Thursday, June 30, 2005
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Zach Frazer put his best foot forward - literally. It paid off in a big way.
Nearly two months ago, Frazer suffered a hairline fracture in his left foot during a Nike combine at Penn State. Just last week, his doctor cleared him to start rehabbing the foot, yet this past weekend Frazer flew to Las Vegas to participate in a regional work-out for the EA Sports Elite 11 quarterback camp. Gutsy call on his part since he risked further injury, but the Elite 11 invitation was something Frazer wanted badly:
"I had a lot of people asking me why I was even trying to do this, even players in line at the workout in Las Vegas. Everyone was saying you're already committed (to Notre Dame) and it's just a camp, but ever since my coach told me about it last year it's been something I've been working towards and trying to make."While the injury still prevented him from participating in every drill, Frazer was impressive enough to garner an invitation, which will take place July 25-28 in southern California. (Taking cues from the Big 10, twelve quarterbacks are invited to participate in the Elite 11.)
The camp, in its seventh year, is run by noted quarterback guru and Mission Viejo High School head coach Bob Johnson, and every year, its counselors include some of the best college quarterbacks in the country. At the 2003 camp, it was John Navarre, Eli Manning, Andrew Walter and Ben Roethlisberger throwing around footballs and reading defenses with the high school juniors. The 2004 camp featured counselors like Kyle Orton, Aaron Rodgers, Derek Anderson and Heisman Trophy winner Jason White. Not too shabby.
Frazer joins fellow invitees Cody Hawkins, Isiah Williams, Neil Caudle, Pat Devlin, Mitch Mustain, Jake Locker, Kevin Riley, Josh Freeman, Jevan Snead, Matthew Stafford and Tim Tebow.
So, how exactly are the participants chosen? According to the Elite 11 site, "The high school quarterbacks are selected for the event after an exhaustive evaluation process which includes both film research, an in-person workout (whether at a NIKE Camp or EA Elite 11 Regional Workout) and a telephone interview."
If you'd like to do your own evaluation, check out Frazer's video highlights, and for an extended Frazer refresher, be sure to check out my colleague Pat's excellent write-up from earlier this year.
As most recruitniks have learned the hard way, no high school accolade can guarantee success at the next level, and an Elite 11 invitation is no exception. That said, we thought it'd be interesting to take a stroll down memory lane and examine previous Elite 11 classes to see how those quarterbacks developed. Who's been a stud? Who's been a bust? And whatever happened to...?
There’s probably no better way to measure elite status than by comparing quarterbacks using the NFL draft. Only two quarterbacks from the inaugural camp were drafted. Although Jeff Smoker never reached the heights predicted of him during an impressive freshman year because of a drug problem during his junior year, he was still drafted in the 6th round by the St. Louis Rams and is expected to be the back-up to Marc Bulger. And the other guy? It’s none other than Southern Cal back-up Matt Cassell, who hardly played because of the two Heisman winners in front of him. Nonetheless, the New England Patriots took a flier on him in the 7th round of April's draft. As much as I didn't want to put Cassell in this category, it's hard to argue with Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli when it comes to player personnel. I believe a third quarterback also belongs up here. Casey Clausen was a four-year starter at Tennessee and signed as a free agent with the Chiefs, where he was a back-up in 2004. However, he was recently cut from the team on June 16th. I'm sure he'll find another NFL team before long.
These guys may have had good collegiate careers but they were neither elite college quarterbacks nor certain NFL prospects. Brock Berlin signed with Florida, transferred to Miami and never came close to approaching expectations placed upon him during recruiting. Another Sunshine State quarterback, Chris Rix, had an up-and-down career at Florida State, and he’s currently unemployed. In fact, had Adrian McPherson not gotten into so much trouble, it’s quite possible that Rix wouldn’t have even played as senior. Little-known Roman Ybarra walked-on at UCLA, eventually transferred to Idaho State and had a nice D1AA career. Matt Lovecchio (right) was the only Irish recruit invited to the Elite 11 prior to Frazer, and hopefully the similarities will end there. Lovecchio’s career at both Notre Dame and Indiana reached its peak during his freshman year run prior to the Fiesta Bowl loss to Oregon State. Ironically, for all the talk that he was cool under pressure, it seemed that whenever Lovecchio was pressed with a heavy rush or forced to make throws, he really struggled. Chance Mock had a great year in 2003 where he threw 16 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, but he lost his starting job to Vince Young at Texas. He’s been unsuccessful in his attempts to make an NFL team.
Zac Wasserman signed with Penn State (he beat Jeff Smoker to the punch), transferred to a JUCO in California and then apparently chose Cal over San Jose State and Hawaii in the spring of 2002. He didn’t play that year and then mysteriously disappeared from the Bears’ roster. Similarly bizarre, Jon Van Cleave was a two-year starter at Louisiana-Lafayette who abruptly quit football in 2003. John Rattay, meanwhile, is the only player I've ever heard of who transferred twice to the same school.
As a prep All-American from Phoenix, Rattay originally went to Tennessee, but after dropping to third on the depth chart, the 6-foot-3, 205 pound lefty then transferred to Arizona. Due to NCAA rules, Rattay sat out a year before backing up then-junior Jason Johnson for the Wildcats during the 2001 campaign. In limited action, Rattay completed 27 of 59 passes for 385 yards and two touchdowns.Unfortunately, Rattay’s injury was career-ending and he never played for Mike Stoops at Arizona.
Unhappy with his lack of playing time, he transferred again, this time to Pasadena City College in Southern California. Rattay earned the starting job at PCC, but he was ultimately sidelined after suffering a season-ending knee injury in the team's seventh game. With the quarterback race wide open once again, following Johnson's graduation, Rattay chose to come back to Arizona and will compete for a spot on the team as a walk-on. Rattay is expected to be fully recovered from the knee injury by the start of fall practice.
Some of these guys are now in the NFL, and others are wrapping up their collegiate careers and getting ready for “The League.” Adrian McPherson, former Florida State quarterback, played in the Arena Football League when no school would accept the baggage that would accompany a transfer; he won the Rookie of the Year award and was drafted in the 5th round by the Saints. Matt Leinart has two national championships and a Heisman trophy. Most of college football is hoping he’ll miss Norm Chow – a lot. Derek Anderson enjoyed a solid career at Oregon State, shredded Notre Dame last year in the Insight Bowl and was drafted in the 6th round by the Ravens. Kyle Orton was a Heisman hopeful in 2005 who sliced and diced the Irish defense in 41-16 win, but his inconsistent play and rib injury down the stretch cost him a chance to seriously contend for the trophy. The Bears drafted him in the 4th round. Kellen Clemens has improved each year and 2005 will be his third year as Oregon’s starter. Although Duck quarterbacks haven’t fared too well in the NFL, Clemens isn’t a Jeff Tedford progeny.
DJ Shockley has split time the last three years with David Greene, whose departure has allowed Shockley to become the full-time starter. There's confidence in Shockley, but it'll be interesting to see how he responds to all the pressure that comes with being the starter. Remember Pitt’s narrow 41-38 win over Furman last year? Ingle Martin signed with Florida and transferred to Furman; he was a big reason why the contest was so close. Brodie Croyle looked really good last fall before a torn ACL ended his season; he started to look like he was coming into his own. If he can overcome his injury, he has the tools the NFL wants in a quarterback.
He still has a chance, but Casey Paus isn’t likely to win the Huskies’ starting position. Paus has struggled throughout his career, and some have suggested his sidearm throwing motion is to blame. Paul Troth signed with East Carolina, and his career started downhill when a new coaching staff came in and tried to install the option, which didn’t fit Troth’s skills. He transferred to Liberty and played disastrously in limited action (1 TD, 7 INTs). He was invited to rookie camps, but like Chance Mock, Troth has not been able to find a home. Billy Hart eventually quit the Southern Cal football team to focus on baseball, and the Astros recently drafted the third baseman in the 5th round. Last but not least, some Irish fans may remember Nic Costa as the recruit who complained about the on-campus binge drinking. He is now a forgotten man in the collective consciousness of college football; at Arizona he was moved to WR, moved back to QB, and then finally, he transferred to Portland State.
A quarter of this class has established itself as legitimate starters in college football: Pitt’s Tyler Palko, Michigan State’s Drew Stanton (he has to stay healthy), and finally, the Longhorns’ Heisman hopeful Vince Young.
Another one-third of this class is on two teams; these quarterbacks are battling for starting jobs. Drew Olson will duke it out with Ben Olson for the UCLA starting spot when he returns from injury later this summer. Meanwhile, Ohio State hasn’t determined a starter between Justin Zwick and Troy Smith; both played well this spring although Smith should have the upper hand based on how he played down the stretch last year. Finally, Walt Harris hasn’t named a starter in Palo Alto yet, and two-year starter Trent Edwards is trying to hold off T.C. Ostrander.
Michigan's Matt Gutierrez may have become the next Wally Pipp after his shoulder injury allowed Chad Henne the opportunity to start last fall. Anthony Martinez quit football to play baseball at Virginia, and after being suspended for academic reasons, he is currently hoping to rejoin the team. Ryan O’Hara quit football and dropped out of Arizona in order to take care of his ailing brother. Gavin Dickey is still playing quarterback for the Gators but considering his baseball career as well as the fact that he’s fighting for a back-up spot with Josh Portis and Cornelius Ingram, I think Dickey is fighting an uphill battle. Either his days at as a signal-caller are numbered, or he may turn to baseball full-time.
As we reach the younger classes, there are obviously fewer players in contributing roles...of course, Florida’s Chris Leak bucks that trend. How Urban Meyer adapts to Leak’s skills, and how Leak adapts to Meyer’s offense will be one of the most-watched storylines of 2005.
Ready for Prime Time
Familiarize yourself with three young QBs who are certain to make an impact this year: Miami’s Kyle Wright (who had a strong spring throwing to a talented ‘Cane WR corps), Kentucky’s Andre Woodson (already drawing comparisons to Tim Couch and Jared Lorenzen), and South Carolina’s Blake Mitchell (Spurrier’s next gunslinger). All three are expected to start for their respective teams in 2005.
Some great QB battles were waged this past spring, and some of these kids may win the starting job while others may still be a year away. JaMarcus Russell is trying to hold off Matt Flynn and an incoming Ryan Perrilloux at LSU. Mike Affleck is competing for a back-up role at BYU. Dennis Dixon has earned high marks at Oregon but he’s a year away with Kellen Clemens' return. Tommy Grady is battling Paul Thompson and Rhett Bomar for the spot vacated by Jason White, although Grady's reported lack of foot speed may hurt his chances. As mentioned above, TC Ostrander has a chance to beat out Edwards and become Walt Harris’s next pupil. Ole Miss QB Robert Lane missed the spring with a shoulder injury but, more importantly, he missed an opportunity to impress new head coach Ed Orgeron.
Justin Midget transferred from Florida to Eastern Illinois, then quit the team because he was tired of school and simply wanted to play football. He tried out unsuccessfully for the Arena Football League but failed to make the Florida Firecats. Michigan's Clayton Richard is another baseball player who decided football wasn't for him, and now Lloyd Carr is vowing never to recruit another quarterback/pitcher.
John David Booty got a head start on the rest of this class by skipping his senior year of high school to enroll at Southern Cal. It was done with the idea in mind that when Carson Palmer graduated, Booty would be able to win the starting job in 2003. Of course, they forgot to plan for Matt Leinart. Booty had a dynamite spring for the Trojans and should get plenty of mop-up time this fall before taking over next year...of course, Mark Sanchez has something to say about that. Rhett Bomar has a very good shot to beat Tommy Grady and Paul Thompson to become Jason White's replacement at Oklahoma. Putting him at this level may be premature but I do believe that Bomar will end up getting the majority of the snaps in Norman this fall, even if Stoops is talking about playing two quarterbacks.
Anthony Morelli spurned Walt Harris when the Big East looked like it would crumble, and he ended up at Penn State. He played sparingly as a freshman but this spring he couldn’t beat out Michael Robinson, who in my opinion, is a better wide receiver or running back than quarterback. Unless the Nittany Lions sign someone better this year, the starting job should be Morelli’s in the fall of 2006…if Robinson doesn’t struggle sooner. Kirby Freeman lost the starting job to Kyle Wright this spring, and now he’s stuck at #2 for the next few years. Chase Patton is competing for a back-up role to Brad Smith at Missouri, and right now he hasn’t cemented himself as the #2 guy. Nate Longshore signed with Cal and is battling JUCO Joseph Ayoob to become the next stud quarterback under Jeff Tedford. Cornelius Ingram is literally in limbo, battling for the #2 spot while waiting for Chris Leak to graduate or leave early for the NFL. Of course, who knows whom else Urban Meyer will sign in the meantime. Drew Weatherford is in the mix for the starting job at Florida State, although God could be tough to beat out if He returns from his drug problem. Bobby Reid suffered an injury last year that prevented him from contributing as a true freshman. Right now he is battling returning starter Donovan Woods at Oklahoma State; head coach Mike Gundy has not named a winner yet.
Alonzo "A.J." Bryant was moved by Georgia’s Mark Richt to WR and actually contributed as a freshman. Matt Tuiasosopo quit the Washington team to pursue a baseball career. Batting .469 as of late April, it’s doubtful that Ty Willingham will be able to get him back in a Husky uniform. Brian Hildebrand didn’t last very long; he is transferring from Oregon State, though the destination is currently unknown. Some have suggested Colorado. A couple of sidenotes; Hildebrand is not related to the famous wrestling referee namesake, and his transfer has nothing to do with the sheep incident from what I can gather.
Ryan Perrilloux definitely belongs at the top of the list. After verballing to Mack Brown and the Longhorns, Perrilloux had a change of heart and signed with LSU. There is a chance he could win the starting job this fall. Nebraska's Harrison Beck likely won't redshirt, according to head coach Bill Callahan. "Right now, I want him to compete for the spot. If he’s ready, he’s ready." Finally, Willie Tuitama has a shot at winning the Arizona starting job this fall. "We'd like to save him, but if Willie can help us win, he'll play," said head coach Mike Stoops.
Since Brent Schaeffer was kicked off the team, if Jonathan Crompton can beat out Rick Clausen he might end up as Erik Ainge's back-up for Tennessee.
Jeff Tedford has quietly restocked the quarterback depth chart at Cal, and Kyle Reed will come in this fall and learn the system. It's very likely he'll be redshirted, as will Jake Christensen at Iowa. Christensen was recently drafted by the Cincinnati Reds, and it appears he'd like to play both sports in college. Two-sport Elite 11 campers haven't done too well by my count. Ohio State's Rob Schoenhoft played well recently in the Ohio North-South All Star game, and he's a likely redshirt candidate. Mark Sanchez is already being touted as the next great Southern Cal quarterback, but John David Booty will stand in his way next spring. His high school coach was Elite 11 instructor Bob Johnson. Jonathan Garner was sent packing when Urban Meyer took over Florida, but Georgia Tech picked up his signature. Garner will likely redshirt. Bill Doba has done a great job since taking over for Mike Price at Washington State, and this past year they signed their first Elite 11 camper, Arkelon Hall. He's expected to redshirt, as is Georgia's Joe Cox. There are two Elite 11 quarterbacks named Chase at Missouri, and Chase Daniel is the second. He's expected to redshirt, although there is some speculation that because his high school offense is similar to what head coach Gary Pinkel runs, he'll have a shot at winning a back-up job.
Overall, it's pretty obvious that having the Elite 11 camp on your resume won't make or break your career. Additionally, it's important to note that the campers aren't always the best twelve quarterbacks in the country. Two summers ago neither Chad Henne nor Brian Brohm participated (neither worked out in order to become eligible), yet both these guys showed on the field last year for Michigan and Louisville, respectively, that they are two rising stars among college quarterbacks.
So how should the Elite 11 be viewed? It's up to the individual fan; as with recruiting rankings there are certain to be biases, and the fact that neither Brohm nor Henne participated demonstrates it's an imperfect system.
However, I see two positives. First, it's a harmless, yearly ritual that's fun for recruitniks to follow, and like the Nike combines and National Signing Day, it's become part of recruiting culture and its vernacular. Second, it's a great opportunity for some recruits to gain greater exposure. Landing an Elite 11 quarterback may not guarantee on-field success but it can certainly generate some momentum in recruiting. Generally speaking, the best high school wide receivers want to play in passing offenses with great quarterbacks, and having an Elite 11 quarterback in the fold certainly adds some punch to the recruiting pitch...especially if the quarterback is recruiting some players personally, as Zach Frazer has been doing for Notre Dame.
Posted by Michael at 7:39 PM
(This is the second part in a series.)
As at quarterback, Notre Dame will see a lot of familiar faces at running back from 2005's opponents. And unlike the quarterback position, where unproven signal callers rarely make an immediate impact, it is far easier for a freshman or other inexperienced running back to step into the feature role and produce. So what's in store for the Irish this season? Let's take a look.
PITT - Raymond Kirkley. 2004 stats: 154 attempts, 560 yards, 6 TDs. Returning Starter.
Kirkley was the leading rusher for Pitt last year (and in 2001 as well) but only amassed 560 yards (at an avg. of 3.6 yards per carry). A strong, physical back, his production was more limited by Walt Harris' playcalling that his own talent level. Also returning is fullback Tim Murphy who missed time last year with injury but still was Pitt's second leading rusher. Depth: It shouldn't be a surprise if Pitt's starting tailback against Notre Dame is a true freshman. Rashard Jennings enrolled a semester early and was the star of the annual Spring Game with 119 yards rushing on 19 carries against the first team defense. At 6'1, 235 lbs, he might remind Irish fans of a Rashon Powers-Neal style runner. However, he reported to Pitt at 265 lbs, so he'll have to keep his weight down. He's still a good bet to start. Also a possibility to start is fellow freshman Conredge Collins. Another big back (225 lbs - see a trend yet?), Collins was one of the highest-rated recruits in Pitt's incoming class, which by the way includes 5 players listed as running back.
MICHIGAN - Michael Hart. 2004 stats: 282 (!) attempts, 1,455 yards, 9 TDs. Returning Starter.
Michigan's other freshman sensation (alongside Chad Henne) is back and should be a formidable opponent in 2005. After gaining 1,455 yards (at an impressive 5.2 yards/carry clip) and leading the Big Ten in rushing, Hart should be even better after a year of college weight training. A shorter back, Hart is the type of low-to-the-ground power runner that disappears into the pile and pops out the other side. He already holds a record as the only Michigan back to top 200 yards rushing in 3 consecutive games. Brian Thompson or Obi Oluigbo will have to step up and take over the fullback spot left by departing Kevin Dudley. Depth: Freshman Kevin Grady, another short power back, enrolled a semester early (to much recruiting hype) and so far is getting rave reviews in practice reports. Expect to see him get some carries every game. Rounding out the deep, but young, stable of running backs is Max Martin, a 6'1 215lb sophomore.
MICHIGAN STATE - Jehuu Caulcrick. 2004 stats: 113 attempts, 629 yards, 5 TDs.
Despite a costly fumble on the goal line, Caulcrick had a productive game against the Irish last year. The 243 lb running back is a load to bring down, and his 5.5 yards/carry average is a testament to that. He's not a threat to outrun the secondary, but is the kind of running back that can wear down a defense. Depth: Jason Teague will join Caulcrick in a running back by committee approach. Teague started 8 games last season and gain 716 yards so he has plenty of experience. A wildcard in the Spartan backfield is incoming freshman Javon Ringer. Ringer tore his ACL as a high school senior but was still one of the top running backs in the country, and his homerun speed could lead to quality playing time and an outside shot of starting by the ND game.
WASHINGTON - Kenny James. 2004 stats: 172 attempts, 745 yards, 5 TDs. Returning Starter.
Returning starter James had a decent season last year, but Washington's lack of committment to the run kept his stat total low. This year there's a lot of talk in Seattle about establishing a power running game, and while James is more of a speed back, he also has enough size (215 lbs) to break the first tackle. James Sims returns to the fullback spot he took over when Zach Tuiasosopo broke his leg in the ND game. At only 205 lbs, he is more of a running than blocking fullback. Depth: Shelton Sampson returns and will give the Huskies some depth in the backfield. Given Ty's penchant for splitting carries between running backs (Jones/Grant, Grant/Walker), look for Sampson to get plenty of carries this year.
PURDUE - Jerod Void. 2004 stats: 159 attempts, 625 yards, 3 TDs. Returning Starter.
Void is an extremely dependable running back and with with 22 game starts under his belt, one of the more experienced the Irish will face. A tall back at 6'2, 212 lbs, Void has a nice mix of speed and strength. When Purdue does go to the fullback, it will most likely be Anthony Heygood. Depth: While Void is listed as the starter, senior Brandon Jones will get plenty of carries as Purdue likes to split carries between the two. At 235 lbs, Jones is a stronger back than Void and will be Purdue's power runner up the middle. Rounding out the deep Boilermaker backfield is Kory Sheets, who has the breakaway speed that Void and Jones lack.
USC - Reggie Bush/Lendale White. 2004 stats: Bush- 142 attempts, 908 yards, 6TDs. Returning Starter. White - 203 attempts, 1,103 yards, 15TDs. Returning Stater.
Continuing with the "ummm...USC is good" theme, Bush and White should combine to be one of the best tailback tandems in the country this season. Bush's exceptional speed is always highlight material, but White (right), technically the starter, is the better all-around running back who has the power to wear down a team. Either one is a handful and together they give USC a backfield guaranteed to keep defensive coordinators up at night. Bush's 509 receiving yards and 7 TD receptions are an added threat. Fullback David Kirtman had a solid spring and will be another weapon in the USC offense. Depth: The transfer of spring practice star Chauncy Washington hurts the depth, as does the knee injury to Herschel Dennis, who might miss the entire season. Still, USC has speedy Desmond Reed and will benefit from the return of muscle-bound fullback Brandon Hancock. I wouldn't be surprised if Hancock beats out Kirkman early in the season and makes USC's running game even more dangerous with his speed and receiving ability.
BYU - Curtis Brown. 2004 stats: 158 attempts, 828 yards, 6 TDs. Returning Starter.
Brown is a very talented running back with plenty of speed and vision. After gaining only 12 yards on 15 carries against the Irish last year, he finished the season strongly and will make a run at 1,000 yards rushing in 2005. Brown is also a competent receiver out of the backfield who had 27 catches for 125 yards last season. And when it gets close to the goal line, that is where BYU will bring out what is probably the biggest fullback in college football, 6'0, 292 lb (!) Moa Peaua (check out the linked story -- it's great). He's not a threat to carry the ball, but "The Tongan Power" will basically be a sixth offensive lineman on the field for the Cougars. Depth: Naufahu Tahi is a bigger back than Brown at 230lbs and should see most of his carries between the tackles.
TENNESSEE - Gerald Riggs, Jr. 2004 stats: 193 attempts, 1,107 yards, 6 TDs.
Technically, Riggs isn't a returning starter. But in 2004 he not only outgained starter Cedric Houston, but also posted a better yards-per-rush average. Early buzz is touting Riggs as a Heisman darkhorse and phrases like "2000 total yards" are being tossed around on Vol message boards. Big, strong, and fast, this blue-chip recruit seems on track to finally live up to the hype surrounding his signing with Tennessee. And to block for Riggs is 275 lb fullback Cory Anderson, who is also a candidate for All-American status. Depth: The Volunteers have a stable of talented, but largely untested backups. JaKouri Williams, Adrian Foster, and David Yancey continue the tradition of deep UT running back depth charts, but none of them have much game experience.
NAVY - Grab Bag.
Navy's option offense means there is not one primary ballcarrier. With a QB, FB, and two split-backs, you never know who is going to get the ball on any down. The bad news for Navy is that they aren't returning any starters in the backfield. Along with new QB Lamar Owens, Trey Hines (right, in motion) and Marco Nelson appear to be the leading candidates for the split backs position. Hines is a track team sprinter and Nelson is only listed at 178 lbs, so likely they will stay away from the middle of the pile. The between-the-tackle running will likely fall to Matt Hall who has the uneviable task of replacing Kyle Eckel, perhaps the best runner Navy has had in over 20 years. At 216 lbs, Hall is not as big as the usual Navy fullback so it will be interesting to see how he handles the position. Depth: Navy has a number of other young runners so it's possible Coach Paul Johnson will give them a chance to prove themselves. Backup QB Brian Johnson and speedy but small Reggie Campbell (5'6 164 lbs) are a couple who will contend for carries.
SYRACUSE - Damien Rhodes. 2004 stats: 153 attempts, 870 yards, 10 TDs. Returning Starter.
Splitting carries with Walter Reyes last year, Rhodes will now be the center of attention in the Syracuse backfield. A shifty, quick runner, Rhodes had an impressive 5.7 yards/carry last season. He will also be dangerous motioning out of the backfield, as he had 18 catches for 246 yards last season; a number that might increase under the new West Coast offense being implemented. Accompanying Rhodes in the backfield will be sophomore fullback Breyone Evans, who is also a threat to run the ball. Depth: Bodies, but not much experience seems to be the case on the Syracuse bench. Jeremy Sellers, Tim Washington, and Kareem Jones are in the mix, but none have really had a chance to show anything on the field.
STANFORD - J.R. Lemon. 2004 stats: 93 attempts, 440 yards, 6 TDs. Returning Starter.
Lemon was injured for part of last season but should return healthy and ready to carry the ball under new coach Walt Harris. A very fast running back, Lemon also has enough size at 225 lbs to take the pounding of an every down back. Blocking for Lemon will be another jumbo fullback, 275 lb converted defensive lineman Nick Frank. The fullback was MIA under Coach Teevans so Frank doesn't have much experience on the offensive side of the ball. Depth: Stanford is plenty deep at running back this year and the first guy off the bench should be former ND commit David Marrero. In fact, message board rumblings are that Marrero may even surpass Lemon and begin the season as the team's starter. A sprinter, Marrero is one of the faster running backs ND will face and will be dangerous as a receiver as well. Junior Jason Evans is also a talented running back who might get a chance to carry the ball a few times a game.
2005 Opponent Running Back Analysis and Rankings
As usual, Notre Dame is going to face a lot of talented running backs this season. However, upon closer inspection it's not as bad as in some years past. Notre Dame's run-stopping ability again should be the pillar of our defense, and most of the opponents feature larger, power backs, which really almost plays into ND's strength. Smaller, faster running backs like Bush and Marrero can give ND fits with their speed and ability to line up as slot receivers, but guys like The Tongan Power will most likely have to stick between the tackles.
Still, even with that potential advantage, the top strata of opponent running backs is very, very talented. Lendale White, Reggie Bush, Michael Hart, and Gerald Riggs will be hard to contain no matter where they run. The rest of the opponents will be dangerous, but not much more than what ND usually faces every year.
Again, putting things such as coaching strategy aside, and focusing solely on talent and team depth, here are my rankings for the running back units that ND will face in 2005.
1. USC - Bush and White make this a no-brainer.
2. Michigan - Hart is a premiere feature back. Grady and Martin add plenty of size and talent.
3. Tennessee - Riggs might be the best all-around back ND faces. A lot of inexperience behind him, though.
4. Purdue - Veteran talent and a mix of running styles give Purdue a formidable running back unit.
5. Stanford - Lemon, Marrero, Frank, Evans, and others give Harris plenty of quality choices.
6. Syracuse - Rhodes is an excellent running back, but the backups are unknowns at this point.
7. Michigan State - Caluchick could surprise with a good year. Freshman Ringer is the wildcard.
8. BYU - Brown is a quality running back, but will have to show up against good defenses like ND's.
9. Washington - Experience is there, but last year's 3.2 yards/carry average will need to go up.
10. Pitt - Could a true freshman beat out Kirkley for the starting spot?
11. Navy - Too many new faces to warrant a higher ranking.
Next up: Wide Receivers.
Posted by Pat at 12:42 PM
The BlogPoll rolls on (and Brian Cook of mgoblog did a nice job of pulling everyone together.)
To generate a little preseason hype, we've been doing a series of questions as a run-up to the season kickoff. This week, EDSBS (Every Day Should Be Saturday) is hosting the roundtable. Here are the poll questions:
1. What's THE critical game of the season on the national scene? We're looking for the one that will influence the most outcomes in a single span of sixty minutes. Please try to diversify your answers and think of something other than Ohio State-Texas, for example.Check the comments on EDSBS for the various bloggers' responses. Michael handled the BGS answers thusly:
2.What's the most critical matchup for your team? Again, we know we'll hear OSU-Michigan from you Wolverines, but we ask you to think in terms of multiple scenarios here.
3. What's your wingnut upset prediction of year?
No hedging (or common sense) wanted here; we know everyone has a paint-chip eating, lunatic pick lurking somewhere in their brain. Go ahead and fess up on the record so you can gloat with pride later.
1. Critical season game? Texas-Oklahoma. Sorry it's a predictable answer but Mack Brown has the quarterback who can win him a national championship and the Heisman trophy. Their defense is good, and this could be the year they finally beat the Sooners.What say you?
2. Critical game for us? Pitt-Notre Dame (Sept 3). Bigger games against Michigan, Purdue and Southern Cal dot the schedule but this game is similar to the Maryland game from 2002. It could set the tone for the season. In a season where many pundits are predicting 6 or 7 wins for the Irish, it could mean the difference between making a bowl and making a good bowl.
3. Wingnut upset pick? Boston College will upset Florida State at Chestnut Hill on 9/17. They are going to smack the Seminoles around with a brand of power football that FSU isn't comfortable playing. (And I hate Boston College...it pains me to predict this.)
Posted by Jay at 11:06 AM
Monday, June 27, 2005
(Our friend Paul posted this excellent inquiry on NDN last week, and gave us his permission to reprint it here. Enjoy.)
is a magic number.
Yes it is,
it's a magic number.
Somewhere in the ancient, mystic trinity
You get three
as a magic number.
-- Schoolhouse Rock
A Georgia alumnus and co-worker asked me what was so special about the #3 jersey at Notre Dame. So I made him this list one evening last week when the wife and kids were out shopping and I was bored. I thought I would rank the list to provoke a little debate. Feel free to disagree.
5. Ron Powlus, QB, 1994-97, Berwick, PA.
Notre Dame’s current director of personnel development for the football program under Charlie Weis, Powlus is Notre Dame's career leader in football passing yardage, pass attempts, completions and touchdown passes. Co-captain of the Irish in both 1996 and 1997, Powlus, in spite of all the statistics, suffers from a perception problem caused by his high school accolades, Beano Cook’s silly pronouncements, his lack of an NFL career, and his won-loss percentage compared to his immediate predecessors: Rice, Mirer, and McDougal. His best game may have been the 1994 thrashing of Northwestern at Soldier Field, or the 38-10 win over #5 Southern California in October 1995 (when Powlus even caught a two-point conversion pass from Marc Edwards). He was 29-16-1 as a starter, by my calculations. But the ND career records get Powlus the number five spot on this list.
4. Rick Mirer, QB, 1989-1992, Goshen, IN.
After the graduation of Tony Rice, sophomore Rick Mirer opened his career at Notre Dame by leading the #1 Irish to a come-from-behind 28-24 victory over Michigan, earning him a Sports Illustrated cover and a "Golden Boy" moniker.
His record as a quarterback at ND was 29-7-1. Mirer was co-captain of the 1992 Irish, leading the team to a 10-1-1 record. Memorable games that year include the “Snow Bowl” (a 17-16 victory over Penn State, thanks to a fourth-down Mirer touchdown pass to Jerome Bettis, and a two-point conversion throw to Reggie Brooks with 20 seconds left) and a thrashing of Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl on New Years Day 1993.
Although he has not lived up to being the second player taken overall in the 1993 NFL draft, Mirer has been a journeyman starter and back-up who, as of this moment, plays behind Joey Harrington in Detroit. Entering his 13th season in the NFL, Mirer has thrown for just under 12,000 yards with 50 TDS but 76 interceptions.
3. Ralph Guglielmi, QB, 1951-54, Columbus, OH.
Ralph Guglielmi became Notre Dame's full-time starting quarterback for the 1952 season and went 25-3-2 as a starter during his Irish career. In 1954, he was unanimous All-America and fourth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy. He also played defensive back and had 10 career interceptions. Guglielmi played in the 1955 College All-Star Game and was voted Most Valuable Player on the college team. Coach Frank Leahy once called him "Notre Dame's greatest passer," as Guglielmi threw for 792 yards for Leahy’s last Notre Dame team. Of note, he led Notre Dame to the win over Oklahoma in 1953.
Guglielmi would go on to play quarterback professionally for Washington (followed by a stint in the U.S. Air Force), then St. Louis, the New York “Football” Giants, and Philadelphia during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Guglielmi was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001.
2. John Weibel, LG, 1922-24, Erie, PA.
This one surprised me: a lineman wearing the #3. A member of The Seven Mules, the offensive front that blocked for the legendary Four Housemen, John Weibel started at left guard for Knute Rockne’s squad during the magical 10-0 National Championship season of 1924, including the famous Polo Grounds 13-7 win over Army and the only Irish appearance in the Rose Bowl, the 27-10 victory over Stanford.
1. Joe Montana, QB, 1975, 1977-78, Monogahela, PA.
I think most of the status of the #3 belongs to Joe. Montana was co-captain of the ’78 Irish, leading them to a 9-3 record, and the “Chicken Soup” win over Houston in the 1979 Cotton Bowl and Notre Dame’s 600th all-time victory. At Notre Dame, it is his role in the 1977 win over Purdue, the “Green Jersey” game win over Southern California, and the Cotton Bowl victory over Texas to give the Irish the National Championship which will also long be recalled. It was with the Irish that Montana began his tradition of magical fourth-quarter comebacks.
Of course, Joe’s professional career eclipsed his college success (although I did like the TV commercial where Hesburgh asked Joe about what he had done since graduation). Now a football legend, he led the San Francisco 49ers to nine divisional championships and four Super Bowl victories. He was named the Super Bowl’s Most Valuable Player three times and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000. Thirty-one fourth quarter NFL comebacks earned Montana the nickname "Comeback Kid." He was selected for eight Pro Bowls and was a five-time leading passer in the NFC. And he threw for more than 40,000 yards. Montana was named as one of the four quarterbacks on the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.
Daryle Lamonica, QB, 1960-62, Fresno, CA.
Another QB who is best remembered by most football fans for his pro work, Lamonica, like Paul Hornung, quarterbacked the Irish during one of the “dark ages” of Notre Dame football. He split time at QB during his sophomore and junior years, but averaged 37.4 yards per kick as the team’s punter in 1960, and 38.4 per punt in 1961. As a senior, Lamonica went 64 for 128, throwing for 821 yards and 6 TDs. He was named third-team All-America. Lamonica played QB in the old AFL and the NFL with Buffalo and Oakland from 1963-1974. He led the AFL in passing in 1967, going 220 for 425, with 3,228 yards, 30 TDs and 20 picks.
That Oakland team made Super Bowl II, only to fall in Miami to Lombardi’s Packers. Lamonica also led the AFC in passing yardage in 1970, going 179 for 356, with 2,516 yards, 22 TDs and 15 picks.
Arnaz Battle, QB and WR, 1998-2002, Shreveport, LA.
Battle’s turbulent career at Notre Dame included some valiant yet sad moments at quarterback, and one positive season at wide receiver in 2002. At quarterback, he will be remembered by most Irish fans for two events: his non-fumble / called-fumble in 1998 at Southern California; and playing with a broken wrist against #1 Nebraska in the 2000 loss to the Cornhuskers. I also recall his dazzling 74-yard run in the opener against Kansas in 1999, during mop-up duty. In 2002, he started all year at flanker, leading the Irish with 48 receptions for 702 yards (14.6 avg.) and five touchdowns. During the eight-game winning streak to open the Ty Willingham era at Notre Dame, Battle played a significant role in wins over Pittsburgh, Air Force (eight catches for 112 yards), and Florida State (when, on Notre Dame's first play from scrimmage, Carlyle Holiday faked a handoff, rolled right and hit Battle for a 65-yard touchdown).
Ultimately, Battle will likely be remembered by Notre Dame fans for two plays during the 2002 win at Michigan State: the 30-yard pass to a diving Holiday on a trick play, and Pat Dillingham’s short pass to Battle, who then ran 60 yards for the game-winning touchdown with 1:15 remaining in East Lansing.
Entering his third NFL season with the San Francisco 49ers, Battle has only eight career receptions. He did return one punt for a TD in 2004 versus Arizona, and is listed at the top of the depth chart at one WR position during this off-season.
Too early to tell:
Darius Walker, RB, 2004-present, Lawrenceville, GA.
It might be a little premature to include him among the greats just yet, but the fabled jersey already fits Walker pretty well, as related by the Observer after last year's Michigan game:
He did not request the hype. He didn't even want it. But when Darius Walker got to Notre Dame, he received a jersey with the number three - and, some would say, the expectations that came with it. "I guess it worked out for me," Walker said.Also of interest:
The situation is too much of a coincidence. The true freshman from Georgia jumped from promising recruit to celebrity status after igniting the Irish running game in last week's 28-20 upset of No. 8 Michigan, wasting no time in displaying the big-game potential of former number three wearers Joe Montana and Rick Mirer.
Even sub-par Notre Dame fans - the ones who think Rocket Ismail was the name of a NASA space shuttle - know the significance of the number three. Montana, Mirer and Ron Powlus are only some of the legendary Irish alums to sport the symbol. Playmaker Arnaz Battle graduated in the spring of 2003 and no one stepped up to carry the torch.
Then Walker arrived in South Bend, oblivious to the number's availability, but it did not matter. The jersey found him. "I actually wanted a single digit number," Walker said. "I was No. 7 in high school and that was something I was pushing to get. Carlyle Holiday decided to keep the number and three was the only single digit number left."
But the parallels between Walker's timely Saturday performance and those of past great number three's are eerily similar. The most notable moment came in 1980, when kicker Harry Oliver - number three - put a 51-yard field goal through the uprights with no time on the clock to beat - that's right - Michigan. No one expected the wind to subside as Oliver booted the clincher, and no one expected Walker to carry such a load in his first outing - not even the freshman himself.
Harry Oliver, K, 1980-81, Cincinnati, OH.
From Gerry Faust’s Moeller High School in Cincinnati, Harry Oliver became the starting kicker in his junior year of 1980, Dan Devine’s last season. Oliver made 18 of 23 field goals, and 19 of 23 extra points, during the 1980 season. He ranked third in the NCAA that year, with 1.64 FGs per game, and was named third-team All-America. In his senior year, Oliver made 28 of 30 extra points, but missed 6 field goals for Faust’s first squad. Oliver is best remembered, however, for one of those Notre Dame “miracles”: “Harry O. gets the call.” At the Michigan game in South Bend in 1980, the Irish – moving the ball into the wind late in the 4th quarter – made it to the Michigan 34. As Oliver lined up the 51-yard attempt, the driving wind died down, allowing his 51-yard kick to sail through the goal posts. Tony Roberts’s made the call for Irish fans on the radio: “I watched the flags. Just as he got ready to kick, believe it or not, those flags went limp. The wind had shifted. His kick was right there, just there, in time. Notre Dame with a miracle win...” The Irish beat the Wolverines 29-27 as time ran out.
George Izo, QB, 1957-59, Barberton, OH.
In the 1958 season, Izo came off the bench to lead the Irish over Purdue in a 29-22 comeback victory. During that season, Izo was also an important defender, leading the team with four interceptions. Playing for first-year coach Joe Kuharich in 1959, he threw for six touchdowns, as he split time at quarterback with Don White. Izo played professionally for St. Louis, Washington, Detroit, and Pittsburgh from 1960-66.
Coley O’Brien, QB, 1966-68, McLean, VA
Coley O’Brien’s heroic role in replacing starter Terry Hanratty during the 1966 game against Michigan State earns him high status on the list of some Notre Dame fans. O’Brien’s 34-yard touchdown pass to Bob Gladieux marked the only Irish touchdown in the 10-10 tie. He also was the holder on Joe Azzaro’s field goal for the only other Irish points. The tie, in East Lansing, against the #2 team, followed by the 51-0 trouncing of Southern California the next week, won the National Championship for Ara and the Irish.
Some others who wore the #3 jersey for the Irish, according to und.com, include: Emmett Murphy, QB, 1930-32, Duluth, MN; George Moriarty, QB, 1933-35, Lynn, MA; Bill Hofer, QB, 1936-38, Rock Island, IL; Bob Hargrave, QB, 1939-41, Evansville, IN; Al Skat, QB, 1943, Milwaukee, WI; Roger Brown, QB, 1946-47, Chicago, IL; Bill Whiteside, QB, 1949-50, Philadelphia, PA; Dan McGinn, QB, 1963-65, Omaha, NE; Scott Smith, K, 1970-71, Dallas, TX; and Alonzo Jefferson, TB, 1983-87, W. Palm Beach, FL.
(Sources: “All-Time Roster,” Official Athletic Site, University of Notre Dame, and other aspects of und.com; “Hall of Famers,” College Football Hall of Fame; The Notre Dame Football Encyclopedia: The Ultimate Guide to America’s Favorite College Team, Keith Marder, Mark Spellen, and Jim Donovan, (New York: Citadel, 2001); Echoes of Notre Dame Football: Great and Memorable Moments of the Fighting Irish (Sourcebooks Mediafusion; Book & CD edition, 2001); and NFL.com.)
Posted by Jay at 5:15 PM
Sunday, June 26, 2005
Eric Hansen of the South Bend Tribune has a story Sunday morning on our ever-evolving future schedule(s), and he passes on some solid confirmation from White & Heisler on a few scheduling rumors that have been circulating over the last months. The entire article is well worth a read. Here's the nitty-gritty:
• In 2006 and 2007, ND will add a home game in each year to get up to the NCAA's new universal limit of 12 regular-season games. That will give Notre Dame seven home games and five away games both yearsThere are a couple of projected schedules here and here, although I think neither of them are reflecting the new information from above just yet.
• Notre Dame's 2008 schedule was already ticketed for 12 games under the old NCAA stipulations, and its six-home-games and six-road-games breakdown will stay intact, but there already has been some opponent shifting.
• A home game against Pittsburgh, for example, was added on Nov. 1 of that year to kick off an eight-year, home-and-home series. And the previously scheduled '08 season opener with Virginia on Sept. 6 has been deleted.• Beginning in 2009, Notre Dame aims to play seven home games each season along with four road games and a neutral site game that will move around the country and count as a home game as far a gate receipts and TV rights and revenue are concerned. "We'd go to different parts of the country," White said. "Places that don't get to see Notre Dame. Places that tie into bowl games. Places that tie into recruiting. We're really excited about it."
• Beginning in 2011 -- if not earlier -- Notre Dame has committed to playing three Big East teams each season. One of those games will be played in the New York City market, specifically Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., where the Irish are 11-0 all-time.
• In the bigger picture, this commitment along with ND's lingering ones means fewer home-and-home series than in the past. As many as three teams each year in the next decade will come to ND Stadium with no return date.
• The Boston College series, set to resume in 2007 after a two-year hiatus, will likely truncate before the next decade rolls around.
• The penciled-in 2009-10 series with North Carolina State has been erased.
• But home-and-homes with Oklahoma and Arizona State in the 2010s have been preserved.
• "With the commitments we have to USC and Stanford, the Big Ten teams, the Big East and to Navy, you can do that math," Heisler said. "There's almost more than you can deal with if you're going to play seven home games every year. We may be Johnny-come-latelies on the seven-home game thing, but I think we just want to be more strategic in what we're doing."
On a slightly different note, something I had missed before: when we announced our 3-game deal with the Big East, apparently we agreed to play every team in the Big East in a home-and-home over the course of the series:
The Irish will play three Big East teams each football season on a home-and-home basis. All eight conference teams will face the Irish.Note that although the SBT says the Big East series starts in "2011 - if not earlier", the Pittsburgh paper says it will start in 2009. The latter seems more likely in light of the sheer number of games we've agreed to play with the BE. We're already signed with Pitt through 2015, so the other 14 games (home-and-home with seven teams) will be spread over seven years, and 2009 looks like earliest year where we've got some wiggle room left.
And finally, there are several rumors that our 12th game for 2006 will be Army. There's a thread on IE from a guy who apparently heard Army's AD talking about it; another thread on the subject on the Army site on Scout.com; and even some speculation from an article on the Army sports homepage (scroll down).
So here's a stab at how where we stand, relying on the new info from the SBT, and cribbing heavily from the two sites mentioned above.
|2006 ||__ ||2007||__ ||2008 |
|1||9/2||@ Georgia Tech||ACC||1||9/1||Georgia Tech||ACC||1||9/13||Michigan||B10|
|2||9/9||Penn State ||B10||2||9/8||@ Penn State||B10||2||9/20||@ Michigan State||B10|
|4||9/23||@ Michigan State||B10||4||9/22||Michigan State||B10||4||10/4||Stanford||Pac10|
|5||9/30||Purdue||B10||5||9/29||@ Purdue||B10||5||10/18||@ North Carolina||ACC|
|7||10/21||UCLA||Pac10||7||10/13||Boston College||ACC||7||11/29||@ Southern Cal||Pac10|
|9||11/4||North Carolina||ACC||9||11/3||Navy||Ind||9||San Diego State||MWC|
|10||11/11||@ Air Force||MWC||10||11/10||Air Force||MWC||10||@ Boston College||ACC|
|11||11/25||@ Southern Cal||Pac10||11||11/24||@ Stanford||Pac10||11||Navy||Ind|
|12th game - Army? ||12th game - Army? ||12th game? |
|2009 ||2010 ||2011 |
|2||9/19||Michigan State||B10||2||10/8||Pittsburgh||BE||2||Southern Cal||Pac10|
|5||Southern Cal||Pac10||5||Stanford||Pac10||5||@ Michigan||B10|
|6||Navy||Ind||6||Brigham Young||MWC||6||@ Purdue||B10|
|7||Boston College||ACC||7||@ Navy||Ind||7||@ Brigham Young||MWC|
|8||San Diego State||MWC||8||11/27||Southern Cal||Pac10||+2 BE games, 1 in NYC |
|10||11/28||@ Stanford||Pac10||10||? Washington State||Pac10|
|+2 BE games, 1 in NYC ||+2 BE games, 1 in NYC |
|2012 ||2013 ||2014 |
|3||Pittsburgh||BE||3||Boston College||ACC||3||@ Southern Cal||Pac10|
|4||@ Boston College||ACC||4||10/5||Arizona State||Pac10||4||@ Navy||Ind|
|5||@ Southern Cal||Pac10||5||@ Pittsburgh||BE||5||10/25||@ Arizona State||Pac10|
|6||@ Navy||Ind||6||@ Brigham Young||MWC||+2 BE games, 1 in NYC |
|+2 BE games, 1 in NYC ||7||@ Purdue||B10|
|+2 BE games, 1 in NYC |
|2015 ||2016 |
|2||Navy||Ind||2||@ Southern Cal||Pac10|
|3||@ Pittsburgh||BE||3||@ Navy||Ind|
|+2 BE games, 1 in NYC |
(Oh, and for those of you not familiar with Variety slanguage, take a look here.)
Posted by Jay at 11:10 PM