Thursday, August 28, 2008
Monday, August 25, 2008
We are getting very close to the opening game of the 2008 season. Notre Dame will open up on September the 6th versus San Diego State. There is still time to join our message board and get in on our prediction contest. You can find the 2008 prediction contest scoring system here.
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Saturday, August 23, 2008
To Ragone's credit he did not immediately opt for surgery and practiced on the knee for a couple of days before he felt he was not making any progress with it. With Ragone now out the Irish move from little experience at tight end to virtually no experience there.
The starters role will now be a tossup between Will Yeatman and freshman five star recruit Kyle Rudolph. Yeatman, a junior, enters with more game experience than Rudolph but appears to have a lower ceiling of capability compared to the younger of the two tight ends.
Charlie Weis and company will likely use this as a way to break Kyle Rudolph into the mix a bit quicker than they had planned. Maybe he won't be starting when San Diego State comes a calling in two weeks, but there is no doubt that he is going to see valuable playing time on Saturday's this fall.
Tight End will be another position where the Irish will have gained experience in the coming years. Although Charlie and Co. have recruited the position very well there are still big shoes that have to be filled with the departure of John Carlson.
Carlson, now of the Seattle Seahawks filled the position each of the past two seasons for Notre Dame and parlayed excellent junior and senior seasons into a first day pick in the NFL Draft. Irish coaches hope any of the potential star tight ends on the roster hit their stride quickly.
With Notre Dame still at least a year away from seriously contending for a BCS bid this injury does not hurt as much as it could if it were to happen to a slightly more experienced team. As much as it does hurt to have the starting tight end out for the season there are positives that come along with it.
Yeatman was likely to see the field this year in a backup and fill-in roll while Rudolph likely was going to roam the sideline like we have seen most freshman tight ends do since Charlie Weis took over as head coach. With the injury to Ragone we now will see both on the field a bit more now which could pave the way to more success at the position in the coming years.
Instead of having Ragone gain experience this year and potentially turn into a budding star next fall the Irish will have a deeper rotation now with tight ends in the years to come where they will not lose as much when Ragone comes out of a game.
It may be a tough concept to grasp but this injury to the Irish is not as big of deal as some have made it out to be. It is expected that Ragone will be back and ready to play by spring practice and with Notre Dame rules, will gain an extra year or eligibility in all likelihood.
Obviously Ragone is not going to want to stay out of the lineup next fall as nobody would like to lose their job to an underclassman. Maybe not yourselves but I assume this will make him work that much harder to get back in even better game shape than he was in when the injury occurred.
This sets up a true competition at tight end next year which will only benefit the team. The worst case scenario now comes out to be perhaps our offense loses some lust this fall but next season there will be at least two tight ends on the roster deserving of quality playing time.
Not only will the competition for playing time be great but the potential is also there to run an offense out of more two tight end sets if both succeed the way Irish fans hope they do.
Sure it may be troublesome to think about entering this year but the injury to Ragone will not hurt the team as badly as some think and potentially helps in the future of the Tight End position at Notre Dame.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Domer Sports Report
Notre Dame Men's Basketball
The Notre Dame men's basketball team is in Ireland from August 12 through August 25. While there, the Irish - Fighting Irish, that is - will be playing six exhibition games. Notre Dame will take on (actually, as of this writing, the Fighting Irish have played three games.) Ireland, the Irish All-Stars, Poland and Iceland. They will travel to Limerick, Belfast and Dublin.
The Notre Dame team as well as Mike Brey are looking at the trip as an early start to the 2008-2009 season. Under NCAA rules, the team was allowed to have 10 practices prior to the trip.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Last year the Irish started off with a schedule of Georgia Tech, at Penn State, and at Michigan. With two of the three teams now being replaced, lets look at how much different the first three weeks of 2008 will be.
Instead of opening against Georgia Tech, in 2008 the Irish find their first true warm up game since 1999 when they opened the season with a tune-up game of sorts against a former slouch, the Kansas Jayhawks. This year the Irish welcome San Diego State to South Bend. Many experts feel the Aztecs will be amongst the worst teams in college football's highest level this coming season.
Michigan remains on the schedule this year as they come to South Bend as well, this time in week two. Getting Michigan out of The Big House makes things better on its own, couple that with Michigan likely being a much weaker team than last year and Notre Dame is two-for-two in the schedule difficulty lessening.
Michigan State is a spot on the schedule which is going to be more difficult than in 2007. The Spartans will likely be improved and going to Spartan Stadium is never easy. However, remember that the visiting team in this series has won each game since the 2000 season when Michigan State defeated the Irish in East Lansing.
Purdue and Stanford remain on the schedule in 2008 as well, this time both teams come to South Bend. Purdue seems to be a toss up at this point but there are very few doubts that this years Boilermakers squad is not as talented as that of the 2007 version. Stanford continues to improve under Jim Harbaugh but remain a team that Notre Dame is still years ahead of talent-wise.
A three week stretch of traveling to North Carolina and Washington before hosting Pitt finds its way on the Notre Dame schedule in 2008. Figure an ever-so-improving UNC team replaces a struggling Duke team from a year ago and the schedule gets more difficult here. However, replace where the Irish found a road trip to UCLA last fall with a trip to Seattle to face the Huskies and things once again seem to be headed for better. Finally, Pitt will not be a national title contender when they come to South Bend like Boston College was a year ago, figure the schedule is easier once again in this slot.
Finally this year we see Notre Dame traveling to Baltimore to take on the Naval Academy. Everyone remembers a year ago when the planets seemed to align and the Irish finally lost to Navy. Based on the improvement nearly everyone expects to see in the Irish this year you have to figure despite the Irish having to go on the road, this game will not be as daunting of task as it was a year ago.
It seems pathetic to say facing Navy a year ago was a daunting task but that just speaks for how poor the Irish were.
You can say that Syracuse replaces Air Force from a year ago. No offense to the Orange and not to say AF was great a year ago by any means, but Syracuse will enter amongst the worst of all BCS Conference teams in 2008. It will be an easier game than what was the 2007 contest against Air Force.
Finally the dreaded USC Trojans find their way onto the season finale in 2008 as the Irish travel to Los Angeles. Home or away USC is a much better team than Notre Dame will be in 2008. This game is a draw, it was a tough pill to swallow in '07 and will be just as tough to swallow in '08.
Say what you like, drink all the kool-aid Irish you can but the fact of the matter is USC is still a much better team than the Irish will be in 2008. 38 points better? Time will tell but for now we will call this a draw compared to the USC team the Irish faced a year ago.
To sum it up, the Irish schedule shows room for improvement in 2008. There are a few better teams they play than opponents we saw on the 2007 schedule. However, couple the progress of Notre Dame with the demise of some teams featured as well and the schedule does not seem nearly as daunting.
While looking at the schedule and breaking it down I have it going something like this:
Sept. 6 vs San Diego State - ND WIN
Sept. 13 vs Michigan, Sept. 20 at MSU, and Sept. 27 vs Purdue (1-2 likely)
Oct. 4 vs Stanford - ND WIN
Oct. 11 at UNC, Oct. 25 at Washington (1-1 a fair estimate, personally I feel they will go 2-0)
Nov. 1 vs Pittsburgh - ND Loss
Nov. 8 at Boston College - ND WIN
Nov. 15 at Navy - ND WIN
Nov. 22 vs Syracuse - ND WIN
Nov. 29 at USC - ND Loss
That's how I see things going in 2008. The Irish likely will not pull any major upsets in 2008 but will be much more competitive against average teams and will walk out with a season that brings in eight wins.
Depending on how the team matures the win total could easily bolster all the way to ten realistically. However, if the team does not mature as much as many expect the Irish could very well be 5-7 or 6-6 and go bowl-less for a second straight year.
As I stated I feel this team will be as good, if not better than eight of the teams on the schedule. If the Irish take care of business in these eight games a New Years Day Bowl could very much be in the works and if not a New Years Day Bowl, a bowl game nonetheless will seem like magic after the train wreck known as 2007.
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Friday, August 8, 2008
By Mark Allen
Domer Sports Report
Notre Dame opened it's 2008 preseason practices on Friday, August 8th. But, Charlie Weis, who wants to "dive right in" this season, has been diving in as far as recruiting. On Friday, Weis and Notre Dame received it's 14th verbal of the recruiting season.
The 14th verbal for Notre Dame is E.J. Banks out of McKees Rocks, PA. Banks, 6-0, 175 pounds is a cornerback. He is also a blazer. He runs a 4.5 forty.
Banks chose the Irish over an impressive list of football schools. They included Ohio State, West Virginia, Tennesee, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Florida State and Virginia Tech, among others.
Banks was a two-way player at Montour high in Pennsylvania. He was a defensive back as well as a quarterback. As a defensive back, Banks, recorded 52 tackles, intercepted 3 passes and broke up another 10. On the offensive side, Banks rushed for 920 yards. He also threw for 1,235 and 6 touchdowns.
Rivals.com has Banks listed as a 3-star recruit. He is currently the 42nd ranked athlete. He is also the Pennsylvania preseason top 40 #13 ranked recruit.
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Domer Sports Report
Charlie Weis, in his opening press conference before practice begins for 2008, let his theme be known. The theme for the 2008 season of Notre Dame football is "dive right in". What does he mean? More of that in a minute.
Weis opened his press conference with a couple of condolences. First, he sent out his condolences regarding this week's death of Notre Dame man, Joe Yonto. Yonto passed away on Monday morning. He also mentioned that his favorite restaurant, Mishawaka's Polito's, burned down.
Coach Weis compared what Notre Dame is doing to what the Green Bay packers and Brett Favre are doing - moving on. The Fighting Irish are moving on and will not discuss the 2007 season. As a matter of fact, when a reporter tried to ask him about 2007, Weis cut him off and told him he will only be discussing the upcoming 2008 season.
So what did Weis mean by diving in? Well, in a nutshell, he was talking about getting off to a fast start. He meant that on a couple of fronts. First, he meant getting off to a fast start in practice. Secondly, he meant getting off to a fast start for the season. Players, during the offseason, could be seen wearing "Dive Right In" tee shirts. Weis said he is looking for players to "make things go".
In his opening statement, coach Weis said that the Irish return 38 monogram winners. But, more importantly, is the experience in returning starters. Counting the kicker and punter, the Fighting Irish return 19 of 24 starters.
Everyone knows what a fiasco the offensive line was last season, giving up the most sacks in history. So, one emphasis was getting bigger and stronger. The first two offensive line units are now all over 300 pounds. Chris Stewart, perhaps overweight in his freshman season, now is down to 329 pounds. Sam Young now outweighs him.
Even the running backs, according to Weis have become stronger. According to the coach, all running backs can now bench press 100 pounds more than they could last season.
Finally, Weis, in his opening statement, addressed how well the captains have been doing. The captains, David Grimes, Maurice Crum and David Bruton, have all done "a great job in the off season".
Notes from the question and answer session:
Asked if the running back position would be ran by committee, Weis answered that it would be a 2-to-1 proposition. He said that Armando Allen would be a "changeup" style running back with his elusiveness and speed. On the other side, both Robert Hughes and James Aldridge would be battling it out for the most playing time between the power style running backs.
Resuming play-calling duties:
Weis was asked, predictably, whether or not he would ever resume the play-calling duties that he turned over to Mike Haywood. He responded that he "won't be studying the play sheet".
On team health:
Only Will Yeatman had any sort of injury. About a month ago, Yeatman pulled a hamstring muscle. Besides that, everyone is healthy, will practice and is in good academic standing.
Besides the oft-mentioned gain in strength, Sam Young was mentioned as having become really matured. He is also a player that other players turn to. He has become a leader.
The Jimmy Clausen drinking situation:
Writer's note: Jimmy Clausen wasn't actually caught drinking. Rather, he was seen in photos where, in the background, alcohol was seen. Weis's first comment was that he thought it was "important to not condone underage drinking". With that said, he also comments, "give me a break, let's move on".
Interior defensive line:
Ian Williams and Pat Kuntz have both been defensive tackles. Weis hinted that he might slide Kuntz over. He said, "Ian has a low center of gravity. Pat can play inside-out". That can be taken two different way, though. Does this mean he is just stating that each has different facets of how they play nose tackle? Or, does that mean Kuntz could slide over?
The Corin Brown-Jon Tenuta dynamic:
Weis said, "Corin has welcomed Tenuta". He also mentioned to not forget that Jappy Oliver is part of it. Tenuta will be upstairs in the press box while Brown will be on the sidelines.
Jonas Gray, for a freshman, is chiseled. He has good leadership skills. The players like him.
Goals for himself:
Weis wants to be more active in all three facets of the game (special teams, offense and defense). On off4ense, he wants to be a guiding influence, not involved in playcalling.
On Freshmen having a chance to play early:
Weis stated that "all have to earn their way up". The defensive line, particularly has opportunities due to graduation losses.
What he's most excited about:
He is excited that "so many guys have a second go around". The most significant jump in improvement, he said, was between the first and second year. The Fighting Irish have plenty of those types in 2008.
Punts and kickoffs returns:
The two names that Weis mentioned were Armando Allen and Golden Tate. His duties, on special teams, will be coaching punt and kick returns.
Competition for QB:
It is Jimmy's job to lose. During the first week, each quarterback will receive one-third of the reps. Initially, the depth chart is Clausen as one, Evan Sharpley as two and incoming freshman Dane Crist as three.
There is a "night and day" difference in Clausen between 2007 and 2008. He has gone from 194 pounds to a current 215 pounds. Due to a stronger body, Clausen will progress better throughout the season. Of course, it depends on the offensive line not getting Clausen killed. But, he should be able to handle more mentally as far as opening up the playbook.
New athletic director:
He has talked to Jack Swarbrick on several occasions. The relationship is "moving along nicely". They have common friends which makes it easier to know each other's credibility.
The offensive line:
Each player is bigger and stronger. That will make it easier to play at the point of attack.
That has already taken place. The emphasis will be how he handles it from now on. He "can't be phoney with the changes". He doesn't have it (being phoney) in him, good or bad.
Loss of Darrin Walls:
It opens up opportunities for those down the depth chart as well as for incoming freshmen. There will be a "trickle down" effect. Player's like (freshmen) Robert Blanton and Jamoris Slaughter will not be too far from the mix. He feels good about Raeshon McNeil and Gary Gray. He has a lot of confidence in McNeil.
Michael Floyd, according to feedback from Clausen, has been "through the roof". He does not look like a freshman. Weis needs a couple of more guys to make plays besides Kamara and Grimes.
So, Notre Dame and Charlie Weis are ready to "dive right in". Are you ready for some football?
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By: Nick Shepkowski
An abysmal 2007 left the Irish faithful with their heads stuck lying in their hands—3-9...at Notre Dame...unbelievable.
What did Charlie Weis do? How could a team like Notre Dame only be able to muster up three wins in an entire season? Well, Charlie bit the bullet in 2007, giving several freshmen valuable playing time, which well aid in the future.
How much of an improvement will we see in 2008?
Expect the offense to start to show signs of why it will be scary in years to come. We now know that Jimmy Clausen was not 100 percent last fall and that there was a reason he looked nothing like what he was hyped up to be.
Note that he did add 15 pounds of muscle this offseason, so expect Jimmy Clausen to be a lot more like the Clausen Notre Dame thought they were originally getting.
The running backs of the Irish are a fearsome bunch, having power, speed, and strength all covered. The question is whether or not the offensive line will be able to block for them, something I covered a few days ago here.
If the offensive line progresses the way it likely should, the offense will be scary. I can not say enough about how important and how much of a question mark the O-line is this year.
The wideouts on the Irish are primarily young but have the talent to be amongst the best in the nation in a few short years. We saw flashes in a pan from Duval Kamara last year while David Grimes was also productive at times.
Expect Michael Floyd to work his way into the starting lineup before the end of the season. Also add in Golden Tate, who can hopefully learn to do a bit more than run straight down field, and Irish quarterbacks will be smiling with their options to throw to.
Tight end is a position where Notre Dame enters 2008 with yet another question mark. John Carlson, who has been an offensive threat for the past two years, is now a Seattle Seahawk, which leaves the Irish with Mike Ragone and Luke Schmidt at the position. Both were highly touted coming in, and the Irish will benefit if they can contribute immediately.
Expect one if not both to have big years with how much ND has used the tight end position as a target so far in the Charlie Weis era.
The defensive line needs to be able to penetrate the offensive line, otherwise the defense as a whole will suffer badly. Trevor Laws, ND's best run stopper up front a year ago, is gone to the NFL. The good news is that the youth that will be up front has talent, it just may be a bit green.
My prediction is that the Irish secondary and linebackers aren't the biggest concern on defense, instead it is the line. There is no doubt that Omar Hunter would have been playing right away had he not chose to attend Florida after committing to Notre Dame.
The linebackers are young as well for Notre Dame, outside of Maurice Crum, Jr. that is. Crum is the senior leader of this defense while others such as Toryan Smith and Kerry Neal saw valuable time a year ago. Factor in freshmen Darius Fleming and Steven Filer and the Irish have begun to add depth to the linebacking corps.
The secondary of Notre Dame will be a strong spot this season, even with the departure of Tom Zbikowski and unfortunate loss of Darrin Walls. Kyle McCarthy will lessen the blow of losing Zbikowski as McCarthy had a very strong spring season. Let's hope he can parlay that into a strong fall as well.
Sure Darrin Walls was Notre Dame's best corner a year ago and he is gone this year; however, Terrail Lambert is back and expect him to recover from what was a bad year for him last year.
Walls' replacement will likely be Gary Gray or Raeshon McNeil, both of whom will be entering their first years starting. Although they will be green in the defensive backfield, they should be strong as well down the road.
On special teams Notre Dame will need to find a solution to what was a major problem for them a year ago. Brandon Walker struggled a year ago kicking field goals and he may be replaced by Ryan Burkhart.
Practices will decide who the kicker is, while Eric Maust will do the punting.
The Irish struggled in the return game last year, not returning a kickoff past midfield. Zbikowski is gone as a return man but Golden Tate has the speed and quickness to one day be great there as well.
Notre Dame is still too young to be competing for a BCS Bowl this year. However, with a schedule that is very favorable to them, eight wins should not be out of the realm of possibility.
Notre Dame will finish 2008 with an 8-4 record and play in the Gator Bowl. That sets up a title run for 2009 with anything short of a BCS game being a major disappointment.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
It seems idiotic to even imply that Notre Dame could be the biggest surprise team in 2008 but the statement alone makes everyone realize how far it is the Irish have fallen. One year ago they were coming off of back-to-back BCS appearances and seemed primed for the spotlight for years to come once again. However, 3 wins and 9 losses later they enter 2008 looking to gain back some of the respect that was lost on the national level a year ago.
So what does Notre Dame have to do to at least get back to a bowl game? What do they have to avoid to make a sure a repeat of 2007 does not occur? Its pretty simple with Notre Dame in '08, the Irish need to get back to the basics and that starts up front.
Jimmy Clausen will never come within shouting distance of All-American status and Robert Hughes and the rest of the Irish stable of running backs won't reach their full potential if the offensive line does not improve. If we learned one thing towards the end of last year it was that Notre Dame has more talent on their roster than a 3-9 record should have. However, the offensive line was amongst the very worst in the game. If that does not change then the results in the win column will fail to as well.
Rightfully so there are a ton of questions marks about this offensive line. Irish fans wish it was as simple as a years more experience means that the line will be that much better but the truth of the matter is that it does not work that way. Sure the experience may help but to what degree? Time will tell.
On the line Notre Dame will see its anchor back in Sam Young. The former 5-Star recruit will be playing right tackle this year and will be counted on heavily in giving Jimmy Clausen more time to throw while also opening up running room for the Irish backs. Young was a pleasant surprise his freshman year of 2006 but '07 saw him take a step back. Young getting back to his form at right tackle in 2008 will be key for Irish success.
Joining Young on this years offensive line are expected to be Paul Duncan, Michael Turkovich, Dan Wenger, and Eric Olsen from left to right, with Young being the RT. This has turned into an older and more experienced group for the Irish, both something that will be helpful for 2008. Like I mentioned before though, experience will not matter if these guys did not gain anything from last years debacle.
What needed to be done is that the Irish offensive line learned from mistakes they made last year. The coaching staff needed to learn what they may have done a poor job with while working with the O-Line a year ago.
Nobody knows yet what the Irish offensive line may entail in 2008. They could be the reason the Irish disappoint again or they could very well be the reason Notre Dame flies in under radar on their path back respectability. As far as I am concerned, this is the only important question Irish fans need to ask themselves about for the time being.
If the line has not improved from a year ago there is no need to worry about the development of Jimmy Clausen or the skill of the running backs on the roster. Without an offensive line these young men will not prosper on the football field and will not have to be worried about to make plays because they once again will not be able to.
Only if the offensive line is improved should Irish fans begin to even have doubts about what happened to the skill positions of Notre Dame last fall. If the line gets better and Clausen and company still struggle, then you can begin to question player development at those positions. However, without an offensive line it is impossible to be critical of the rest of the offense, including the play calling because it does not have a chance when the line doesn't hold up its part of the bargain.
Monday, August 4, 2008
By Mark Allen, Domer Sports Report
A consumate Notre Dame man is gone. Joe Yonto passed away on Monday morning at age 83. Yonto was a true Notre Dame man in every sense of the word. He was a player, a coach, an administrator and a great ambassador for the University of Notre Dame.