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IBG: Let’s get it started

Aug 28, 2013, 12:28 PM EDT

Photoshop by @verypiratey Photoshop by @verypiratey

We’re almost there. After eight excruciatingly long months, we’re back in the saddle for another game week. And that means another edition of the Irish Blogger Gathering, a tradition like no other. (Seriously. Who else would do this?)

Our friend the Subway Domer, in between profane tweets and must-purchase t-shirts, has gathered together a collection of Notre Dame bloggers to discuss weekly Irish football topics. This week it was my turn to ask the questions to NDTex of Mike Coffey of NDNation had the pleasure of quizzing me, and then channeling his inner Winnie Cooper as he posted my answers.

For more, check out the following:

Subway Domer
Her Loyal Sons
ND Nation
Strong and True

Feel free to answer the questions yourself in the comments. Let’s take this thing next level:

1. Another season opens with high expectations and more than a few unknowns. What unproven commodity are you most excited to see when the Irish run out of the tunnel this Saturday?

In my mind, I see three major unproven units: the LB corps (especially since Spond is done), the RB corps (especially the freshmen), and punt returns. If I have to pick just one, it would have to be the young running backs. We’ve seen George Atkinson III’s potential as a “home run” hitter, I’m now in year two for waiting to see what Amir Carlisle can do, and of course, you can’t mention Irish running backs without mentioning Greg Bryant who is simply getting rave reviews from everyone it seems.

Those are three great backs and I haven’t even mentioned Cam McDaniel and Terran Folston. I can’t remember the last time there appeared to be so much talent in the Irish backfield. All eyes may be on Tommy Rees, but the Irish rushing attack will be what propels this team to greatness and I can’t wait to see it.

2. Praising Reesus is sweeping the interwebs. There are two sides of this coin: Tommy Rees could very well be bigger, stronger, smarter, and faster come his senior season, and is ready to match his football intellect with corresponding aptitude. Or we are all suckers for one of the most obvious offseason narratives known to man.

Which one is it? And project for me Rees’ stat-line in ’13.

Trying to predict what Rees will do this season seems borderline impossible. For instance, when I took a look at Rees’ numbers, I found out he was the most accurate QB in ND history. Even stranger, his best season in terms of accuracy was 2011, the same season that now causes heart attacks every time he takes a snap.

His only start against BYU in 2012 was one of the worst starts in his career. While he stepped in and led the Irish on some rather clutch drives, you could file quite a good number of his passes in the jump ball category.

What I want to see from Rees is a QB that understands it isn’t all on him. He doesn’t need to force the ball into non-existent windows to make things happen. There’s a lot of talent around him and he needs to utilize it properly. I am hoping that a strong rushing attack will help this as well (see: Kevin Hogan at Stanford).

So why praise Reesus? Because faith and prayers are really the only thing we have to go on here. I don’t think we will truly know how Tommy has progressed until he goes under the lights in Ann Arbor.

As for a stat projection, I’m going to try and stay positive and assume Rees has learned his lessons (and learned how to throw in the red zone): 60% completion percentage, 2400 yards, 24 TD, 8 INT.

3. This isn’t expected to be all that competitive of a football game. But what are you hoping to take away from Saturday that’ll help you decide whether or not the Irish will have another BCS run this season?

I do think this team has a chance at the BCS, but no matter how big the Irish win, I won’t be convinced that they are BCS ready. Temple is that bad. For me, this game will prove that the Irish can take care of business against inferior opponents, but nothing more. For the record, I felt the same way when the Irish blew out Navy.

This week, the only way I can be swayed in the BCS discussion is in a negative fashion. Should the Irish struggle against an inferior opponent, I’m going to be very worried.

I don’t expect that to happen this Saturday in the least, but I don’t think I will be able to point at anything and say “The Irish will go to the BCS because of X” until we face tougher competition.

  1. shaunodame - Aug 28, 2013 at 12:42 PM

    1. I have got to admit I am basically taking the defense’s success for granted, when I say I am most looking forward to seeing all the New Faces on Offense for this team, and how well they can gel together. We have skill, size, and great competition at seemingly every position. If this O-Line and Run Game can dominate, everything else gets a little easier. (I’m not one of those fans who says this whole season rests on Rees’ shoulders)

    2. I really don’t think there is anything left to say, that hasn’t been said/dissected here already about Tommy Rees. What I will say is Brian Kelly made the call for Rees as the starter and “In Kelly I Trust”

    3. One Word: Domination. Great teams don’t play down to their opponents. They beat the socks off the teams in the bad games, and rise-up for the big games. By all indications we should dominate Temple, because we are supposed to be THAT good.. Now prove it.

  2. mattnef - Aug 28, 2013 at 12:58 PM

    Thanks for the Tshirt link. Those are awesome. I might just have to procure one for the season.

  3. NotreDan - Aug 28, 2013 at 1:04 PM

    1. HAS to be GAIII. He’s unproven, but the sky is the limit. I would much rather see him start landing balls in the fairway than catching up with lucky scrub shots.

    2. I so CLEARLY remember defending TR so vigorously on this board in 2011, then acquiescing that he was a problem, feeling PANIC when he came in last year, and then re-thinking the whole thing after he won some games for us. My gut (which is an Irish gut, you know, the kind that would rather drink at a funeral and mock the British for having so much money) tells me TR is going to be good, and CBK and staff will have infrastructure built around the kid. I’m no good at stat lines.

    3. 1 half of domination, 1 half of blowing up the playbook for Michigan.

  4. 25kgold - Aug 28, 2013 at 1:05 PM

    This Temple game will set the tone for how we play at home! Last year we had WAY too many close games at home–a place where you SHOULD be more competitive and win easily. The only exception is the Stanford game, or course… If we can turn our home game stance around and start playing like a top championship caliber team at home–we’ll find ourselves in position for another BCS Championship game! All of our tough games are at home; Stanford is the exception, of course…

    • bernhtp - Aug 28, 2013 at 1:31 PM

      So Michigan in the Big House isn’t a tough game?

      • 25kgold - Aug 28, 2013 at 2:28 PM

        Not to me.

        • bernhtp - Aug 28, 2013 at 3:51 PM

          I wish you were playing then, I guess

    • irishpuma - Aug 29, 2013 at 12:44 AM

      We might not even beat ASU on neutral field!!

  5. irishaggie - Aug 28, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    I will add on to that 25kgold. The first 4 games we played close games at home because Golson looked like deer in the headlights. Took way too long to make decisions and looked really nervous. We were one dimensional. If we have more triple overtime games this year I may have a heart attack at age 22.

  6. ndcanuck - Aug 28, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    1. Biggest question is can GA3 be a reliable back and get the 3rd and short yards when needed? Sure he’s a “home run threat”, but can he hit singles? *resisting using phrase ‘pad level’ with all my might*.

    Second biggest is did Tuitt’s weight gain and off season injury slow him at all. Might not matter against Temple, but I’m interested to see if he still has that great first step.

    2. I want to believe in Rees, but purely based on what I’ve seen from practice videos it doesn’t seem he’s taken any great strides in developing his arm strength or accuracy (e.g. still a lot of throws behind the WR in stride and too many soft fades). Here’s hoping he can do enough to let the D win some games.

    3. A blowout that gives opportunities to see some the offensive backups (new RBs, Hendrix, etc.) see the field in the second half. No reason ND shouldn’t hang a huge number on this Owl “defence”; if they don’t, that wouldn’t bode well for the season.

    • bernhtp - Aug 28, 2013 at 2:08 PM

      1a. I expect GA3 to be better, maybe much better, and do way less of hopping around the backfield looking for a downfield gap that rarely materializes. If he doesn’t successfully find a way to run between the tackles, Kelly will put in someone else that will. Carlisle not only has the speed burst around the edge, but can use his quickness to squirt through small holes up the middle. He’s put on a bunch of muscle that should help here and with durability. Bryant is someone that impresses everyone. Cam just gets the job done with heart, smarts and great technique. Who can pick up the blitz may come to determine who spends more time on the field.

      1b. Mike Frank (ISD) allayed any fears about Tuitt. He said he looks rock solid, fast as ever, and incredibly intimidating. Apparently he has recovered from his operation and subsequent layoff and has used camp/practice to get into great shape.

      2. Not much hope for a material increase in arm strength or in long-range accuracy, but he should be better in all other categories.

      3. Agree. Let’s put the game away early and give experience/evaluation time to backups that will become important down the line.

  7. oldestguard - Aug 28, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    1) Carlisle – looking electric.

    2) Rees – able to be trusted.

    3) no stupid mistakes or turnovers, good pace of play, and….a decent punt return.

    • shaunodame - Aug 28, 2013 at 5:05 PM

      a decent punt return! AMEN!!

  8. ndgoldandblue - Aug 28, 2013 at 8:57 PM

    1) Amir Carlisle. Since he got to Notre Dame, everyone has been gushing about this kid’s talent. If he’s as good as everyone says he is, then he should get a lot of touches, either from the running back or the slot position.

    2) Regarding Tommy, I don’t think we’ve been duped. When it comes to being bigger and stronger, I think that’s pretty clear. As BK said, the guy can outbench Hendrix, so he’s obviously stronger. And just looking at him in interviews and in practice highlights, he looks bigger. When it comes to being more athletic and having more zip on his throws, my guess is some folks have exaggerated slightly. Improvements? Sure. Drastic changes? I doubt it.

    3) I’m going to go with Tommy Rees on this one, but not for the things that most people would expect. I don’t care if Tommy throws for over 300 yards and 4 touchdowns. He’s had big games against overmatched competition in the past. But if Tommy does a couple of things that could be considered Golson-esque, then my hopes for another BCS run will gain the ascendency over skepticism. I know that I shouldn’t expect it, but if Tommy completes a pass (or touchdown) of over 40 yards in the air and scrambles for a 15-20 yard gain, I’d think we’d have a chance to win it all.

    • ekalderf - Aug 28, 2013 at 11:49 PM

      Those are two huge “ifs”…. I for one will not hold my breath waiting for them to happen. If “ifs and buts” were candy and nuts every day would be xmas…No way TR all the sudden becomes something he’s not, just hope if doesn’t turn it over more than 1/2 as much as he produces tds.

      • irishpuma - Aug 29, 2013 at 12:49 AM

        Come on I will bug out to my underground prepper cave cuz the end of the world is coming. A 40 yard pass in the air??? May have happened once or twice in his career….a 20 yard scramble….not happening…both in the same game….Apocalyptic!

      • ndgoldandblue - Aug 29, 2013 at 1:56 PM

        I hear you both, and I agree 100% that the odds of something like that happening are miniscule. But everyone keeps talking about this new and improved Tommy. If we see a stronger-armed-more-fleet-of-foot Rees, then I love our chances of success this year.

  9. irishpuma - Aug 29, 2013 at 12:51 AM

    Reesus Mary and Joseph….Prediction 1.5 turnovers per game 1,900 yards 18 TD 10 Picks…8-4…..Assuming he gets to play all 12. Big assumption.

  10. irishpuma - Aug 30, 2013 at 1:51 AM

    ND Gold I agree if Rees is better then we are looking damn good! I just can’t see how he is and I completely hope he proves me wrong because we do have a special team and it is a small window in time to seize these opportunities. As great as the Holtz era was we only got one Natl Championship and got close to another. We all have been waiting so long and I for one don’t want to go back to the mediocre years.

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