Count On This Two
Posted by 2Lakes   
Saturday, 23 April 2011

We can expect great things from our secondary or in recruiting or both. Coach Martin is arguably the most accomplished and talented Assistant on the staff.

Last year we witnessed his handiwork in the transformation of our secondary from a frightening liability to a source of strength for our defense. Now, we have Coach Martin plus Coach Kerry Cooks working with a small group of corners and safeties. Coach Kelly is investing a lot of capital on the development of about eight players, or else he is freeing up more time for Coach Martin to hit the recruiting trail. Or both. Given the recent tweet where a recruit quoted Coach Martin as saying he was going after the fab five of defensive backs, and knowing how vital it is for us to develop young guys like Jackson, Wood, and Collinsworth; I vote for both.

There are signs of that coaching move already paying dividends. During the Blue Gold Game, we didnt see much action from the DBs, but what we saw was pretty good. The veterans and the new guys were holding their own. Recruiting is full steam ahead: exhibit A Ronald Darby and Tee Shepard.

Bottom line: our go-to position coach/chief recruiter will be better positioned to strengthen our secondary and bring in blue chip players. Our defensive backfield will be tough next year; and our February recruiting haul will exceed even our heightened expectations. Count on it.

We will beat Navy. They lost the perfect option quarterback with the graduation (and, I assume, deployment) of Midshipman Ricky Dobbs. Greg Jones, the best Navy receiver in the era of the option, is also gone. Part of me wonders if Jones was that good, or was it that Dobbs arm combined with his effectiveness as a runner made Jones that good. Either way, they are gone. Furthermore, as tough as Dobbs was, most of Navys games were still close enough that the backups rarely played. Even when they were winning handily, it appears that Coach Niumatalolo was too nervous to put in the reserves. Case in point: in the game against Notre Dame, the quarterback who appears to be the heir apparent, Kriss Proctor, neither threw a pass nor gained a yard rushing despite the fact that they were beating us 35-10 in the fourth quarter. Throughout his career, Proctor did get some playing time as a backup and even started a couple of games, but not against quality opponents. His performance to this point gives no indication that he will be as good as Dobbs or that Navy can replace Jones.

The last few years have been a fluke, and the Irish were obviously suffering the ill effects of having lost two out of three games to the Midshipmen combined with a poor showing early in the season. Navy was very beatable even last year. Look at how they did against some other weak teams: losing to Duke (3-9) and eking out victories against AA Georgia Southern, Wake Forrest (3-9), SMU (7-7) and Central Michigan (3-9). Proctor started and won the Central Michigan game; but if he and Navy were playing against Coach Kellys 2006 team (or even Butch Jones 2009 squad), they lose. Now Coach Kelly is firmly entrenched at Notre Dame, with much better talent than he had at Central Michigan, and Navy will not beat him or the Irish.

Bottom line: Notre Dame will be much better than last year and Navy will not be as good. Four Navy wins in five years after forty-three losses in a row? Not going to happen. Not against this Notre Dame team and this coaching staff. Count on it.

We will handily beat the teams we should and pull out some close games against quality opponents. Kelly-coached teams have demonstrated an ability to put weaker teams away. At Cincinnati, in his second and third years, the Bearcats won tens games by twenty or more points against opponents like Marshall, Syracuse, Rutgers, and Louisville. In addition, they won some close ones against Rutgers, West Virginia, Hawaii, Connecticut, and Pittsburgh. They also beat Illinois by thirteen and Oregon State by ten. True, those quality teams were not great teams; but relative to Cincinnatis average level of success and talent, they would roughly equate to our best teams.

No one can predict with certainty which teams will have banner years or be uncharacteristically bad; but we can make an educated guess about the teams we should beat and those that should be close games. Our weaker opponents appear to be: South Florida, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Air Force, and Wake Forrest. We should expect close games against: Michigan State, USC, Navy, and Stanford. That leaves USF, Michigan, Maryland, and Boston College: teams which have proven unpredictable because they have been inconsistent, are trending downward, and/or have new coaches.

Bottom line: we have our share of both good and bad teams on next years schedule; and Coach Kelly knows how to both whoop the bad teams and win the close games against the good ones. We will have the luxury of watching our younger players develop during junk minutes in games we put away; and we will win more than our share of exciting nail biters against good teams. Count on it.
Last Updated ( Sunday, 24 April 2011 )
Go Irish!
Posted by Donjuan   
Tuesday, 05 April 2011
Last Updated ( Sunday, 23 October 2016 )
Count On It
Posted by 2Lakes   
Tuesday, 01 March 2011
It's a predictable occurence: February, May, June, and July are slow months so we spend our time talking about a boatload of potential recruits and we make predictions about the upcoming season.

How about instead of blind predictions for next year's wins and losses, we do a little detective work to identify patterns and trends that can point us toward a wide and general path that Hurricane Notre Dame will most likely take?

Let's do that in parts.

Part I

Notre Dame slowly but surely gets better.

Notre Dame

That Notre Dame gets better: this is so very general and, frankly, not a very bold prediction, that it seems like a foregone conclusion.

But don't take it for granted. Remember Willingham -- 10-3 in '02, then 5-7 in '03.

The funny thing is: Willingham was the exception. Getting better in year two is the rule at Notre Dame. Even in the case of Faust -- 5-6 in '81 and 6-4-1 in '82 -- Davies -- 7-6 in '97 and 9-3 in '98 -- and Weis -- 9-3 in '05 and 10-3 in '06 -- there was improvement in year two. Looking back, I was surprised by that pattern. Surely, I thought, Faust and Davies got worse. But no, in the case of both Davies (5-7) and Weis (3-9), it was year three when it all started to fall apart. For Faust, there was very slow improvement from years one to two to three -- 5-6, 6-4-1, and 7-5 -- than continued mediocrity in year four -- 7-5 -- and the collapse in year five -- 5-6.

So year three is the litmus test. Not only for the reason that everyone points to -- Rockne, Leahy, Parseghian, Devine, and Holz all winning titles by their third year -- but also because the chinks in the armor seem to show up in year three for those coaches who will not have sucess.

But I digress. It is year two that we are about to enjoy. And history tells us that year two for a new coach at Notre Dame will be a fun one for the fans.

Coach Kelly

What about year two and Coach Kelly in particular? Can we see any trend in the way his teams perform?

GVS - the record went from 9-3 to 8-3. OK, not encouraging; but it is hard to read much into that. First of all, it was a long time ago. Second, Coach Kelly was green behind the ears: it was his second year as a Head Coach ever, anywhere, period. Finally, it was Division II: the minor leagues. Year three turned out to be even worse: he went 6-3-2. Bottom line: it took Coach Kelly almost seven years his first go-around to achieve excellence (9-2 with a conference championship in '97).

GVS Part II - Interesting development in year 9 at GVS (yes, Coach Kelly coached a long time there): after a very solid 9-3 season with a conference championship the Lakers moved over into another conference (The Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference). They proceeded to have their worse year (5-5) under Coach Kelly. But they rebounded very quickly, going 7-4 the following year and then 13-1 with a second place in the National Championships the year after that. Year four and five they won it all.

Central Michigan - CMU had only won 17 games in five years: that's an average of 3.4 wins per season. Coach Kelly had his only losing season (in 21 years as a Head Coach) his first year there; but he still helped them win four games. His second year, they won six.

Cincinnati - Coach Kelly won Coach of the year all three years he coached in the Big East. Interesting fact: Cincinnati went 8-5 the year before Coach Kelly arrived. 8-5: sound familiar? His first season was an improbable 10-3. Surely many experts were impressed but figured the chances were he would be unable to beat or even maintain that level of success at Cinci. So what does he do? In year two, he follows it up with an 11-3 season and a BCS bowl invitation.

Which of those circumstances most resembles Notre Dame in 2011? First off, GVS is so utterly distinct as a Division II school and Coach Kelly's very first Head Coaching job. Also, it appears that he has developed the ability to adapt at a faster rate from his first years at GVS to his first years in the new conference at GVS to his first years at CMU to his first years at Cincinnati. Detractors might argue that coaching at Notre Dame is like starting all over again; but, if so, with Coach Kelly's accelerated learning curve, it is also likely that he already went through those growing pains in year one. Considering Coach Kelly took over a Cincinnati team with an identical 8-5 record, and that it was only four year ago, 2007 may be the most relevant even though it was his first year. The Bearcats went 10-3, 4-3 in the Big East, that year.


Think back to right after the Tulsa game. All the gnashing of teeth and recrimination and "I told you so's." Heck, I was using both hands to keep my head from exploding as both Notre Dame homers and haters had at it (nice illiteration, huh?). A careful student of Notre Dame football and Coach Kelly would have sat back and said, "those first nine games were tough on us, sure, but there is no way this team and this coach finish under 0.500. In fact, chances are we finish very strong." And look what happened.


Yes, hindsight is 20/20. That's why we should use it more often. Identifying and projecting forward using the patterns and trends of the past is pretty good too. So if you are shading in the projected path of this mighty force we call Hurricane Notre Dame, taking into account that it is being directed by Coach Kelly, you have to say that nine wins is a minimum next year, ten wins is right in the wheelhouse, and up to eleven wins is a realistic expectation. Should be fun.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 02 March 2011 )
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