ND Football Offseason Recap – The Long Overdue Edition

Alright time to get the train back on the tracks.

The Irish have made a lot of coaching moves, made some recruiting noise, and also thrown out enough titles for themselves to make heads spin. So I’ll hit all the recent (and maybe not-so recent) news from the Gug.

Coaching Shuffle Finally Ends

Or at least I’m pretty sure it has… I figured heads would continue to roll (and remember, I’m current still up to the Jappy Oliver firing in this blog) and the next victim I was looking at was Latina. And he ended up “resigning” and then was replaced damn near immediately by Frank Verducci.

I really don’t have too much to say on this move. It is nice we have someone with some NFL skins on the wall, but considering the last team he coached was the Cleveland Browns, excuse me if I’m not jumping up and down. He was also with the Cowboys in 2002. Anyone remember that superb running attack and offensive line? That’s right, I don’t either. However, considering how bad our line was before, I am going to go on the stance that the only place we can go from here is up. Basically, Verducci will just have to show what he can do as far as I am concerned.

Next up in the coaching carousel is new RB coach Tony Alford. Again, I was consumed by an overwhelming meh. Sure, his produced seven 1,000+ yard RBs, but that doesn’t mean it’ll happen here. And then one of my friends, as well as Blue-Gray Sky, brought something quite compelling to my attention:

Whenever there is a fumble in practice, the whole running backs unit pays the price in drills. When the ball popped out of sophomore Matthias Wilson’s hands during Tuesday’s practice, Alford was all over it. All seven healthy backs stayed behind to get down on the ground and perform rigorous balancing techniques while moving up and down the field. The “punishment” drills force the players to hold the ball with both hands all the time. Hurst approves.

“Anytime the ball comes out, the whole group has to do one of those, no matter who did it,” Hurst said. “Honestly, I am wondering why [the coaches] haven’t done it before. It’s very tiring, so you’ll get it in your head that you will not commit a fumble because you don’t want to do that drill.”

Under Alford last year, the Iowa State running backs had zero fumbles all season while ranking 17th in the nation in rushing. It was all part of an amazing Iowa State turnaround that saw the Cyclones go from a 4-7 team in 1999 to 9-3 and an Insight.com Bowl victory in 2000.

That’s one heck of a quote there at the end on the importance of not fumbling. The players must have bought in because ISU running backs lost a total of 13 fumbles in the 8 years Alford coached there. As a point of comparison, ND backs lost 12 fumbles the past two seasons.

I don’t care who you are, but if you can get your players to hold on to the ball like that, I am thrilled you will be on the ND sidelines.

Finally, the last coaching vacancy was filled by new defensive line coach Randy Hart. I haven’t been able to look into him too much as this has just come down recently, but according to Yahoo! Sports, the job was first offered to Romeo Crenell. However, Washington held onto Hart for 21 years, so he has to have at least a little something — even if Washington isn’t exactly a national powerhouse, being able to hold onto your job for 21 years is damned impressive. Again, nothing too big that has me jumping up and down.

But wait, I didn’t say who our new Offensive Coordinator is did I? Well, he is already on the staff. Ladies and gents, Charlie Weis is your new offensive coordinator. Color me surprised…

In reality though, I’m glad he made this move. The offensive side of the football is Weis’ specialty, and it seems trying to hand the reigns over to Haywood didn’t work out as well as he liked. Whether or not you are sold on his offensive style or “schematic advantage” is a whole other story, but I am personally of the opinion that if you are going to do something, lean towards your strength. I sure as hell know Weis’ strength is not the defensive side of the ball, so this move makes all the sense in the world.

And if you are on the fire Weis bandwagon, here’s a viewpoint for you: If you are going to go down, go into flames doing what you think is best. If Weis is the offensive guru he claims to be, he is in prime position to be just that. If it doesn’t pan out, he has no one to blame but himself.

However, the coordinator shuffle didn’t end there. Corwin Brown was named the new assistant head coach and at the same time, Jon Tenuta was named the new defensive play caller although technically both him and Brown are co-defensive coordinators. This whole slightly confusing title shuffle was actually Brown’s idea according to Weis:

Moving from defensive coordinator to associate head coach may be a move up in titles. But was Corwin Brown demoted from defensive coordinator when Charlie Weis named Jon Tenuta the defensive play caller beginning this spring?

Not at all, said Weis. In fact, it was Brown who suggested the change.

“He’s the one who brought the situation up,” said Weis following Friday’s press teleconference, which included interviews with new assistant coaches Tony Alford and Frank Verducci, as well as graduate assistant Bryant Young, Tenuta and offensive assistant head coach Rob Ianello.

“(Brown) and I have been talking about this and he brought this combination up to me before the season was over.”

Weis has renamed himself the offensive coordinator, which will take him away from his involvement with the defense and special teams. That meant that Weis needed someone to help bridge the gap. Brown was the logical choice.

“His feeling was that if this was the way it was going to end up going, the three of us were going to have to wear more hats,” Weis said. “It’s not a demotion. (Coordinating the defense) is a collaboration between those two guys anyway.”

Weis said the last thing he would do is make a move that would lead to Brown’s disgruntlement at Notre Dame.

“We’ve had extensive talks about this,” Weis said. “As you know, he’s my guy. I never would have done this without being on the same page with him.”

Even though the whole title shuffle is a little odd, it does end up making a lot of sense. Weis isn’t going to be something he’s not, so his focus is back on the offense and you need give someone the power on the other side of the ball. At least the roles though are clearly defined so we won’t have any second-guessing or rumors of power struggles that don’t exist. Everyone seems to be happy and on the same page at least for now.

However, winning the title of “Best Hire That Will Completely Fly Under the Radar” is that of Bryant Young to graduate assistant. This hire is brilliant in my opinion. Young brings to the team the one major thing that Weis has always lacked: actual playing experience. And not only does Young have the playing experience, but that of playing at both ND and the NFL. He can relate to the players in ways Weis and other members of the coaching staff simply can’t. That is an invaluable asset to have going.

Not to mention, Young can also call and field calls from recruits. Considering recruiting on the defensive line has been less than amazing recently, I’m sure having Young will be a nice extra punch for that recruiting pitch.

Irish Recruiting

I’ll be honest, I know little about the whole recruiting scene. If you want more educated details, I suggest going elsewhere for a good breakdown.

However, I was quite excited about these recruiting results and can sum it up in two words: Manti Te’o.

I was for sure Te’o would be heading to USC, but somehow we managed to pull out a huge upset here. Considering the fact he wants to go on his Mormon mission after his freshmen year, he would be gone for two years, but not lose any eligibility (I believe). Meaning a very scary 21 year old “true” sophomore would be lining up for the Irish. That is indeed awesome.

Also we managed to wrangle away one of his teammates from UCLA. Two Hawaiians joining the Irish…I never thought I’d see the day.

Schwapp Out

Blue-Gray Sky noticed that Schwapp was not on the spring roster. There has been no official announcement, but I think it is safe to say Schwapp will be heading to the NFL draft and not ND next year. Best of luck to Schwapp in the draft and his future. Time for someone else to step up as the next beast of a man for the Irish.


That should catch me up on the offseason moves for the Irish. Again, I really don’t have too much to add to the news as it is hard to read the tea leaves of how all of this will pan out. Hopefully Spring ball will be able to shed more light on these changes.