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Notre Dame Football is NOT in Shambles. It's Set to Break Out.

  • I'm 63 years of age. I've endured Terry Brennan, Joe Kuharich, Gerry Faust, Bob Daive, Ty Willingham and Charlie Weis, and gloried in Parseghian and Holtz. Along the way, Dan Devine did a pretty good job. One thing has continued to be true in my 55 years as a fan. When Notre Dame has a great football coach, Notre Dame has a great football program. If you look at the spans between championships, you'll see the same thing at Bama, USC, OU, Texas, and every other legendary program in the land.

    Are things tougher at Notre Dame? Have kids changed? Of course they are, and yes, they have. But, there are plenty of bright football players out there. It's the staff's job to identify them, and then to sell them on the university and the program.

    Brian Kelly is the first legitimate football coach we've had since Holtz. Neither Davie nor Weis had ever been a head man, and a tee time was more important to Willingham than recruiting. Kelly, on the other hand, has been a wholly successful head coach everywhere he's been. He got the job because of his previous record, while his three predecessors got them for every reason but that. Whether he can do at Notre Dame what he's done elsewhere remains to be seen, but I believe he can.

    I don't think most people realize just what a mess he walked into in South Bend. He inherited a culture of failure, and a football team with less talent than any coach in Notre Dame history. I know there were some highly rated kids on the team, but they were either overrated or under coached, because they played football like girls (no insult to women intended). They laughed on the sidelines while they lost. They felt entitled to their positions.

    When Parseghian came to South Bend, we were stacked with talent. Because Faust had also recruited successfully, Holtz also walked into a good situation. They won quickly because not only because they were great coaches, but because they needed only to fill a few holes.

    Kelly was not so lucky. He was left with a horrible QB situation. The OL was weaker than at any time since Holtz. The entire defense was simply awful.

    He now has two QB's of his own. One of them will end up being the best ND QB since Kevin McDougall (simply brilliant) or Tony Rice (my money's on Keil).

    In only two years, Kelly has made both lines far better than those we've seen since Holtz. We need help at corner and wideout, although I don't think wideout is quite the mess everyone thinks it is. Justin Ferguson can be very good, and Chris Brown, Corey Robinson and Devonte Neal can all be monsters. When Daniels comes around we'll really have most of what we need. A really solid Daniels (this year) with Toma and Eifert, and with our backs, would scare anyone. A really solid Daniels (next year) with Neal, Brown and Corey Robinson could be astounding (I think Robinson is a real diamond in the rough).

    For the first time in my 55 years of fandom, I don't expect much this year. However, beginning next year, I think this program will be really solid. We will still be very young next year, so it might not be a miracle season. But, by 2014, when Keil, Neal, Russell, Carlisle and so many others will be all grown up (and others will have joined them), we'll begin to be the Notre Dame we all expect every year.

    The old axiom about the third year defining a coaching is just that. It applies sometimes, and doesn't others. I believe Brian Kelly had to learn a lot about the kinds of kids he can recruit at Notre Dame. I think he's learned by seeing Darby, Tee, Greenbury and Lynch bolt on him. I think he's addressed it very ably with his staff. And, I think he improved his staff not only from a teaching standpoint, but also from the aspects of recruiting and chemistry.

    You don't amass a resume like Kelly's by being dumb, or by not being able to adapt. He's a winner. By the middle of next season, I think even super doubters will see that.

    I criticized Kelly heavily for last year's class. Not the kids he brought in, but the kids that left him at the altar. I think it happened because he had not yet learned what I think he now has. I don't expect this again in the future. If I see issues with him, I'll criticize him again. I'm not drinking anyone's kool-aid. I just think he's learned a lot his first two years. That, plus the mess he inherited, is why I believe we should see view him from a five, rather than a three year perspective.

    The future is brighter than it's been in a long, long time.

    This post was edited by Mr Rice128364 2 years ago

  • Along with way, Dan Devine did a pretty good job.

    I like your enthusiasm, but winning a national championship is not "did a pretty good job". As the last 20+ years has taught us, any NC is worth gold. Winning an NC is a great job, no matter the circumstances. In today's college football landscape, it is tough to win a title, period.

    I hope you're right that you believe the program is on the rise.

    BTW, that was a long story.

  • That was a great post, my friend. I think you're right on target.

  • I agree 100% with the original post. We're on the right track and you can see the shift in mindset of our committed recruits.

  • I have been a big Kelly fan and supporter for the most part. I agree that we wont see the recruiting crap that went on last year again. Its obvious Kelly and Co have gone to great lengths to target more ND type kids. That said my doubts are creeping in. I'm with you on this year. 7 wins is expected and 8 or more would be excellent. I jet don't have the optimism anymore. I said when Kelly was hired if he couldn't make ND elite again then no one could and its Probably more due to the fact with the school itself. If that turns out to be the case then I guess as fans we should be satisfied with 8 wins every year with an occasional 10 win year. That's sad but I do see it as the final outcome.

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  • Great post, Mr. Rice. Well reasoned and written. In fact, it's the best post I've seen on this board in a long time.

    I, too, am a 63 year older, and my ND experience tracks yours almost completely. Your remarks about Parseghian, Holtz, Devine et al. were dead-on. In fact, I share your faint praise of Devine, whom I thought was a good coach, but whose NC was won with quite a few of Parseghian's players and recruits. Still, I mean no disrespect to Devine who succeeded at the college level everywhere he coached.

    The faith part of your argument -- that Kelly is the kind of coach, because of his background, who can do it and that he has learned important lessons given the recent loss of recruits -- is supported by solid logic. Still, it is only Kelly who can clinch your argument. And, given your prediction of another lackluster year, I wonder if he will be able to secure the kinds of recruits -- the smart guys who can play football -- that he will need to turn your argument into a reality.

    For me, when it comes to ND, faith-based arguments of any kind are a thing of the past. As I stated in a recent post, the ND brand was left in tatters by Davie, Willingham and Weis. The challenge Kelly is facing in restoring it is, to my mind, monumental, and, if he is to do it, it will take the five years you are asking for him, as opposed to the traditional three. I only hope that time and changes in American society will not prove too strong for him to overcome.

    My view is that what will be will be. ND is as opaque a riddle to me as the stock market, the credit markets, the bullion markets and the Chinese economy. But I applaud your brilliant summary, your heartfelt faith in ND -- the result of those 55 years, as I know only too well, myself -- and your steadfast belief that Kelly has the right stuff. It's a noble and even sensible position you have taken. I hope like hell you are right.

  • Rice, that was a superb post. Older guys like you and Risksorter are an inspiration to a kid like me (insert picture, below).

    I wish I could heap on some more of that rational hopefulness, but I tossed my crystal ball in the river after a tough day at the track. I do agree on that five year perspective. Even on a year-to-year basis, it can be a fine line between a marginally good year and a BCS season. Think South Florida, Michigan and Florida St. If we continue to lose those kind of games, we'll have our answer. But, like you, I tend to think we won't.

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    I may not be pretty, but I'm fast..... POTW 1/31/11 - 2/6/11

  • My vote for POTW if I get one lol.

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    Irish legend CMC Quote Master and Director of Football Related Discussions 5 Time POTW & 2 Time WPOTW Winner Joined 09/17/05

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    I may not be pretty, but I'm fast..... POTW 1/31/11 - 2/6/11

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    Gringo Mafia: Black Ops & 'Family Recruitment' Official thorn in JSapp's side POTW 3/25/12

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    Run the ball. Stop the run. You win, or lose, up front.

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  • Great post & agree with all except 2012. I believe we will surprise lots of folks IF 4 things happen:

    1. STOP turnovers, limit to single digits.
    2. Run ball effectively
    3. Stop the run on d.
    4. GREAT special teams play

    This would lead to 2 losses at most in my opinion..

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    ND Family...Go Irish !!!!

  • Very good thread here, with strong discourse and perspective without imbibing too much into the Kool-Aid.

    Special kudos to Giga and his post. Well done. Just a couple of tidbits from me:

    1. While I idolized Ara Parseghian and wasn't a fan of Dan Devine growing up — even though I have great respect for his career — I always find it amusing how people say Devine won a national title with Ara's recruits, but never say, "Well, Ara turned it around with Hugh Devore and Joe Kuharich's recruits." That spells out the difference between a reluctance to credit Devine and the way we worship Parseghian. All a coach can do is maximize what is at his disposal, and both did.

    Yes, I know Ara came in when the program was reeling, but he has always given credit to his predecessors for setting the table with people like Alan Page, Kevin Hardy, Jim Lynch, Tom Regner, Paul Seiler, George Goeddeke, John Huarte, Jack Snow, Nick Eddy ... and so many others during that 1964-66 stretch in which they were 25-3-2.

    Parseghian continued his excellence, and Devine in his sixth and final season had the Irish 9-0-1 and No. 2 in December with a lineup that was supposed to be in a rebuilding phase but still defeated Rose Bowl champ Michigan, Bear Bryant's Alabama juggernaut on its home field and other quality teams that were ranked like Purdue and Miami, plus road wins at Michigan State and Arizona.

    2. I'm not sure Brian Kelly inherited the worst situation ever by a Notre Dame coach. I know Charlie Weis had Brady Quinn for two years, but he walked into a tempest with Tyrone Willingham's 2004 and 2005 recruiting that put the Irish on "self-inflicted" probation. The depth was at its nadir then. By 2007, Weis had seven fourth-year seniors and 10 juniors. 17 Players in two classes! That's really bad.

    Let's not forget that Kelly did inherit a five-star QB in Dayne Crist, and it didn't work out with him either year. I'm not sure what went wrong, but the chemistry just wasn't there. We can call it a mulligan, but I don't think it's correct to say he had nothing at QB.

    Lou Holtz also walked into a tough situation in 1986 because the 1984 and 1985 classes were sub-par. The 1984 class had only 17 players — and four were QBs. When asked if any could play another position, Holtz said one could play shortstop (Pat Pasevento, who became a star on the baseball team). The line recruiting was at its lowest ebb. In the spring of 1986, Holtz had six QBs on scholarship and only four defensive linemen on scholarship (Mike Griffin, Jeff Kunz, Tom Gorman and Wally Kleine) before shifting OLB Robert Banks inside. Had fifth years not been granted to O-linemen Chuck Lanza, Byron Spruell, Tom Rehder and Tom Freeman (a time when ND began easing up its red-shirt policy), it would have been in huge trouble along the 1987 offensive line.

    3. NDdds37 — When you're asking to limit turnovers to single digits in 2012, that has never happened in Notre Dame history, so you might be requesting a tad much. Bob Davie's 2000 team tied an NCAA record with only eight turnovers during the 9-2 regular season — but it then had three in the 41-9 Fiesta Bowl loss to Oregon State for a total of 11. However, the NCAA didn't yet include bowl games back then in NCAA stats, so technically the record books show ND with only 8 that year. That still would be only once in the program's 124-year history.

    This post has been edited 2 times, most recently by Lou Somogyi 2 years ago

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    Gringo Mafia Director of Recruiting Analysis // POTW --> 5-16-11 / 5-30-11 / 3-5-12 / 12-30-12 / 2-24-13 / 9-1-13 / 9-22-13

  • Hi Lou;

    Part of the worst situation I can ever recall a Notre Dame coaching inheriting involves the administration, beginning with Beauchamp couldn't figure out if it was committed to football or not. He and his crew more or less ran Holtz out of town, and hired Davie in his place, mostly be he was a "yes man." After the O'Leary debacle, White was more or less forced to make the politically correct hire of Willingham. Following more failure, I think the Irish really wanted to find a winner, but opted for another guy (Weis) with no head coaching experience.

    By the time Kelly was hired, it had been 22 years or so since the Irish won a championship, and at least 17 since fielding a really good team. I think that the more time that passes between greatness, the more out of touch a new generation of kids becomes.

    Devine was a good football coach. He just never had the PR skills to be loved as Parseghian and Holtz were. I stand corrected regarding the quality of the 84-85 classes, but I still think Kelly inherited a more difficult situation. It's largely opinion, but I think the world has changed a lot in the last 28 years. Notre Dame had more mystique, was not far removed from football glory in those days, the lower scholarship numbers had not yet had time to substantially change the landscape in college football, and kids were not yet made into gods in high school. Heck, I had to get a subscription to the South Bend Tribune to get just a tidbit of recruiting info once or twice a week.

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  • Mr Rice

    Thanks for your excellent posts - I've thought many times how ND maybe out of touch with the " generation of kids..." - ND's last NC was before these kids were born and I was a lot younger(now 65). ND has such a rich history and tradition. Yet there was a time that every hs recruit KNEW who ND was but now how many times do we read a recruit say " Don't know much about them need to check them out" - yes "...the world has changed a lot in the last 28 years. Notre Dame had more mystique..." BK came to ND with a resume of success as a headcoach but he isn't a miracle worker - I believe that Mr Swabrick will stand by BK and give him the support he needs(honor the 5yr contract). There's been improvement but the restless fanbase(including me) wants rain to fall on this 'desert of mediocrity' I have to laugh at myself - today I like watching ND on tv every sat(and I can record them) yet I really enjoyed listening to the games on radio years ago - they won a lot more LOL! I do remember exactly where I was(had my transitor radio in hand) when USC's QB Fertig hit Sherman to beat Ara's ND squad ending that great season 1964(Ara's 1st year 9W-1L) - DANG still hurts! Again thanks for your posts - very well written. GO IRISH!!

  • Nicely said Rice man! And, thanks for mentioning a very underrated and my favorite QB, KM!!

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    2 time POTW winner on some dates I can't remember from 2yrs ago at BNG, POTW: 1/3/11- 1/9/11, 6/20/11-6/26/11

  • I'm thinkin' you may have left rehab just a few days early.

    Kelly inherited a mess, indeed. But this is NOT Notre Dame football.