Friday, December 26, 2008

Hawaii Bowl Photo Galleries | by Pat

Here are a collection of photos from the fun bowl win on Wednesday. If you notice other photo galleries, add a link in the comment section.

Right now, there are game day photos found at and the Honolulu Advertiser (plus pre-game and fan photos).

The picture of the game has to be Golden Tate hauling in yet another deep pass en route to his 177 yard, 3 TD day. NDnation poster The Irish Cardinal has a report from the game that ties into the runner-up photo.

After the game, some fan in a "Rudy" costume ran his way out on the field; he was quickly pulled off by police. His "helmet", a gold-painted cardboard box, was used by some of the players in their pics.
Here's a picture of that homemade helmet, courtesy of Asaph Schwapp.

And if you're looking to extend the luau with some game highlights, ESPN has you covered.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas | by Jay

Go Irish!

Take the Irish Bowling | by Jay

Four years ago, in the dawning days of this blog, I wrote a bit called "Insightless" about how going to the bowl was a bad idea: Willingham had just been fired, the rest of coaching staff were lame ducks (and even traitors, in the case of Greg Mattison), we were playing a tough team we didn't really match up with, the cost of the trip was exhorbitant, and so on. Charlie had already been hired, and this bowl game felt like one final, frustrating delay before the massive house cleaning that was going to get the Irish back on the winning track. Good Lord, just get it over with already. Get this lame duck bowl game done, sweep away the old staff, and let's start fresh.

This year, there are plenty of legitimate complaints about playing in the Hawaii Bowl. For starters, some folks say that a .500 Irish team should never go to a bowl game, and I hear where those people are coming from -- there's something to be said for maintaining that stubborn Irish tradition of self-dignity. And while I'm less chagrined than some of my colleagues about this year's tropical destination, or the appearance that this is some sort of "reward" for a lackluster season, there's no getting around the fact that playing on Christmas Eve simply sucks. Of all the time slots in the bloated bowl season, it's unquestionably the worst.

I think this year's circumstances are quite different than in 2004, however, and that's why I'm glad we're going bowling, regardless of the where and when. Four years ago we should have turned down that Insight Bowl (just like we did in 1996, during another coaching transition), as it just delayed the inevitable, but this year, the trajectory is entirely different. While the 2008 season was an overall disappointment, we can all see that this is a young team still trying to find itself, a young team that's still on the rise. Expectations for next year are going to be very high, and rightly so: all that budding talent is just popping up through the topsoil. They need more practice, more reps, more live fire, and another chance to prove themselves. A bowl game is just the thing.

If you watched any of the captains' interviews this week over on, you know that the motivation for the senior class "band of brothers" is to put an end to the bowl losing streak and exact some revenge for being tagged "the worst recruiting class in ND history." (Like Paul mentioned to me, I'm sorry, but after watching the Grimes-Crum-Bruton press conference, all my opposition to the Hawai'i Bowl as a destination, Christmas Eve or not, vanished.) But for the rest of the team, for all the guys returning -- and that's most of them -- I think playing a bowl game is an important rung on the ladder towards continued improvement.

And just imagine if we actually won this thing. A bowl win would put a capper on the disappointment of 2008, and begin to set the stage for next year. An Irish bowl win would be a stocking stuffed with gifts, instead of a lump of coal. It'd be like George Bailey being visited by that Angel. It'd be Brian Boitano brokering a peace between Jesus and Santa Claus. It'd be the former Bishop of Turkey putting a present in your wooden shoe, instead of hitting you with a switch.

All in all, it'd be a bona fide Christmas (Eve) miracle.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Closer Look at Hawaii | by Pat

Ok, let's take a look at this Hawaii team that will be facing off against Notre Dame in a little over 24 hours. Feel free to add any comments, corrections, or criticisms. Also, make sure to check out Tombo's work at He does a great job covering Hawaii football.

First off, Hawaii's season to date:

L @ Florida (12-1) 10-56
W Weber State (10-4) 36-17
L @ Oregon State (8-4) 17-45
L San Jose State (6-6) 17-20
W @ Fresno State (7-6) 32-29
W Louisiana Tech (7-5) 24-14
@ Boise State (12-0) 7-27
Nevada (7-5) 38-31
@ Utah State (3-9) 14-30
W @ New Mexico State (3-9) 42-30
Idaho (2-10) 49-17
W Washington State (2-11) 24-10
L Cincinnati (11-2) 24-29
Now let's take a look at the positions.


Greg Alexander
. RS Junior
2008 stats: 131 completions, 206 attempts, 1634 yards, 12 TDs, 4 INTs.

Greg Alexander started Hawaii's first game of the season against Florida but was benched during the game for his rocky start. He rode the pine the next few games while Hawaii tried two different starting quarterbacks. Alexander returned to the field in a relief role against Nevada and wound up leading the team to a come from behind victory. Since that game he's been the starter and led Hawaii to a 4-2 record after a 3-4 start. In the last six games, Alexander has been completing nearly 65% of his passes and has a stellar 12-2 TD/INT ratio. Depth: Redshirt junior Inoke Funaki took over the starting job from Alexander early in the season but wasn't terribly effective with a poor 6/12 TD/INT ratio. Five of those interceptions came against Boise State, which led to Funaki losing his starting job. Still, Funaki provides some experienced depth off the bench if Hawaii needs him. Tyler Graunke also started a game this season, but is firmly the third QB at this point.

Running Back

Kealoha Pilares
. Sophomore.
2008 stats: 54 attempts, 281 yards, 5 TDs.

Sophomore Kealoha Pilares missed the last two games due to injury, but is expected to return to the starting lineup against Notre Dame. Hawaii's running game is ranked 108th in the nation, but Pilares averages an impressive 5.2 yards per carry. He has also spent some time working out of the slot where he has 26 receptions for 230 yards and 2 TDs. Still, his sprained right foot has been giving him a bit of trouble at recent practices so it will be interesting to see how effective he can be during the game. Depth: Senior Daniel Libre actually led the team in rushing with 431 yards on 98 attempts. He also leads the team in rushing TDs with six. If Pilares's foot starts to affect his performance, look for Libre to get the bulk of the carries in the game. 5th year senior David Farmer started three games this season and as the team's best blocking running back will see even more time if the ND defense is getting early pressure on QB Greg Alexander.

Wide Receiver

Greg Salas. RS Sophomore.
2008 stats: 50 receptions, 755 yards, 3 TDs.
Michael Washington. Senior.
2008 stats: 56 receptions, 693 yards, 5 TDs.
Malcolm Lane. Junior.
2008 stats: 31 receptions, 584 yards, 6 TDs.
Aaron Bain. Senior.
2008 stats: 44 receptions, 448 yards, 4 TDs.

Although not as prolific as last year's passing attack, Hawaii still boasts the nation's #33 passing offense. Spreading out the field with four receivers on most downs, Hawaii has a quartet with over 30 receptions this season. Michael Washington leads the team in receptions and for his efforts this season was recently named 2nd Team All-WAC. At 5'8" 170, he's also the smallest of the main Hawaii receivers. The deep threat is Malcolm Lane, who boasts an impressive 18.84 yards per catch. He also leads the team in receiving touchdowns with six. When Hawaii decides to test ND deep, Lane will be the likely target. He's also 12th in the nation in kickoff return yards with a 27.8 yard per kick return average. Another quick receiver, Greg Salas led the team in receiving yards, but was fourth in receiving TDs. He's also the team's biggest starting receiver at 6'2" 200 pounds. Rounding out the starting receivers is junior Aaron Bain. He's been getting Greg Alexander's attention as of late as he has led the team in receptions over the past four games. Depth: Redshirt junior Jon Medeiros provides a bit more depth off the bench. He only has nine receptions on the season, but caught two of them, one good for a touchdown, in the final regular season game against Cincinnati.

Tight End

Hawaii doesn't list a tight end on their roster, preferring to use multiple receivers instead.

Offensive Line

LT - Aaron Kia. RS Junior.
LG - Keith AhSoon. RS Senior.
C - John Estes. RS Junior.
RG - Lafu Tuioti-Mariner. RS Senior.
RT - Keoni Steinhoff. RS Senior.

John Estes is a solid presence in an otherwise leaky offensive line. Estes was named 1st Team All-WAC for the second straight season and has started 40 games in his college career. However, as a whole the Hawaii line has allowed an NCAA leading 49 sacks on the season. In the past two games alone, Hawaii has allowed 10 sacks. Part of the reason for the high sack numbers has been the injuries that have forced some shuffling along the line all season long. Estes and the right side of the line have started every game this season, but the left side has seen some changes. Keith AhSoon, who started at left tackle last seaosn, missed six weeks before returning to the starting lineup at left guard. Aaron Kia didn't begin the year as a starter, but came on as an injury replacement and has started the last 10 games. Depth: Laupepa Letuli started the season as the team's left tackle but was lost to injury. He's able to play now and provides depth off the bench at both tackle and guard.

Defensive Line

DE - David Veikune. RS Senior.
2008 stats:
71 tackles, 16.0 TFL, 9.0 sacks, 4 FF.
DT - Keala Watson. RS Sophomore.
2008 stats: 28 tackles, 6.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 2 blocked kicks.
DT - Joshua Leonard. Senior.
2008 stats: 36 tackles, 8.0 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 FR.
DE - John Fonoti. RS Junior.
2008 stats: 55 tackles, 7.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks, 3 FR.

In addition to being named 2nd Team All-WAC, defensive end David Veikune led the Hawaii defense in sacks and tackles for loss. He's also been on a roll lately as all nine of his sacks have come in the past six games after failing to get a single sack in the first seven games. Likewise, 11 of his 15 TFL have come in the second half of the season. 6'2" 300 pound defensive tackle Keala Watson joined Veikune on the 2nd Team All-WAC honor roll and teams with 6'3" 305 pound Joshua Leonard to give Hawaii plenty of size along the interior of the defensive line. 6'2" 255 pound John Fonoti is listed on the roster as a linebacker, but has started at defensive end all season long. He's second on the team in sacks for a defense that is currently ranked 11th in the nation in total sacks.


WLB - Adam Leonard. Senior.
2008 stats: 81 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks.
MLB - Solomon Elimimian. Senior.
2008 stats: 112 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 3.0 sacks, 1 FR, 1 FF.
SLB - Brashton Satele. RS Junior.
2008 stats: 50 tackles, 5.0 TFL, 1.0 sack, 1 INT, 1 FF.

Hawaii uses slighly different nomenclature for their linebacker corp. For the Warriors, Adam Leonard is the Stub linebacker while Brashton Satele is the Buck 'backer. Soloman Elimimian is the lightest of the three starting linebackers at a listed 225 pounds, which is somewhat unusual considering he is the middle linebacker. But he been more that effective at that spot. For the second straight year he has led the team in tackles and the senior with 48 career starts under his belt was also recently named Co-Defensive Player of the Year in the WAC. Adam Leonard received 1st team All-WAC honors as well after finishing the regular season as Hawaii's second leading tackler. Satele moved around a bit during the season, finally emerging as the starting Buck linebacker three games ago. He's the team's biggest starting linebacker at 6'1" 255 pounds, which will definitely help Hawaii's rush defense. Depth: R.J. Kiesel-Kauhane started three games during the year, but was far below the other starters on defense as he finished the regular season with 22 tackles, good for 14th on the team.

Defensive Back

CB - Jameel Dowling.
RS Senior.
2008 stats: 66 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FR.
FS - Ryan Mouton. Senior.
2008 stats: 36 tackles, 5.0 TFL, 1.0 sack, 1 INT, 1 FR. 2 FF.
SS - Keao Monteilh. RS Senior.
2008 stats: 41 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 0.0 sacks, 5 INTs.
CB - Calvin Roberts. RS Senior.
2008 stats: 55 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 0.0 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FR.

One of the best athletes on the team, free safety Ryan Mouton was the third Hawaii defender named 1st Team All-WAC. Normally a safety, Mouton moves to the nickel back spot when Hawaii brings on an extra defensive back. Highlighting his importance to the team, Mouton also started 2 games at receiver, catching 8 passes for 71 yards. While Mouton led the team in passes broken up, his fellow safety Keao Monteilh led the team in interceptions with five. At cornerback, Jameel Dowling was 4th on the team in tackles, which usually means he was the corner that opposing teams picked on the most. Calvin Roberts was right next to Dowling as the team's fifth leading tackler so teams weren't exactly scared to throw his way either. Depth: 5th year senior Erik Robinson started most of the season at strong safety before getting injured. He is back now and will rotate in with Monteilh. When Hawaii goes to a nickel, Robinson usually will come in as the extra defensive back. 5th year senior Desmond Thomas started when Ryan Mouton missed time with an ankle injury and will see some snaps if Mouton needs a break.

Hawaii Game Analysis

The thing that jumps out at me after writing this is just how old the Hawaii team is. Of the 22 starters, only 1 (running back Pilares) isn't at least a junior. 18 of the 22 starters are at least seniors if you go by when they graduated high school. There are no true freshmen on the entire 2-deep. Contrast that with 8 freshmen on ND's 2-deep, 5 of which have started a game.

Hawaii's team is full of junior college transfers and transfers from other colleges, which explains why there are so many college veterans on the team. However, that experience hasn't translated into discipline as Hawaii leads the nation in penalties and is only second to TCU in penalties per game. It's hard to say if the penalties are more of the personal foul or false start variety, but Hawaii lately has had a reputation of hitting through the echo of the whistle. A lot of electronic ink has been used writing about ND's passion and willingness to fight back this season. How they handle an (overly) aggressive Hawaii team from the start will give us an early clue as to how the game might unfold.

I mentioned a few times how the second half improvement was noticeable in a few players like QB Greg Alexander and DE David Veikune. They certainly have stepped up their production, but it's only fair to point out that their competition over those games was hardly impressive. The first 7 opponents that Hawaii faced went a collective 62-26 on the season while the last 6 only went 28-46, including 4 teams that won 3 or fewer games. How much of that late season improvement was due to Hawaii improving and how much was due to the much lower level of competition?

Looking at the talent levels, ND has the edge at just about every position. But what has made this season so maddening is that despite the edge in talent, Notre Dame has still struggled and looked awful at times. Getting Micheal Floyd and Brian Smith back from injury will definitely help as they not only are two of the more talented players on their side of the ball, but also the two likely to fire up teammates through their play. It's easy to relax when the days leading up to the game are filled with beach parties and trips to water parks. If ND can focus and not treat thet entire bowl game trip like a vacation, ND should win, perhaps even easily. But nothing has come easy this season. Assuming ND starts out slow, they will need to avoid the 4th quarter collapses that have plagued them the latter half of the season. Both teams have been rather generous to their opponents with turnovers (ND is 85th in turnover margin, Hawaii is 90th), so it's very likely that the game could come down to which team is able to hold on the ball more. Much has been made about Hawaii's nation worst sack numbers, so if the Irish defense are ever going to have that breakout sack-filled game we've all been waiting for, now's as good a time as any.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Stocking Stuffer | by Jay

What says Christmas more than June Jones and Bob Davie breaking down the Hawaii run-and-shoot offense?

If you're questioning the appropriateness of the Bullet in any conversation about effective offense, you should know that Bob Davie -- yes, that Bob Davie -- is partially credited with helping to kill the run-and-shoot as a widespread phenomenon. This post at Smart Football (one of the best Xs and Os blogs out there) delineates the rise and eventual fall of the 4-wide choice route offense.

It becomes a study in game theory and reading and reacting. So defenses responded to this tactic. They had to keep at least one safety or another defender back to spy the RB. Why does this mean no blitzing? If the RB is able to block the end man on the line of scrimmage while another player must sit back and not blitz, simply to see whether or not the RB releases on a screen. The net result was that R&S teams rarely, if ever, saw Cover 0 blitzing man defenses. They could always release four receivers, block with six (assuming their six could block the other teams' six) and not face any overload blitzes.

Enter the zone blitz. Back in his days with Texas A&M, Bob Davie was an innovator. Against run and shoot teams like the University of Houston, he would run his 3-4 defense, blitz his outside LBs (thus forcing the RB to stay in and block), and drop off defensive linemen and interior linebackers so he could still play zone with six to eight defenders. As a result the R&S's protection and formation scheme broke down. They blocked with six, had the running back on a bad matchup with a good OLB, faced an unblocked rusher, but the defense still had 6-8 guys in coverage, so the R&S's "hot reads" and breakoffs did not work either. The run and shoot finally had to adapt. Sure they could do things like certain quick breakoffs and other gadgets, but free rushers and seven guys in coverage was a losing battle for the QB.

So it was not merely "disguising coverages," (as Run and Shoot QBs and receivers were well coached and could still find the voids or the single man), or the blitzing (as shown above, Run and Shoot teams could defeat the blitz), it was the defensive combination of always being able to always get an unblocked rusher, eat the RB, and run a disguised zone that eventually rattled and slowed down the "pure" Run and Shoot.
I like our matchups on defense in this game, both from a personnel standpoint (a pretty solid defensive backfield) and scheme-wise (plenty of experience in zone blitzing).

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Aloha means Hello | by Jay

Tombo at UHFootball does a thorough job of keeping up with all the news surrounding Warriors football; his blog is a great resource for keeping tabs on everything leading up the Hawaii Bowl this week.

Case in point: this morning Tombo linked a short Ferd Lewis column from the Honolulu Advertiser, recalling Gerry Faust's 1984 Aloha Bowl appearance. Pretty interesting set of comparisons.

To that point Faust had gone 25-19-1 at Notre Dame and had drawn heavy flak for it.

He needed a win to close the '84 season, something to help project a robust '85 and beyond.

Sound familiar?

Weis is 28-21 (.571), percentage-wise very similar to Faust's record (.568) at the same four-year point. Though it could be argued Faust played the tougher schedules.

And for a while in the fourth quarter of that bowl game a generation ago it looked like the Irish, with Allen Pinkett and Mike Golic, would get the win in classic Irish comeback fashion for Faust, right up until the time quarterback Steve Beuerlein's last-gasp pass came up short in the end zone in a 27-20 loss.

Then, the questions about Faust's tenure heightened, percolating into 1985, which would become the gentlemanly coach's last season in South Bend...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bowl Season...A Trivial Matter | by Pat

It's Finals Week at Notre Dame, so sharpen your pencils and turn off all cellphones. Here's your take home exam for Notre Dame Bowl History 101. Please show your work and remember, search engines are against the Honor Code.

1. What was Notre Dame's last bowl win?

2. What was Notre Dame's first bowl game? Did they win?

3. We know about the bowl losing streak. What was ND's longest bowl winning streak?

4. How many times did ND play the #1 team in the country (per AP poll) in a bowl game?

5. Not counting the upcoming Hawaii Bowl, how many different Bowls has ND played in?

a. 6
b. 7
c. 9
d. 10
6. What Bowl game has Notre Dame played in the most?

7. Which Notre Dame Bowl game had the highest attendance?

8. When ND reentered the bowl scene in 1970, what was the financial justification?
a. new construction on campus
b. women's sports
c. minority scholarships
d. new equipment for the band
9. Of the 19 different teams that Notre Dame has played in a bowl game, three opponents have been played three separate times. Name them.

10. What ND player said this about his final bowl game?
"I didn’t have much to say after the game. I was in no shape to talk. Or walk. I was so bruised, so cut up I was a scab from elbow to elbow, from knee to knee – they literally had to cut my pants off."

"By the time I got back to the hotel, after the trainers and the doctors got through with me, all my teammates had gone out, and I had no idea where they were. So I sat in the hallway of the hotel, all alone with a case of beer, and celebrated the end of my college career."
Extra Credit:

What will be the final score of the 2008 Hawaii Bowl?

Monday, December 15, 2008

In the Zone | by Jay

Here's the SBT article some of you were clamoring for, quoting Tom Thayer, former Irish lineman and the current Voice of the Chicago Bears. The piece just came out on Friday, but has already been hashed out on message boards far and wide, so forgive us if it's old news to you. I think Thayer makes a couple of pointed observations, one going to technique, and the other to scheme.

Insightful: I pay attention when former players at the highest level (Thayer played in the NFL for a number of years, and even has a Super Bowl ring from '85) are critical of technique. Thayer says the current Irish linemen are strong, but have poor footwork and exhibit a woeful lack of "choreography." Clearly, the Irish rushing attack is rather punchless; take a look at the "highlights" of the rushing attack against Michigan State, as but one example from the year. How much of this is due to poor coaching is anyone's guess, but when former linemen can identify poor footwork from a television broadcast, it's probably time to reassess your technique.

Debatable: Thayer's critique of zone blocking -- the scheme, in other words -- as the main culprit. "To me zone blocking is a bunch of crap," Thayer says and he goes on to deride the entire concept. To me, this reads as personal preference more than anything else, and it also flies in the face of successful zone blocking implementations elsewhere in college football, as at Southern Cal. (For an excellent discourse on the Trojan's zone blocking, check out this post from Trojan Football Analysis, one of the better Xs and Os blogs out there, and one we've had linked on the sidebar for quite a while now.)

I also ran across this quote from David Cutcliffe, another collegiate offensive guru known to use zone blocking from time to time.

Years ago in short yardage, UT would line up with two tight ends and run inside the tackles behind a strong lead blocker. Now days, UT has often gone with an empty backfield set or even the shotgun on third-and-short. And UT does more zone blocking. But Cutcliffe said the Vols aren’t primarily a zone blocking team in short yardage.

"We’re always going to do a combination," Cutcliffe said.

Cutcliffe said zone blocking is somewhat misunderstood. For example, in zone blocking, if a guard has a defensive linemen lined up in front of him, it becomes a drive block.

"It’s a little bit misunderstood by most people," Cutcliffe said. "Some people think you’re blocking an area and you’re soft. I don’t want anything about our offense to be soft."

When UT got the defensive look it wanted against Cal and ran the zone blocking scheme, the Vols averaged 7 yards per play, Cutcliffe said.

"We were getting double teams at the point of attack," Cutcliffe said. "I probably didn’t call that enough."
If you want to make the case that zone blocking doesn't work for Notre Dame, or for this group of Irish linemen, that's one thing. (And to his credit, Thayer says he'd go to the blackboard to show us, so he's willing to back up what he says). But an indictment of all zone blocking seems to be painting with a broad brush, and maybe a bit partisan to boot.

Lastly, I'd like to point out the one area where this line made great strides: pass protection. You can chalk it up to a reinvigorated passing attack, or more headiness on the part of one James Clausen, or better blitz pickup by the running backs, but the numbers speak for themselves: 20 sacks given up, down from 58 last year. That's the lowest total in Charlie's tenure, and tied for the lowest total going back to 1998. And on a per-pass-attempt basis, it's good for 31st nationally, which isn't too shabby.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Coach's Challenge | by Jay

An un-retouched 10-second clip from the Southern Cal game.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Teenage Wedding | by Jay

A quick check-in on the Pick Six while we're in a holding pattern until the final AP Poll, issued after the bowls wrap up. Take a look.

This football season featured some surprising upstarts, and also exposed some overated pretenders. Take a look at the current AP standings juxtaposed with the preseason AP poll. It's a bit stunning to see how far some of the preseason mighty have fallen (and just how non-predictive the preseason polls really are.) At least the preseason top 5 are all still ranked; some years, it's much more embarrassing.

Current AP Poll, 12/13/08
Rk Team Record Pts Pts PRE. Change
1 Florida (50) 12-1 1602 1415 +187
2 Oklahoma (9) 12-1 1540 1444 +96
3 Texas (6) 11-1 1530 966 +564
4 Alabama 12-1 1410 89 +1,321
5 USC 11-1 1372 1490 -118
6 Penn State 11-1 1259 293 +966
7 Utah 12-0 1225 53 +1,172
8 Texas Tech 11-1 1193 786 +407
9 Boise State 12-0 1101 17 +1,084
10 Ohio State 10-2 1069 1506 -437
11 TCU 10-2 921 0 +921
12 Cincinnati 11-2 863 44 +819
13 Oklahoma State 9-3 853 0 +853
14 Georgia Tech 9-3 761 0 +761
15 Oregon 9-3 710 366 +344
16 Georgia 9-3 599 1528 -929
17 Brigham Young 10-2 477 590 -113
18 Pittsburgh 9-3 428 85 +343
19 Michigan State 9-3 423 21 +402
20 Mississippi 8-4 389 0 +389
21 Virginia Tech 9-4 318 578 -260
22 Northwestern 9-3 262 0 +262
23 Ball State 12-1 249 0 +249
24 Oregon State 8-4 163 5 +158
25 Missouri 9-4 150 1266 -1,116

Boston College 9-4 95 32 +63

Florida State 8-4 13 41 -28

East Carolina 9-4 12 0 +12

West Virginia 8-4 12 1116 -1,104

California 8-4 8 59 -51

Rice 9-3 6 0 +6

Nebraska 8-4 5 2 +3

Tulsa 10-3 2 7 -5

Iowa 8-4 4 0 +4

Rutgers 7-5 1 32 -31
Preseaon AP Poll
Rk Team Pts Pts Now
1 Georgia (22) 1528 599 -929
2 Ohio State (21) 1506 1069 -437
3 USC (12) 1490 1372 -118
4 Oklahoma (4) 1444 1540 +96
5 Florida (6) 1415 1602 +187
6 Missouri 1266 150 -1,116
7 LSU 1135 0 -1,135
8 West Virginia 1116 12 -1,104
9 Clemson 1105 0 -1,105
10 Auburn 968 0 -968
11 Texas 966 1530 +564
12 Texas Tech 786 1193 +407
13 Wisconsin 771 0 -771
14 Kansas 707 0 -707
15 Arizona State 631 0 -631
16 Brigham Young 590 477 -113
17 Virginia Tech 578 318 -260
18 Tennessee 509 0 -509
19 South Florida 496 0 -496
20 Illinois 483 0 -483
21 Oregon 366 710 +344
22 Penn State 293 1259 +966
23 Wake Forest 227 0 -227
24 Alabama 89 1410 +1,321
25 Pittsburgh 85 428 +343

South Carolina 84 0 -84

Fresno State 83 0 -83

California 59 8 -51

Utah 53 1225 +1,172

Cincinnati 44 863 +819

Florida State 41 13 -28

Michigan 36 0 -36

Boston College 32 95 +63

Rutgers 32 1 -31

Michigan State 21 423 +402

Boise State 17 1101 +1,084

Arkansas 14 0 -14

North Carolina 14 0 -14

Connecticut 10 0 -10

Tulsa 7 2 -5

UCLA 6 0 -6

Oregon State 5 163 +158

Mississippi State 4 0 -4

Virginia 4 0 -4

Arizona 3 0 -3

Nebraska 2 5 +3

Notre Dame 2 0 -2

Hawaii 1 0 -1

Washington 1 0 -1

If you go by AP points, it looks like LSU, Mizzou, Clemson, West Virginia and Auburn turned out to be the biggest flops this year, although Georgia (or maybe those who picked them) should get a special boobie prize, having garnered 22 preseason 1st-place votes but ending up with three losses and a rousing #14 ranking. On the positive side of the ledger, Alabama, Utah, Boise State, Penn State and TCU were the biggest surprises.

It goes to show you never can tell.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Cowart Snaps up Scholarship | by Pat

Add one more committed recruit to the Class of 2009. Florida footballer Jordan Cowart picked up a scholarship offer from ND last week and quickly turned that into a public commitment. He had been offered the chance to come to ND as a preferred walk-on, but lately ND had been suggesting the possibility of a full ride. When that offer finally came through, Cowart quickly accepted.

At 6'2" 225, Cowart is different from just about any other ND recruit in recent memory in that he was recruited specifically as a long snapper. Normally that position is held by back up offensive linemen or a walk-on, but ND must have felt the need to solidify a critical, but often low profile spot on the Irish special teams unit.

Notre Dame was the first school to offer Cowart a scholarship, but according to Irish Illustrated he was also hearing from Florida, Georgia, Miami, Louisville, and Wisconsin. He is unranked on while Scout lists him as a 2-star recruit. ESPN is a bit more generous listing him as the 68th "athlete" recruit with an overall grade of 77 (same as they gave Nyshier Oliver, Alex Bullard, and Jake Golic). ESPN also had some rather high praise for Cowart when it comes to his specialty.

I can't imagine there to be a better long snapper in the country than Cowart. He has a lot of velocity on his punt snaps; very little arc on the 14 yd. snap. Punt snaps are not only fast enough, they are accurate thus making it easy for the punter to handle. Short snaps mirror the long snaps in terms of speed and accuracy. The short snaps are a tight spiral and consistently hit the holders hands. Cowart also carries a big enough frame to provide solid protection as a snapper. There is no doubt he is destined to be a Division 1 long snapper.
If you're going to use a scholarship on a niche position, getting one considered the best at what he does certainly doesn't hurt. Backing up ESPN's opinion, Cowart attended the Chris Sailer National Kicking and Snapping Camp and was named one of the top underclassmen long snappers.

It is still a bit curious that ND decided to use a scholarship on a long snapper, but at least there is room in the current class, he's considered one of the best at what he does, and he will help ND keep a pipeline going to one of the most talent filled Catholic high schools in the country. Cowart attends St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, same high school as incoming punter Ben Turk, Sam Young, and Dan Wenger.

ND's long snapping was an issue from the start of the season as six different players were listed as possibilities and a few bad snaps cost ND points against San Diego State. Walk-on Kevin Brooks eventually won the long snapping job, but if Cowart is as advertised, he just might take over the job for four years. It is noteworthy that ND will have three kickers, two punters, and one long snapper on scholarship next season. Three special teams players alone fill up the current recruiting class. With Maust and Burkhart entering their senior year, ND did need to look towards the future with regards to special teams, but I can't remember a time when ND had so many specialists on scholarship.