Mike's Mailbag

Here is another group of questions left from Wednesday's Power Hour. Please keep the questions coming and I'll do my best to answer as many as I can. I'll try to get up another Mike's Mailbag over the weekend.

Peter, New Martet, ON
Is it a mistake for Charlie Weis to play so many freshmen? Doesn't that eliminate these players from being 5th-year seniors? Won't that hurt the team eventually?

Mike: I don't believe it will hurt the team at all. I think Charlie understands that if a player is good enough, he'll likely leave anyway instead of keeping his fifth year of eligibility. I think Weis knows this and figures he might as well play the player and get the most he can out of him he can while he has him there. I also think Weis feels he'll just recruit another top player to replace him.

Walt
This has probably been beaten to death, but I missed it if you answered already. What should we be reading into the whole Caleb King transfer to the Christian School? Word has it that he's pushing academics. I thought he was pretty far off from clearing admissions at ND, but others are saying this transfer is a good move for ND. What gives?

Mike: Notre Dame has offered King, but it's my understanding the offer was based on qualifying for Notre Dame. It appears obvious that King needed to do some work to make that happen, not just to qualify for ND, but likely to qualify anywhere based on the many courses he took over the summer.

Enrolling into a parochial school will certainly help his chances of qualifying for Notre Dame as private schools are usually more difficult, but I'm still not certain he's qualified or will for Notre Dame at this time. Also, I wouldn't assume that Caleb transferred schools because he wants to go to Notre Dame. He's shown interest in playing for the Irish, but there are a number of teams on his list and many feel Georgia will be the team to beat for his signature.

Greg, Knox, IN
Whats the lastest on Ronald Johnson and do the Irish have a shot with him?

Mike: ND has been recruiting Ronald, but like King, I think it's a situation that he'll have to qualify for ND. At this point, I'm not sure Ronald has qualified anywhere, let alone ND. I think if he did, ND could be a player in the race for his signature, but he'll have to qualify first.

Anthony, Sylvania, Ala.
What's going on with Toryan Smith? I haven't heard anything about him since he committed.

Mike: We've done a number of interviews and radio shows with Toryan since his commitment. So far I've heard very good things about Toryan in practice. He's a natural linebacker with very good instincts. He's a very physical player, which should really fit into the type of defense I think ND wants to run. Like most freshmen, he'll struggle a bit as he learns the system. Most linebackers usually struggle with the mental part of the game at first. Most were the main playmaker in high school on defense and were given free reign to roam and make plays. That won't work in college. Also, Toryan didn't play a lot of teams that threw the ball often in high school so the passing game will be another challenge for him to learn.

Matt, Peekskill
Mike, how is the free safety position battle shaping up? We heard a lot about Bruton in the spring and then a little about Herring. Ndukwe apparently lost a lot of weight in order to hold off the competition, and there are three frosh to add to the mix. Do you expect anyone will seriously challenge Chinedum for the starting spot?

Mike: So far we haven't heard anything about anyone challenging Ndukwe for his starting spot. However, I have heard very good things about Herring and Bruton. I think both are very athletic and fast, but I'd guess one of them would have to raise their level of play quite a bit above that of Ndukwe to take his job before the season begins. I believe this because Chinedum already has valuable playing experience and chemistry with the other defensive backs.

It's possible that could happen, but I'd guess a player would have a play well in a real game, and then based on actual play in a game, the ND staff could then evaluate the situation and possibly make a move. I'd say that's likely true in most situations with a returning starter.

Chris, Philly
Charlie has mentioned a scheme change on D, and there are a few signs of this I think:

(1) name change from Apache to SAM
(2) Mitchell Thomas in lead at that position instead of a safety/linebacker hybrid type.

(3) Harrison Smith now being recruited as a safety instead of Apache.

Have you heard anything that describes the scheme change? What's going on there?

Mike: I'm not sure you'll see a scheme change. What I do think you'll see on defense are some tweaks that will be designed to create more pressure and become more of an attacking defense.

What would the changes be? I think you're perceptive in that the traditional SAM is back. What that means is probably a slight change in responsibilities of the position. I also think you'll see some slight changes in responsibilities along the defensive line, which in theory are meant to generate more pressure up field. It all has to do with gap responsibility and philosophy of which players are responsible to cover which gaps and make plays in that gap. You also will probably see a few more wrinkles in blitzes….disguised blitzes, zone blitzes and who blitzes.

I think last year the staff had to figure out what each player could do and was capable of doing. Now that they have a better understanding of their personnel, I think you'll see them dictate more action instead of reacting to it.

Greg Miller, Nappanee, Ind.
I hear a lot about Steve Filer, LB from Chicago. How much do you know about him?

Mike: Filer is a linebacker from Mt. Carmel high school in Chicago. He's a big kid, rumored to be around 6-foot-4, 220 pounds and runs very well. Some suggest he may grow into a pass-rushing defensive end in college. He attended Notre Dame's camp this summer and likely will be one of the first players offered for the 2008 recruiting class—most likely on September 1, when schools can first offer 2008 prospects.

If you have a question you'd like answered, please forward the question to: mikefrankshow@gmail.com

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