O’Malley’s Monday Musings

This week’s edition opines on a Super Bowl dominated by defense, toughness, and an alarming lack of it, recruiting rankings, Irish hoops, and the Cayman Islands.

1 – Pride Cometh Before the Fall:

I have to wonder what Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis – he of the metal plate surgically implanted with 11 screws in his broken forearm (horrid photo here) – thinks about Cam Newton’s decision not to risk a bump on the head in order to recover his game-ending fumbled football last night?

2 – Defense Reigns:

The 50th Super Bowl featured a quarterback matchup pitting the best player of the 2015 season against one of the Top 5 triggermen of all-time. In a stunning departure from the norm, the former directly produced more touchdowns for the other team (2) than he did his own (1), and the latter failed to reach the acceptable level of “game manager.”

As Newton mused earlier this week (and others such as J.J. Watt have echoed since), “We’re entertainers.”

You know who was really entertaining? Von Miller and the Denver pass rush.

3 – A Final Super Bowl Thought:

Not sure who handled disappointment worse this weekend, Newton post-game or my wife Christy when she found out Super Bowl 50 would be the first – and apparently only – to drop Roman Numerals from its designation. (Note, she did not know that “L” signified 50, but was aghast nonetheless.)

Apparently “L” has too many negative connotations and is hard to market. Granted, they had no trouble marketing a quarterback that couldn’t throw a football 14 yards without it looking like someone shot it in midair, but I digress…

4 – Back to What Really Matters: Star Ratings!

Sarcasm aside, for you Irish fans that enjoy discovering diamonds in the rough – Courtney, Justin Tuck, David Bruton, Tyler Eifert, et al – it’s notable that Notre Dame, at least during the highly successful Brian Kelly era, has not fared well to date with its 44 three-star recruits.

Combining all from 2010 through 2014 (not fair to consider the 2015 crew as of yet), these are the not-named hits and misses among the 44 dubbed as “three-star prospects” per Scout.com:

Hit, miss, miss, debatable, miss, miss, hit, miss, hit, debatable, miss, miss, miss, hit, miss, miss, hit, debatable, miss, miss, miss, miss, miss, miss, miss, hit, hit, miss, hit, hit, miss, miss, miss, miss, miss, miss, debatable, miss, miss, miss, miss, miss, pending, hit. (10 hit, 5 up for debate including one pending, 29 miss).

A combined 20 three-star prospects from 2015-16 look to better that ratio in the near future.

5 – Almost Full Disclosure:

I enjoyed last week’s Irish Illustrated “Top 24” (Ranking the Recruits) hosted by Tim Prister. The disparate rankings among our six-person writing staff regarding Notre Dame’s 23 committed prospects plus yet-to-commit Demetris Robertson was staggering (and thus intriguing).

As you can read in the link above, more than 16 of 24 recruits we ranked were slotted at least 9 spots apart by at least two different analysts.

For the sake of full disclosure, here was my Top 5 (I moved #4 and #5 up late in the process)

1. Demetris Roberston (Athlete)
2. Daelin Hayes (DE)
3. Khalid Kareem (DT)
4. Donte Vaughn (S/CB)
5. Julian Okwara (Rush End)

Plus the next 11, each of whom I could have argued for spots higher for various reasons.

1. Tommy Kraemer (OL)
2. Chase Claypool (WR)
3. Devin Studstill (S)
4. Javon McKinley (WR)
5. Julian Love (DB)
6. Liam Eichenberg (OL)
7. Deon McIntosh (RB)
8. Troy Pride, Jr. (CB)
9. Spencer Perry (pending suggested move to OLB)
10. Ian Book (QB)
11. Kevin Stepherson (WR)

I thought highly of my No’s 18, 19, and 20 as well.


6 – Inexplicable?

Looking back at last week’s positional grades in my "Combining the Classes” feature, I feel I was a bit harsh at times, offering the following letter grades to Notre Dame’s combined position groups in the 2015/2016 classes:

C (interior def. line), C+ (def ends), B- (linebackers), B+ (Safeties), A- (cornerbacks), B (running backs), A- (wide receivers), C+ (off line), C- (tight end) and B+ (quarterbacks).

I stand by those grades – yet feel like Notre Dame had two very good recruiting classes. How to explain that dichotomy?

First, I think they’re both complementary classes, not loaded such as the 2013 crop, or top-heavy like 2009 and 2012.

Secondly, grading prospects has to take into account overall numbers, and that reality hurt both the OL (love four of the five, but five OL in two cycles is too few) and TE (one in two cycles).  As for interior defensive line, I was harsh for the opposite reason: heavy on numbers, wondering about impact.

7 – Demetris Robertson:

The waiting is the hardest part…unless you’re Anna Hickey, then covering his ongoing recruitment would likely be harder. Someone drew the short straw! Though I’m sure Jake Brown and Pete Sampson might want to compare notes on Aaron Lynch (2011) or Davonte’ Neal (2012) respectively.

8 – The Whole Rather than the Parts:

Why fret over prospective grades regarding a team’s incoming freshmen and sophomores-to-be when you can grade the team’s two-deep as a whole? …Albeit way-too-far in advance of August Camp:

QB (A+)
RB (B-minus)
WR (C+ with a chance at a B+)
OL (B seems fair)
Interior DL (B+)
DE (C+ pending development of youth)
LB (B-minus but trending up)
S (D but maybe there’s strength in numbers)
CB (Solid B)
ST (B+)

9 – Carolina Blues:

Huge victory for Mike Brey’s Irish over No. 2 North Carolina on Saturday, one that all but guarantees an NCAA Tournament berth pending unforeseen calamity (Irish should be favored in three of remaining seven contests with four toss-ups). Speaking of which, tonight’s contest against Clemson in the Tigers home-away-from-home, Greenville, S.C. sets up as a classic letdown affair for the sky-high Irish.

Expect the likewise 7-4 Tigers, favored by a point, to win at home, setting up another big game for Brey’s Bunch against (insert joke here) Louisville Saturday afternoon in South Bend.

Note – Monday’s Musings will return on Feb. 22 – a one-week hiatus while somebody tries to manage eight days here:

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