Welcome to a special summertime edition of the Irish Blogger Gathering! The entire council is together for the first time this year with the latest addition being Aaron Horvath from UND's Strong & True.
There has been a lot of things that have gone down since the spring game, and we are here to talk about it. Keith Arnold of Inside the Irish answered a few of my questions. You can see my answers to Mike Coffey's questions over at NDNation.com.
One of the more interesting and surprising story lines from last year was the Notre Dame secondary. They weren't a "great" unit, but they more than held their own all season. This is a group in 2013, that is literally 4 deep at each position with scholarship players. What expectations do you have with this group, and how do you see the work load being shared?
I still think there are some question marks in the secondary, primarily at safety. That said, it's hard to see a unit that played really mistake free last season taking a step back, and having experience at corner with both KeiVarae Russell and Bennett Jackson back, not to mention Lo Wood recovered, should give Bobby D and the boys some versatility.
One thing worth watching is how the safety position plays out. The coaching staff loves Austin Collinsworth, but he's dealing with some elite athletes that might be too good to keep off the field. If Elijah Shumate can figure things out after spending last season in the slot, he's another Harrison Smith level athlete. I expect Matthias Farley to get a lot better, too.
I expect the three cornerbacks to share the snaps inside and out, with Bennett Jackson not coming off the field. It'll be interesting to see if Cole Luke can jump in front of Josh Atkinson and Jalen Brown. At safety, it's going to be a free-for-all. Pencil Farley and Shumate in, but don't count out Nicky Baratti, Collinsworth, or freshman phenom Max Redfield. You could say the same thing for a guy like Eilar Hardy, too.
This secondary has come a long way from having literally two healthy scholarship safeties in Brian Kelly's first game after Jamoris Slaughter went down with a foot injury.
One of the nicer stories in the spring, was that finally ND had their quarterback and the program could move forward. We had figured that come fall camp, Kelly & Martin would then be able to dive right into planning and shaping the offense on day 1. With Golson now gone and Tommy Rees back as the starter, tell me why my previous thought is still valid (or not). Why is it good to have got the Golson News so early? (Obvious is obvious of course, but details).
Is it too rough to say your previous thought isn't valid at all? There's no doubt that the Irish coaching staff has had to all but scrap the plan they had for '13 thanks to Everett Golson's "poor academic judgment." (You won't hear me bagging on the kid — I know plenty of classmates, me included, that showed some poor academic judgment on Accounting finals at ND…)
But here's the thing: I honestly don't think this staff is going to flinch. They view Golson's exile the same as they do Alex Welch's torn ACL or Eddie Vanderdoes' departure. Next. Man. In. I hate cliches as much as the next guy, but it's not a cliche if you live it. And this staff has already turned the page and committed to Rees being the guy.
Whether you like him or not, Rees is a guy that Chuck Martin believes can win all the football games on the schedule and that Brian Kelly trusts enough to put his coaching life in his hands (see Purdue last season). He may not be an elite athlete with a big-time NFL arm, but I've got to believe that this team thinks it can win with Rees piloting the ship, and looks to take advantage of some of the preconceived notions about Rees' talent. Expect an offense similar in construct to last years — power running game, but with a quarterback that should be able to take advantage of opportunities in the play-action game.
Recently, I wrote about the torturous five months that Notre Dame football had from Bama to Vanderdoes. What can the university, the football program, and the fans learn from all of that mess?
This is another reminder, that college football is not for the faint of heart. What do you think ND fans would do if they had an LSU like offseason, losing 10 underclassmen to the NFL Draft? And their folk hero legend to double digit drug test failures? Michigan lost its All-American LB candidate to an ACL in spring ball. Bad stuff happens.
Last season was a great one to stomp out some of the institutionalized whining that's taken over the past decade. Regardless of what happened against Alabama, that was a run for the ages, and done with a motley cast and crew that was pretty close to pulling off a Hoosiers like run behind an incredible coaching job.
Bad things happen to 18-21 year olds that live their life under a microscope as intense as the one looking down on the Golden Dome. For the most part, these guys do a really good job of representing themselves, their school, and their fanbase. That Te'o got Catfished by one of the weirdest most pathetic guys you could ever imagine is crazy. But losing a recruit and an academic casualty? That's gonna happen.
The lesson? Get thick skin and enjoy the good while it lasts.