And just like that, it's nearly August. The kickoff to fall practice is one week from today and the start of the college football season is a mere 30 days away. So let's get cracking and dive right into the BGS Opponent Position Previews and get started with the Quarterbacks. As always, the number in parentheses following the QB's name is where Phil Steele ranks him. And as always, feel free to chime in with any additional info or corrections in the comments section.
SAN DIEGO STATE - Ryan Lindley. 2007 stats: Did not play. RS Freshman. New Starter.
After sitting out the 2007 season, Ryan Lindley was named the presumptive starter at the conclusion of spring practice and gets the uneviable task of replacing four year team captain and current New England Patriot Kevin O'Connell. There isn't much to go on with the 6'3" 205 pound QB as he has yet to attempt a pass in college. Going back to the high school recruiting reviews of him, Lindley reportedly has a strong arm and has shown an above average ability to read a defense. He might develop into a solid starter, but it's asking a lot to expect too much of him by the time the Aztecs travel to Notre Dame Stadium. Depth: Close behind Lindley on the depth chart is junior college transfer Drew Westling. Aztec coach Chuck Long said it's still possible that Westling could beat out Lindley in fall camp and be the starter for the first game against Cal Poly on August 30th. Last year at Southwestern College, Westling threw the ball 325 times for 173 receptions, 2,087 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. The only scholarship QB to actually throw a pass for the Aztecs last year is sophomore Kelsey Sokoloski. However, he is currently slotted as the third string QB for the Aztecs.
MICHIGAN - Steven Threet. 2007 stats: Did not play. RS Freshman. New Starter.
Michigan's quarterback situation was thrown for a loop following the hiring of spread option oriented coach Rich Rodriguez and the transfer of strong-armed Ryan Mallett. While the competition for the starting gig will continue through fall camp, the leader so far appears to be Georgia Tech transfer Steven Threet. Threet is a big dropback QB at 6'6", 230 pounds, but that isn't exactly a great fit for an offense that prefers a quicker, more mobile quarterback. When he does drop back to pass, Threet has the skills to succeed, but his inexperience and less than ideal fit for the offense will likely hinder him early in the season. Depth: Pushing Threet is a mix of quarterbacks that present two different options. Sticking with the more classic drop-back model is walk-on Nick Sheridan and junior David Cone. Sheridan is quicker and more mobile than Cone or Threet, but lacks their strong arm. Cone is the slowest of the lot and likely will find himself buried on the depth chart. Presenting a different option are senior running back Carlos Brown, who played quarterback in high school, and freshman quarterback Justin Feagin, a legitimate run/pass threat out of Florida. Both have the speed to excel in the spread option offense but both are very raw as passers. It's likely one or both will see the field at QB in some capacity next season, but it would be asking a lot of them to provide more than a few snaps a game by the time the Wolverines roll into South Bend.
MICHIGAN STATE - Brian Hoyer. (#48) 2007 stats: 223-376, 2725 yards, 20 TDs, 11 INTs. RS Senior. Returning Starter.
The Fighting Irish will finally face a veteran quarterback in the third week of the season in Spartan fifth year senior Brian Hoyer. 2007 was Hoyer's first year as a starter and he did a respectable job until a four interception bowl game against Boston College. He still finished with a 2-1 TD/INT ratio, but only threw 14 touchdowns versus 10 interceptions against teams with winning records. Now a returning starter the interceptions should drop and his completion percentage should get above 60%. Depth: The Spartans lost both of last year's backups to transfer as Nick Foles and Connor Dixon left for Arizona and Duquesne, respectively. That leaves Michigan State pretty thin at QB with redshirt freshman Kirk Cousins as the lone backup. Heralded Oklahoma transfer Keith Nichol is likely the future, but he will have to sit out this year.
PURDUE - Curtis Painter. (#2) 2007 stats: 356-569, 3846 yards, 29 TDs, 11 INTs. Senior. Returning Starter.
Curtis Painter threw for a thousand more yards than the next more prolific QB in this preview. However, like Brian Hoyer, Painter built up many of his stats against the weaker competition on the Purdue schedule. Consider he threw 20 touchdowns versus 4 interceptions against teams with losing records (and 2 of those INTs were against ND) while throwing only 9 touchdowns versus 7 interceptions against teams with winning records. He'll throw for a ton of yards again in 2008 and push for multiple Big Ten passing records, but will have to improve against the better teams on the Purdue schedule to be a true star. Depth: Junior Joey Elliot doesn't have much game experience, but has been in the offense for the past three years and has seen the field on occasion. Pushing Elliot is redshirt freshman Justin Siller, though both will have to wait until next season to really see the field much.
STANFORD - Tavita Pritchard. 2007 stats: 97-194, 1114 yards, 5 TDs. 9 INTs. Junior. Returning Starter.
Tavita Pritchard started last year as a backup but became the starter when normal starter T.C. Ostrander suffered a stroke. His first start was the unforgettable upset of Southern Cal, but even that isn't going to keep his starting job safe for 2008. Heading into fall camp he hasn't been named the de facto starter and will have to earn it. He certainly has the leg up on his competition as he has more experience than any of the other quarterbacks on the roster. However, that experience was paired with uneven performance. In the seven games he started last year, only once did he throw more touchdown passes than interceptions. Depth: Mentioned by Coach Harbaugh as co-#1 with Pritchard as practice starts is redshirt sophomore Alex Loukas. More of a scrambler than Pritchard, Loukas has yet to play in his two years at Stanford but has enough talent to push out the returning veteran. Making things more complicated is Michigan transfer Jason Forcier. Another run-pass quarterback, Forcier is currently slotted as the third string QB as he recovers from some spring injuries. If Stanford's offensive line proves to still be pourous, an athlete like Forcier might be an intriguing option. Last but not least is heralded recruit Andrew Luck. It's doubtful he'll see the field much early in the year, but he could very well have the best career of all the quarterbacks on the roster.
NORTH CAROLINA - T.J. Yates. 2007 stats: 218-365, 2655 yards, 14 TDs. 18 INTs. Sophomore. Returning Starter.
In his first year as starter last season, then freshman T.J. Yates got off to a great start, throwing nine touchdowns and only three interceptions. But then the bottom dropped out and he threw zero touchdowns and five interceptions in his next three games. His attempts and yardage were impressive and schools records to boot, but like most first year starters he threw too many picks to be truly effective. Recovery from surgery forced him to miss spring practice which certainly won't help his development. Depth: Junior Cameron Sexton was the starter for a few games in 2006, but lost his job to Yates last season. Now he's in a fight for the backup spot with redshirt freshman Mike Paulus. A highly recruited player, the 6'5" 215 pound Paulus probably has the highest ceiling of any of the quarterbacks on the roster. It's possible that if Yates struggles, Paulus might finish the season as the starter.
WASHINGTON - Jake Locker. (#19) 2007 stats: 155-328, 2062 yards, 14 TDS. 15 INTs. RS Sophomore. Returning Starter.
Probably the biggest name on this list along with Southern Cal's Mark Sanchez, Jake Locker is being compared to Florida's Tim Tebow everywhere you look. A fantastic athlete, Locker has the size to fight through tackles, the speed to blow by unsuspecting defenders, and great vision when he does tuck and run. The 6'3" 225 pound Locker was nearly a 1,000 yard rusher on his own with 986 rushing yards and 13 rushing TDs last year. Where he fell a bit short in his impressive debut last season was his completion percentage, which wound up at 47%. Like many of the other rookie QBs in this preview, he also threw more interceptions than touchdowns. Perhaps some of that can be blamed on his surrounding cast, but in order to fulfill some of the All-American expectations being lobbed his way, he'll need to show much improved accuracy and a sizable drop in interceptions. It would be a bad idea to bet against him doing so. Depth: Redshirt freshman Ronnie Fouch is more of a traditional pocket passer so if he gets into the game he won't be a threat to tuck and run like Locker. He also hasn't thrown a pass in college, which makes for a pretty big gulf between Washington's starting and backup QB. The fight for the third spot on the depth chart will be between walk-on Taylor Bean and two freshmen, Luther Leonard and Dominique Blackman, who still has yet to be declared academically eligible. In other words, behind Locker on the depth chart are four (or maybe only three) young and inexperienced players who have yet to attempt a collegiate pass.
PITTSBURGH - Bill Stull. 2007 stats: 14-20, 177 yards, 1 TD. 0 INTs. RS Junior. Returning Starter.
Pittsburgh has an interesting quarterback situation. Bill Stull was the opening day starter last year, only to be lost for the season due to a thumb injury on this throwing hand. He's back and the presumptive starter, even though he actually has the least amount of experience of the four quarterbacks competing for the starting job. Depth: Pushing Stull will be former star recruit sophomore Pat Bostick (#53). He was forced into action last year as a freshman and responded with 155 completions on 353 attempts for 1,500 yards in eight starts. His TD/INT ratio was poor with 8 touchdowns against 13 interceptions so like many of the other younger quarterbacks on this list, he will need to show better decision making if he wants to supplant Stull as the starter. Sophomore Kevan Smith actually started the first three games after Stull went down, but will likely compete with junior college transfer Gene Cross for third string status. At the very least, Pittsburgh has a number of quarterback options with a few starts under their belt.
BOSTON COLLEGE - Chris Crane. 2007 stats: 2-4, 28 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs. RS Senior. New Starter.
Replacing the successful Matt Ryan will be a tall task for the inexperienced Chris Crane. He did start a game against Buffalo in 2006, so he's not as inexperienced as his 2007 stats imply, but it will still be a brave new world for him as the full time starter. At 6'4" 235 pounds he's a big QB who is just quick enough to probably see some runs called specifically for him. He's also a 5th year senior so while he may not have faced many tense game situations, he's hardly new to college football. He should do better than many might expect and prove to be a solid manager of the offense for the Eagles. Depth: Redshirt freshman Dominique Davis had a strong enough spring to move into the backup spot and signals the transition to more mobile quarterbacks favored by offensive coordinator Steve Logan. Behind him currently is junior college transfer Codi Boek, another dual threat style quarterback.
NAVY - Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku Enhada. 2007 stats: 55-98, 952 yards, 8 TDS, 5 INTs. Junior. Returning Starter.
The QB who replaces Roger Staubach as the answer to the "last Navy QB to beat Notre Dame" trivia question, Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku Enhada returns for his third year as Navy's starter. In addition to his improved passing last season, the Midshipmen senior rushed for 834 yards and 12 touchdowns on 180 attempts. A veteran with plenty of game experience, Kaheaku Enhada will help Navy ease into the post-Paul Johnson years. He will continue to make solid decisions with the ball this year and will likely push his TD/INT ratio even higher in the right direction. Depth: Senior Jarod Bryant is a top notch backup who will see the field even if he isn't lining up at quarterback. When he's not playing running back or on special teams, Bryant will provide experience and leadership at the QB position for the Midshipmen. His 94 carries last season were good for fourth on the team and he even found time to attempt 31 passes, completing 17 of them for 252 yards.
SYRACUSE - Andrew Robinson. 2007 stats: 154-292, 2192 yards, 13 TDs. 7 INTs. Junior. Returning Starter.
Syracuse is in the middle of a horrible run, but junior Andrew Robinson is one legitimate bright spot. Despite his team's performance and the fact he was a first time starter last season, he still managed to throw more touchdowns than interceptions. He also saved the best for last when he completed 62% of his passes against a solid Cincinnati defense for 419 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions in Syracuse's final game of the season. His numbers should only improve this season if Syracuse can find a running game to compliment him and he should make much better decisions with the ball. Depth: The name of the backup, Cameron Dantley, should be familiar to ND fans as the former walk-on is the son of Irish hoops legend Adrian Dantley. He won't push Robinson for playing time, but provides a more mobile threat with eight games worth of experience which could come in handy for 'Cuse as Notre Dame was the only team that let up more sacks.
SOUTHERN CAL - Mark Sanchez. (#17) 2007 stats: 69-114, 695 yards, 7 TDs. 5 INTs. RS Junior. New Starter.
The winner of Southern Cal's spring QB derby, redshirt junior Mark Sanchez will finally get a chance to run the Trojan offense. Game experience is always highlighted in this preview and Sanchez did get some when John David Booty went out with injury in the middle of the last season. Including the Notre Dame game, Sanchez started three games before returning to the bench. He also saw limited action in five others. The ND game was the highlight of his season as his 4 TD passes and 0 interceptions against the Irish are a drastic improvement over the 3 touchdown passes and four interceptions he threw in his other two starts. He should be much improved though after a spring and fall camp of getting all of the first string snaps in practice and is in line for a very solid 2008. A better athlete than the past few Trojan quarterbacks, Sanchez will be very tough to defend on the frequent QB rollouts that have been a hallmark of the Trojan offense as of late. The difference between a solid year and a star year will come down to his decision making and how efficiently he runs the offense. Depth: The dropoff behind Sanchez isn't all that much as Arkansas transfer Mitch Mustain (#32) is now eligible and will be a solid 1B to Sanchez's 1A. Mustain has even more starting experience than Sanchez thanks to an 8-0 record as a freshman Razorback and gives Southern Cal the most enviable QB depth chart in the nation. Redshirt freshman Aaron Corp will work for playing time too, but while he's a more mobile option than Sanchez and Mustain, he's not a threat to beat out the upperclassmen.
2008 Opponent Quarterback Analysis and Ranking
Looking back through this list, there just aren't a lot of great quarterbacks lining up against the Irish in 2008. While last year's schedule featured six different starting quarterbacks ranked in Phil Steele's Top 25, this year only four starters are ranked in his Top 50. A lack of experience is the major reason for the less than scary QB gaunlet. Consider that only half of next year's likely starting quarterbacks have more starting experience than Jimmy Clausen. Only two teams, Purdue and Navy, feature quarterbacks entering their third year of starting. Even among the eight listed returning starters, three are still fighting for their job and could be on the bench by the time they play Notre Dame.
As ND folds Jon Tenuta's blitz-heavy philosophy into the defensive play-calling, the desire to put constant pressure on the opposing quarterback will likely pay dividends given the inexperience of many of the targets. Not only should sacks go up in 2008, but interceptions as well if ND truly is on the path to improvement. Everyone on the defense will likely get into the action as ND will bring blitzes from all angles in an attempt to keep opposing quarterbacks from getting into any sort of comfort zone.
One area that might be a bit of a concern is the threat of the running quarterback. As ND focuses on collapsing the pocket and making the QB feel pressure from all sides, opposing coaches will probably counter by having their QB roll out more to give him more room to operate. As mentioned earlier, Southern Cal will make great use of Sanchez's mobility. Navy as always will keep their quarterback running around and Michigan will join them this year in keeping the Irish defense on its toes. Jake Locker will continue to run the ball like a more elusive fullback and don't be surprised to see Boston College's Chris Crane use his large frame to get a few extra yards on the end of a scramble. Even Stanford's Tavita Pritchard ended the year with positive rushing yards despite being sacked 23 times. There aren't any dual threat quarterbacks in the mold of Pat White on the schedule, but there are a number of athletic quarterbacks that aren't just going to be immobile statues in the pocket. The Irish defense, especially the linebackers, will have to counter this with solid tackling when the opportunity presents itself.
On to the rankings where I'm once again leaning heavily on starter experience and talent with team depth also a big factor. Potential matters, but I tend to give production the nod, especially for teams that play ND early in the season. As much as possible I try to keep the offensive system and competency of the head coach out of the rankings.
1. USC - Not much experience for Sanchez, but having Mustain as the backup gives SC the top spot.
2. Purdue - Painter is a talented passer and the most experienced QB on this list.
3. Washington - Locker is a star in the making, but it's a big dropoff to the second string.
4. Michigan State - Hoyer is experienced, but the team depth is nearly nonexistent.
5. Navy - Kaheaku Enhada will continue to lead with smart decisions and Bryant provides solid depth.
6. Pittsburgh - A mix of experienced players, but no clear cut leader yet.
7. Syracuse - Robinson has potential and should be a much improved QB this season.
8. North Carolina - A bit of a wildcard at this point. Will Yates improve or give way to Paulus?
9. Boston College - Crane should be adequate, which is important give the lack of depth behind him.
10. Michigan - Plenty of options, but none without drawbacks.
11. Stanford - Pritchard is experienced, but rarely was impressive.
12. San Diego State - A completely inexperienced QB on a rebuilding offense.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
And just like that, it's nearly August. The kickoff to fall practice is one week from today and the start of the college football season is a mere 30 days away. So let's get cracking and dive right into the BGS Opponent Position Previews and get started with the Quarterbacks. As always, the number in parentheses following the QB's name is where Phil Steele ranks him. And as always, feel free to chime in with any additional info or corrections in the comments section.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Once again, Jay, Pete, and I were contributors to Here Come the Irish, the 2008 version of the best Notre Dame preview magazine out there. Classmate Jim Walsh is doing great things with Maple Street Press and this year's version is full of great info for the casual or hardcore Irish fan.
The compendium includes work by other notable online Irish fans such as Brian Stouffer of House Rock Built fame, John Vannie of ndnation.com, Frank Vitovitch of UHND.com, and ND message board stats sage "Omahadomer," and Matt Hinton, blogger extraordinaire at Sunday Morning Quarterback, and the latest blogger to translate his passion into a full-time gig with a major media company (Congrats Matt!).
One of the standout articles in Here Come the Irish is Jim Walsh's interview with Lou Holtz about coaching at Notre Dame and looking back on the 20th anniversary of the 1988 National Championship team. Here's a quick excerpt about the start of the ND-Miami game.
Jim Walsh: So what was the key once the game got started?Back to the book, here's a quick look at the table of contents:
Lou Holtz: It was just believing we could win. At the end of the first quarter, Frank Stams and the offensive tackle for Miami are walking down changing ends of the field. And Frank Stams told me that the offensive tackle said, "This game's gonna go down to the wire, isn't it?" The reason for that is Miami expected to win, and they could see the demeanor in our players that we weren't gonna back off, we expected to win, and we felt we were the better football team. So much of it is by your demeanor, by how you act, how you react, your confidence level in the game, that you don't panic, you just expect to win.
- an in-depth breakdown of the roster and depth chart
- 10 players who will make or break the 2008 season.
- a preview of all opponents on the Irish schedule
- how to set expectations for 2008 in the wake of a 3-9 2007
- an examination of Jon Tenuta's blitz-heavy philosophy
- what off-season steps Charlie Weis has taken to right the ship
- a review of just what did go wrong last season anyway
- worst of the best: bad seasons by good coaches
- a look at how recruiting is refilling the talent pool
- a comprehensive preview of the heralded freshmen class
- Jimmy Clausen and Brady Quinn, a freshman comparison
- the ridiculous world of modern day recruiting
- the aforementioned Lou Holtz conversation about ND and the '88 team
- a retrospective on the 35th anniversary of the '73 Notre Dame-Alabama Sugar Bowl
Posted by Pat at 11:50 PM
Friday, July 25, 2008
Yet another sign that football is just around the corner, NFL teams are now reporting for the start of training camp. Here's a quick rundown of the Irish rookies and second-year players and where they stand with their current teams.
John Carlson: Carlson hasn't signed with the Seahawks yet and is now officially a hold-out. He is considered a front-runner for the starting tight end spot, but every practice he misses will make it harder to crack the starting lineup.
Trevor Laws: Laws signed with the Eagles just after the reporting deadline for rookies, but is still on the shelf for the next few days due to a foot injury.
Tom Zbikowski: Zibby signed a 3-year deal with the Ravens and now is competing with fellow rookie Haruki Nakamura for one of the few available safety spots on the team.
John Sullivan: Sully has signed a four year deal with the Vikings and will begin work as the backup center in Minnesota.
Travis Thomas: Thomas is in camp with the Browns fighting for a spot on the practice squad. A few early positive returns won't hurt his cause.
J.J. Jansen: It's possible Jansen's battle for the starting Green Bay long-snapper job might be overshadowed by the rumored Brett Favre comeback. Regardless, Jansen has an excellent shot at being the first Irish rookie to nail down a starting job.
Brady Quinn: As long as returning starter Derek Anderson keeps playing well, Brady will likely stay the backup QB in Cleveland. Despite his second-string status, the NFL is still featuring Brady in ads that promote the league.
Victor Abiamiri: Victor will start the year as a backup defensive end, but should see the field often in the Eagles D-Line rotation.
Ryan Harris: With new 1st round pick Ryan Clady expected to start at left tackle, Harris will battle last year's starting left guard Chris Kuper for the starting Broncos right tackle spot.
Derek Landri: A suprise contributor last season, there isn't much on Landri, but he should continue to see time in the Jaguar defensive tackle rotation, especially on obvious passing downs.
Mike Richardson: Back from last year's injury, Richardson will be in the mix of new free agents and rookies as the Patriots look to re-build their cornerback depth.
Dan Santucci: Santucci will stay at center for the Bengals and work to keep his second string status.
Chinedum Ndukwe: He's returned from his trip to Nigeria and now Nedu is in contention for a starting safety spot with the Bengals.
Darius Walker: Walker will have a tough time in camp as the Texans are filled with running backs and won't be able to carry all of them come the end of training camp. Rookie Steve Slaton will battle Walker, Ahman Green, Chris Brown, and Chris Taylor.
Switching sports, Jeff Samardzija has reached the Majors, a little over a year after he began his trek through the minors.
The hard-throwing right-hander from Valparaiso, Ind., got word of his first big-league promotion Thursday after the Cubs put closer Kerry Wood on the disabled list, a source with knowledge of the situation told the Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana. Samardzija is expected to be in uniform for today's game against the Marlins.That's certainly a huge acheivement for Samardzija as the road from Single A ball to a pro debut is rarely a quick journey.
The former Notre Dame football star might even start for the Cubs this weekend, though that could not be immediately confirmed.
If you find any more updates on the players listed or the more veteran ND alums like Ryan Grant still playing in the NFL, feel free to update everyone in the comment section.
Posted by Pat at 10:30 AM
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Indiana offensive tackle Zach Martin called up the coaching staff this past week and became Irish public commit #13.
Rivals.com lists Martin as a 4-star recruit and the #18 overall offensive tackle. They have broken down the tackles into even smaller lists such as best run blocker, best pass blocker, etc... and Martin was listed as the #4 athlete at offensive tackle for whatever that is worth. Scout.com slots Martin a little lower at the #27 overall tackle and a 3-star prospect. ESPN is still waiting to unveil their Top 150, but their review of Martin compliments him on his effort, athleticism, and aggressiveness. Following his junior year, Martin was named 1st Team All-State in Indiana's 3A classification.
The senior-to-be wasn't expected to make a decision until closer to his high school team's first game but was convinced after a visit to South Bend last weekend.
"I felt like it was the best place for me and there was really no reason to wait," he said.
Towards the end of his recruitment, Martin was going back and forth between ND and Michigan. It seemed like he was leaning towards Michigan after announcing he would make his college choice following a trip to Michigan, but visited ND instead and called up Charlie shortly thereafter with the good news. In addition to the Wolverines, Martin had offers from Virginia, Stanford, Illinois, UCLA, Northwestern, Michigan State, N.C. State, and others. Martin also joins the long list of Irish players with football bloodlines as his father played at Kentucky in the early 80's.
Thanks to google, I've discovered that Zach shares the same name, though not spelled exactly the same, as the main character on a Disney TV show. Let's just hope he is a good a player as the last notable left tackle to share a name with a Disney TV show. (Thrilling insight, I know)
Back to non-Disney analysis, Martin fills a big need in this year's recruiting class. With Bullard and Watt giving ND one of the better guard hauls in the country, Martin fills a much needed tackle spot. He also continues the recent pickup in pace of this current recruiting class. After last year's 3-9 season, the coaching staff needed to spend every last minute keeping the incoming freshmen class from being poached by other coaches. That put them a bit behind in terms of evaluating and offering juniors. But with 13 recruits before the end of July and the class not expected to be much higher than 20 players, ND is more than caught up. Given just how bad the team looked on the field last season, the recruiting to this point is almost more impressive than the job done last year, when all but five of the players had committed before ND lost their first game.
Posted by Pat at 11:30 AM
Monday, July 21, 2008
A hearty congratulations to Chris Zorich, who was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame this past weekend. The first player from the 1988 National Championship team enshrined and 42nd overall ND player, Zorich joins Ross Browner and Alan Page as the only ND defensive lineman in the Hall of Fame.
"It's amazing," Zorich said. "I mean, Ross Browner and Alan Page, are you kidding me? Now, I'm in that group. I'm considered to be one of the best to ever play. That's awesome, it's great, and it was never my intention. I never came to college to say, 'Hey, I'm going to be an All-American and play at Notre Dame and I'm going to the College Football Hall of Fame.'WNDU has a few video clips of the event and an interview with Zorich, who is now working in ND's athletic department.
"I feel very fortunate when you read the names of the folks who are in there, let alone the folks who are not in there."
For those who were too young to watch him play, here's a video highlight reel of Zorich, though it's a bit light on actual highlights. Congrats again Zorro.
Jay here, with a quick postscript. I was reading my copy of Here Come The Irish last night, and in it there's a great interview with Lou Holtz about the '88 team. He was talking about the turnaround from when he took over, and instilling a new, winning attitude among his players, and he shared this anecdote. The Irish went to the Cotton Bowl in 1987, and lost a bad one to Texas A&M. Holtz relates:
The guys were just happy to be there and there just wasn’t the focus that I felt great teams had. We lost the game and in the locker room after the game there was one guy crying and he didn’t even play in the game...and that was Chris Zorich. I had to get on an airplane the very next day and on that 14 hour flight I made the decision that we had to play guys like Chris Zorich that really cared about the team. So that was the start of it.
Posted by Pat at 8:40 AM
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Now then, enough Swarbrick for the time being. Back to football.
We're getting closer and closer to the 2008 season and before indulging in any predictions, it's perhaps wise to take another look at the ugly truth from 2007.
The list of things that went wrong last season is a long one indeed. But if forced to pick just one thing that stands out above the rest, the record 58 sacks allowed by the offense is a solid candidate for #1. Last season wasn't just a bad year for protecting the quarterback, it was leaps and bounds worse than usual. Cataclysmically bad. Consider that in 2005 and 2006 combined, the Irish only allowed 52 sacks. And don't think the numbers were skewed by the Georgia Tech or Michigan game alone. Only two teams failed to sack the Irish more than their regular season average and even those two were effectively tied with their season average (BC and Duke both sacked ND twice while averaging 2.46 and 2.08 sacks a game, respectively). Everyone got their shots in last season.
This post will attempt to look back over those sacks and see what, if anything, stands out and provides a few clues for what to look for next season. Should we expect immediate improvement, or were the mistakes so pervasive that a huge leap in eliminating sacks is unrealistic?
Warning: the following is not for the faint of heart. If you are experiencing chest pains, lower back problems, or are pregnant, please be advised that BGS is not to be held liable for any consequences of reading the following.
Still here? Ok then, let's dive in. First let's take a look at some of the game situation stats involved with the sacks and look for any particular noteworthy outliers.
The Irish attempted at least 447 passing plays if you factor in the 389 passing attempts listed in the season-long statistics plus the 58 sacks. Taking a percentage, we find that 13% of Notre Dame's called pass plays resulted in a sack. Ouch. That compares with 4% in 2005 and 6% in 2006. (There were also some quarterback scrambles for positive yards that were likely called as passing plays, but this post doesn't take them into account and they shouldn't change the final numbers by very much.)
Breaking down the sacks by down, we find the following.
|Situation||# of sacks||# passes||% of total|
First down stands out slightly from the rest as the only down to feature sacks at a higher rate than the overall average. I'm hesitant to try and read too much into these numbers other than the fact that it's not surprising the offense was so ineffective given how often the Irish found themselves in 2nd and greater than 10.
Shifting from when in a series a sack occurred to when in the game they happened, we get the following.
|Situation||# of sacks||# passes||% of total|
Nothing terribly noteworthy here as the numbers are pretty uniform. On the other hand, one might have expected to see the 3rd and 4th quarter sack percentages a bit higher given that ND frequently was trying to pass its way back into games and the defense didn't have to worry as much about the run. The unfortunate truth though is that ND didn't usually wait until the 2nd half to fall far behind on the scoreboard.
Slicing the sack numbers a different way, here is the score differential at the time of each sack.
|Score Diff||# of sacks||% passes|
|Winning by 1+ pts||2||10%|
|Losing by 1-7 pts||9||15%|
|Losing by 8-14 pts||8||8%|
|Losing by 15+ pts||26||17%|
Once the Irish started to fall behind the sack percentages not surprisingly start to jump up. There is a bit of a dip between being down one and two touchdowns, but once the Irish were losing by 15 or more points, it was open season on Irish quarterbacks. It's hard to dig yourself out of a hole when nearly every fifth pass call results in a sack. Once the Irish lost the threat of the run, teams were even more effective at dropping the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage.
One last stats breakdown before we move on to the analysis of personnel on the sack total. After the abbreviated Demetrius Jones experiment (he was sacked once), Evan Sharpley and Jimmy Clausen both got their shots to lead the Irish and both had their ups and downs. Here's a breakdown of the sacks that occurred when each player was under center.
|Quarterback||# of sacks||# passes||% of total|
Interestingly, Sharpley was sacked at a greater percentage. It should be noted of course that Sharpley was the QB for most of the game against Georgia Tech (1st in the nation in sacks) and all of the Southern Cal (4th) game. Then again, Clausen got some snaps against the Yellow Jackets too and had to face off against Penn State (3rd), Stanford (20th), and Michigan (31st).
One final note is the performance against the blitz. All year long we heard that the Irish offensive line couldn't handle the blitz. And while this was certainly true, the number of sacks that came against a blitzing defense versus a standard four (or three) man rush was rather surprising. 33, or 57%, of the 58 sacks last season happened when the opponent was blitzing while 25, or 43%, occurred when the defense did not. That's a very disheartening number as it paints the Irish offense in an even worse light. It's one thing to give up a sack when you are out-numbered in the backfield. It's another when you have more blockers than the other team does rushers.
Now let's move on to the more murky aspect of this analysis. I took a look at all 58 sacks and tried to see what went wrong with each one. As much as possible I tried to find the breakdown that led to the sack and assign "blame" accordingly. I'm going to stress right now that the following should be considered a rough guideline more than any sort of 100% accurate recap of what truly went wrong. One of the major things working against me was identified by Charlie Weis in a past interview with Mike Frank over on Irish Eyes.
“For example, offensively you talk about protection breakdowns. What were the cause of protection breakdowns? To a fan in the stands it just looked like somebody was just getting beat the whole time. In reality it might’ve been that guy was expecting a double team. He might’ve been expecting outside help. So he’s playing with inside leverage because he expects somebody outside of him that’s helping , and that guy outside of him might not be there. So there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye in several instances.Caveats aside, let's move on and see how the numbers broke down.
|Position at fault||# of sacks|
|Solid defensive play||3|
Quarterback - 24 sacks
Good news, bad news. The good news is that our offensive line wasn't at fault for every sack. Over half of the sacks from last year weren't necessarily their fault. The bad news is that there are still Irish players at fault, in this case primarily the quarterbacks.
Usually when a quarterback is to blame for being sacked, the major mistake is holding on to the ball too long in the pocket. It's tempting and certainly admirable to want to hang in there until an open receiver can be found. But each and every successful quarterback has a finely tuned internal clock that let's them know when to get rid of the ball before taking a hit for a loss. ND's quarterbacks struggled with this last season.
The flip side to this is that if receivers aren't getting open, the quarterback has to wait longer to throw the ball and that also leads to what are commonly called coverage sacks. So it stands to reason that while Sharpley and Clausen are getting blamed here for these sacks, the wide receivers and their inability to get open at times deserve some of the blame as well.
Splitting the total between Sharpley and Clausen, Clausen was responsible for 16 sacks compared to 7 for Sharpley and 1 for Jones. Sharpley's major mistakes tended to be hanging in the pocket just a bit too long. It's clear he's a fighter and will keep trying to make the play. And he did have some exciting escapes from near sacks that he turned into completions and first downs. However the tendency to hang in there as long as possible is a disadvantage as much as it is an advantage when under constant pressure. For every great hustle play to keep things alive, a quarterback is likely to get sacked more than once.
Clausen on the other hand was to blame at times for reasons that can be explained as (freshman?) mental mistakes. He picked up six sacks alone by running out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage, most notably in the Stanford game when he did it three times. That's over one third of his sack total that could have been avoided had he tossed the ball into the stands before stepping over the line. As with Sharpley, it is certainly admirable to try to make the play down to the bitter end. But there are times when a QB needs to learn to cut his losses and start over again. Hopefully this is one area where experience will make an impact. That he was still doing it in the last game of the season isn't exactly comforting, so hopefully he's spent plenty of time this off-season in the film room.
If you're looking for examples of coverage sacks where the receivers apparently aren't getting open to the satisfaction of Clausen, here is video of two Penn State sacks and a UCLA sack. Notice in all three clips that Clausen has time to throw to his primary target, but doesn't like what he sees. (Also note that on many sacks, more than just one player screwed up. But in the interest of keeping this as simple as possible, I stuck with one player per sack for nearly every sack.)
Looking to how this applies to this coming season, I do expect Clausen to manage games at a much better level in 2008 as compared to when he was thrown into the mix as a banged up freshman. Even if the offensive line doesn't improve, Jimmy's improved decision making should cut down on the number of sacks allowed by the Irish next season. He's also just mobile enough to turn a few sure sacks into positive yardage. Improved route running and experience by the wide receivers likewise will help to cut down on coverage sacks. Even if he stops running out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage that will have a large impact on the sack total.
Offensive Line - 26 sacks
Center John Sullivan was only at fault for one sack last year, which shouldn't be too surprising as the center is rarely the point of attack for opposing defenses. Still, while he had trouble with things like a shotgun snap, Sully did do a good job protecting the quarterback. His replacement for 2008, Dan Wenger, was at fault for two sacks but both of those came while he was at guard, not at center. They also happened in the first two games of the season and he didn't let up any more over the six games he played the rest of the season.
As for the guards, Eric Olsen let up the most on the line. Most of his were more related to not knowing who to pick up more than just getting overpowered on the line. In fact, his first two sacks of the season came when he was playing tight end (Georgia Tech) and right tackle (Michigan State) and just didn't know who to pick up. It's likely he didn't spend much practice time at those spots. Now that he's settled into guard hopefully the mental mistakes will be cut down. Turk had the next highest sack total, but at least one of them should probably be blamed on Charlie, not Turk. First and goal from the UCLA 1 yard line is not the time to call for a relatively slow guard to pull and be expected to pick up an All-American pass rusher like Bruce Davis. Not when Turk is far better doing something like this . The lone sack that Chris Stewart gave up came when he fell for a swim move against Duke.
Sam Young's time at left tackle showed that he did have trouble with speed rushers, so hopefully now that he is at right tackle he won't be placed in similar situations as often. It is a bit of concern that even as late as the last game of the year he was still showing poor technique at times. Perhaps that was a consequence of his injured wrist. Still, much is expected of him heading into 2008 with the move to the right side of the line, the weight and strength gain, and the stories of him meeting with Charlie to take on a larger leadership role.
Where does this leave us for next year? Well, as Charlie pointed out in his spring presser, experience is one of the most valuable traits to have in an offensive line. With another year of lifting, practice, and film review under their belt, the OL should cut down on the mental mistakes. If not, then Coach Latina's seat will get hotter sack by the sack. Physically, the left tackle spot is still a worry as Paul Duncan has yet to show he can handle speed rushers. Hopefully he, or perhaps Matt Romine, will be able to rise to the occasion. If Chris Stewart sticks in the starting lineup he will be question mark too as the only lineman yet to start a game. Teams no doubt will key on him until he proves his worth.
One thing that did stick out as a result of this OL sack review was the horrible cut blocking performed by the Irish. More than a few sacks were the result of an Irish offensive lineman diving at the legs of an opposing defensive lineman and just failing to slow him down in the least. Consider the worst sack the Irish gave up all year. The entire line tried to cut block Michigan's line and failed. The result was this. This is the one sack that I blamed on the entire offensive line.
The cut blocks did stop being a reason for the sacks after the Purdue game, which means that the OL either got better or ND just stopped using them as much. Coach Weis said after the season that even with full contact practices the offense will not be cutting the defense, so either the team is going to need to somehow keep getting better from non-contact drills (and I have my doubts if that is reasonable to expect) or the coaches will need to continue to scale back the reliance on cut blocks in 2008.
Running Backs -3 sacks
Given how young our backfield was, I was a bit surprised that the running backs only accounted for three sacks. I have two thoughts on this. One, the point that Charlie made about protection schemes probably applies here and I mistakenly applied a sack here or there to the OL when in reality it was the running back who wasn't where he was supposed to be. Two, Junior Jabbie deserves a bit more credit from Irish fans. Jabbie was the one most frequently in the game when ND went to the aerial attack and he did a very good job. Asaph Schwapp's name isn't on this list either which might surprise some folks. He certainly had his issues when it came to run blocking, but none of his whiff blocks resulted in a sack in 2008. James Aldridge, Travis Thomas, and Armando Allen all let up a sack apiece with Allen's being the infamous Ram Vela flying leap.
It's reasonable to assume the backs will all be better pass blockers in 2008, but at the same time, ND will likely miss the contributions of the unheralded Jabbie. Physically, Aldridge and Hughes have the strength to stand up any blitzing linebacker, so whether or not they can be effective will come down to how well they pick up the roles and responsibilities of pass blocking. With Coach Haywood having his plate filled with newly minted Offensive Coordinator duties this fall, hopefully he will still be able to consistently find time for individual instruction during practice. (I don't see any reason why not.)
Tight Ends - 2 sacks
Tight end is another category that somewhat surprised me. John Carlson had some trouble at the point of attack with a few linemen and linebackers in '08, but only twice did he directly lead to a sack. And even one of those was a bit iffy.
Getting back Will Yeatman for the fall is a big boon to the blocking capabilities of the tight end position. He'll probably spend a lot of time this season on the left side of the line helping out Paul Duncan. While he isn't the receiver that Carlson was, he is a better blocker and should help to keep Clausen's jersey clean. Mike Ragone will definitely see plenty of the field next season and will need to avoid the mental mistakes that usually accompany a big jump in playing time. He did show a passion for blocking, so with improved technique there isn't much worry about his ability to pass protect when needed.
At the end of this haunted horrors of a post I imagine the 2008 season predictions of quite a few Irish fans just went down by two or three wins. I don't blame you. The line was as bad last season as I've ever seen it. The play-calling at times failed to take advantage of what opposing teams were doing on defense. The quarterbacks showed their inexperience by taking unnecessary sacks. Through mental mistakes and sloppy technique, the line let defender after defender rush right by them. All in all it was borderline unwatchable. Even worse, the analysis reveals that the offense had nearly as much trouble with a normal front four as it did an all-out blitzing offense.
If you're looking for silver lining for next year, there are a few things we can point to. The experience factor is a big one. Another year of playing will have a positive effect on reducing mental mistakes. Jimmy likely won't run out of bounds with the ball in his hands nearly as much or try to force things that just aren't there. Hopefully an off-season in the film room will improve his ability to read the defense, anticipate the blitz, and if needed check out of a bad play. There will still be some growing pains at the quarterback position, but Clausen should easily be able to drastically reduce the number of sacks from 2007 where he was primarily to blame.
Another positive lies with the receiving corp. As they ingest more of the playbook, young players like Duval Kamara and Golden Tate will see the field more and provide a more athletic threat than some of the older players. Contributions from someone like Michael Floyd will only help as well.
The biggest target of criticism, the OL, definitely will have all eyes on them. Paul Duncan in particular will be under constant scrutiny. The coaching staff certainly can help the line by calling more running plays, but ND will need to pass the ball eventually. And when they do call a pass, a drastic pass blocking improvement over last year is paramount if ND wants to even be bowl eligible. After watching the line start fights during spring practice, hopefully the chip on their shoulder carries through to the season and they take out the frustrations from last year on the 2008 opponents.
There is definitely reason for optimism given their added size and strength, returning experience, and rumored improved chemistry. Still, they would probably be the first to admit they have a long way to go. Facing off against the suddenly blitz-happy ND defense in practice (hopefully at least some of the time in 1st team vs. 1st team situations) can only help the line build confidence and help slow things down during the game. But as with most of the rest of the offense, it's only logical to remain cautious. If you're looking for predictions, I'll stay away from any hard and fast number. The most likely result is that ND makes major strides in protecting the quarterback, but still makes enough mistakes to get Clausen knocked around at a rate greater than what Quinn had to endure in either '05 or '06. How that translates to wins or losses we'll just have to wait and see. Thankfully, we won't need to wait much longer.
Posted by Pat at 1:30 PM
When the rumor mill kicked into gear on Monday and Jack Swarbrick's name began to propagate in pixels around the ND digital universe, I had the feeling I had heard the name before. I googled him and checked out his Baker & Daniels bio and saw that he had been Chairman of the Board of the Indiana Sports Corporation. My father, who lives in Indianapolis, has been involved with the Sports Corp in one form or another since the mid-80's, so I called him up and filled him in on the scuttlebutt. I had barely finished the sentence when he said "He'd be perfect."
I moved to Indianapolis in 1984, just in time to see Notre Dame get their collective ass handed to them by Purdue in the inaugural game at the sparkling new Hoosier Dome. The opening of the stadium and the arrival of the Colts that year were two of the most exciting developments, up to that point, in the civic project that promised to bring a renaissance to the town trying to outgrow the moniker "Indianoplace." The engine that would drive the renewal of downtown Indianapolis would be sports, a model that is well worn now, but seemed pretty novel at the time.
The next few years would see that vision become reality as one event after another rolled through town. I remember going to see Willie Banks break the world record in the triple-jump at the USA Track and Field Championships in 1985, seeing Team USA beat Cuba in baseball at the Pan Am Games in 1987 (on a ninth-inning home run by I can't remember who, but it was his second of the game, one from each side of the plate), multiple NCAA Regionals and Final Fours, and all sorts of other national and world championship events in cycling, diving, swimming, and gymnastics.
Through the 1980s and 1990s, the momentum kept building and Indianapolis was transformed into the type of city that is chosen to host the Super Bowl. This was, quite literally, unthinkable in the early '80s, and one of the reasons it came to pass was because of the Indiana Sports Corporation and the leadership of Jack Swarbrick. Watching Indianapolis progress over the last 30-ish years, in large part by integrating amateur sports into the fabric of the town and using that integration to spur economic development, has been fairly amazing. One of the architects of that transformation is now running our athletic department. Can I get a Hell, Yeah!?
Anyhow, as we were all sniffing around on Monday, trying to figure out who this guy was, we got an email from a reader who is also an attorney in Indianapolis who knows and has worked with Swarbrick. It read, in part:
Swarbrick is the perfect choice for Athletics Director at our University. A '76 graduate with a law degree from Standford, he is the right man at the right time. He is a member of the family who not only knows how amateur sports are run in America, but also one who is anticipating where sport will go in this country.Jack is the real deal. He understands the role the University and its athletic program must play in the community in which it is located and the communities in which it competes.
His accomplishments are truly remarkable. Whether it is the National Sports Festival, the Pan American Games, the World Gymnastics Championship, multiple Final Fours, the relocation of the NCAA headquarters, the Indiana Sports Corporation, or two Super Bowl bids, Jack has provided effective and unifying leadership ensuring success in each of these endeavors and securing Indianapolis as the Amateur Sports Capital of the world.He is a well respected attorney and national sports consultant, proud to be the lead consultant to the NCAA. This is the guy.
Posted by Dylan at 7:00 AM
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Up on the 14th floor of the Hesburgh Library, Fr. Jenkins formally introduced Notre Dame's 12th Athletic Director earlier today.
After a brief introduction by Fr. Jenkins, Swarbrick took to the podium and gave an impressive opening speech. The transcript of the presser is also located on und.com and well worth your time if you are at all interested in the larger issues surrounding Notre Dame athletics. The video of the presser is also available. His bio can also be found along with a "What They're Saying About Jack Swarbrick" list of positive testimonials.
Pulling out a few favorite quotes, here are some of the more interesting things that Swarbrick mentioned with his first meeting with the press as ND's AD.
On his connection to Notre Dame:
This is home because this place defines who I am. ....On ND's role in college athletics:
My grandparents could only aspire for me to attend Notre Dame, a dream my parents also shared, parents who didn't have the privilege to go to college. And so when I got to come here, it was an important moment for a long line of people in our family. And the great reward of that for me was that this university met every one of their expectations. It was what they thought it would be.
I believe that I accept this job on the threshold of extraordinary change in intercollegiate athletics in America. I have my theories, as Father suggested, about what that change may entail and where the industry is headed. But I think it will be enormous. I think there's much about this industry you won't recognize in 10 years.On the importance of sports within the University:
We must be at the forefront of that. We must participate in leading that change. Notre Dame cannot have that dictated to it. And I love the challenge of accepting the responsibility for trying, with the other members of the athletic team, staff, coaches, student athletes, to be part of shaping that future.
I'm not here to just do sports right. I love the competitive environment of sports. Don't step on the field if you don't want to win. We want to win. We want to be a great academic institution that furthers research in this country. We want to be a place of faith. And we want to be a place that wins on the athletic field and turns out extraordinary student athletes. In the three legs of that stool I think there might be a tendency to treat sports as the stepchild. I think that nothing could be further from the truth. Sport is an integral, not a secondary, part of that success.On seeking input from those outside of athletic department conference rooms:
Then I want to reach out to our fan base. I want to travel, spend time with them. I want to greet them when they're here. I want to hear what they have to say. That passion is what fuels the success of Notre Dame. And I know some people get nervous about how passionate it can be sometimes, how it plays itself out. I welcome that. I embrace that.If Swarbrick is correct about the swirling changes coming to the world of collegiate athletics, this press conference gives me confidence that ND will have someone heading the department that not only will aggressively work for Notre Dame's best interests in the coming years, but also has a solid understanding of what exactly those best interests are.
The inconvenience of some posting on a blog you might not prefer to have is a much better situation than being at a school where nobody cares and nobody talks about you and nobody writes about you. I see the passion here as only a plus and I'm fully prepared to engage it.
Posted by Pat at 7:42 PM
Jack Swarbrick will officially be introduced at 12:30 pm today. His introductory press conference will be broadcast on und.com.
In the meantime, more glowing reviews of Swarbrick. ESPN interviewed a few of Swarbrick's friends and past associates and they are unanimous in their praise of him.
Swarbrick is known by his friends and colleagues for his ability to think outside the box. Former president of the Indiana Sports Corporation Sandy Knapp recalls several instances where Swarbrick went above and beyond what was asked of him and motivated others to do the same. Knapp says Swarbrick made every project better because of his innovative style.Not that you'd expect his friends to be anything less than positive about the hire, but it's still encouraging to read.
"He's really one of the brightest, best thinkers I've ever had the pleasure of working with," said Knapp, now retired, from her home in Austin. "And at the same time, he's so innovative. … It will be very interesting to have him bring that combination to an AD position. I think he'll establish a new standard for the hiring of athletic directors in collegiate sports.
"Someday in the future, Notre Dame will celebrate this day as a real turning point in their athletic program."
Posted by Pat at 6:30 AM
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Cheers to Jack Swarbrick, the latest inhabitant of Moose Krause's office. We've heard nothing but good things about his bona fides, and have received warm endorsements from a couple of people that have worked with Swarbrick in the past.
Herewith, some selected snippets from the Swarbrick file (all text c/o the Indy Star, unless otherwise noted), in no particular order...
February 4, 2004. "City to get long-term Final Four agreement."
The NCAA not only broke from its conventional bidding process, it also promised the Indiana Sports Corp. an additional event in each of the intervening years between men's Final Fours.February 13, 2004. "Sports planner brokers big deal."
The women's Final Four, men's and women's early-round tournament games and the NCAA Convention will be included in each five-year cycle.
"Under the most conservative terms, this is a billion dollars of (total) revenue for the state and city," said Jack Swarbrick, former president of the Sports Corp., who brokered the deal. "And certainly out of a billion dollars, we won't have trouble finding funds to line up our end of the bargain."
In return, the Sports Corp. will arrange for Central Indiana to become a permanent backup site for the men's and women's Final Four. The Sports Corp. will also work to secure improvements for NCAA headquarters, including more parking, directional signs around the city and, if necessary, space to expand.
The long-term guarantee could help Mayor Bart Peterson build support for a stadium deal, which he wants to help keep the Indianapolis Colts from moving. The mayor said late last year that he was confident a deal to keep the NFL team would happen sometime this year.
...With the same enthusiasm, Swarbrick, 49, went on to broker the deal, announced last week, making Indianapolis a regular home to major NCAA events, including the men's and women's Final Fours.July 21, 2002. "The origins of a renewal."
It was a huge boost for the Sports Corp., still stinging from a $2.69 million loss on the World Basketball Championship in 2002. And with the long-term status of the Indianapolis Colts uncertain, it represented a selling point for proponents of a new stadium.
"He has the ability to draw common sense out of very complex problems and make everybody see the benefits at the end of the day," Bill Benner, vice president of the Sports Corp., said of Swarbrick. "There were so many components to this. Jack had the incredible ability to work all those constituencies and make them understand."
Making the deal happen involved not only dealing with the NCAA bureaucracy, which can be as nimble as a 350-pound defensive lineman, but also the city, the state, the Capital Improvement Board and the White River State Park Development Commission.
..."It transformed our view of ourselves, literally in an instant," said Indianapolis lawyer Jack Swarbrick, who was team handball commissioner and later served eight years as president of the Indiana Sports Corp. "When the athletes paraded down the mall, you could almost feel a sense of, 'Wow, we pulled it off.' "April 2, 2006. "NCAA deal helped make new stadium a slam dunk."
Added Sandy Knapp, then the sports corporation's executive director: "We knew it was our chance to stick our foot in the water. We couldn't blow it."
Indianapolis learned in February 1981 that it had beat out Philadelphia to play host to the festival, a multisport competition organized by the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Until then, it was the highlight of the Amateur Sports Initiative championed by then-Mayor William Hudnut's administration to help turn around the fortunes of a decaying Downtown.
"The momentum that (deal) provided was critical," said Jack Swarbrick, the Indiana Sports Corp. board member who brokered it with the NCAA. "It reinforced the message that (the stadium) was a community need."April 20, 2001. "Sports Corp lays out plan."
That allowed Swarbrick, Glass and Peterson to sell the new stadium that way.
For 30 years the city has consciously used sports to establish that unique franchise. Sports to Indianapolis is what microchips are to Silicon Valley.
"This is a franchise that we own as a community," Swarbrick said. The NCAA deal "institutionalizes" that franchise, Swarbrick said, giving the next generation something to build on.
Who knew sports would be among the nation's fastest- growing industries when the Indiana Sports Corp. was founded in 1979 as part of the fledgling development effort? "For all the brilliance of the people who started this, no one could foresee this kind of growth," Swarbrick said.
"The opportunity to catch our breath is about over, and we want to make sure all the pieces of the platform are in place,'' said Jack Swarbrick, who will leave his position after eight years as chairman of the board of the Sports Corp...June 29th, 2004. Chuck Wielgus, U.S. Swimming:
Earl Goode, 60, who recently retired after working 38 years for GTE, is expected to become the Sports Corp. chairman next fall. Swarbrick was awarded the Sagamore of the Wabash, the state's highest honor, by Lt. Gov. Joe Kernan and given a proclamation by Deputy Mayor Bill Shrewsberry.
Net economic impact on Indianapolis from 10 amateur sports events in 2000 was $59.6 million, according to the Sports Corp.
"At its most recent convention, the NCAA agreed to create a joint NCAA/USOC Task Force to study the status of Olympic sports programs at NCAA institutions and develop recommendations designed to protect and expand future opportunities for American athletes and coaches...December 26, 2004. "Founders nurtured their vision for city."
"The NCAA/USOC Task Force is being chaired by Jack Swarbrick … and there could not have been a better choice. While you may not have heard his name before, be assured that Mr. Swarbrick is a major player. He was instrumental in engineering the relocation of the NCAA from Overland Park to Indianapolis and he is exceptionally well thought of in the highest circles of NCAA leadership. As an attorney, Mr. Swarbrick has worked with numerous sports groups, including many NGBs and he has a deep understanding of our business and the issues involving Olympic sports. A visionary, with a rare appreciation for details and process, Jack Swarbrick is the ideal leader for this effort with the capability of being the catalyst for change."
...But the biggest impact came from the move of the NCAA headquarters from Overland Park, Kan.June 6, 2006. "Indy tops Chicago for Big Ten tourneys."
"For a long time we held the view that the logical missing piece for Indianapolis was an anchor tenant," said Jack Swarbrick, noting there are two major organizations for amateur sports, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and the NCAA. "So the relocation of the NCAA was the critical piece in the long-term strategy."
Swarbrick, of Baker & Daniels, has been involved with the Sports Corporation since the early days. Not only was he instrumental in bringing the NCAA here, he brokered the deal with the NCAA for annual major events.
The RCA Dome has been and will be the site of Final Four basketball, and if Indianapolis is to have Final Four events toward the end of the 35-year deal, past the 2010 men's Final Four already awarded, the city will need to keep pace with top facilities.
That's why Swarbrick was smiling as he joined the key players for last weekend's announcement of a proposed new stadium.
Swarbrick was representing the ISC, which has been built on partnerships. Also represented, along with Mayor Bart Peterson, were the NCAA, the Colts, the Capital Improvement Board (which owns and operates the RCA Dome) and the Convention and Visitors Association.
...So how did Indianapolis beat its more visible rival -- which also happens to be the home of the Big Ten office?April 27, 2005. "Swarbrick not your usual athletic director job candidate."
The quality of the Fieldhouse and Indianapolis' compact downtown helped. But a financial guarantee and some concessions involving both tournaments likely sealed the deal.
Indianapolis officials also agreed to pay the Big Ten $400,000 each year. And the girls basketball state finals might move out of the city because of a conflict with the women's tourney.
"It's not so much Chicago lost it as Indianapolis won it," said Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke. "Indianapolis really wanted this event."
The Fieldhouse had three capacity crowds of 18,730 during the 2006 tournament, but that still was about 5,000 less than capacity of the United Center. Big Ten officials also believed Chicago, the nation's third-largest television market, offered more sponsorship opportunities.
"We knew early on we had to get that off the table," said Indianapolis lawyer Jack Swarbrick, a longtime amateur sports activist who helped broker the deal. "So we did."...
"It wasn't what allowed us to win," Swarbrick said. "But it allowed us to emerge as an equal competitor."
Delany didn't dispute that.
"If you get to a certain level of parity financially, other things come into play," he said.
Such as the city's history of successfully staging major sporting events.
When university sports leaders turn to an attorney, it's often to resolve charges of wrongdoing.May 21, 2008. "It's ours! Indianapolis scores 2012 Super Bowl."
That was not the case with Arizona State. The university was interested in hiring Indianapolis attorney Jack Swarbrick as its athletic director.
Although Arizona State last week awarded the position to USC administrator Lisa Love , the fact the university considered an unconventional candidate is a measure of the esteem in which Swarbrick is held.
Swarbrick, a partner at Baker & Daniels, is not a college sports administrator. He said he is not looking to leave Indianapolis, either, but responded to an inquiry by Arizona State president Michael Crow .
"For ADs, the relationship with the president is everything," Swarbrick said. "There are very few of these that I would consider. As I got to know him and understand him a little better, I was intrigued.
"My impression was borne out. It's a university that's going to do some great things under president Crow. At the end of the day, it wasn't right for me."
Swarbrick said sports can exist as a central part of a university's educational mission. Public perception is that sports, specifically big-time football and men's basketball, are merely an entertainment adjunct.
If Swarbrick were to become an athletic director, "it's because I really want to change that paradigm," he said.
Swarbrick was a finalist in 2002 for the job of NCAA president. He was a key figure in the NCAA's move to Indianapolis in 2000, and he brokered the deal that makes Indianapolis a regular home to Final Fours.
...Jack Swarbrick, a leader of the bid effort, said the city is ahead of the game in getting ready to host the Super Bowl. He said governmental requirements such as waiving the sales and hotel tax on thousands of league-reserved rooms and providing public safety are already in place.For a guy whose name was not widely known to Irish fans outside of his hometown, this is quite the impressive resume, and at first blush it looks like a terrific hire. I had been hoping that the N.D. brass would look outside of the traditional athletic director careerist paradigm for their candidate, and get a capable negotiator and advocate who's more than comfortable operating on a big stage. That's exactly who Swarbrick appears to be: a mover and shaker who scored big for the city of Indianapolis, over and over again. I'm looking forward to seeing that same zeal in action on behalf of the Irish. Welcome aboard, Jack.
"We are going to throw one heck of a party," Swarbrick vowed. "We will turn over our city to the Super Bowl. When you come to our town, you own the joint."
Posted by Jay at 12:19 AM