Friday, August 31, 2007

#2 - "MAKE PLAYS!!!"

26.5 hours to kickoff...The penultimate key has arrived.

#2 - "MAKE PLAYS!!!"

If you want to hear a grown man slowly descend into the darkest depths of his soul, simultaneously losing all perspective on life as we currently know it, then listen to WXYT's Mike Valenti during his Monday morning recap of the 2006 Notre Dame-Michigan State game.

Here are the questions confronting unranked Notre Dame...

Who's replacing Brady Quinn? If you believe Morgan Park HS Coach Lexie Spurlock, it'll be Demetrius Jones (this can also be confirmed if you believe what gets reported on AOL Sports blogs using the unimpeachable source known as Facebook). If it is Jones, the reason is simple: the Irish need the best playmaker at the most important position. Not the best caretaker, not the guy with most raw skills, but the guy who can pull the ball in, get creative, use his weapons, and...wait for it...MAKE PLAYS!!!

This is the biggest problem Notre Dame has been confronting over the years - their supposed lack of talent, dearth of playmakers, and lazy coaching that allowed the likes of USC, Michigan, Florida, LSU, Oklahoma, and Rutgers (Rutgers?!?) to speed past the nation's most storied program in those key categories. But the tide is turning inside the Irish program. It isn't just the tantalizing possibility of Jones piecing together Vince Young-style highlight reels that should put a smile on Charlie Weis' face.

How are the Irish gonna compete without a receiver that cracks six feet? Notre Dame's two starting wideouts seemed more equipped for Mighty Mites football than Division I. No Jeff Samardzija and his lanky 6-5 frame to win jump balls. No Maurice Stovall with his acrobatic catches. Instead, tiny George West and David Grimes, who are listed (emphasis on listed) at 5-10 each. DJ Hord is the tall man of the group at a stout 6-1. But like many of the skill positions, the Irish have talent and depth at wideout. It's simply inexperienced and (for now) unknown outside the circle of diehards. Frosh Duval Kamara invites plenty of Stovall comparisons with his 6-5, 222 LB. frame, as does 6-4 sophomore Robby Parris. The real reason not to be concerned with wideouts is the height and talent back in the fold at tight end, from likely All-American John Carlson to head-turning freshman Mike Ragone. We already said it once during this countdown, but...the tight end is the quarterback's best friend.

The skill positions are littered with talent for the Irish, more than they've had in the program for quite some time. But college football isn't like the NFL; there's no preseason exhibitions, and Notre Dame, for the time being, doesn't schedule I-AA schools in the opening game to give their young guys a chance to break themselves in. No getting around it, the Irish are walking into an opening gauntlet of games with little margin for error and have plenty of players who you'd have to expect a going to make errors, but they mental or physical. But they can also "MAKE PLAYS!!!" On both offensive and defensive fronts, the emphasis this offseason has been on breaking down the playbook, giving players the freedom to use their athleticism and create chances for themselves rather than working inside a pre-determined frame. The big moment on Saturday could very well be the one that features nothing but improvisation and pure playmaking ability, and it may not be coming just from Demetrius Jones. Stay tuned Irish fans - Irish football returns in one day.

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