Our weekly Irish Blogger Gathering is a little late this week, but I’ve got a good excuse. Or not really a good excuse, but so be it — it’s bye week, people.
That said, I did want to take a brief moment and acknowledge the retirement of noted Notre Dame blogger The Subway Domer. He decided to hang up the keyboard after a great run that lasted almost seven years.
One of the greatest parts of my job is the near daily interaction I have not just with commenters and readers but with the blogging “community” that exists surrounding Notre Dame football. There isn’t a day that goes by — or maybe even an hour — where I’m not checking other peoples blogs, messageboards, Twitter feeds, etc. That very well might be a disease that I’ll one day need to kick, but it’s a really cool group to be a part of, even though as a guy that’s collecting a paycheck to do this, I’m just lucky people want to include me.
In an era where thousands of blogs get started and left for dead after the idea wears off, that Joshua was able to keep the train rolling for so long, and do it in such a unique and funny way, is a testament to how good he is at it. He’ll still be on Twitter, and I hope he’ll still be selling his t-shirts (I plan on wearing my purple faced Brian Kelly T this weekend in Vegas), but the blogosphere will miss him, even if he does bring up a few red flags in language filters all across Corporate America’s I.T. departments.
It was Joshua’s idea to start the IBG and it’ll live on without him. But he’s one of the cool people I got a chance to “know” without meeting, a really large group that I’m happy to call friends, even if my wife does think it’s weird.
Onward to the IBG, where Frank over at UHND.com answered my questions. As usual, here are the other participants in the weekly excitement:
As usual, play along in the comments.
1) Who’s your first-half MVP on offense and defense? Rookie of the Year Offensive Defense?
First half MVP on offense would have to be TJ Jones. Jones has really stepped into the role of being a #1 receiver for this team and has been huge in Notre Dame’s wins over Temple and Arizona State and had a gutty performance against Michigan after getting banged up early on. Jones is going to crush his personal bests for catches, yards, and touchdowns and in fact he already has tied his career mark for touchdowns. It’s scary to think of what Jones may have been able to do this year if he had Everett Golson throwing him the football, but even without Golson, Jones is well on his way to the best season of his career and could easily eclipse the 1,000 yard mark given the level of competition the Irish will face down the stretch outside of Stanford.
Offensive rookie of the year is tough because we’ve seen a couple frosh show flashes of their potential but not much consistency yet. Tarean Folston, Corey Robinson, and Will Fuller have all made a few plays so far but haven’t been too consistent. With that in mind, I will go with Steve Elmer here. Elmer’s been a very solid backup in the offensive line rotation and should give Irish fans a lot of hope that the left tackle position will be in very capable hands after Zack Martin moves on the NFL after this year.
Defensively, I’ll go with Louis Nix. Even though his stats aren’t eye popping and his presence may not be as visible as it was last year, Nix has been doing exactly what he needs to do in this defense – eating up space, occupying blockers, and creating opportunities for plays for his fellow defenders. With the drop off in production from Stephon Tuitt after his off-season surgery and the big plays the secondary has given up that they didn’t a year ago, Nix’s presence might not be felt as much as it was a year ago, but Big #1 is doing his job very well this year.
Rookie of the year on defense is easy. Jaylon Smith. Through the first few weeks Smith showed flashes of his 5-star potential, but against Arizona State it was on full display. This kid is going to be a big time player for the Irish and is going to make a lot of plays throughout his career.
2) Give me your high-water mark after the first six games? What’s been rock bottom?
Sadly, I think the high water mark might be the first five minutes of the first game of the year against Temple. Notre Dame came storming out of the gates during the first five minutes of the season and it looked like we might finally have a high flying offense on our hands. That ended up not lasting too long unfortunately as the offense has struggled to maintain that level of success since then. Notre Dame hasn’t really had an impressive, start to finish victory where the outcome was never in doubt and has fallen behind quickly most weeks.
Notre Dame’s 4th quarter flurry against Purdue was a lot of fun, but it’s tough to qualify that as a high water mark since it came against a pretty brutal Purdue team and the Irish should have never been in that situation to begin with so it was more a sigh of relief than anything else.
There’s been a few great plays that were exciting at the time, but since the Irish were unable to capitalize on momentum after them, they wouldn’t necessarily qualify as high water marks. I’m thinking of Tuitt’s interception in the endzone against Michigan and George Atkinson’s long touchdown against Oklahoma. Unfortunately Notre Dame never got any closer in those contests than they did at those points though so those moments were pretty short lived.
3) You have a magic potion that improves one specific player on the Irish roster 25%. Who are you using it on and what will that improvement do for the Irish?
My initial reaction to this one was Tommy Rees since I really think this offense is an elite quarterback away from being prolific, but I’m not sure that improving him 25% would turn him into an elite quarterback. Still, if Rees were to just cut down on the mental mistakes and had the arm strength to hit the deep balls that he has consistently under thrown all season – especially in the Arizona State game – this offense would have put up a lot more points this season and the Irish would very likely be 5-1 at worst heading into the bye.
One other name that popped into my head was Stephon Tuitt since I think it’s pretty clear Tuitt is feeling the effects of his off-season surgery and the time he lost in the weight room. He just isn’t the same dominant player that he was a year ago. If he was, this defense would not be giving up points at the rate in which they are right now and the Irish pass rush would not have been one of the worst in the country heading into last week before their 6 sack breakout against the Sun Devils.