1 – Indiana Boys: Our recent Irish Illustrated podcast elicited a memory many Irish fans might not have realized: the first half of the Brian Kelly Era can attribute a healthy portion of its success to the state of Indiana.
On some combination of the 2010-2013 Irish: Zack Martin, Tyler Eifert, Sheldon Day, Jaylon Smith (2013), Braxston Cave, Nick Martin and John Goodman – plus Tony Springmann, Daniel Smith…and former 5-star Gunner Kiel.
The names above represent the following:
- One of the program's all-time great OL
- One of the program's all-time great TE
- One of the program's all-time great DL
- One of the program's all-time great LB
- A 5th-year senior All American center
- A second-round draft pick, 5th-year senior All-American center and team captain
- A senior WR that greatly aided two early season wins en route to 12-0
- A quality redshirt-freshman DL in 2012
- A quality senior blocking WR in 2013
- And Gunner Kiel
-- Your mission, should you choose to accept it: find me a better state for production at Notre Dame over a four-season span.
And remember, they must have played together, and your state's top three or four must arguably begin with "One of the program's all-time greats."
(Unsurprising Hints: Check 1987-89; 1972-75, and 1964-66.)
2 – On the Upswing, Again: If tight end Alizé' Mack returns for his senior season in 2018, the following will be in attendance for offensive coordinator Chip Long's tight end position meetings:
-- 5-star, #2 overall TE Mack (2015)
-- 4-star, #3 overall TE Brock Wright (2017)
-- 4-star, #4 overall TE Cole Kmet (2017)
-- Potential 5th-year, 4-star, #13 overall TE Nic Weishar (2014)
-- And last week's addition, 4-star, #14 overall TE George Takacs (2018)
Mack's '18 return would arguably provide the Irish with the best collection of tight end talent in the nation.
3 – And past mistakes, they've made a few: Speaking of tight ends, the medical retirement of Tyler Luatua last week brings what was once a 23-player haul in 2014 to a mere 15 as the class enters its senior season. The attrition is par for the course, but the swings and misses that populated the haul were felt last fall and could be again in '17.
Here's a rundown (you can follow along here) of the class to date, noting recruiting "hits" and "misses":
Role player, miss, potential All-American, medical casualty, transfer, transfer, transfer, potential hit, potential hit, transfer, transfer, role player, hit (punter), huge hit/gone pro, hit, All-American, role player, hit, role player, miss, potential hit/role player, transfer, hit.
It's a top-heavy class, gutted by transfers and misevaluations of those transfers before they unwittingly opened future scholarship spot with their early departures. (Only DeShone Kizer made an impact among those no longer on hand.)
But what's leftover possesses potential – and their ability to make good on that will doubtless prove crucial to head coach Brian Kelly's 2017 W-L ledger.
Stars: Quenton Nelson, Nyles Morgan
Quality: Greer Martini, Alex Bars (2), Drue Tranquill (2), Sam Mustipher (2), Tyler Newsome (2)
Brimming with potential: Nick Watkins (2), Jay Hayes (2)
Last Chance for a final impression: Daniel Cage, Andrew Trumbetti
Quality Reserves: Jonathan Bonner (2), Nic Weishar (2)
Reserves: Pete Mokwuah (2), Jimmy Byrne (2)
4 – Prediction #10 in our Summer Series: Sophomore DB Julian Love will lead the defense in passes defended.
(Since these Musings are running long, I'll include the running tally of the first 10 predictions, plus #11, next week).
5 – Good thing I don't drive with bacon: In the last week, all on car rides, I've asked my 4-year-old son, Declan, to A.) "Stop brushing your hair with that graham cracker," B.) "Stop putting that granola bar in your ear to get the water out," (after swimming), and C.) "Stop using your apple slices as spears…
As Clark Griswold once mused, "NO eating in the car, kids…"
6 – Hey, it's his "right": Last week's 30-for-30 Lakers/Celtics: Best of Enemies, was outstanding. My favorite part was when Larry Bird lost to Magic Johnson and the Lakers so the next year he just jumped ship to play for the Lakers and win a championship…
7 – Battle Tested, Weary, or Primed and Ready? Our constant (Necessary? Futile?) off-season analysis of Notre Dame's schedule elicits such annual phrases as "trap game," "look-ahead scenario," and "potential let-down."
Let's apply the same theory to Notre Dame's 12 forthcoming foes.
The following categorizes each opponent's game situation prior to its matchup with Notre Dame, season opening foe Temple excluded:
- USC (Oct. 21): Home games against Stanford and Texas in September, plus Utah one week prior to the Trojans biennial trip to the Midwest. Road games at California and Washington State also precede their matchup with the Irish.
- Wake Forest (Nov. 4): Face Louisville at home prior and have a road game at Clemson in October. The latter should adequately prepare them for the rabid Irish crowd, sure to be flying high for the Demon Deacons visit to South Bend…
- Boston College (Sept. 16): Begin at Northern Illinois then home against Wake Forest. You know what those three programs have in common? They all won more games than did Notre Dame last season…
Just Plain Weary (Advantage Irish?):
- Miami (Nov. 11): A physical test against rival Virginia Tech one week before hosting the Irish. Notre Dame hosts Wake, prior.
- Miami, Ohio (Sept. 30): Face Cincinnati – winners of 11 straight in the series – two weeks prior. Chuck Martin's RedHawks have lost three heartbreakers to their in-state rival in his three seasons at the helm. At Central Michigan one week before traveling to South Bend.
- North Carolina (Oct. 7): Face triple-option foe Georgia Tech before hosting the Irish. That's bad for the knees/ankles and brain…
- Stanford (Nov. 25): November includes a matchup with likely PAC-12 North title implications when Washington visits Palo Alto on November 11. Archrival California precedes Notre Dame's trip out west, but any advantage gained by the Irish in the wake of Stanford's challenging finish is mitigated by Notre Dame's date with Navy one week prior to their season finale on The Farm.
Primed and Ready:
- North Carolina State (Oct. 28): Will enjoy a bye week prior to facing Notre Dame. The Wolf Pack travel to Florida State in September so South Bend won't be their toughest road test.
- Navy (Nov. 18): Host SMU – the Mid's scored 75 on the Mustangs last season – before taking on the Irish on Senior Day.
- Georgia (Sept. 9): Appalachian State comes to Athens. The multi-faceted, experienced offense of the Mountaineers provides an ideal Week One warm-up for Notre Dame's purported up-tempo, RPO (run-pass option) attack.
- Michigan State (Sept. 23): Face Bowling Green and Western Michigan (good thing it's not last year) before Notre Dame comes to town. I guess Furman wasn't available…
8 – Braden, We Hardly Knew Ye: They say you can't miss what you never had. Unless of course what you had was a potential game-breaking, record-setting prep track star and future collegiate deep threat that could have taken the top off of any opposing secondary from 2018 through 2021 in South Bend.
Then yes, you can miss it…
9 – Say it Aint So… Disappointing? Telling? Just Annoying?
Athlon's Magazine released its Top 50 College Football Players of the magazine's era (1967-present). It included six from USC, four players from both Ohio State and Nebraska, and all told, was represented by 27 different programs including Michigan, Stanford, and Boston College.
But the list was bereft of anyone over the last 50 seasons of football that played for Notre Dame.
Granted, Alan Page graduated in 1966, one season before Athlon's launched, and was thus not considered. But no Ross Browner? No Tim Brown? No Rocket Ismail? No Clifford Jefferson or Preston Jackson?
I think A.) Athlon's needs a deeper panel, and B.) Since that ship has sailed, I'll instead offer my own version, Notre Dame/Opponent centric, next week in this space.
Until then, Irish fans…