Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Thoughts on Coach Kelly

My Dad reminded me a few weeks ago that I hadn't yet chimed in with my opinion on Brian Kelly being hired as the new head football coach at Notre Dame. He was right, as he often is, but at the time I didn't really have anything intelligent to add to the conversation beyond "Yippee!" I wasn't surprised by the hire, as loyal OC Domer readers will recall that I confidently posted here on November 18th that his hiring was "all but a done deal." And of course I am extremely pleased that Athletics Director Jack Swarbrick targeted and landed a coach who was arguably the most qualified candidate he could have possibly lured to South Bend and a man who is easily the best prepared head football coach Notre Dame has hired since Lou Holtz.

To me, Coach Kelly perfectly fits the model that has produced National Championships for Notre Dame in the past. As I wrote during the long November of 2009 when we were all waiting for the curtain to come down on Charlie Weis' tenure at ND:

For me, the preferred model is the one that has made Notre Dame most successful in the past. Hire a coach who has been a very successful college head coach elsewhere. Find a guy who has displayed a knack for over-achieving at a "lesser" program, of doing "more" with "less." Frank Leahy was very successful at Boston College before coming to Notre Dame. Ara Parseghian won at Northwestern. Dan Devine won at Arizona State and Missouri. Lou Holtz won at William & Mary, North Carolina State, and Arkansas.
I don't think people truly appreciate how important experience and sustained success as a head coach is as a predictor of future success. People tend to think of Ara Parseghian as a young "up and comer" that we snatched away from Northwestern. But did you know that Ara was the head coach at Miami University for five years and at Northwestern for eight season before landing the Notre Dame job? That's thirteen years of incredibly important experience in the top job before coming to ND. Dan Devine had spent three years as head coach at Arizona State, thirteen years as head coach at Mizzou, and four years as head coach of the Green Bay Packers before coaching under the Golden Dome. That's twenty years as a head coach in Division I and the NFL. Lou Holtz's head coaching career before Notre Dame included three years at William & Mary, four years at N.C. State, one year with the N.Y. Jets, seven years at Arkansas and two years at Minnesota. That's seventeen years as a head coach before leading a team into Notre Dame stadium.

Contrast the above list of Championship coaches with this list: Gerry Faust (No college head coaching experience prior to ND); Bob Davie (No head coaching experience prior to ND); Ty Willingham (Seven seasons HC at Stanford); Charlie Weis (No college or Pro head coaching experience).

When looking at what has worked versus what hasn't worked historically at Notre Dame it should be painfully obvious that if you want to have a reasonable chance of football success you must hire a coach with significant experience as a head coach. Even Ty Willingham's seven years of HC experience at Stanford wasn't enough to prepare him for true success at Notre Dame. On the other hand, Brian Kelly's twenty years as a head coach at Grand Valley State, Central Michigan, and Cincinnati makes him more experienced than either Holtz or Parseghian and puts him on par with Dan Devine.

Take that twenty years of experience, give it to an Irish Catholic kid from Boston who has always dreamed of coaching at Notre Dame and who is a bundle of energy and seemingly a natural motivator and leader, and you have to expect that good things are about to happen for Notre Dame football.

So, to answer my Dad's e-mail, I'm pretty pumped about the beginning of the Brian Kelly era at Notre Dame.

Having had the time to sit back a little and watch as Coach Kelly has gone about the task of retooling the Irish football program, I do have some initial impressions that I would like to share.

Players. Coach Kelly has his own definite notions of the type of players he wants in his program. He calls them RKGs (Right Kind of Guys). He wants young men who are football players. Not necessarily the most gifted or talented guys, but guys who love the game and who will work hard to be prepared to play hard on Saturdays. He wants guys with heart and passion and work ethic and discipline. He wants guys who want to be at Notre Dame and who really, really, want to wear that gold helmet and play for the Fighting Irish. He wants guys he can trust to be selfless and committed to the team and to their teammates. Prima donnas need not apply. I think he wants Rudy, but with more size and 4.4 speed.

Of course, not every 4-star and 5-star prospect will fit the RKG mold. Many of the most talented players choose their college with one eye focused on a future NFL career. Sure, they want to win. But it's at least as much about them as an an individual pro prospect as it is about the team. It's about making highlight reel big hits rather than a sure tackle. It's about the big breakaway run rather than putting your head down and getting a first down. It's about not getting hurt rather than going all out on punt coverage.

Notre Dame is already limited in the pool of 4- and 5-star recruits we can really pursue due to above-average academic standards. That pool is clearly going to be narrowed a little bit more as Coach Kelly and his staff weed out players who are not RKG material. We may not see it this year as Coach Kelly nails down a recruiting class that was mostly selected and secured by Coach Weis' staff, but in February 2011 I think Irish fans are going to be very surprised by how the pundits rate Coach Kelly's first true class of recruits. I expect that class to be rated much lower than Charlie Weis' classes have been. Part of it will be the result of the RKG test discussed above. But a larger part will be that Coach Kelly has his own very strong opinions about the types of athletes that will perform best in his system.

I'll discuss it more below, but Coach Kelly has a very definite system and style of play that he coaches. He wants to recruit RKGs who will get the most out of his offensive and defensive system. He does not believe that or are as good at evaluating prospective players as he is. If he really likes a tackle for his offense who is "only" rated a 3-star prospect, he is not going to lose sleep over it. If the 3-star guy is a better fit than available 4-star guys, he'll take the 3-star guy. I think we'll see this play out all over the depth chart, on both sides of the ball.

Now, this isn't to say that future Notre Dame recruiting classes are going to look like recent Cincinnati classes. Clearly Coach Kelly will have access to a bigger, more talented pool of RKGs than he did at Cincy. But where Charlie Weis' recruiting classes were generally Top-10 caliber and even Top-5, I fully expect Coach Kelly's classes to be in the second ten (ranked 11-20) rather than Top 10.

Not that there is anything wrong with that. One of the great laments for Irish fans in recent years (as during the Gerry Faust years) is that we keep bringing in highly touted recruiting classes, but it isn't translating into wins on Saturday. So what is happening? Are the coaches failing to develop the players to their potential? Are the players not working as hard as they should? Are the folks at and who rank these players full of baloney?

I think one of Coach Weis' problems at Notre Dame was that he was prisoner to the star system. Certainly when he first arrived it was important to him to create the impression that Notre Dame was on the way back. One quick way to do that is to land some big recruits, create some buzz, and use that buzz to land more big recruits. And it worked, at least on the offensive side of the ball. Bringing in Jimmy Clausen certainly helped land other talented skill players. But were all these guys good fits for Charlie's system? Were they RKGs? Were they really as talented as their star ratings? I think Charlie paid too much heed to the star system and I think he lacked Coach Kelly's confidence in his ability to evaluate the college potential of high school football players.

So after several seasons of watching highly ranked recruiting classes under-perform on the field, I am more than willing to try another approach: Taking less-heralded RKGs and seeing them get coached up so that they over-perform on Saturday.

Coaches. Let's face it, Charlie Weis never really figured out how to evaluate and hire good coaches. Having never been a head coach, and not having any college coaching experience, the pool of guys he could draw on to join his staff based on personal relationships was small. So he had to rely on the recommendations of his NFL buddies on who would be good hires. And maybe these guys were good coaches. But they had never coached with Charlie, and they came from different systems, and in my view it never really came together as a full staff. I think the offensive staff this past season was (finally) excellent. But the Tenuta/Brown experiment on defense didn't work. The inexplicable loyalty to John Latina as O-line coach was, well, inexplicable. I don't want to dwell on it, but I file it under "lessons learned" that hiring an all-star hodge-podge of guys with no common experience is not the way to build a staff.

Coach Kelly has gone another direction. With a few exceptions his new Notre Dame staff is a group of guys that have coached with or for him before, in some cases for many years. These guys know each other, they trust each other, they know the system and trust the system. They are on the same page and pulling in the same direction from day one. (Cliche' alert!) They aren't big names or all-stars. They don't have much NFL experience. They are career college coaches who have won championships with Coach Kelly before, and who expect they will do so at Notre Dame.

The relative lack of name recognition and complete lack of Super Bowl rings will probably make recruiting just a little more challenging. But Coach Kelly isn't as worried about recruiting as he is about what happens to the players once they arrive at Notre Dame. He wants coaches who he knows can teach his system and who he knows can develop young high school players into the best college players they can be. He believes this staff of coaches will do that.

System. Through twenty years of learning and growing and evolving as a head coach, Brian Kelly knows who he is and he knows what type of football he wants to play. He has a system. It isn't an exotic or gimmicky system (although it may seem a little exotic to Notre Dame fans at first). It's a fully developed, established and de-bugged philosophy and playbook on both offense and defense. On offense they run a wide-open spread attack that features footballs flying all over the yard. On defense they run a base, balanced, aggressive 3-4.

In sharp contrast to Coach Weis' philosophy of trying to out-scheme opposing teams ("schematic advantage" anyone?), Coach Kelly's goal is to have his players learn his system inside and out and then out-play (out-execute) opponents. Rather than trying to find and exploit individual match-ups to win games, Coach Kelly is in effect telling opponents "This is who we are, this is what we do. Good luck stopping us." It reminds me of the Notre Dame teams under Lou Holtz. Under Lou everybody knew we were going to run the option or hand the ball to Jerome Bettis. Stopping it was another matter. Bill Walsh's 49er teams led by Joe Montana were similar. Opponents knew what plays the 49ers were going to run. But the plays, if executed properly, put so much pressure on a defense that they were impossible to stop.

Having a clear system has several advantages. First of all, as discussed above, it allows you to be very precise in targeting recruits that fit your program. If you are a spread offense you need nimble offensive linemen and versatile running backs who can run routes and catch the ball. Giant tackles who can drive block but who can't move laterally, or fullbacks who can't catch the ball out of the backfield are not good fits, so you don't pursue those guys. On the defensive line, you need big guys that can anchor that 3-4 defense, not pass-rushing defensive ends who can't stand up and play linebacker. Having a clear philosophy and system on both sides of the ball allows you to focus on finding RKGs that are the best fit for your program.

Second, having a clear system gives players a sense of identity and therefore a sense of confidence. They know who they are are. They know what their role is. They know what they are supposed to do. The fundamentals of the system stay the same from the time they enroll as freshman until they are getting significant playing time as juniors and seniors. Practicing the same fundamentals, the same techniques, the same playbook over a course of several seasons breeds confidence, it breeds trust in the system and in their teammates. it allows players to react on the field without having to think about it, it allows players to play faster with fewer mistakes. I'll talk more about it below, but having a familiar system that is consistent from week to week and from year to year leads to what Coach Kelly calls "unconscious competence", which means that you have become so adept that you know what to do and how to do it without even having to think about it. It becomes second nature.

Compare the above concept of an established system with a defense that changes each year from a 3-4 (with 4-3 personnel) to a 4-3, and then back to a 3-4, and that changes defensive coordinators every year. Or an offense that is experiencing a competition at quarterback among four players who are inexperienced in the base offense while trying to also install a gimmicky "wildcat" offense that will hopefully "surprise" the opening day opponent. Do you think those players are gong to be thinking a little too much on game day? Is it any wonder the O-line played in slow motion on opening day 2007 against Georgia Tech? In retrospect, to a lesser degree one has to wonder if Charlie's attempts to out "X" and "O" opponents by devising a clever new game plan every week just slowed the guys down by forcing them to think too much, rather than just executing with confidence.

Development. Listening to his press conferences and reading his interviews, it is clear that Coach Kelly believes that the way to win football games is to develop players. Not recruit players. Develop players. He believes in developing them as players on the field, and as people off the field, in the classroom, and in the community. I'll be focusing here on development as players on the field.

All the topics I discussed above tie into the concept of player development. Getting the Right Kind of Guys (RKGs) who are passionate about the game, and who are disciplined and committed and willing to work hard to become better players. He hired a coaching staff of guys he knows to be great teachers and great at helping young men reach their full potential. And he has an established system which is designed to lend itself to and reinforce the development of players.

I have heard Coach Kelly mention the concept of "unconscious competence" more than once. It's an odd phrase and one that I was not familiar with, but it seemed to be fundamental to his coaching philosophy, so I looked it up. It isn't a new concept, but it is a powerful learning model that one can easily see would lend itself perfectly to teaching football. If you look it up you'll see these concepts referred to variously as the "conscious competence ladder" or the "conscious competence model" and so forth. I found one web page that did the best job of explaining the concepts fairly succinctly, so I'm going to borrow liberally from it below, but I encourage you to go read the full article at if you want more information.

The conscious competence model is a conceptual way of looking at the transition from a state of blissful ignorance of a skill to mastery of that skill. It can be applied to almost any endeavor, but I'm going to look at it in the context of football.
Level 1 - Unconscious Incompetence (You Don't Know that You Don't Know)
At this level you are blissfully ignorant: You have a complete lack of knowledge and skills in the subject in question. On top of this, you are unaware of this lack of skill, and your confidence may therefore far exceed your abilities.

[COMMENT: Think about that freshman running back who dominated every game he ever played his whole life and who thinks he knows all there is to know about being a running back and that he will excel as a college back from Day 1. He has no idea how little he really knows and how much he needs to learn to play at this level]
Level 2 - Conscious Incompetence (You Know that You Don't Know)
At this level you find that there are skills you need to learn, and you may be shocked to discover that there are others who are much more competent than you. As you realize that your ability is limited, your confidence drops. You go through an uncomfortable period as you learn these new skills when others are much more competent and successful than you are.

[Comment: Think about the freshman running back who gets into Fall practice and realizes he isn't the fastest or strongest guy on the field anymore. He is having trouble reading the defense to run in the correct hole or figure out who to block. He keeps getting tackled for no gain in the scrimmages and run over by linebackers in drills.]
Level 3 - Conscious Competence (You Know that You Know)

At this level you acquire the new skills and knowledge. You put your learning into practice and you gain confidence in carrying out the tasks or jobs involved. You are aware of your new skills and work on refining them.

You are still concentrating on the performance of these activities, but as you get ever-more practice and experience, these become increasingly automatic.

[Comment: Following good teaching and coaching and repetition in the familiar system, the young running back learns how to read the defense, how to find the hole, who to block and how to block them. Now he's ready to get on the field on Saturday.]

Level 4 - Unconscious Competence (You Don't Know that You Know - It Just Seems Easy!)
At this level your new skills become habits, and you perform the task without conscious effort and with automatic ease. This is the peak of your confidence and ability.
[Comment: Now the young running back can spot the holes and pick up the blitzer without having to think about it. It's automatic and second nature. Now the player can let his natural abilities and instincts flow, and he'll be playing fast and with incredible confidence.]

It seems obvious once you read through it. And once you understand the learning model, you can see how important it is that the players are being developed within an established system. In order to play fast and with confidence, the players have to get to level four - unconscious competence. They can only get there if they get enough practice and repetitions in the fundamentals of the system to make their play reactive and automatic. Any time the coach changes the system, or introduces a new series of plays or a new defensive concept, all the players get knocked back down to level 2, conscious incompetence, and have to work their way back up to level four. With good coaching they will get to level 3, conscious competence, within a reasonable period of time. But only with a sufficient number of repetitions and practice will the team get to level 4 on the new concepts.

Under NCAA rules the coaching staff only gets so many practice hours with the team each season. They can only squeeze so many reps into that time. A choice has be made, a balance struck, between how much playbook is installed and what percentage of the time will the players be playing with unconscious competence. It is clear that Coach Kelly places a premium on running a more limited, but known system extremely well rather than installing a more diverse playbook that the players can only execute at level 3, conscious competence.

Conclusion. Having watched Coach Kelly from my perch out here in California, I have been very impressed. His enthusiasm is palpable, and from his opening press conference I had no doubt that his players will be fired up and ready to run through walls come September. Hell, I'm ready to button my chin strap and go play. I've still got four years of eligibility to burn!

But as I've examined his moves and tried to get inside his head, he is even more impressive. He is completely ready for this challenge. Not only does he know football. It's clear from the discussion of "unconscious competence" above that he has been studying leadership and psychology and teaching for the past twenty years and he is fully equipped to take the young men who choose to go to Notre Dame places even they don't realize they can go.

Welcome to Notre Dame Coach Kelly! Go Irish!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Crimson Tide Wins OC Domer 2009-2010 Tournament of Champions!

Here are the results of the 2009-2010 OC Domer Tournament of Champions. The Tournament of Champions is an eight team playoff featuring the top 8 teams chosen from a pool of eligibles consisting of the champions of each NCAA FBS conference plus the highest ranked Independent. While it is not a requirement, in most years the field will be comprised of the champions from each of the six BCS conferences, plus the two highest ranked teams from among the champions of the non-BCS conferences and the FBS Independents.

The concept for the TOC is premised upon a simple but very important concept: If you are not the best team in your conference, you aren't the best team in the nation. A corollary to that central premise is that if you are the champion of your conference, you are the best team in your conference. Scoreboard. The TOC is not a beauty pageant. The TOC is not concerned with which team is, in some esoteric intangible sense, the "best" or the "most talented." The TOC is looking for the team that has played the best on the field and has earned the right to play for the National Championship. Didn't qualify for your conference title game? Sorry. Lost your conference title game? Sorry. We're looking for winners in crunch time.

So how did this year's TOC field shape up? Here are the qualifiers (the BCS standings referenced are as of December 6th, which followed the conference title games and which will be used for seeding):

#1 Seed: Alabama (SEC Champion, BCS #1)
#2 Seed: Texas (Big 12 Champion, BCS #2)
#3 Seed: Cincinnati (Big East Champion, BCS #3)
#4 Seed: TCU (Mountain West Conference Champ, BCS #4)
#5 Seed: Boise State (Western Athletic Conference Champ, BCS #6)
#6 Seed: Oregon (Pac 10 Champion, BCS #7)
#7 Seed: Ohio State (Big 11 Champion, BCS #8)
#8 Seed: Georgia Tech (ACC Champion, BS #9)

Very interesting to note that this year's TOC features 8 of the top 9 teams in the December 6th BCS rankings. The odd man out was Florida, which cruised along in the #1 spot for most of the 2009 season until 'Bama manhandled them in the SEC Championship game. Better luck next year Gator fans.

Here are the first round games:

#1 'Bama vs. #8 Georgia Tech
#4 TCU vs. #5 Boise St.
#3 Cincinnati vs. #6 Oregon
#2 Texas vs. #7 Ohio State

You have to figure Alabama handles Georgia Tech (especially since Iowa beat the Yellow Jackets in the Orange Bowl). You have to take Boise State in the mild upset over TCU (since it really happened in the Fiesta Bowl). I took Oregon over Cincy based mostly on power rankings (Sagarin predictor), since neither team played very well in their bowl game. And Texas beats Ohio State (let's assume Colt McCoy doesn't suffer a freak injury in that game).

Therefore, the semi-final match-ups are:

Alabama vs. Boise St.
Oregon vs. Texas

The fun ends here for Boise as the Tide rolls, and Texas with a still-healthy Colt McCoy holds off Oregon in an exciting game.

So the OC Domer Championship Game is: Alabama vs. Texas

I suppose some of the suspense is lost since these two teams played each other in the BCS Championship game. Of course 'Bama held on to win over a McCoy-less Texas squad, even though the Longhorns pulled within 3 points late in the game behind back-up freshman QB Garrett Gilbert. But we're all about the scoreboard in the OC Domer Tournament of Champions, Congratulations to the Crimson Tide!

Some years the BCS "works" and actually pits the best two teams against each other in the Championship game. From this TOC analysis, it seems that the system "worked" this year. But even when it works it doesn't really work. What do you say to the other top teams who won their bowl games (Ohio State? Boise State?) but who never got a shot at the Championship? The beauty of the Tournament of Champions is that it all gets decided on the field.

A guy can dream, can't he?

3rd Annual OC Domer Player of the Year Award

The ballots are in. Actually, they've been in for a while, collecting dust as I've been too busy/distracted to count them. But the results have finally been tabulated. It's time to announce recipient of the 2009 "OC Domer Player of the Year Award." The OC Domer Player of the Year Award is intended to recognize the Notre Dame football player or players who played the best when it mattered the most. The award is based on a horrendously complex and intricate scoring system that would take too long to explain and that you wouldn't understand anyway. Suffice it to say that the primary criterion was a consistently high level of play, with significant bonus points awarded for exceeding expectations.

Past winners of this prestigious award are David Bruton (2007) and Michael Floyd (2008). Bruton is now playing on Sundays for the Denver Broncos, while Floyd had another amazing year for Notre Dame, finishing second on the team in both receptions (44) and receiving yards (795) despite missing (only) five games with a broken collar bone. Hopefully Michael will get himself squared away after his recent off-field embarrassment and will have a truly monster 2010 season in Brian Kelly's high-revving spread offense.

The OC Domer Player of the Year for the 2009 football season is: Golden Tate.

Expectations for Golden Tate coming into the 2009 season could hardly have been higher. He was expected to team up with mates Michael Floyd, Kyle Rudolph, and Jimmy Clausen as part of a prodigious offense that would lead the Fighting Irish to a 10-win (or better) season, a BCS Bowl berth, and maybe if everything fell right a chance at playing for a National Championship. Given the importance of "exceeding expectations" in the the judging for OC Domer Player of the Year, Tate had to be considered a long shot for this honor, since he was expected to be an All-American. But he didn't just play great. He amazed us. And when Michael Floyd was out with a broken collar bone and quarterback Jimmy Clausen was hobbled by "turf toe" that turns out to have really been "torn-ligaments-toe", Golden Tate carried his football team on his back. He played wide receiver, running back, quarterback, and more while willing his team to nail-biting wins with highlight-reel catches and runs to rival any in the history of Notre Dame football. Speaking of highlight reels, here is the Golden reel from 2009:

How amazing was 2009 for Golden Tate? Here's an excerpt from a recent Notre Dame press release recognizing his selection as an All-American:

The 2009 Biletnikoff Award winner, Tate recently capped off the best receiving season in Notre Dame football history. He finished with 93 receptions for 1,496 yards and 15 receiving touchdowns in 2009. Tate added two rushing touchdowns, one punt return for a score and totaled 1,915 all-purpose yards, second most in Irish single-season history.

Tate equaled or surpassed eight school records this year, including most catches and receiving yards in a season, tied for most touchdown catches in a season, most receiving yards in a career, most 100-yard receiving games in a season and career, most receiving yards per game in a season and tied for most consecutive games with a touchdown reception.

Tate ranks in the top eight nationally in nine different statistical categories and no wide receiver had more games with at least 100 receiving yards this year than Tate's nine. He also scored at least one touchdown in each of the final 11 contests for Notre Dame.

Tate, who recently declared his intention to enter the 2010 NFL draft, departs as the most prolific receiver in Notre Dame history. He recorded 2,707 receiving yards on 157 receptions with 26 touchdowns. Tate ranks second in career touchdown receptions and is tied for third in career receptions.

Congratulations to OC Domer 2009 Player of the Year Golden Tate! And thank you Golden for giving everything you had for Notre Dame over the past three seasons. Good luck in the NFL!

OC Domer Player of the Year Runner-up is: Jimmy Clausen. Jimmy just completed his best season at Notre Dame, completing 68 percent of his passes for 3,722 yards with 28 TDs and only four interceptions in 2009. He set a school record by passing for at least 300 yards in seven games and his four fourth-quarter comebacks for victories are the most in a season by an Irish quarterback. Clausen is ranked first or second in 32 passing categories at Notre Dame, including tops in career completion percentage, completions per game for a career and tied for first in lowest interception percentage over a career. He completed 695 of 1,110 pass attempts for 8,148 yards with 60 touchdowns and 27 interceptions while starting 34 of 35 games played for the Irish. Jimmy is expected to be a first round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, although his ranking by various draft pundits is quite variable. However it plays out, I hope JC's surgically repaired toe heals well and quickly, and I hope he represents Notre Dame with distinction in "The League."

OC Domer Player of Year Honorable Mention goes to: Manti Te'o. Although he arrived a little too late to save Charlie's job, Manti was easily the most highly decorated defensive player to come to Notre Dame in the Charlie Weis era (Named 2008 High School Athlete of the Year by Sporting News. Defensive player of the year by USA Today. Inaugural high school recipient of the Butkus Award, given to the best linebacker in the country. Two-time recipient of Hawaii Gatorade Player-of-the-Year award in 2007 and 2008. Sporting News rated him the top defensive player in the nation and second-best player in the country. Rated second-best overall prospect in the ESPNU150 and best linebacker according to ESPN. Et cetera, et cetera). Expectations were high for Manti, but I was surprised by how much impact he had as a true freshman. He ranked fourth on the team with 63 tackles including 5.5 tackles for loss, one sack and added one pass breakup. He played in all 12 games and started nine contests. His 63 tackles were the most by a Notre Dame freshman since 1975 and the third most all time by an Irish freshman. Te'o became a full-time starter for Notre Dame in the fifth game of the season against Washington and he ranked second on the Irish with 57 tackles over the final eight games. Te'o is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and he recently announced that he will be delaying his traditional mission trip for at least one year and possibly until later in his life, which means he will continue at Notre Dame during his sophomore year and will be a member of the Irish football team in 2010. And there was much joy throughout the land.

Who are your Notre Dame Players of the Year? I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Michael Floyd Drinking, Fighting and Bloody in Minnesota

This is not what we're looking for when we say "Fighting Irish." Notre Dame star receiver Michael Floyd, recipient of the OC Domer Player of the Year Award in 2008, is going to have some 'splaining to do to new Irish football coach Brian Kelly. According to

Gophers football player Shady Salamon and Notre Dame's Michael Floyd were cited for underage consumption of alcohol on Jan. 8 after police were called to a fight scene involving six to 10 people at the intersection of 15th Av. SE and 6th St. SE in Minneapolis.


According to the University of Minnesota police report, two men later identified as Floyd, 20, and Salamon, 19, were seen running and getting into a vehicle driven by a young woman. After stopping the vehicle, police noticed that Floyd, seated in the driver's side back seat, had blood on his hands, feet and shirt. Floyd told police that he had been involved in an altercation with a Somali male at a house party, and admitted he had been drinking.

I would expect that Michael will get a little personalized attention at Camp Kelly as a result of his display of appallingly poor judgment. Way to make a good first impression!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Welcome Back, Nate!

It's been busy at home and at work despite it being the "holiday" season, so my blogging has suffered recently. But I wanted to bring to you one interesting tidbit that I haven't seen reported elsewhere. Reliable sources are telling me that Nate Montana, lately of the Pasadena City College, will be returning to Notre Dame for the Spring semester (which starts next Tuesday) and he will be playing football in the Spring.

I'm not sure Nate got what he wanted out of his time at PCC, but I am glad to see him back under the Dome. With Jimmy gone to the NFL (by way of the operating room) and Dayne Crist stuck on the sidelines (by way of the operating room), the Irish need some bodies in the mix at quarterback heading into Spring ball. In very limited action during last year's Blue & Gold game, Nate looked very good throwing the ball. He seems to have his dad's knack for throwing a very catchable ball, right on the money.

Joining Nate in the mix (I am assuming Crist will still be at least somewhat limited in the Spring) will be early enrollee Tommy Rees and possibly current wideout John Goodman, who has some QB experience in his background. Also on the roster at QB are walk-ons Brian Castello (6' 2" 191 Lbs. from Pittsburgh, currently a Junior) and Matthew Mulvey (6' 3" 197 Lbs. from Del Mar, CA, currently a Sophomore). With a new coaching staff, a new offense, and a gimpy Dayne Crist, you have to figure the competition at QB in the Spring will be wide open and I wouldn't presume to rule anybody in or out at this time. Who knows which guy might "get" Brian Kelly's offense first and surge to the lead? Will the smartest guy be the best fit? The mobile guys? The big-arm guys? We'll see.

Of course, everyone is still hoping that Coach Kelly will in fact get Andrew Hendrix's name on the line that is dotted come signing day. If that gets locked down Notre Dame will have plenty of talent at the quarterback position come August. Experience will be another matter entirely. We'll find out very soon what kind of coach Brian Kelly is.

At any rate, welcome back to Notre Dame, Nate Montana. And good luck!