tuck turned himself from situational pass rusher into a bonafide Super Bowl star. Congrats to Justin and Jerome Collins for becoming the 35th and 36th former Irish player to earn a Super Bowl title. Congrats to Marcus Freeman to for his work on the Giants practice squad.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Super Sunday | by Pat

If you don't already have a rooting interest in today's big game, there is always the tried and true method of picking the team with the most Notre Dame players.

In that case, prepare to root for the New York Giants, who feature several Irish players. Justin Tuck has emerged as a key defenseman for the Giants along the line. Jerome Collins was also brought on as a tight end during the year and Marcus Freeman is currently a member of the practice squad. On the Patriots side, the lone Domer is Mike Richardson, currently on injured reserve.

There's also the case of that Charlie Weis guy, a childhood Giants fan who cut his teeth under Bill Parcells and the Giants, but came to ND after making his bones with the Super Bowl champion Patriots. Just don't look for him to be in the stadium today.

Charlie Weis was the first person Bill Belichick hugged on the sidelines after the Patriots completed their 16-0 regular season at Giants Stadium.

The Notre Dame coach was Belichick's offensive coordinator on all three Super Bowl champions and he was the Patriots' guest that historic evening. Do not expect him, however, to be at Super Bowl XLII. "I just felt very uncomfortable that night," Weis said. "It was great being there to see them do it but I was a Giant fan growing up and worked for that organization, too. I think I'll just watch this one from the couch."

Tim McDonnell, Wellington Mara's grandson (the son of Wellington's daughter Susan) is on his staff at Notre Dame.

"It's kind of hard to stand on the Patriots' sideline when that's the case," Weis said.
Justin Tuck has received his fair share of press leading up to the game in part due to the fact that he's second cousins with the Patriots Adalius Thomas and both hail from the same small rural high school. There was an excellent writeup in the New York Times on their hometown, the close-knit community of Coosa Country, Alabama.
The fact that Justin Tuck and Adalius Thomas are cousins seems to matter only to outsiders. What people in Coosa County ponder is the probability that two boys from one small high school (about 100 in each graduating class), in a rural county of few stoplights (11,000 people across 652 square miles), could play in the same Super Bowl.

“I’m not sure that’s ever been done before,” Joe Belyeu, Central Coosa High’s athletic director, said Wednesday by the school’s trophy case. He is Jimmy Tuck’s first cousin. Their mothers were sisters.

When you're done with that excellent piece, jump over to the photo slideshow of the Tuck and Thomas families.

Jerome Collins also warranted a bit in the New York Times based on him being only one of two players on the Giants who already has a Super Bowl ring. Collins was with the Colts last year and was picked up by the Giants for their practice squad this season. When Jeremy Shockey went down with injury, Collins was switched over to the active roster. Collins has yet to play a down in an NFL regular season game, but he still realizes his luck of sorts.
“I admit my situation is a little unusual,” Collins said, standing in the Giants’ locker room Friday afternoon. “But I’m looking forward to going back to the Super Bowl. I look across the room at a guy like our punter, Jeff Feagles, who’s played 20 years in the league and he’s going to his first Super Bowl.

"Here I am 25 years old and I’ve been with two Super Bowl teams. I can’t complain."
If you pay attention during the commercials you'll see a few more former Irish players during the game. Zibby and Jeff Samardizja show up in a commercial for Under Armour...
"That's huge in itself, especially with the amount of publicity the Super Bowl gets," Zbikowski said. "To have Under Armour want me in their ad is pretty sweet."
...while Brady Quinn appears in a voting initiative PSA that you can check out here.