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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Niche

I already posted my initial, gut reactions to yesterday's horror show in Ann Arbor. Here are my thoughts after a night of fitful sleep.

In his press conference after the game Coach Weis said he is taking the team back to Day 1 of training camp. They are going to begin re-installing the offense from scratch, one small package of plays at a time. They will not move onto a second package of plays until they are executing the first package correctly. Coach Weis he is trying to find or create a small niche that can be a staple or foundation for the team to grow from. Good idea, Coach. I think the rest of the world calls that "establishing an identity."

When Charlie Weis first rolled into South Bend he made quite a splash when he announced his intention to build a team that would would be hard working, intelligent, and nasty. That was his goal three years ago, that was a team identity he hoped to create. So far, it hasn't happened. Why not?

Part of the problem is a talent deficiency. When you've got freshmen and sophomores starting all over the field ahead of your juniors and seniors, that probably says more about your juniors and seniors than it does about your youngsters.

But part of the problem is this issue of developing an identity, especially on offense. Coach Weis is a smart guy. He can "X" and "O" with the best of them. But I think perhaps he spends too much time trying to outwit the opponent by calling clever plays and creating mismatches to try and exploit the opponent's weakness. The result, this year at least, has been a different offense with a different game plan every week. Rather than focusing his attention on who we are as a team, he's been respecting the opposition too much, installing plays and game plans as a reaction to what the other team is going to do on defense. This can't help but be confusing to a young team. Brady Quinn and his more experienced teammates could handle it, but a team of freshman and sophomores can't help but be overwhelmed by being asked to re-invent themselves every week.

It seems Coach Weis may have recognized this problem with his decision to go back to "training camp." Rather than focusing on the other guy, we're going to focus on running a more limited set of plays, and running them well. The goal should be to get to a point where we have a handful of plays that we know inside and out, and that we are confident we can execute properly, regardless of what the defense is doing. The attitude should be "This is who we are, this is what we do, just try to stop us." That sounds ridiculous coming from a team without an offensive touchdown through three games, but that has to be the goal.

But it's an approach that works. Under head Coach John McKay the USC Trojans had a basic running offense that consisted essentially of two plays. The had a inside run they called the "blast" and an outside run they called the "pitch," known in football lore as "student body right." The Green Bay Packers under Coach Vince Lombardi were famous for the "Packer Sweep."

No matter what else they might run, or what the defense might do, those teams had an identity. They had a base offense, a core group of plays that they knew they could run and that they knew they could run well. From that knowledge comes confidence. And from that confidence comes the "nasty" that Coach Weis has yet to deliver.

What is Notre Dame's offensive identity? Right now the identity seems to be the drop back sack. We need to get offensive on offense. We need to get aggressive at the point of attack. Even if we have to put more linemen into the game, we have to establish an ability to gain yards on the ground so that the rest of the offense can work as a complement. Don't try to be cute. Don't try to out-think. Just line up and execute. Then line up and execute again. And be nasty about it.

2 comments:

Chris Amenson said...

I couldn't agree more.

I don't know who the heck Charlie Weis is, but he is not the offensive guru I thought he was, after the the apparent role he played in the Patriots success.

They keep succeeding, without CW, but where are we?

If we had a weak defense, but an offense that rolled, we could say that this was a matter of our new DC adjusting to the whole package.

But it's CW's area that is the weakest.

Unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable.

Sir john said...

Charlie is WONDERFUL.

Sidelight. God bless you OC on the Green Bay sweep article. I immediately sent it to my friend Coah Dan who is a big GB guy.

To hear hornung, fuzzy and Kramer again was a joy. Yes i really followed them back in the 60's because of Paul from ND and my neighborhood.

It's very true the opps would yell seep, sweep.. and not a thing they could do because of exicution.

Sidebar. You know all of that by Hornung? The most he ever made was $50,000. Consider that in muti million whiners today.