Editor's note: The Dayne Crist image at the top of this post is copyrighted by Jose L. Marin of Marin Media, and is used with Mr. Marin's permission. Check out more terrific sports photography, including some great Notre Dame stuff at MarinMedia.org
Well, it's almost time for the 2009 Blue & Gold Game, which means spring football practice for 2009 is nearly over and I don't think I have written a single post on it. Shame on me. This blog started in the Spring of 2007, and one of my first posts here was about the futility of trying to assess the progress of the team during the Spring, and the Hope that all Irish fans embrace this time of year. Nothing about Spring football has changed since 2007. I'll admit I read every silly report I can find about the 20-minutes at the start of each practice when reporters are allowed to observe the team, although I must admit I'm almost ashamed of myself for doing so. I mean, really, how useful is it to read the following drivel:
The defensive linemen began with their usual 2-man and 4-man hitting drill. Next I saw them doing a new angle tackle drill. A bag was set up sideways inside a set of cones and two players were lined up across from each other. One was the ball carrier and the other was the tackler. The ball carrier gave a little stutter step and then chose which side of the bag he wanted to run to, and the tackler had to fit in for the angle tackle.That's not a knock on the author of that piece, it's just that we fans don't get very much meaningful information about what the team is really doing until we see the Blue & Gold game, and even then what we are allowed to see is carefully staged.
The defensive backs worked on their backpedaling and opening their hips before coming back for the interception. Next a cornerback and safety teamed together to communicate and fit in for a tackle, one inside and the other outside.
The linebacker drills always move at a quick pace with Tenuta, but he gets in his critiques when needed. First they sprinted twenty yards and slightly slowed down there steps every five yards as though they were going playing the misdirection. Next they made a forward pursuit to an orange dot and broke down in front of it.
“You better gather,” Tenuta told the group. “Get your eyes up!”
Not that I'm not looking forward to Saturday, because I am.
This year's Spring scrimmage is much different than the 2007 version (4-horse QB derby), but will be similar to the 2008 edition. As with last Spring, most of the guys we'll see in starting roles have already played a lot of football for the Irish. Certainly there are a few new faces, but by and large the team we'll see Saturday (and in September) is the team we saw on Christmas Eve. The question is and will be: How are they developing? Specifically, here are the questions I'm hoping to have answered (at least tentatively) on Saturday:
- How does Clausen look? Is his arm strong? Accuracy good? Is he consistently making the proper reads and throwing to the correct receivers? In short, does JC look like the QB we saw in Hawaii or the QB we saw against Boston College? I'm betting that we'll see Aloha Jimmy, but I would really like some affirmation in that belief.
- How close to being ready to play is Dayne Crist? Is he really all that? Rumors last season had Crist looking great in practice and ready to challenge Clausen for playing time. This spring we're hearing that Dayne's accuracy is off and he's struggling with running the offense and making the reads. I am hoping to get a good look at this young player and hopefully (there's that word again) get a good feeling about what will happen to the Irish QB situation when Clausen moves on to Sunday games.
- Has the offensive line learned how to block in the power running game? Can they push defenders back when they have to? (And if they are pushing guys around, is it because they've gotten better, or because our D-line isn't stout enough?)
- Will the re-built and very young defensive line be stout enough to defend the run while still pressuring the passer?
- Have the new coaches settled into their roles and is the staff functioning well as a unit? Are the players responding to the new coaches, playing hard, and getting better?
- How well is Coach Weis getting around these days on his new wheel?
Enjoy the game, and the weekend, especially those of you lucky enough to be "in the house" on Saturday.