Mike's Mailbag

I had some questions left over from Power Hour so I thought I'd answer them in another installment of Mike's Mailbag. Enjoy!

Which of the current freshmen, sophomores and recruits of the '08 class can you see playing the left tackle position? I am also considering Page and Robinson in this speculation.

Mike: I don't think Notre Dame has a left tackle candidate in the sophomore class. I think Sam Young is more of a right tackle playing left. Matt Romine is a possible candidate for the position, but we haven't seen enough of him to know if he can play the position or not. Lane Clelland is a player ND recruited to play left tackle. ND thinks he has the feet and ability to play there. If ND were to sign Kenneth Page, they also believe he could play tackle, but not sure he'd be a left tackle prospect.

Ok Mike, please tell me Golden Tate has learned more than one freaking route by now. I know he was a do-it-all type player in high school, but for the love of cheese how can he not run a simple post, slant, out, hitch, or DRAG route? It can't be that hard.

Mike: It's not all about route running. Tate also has to learn to block, and he's got a ways to go in that category, as does many of the ND wide receivers from my vantage point. Tate played more in the last game, and I'm sure you'll see him get more and more minutes as the season winds down. He's learning things that the others spent years learning in high school, so it will take some time before he's up to speed.

Brice Givens. Why don't we offer this tackle prospect? He's "committed" to Nebraska but he's looking. Maybe ND would look more appealing for Trevor Robinson and Brice Givens if they could come together.

Mike: Notre Dame is well aware that Brice Givens is looking around, but currently ND isn't looking at Givens. I'm not sure Notre Dame is sold he'll end up being a tackle, and the Irish already have two guards right now they're recruiting in Page and Robinson. If the Irish slip with either, they could get in the race for Givens, but it would probably be too late at that point. I'm sure the Irish have a backup plan for either Robinson or Page. It doesn't appear Givens is the backup plan.

I disagree with you on the skill player talent issue. Armando Allen would be just as good as Joe McKnight if he had USC's offensive line. Allen is built more like Reggie Bush then McKnight.

Mike: The person writing the question is referring to comments I made in which I said that I didn't believe the Irish could match USC skill athlete for skill athlete when it comes to recruiting. I made the reference to USC having Reggie Bush and Joe McKnight and the Irish not having anyone like that. I still believe that true. I think Armando Allen has a lot of potential to be an impact player, but I don't believe he's as shifty and fast as McKnight, but then again, hardly anyone is.

A check of USC's recruiting classes over the past three years shows the Trojans have recruited 4 five-star receivers and 3 five-star running backs in that time. The Irish have recruited just 1 five-star wide receiver and 1 five-star running back in that same time. USC also has slots left to fill this season, so that list could grow on their side. Stars don't mean everything, but I'm sure most of us would rather take our chances with the five-star guys. If the Irish continue to improve, they'll land more of these guys, but I don't see USC going away in the near future.

My comments were more in line with most of the elite skill talent is down south. Not many kids end up leaving home to go far away for school. Some do, but not many. When the Irish usually win a recruiting battle, they usually beat State U for the player or a school close by. Since most of the elite skill talent is down south, it makes it hard to land as many skill athletes as USC, Texas, Florida and the like because those schools have that talent in their back yard, and they're already good programs. This is why I think it's vital for the Irish to land elite linemen—both offensive and defensive—to beat the great teams. Lou Holtz didn't beat Miami in ‘88 or FSU in ‘93 because he had better skill talent. He beat them in the trenches, and that's where the Irish will have to again win the battles to beat teams like USC and Florida in my opinion.

Are any of the uncommited prospects considering early enrollment? That's the only way ND can take more than 25 with this class.

Mike: Actually, that's not true. Some of the committed players could be considering it and that would allow Notre Dame to take more than 25, but the only player I know of that is considering early enrollment is Sean Cwynar, and I believe he is going to enroll early at Notre Dame. I still don't think Notre Dame would take more than 25 anyway unless they landed an elite prospect late that is too good to pass up.

For the third wide receiver spot you have mentioned Chris Harper, Deion Walker, Gerell Robinson, has Notre Dame fallen out with Jonathan Baldwin?

Mike: I don't think they've fallen out for Baldwin, but I'm not sure he's qualified yet to enroll in Notre Dame, and he hasn't scheduled a visit to Notre Dame. It sounds like Baldwin is going to visit schools after his season, which would be December or January. Notre Dame could be finished by then if one of the previously three mentioned above would commit. I think Notre Dame would take a commitment from any of those mentioned above, including Baldwin if he qualifies.

With this year's class almost done, will we keep our offers to minimum and only go after the very elite players? What are our chances with the John Simon from Cardinal Mooney? He is a beast.

Mike: If Notre Dame ends up taking 25 this recruiting season they'll have a small number of scholarships to offer next season—probably around 18 or so. They'll have to be more picky with who they offer and who they accept. They're aware of this and why they haven't offered many players thus far for the '09 class. The staff is out recruiting this week, and they're out checking out some of the elite talent currently. You'll most likely see more offers coming out in the next few weeks. As for Simon, I think it will be a ND/Ohio State battle. He's been to Notre Dame's camp and to a game. Many feel OSU has the slight lead. I wouldn't count out Corwin Brown on any defensive player, however.

How do you think the Irish O-line will be next year. How much can they really improve?

Mike: That's a good question. I wish I had a good answer. The O-line can improve, but that's up to them. I think another year in the weight room would really help players like Sam Young, Dan Wenger, Eric Olsen, Matt Romine and the rest of the younger players. This unit needs some leadership to push them. They'll look better in the next four games, but I'm not sure they'll be better. They can and probably will get better by next season. But they have a very long way to go before they'll be a good offensive line.

If you had to name the starters at defensive line and linebacker for next year who are your picks?

Mike: That's hard to predict because I really don't know how this will unfold. Will Justin Brown return for a fifth year? If so, can he hold off a player like Sean Cwynar and Ethan Johnson? Cwynar appears to be enrolling early, so he'll get some extra work. How injured is Ethan Johnson's knee? If it's not an ACL, I think he could see the field next season.

Can Ian Williams develop enough to move Pat Kuntz to defensive end? Will Derrell Hand develop enough? I think everyone expects Omar Hunter to see the field, but don't count out Brandon Newman, who is a very strong kid already. Will Paddy Mullen or Kallen Wade develop enough?

Will Steve Filer or Anthony McDonald push Toryan Smith for an inside spot? Can Darius Fleming push Brian Smith and Kerry Neal? Will John Ryan move to a down lineman? There's a lot of questions that I don't really know the answers to. Should be a fun spring and fall. I have seen Joseph Fauria listed as an O-lineman by several recruiting services, instead of tight end....your thoughts?

Mike: I'm sure Joe could grow into an offensive lineman, but I think the Irish like his potential at tight end. He's a similar player to Will Yeatman, but he'll need time to develop. I'm not sure he's as relentless as a blocker as Yeatman, but he's a very good prospect.

Speaking of Yeatman, if anyone is looking for a left tackle, I'd suggest this guy is the guy. I know he wants to play lacrosse, but with his size, and his ability to move and block like he does, I think he has potentially a very long and profitable NFL career waiting for him as a left tackle. I doubt he ends up moving, but if I were him, I wouldn't think twice about it because he has all the tools to be a great offensive tackle. The chance for lifetime financial security would be worth the move alone.

Charlie talked about looking to the future the last four games. Do you see Armando Allen's role expanding? It seems to me this kid has the most big-play potential on the roster. Do you see him moving around the formation in the future?

Mike: I do think you'll see a lot of Armando in the next four games. He looked outstanding during the last game and ran with authority. I think you saw a very hungry Armando Allen in that game. I'd like to see both Armando and James Aldridge or Robert Hughes in the game at the same time. Like you, I'd also like to see Armando get involved in the passing game, and something other than the screen pass.

Do you think we will have the number 1 recruiting class this year? Also ,could you give your opinion on how you think next year will go?

Mike: I'm not sure the Irish can hold off USC as they continue to land five-star players like it's Christmas, but I think the Irish will end up in the top 3 for certain—providing they sign all those currently committed and a couple of other players. The best thing about this class is the class is very balanced, and has at least one elite player at every position. As I've said previously, if the Irish can sign this class, I think this class has the most potential out of any class that Notre Dame has ever signed—at least as long as I've been following it, which is over 20 years. Potential and production are two different things. Hopefully they'll also realize their potential and turn it into production.

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