Coachspeak: Why we shouldn't believe a word they say

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Having been to a few coaching press conferences, I can tell you they are far from glamorous. One of the more ridiculous things in movies (other than the always available parking spots, or the scrawny bad guy fighting to a draw with the yoked up hero) is the energy in press conferences. It’s as if each time someone gets behind the podium, thousands of flash bulbs pop, a sordid confession occurs, and a throng of media explodes with questions.

When you watch a Notre Dame coaching press conference, I don’t get that movie feeling. Maybe it’s because I’m usually watching them through a web-browser on UND.com, but there isn’t the urgency that usually occurs during those cinematic moments on the silver screen.

And that’s because of coachspeak.

This week, we had two great examples of coachspeak. The first game from the always sunny Jon Tenuta. Tenuta grumbles his way through his media obligation each week, and this week’s performance was actually better than the last few, which is a pretty good indicator that he thinks the defense is performing better.

Take a look at Tenuta coachspeak:

It’s like pulling teeth. When he’s talking about things we understand, he keeps it as bland as possible.

“He’s a very smart young man and he understands the game,” Tenuta said about Darius Fleming. (Or just about any other guy whose name you could throw in instead.) “He understands his job and he’s done a heckuva job for us.”

But Tenuta’s a pro at coachspeak, and knows the bland answer won’t get the writers off his back, so he throws in some coaching jargon and mixes in a “fire zone” and “zone dog” into the mix for good measure and then goes right back to the cliche machine to finish it off.

Classic coachspeak.

Tenuta then fended off questions about freshman Manti Te’o as best he could, acknowledging that Te’o will be seeing the field a bunch, but then distracting us with positional talk before any of the guys covering the scoop could get another question in.

This is one of the biggest angles of Saturday’s game, and Tenuta was able to distract the writers enough, to effectively dodge any question that could force him to give actual insight into a factor of the football game. 

All in all, a great job by Tenuta on coachspeak.

As for Randy Hart (or Ed Harris Sr. if you prefer), when put into a tough spot, he pulled a veteran move, just really dialed up the cliche-o-meter. When pressed with questions about facing the team he just spent two decades coaching, Hart got very Zen on us.

“You really don’t go there,” Hart said to a large gathering of media chasing one of the week’s more obvious stories. “You’re into where you are here, what you’re doing here, and make it go. You know, next year, next summer, you’ll think about it and say what it was, but I think right now the focus needs to be what you’re doing. It’s a business trip, a  business opportunity, so it’s time to go to work.”

In one speedy paragraph, Hart immediately tried to kill any type of homecoming/reunion story that could potential help his players get more fired up for a win. Believing him would be like believing that Brett Favre doesn’t view this Mondays game against the Packers as anything different than the other games on his schedule. When we see Hart head-butting his defensive lineman as they hit the field on Saturday, I think we’ll know if he was telling the truth.

Likewise, Hart’s non-admission to his personnel knowledge is some coachspeak at its very finest. Any advantage Sarkisian and his staff had in the element of surprise is effectively negated by Weis’ familiarity with Sark’s offense and Nick Holt’s defense, and Hart’s familiarity with the defensive front and UW’s personnel. But to hear Hart talk about it, the only advantage he’ll have is recognizing a parent or two.

“The game is played between Notre Dame and the University of Washington. The little bit that I would know scheme wise, well, they’re going to do what they’re going to do. Personnel wise, once they step across the white lines, you don’t know. I disregard it, I wouldn’t think it’s very big at all. I don’t think that me knowing the names of the players or knowing their families is going to be anything big to helping us on game day.”

You can bet that Coach Hart was intricately involved in the game plan, and probably not just with the defense. Weis probably leaned heavily on Hart’s knowledge of defensive personnel when putting together his game plan, and after watching Toby Gerhart run for 200+ yards, has all he needs to know about his opponents.

This post isn’t to rip into coaches Tenuta or Hart for being lousy interviews, it’s to point out some obvious facts. If these coaches do know something, why on Earth would they tell us? Saturday’s game is a matchup of surprising familiarity, considering the turnover in both programs.

Just don’t ask the coaches to tell you why.   

Notre Dame gets 10 invites to NFL Scouting Combine

2013 NFL Combine
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Notre Dame will send ten former players to the NFL Scouting Combine. The annual event in Indianapolis serves as the unofficial apex of draft season, a meat-market where the best professional prospects are poked, prodded, questioned and tested in a variety of on- and off-field drills.

Heading to the festivities from Notre Dame are:

Chris Brown, WR
Sheldon Day, DT
Will Fuller, WR
Nick Martin, C
Romeo Okwara, DE
C.J. Prosise, RB
KeiVarae Russell, CB
Elijah Shumate, S
Jaylon Smith, OLB
Ronnie Stanley, OT

For a prospect like Smith, it’ll be teams first opportunity to talk to the elite prospect and check his progress medically as he returns from a Fiesta Bowl knee injury. Russell will also be a non-participant in physical drills, waiting until Notre Dame’s Pro Day to go through testing.

Invites to Chris Brown, Romeo Okwara and Elijah Shumate are crucial in finding their way into the draft, as the three former Irish starters participated in the Shrine Bowl, where scouts had an early look at them. Likewise, Nick Martin and Sheldon Day continue their ascent, both coming off strong Senior Bowl weeks.

For Irish fans, it’ll be fun to watch early-enrollees Fuller and Prosise test. Both are expected to be some of the fastest players at their position. Brown may also have the ability to surprise teams, with his track background and leaping ability capable of earning him an extended look. Offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley will look to impress as well, hoping to check out as one of the draft’s most impressive athletes at offensive tackle.

Ohio State led all schools with 14 invites. National Champion Alabama had nine former players invited.

 

WR Corey Robinson named Notre Dame student body president

Notre Dame v Florida State
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On Wednesday, wide receiver Corey Robinson added another impressive title to his resume as a student-athlete at Notre Dame: Student Body President.

The junior, paired with classmate Becca Blais as his vice presidential running mate, won a majority of the votes cast by his fellow students, a runaway winner with 59.4% of the votes, nearly triple the next highest vote getter.

Robinson posted the following on Twitter, thankful for the opportunity to serve his fellow students:

Robinson’s time at Notre Dame has been filled with accomplishments both on and off the field. He was named an Academic All-American as a sophomore. He’s a six-time Dean’s List member in the prestigious Program of Liberal Studies and is also pursuing a sustainability minor. He’s won the team’s Rockne Student-Athlete Award as well.

That’s quite a bit on the plate of Notre Dame’s lone senior wide receiver. But as you might expect, Robinson is well prepared for the next challenge ahead.

“I’ve planned ahead, gotten all of my hard work out of the way this semester, and I’m finishing up my senior thesis,” Robinson told The Observer. “I’m doing all the hard stuff now so in the fall and the spring, I just have to take two classes pretty much.”

Robinson’s other contributions as a student-athlete at Notre Dame include One Shirt one Body, an opportunity for college athletes to donate their athletic apparel to local communities. Robinson has presented the plan to the ACC as well as the NCAA, earning immediate support from both organizations.

 

Mailbag: Now Open (scheduling input requested)

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - JUNE 01:  Actors Mike Myers (L) and Dana Carvey as Wayne and Garth from "Wayne's World" onstage during the 17th annual MTV Movie Awards held at the Gibson Amphitheatre on June 1, 2008 in Universal City, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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Okay folks, we’ve had enough semi-positive encouragement to keep the video mailbag going for another week. With that said, I’ll need some reader participation to keep this thing rolling on.

As always, submit your questions below or on Twitter @KeithArnold. You can also ask your questions live via Facebook. You’ll need to LIKE THIS PAGE first, and then at the appropriate time, head on over to watch and participate.

To that point, let’s pick a time that works for everyone. Right now, here are the options that work at Inside the Irish HQ.  Weigh in and the best time wins. (How’s that for a democracy?)

***

 

Restocking the roster: Offensive Line

Notre Dame offensive line
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When Notre Dame takes the field this spring, there’ll be two very large holes in the offensive line that need filling. All-American left tackle Ronnie Stanley is gone. As is captain Nick Martin at center. Both three-year starters leave Harry Hiestand with some big decisions to make in the coming months as the Irish look to fill those key positions and still field a unit with the ability to dominate in the trenches.

The Irish have had incredible stability at left tackle, with Stanley sliding in seamlessly after four seasons of Zack Martin. Perhaps the best six-year run in the program’s storied history at the position, Stanley will likely join Martin as a first-rounder, back-to-back starters at a key spot that often dictates the play of one of the most important units on the field.

Replacing Nick Martin could prove equally tricky. Rising junior Sam Mustipher served as Martin’s backup in 2015, filing in capably for Martin after an ankle sprain took him off the field briefly against UMass. But Mustipher will face a challenge this spring from rising sophomore Tristen Hoge, the first true center recruited by Hiestand and Brian Kelly since they arrived in South Bend.

Kelly talked about 2017 being a big cycle on the recruiting trail for restocking the offensive line. You can see why when you look at the depth, particularly at tackle. Let’s look at the work that’s been done the previous two classes as Notre Dame continues to be one of the premier programs recruiting in the trenches.

 

DEPARTURES
Ronnie Stanley
, Sr. (39 starts)
Nick Martin, Grad Student (37 starts)

2015-16 ADDITIONS
Tristen Hoge
, C
Trevor Ruhland
, G
Jerry Tillery
, T
Parker Boudreaux
, G
Tommy Kraemer
, T
Liam Eichenberg
, T

PRE-SPRING DEPTH CHART
Hunter Bivin, T
Quenton Nelson, LG
Sam Mustipher, C
Steve Elmer, RG
Mike McGlinchey, RT

Alex Bars*, T
Colin McGovern*, G/T
Mark Harrell*, C/G
Tristen Hoge*, C
John Montelus*, G
Jimmy Byrne*, G
Trevor Ruhland*, G

*Has an additional year of eligibility remaining. 

ANALYSIS:
It’ll be a fascinating spring up front for the offensive line. We’ll get our first look at potential replacements and see if the Irish staff values a veteran presence (as it has done in the past) or puts former blue-chip recruits in position to become multi-year starters.

For now, I’m putting last season’s backups in line to ascend to starting spots. That’s not to say I think that’s what’ll happen. Hunter Bivin may have been Stanley’s backup last season, but as long as Alex Bars is fully recovered from his broken ankle, I think he’s the best bet to step into that job. Sharing reps at guard—not a natural spot for Bars to begin with—was more about getting him some experience, with the aim to move him into the lineup in 2016. That allows Bivin to be a key swing reserve, capable of playing on either the right or left side.

At center, the decision is less clear cut—especially since we’ve yet to see Tristen Hoge play a snap of football. Size and strength is a genuine concern at the point of attack for Hoge, not necessarily the biggest guy hitting campus. But it sounds like he’s had a nice first season from a developmental standpoint, and if he’s a true technician at the position, he could be a rare four-year starter at center if he’s able to pull ahead of Mustipher this spring.

On paper, the other three starting jobs don’t seem to be in question. Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey are ready to step to the forefront. Concerns about Steve Elmer’s buy-in will certainly be answered by spring, there’s little chance he’ll be on the field in March if he’s not going to be around in August. I’m of the mind that Elmer’s too good of a character guy to leave the program, even if his life doesn’t revolve around football 24/7. Now it’s time for him to clean up some of the flaws in his game, the only starter from last season who held back the Irish from being a truly elite group.

Depth isn’t necessarily a concern, but there isn’t a ton of it at tackle. That happens when you move a guy like Jerry Tillery to defensive line and lose a player like Stanley with a year of eligibility remaining. That could force the Irish to cross-train someone like Colin McGovern, a veteran who can swing inside or out if needed. McGovern seems to be a guy who would start in a lot of other programs, but has struggled to crack a two-deep that’s now filled with former blue-chip recruits, all of them essentially handpicked by Hiestand and Kelly.