Monday, June 23, 2008

SkyWriting: Off-season rundown | by Pat

The biggest news from the past few weeks is the recently announced TV contract extension with NBC. Originally set to expire in 2010, the Peacock will continue to broadcast all ND home games* until 2015. The transcript of the press conference can be read here.

Reaction to the deal has been rather amusing to read. Those that don't root for ND are annoyed that even on the heels of a horrid 3-9, NBC would still extend the contract with the Fighting Irish. ND fans on the other hand are annoyed somewhat for a variety of reasons ranging from minor -- Hammond and Hayden are expected back -- to speculative -- ND renegotiating from a position of weakness after ratings were down in 2007 -- to major -- the extension makes the 7-4-1 schedule model set in stone until 2015. Vonage and Halls Fruit Breezers were reported to be happy though.

* ND home games under the extension include the so-called barnstorming game. The upside is that the games will be prime time events. The downside is that by giving NBC broadcast rights, ND will have a hard time landing an opponent from the same geographical region as the stadium (see Washington State in San Antonio, Army in Chicago, Arizona State in Texas, and Baylor in New Orleans). We'll have more on the scheduling issues in a future post.

If you're looking for a bright side to the extension, aside from the fact that all ND home games will continue to be broadcast nationally (a fact that many ND fans take for granted to some extent) it will put an end to one particular negative recruiting tactic used against ND last year. Check out the comments of former coach Bill Lewis at a recent ND Club event in Orlando.

On recruiting: It can be really brutal - especially last year around national signing day. The coach up in Gainesville (didn't say his name) was telling our commitments that we were losing our NBC contract due to the 3-9 season. We only lost one person (he mentioned Omar Hunter by name).
Just another example that Urban will say just about anything to land a recruit.

He's back. It was a strong rumor that senior Pat Kuntz would be returning from his semester long exile, but now it is official. Good news to be sure for a defensive line that is short on experience and depth. With Kuntz back and likely shifting to defensive end, ND's ability to stop the run will hopefully get a boost. If it is enough of a boost is the big question heading into the fall. Kuntz also did a better than expected job of getting his hands up into passing lanes last year with 9 pass breakups, but that will likely be harder to come by this fall as he works the edges of the pocket rather than the middle.

Another note of good news was the team's academic performance as the team GPA was over a 3.0 for the sixth straight semester. Congrats all around to the team.

Credit where credit is due. A few years ago I took the Bookstore to task for the incredibly awful game day shirts. For those who find value in the game day shirts, this year's versions are much improved. So kudos to the bookstore for that. Of course, the "alternate" version of The Shirt going around the internet has plenty of potential too. The freshmen are now on campus and thanks to BlueandGold/com, we now know what numbers they have been assigned. Lou Somogyi does his usual bang up job relating the new numbers to their most famous and productive former owners. Here's the quick rundown of the guys we're all eager to see this fall.
3 - Michael Floyd
9 - Ethan Johnson
9 - Kyle Rudolph
10 - Dayne Crist
12 - Robert Blanton
15 - Dan McCarthy
17 - Deion Walker
25 - Jonas Gray
26 - Jamoris Slaughter
36 - David Posluszny
45 - Darius Fleming
46 - Steve Filer
52 - Braxston Cave
54 - Anthony McDonald
57 - Mike Golic, Jr.
73 - Lane Clelland
78 - Trevor Robinson
79 - Hafis Williams
81 - John Goodman
87 - Joseph Fauria
89 - Kapron Lewis-Moore
98 - Sean Cwynar
99 - Brandon Newman
It is a bit odd to see both Ethan Johnson and Kyle Rudolph both get #9, but as long as they aren't on the field at the same time, it's perfectly legal to do. And for those who bought Zibby jerseys, you now have double the chance of the jersey marking another Irish star.

Speaking of the freshmen, Michael Rothstein of the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette has been running some profiles on the incoming freshmen. So far he has one out on John Goodman and Dayne Crist. While the profile on Goodman covers his off-season workouts, the Crist article details his recruitment and includes the kind of pre-season anecdotes that fans eat up, like Crist asking Brady Quinn permission to be the next player to wear #10.