A reason to be optimistic

Didn’t want this getting lost in the crowd. Omahadomer’s take on the season:

Of course, it’s the time for all fans to be optimistic. Everyone’s undefeated at this point in the year.

But the usual optimism is a bit tempered for N.D. fans this year by the relatively large turnover in our personnel. Moreover, many of the fan bases of our opponents are penciling themselves in for a win figuring that N.D. will be down this year.

I, for one, will have none of it.

Of course, we have inexperience and gaps in some positions but so does everyone else. Everyone keeps doing these “player by player” comparisons of us to where we’ll be next year and (somewhat less often) to other teams.

As to our opponents, the question is whether you’d be willing to swap MORE than half of our projected starting roster for theirs. U.S.C., yes. Michigan, probably. The only other two teams that are even rationally in the conversation after that are U.C.L.A. and P.S.U. but I think a fair analysis would arrive at “no.”

But for me, the big thing is coaching. There are few sports (maybe no sports) where coaching is more important than it is in college football. Football lends itself more to coaching because it consists of 140 or so discrete plays making scheme and tactics more important than they are in soccer or basketball or water polo.

I’m really not worried about the offense. Weis, like Holtz, will always find a way to move the ball and score points. Holtz, taking over a team that averaged just over 20 ppg the prior year averaged 27.2 ppg his first year and never averaged less than 28.5 ppg (that in 1994) after that. Holtz’s last year, N.D. averaged 37.0 ppg and that fell to 21.7 in Davie’s first year.

Weis took over a team that averaged 24.1 ppg the prior year (and had averaged an anemic 21.6 ppg over the prior four years) and averaged 36.7 and 31.0 in his first two seasons.

The only fair conclusion is that offensive performance has been much more closely tied to coaching than it has to the vagaries of the talent level.

On defense, raw talent probably plays a larger role because of the more reactive nature of defense, but still coaching is no small matter. If there’s a reason to wonder, it’s how Brown will work out as a D.C. The fact that there has been no market, apparently, for Minter’s coaching services since his departure from N.D. is probably a sign that N.D.’s coaching on that side of the ball was suboptimal. If Brown’s success recruiting is any indication of his ability to get players to buy into his methods, we’ll be in very good hands.

The mixture of talent and experience is also much better on defense. We are in very good shape at DB and at least good shape at LB. Like most others, I’m concerned about how the pieces may fit at DL, but I think that the 3-4 approach may be a slightly better fit with our personnel, especially if the odd fronts turn into more de facto 5-2-4 formations.

So, yeah, I’m optimistic.


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