May Evaluation Ends

<P>It's June again and that means May evaluation period is over. Coach Willingham had a different job than most coaches had this time of the year. In the last few months when other schools are sending out letters to specific players, coach Willingham and his staff had to first find out what players they do have to work with. He has to know what kind of talent he has before he can decide what type of players he is going to need to recruit to turn this thing around. </P>

Other schools were likely evaluating tape of prospects for next year. Coach Willingham and his staff were evaluating tape of his current team and game film from last year to figure out what needs to be filled and how he can improve this team. Spring practice also gave the staff a good idea of what talent they have and now they can go out and find the players to fill the holes left by graduation and the short-comings of recruiting by the previous staff.

Taking over a program like Notre Dame must be a difficult job. Coach Willingham has a lot to do just to get people on the same page. It sounds like defensive coordinator Ken Baer is not going to change much on defense. I am sure he is going to look for his type of players but ND is pretty athletic on defense already. There are holes to fill, especially on the defensive line and safety but Coach Davie and his staff did leave some athletic players for Coach Baer to work with.

On offense, coach Bill Diedrick has a different job. Many of these players were recruited to play a power running, option based package. The offensive linemen were recruited to play a physical game. The tight ends are gloried blockers. The fullback is a another glorified blocker. The halfbacks are built for power as much as speed. Neither the fullbacks or the halfbacks were expected to catch many balls out of the backfield. The quarterbacks were expected to make as many plays with their legs as their arms. It has to be a difficult job to put a square peg in a round hole.

Coach Diedrick is going to have to take these players and make them learn a different style of football. They are the players he is going to have to win with until he can recruit the type of players he needs to run the style of offense he wants to run. This team does have talent. I do think it will take some time for them to grasp a different style of offense.

Watching the spring game, the offense looked a little confused at times. They did make some plays but the entire offense managed to score 3 points. It was a miserable day for throwing the football but they should have been able to score more than 3 points. I am going to guess that some people believe that coach Willingham is going to turn this thing around pretty quickly. I do think they will win a lot of games but you can't expect this team to play for the National Championship this year. The offense has too much to learn to expect that.

Even though the offense didn't score much, I did see a lot to get excited about. They are going to stretch the field and make defenses defend all areas of the field. The key is to make teams pay for loading up to defend one section of the field. I did see a balanced offense and an offense that attacked the entire field. That was plenty enough for me to get excited about this offense.

As May evaluation period ends, it may appear that Notre Dame is a little behind in recruiting. A lot of the big name players are not listing Notre Dame as their top school at this point. You must keep in mind that coach Willingham and his staff had a different job this year than most coaches. He has to first know what he has to work with before he can know what holes he needs to fill.

It may appear that Notre Dame is behind because they have not offered many prospects scholarships. I like what Willingham is doing here. I don't think you should be offering any prospects until you know what holes you need to fill. I also don't think you should offer scholarships until you have viewed the total pool of prospects to know which players you want to recruit.

In the past, Notre Dame has offered a lot of players early. I think coach Willingham is doing things the right way. When he offers a scholarship, it will be a player he and his staff have thoroughly evaluated and fits a need for the team. Hopefully that organization means an increase in talent and athletic ability on the team.

Just remember to be patient with recruiting this year. It will take a little time before Willingham can get the machine rolling. I am going to guess that even after May evaluation period, this staff will not be extending a lot of offers. I think Ty wants them to come to camp so they can get a real good look at them. I also think Willingham is very interested in each player as a person. I think he wants to find the right type of student-athlete that fits his mission. It is not easy to identify the best players available. It is a lot harder to identify the top players that also fit the "student" and "character" mold that I think coach Willingham is looking for in his players.

Just remember that Willingham has a plan. It may seem that Notre Dame is behind in that plan or they might be just where they want to be. An offer from Notre Dame used to be a pretty prestigous offer to have. Maybe Coach is trying to bring that prestige back? It's just a guess but it's possible.


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