As we announced last week, the Irish Blogger Gathering is back for its 3rd season. Are you ready for some god damn football? You needn’t answer that question because I already know. Irish fans are understandably anxious about this season with a new coaching staff, and two new systems in place (offense and defense). What will happen?! As of right now, the season is just about anybody’s guess- and I have heard a lot of those guesses.
When I start getting the IBG organized in the beginning of August, I like to ask a certain few of the Blogs if they wouldn’t mind doing certain games as the host. UHND was one of those blogs that I had in mind. Frank is very detailed oriented, and let’s face it, he is probably more businesslike than the rest of us. That’s why I wanted him to kick this new era of the IBG in the ass for the first game against Purdue. Be sure to check out his original post HERE, and he will also have the rundown of all of the other answers from the rest of the IBG.
Here we go…
1. Name one offensive players and one defensive player you are most excited to see in the new systems and why.
OFFENSE: Kyle Rudolph TE. When you stop and think about spread teams that get all pass happy, rarely do you think about the tight end. Shame on you. In Kelly’s spread attack, the tight end never leaves the field. While at Cincinnati, Kelly used Ben Guidugli a lot. Guidugi had a similar stat line to Rudolph in 2009 despite Rudolph playing in a tight end friendly system that Weis had in place. Rudolph was injured for a few games, so that would effect his statline- but do you honestly think Guidugili is on the same level as Rudolph when it comes to talent? I didn’t think so. I fully expect Rudolph to get around 500-600 yards receiving and 6-7 TD’s. Kyle Rudolph- your John Mackey Award winner of 2010.
DEFENSE: Harrison Smith S. Perhaps you are a little surprised at this answer. Harrison Smith has had quite the rocky career at Notre Dame. He was basically the main scapegoat for the defensive woes in the first half of the 2009 season as it always looked as if Smith was playing out of position while in pass coverage. He was moved back up to outside linebacker, and still he was considered by many fans, to be the weakest link out on the field. I was critical of Smith, but I was much more concerned about the scheme that ND was using that put Smith in bad spots. I think he is as talented of an athlete as we have on the team, and with a new scheme and some confidence, I can’t wait for hi to become a nice “surprise” for everyone. BTW- Brian Kelly has done nothing but prise the play of Harrison since the spring. Just sayin’.
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?
There are a hundred reasons why I think Kelly is the right coach for the job. I could go with anything from his similarities to Lou Holtz to his ability to get the best out of every single one of his players. The top reason though, is that he is a proven winner at the collegiate level. He has been doing this for over 20 years, but more importantly, he has the fire and the need to prove himself on the biggest stage. ND hasn’t had a real, time-tested, proven winner as a HC since… you guessed it, Lou Holtz.
My reasons for him possibly not being the right hire are now lost in oblivion. I just drank a whole 4 quarts of the Kelly Green Kool-Aid, so… don’t even ask. I’m all in on this one. (Check back at the end of the season).
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?
People are saying these are toss-up games for these reasons:
- All three were close games in 2009. Like really close.
- BC and MSU were home games in 2009 and now away games in 2010.
- ND is breaking in a new starter at QB, and new coaches on the sideline.
I really don’t think Purdue is a toss-up game, so scratch that one right now. BC and MSU are both road games that will be played at night. Both have been a thorn in Notre Dame’s side for over a decade. Both have strong defenses. I would have to say that these games ARE toss-ups… but I fully expect to win.
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?
1964: Like Ara was in 1964, I think Brian Kelly is the right hire at the right time. Notre Dame desperately needed a makeover and they got one in ’64 and it appears to be well underway in 2010. Notre Dame was coming off of a 19-30 record in the previous 5 years, but they still had a lot of talent. Ara raised the bar and got them to play to their potential. That is something that most people think is the main strength of Brian Kelly.
1997: The schedule is almost as front loaded as the ’97 teams was. In 1997, ND played GT, Pur, MSU, Mich, Stanf, Pitt, U$C, and BC to start the season. The Irish went 3-5 in that stretch. Similarly, Notre Dame has a very front loaded schedule- like they do in most years. If the Irish lose an early game this year, they may be on an avalanche ride similar to the one in 1997.
5. Which freshmen do you see contributing the most on the field this year (outside of TJ Jones – that’s too easy)?
Finally this is a tough question to answer. Unlike some other years, we are not expecting our freshman to become big time contributors right away. If you take TJ Jones off the list (who is a starter BTW), than you have to go with Lo Wood. There will be times this year where he will be needed to play in some crucial situations. Yeah, I’ll go with Wood.
6. Other than Dayne Crist (too easy again) who is the one player Notre Dame can least afford to lose to injury for any significant period of time?
I’m throwing a curveball and going with… Harrison Smith. The depth at safety is insanely thin. Thin and way too young. Most people would probably say Te’o or either KLM or EJ, but I honestly think that they have more talent and depth behind them than Smith has behind him at safety. With that philosophy, you take the lesser of two evils. With that said, I think Harrison Smith will end up having a very surprising and productive year for the Irish. Disprove me.
7. 2010 Season Predictions:
- Record: 10-2
- Bowl Game & Opponent: Fiesta Bowl & Oklahoma
- Final Ranking: 4th
- Opponent with highest final ranking: PITT
- Notre Dame Off MVP: Dayne Crist
- Notre Dame Def MVP: Harrison Smith
- Best Opponent Def. player: Greg Jones
- Best Opponent Off. player: Ricky Dobbs
- Best Opposing Coach: Mark Dantonio
- Game I am most excited to watch: U$C
- Game most likely to DVR: Army
- National Champion: Alabama
- Heisman: Ricky Dobbs
- Purdue Prediction: 49-0 DEAL WITH IT. GAME WEEK BITCHES!!!!!