Mike's Mailbag

Here's another round of questions left over from Thursday's Power Hour.

Hey Mike, you have a great informative show, which I enjoy tremendously, but I do not know how Angel puts up with you. Are you always such a negative, worrisome person regarding the upcoming season, or, is this just leaving some room for a surprise start? Notre Dame has been getting ready for this season since last January, and, I for one expect a good start in September.

Mike: Angel is a fine soul for putting up with, no question. I don't think I'm being negative. I think I'm being realistic. Funnily, I'm not the only one who feels this way. If you read about anything written about the Irish this year, it will most likely classify 2007 as a rebuilding year.

I'll be thrilled to admit I was wrong if the Irish finish September 3-1, but I doubt that happens. Trust me, I'll be ecstatic to say I was wrong! But when you lose 3 out of 4 starters along the D-line, 3 starters at O-line, your starting quarterback, both starters at receiver, your starter at running back, and you have kicking problems, that's usually not a recipe for success, at least early success. This season will be fun to watch, but I'll be surprised if the Irish somehow come out of September 3-1. I sure hope that happens.

With kickoffs being 5 yards further back, does the value of a great returner increase? Does that enhance the value of a Jeremy Brown relative to some other guys ND is recruiting at wide receiver?

Mike: I absolutely think this increases the need for a great return man. That extra five yards will give teams more opportunities to return, and that's when the fireworks start. You should see many more returns for touchdowns this season throughout college football, and you'll also likely see a spike in scoring due to teams having shorter distance to go to score. I really think this is going to be important in the future. Players like Jeremy Brown and Carlton Thomas will likely be a high priority for all teams in the near future because of their return ability.

I'm looking for Weis to use multiple run packages with multiple personnel.( I.E running backs and tight ends). Your thoughts? Mike: I agree. I think coach Weis will have a lot of different personnel in the backfield, especially to start the season. I also think you'll see a lot of different formations, and a lot of motion out of the backs. Weis has some talented running backs, and I'd bet you'll see a lot of running back sets with two halfbacks in the game at the same time. I also think you might see some formations with a third tight end in the game in an off-set formation. As I mentioned on the show, I believe you'll see a lot of creativity in play calling and design from Charlie Weis this year. He'll most likely need to early to keep teams off-balance.

Unless I'm mistaken there are 9 spots that open up from 5th years leaving, and an additional 7 senior spots that have the potential to open up. If you add the 10 unfilled spots that's a total of 26 possible recruits. With the loss of Frazier doesn't that take the number up to 27? Leaving the Irish the ability to take 25 new recruits and still keep Crum and Lambert [or 24 new recruits, keeping Crum Lambert and Brown]?

Mike: We've done the math a number of times. The math breaks out like this. ND will most likely take 24 recruits. The math has to do with players eligible for 5th years. Coach Weis usually only invites players back who will start or play a very large role in the team the next year. Looking at the depth chart, only Crum and Lambert would be classified as those types of players at this point. A few others like Anthony Vernaglia or Justin Brown could work their way into a starting position and make a case for a 5th year as well. But as of now, if Lambert and Crum are the only two, the math works out to 24 recruits. It would take an entire article to explain why, but we've done this and it works out to be 24 possible recruits with just two fifth-year players returning.

What really concerns me is the defensive line. Frankly I don't see them getting better as the season progresses. Conversely, I see them wearing down. The secondary I feel will be very good, linebacking should get better as the younger guys get experienced.

I think if I was an opposing coach, I would think Charlie is going to want to grind it out, in order to keep the D-Line off the field. Also I, as an opposing coach, am also going to grind it out in order to attack the weak ND D-Line.

Do you agree? What can Charlie and his staff do to change this scenario re the D Line?


Mike: That is my main concern with the defense as well. I think those three starting on D-line will play like champions, but they'll need some help, and ND just doesn't have experienced depth here. Normally I wouldn't worry so much, but after watching the spring game, and how easily the second team O-line was pushing around the second team D-line, I started to worry. ND has a lot of young guys that have very little experience. Players like Derrell Hand, Kallen Wade and Paddy Mullen will have to step up for the Irish to have a shot at a solid defense this year. And I do expect to see teams pound the Irish will the run this year. I think we'll see that a lot.

Who do you see as the starting front 7? Also, based on what you have seen from the corners, do you think that Wooden and Lambert will be able to hold off Walls and McNeil for the whole season?

Mike: I don't think the front seven has been set in stone yet, but I'd guess you'll likely see Trevor Laws, Pat Kuntz and either Justin Brown or Dwight Stephenson as the front three. I think you'll see John Ryan and maybe Kerry Neal as starters at outside linebacker. I've heard many think Neal will come in and play right away. If it isn't Neal, it will be either Vernaglia or Scott Smith. Mo Crum and Toryan Smith will likely be the starters at inside backer.

I do think you'll see both Wooden and Lambert hold on their spots unless one struggles early. The young corners didn't appear to put much pressure on Wooden or Lambert this spring. Both have a lot of experience, and the only way I see them losing their jobs is if they give it away with poor play. I think Lambert is going to be primed for a good year.

What's the latest on Arthur Brown? When are you going to be in Chicago? Mike: The Irish are still recruiting Arthur Brown, but I'm not sure they'll be in the race when he decides. I think they'll most likely be finished with recruiting by the time he decides. He's a fantastic player, but I'm not sure he'll be in the cards for ND.

I'll be in Chicago on August 23. We'll have a get-together at Victory Liquors bar. All Irish fans are invited so tell all your friends. I'll also be speaking in Canton, Ohio on the 28th of August, and I'll be speaking in Louisville on August 3rd. If you're in the area, stop by.

I was just wondering if Mike Ragone was back on campus? Also, when do you expect Trevor Robinson to announce his commitment? And how does Notre Dame stand with Brice Butler?

Mike: Mike Ragone isn't on campus yet. We should know something more about that fairly soon. Hopefully he'll be ready to go for fall camp.

Trevor Robinson isn't speaking with anyone. There really hasn't been much leak out about him and his plans, and I think that's by design. I just think the family wants to take some time and make sure Trevor is solid on what he wants to do. I still the Irish have a good shot here. I'd guess he'll probably announce something next week.

As for Butler, it sounds like Florida State will be his likely destination. I know ND is still talking with him, but many feel the Seminoles will be his choice when he does announce.


IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories