Do you think Jimmy Clausen is recruiting as a commit like you hear Ryan Mallett is doing? Why don't you hear of him doing this?
Mike: Actually, Jimmy has done a bunch of recruiting for Notre Dame already. He spent a lot of time on the phone in the spring calling players like Arrelious Benn, Mike Ragone, Gary Gray, Greg Little, Deonte Thompson and many, many more. I'm sure he continues to call players, but with his season approaching, he likely doesn't have time to do it as much. I believe Jimmy to be a very focused person and I think his current team is all that matters to him at the present time. However, I do believe you'll see Clausen hitting the phones quite often this fall when he has some spare time.
With good recruiting classes coming into ND when do you predict a National Championship season is realistic.
Mike: I assume you mean championship seasons in the future? If so, I can only answer that in this way. I believe to win it all you need a number of factors in place. One, you need to have a good coaching staff. I think Notre Dame finally has that. Two, I think you need a somewhat favorable schedule…..not too many difficult games and difficult games on the road. Three, I think you need the talent. Notre Dame is getting close, and each recruiting class seems to be adding to that talent and depth……they might have enough this year, but I think they'll fall just short. Four, I think you need some luck. The ball has to bounce just right for you….it has been for USC until they ran into Texas. Talent can take a team a long way so hopefully this influx of talent will put ND back in the championship hunt on a consistent basis in the near future. I believe it will.
How would expect the carries to be split between the tailbacks? Basically, I'm wondering whether Munir (Prince) or Travis Thomas will be the first player to relieve Darius Walker.
Mike: That's a good question. I think it also depends on the situation. If Travis Thomas has spent a great deal of time on the field on defense, I'd guess you'd see Munir. If the Irish are up and look to be rolling, I'd guess you'd see Munir. If the game is close and ND cannot afford to make any mistakes, I'd expect to see Travis Thomas. However, I do think you'll see Charlie and running backs coach Michael Haywood try to get Munir in and see if he can handle the load. If they can find some confidence in him in game situations, that will lesson their worry about Travis Thomas being on the defensive side of the ball.
Mark, Rochester, Ind.
Mike, who do you think will be the biggest surprise on the team this year?
Mike: That is a tough question. I think it all depends on who you'd be surprised by having a good season? I think you'll see David Grimes open some eyes this season. I think you'll see both tight ends, Marcus Freeman and John Carlson, fill in just fine for the departed Anthony Fasano, and I wouldn't be surprised if both factor heavily into the passing game this season.
I also believe you'll see a much improved Ambrose Wooden this year….not that he was bad last year. I just think you'll see Wooden really step up his game this season. My biggest surprise? I think the level of play of the defensive line. I really believe people will be surprised at how well they play. There is a lot of talent on the defensive line, and they're mature, experienced players. That should help out a great deal on defense.
Mark, Concord, Calif.
Do you feel this is the most highly anticipated season since 1993?
Mike: There's no question this is the most anticipated season since '93. When was the last time ND was ranked No. 2 heading into the season? It's been WAY too long since that's happened. But as Weis has said many times, I'm more interested in how this team finishes.
Steve, Elk River, Minn.
Do you agree with Pete's (Sampson) comments that the DB's improvement is just "coach speak" like it was before the bowl game? Will they be improved or will we get beat consistently on deep balls?
Mike: I didn't hear Pete's comments so I'm not sure how to answer. All I can say is that I'm not sure how he'd know that either way. Just as I can't say for certain that the defensive backs have improved, I don't think you can say they haven't unless you've spent a lot of time watching them on the practice field. All I can say is this. I believe all four starters have the athletic ability to play at a high level. I believe Bill Lewis is one of the best coaches in college football and will get the very best he can out of all four players.
As I mentioned in a previous post on the members board, I believe there are one of two reasons the Irish struggled in pass coverage in the defensive backfield last season—it could be a combination of both. One, they were inexperienced and had some mental breakdowns. If true, that can be fixed. Two, some of the starters don't have natural defensive back instincts and just don't react to plays like top shelf DBs normally would. If true, that is much harder to fix. I guess we'll find out Saturday and the upcoming weeks, but I have to believe they'll play better than last year just based on the fact that experience makes you a better player.
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