Do not adjust your computer.This is another IBG post- but this time The Brawling Hibernian strikes you in the gut with his insights. Enjoy
1. Name one offensive player and one defensive player you’re most excited to see in the new systems and why.
This may be a somewhat obvious choice, but I have to go with Dayne Crist on offense. Given its component parts, this offense has the potential to be incredibly good, but it hinges on a talented, but untested and recently injured QB. Given that Crist has yet to start a game in college, it will be interesting to see how he’s able to perform in the role of team leader and how long it will take for him to get there.
On defense, I’m going to go with Darrin Walls. It’s no secret that last year’s pass defense, expected to be a strength in the pre-season, ended up being a colossal disappointment. Walls, having come back from a year away, never seemed to show the abilities he was purported to have and became one of the bigger scapegoats in the downfall of the defensive secondary in 2009. Now, with another season under his belt and tutelage from Chuck Martin, I have to believe Walls will be a better player in 2010. To what degree that’s the case will go a long way towards determining whether Notre Dame can mount a credible pass defense this year or continue to be torched by even the most mediocre QBs.
2. What’s one reason you think Brian Kelly is the right coach this time. What’s one reason you think he might not be?
I actually do think Kelly’s the right coach for the Irish right now. I’m sure I’m not unique in saying it largely hinges on his record. At every stop he’s made, he’s had success. What’s more, all of those stops were in the collegiate ranks; so, Kelly, unlike his predecessor, has a proven ability to develop, coach and achieve success with college football players. This was one of the main reasons the team struggled under Weis. While Charlie was able to bring in top-flight high school talent, he was never able to properly develop those players to be top-flight in college.
The three things which cause me concern when thinking about Kelly are: 1) he’s never coached under the type of intense scrutiny that comes along with ND, and one wonders if he’ll be up to it, 2) he’s never recruited nationally and it remains to be seen whether he’s capable of bringing in the type of national and highly ranked classes the Irish require, and 3) I’m jaded by having had three coaches in the last decade (four, if you count O’Leary) all whom seemed at one point or another to be the program’s savior. That last one is not Kelly’s fault, but there will be both expectations and reactions to whatever he does based on that recent history.
3. A lot of people are labeling Purdue, Boston College, and Michigan State as toss up games. Considering Notre Dame beat all three of these teams during the disappointing 2009 season, do you consider these games toss-ups or games you expect Notre Dame to win?
If the season goes well, the toss-up games on the schedule are going to be Pitt, Utah and Stanford. If not, then these, along with Navy will be the toss-ups. If it’s the latter, then I wouldn’t expect better than seven wins for the team this season, if the former, you’re looking at nine or more.
4. What’s one reason you think Notre Dame could shock the world and pull of another 1964-type season? What’s one reason you’re concerned we might see more of a 1997-type season?
On the optimistic side, there is ample talent and experience, along with a manageable enough schedule, that a 1964-like resurgence could definitely occur. If Notre Dame starts 2-0 (as, in theory, they should), and gains confidence and comfort with the new schemes and staff, then I can certainly see them building significant momentum towards a great finish.
On the other hand, there are a significant number of question marks (new coaches, new QB, three new starters on OL, ability of d-line, improvement of secondary, etc) which make a disappointing season a real possibility. At this point in time, all we have are theories and possibilities based on potential. Unfortunately, that is all Notre Dame was ever able to muster under its last three coaches. If Kelly and Co. are able to transfer that potential into reality, then it’s going to be a thoroughly awesome season in South Bend.
5. Which freshmen do you see contributing the most on the this year (outside of TJ Jones – that’s too easy)?
Tough to say. My hope is that none of the freshman are needed for anything of importance this year, but if have to choose…
I would have originally guessed Louis Nix given: A) the uncertainty surrounding the defensive line, and B) the likelihood that there will be a rotation of bodies during the course of the game among that group. Unfortunately, it sounds like Mr. Nix is going to need some conditioning and weight loss before he contributes significantly. With that in mind, I’m going to say Prince Shembo. Though the linebackers are a stocked unit for the Irish, Shembo is a beast who’s gotten some good early press from the coaches. As a result, I think it’s entirely likely that Shembo gets rotated in during appropriate junctures (mop-up, one hopes) as the season wears on.
6. Other than Dayne Crist (too easy again) who is the one player Notre Dame can least afford to lose to injury for any significant period of time?
Happily, the Irish finally have enough depth where answering this question actually provides something of a challenge. In light of this, I’d have to say, Ethan Johnson. The defensive line is already a massive question mark, and Johnson is its most talented player. Losing him would be a major blow to an already razor-thin group.
7. 2010 Season Predictions:
- Notre Dame record: 9-4 (losses to Michigan State, Pitt, Utah, and USC)
- Bowl game for Notre Dame with opponent: Something just shy of BCS
- Final ranking: 16
- Opponent with highest final ranking: Utah
- Notre Dame’s offensive & defensive MVP: Kyle Rudolph, Manti Te’o
- Best opponent offensive & defensive player: Dion Lewis (RB, Pitt ); Greg Jones (LB, Michigan State)
- Best opposing coach: Jim Harbugh (Stanford)
- Game you are most excited to watch: Purdue…to see how well the offseason treated ND
- Game you wouldn’t mind watching on DVR: Western Michigan
- National Champion: Boise State…why the hell not?
- Heisman Winner: Kellen Moore (Boise State)…doubling down on ‘why the hell not?’
- Purdue game prediction: Notre Dame 28-17,