Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween! | by Pat

Rusting Ironsides | by Jay

Our buddy Adam from the Navy blog Pitch Right had a good post about the state of the Navy defense that's bogging down the Middies this year. Is that hope for the ND offense I see surfacing? Maybe.

Injuries- Don't get me wrong, Navy's defense still wouldn't be very good had the Midshipmen not lost Jeff Deliz, Clint Sovie, and Ketric Buffin, but chances are the defense doesn't sink into the depths of the Division 1 ranks had those three veteran players not gone down...

Youth- Coming into the year we all realized Navy's inexperienced defense would struggle. That defense, already fairly young to begin with, got a lot younger with the early season injuries to Deliz and Sovie, and continues to be dominated by either young players with no experience, or older players with limited experience. Any way you cut it, the point is that we're playing more underclassman than in previous years...

Leadership- In the past we've had continuity in terms of class and guys who lead collectively. Even in 2005, when the defense was very much inexperienced, did we see guys step up and take a leadership role. In that case it was the players from the Class of 2006. This year the defense is playing numerous players from all four classes, and although the sophomore class appears to be filled with some talent, no group of players has yet to really assert a leadership role...

Effort- This is not an opinion call on my part. Not only has Paul Johnson publicly questioned the effort of this Navy defense (after the Ball State loss) but the media and fans has started to wonder whether or not the drive and determination that were hallmarks of previous Navy teams are there at all this season...

Coaching?- All throughout this season, I've defended Buddy Green and explained away the defenses lack of production to injuries, youth, and bad fortune. But if you're not at least entertaining the thought that Buddy Green has done a less than impressive job at the helm of the defense, than your probably smoking something illegal...
And that's just the tip of the iceberg -- be sure to check out the entire post. Adam also has an entertaining back-and-forth with Irish blogger HLS. Check it out.

Pat mentioned it before, but this game really could be the Stoppable Force meeting the Moveable Object.

Prayers Offered | by Pat

Sad news out of Chicago yesterday as Earl Hughes, the older brother of freshman running Robert Hughes, was killed early Tuesday.

Earl Hughes was a role model for his younger brother, Robert. They last saw each other Sunday when Robert came home to visit.

"Robert wanted to be like his brother," said Jones, who was a running back for the Kansas City Chiefs in the 1984-85 season.

"His brother was big in sports and probably had more natural talent than Robert, but did not take advantage of his opportunities," Jones said. "His brother worked out with Robert and pushed him. He did not want Robert to make the mistakes he did. He wanted Robert to make the big time."

Still, Earl Hughes was a proud big brother who attended all of Notre Dame's home games.
According to Charlie, Robert has been excused from the team for as long as he needs. Please join BGS and keep the Hughes family in your prayers at this difficult time.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Factor... | by Jay

But not the factor, as Charlie said. Yes, we do have a young team this year. And no, it's not the only reason we're terrible. But just how young are these guys? And how do they stack up against Irish teams of yore? We were curious.

Armed with this question, our friend Dave went and looked up all the depth charts for Irish teams going back to '64 (Ara's first year). He also tabulated how much experience each player had, based on appearances in the two-deeps from previous years. We put it all together in a spreadsheet, added some averages and calculations, and published it right here. Take a gander.

ND Depth Charts, 1964-2007

Page 1 is the summary & rankings; page 2 contains the detailed depth charts. Here's how to read it.

• On the Depth Chart Detail (page 2), we've got all the players listed, their class year at the time, and then a measurement of their experience. We gave 1 point for each year they had previously been a starter, and a half-point for each year they appeared on the second string. For example, take Trevor Laws this year. He was a second stringer in '04 (.5 points), and started in '05 and '06 (2 points), so he's got an experience tally of 2.5. (We haven't really incorporated the experience tally into any of the averages, but it's nice to see when you're comparing year-to-year.)

• The Summary (page 1) shows the totals for each year. "1st String" is the average of the starters' class years. "Exp" is the experience total. "2nd String" is the average for the second stringers. Each "Rank" column ranks the stat from 1-44 -- the total number of years in the table. A rank of "1" would be the lowest average player year or the least amount of experience; a "44" would represent the oldest average player year or the most amount of experience.

(example - go to the link above for the full table)

Year 1st String Rank Exp Rank 2nd String Rank 1st String Rank Exp Rank 2nd String Rank
1964 3.45 37 8.5 7 3.27 42 2.82 7 6 1 2.91 39
2007 2.45 1 7.5 4 1.73 1 2.91 10 13.5 23 2.45 24

Off to the right on the summary page, we've averaged the offense & defense for each year, and ranked those, too.

Just 1st - O & D
Rank 1st + 2nd - O & D
3.14 21 3.11 42
2.68 1 2.39 1

Feel free to copy & paste the data and run your own calculations; there are a lot of ways you could slice and dice this stuff. (For example, if someone wanted to try to weight the starting years by the experience number, we'd be interested in seeing that.) We tried to keep it simple, and yet still get a roughly accurate measurement of just how young or old a team was.

Also, keep in mind this table of data is quite imprecise -- the two-deeps represent just one lineup (the most common, hopefully) used for that particular year, but a whole slew of players might have been in the mix. Take '88 - Green is listed as the running back, but we know that Watters, Brooks, Culver, AJ, Banks, etc, all got carries out of that position. Lineups also may have shifted during a season due to injuries or position battles. Finally, fifth-year seniors aren't given any special consideration, and are treated as simply seniors. At best, this is a very rough study, but we did our best to represent the common sense-starting lineup each year. (Feel free to suggest amendments.)

So what can we conclude? One thing's pretty clear -- and you sort of figured this would be the case, but the research really reaffirms it -- the '07 squad is one of the youngest, if not the youngest Irish team to take the field going back over 40 years. While the defense ranks in the bottom quartile in terms of age, the novice Irish offense is the clear, #1 greenhorn on the list. No team has ever had such an inexperienced two-deep since Ara took over.

Apart from looking at the '07 squad, a few more interesting historical nuggets bubble up:

• The inexperience this year may play some part in explaining a 1-7 record, but as a counterexample, just look at 1988. The national champions that year were also one of the younger Irish teams to ever take the field, with an average offensive age of 2.55 and freshman and sophomores littering the depth chart. The key difference, of course, is that the '88 squad had experience where it mattered: at running back, tackle, linebacker, and the secondary -- not to mention a savvy quarterback who played the option offense like no other. And the youngsters who filled in the gaps -- Rocket, Derek Brown, Watters, Zorich, Lyght -- all turned out to be superstars.

• By contrast, Holtz's oldest collection of starters was also his first, in 1986, and they went 5-6 (although 5 of those 6 losses were by 5 points or less).

• Charlie has had a real pickle in the team experience department. The 2006 team was quite seasoned, but look at this year, and look at the depth of the 2005 team (12th youngest or so).

• In 1984, Gerry Faust had one of the most experienced offenses in ND history; with the exception of new QB Steve Beuerlein, just about everybody else was a returning starter. Ranked #8 to start the year, he promptly lost to unranked Purdue in the opener, and turned in a 7-5 season.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.• Joe Theismann had a tremendous impact on Notre Dame football -- both as a starting quarterback, and by his absence. The 1970 team with Theismann came within a whisker of winning a National Championship (a team which still holds the school record for yards per game at 510), although he was the only player from the squad to go on to play more than one season in the NFL. The next year, with a veteran team -- but with Theismann gone -- the Irish were picked by Sports Illustrated to win the NC. But the 1971 team averaged almost 180 yards fewer per game (a dramatic drop-off), and scored 11 fewer points per game. Although they went 8-2, they lost badly to the only ranked team on their schedule (LSU, 28-8). They never found an adequate replacement for Theismann, shuttling between Bill Etter and Cliff Brown at quarterback. The graduation of a veteran quarterback can really set a team back, as 1971 showed.

And as 2007 is showing, too, come to think of it.

(Thanks again to Dave for all of his hard work in digging up this data.)

Personally Invested | by Jay

An interesting bit from today's presser, about how Charlie and the coaches are keeping this recruiting class together during this 1-7 season:

Q: Lastly, when you're out recruiting, out on the road, it must be as much reaffirming commitments to players who have said they're coming. Has your recruiting philosophy changed this year, and has your message to those guys changed when you're trying to reaffirm a commitment?

WEIS: What those players have done is they've bought into the 'we'. We've involved them a lot more. Anybody who has jumped on board and said 'yes' we involve them in everything that's going on. In other words, they're not outsiders. Once they say yes and the commitment is a two-way deal, we treat them like they're here. They know everything that's happening just the way everyone in the program does. I think they feel ownership, and they feel part of it.

They obviously have to withstand the ribbing from the people in the towns they're living in or the kids they're going to school with, but I think they view themselves as part of the future.

Q: In the past, do you think you didn't have that ownership at work as much as you do now?

WEIS: I don't think we let them know about everything and all the inner workings the way we do now. Back at signing day last year we lost a couple of guys, and afterwards we talked about the word commitment. Now we've shown that commitment is a two-way street, and we are involving them more than we did before.
Reading the recruiting articles lately, you get the sense that Charlie, Corwin, and the rest of the staff have fostered a sort of 'Band of Brothers' mentality among the incoming guys. They're engaged. They're invested. And there's got to be a lot of peer pressure to hang tough and hang together. New guys see that and want to be part of it (Floyd, for instance). And breaking the bond and leaving would be tough to do for any of them. They'd have to face Corwin, and they'd have to face their peers.

That's what I think is going on, anyway. It's either that, or Corwin Brown is some kind of Jedi master. ("You don't need to see our current record." "We don't need to see your current record.")

At the end of the presser, Charlie fielded this question:
Q: Charlie, I cover Navy in Annapolis. For those of us who haven't followed ND as closely, can you quickly summarize what you feel has happened this year? Is it just being hit hard by graduation, and the younger players having to fill in, and they haven't performed or they were not ready? Is it inexperience? In your analysis, what led to 1-7?

WEIS: Well, that's a loaded question [laughs]. Let's start with coaching, because in your question you gave me about 15 different excuses I could make for us being 1-7. So let's start with coaching. In the transition from last year to this year, I have not done the best job of having the team ready to go...

And I should probably leave it at that. If you're looking for me to give you a dossier of problems that have happened this year, there'd be too many things. But let's throw me out there [first].

Q: But the fact that you have such an inexperienced team, isn't that a crucial factor?

WEIS: Well, it's a factor, but that's what it is. It's a factor. It's not the factor. It'd be easy for me to sit there and say, "Well, if these five things weren't the case we'd be 7-1 right now." Well, the problem is they are the case. So I started with what I felt is the number one reason, and I think that if you start with the head coach doing a better job, then we probably have a better record.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Resumé-based Rankings | by Jay

Resumé-based rankings, i.e., the Conversation (now with hyperlinks!) Heading into week 9, here's how it shapes up:

7 -1 5 +13
15 Boston College ACC
8 0
5 +10
14 Michigan B10
6 -2 5 +11
14 Ohio State B10
8 0
5 +9
13 Virginia ACC
7 -1 6 +8
12 Arizona St PAC
7 0
5 +7
10 Missouri B12
6 -1 4 +7
9 Oklahoma B12
7 -1 4 +6
9 Oregon PAC
6 -1 4 +6
8 South Florida BE
6 -1 3 +6
7 Kansas B12
7 0 3 +4
7 South Carolina SEC
6 -2 4 +5
6 Georgia SEC
5 -2 4 +4
5 Connecticut BE
6 -1 3 +3
5 Kentucky SEC
6 -2 3 +4
5 Penn State B10
6 -2 4 +3
5 Southern Cal PAC
6 -1 5 +1
5 West Virginia BE
6 -1 3 +3
4 Virginia Tech ACC
6 -2 3 +3
3 Auburn SEC
5 -3 4 +2
3 California PAC
5 -2 3 +2
3 Illinois B10
5 -3 4 +2
3 Wake Forest ACC
5 -2 3 +2

(Opponent Bonus = Wins of teams you've beaten - Losses of teams you lost to)
(Points = BCS Wins - Losses + Opponent Bonus)

As of week 9, there are 23 teams in the Conversation (the logical cutoff this week was 3 points).

Of course, as we know, the Conversation is not meant to be a cold, generic, Sagarin-style output. The above table is just the raw data, the starting point, and with a deft hand we may adjust it according to things like common opponents (and common sense). Right now, however, let's leave it as-is, and take a look at some bullet points that bubble up.

• LSU still atop the Convo, despite a loss. The reason's pretty simple: almost everyone they've beaten has a winning record, and their four big wins (Va Tech, So Carolina, Florida, and Auburn) were against four pretty strong teams. Still, you could (and probably should) make a case for putting unblemished Boston College into the pole position ahead of them.

• Michigan snuck back in while we weren't looking, on the strength of the Penn State, Northwestern, Purdue and Illinois wins (+13), who are collectively 22-10. That's a nice rebound from an abysmal start. Ohio State doesn't have the resume quite yet; they include 2-5 Washington and 1-7 Minnesota among their BCS wins. We'll know more tonight (OSU @ Penn State, 8pm ET on ABC) and after the Michigan-OSU showdown.

Still, having a two-loss team like Michigan among the top 4 doesn't quite taste right. Should two bad losses -- one of them really bad -- outweigh four strong wins? Perhaps a tweak of the Conversation is in order to account for Division 1AA losses.

• UVA? Where did they come from? Talk about flying under the radar. They've played 6 BCS opponents thus far, and the games that are really helping them are wins over Georgia Tech (+3) and Connecticut (+3).

• Mizzou is ahead of Oklahoma according to points, but I would flip-flop those, obviously.

• Of all the Conversation teams, Southern Cal has the weakest Opponent Bonus. Consider their resume:

* beat 0-7 Idaho
* beat 4-4 Nebraska
* beat 2-5 Wash St
* beat 2-5 Washington
* lost to 3-4 Stanford
* beat 2-6 Arizona
* beat 1-7 Notre Dame

It's safe to say they haven't played anyone yet. That's why the Oregon-Southern Cal game is the one I'm most looking forward to today (3pm ET, FSN). How good are the Trojans? We're about to find out.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Say it Ain't So | by Brian

"Out of the mist, a new danger emerges. Formless, faceless, nameless---a phantom menace which lives up to the hype. How can one tackle that which one can not perceive? Bottom line, the Irish lack the team speed to keep up with BYE. BYE beats Notre Dame 35-10."

Weis Exposure Lens | by Pete

"Get your shots in while you can," said the 1-7 head football coach.

They certainly are.

The sports media and the Internet alike are abuzz about this year's abysmal season. Never before has Notre Dame struggled in such an epic, fruitless fashion, tallying blowout loss after blowout loss while crafting an offense that could go down in history as one of the worst ever produced, if not THE worst.

In fact, we here at BGS got called out in a recent piece on Slate. The article mentions our season predictions posted here in August, which averaged out to about 9-3. Nobody predicted worse than 8-4. One brave soul even ventured into 11-1 territory. They were, shall we say, 'optimistic.' Of course, our poll of Notre Dame fans found results eerily similar to ours, with the vast majority of predictions still falling between 8-4 and 10-2. Out of 2000+ predictions, only 10 brave, depressing souls predicted our potential, hopefully final record of 5-7.

We're a bit worse than predicted this year. We've been hailed as a symbol of the delusional Notre Dame fanbase drowning itself on the Kool-Aid that is the overinflated Charlie Weis. He is our Kool-Aid man, and this year there's been a serious lack of destroyed brick walls. Oh, no.

The piece is entitled, "Notre Dame's Charlie Weis, the worst football coach in the universe." Obviously, the writer and the deluded masses here at BGS are coming from slightly different viewpoints on the whole Notre Dame thing. We like Notre Dame. He doesn't. (Full Disclosure: The author of the piece is a Michigan alum. I'm obviously a Notre Dame grad. We may have to agree to disagree here.) But I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that Charlie Weis may not the worst football coach in the universe.

There's been a lot of talk amongst the naysayers this year about how Weis has been "exposed." The New England Patriots didn't seem to miss a beat following the absence of the offensive mastermind, although much of that is skewed due to their recent obscene success, which also can be attributed a bit towards their now current possession of perhaps the greatest wide receiver of this generation. In fact, the Patriots haven't won a Super Bowl without Weis, and if I were a shortsighted columnist with an agenda, I could skew that to suggest that the Patriots couldn't win the big game without him, and that the organization has been exposed since his departure.

And Notre Dame hasn't been the same since our own Brady left. It's apparent now that Weis can't win unless he's got a hunky guy named Brady under center, what with eight whole games of relevant data available for extrapolation.

But while the haters hoot and holler about their uncovering of Weis's ineptitude, they make a single, seriously flawed assumption: that the artifacts they're uncovering are frozen in time. Quite to the contrary, Charlie Weis is very much a work in progress, and any "exposure" of him relies on the fact that he will continue to be the same coach today at 1-7 that he will be years from now, hopefully and probably far removed from this nadir.

Make no mistake about it, Charlie Weis has made some serious missteps leading up to and during this season. He overlooked the desperate need for fundamental development for this young team, working to add wrinkles and tweaks to his offense before the team had fully learned how to block, catch, run, and tackle. Despite early signs of epic ineptitude, Weis continued to scheme his way to blowout losses until the disastrous Michigan game, after which he was forced to take the team "back to training camp." Some can point to Willingham's lack of recruiting as a large reason for this season's struggles (fans close to the program were concerned about the 2007 season the minute Weis was hired), but no lack of talent can explain this tragic road to 1-7.

But just as we can't be too harsh on some freshmen and sophomores forced into early playing time and making mistakes indicative of their youth, so too a level of perspective must be attributed to Weis's struggles. Ara Parseghian famously said he needed every day of his previous head coaching experience to properly prepare him for leading Notre Dame. Weis doesn't have that luxury.

Prior to overseeing Notre Dame's football team, the last time Charlie Weis was a head coach was when he coached a high school squad. The last time Charlie Weis coached a college team, he was a graduate assistant with South Carolina in 1985. Now he's the head football coach at the University of Notre Dame, decades removed from any head coaching or college coaching experience. There's a bit of a learning curve to be had there.

But people will point out that Weis is now in his third year as Notre Dame's head coach, that mythical third year where frogs turn to princes or just keep on croaking. Shouldn't he have figured the college head coaching game out by now?

I think this year marks the first time during Weis's tenure here that he's been forced to acknowledge errors in his approach. If you look back at the Notre Dame roster the last two years, it was pretty much custom-made for Weis's skill set. A confident QB with great decision making and competence running a complex playbook, a WR corps that can make the tough catches, and a RB that can catch balls out of the backfield and provide a great change of pace. While Weis played an essential role in coaxing the potential out of that offense, the experience at key positions allowed him to remain focused on game plan and scheme, knowing that, as in the big leagues, the fundamentals had already been addressed. He really didn't need to change much as far as coaching goes those first two years, as all missteps were blamed on talent deficiencies and Rick Minter. For all intents and purposes, this is the first year of Weis learning how to be a head coach.

For the first time, Weis's tried-and-true practices haven't been appropriate for the situation he's been given. While not excusable, it's likely Weis has spent so much time in the pros and the last two years with a veteran team, he completely took for granted the little things, those little things we're so, so bad at doing right now. He missed it, and the team is paying the price for that error this year.

But we can at least take solace in the fact that Weis has been owning up to his errors, and is making steps towards fixing them. A return to more physical practices, an increased focus on fundamentals, and a broader perspective towards building a program over the years, rather than his previous attitude of seeing his most immediate game as his only concern. The mere fact that Weis will acknowledge his failings is a huge step forward from Ty "I've never had a bad day" Willingham.

Following the 38-0 loss to USC, it's safe to say we aren't quite seeing a return on those investments yet. So while Weis appears to be able to recognize his mistakes, can we have any sort of confidence in his ability to correct them?

For some sense of the future, we can look at the area where Weis has already been forced to tackle a learning curve: recruiting. Weis had literally zero prior experience convincing high school athletes to hop on board his program, and given the aforementioned failings of his predecessor, he very much had to learn how to reload the depleted roster on the fly. While he did garner some early successes on the trail, pulling in the 5th ranked class in 2006 and the 11th ranked class in 2007 according to Scout (for purposes of edification, Willingham's classes: 5, 30, 27), he also was burnt by a couple mistakes. Those who criticized the first two classes noted that Weis perhaps banked too heavily on hitting home runs with stud recruits while letting very talented triples interested in his team go elsewhere, and his second class in particular fell victim to several late defections, as rival head coaches continued recruiting Notre Dame commitments in the shadows.

Following each season, Weis noted areas for improvement and set out improving them. After being left wanting at the fax machine last year by a couple recruits, Weis adopted a new recruiting philosophy that emphasized early evaluation and offers, and the "If you're looking, we're looking" mentality, which emphasized the need for recruits only to verbal once they truly had finalized their decision, and any reopening of their interest meant a reopening of Notre Dame's.

Weis's adjustments appear to be paying off, as he currently holds the #1 recruiting class in the land, and continues to pry away top notch recruits from the likes of USC, Florida, and Michigan, despite the despicable current product on the field. The class is certainly buoyed by new defensive coordinator and recruiting wunderkind Corwin Brown, who has been the lead on several significant commitments, but Weis deserves credit for making the hire. It appears that, as far as recruiting is concerned, there is a positive trend of identifying mistakes and correcting them.

Does this guarantee Weis will improve as a head football coach? Not necessarily, but a positive trend is a positive trend. And when you look at Weis's resume as a whole, there's a lot of evidence to suggest that our current struggles are more the exception than the rule.

It includes a state title as a high school coach, helping South Carolina reach bowl games in 2 of his 4 years there, winning a Super Bowl as a member of the Parcell's N.Y. Giants staff, coordinating one of the best offenses in N.Y. Jets history -- led by Vinny Testaverde, no less -- to their first division title, helping establish the careers of Ben Coates, Curtis Martin, Terry Glenn, and Vinny Testaverde, and three more Super Bowl wins leading the Patriots's offense and bringing Tom Brady from sixth-round draft pick and co-starter with Drew Henson at Michigan to one of the greatest quarterbacks ever in the NFL. Simply put, Weis has been a success at every level of his coaching career, including stints coaching special teams and defenses.

Of course, Chait and the other "exposers" would have you believe that Weis has simply been fortunate enough to be around the right players and coaches at the right time, riding their coattails all the way to success. After all, a guy has to be lucky if he just so happens to be around Tom Brady and Brady Quinn when they both suddenly decide to become some of the top players at their position -- a development that happens entirely in a vacuum, don't you know -- and fortunate enough to happen to be standing along the sidelines when teams decided to go out and win four Super Bowls and qualify for two straight BCS appearances. That's a Mr. Magoo-level of blind luck, far beyond any level of rational comprehension. It's like saying a metal detector happens to be fortunate enough to beep randomly when it sweeps over some spare change.

Critics will also point to Weis's record and Willingham's record at this point, and note the similarities: near-identical records, capped with blowout losses to rivals and highly-ranked opponents. If Notre Dame fans were so quick to turn on Willingham after his third year, so too should they ride Weis out of town after this year.

But the critics aren't giving us Notre Dame fans nearly enough credit. Willingham had done absolutely nothing over his career to suggest that he could do better than lead Notre Dame to a .500ish record. His lackadaisical recruiting suggested it, and all of his records at previous head coaching positions suggested it. What we saw with Willingham during his third year was a team settling into his established state of mediocrity, a state that we simply cannot accept.

Weis's third year is an entirely different animal, as his current product seems inexplicable when one looks at the positive indicators surrounding it. Recruiting is reaching an elite level, and Weis's resume suggests that he is, indeed, a talented coach. The situation shows that this year's struggles, unlike Willingham's, are less about the coach than the situation surrounding him. A historically inexperienced team, a brutally unbalanced schedule, and a major lack of talented upperclassmen. While Willingham's third year went exactly as it should, Weis's third year is an astounding exception to an otherwise illustrious career.

Chait says in his article that no great coach has ever underperformed at such a level as Weis, so therefore Weis is not a great coach, and may even be THE WORST COACH IN THE UNIVERSE. However, I would like to see the naysayers point to another coach who, without any relevant previous head coaching or college coaching experience, lead an incredibly high-profile team to levels of comparable achievement. Nearly all coaches refine their head coaching chops at smaller programs with lowered expectations and little to no microscope, and ascent to the premier positions after achieving near perfection of their technique. Weis's situation is unprecedented.

Is Charlie Weis the worst coach ever? Not even close. Is he the greatest? Not very likely. In fact, it's impossible to even close the book of judgment on Weis yet, because he's still very much in flux. There's no guarantee he can fix the problems he's identified, but is he not smart enough to figure it out? Not a hard enough worker? Not driven enough?

The talent on the team is getting better, and the coaching is in the process of getting better. Get your shots in now, and relish your epic exposure of the fraud that is Charlie Weis. While you're busy patting yourselves on the back, we're busy getting better as a football team and coaching staff. See you at the finish line.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

His name is Jonas | by Pat

Amazingly, good recruiting news continues to roll in: Michigan running back Jonas Gray has committed to Notre Dame. The 21st member of this recruiting class, Gray had committed to Nebraska previously, but concerned about the coaching situation in Lincoln, re-opened his recruitment. At that point, Notre Dame offered him a scholarship and, after an official visit during the Southern Cal game weekend, he quickly accepted.

"It's always been the place I wanted to be," Gray said.
Jonas had been quoted as having the Irish as a favorite as far back as the start of his junior year. Notre Dame recruited Gray, but did not offer him a written scholarship offer over this past summer. At that point Gray started to consider other schools and ultimately decided upon the Nebraska Cornhuskers early in August. With the uncertainty over Coach Bill Callahan's future, Gray decided to consider other options. He had kept in touch with Corwin Brown, and once he had put himself back on the market ND invited him to campus for a visit.

Despite ND's 1-7 record, Gray noted (as Floyd did) academics and the young talent ND is amassing as the major draws to the Dome.
"I want to go to law school and get into politics and I feel this is the best place academically. They also have one of the top recruiting classes and they're going to get better."
In addition to Nebraska and ND, Gray also picked up scholarship offers from Michigan, Florida, Wisconsin, and Michigan State. He's a 4-star recruit, ranked as the #3 running back in the country and 52nd best player overall according to Rivals. Scout has Gray as a 4-star recruit and the 106th ranked player overall. tabs Gray as the 89th overall player in the nation.

Gray elevated his ranking in the eyes of recruitnik sites with strong performances during the summer combines. The 5'9", 215 pound running back had one of the fastest 40 times at this summer's Columbus NIKE Camp (4.44) and followed that up with a Running Back MVP performance at the West Lafayette NIKE camp. At the Michigan Summer Camp, Gray ran the fastest 40 out of all of the campers with a 4.37 run. While 40 times can vary and I personally don't put much stock in them, having well-regarded runs at different camps is always a good sign. It's also always nice to see a recruit who doesn't drop out of the combines after just one good entry.

Gray followed up his All-State junior football campaign with an All-State performance in track. In addition to being part of a state championship winning 4x400 and 4x800 meter relay team, Gray finished 3rd in the state in the 100M dash with a time of 11.2 seconds and 4th in the state in the 200M with a time of 22.8. This year in football, Gray has rushed for 1,674 yards and 24 touchdowns in nine games. You can see some of his highlights here.

Gray is the only running back currently in this recruiting class and, similar to Aldridge and Hughes, presents a larger, more physical style of running. And while track and camp combine times don't necessarily translate into speed on the football field, there does seem to be ample evidence that Gray is far from a plodder. The young nucleus of talented skill position players on offense continues to grow. The ball carriers will be there; if the offensive line improves with age and added depth, the Irish offense should quickly rebound from this year's horrid showing.

Let's take a moment to note again that curious optimism running through the current recruiting class ("I just felt something special with this class," said Gray). It almost defies belief that ND could look so bad on the field, and yet appear so enticing to recruits. The coaching staff really is doing a fantastic job of getting the kids to believe that together they will be a major driving force in turning around Notre Dame Football.

Free Fallin' | by Pat

I mentioned the Special Ops parachute team that performed prior to the game in the previous post. Here is a link to more background on the unit and some fantastic photos from their jump. This picture in particular is a keeper. Click on the image for a full size shot.

Odds and Sods - Late in the Week Edition | by Pat

Parachute. It was fun to see the U.S. Army Special Operations Command Demonstration Parachute Team, the Black Daggers, parachute their way into Notre Dame Stadium prior to kickoff of the game and deliver the game ball. Still, I couldn't help but notice the ND grass claim another victim as the final parachuter caught his left foot in the turf during his landing and spent the second half of the game on crutches with a walking boot on his foot. In a way it made complete sense that in such a miserable season where nothing is going right, even a Special Ops soldier with hundreds of career jumps still managed to get himself hurt on what I imagine was a relatively easy jump with perfect weather.

Airport Song. Jay and I were joking before the game that maybe Southern Cal's rough flight into town would result in a Trojan team that had reordered their lives, put football in perspective and would blissfully enjoy another wonderful day on Earth rather than straining to make that extra yard or finish off that block. And for a second there, they kinda did. On their first possession the Men of Troy went three and out and overall they punted on six of nine first half possessions. But the second half was a different story as the Trojans only punted once more on their way to 21 points and the blowout win. The Irish on the other hand reached double digits for the second time this year (PSU being the other) with 10 punts.

What You Wish For. Going back on previous statements that he always wanted the ball to start the game, Charlie actually deferred on Saturday. Some fans had been calling for such a move for most of the year, and it was a sort of mini-big deal to see Charlie change his mind like that. Despite a 36-yard return by the Trojans, ND did a great job forcing a three and out and getting the ball right back. Of course the Irish offense failed to do much when they got the ball -- after receiving the kickoff to start the second half, the offense promptly fumbled on the second play.

One Man Wrecking Crew. Amid many down notes, the play of David Bruton continues to be a bright spot. In addition to one excellent pass breakup where he baited SC QB Mark Sanchez into throwing a slant, Bruton added "punt disruptor" to his already sterling special teams reputation. Last seen in 2006 looking completely lost as Dwayne Jarrett galloped to yet another touchdown, Bruton's play has been impressive and steadily improving as the year has progressed. Look for him to have productive games against Navy and Air Force in the coming weeks.

Great Escape. If one play sums up the 2007 season, it just might be Vidal Hazelton's 48 yard weaving catch and run through missed Irish tackle after missed Irish tackle. Overall, the Irish defense has been doing a better job of wrapping up this yea. But on that play, it was almost comical to watch the ND defenders tripping over themselves as Hazelton zigged and zagged his way into the endzone for the score.

So Long. No sooner was I thinking that a third straight class of ND students were going to be graduated without a single victory over Southern Cal during their stay on campus, that I noticed a steady stream of Irish fans starting to file out of the stadium. Keep in mind this was the third quarter. I can't quite remember ever seeing the stadium start to empty out that early before. Of course, no one can remember losing to Southern Cal by 38 points before.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

a Silver Lining | by Pat

The very bright news on an otherwise dreary weekend involved the commitment of Minnesota wide receiver Michael Floyd to ND. Floyd is the 20th member of the recruiting Class of 2008 and was one of the biggest targets in all of recruiting this year. On campus for his official visit, Floyd made his decision and publicly committed.

"I just got that feeling that Notre Dame was the place I wanted to be," Floyd said.

"This is it," he said. "I'm not going to take any more visits."
The 6'3", 200 pound Floyd's decision is great news for two reasons. First, he is a fantastic athlete and a talented wide receiver. The second is that after a few months of negative story after negative story, the Fighting Irish finally got some good news. In fact, some might even wonder why Floyd would pick the 1-7 ND over his second choice, undefeated and #1 Ohio State. In addition to noting academics as a factor, Floyd echoed the thoughts of many in his current recruiting class.
Floyd said Notre Dame's 1-7 record and struggles on offense didn't concern him.

"They are a young team and play a lot of freshmen and sophomores," Floyd said. "I think this '08 recruiting class is going to bring a different fire to the team."
One gets the feeling that the coaching staff is really selling the currently committed recruits on sticking to their pledge and being the collective tipping point that puts ND over the top talent-wise. It's a theme we keep hearing over and over with this class. For that reason, I'm going to opine that there won't be many, if any, decommits. Time will tell of course, but so far it has been nothing but optimism.
"We talk to all our guys on a regular basis," Weis said. "Hey, look, they go to the high schools and they get abused, just like we all do. And everyone says, 'You're going there?' That's the way people are. They're cynical by nature.

"I can't tell you how many of these young men have said. 'Don't worry about me, coach, I'm all in.' That is a repeated comment. Hey, do I feel bad for them? Sure. But I feel worse for the guys I've got here right now, OK. Especially the guys that are going out the door. But I think, almost to a man, these guys are saying, 'Don't worry about me, coach. I'm all Notre Dame. Go worry about the next guy. Don't worry about me.' "
For Floyd, the decision came down to the Irish, the aforementioned Buckeyes, and his hometown Minnesota Gophers. He also had offers from other top programs like Florida and Michigan. The recruiting sites all have him ranked highly: he's a 5-star recruit and the 39th overall player in the nation on Scout, a 4-star player and the 79th overall player on Rivals, and the 39th overall player on's Top 150. For those who want to get a glimpse of what he looks like on the field, here's a recent highlight clip from a game a few weeks ago. Be sure to watch until the end for a hilariously awkward question from a Gopher-friendly reporter. Floyd hails from Cretin-Derham Hall, a strong ND feeder that has given the Irish players like Rashon Powers-Neal, Marcus Freeman, Ryan Harris, and recent transfer Matt Carufel.

Defensive line and wide receiver were two positions that were crucial to this year's recruiting effort. The defensive line needs were taken care of and then some earlier in the year, but until Floyd's announcement, the receiver tally was lacking a superstar player. Floyd fulfills that goal and, now teamed with new friend and fellow 4-star recruit John Goodman, ND has a solid receiving duo that will complement freshmen Duval Kamara and Golden Tate in the coming years.

As the 20th commit, Floyd is the 16th in the current class ranked with a 4-star or higher. Adding these 16 recruits to the members of the freshman and sophomore classes, ND has 41 players with a 4-star or higher coming out of high school (according to Rivals). The previous three classes had 11 players total with such a ranking. While the star system is not the be-all and end-all of talent evaluation, when used as a quick summary of a class, the star system is historically fairly accurate at pegging the overall strength of a class. This is shaping up to be a very strong class indeed.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Standing Bye | by Jay

Give us a moment to catch our breaths. Most of us were at the Southern Cal game, and are still recuperating from a long night of imbibing at CJ's. Thank God it's a bye week.

In the meantime, check out this quote from Charlie's Trojan wrap-up. I think it encapsulates the chief coaching misstep this year, and hints at a renewed, vigorous approach heading into next season:

Q. You mentioned a minute or two ago about the blame and the mistakes. Just wondering if what you have looked at this year caused you to change any philosophy you have about coaching?

COACH WEIS: More specifically?

Q. Well, like the deferring, that is a subtle change. But just anything that causes you to think next year, this is how I do things totally different.

COACH WEIS: I think there's things that I never thought that I would do that I probably will do. You know, it's funny because Mike had asked a question one day when we started hitting in practice, hitting in practice after Michigan. I've never been a part of a program that hit full speed during the season. Never. And to be honest with you, I think it made us better.

So I think it's something that is starting at training camp this year, and starting in spring ball this year then going to training camp, I think we might have to do it more.
"I've never been part of a program that hit full speed during the season." For those of you thinking that Charlie hadn't fully made the leap from a pro mentality to the college game (drink), there you have it. There are risks to going full contact -- just look at the MASH unit on the other sideline on Saturday -- but our youngsters needed to hit, and hit hard. It sounds like Charlie's learned a valuable lesson in how to prepare a young, inexperienced team.

P.S. On a related note, AT's got a pretty good rant going over on Legends of South Bend. It's a cathartic read -- check it out if you haven't already.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Desperate Measures | by Jay

Charlie won the toss, and deferred. This must be rock bottom.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Kickoff! | by Jay

Originally uploaded by Blue-Gray Sky

Friday, October 19, 2007

the Green Machine, 2007 | by Jay

From the weekly presser...

Q. I think you mentioned at one point last year or the year before that the '77 green jersey game was your favorite game or one of your favorite games. Do you kind of wish you could have held the jersey as a surprise rather than it being announced so long ago?

COACH WEIS: No, because I didn't want to create a dog and pony show and all of a sudden we come out in the green jerseys. We are 1 and 6. It would be a heck of a thing to come out wearing the green jerseys. But I think at the time it was presented to me, to get that out of the way then so you didn't turn into doing it for the wrong reason, if we were going to use the jerseys for motivation, I'd use the ones that we have, the newer green ones that I really like.

These uniforms are ugly (laughter), but what the players like about them is that they're throwbacks. Because they're throwbacks, they're unique. Remember what those jerseys looked like? Remember those ugly pants? That's what they have to wear this week. What I didn't want to do is I didn't want to make a big deal about using it more as a motivational thing. This is in respect to honor that '77 team.
You know what? Screw it. If Charlie's not going to use the greens as motivation, we will. Adidas corporate marketing strategies be damned...that's what they're there for.

It was thirty years ago today (roughly) that the Irish broke out the Green, and a legend was born.

Let's also reprise a post we did the last time Southern Cal came to town. Click here for some good stuff.

Our friend Jamie sends in this op-ed with which we heartily agree...

by Jamie Reidy

It’s not just hip to be eco-friendly these days, it’s required. Heck, I’m writing this while sitting on a chair made from recycled chairs. But I am here to tell you green is not good.

At least not for the Fighting Irish.

Folks, the famed Green Jerseys are on life support – barely.

Since the famous 1977 game in which the surprisingly green-clad Irish crushed the Trojans, Notre Dame has donned the good luck jerseys eight times. Gerry Faust did it successfully against USC in 1983 and 1985. I’d say he weakened their significance by using them so quickly again in the ’85 game, but, hey, we won.

A master of history and motivation, Lou Holtz waited until the 1992 Sugar Bowl, when his boys were 17-point underdogs to Florida, to pull out the road jerseys with green numbering. Bravo. The Irish spanked the Gators, adding to the uniform’s mystique and giving those of us who were staggering along Bourbon Street that evening the profound joy of mocking the Gator Chomp to every blue and orange adorned person we encountered.

Alas, Holtz also went to the well once too many times. Fully aware his underachieving ’94 squad didn’t deserve to appear in the ’95 Fiesta Bowl against Heisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam, Kordell Stewart and the rest of the #4 ranked Colorado Buffaloes, Lou shamelessly pulled out the green jerseys. The Irish fell 31-3 but it wasn’t remotely that close.

Bob Davie never really “got” Notre Dame, as perfectly evidenced by his decision to resurrect the green jerseys for the 1999 Gator Bowl. Way to wake up the echoes, Bob! Amazingly, his boys did not rise to the occasion, losing to Georgia Tech 35-28. Just imagine if Boob had waited to play the ultimate Irish inspirational card until the 2000 home game against #1 Nebraska! Ah, never mind; he still would’ve sat on the ball and played for overtime.

Tyrone Willingham really tried to “get” Notre Dame. I recall his addressing members of the Monogram Club at Reunion 2002 and concluding his remarks with deep conviction, “Go Irish!” We all bought it that night. On November 2nd, 2002, Notre Dame entered its home game against Boston College 8-0 and ranked third in the BCS standings. Understandably, bookmakers made the Irish a 10-point favorite at home. Un-understandably, Ty pulled out the green jerseys. Notre Dame fumbled eight times, losing three along with its national championship hopes. And the green faded some more.

If any coach could possibly “get” Notre Dame, it had to be alum Charlie Weis. Demonstrating his feel, Coach Charlie sent his boys out for warm-ups in standard blue jerseys prior to facing #1 USC in 2005. Unbeknownst to Brady & Co., team managers were busy hanging green jerseys in their lockers! Word has it the players went completely bat shit when they entered the locker room. Just thinking about the goose bumps I got that day in the stands gave me goose bumps right now. True to legend, the Irish took a lead into halftime and nearly earned a win for the ages. Yes, yet another loss for the Green Jerseys, but at least they regained some of the shine they’d lost over their previous three outings.

Alas, like Gollum and his Ring, Charlie couldn’t keep his fingers off the precious. Claiming he wanted his seniors to experience winning in the green jerseys, Coach Weis inexplicably – I use this term because no amount of explaining will, uh, explain this decision – pulled them out versus Army. We beat the Cadets! Go Irish! Go Green jerseys! Yawn.

So, today the Green Jerseys’ record (in the "special occasion" category) stands at 4-4. And tomorrow Notre Dame faces USC in South Bend. Thanks to considerable pressure from Adidas (they didn’t like Charlie’s last minute switcheroo in 2005 because it prevented them from stocking the online Bookstore with similar jerseys. What’s the opposite of “cha ching”?), the Irish will take the field in replicas of the uniforms Dan Devine’s national champions wore in 1977’s legendary “Trojan Horse” game. This decision was announced months ago, mostly to give Adidas plenty of time to manufacture enough "mystique" to go around this time (at $50.00 a dose).

But let me not going to rail against the gross commercialism of this decision. Instead, I am going to plead for the sanctity of the Green Jersey.

President Jenkins, or Coach Weis, or Athletic Director Kevin White, or Board of Trustees chairman Patrick McCartan, or the ghost of George Gipp...or whoever runs this damn place, I beseech you:

Do not allow the Irish to embarrass the Green Jerseys once more (no matter how cool they look).

The Green Jerseys need to be placed in a secure, airtight room, where they can rest and regain their magical strengths for unseen fights that lie ahead (not games against the fourteenth ranked team in the country!). Please, pay Adidas whatever they want to recoup their losses on jerseys already manufactured. Any price will be worth the salvaging of an important piece of Notre Dame lore. And buy some carbon credits to offset the CO2 produced by the trucks that hauled all those jerseys unnecessarily.

But there's one alternative to packing them away forever, one alternative to putting them in mothballs, one alternative that would, just a little bit, start to color in the faded green and rekindle the mystique...

Beating Southern Cal tomorrow.

"He looks a little dizzy from here...." | by Pat

In case you haven't noticed, ND video historian extraordinaire T.J. has been posting up a storm over on the BGS Screening Room. From the very first Notre Dame - Southern Cal game in 1926, to video of Irish legend Motts Tonelli running wild in 1937, up to a rarely seen look at the 1965 matchup in South Bend, there is a treasure trove of historical footage to keep you entertained today. And if you're looking for something a bit more recent, RocketShark has a great recap of the late 80's/early 90's matchups between the Irish and the Trojans.

One of the best videos though is one from the 1959 upset of #7 Southern Cal in Joe Kuharich's first year as Notre Dame head coach. Aside from the game action and video of the students tearing down the goalposts after the win, check out the wild action when a drunk Irish fan decided to bob and weave his way around the field during the game to the delight of the fans, cops, and Moose Krause himself.

TJ chimes in:

Hilarious clip, and I discovered it by accident! To be honest, I have such a huge collection of things that I don't always sit and watch every single game I have all the way through. I've probably had this '59 USC game for close to two years and I never reached the end of the game until watching it late one night about two weeks ago. It took me completely my surprise. And I couldn't believe in a 1-hour condensed game replay that they devoted so much time to a drunk running around the field! Gotta love the early days of television...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Talkin' Trojans | by Pat

Here to help us preview the Trojans are the fine gents from Conquest Chronicles, one of the best college football blogs out there. Here are their answers to our questions, and over on their site you can find our answers to their questions.

1. What is going on in Trojanland? The past few games have spawned a million and one critics with people blaming everything from young assistant coaches, to injuries, to inexperienced players, to the long grass in ND Stadium. What is your opinion on the suddenly mortal looking Men of Troy?

DC Trojan: You've already identified all the problems - it's a question of all of them hitting at once. Well, except for the long grass. Actually, it seems to me that this season's problems are just last season's, only more so. The play-calling still doesn't match well with the skills of the starters, the defense is not generating the points that it did in the 2003 - 2005 period, the "bend don't break" approach is yielding too many passing yards, etc. Last season the first indication of trouble was the relative shortfall of the running game, and the lack of defensive scoring. This season, that's compounded by the injuries to the offensive line and a secondary that was already a bit short before injury, as well as the lack of any consistent wide receivers who aren't actually Tight Ends. There's also no escaping the fact that John David Booty isn't as effective as Matt Leinart - I don't know that I buy the prevailing opinion that his height is causing the tipped passes, for instance; I think it's part and parcel of how he sees (and doesn't see) the field. He's got a great arm and a great touch when he has time. That's the problem.

Paragon SC: Pete Carroll is a creature of habit and he is stubborn to change. We have all been frustrated with the pass plays that seem to garner opposing offenses 7-9 yards a play. The "bend don't break" approach that DC Trojan alluded too is an attempt to probe and see how they react to certain situations before making adjustments. Pete Carroll would rather give up that yardage in the hopes of getting a turnover and not give up the big play.

The other thing that must be realized is that with all the talent SC has Pete Carroll, at least in the early going, was tinkering with different players in different packages. So that might have affected consistency. Provided players are healthy USC can flip the switch when it needs to, just look at the third quarter against Nebraska. I realize that the "running back by committee" is an indication that you don't have a dominant back but with the talent SC has sometimes a dominant back isn't what you need. It may be considered toying with your opponents but no other team can flex its muscles like that and afford such luxuries.

2. With ND having its own QB controversy of sorts, what is your take on the current Trojan quarterback situation? Whom do you prefer to start against Notre Dame and why?

DC Trojan: The heartburn inducing fact about either Sanchez or Booty is that they throw interceptions and plenty of them. I haven't been following the details of Notre Dame's season but one abiding impression is that the Irish defense is pretty opportunistic with turnovers - as I read the game report against UCLA, for instance, it seemed that the offense wasn't getting anywhere in particular but the defense made the difference. That being the case, I'd have slight preference for starting Sanchez solely on the grounds that Booty's finger isn't healed yet. Starting an injured JDB in such a rivalry game, potentially in the rain, seems like a good way to create the conditions for failure.

In all honesty, my stress levels would be alleviated more significantly if Chilo Rachal, Stafon Johnson, and Brian Cushing were to start. If USC is to win this game, it will have to be through ball control on offense, and sacking Sharpley or Clausen at every opportunity to safeguard our secondary.

Paragon SC: Controversies rise out of poor performance. Booty being injured, at least to me, removes the controversy. Can he play or not it is as simple as that. There weren't too many complaints about Booty's play until the Washington game when the injuries started piling up. My frustration with Booty's performance against Stanford was that the coaching staff left Booty in while he was injured while allowing him to continue to throw passes, that's just foolish. I think Sanchez should start if for other reason than that he is healthy. I want to win and for the most part I trust the coaching staff to make the right call. Most of the time they do make the right call so I will defer to them here.

3. Despite the struggles this year, Pete Carroll has had tremendous success at USC. How did you regard him when he first took the job? Did your opinion of him change as he built USC into a title contender? And what do you think the future holds for Pete Carroll and USC?"

DC Trojan: I will freely admit that I was horrified when USC hired Pete Carroll. It seemed like a dreadful choice based on his performance with the Jets and the Patriots. I'd say that goes to show what I know by comparison to our AD, but no-one has convinced me yet that hiring Pete Carroll was an instance of anything other than desperation by Mike Garrett, a man who is plainly so lucky that rabbits rub his feet.

Obviously I've changed my opinion of Carroll in terms of the results that he has produced since he's taken over. I remain convinced that he has the right overall personality to recruit and motivate college football players in a way that few others can, though it would be nice if he were more overtly a disciplinarian - having players like Eric Wright disappear in the wake of scandal doesn't send a very loud message, for instance. During the game, I think his defensive adjustments are outstanding. Carroll also cured SC of a bad and long-standing habit of only really playing in the second half, which is not totally effective when you're already down by 2 - 3 touchdowns.

As for the future, some of that is going to depend on how badly the rest of this season goes, and how he chooses to deal with it in the off-season. If you think back to the first years of Carroll's tenure, you have to think about what a bunch of odd ducks and personalities he had working for him - by which I mean, having Carroll, Ed Orgeron, and Norm Chow all coaching in one place - talk about an unlikely group combining to dramatic effect. Much as I like Steve Sarkisian, he and Nick Holt just don't produce results of the same standard. All of which to say, if this season progresses as I suspect it might with at least another 3 conference losses, Carroll really needs to have a rethink about who he's hiring, and possibly start thinking in terms of succession by getting more experienced coordinators. Digging in his heels after a bad season would burn tolerance that he's built up over years of results... except of course with the kind of "fan" that wants him fired for losing to Stanford.

As for USC as a team, there's talent in them thar hills, if only we could mine it over the next season or two. Kris O'Dowd's success in stepping into the offensive line as a true freshman, Joe McKnight's growing confidence, the play of Stanley Havili: these are all causes for optimism for next year. It's unlikely that SC will have another run like 2003 - 2005 (basically until about the last couple minutes of the Rose Bowl versus Texas); the players are in place for a glide path that would be a good year for most teams. But that's only going to come to fruition if the coaching is adjusted to the players who are on the ground today, and the players actually execute.

One other thought, lest I be accused of ducking it: doubtless some BGS readers are thinking about the prospect of penalties against USC over Reggie Bush's shenanigans. I have no idea how that will shake out - I remain, as a homer, convinced that the NCAA is going to need a smoking gun in the form of someone at the University knowing but not acting, before bringing down the hammer. As a cynic, however, I can't help but think that a bad year for USC might mean that lowered revenues and a decline in favorable media exposure might help the NCAA overcome any timidity. If that happens, then I suppose we dig in for the long rebuilding process. TBD, as they say.

Paragon SC: DC Trojan hits all the right points here but to expound on one of his points I see on fatal flaw with Pete Carroll, his unwillingness (some would say inability) to adequately replace Chow, Orgeron, and Davis. To be fair, this was the perfect storm of coaches that came together to coach the perfect storm of talent that they recruited. Nothing lasts forever and keeping top-flight assistants is just such an example. The problem is replacing that coaching talent and the development of the younger players is not where we have seen it in the past.

I do think that SC was setting itself up to go on another run similar to what we saw in 2003-2005 before the injuries set in. This defense is taking on the looks of the defenses from 2002-2004. Keith Rivers is obviously having a monster year but he is doing it under the radar. His play may not be spectacular but it is solid and he is seemingly in on every tackle. Ellis along with Rivers are on fire on the defense. Ellis has had some compare him a to Mike Patterson and that comparison is not too far off, as he commands blockers because he's so hard to move and disrupts everything along the line filling the gaps and lanes. Ellis isn't quite as good at getting to the quarterback as Patterson was though. Patterson also commanded blockers because he was simply too quick, too strong and too low to the ground for a single blocker and he required a lot of double teams and extra attention to make sure he didn't move the defensive interior backwards. Patterson was more effective against both the run and the pass while Ellis is dominant against the run and in completely scuttling what a 5-man line tries to set up in the pass and run game.

The defense is still doing a pretty good job even with all the injuries they have. So if more of our players were healthy and if the Offense was hitting on all cylinders this team would have been real scary. We'll see what team shows up on Saturday. Good Luck Guys!