Copyright by Global Electronics Telecommunications, publishers of IrishEyes.Com™
October 23, 2001
Three Home Tests
Can't Salvage Mid-Term
By Alan Tieuli
The IrishEyes.Com News Service
NOTRE DAME, Ind. (IE) – Notre Dame's football players just completed their most physically and emotionally draining week of their season. "No-one really understands the pressure these young men have been under this week," Lou Holtz said at the October 18, 1996 Pep Rally, the night before a contest with Air Force. "Keep that in mind when you watch them play tomorrow."
Holtz' team, ranked No. 8 in the country, lost in overtime the next day, 20-17. It was the beginning of the end of the Lou era.
Kudos, then, to Bob Davie, his staff, and the Academic Services for Student-Athletes office for their respective roles in Notre Dame's impressive 27-16 victory over USC on Saturday. Clearly the final 30 minutes were the best two quarters of football the Irish have played this season, and they could not have come at a better time.
We won't know how the Irish fared in the classroom until the end of the semester, but IrishEyes will dispense the on-field grades of select football players and staff members at this time. Don't fret if you have a favorite player who has not been graded. At year's end, we'll do position-by-position grades.
After reviewing this, we welcome you providing your own thoughts on our football message board.
Joey Hildbold – Hard to imagine any team having a better all-around kicking game than Notre Dame does. It would have been really ugly in the first three games if Hildbold wasn't so consistent.
Nick Setta – Perfect on field goals and extra points, though somewhat erratic on kickoffs. Could be the starting place-kicker in any program in America. What a contrast watching Setta Saturday compared to the kicking meltdown in the 20-17 1997 loss to USC.
Anthony Weaver – You knew he was a playmaker from his first game as a true freshman when he forced a Michigan fumble that led to an Irish second-half rally. Now he's playing like someone who will be drawing a professional paycheck next year. The first half MVP.
Shane Walton – IrishEyes just loves this kid. From the blocked punt against Nebraska to the cross-the-field, first-down (and potentially game saving) tackle on the fake punt last week versus USC, Walton has a nose for the ball. Sounds crazy also for someone who came to Notre Dame on a soccer scholarship, but he's a football coach in the making.
Courtney Watson – Maybe he doesn't quite deserve a grade this high, but when was the last time you said, "Man, we really miss Anthony Denman?"
Rocky Boiman – Has not been the real impact player on defense most people thought (or hoped?) he would, but he brings energy to the defense and never quits. Another future coach….a real "grinder" like Davie.
Abram Elam – Notre Dame has won three games and Elam has found the ball four times in those victories. Coincidence?
Jeff Faine – "Will play center for 10 years in the NFL," one draftnik told IrishEyes. "He's carried that offensive line this year." However, no player on an offense that has consistently ranked in the bottom 10-percent of Division 1-A deserves to get an A.
Carlyle Holiday – IrishEyes contributor and former Holtz offensive coordinator Tom Beck describes Holiday as a future All-American. Who am I to argue? This is a low B because of the turnovers, but the positives outweigh the negatives.
Javin Hunter – Has developed into a wonderful possession receiver. Imagine what his numbers would be in a system like Florida's, or BYU's.
Ryan Roberts – Grant who? "I just love this kid," said Davie. "What a personality." Combined with Weaver, one gets the sense that BC's Brian St. Pierre is going to be running for his life Saturday.
Tony Fisher/Julius Jones – Running game failed to impress in early tests. Has recovered nicely in three-game homestand, but health of both remains an issue. If you watched Friday's ESPN Classic re-run of the 1989 USC-ND game, you truly realize how special Ricky Watters and Raghib Ismail were in the same backfield.
Jordan Black – Can't understand why he hasn't developed into a Mike Rosenthal-caliber player.
Vontez Duff – Gets a low-grade like this for touchdown-causing errors but make no mistake, this grade is going up in future semesters. Another playmaker in the secondary, like Walton and Elam.
JW Jordan – No player has endured more cheap shots in South Bend, both on and off-the-record. Not a high quality offensive lineman by any stretch, but the fact that he is playing 15-17 snaps a game considering where he came from is remarkable. He's earned his monogram, and this solid passing grade.
Matt LoVecchio – He earned the start at Nebraska because of the poise he showed last season. It was the first thing to desert him when things went bad in Lincoln.
Grant Irons – Value to the team has now been reduced to enthusiastic cheerleader on the sidelines.
Bob Davie – The lack of preparation for Nebraska and Texas A&M was mind-boggling and will almost certainly cost Davie his job, regardless of how this season finishes. A good move by the coach, however, was giving complete control of the offense to Kevin Rogers. These last three weeks, Holiday has looked Donovan McNabb-esque. And Davie is all class.
Dr. Kevin White – IrishEyes remains a big fan of what White is doing throughout the Athletic Department, but it's difficult to understand the Davie extension last December. Also, what was White thinking in the Michigan State pre-game planning, setting up an agenda that was supposed to keep both teams in the locker-room during the National Anthem? And why didn't White play a more active role – quietly and in advance – to keep the Cooper Rego mess away from the media? Would a 12th game had helped this year?
Mike McNair/Carlos Pierre-Antoine – Maybe they were not good fits for the program. Maybe they've been miscast. But it's undeniable that these are two exceptionally high-profile Davie recruits that have done nothing to distinguish themselves.
OVERALL TEAM GRADE: D
The loss at Nebraska is not as bothersome as the overall "deer in the headlights" performance. Michigan State is not a good football team. The game was over in the first quarter at Texas A&M. Pittsburgh was one flukey fumble away from having the lead in the fourth quarter.
A victory Saturday at BC would raise the grade a notch. But how troubling is it that Boston College – for the first-time ever – is favored over the Irish?
(Alan Tieuli is the Managing Editor of IrishEyes.)