Friday notes: Everything but independence… almost

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Nothing like a little conference talk to get Notre Dame fans nice and riled up about football as the Irish basketball team makes a pretty incredible run. Mike Brey’s resurgence is pretty incredible. What next, fashionable mock turtlenecks?

Here are a few notes on everything but conference affiliations:

* While Notre Dame’s 2011 date at FedEx Field became official this week, the Chicago Tribune reported that the Irish were aiming at a game in Solider Field next.

“We were solely focused on getting (2011) closed out, but having now achieved that we will turn in earnest to nailing down the off-site game in ’12,” Swarbrick said. “Our starting point for that effort is to see if we can find the right opponent and date for a game in Chicago.”

If there’s a location that’s an absolute no-brainer for a neutral site game, this is it. Even if the Irish put Illinois on the schedule, I’d expect Notre Dame to have a home-field advantage in Soldier Field. The 2012 schedule tentatively has the Irish opening up against Navy in Dublin, Ireland (start saving your frequent flier miles for that one), and also a big nonconference matchup with Oklahoma, and a date at Arizona State. Who they’d get to play in Chicago is anyone’s guess, but I’m hoping it’s a non-traditional opponent, or perhaps someone like Northwestern, though I’d be surprised if the ‘Cats actually scheduled a out of conference game against a team like Notre Dame.

* It’s that time of year where Wonderlic scores are leaked, though never officially released. Jimmy Clausen reportedly scored a 23 on the test, well below that of Sam Bradford, who reportedly scored a 36, just behind Colt McCoy at 25, and just ahead of Tim Tebow who had a 22.

Color me unimpressed by every score but Bradford’s, and if I’m a quarterback, I’m spending just as much time prepping for the Wonderlic as I am for drills like the forty-yard-dash and bench press. While a high score isn’t necessarily a great predictor for NFL success, I think it helps a team feel a lot better about dropping $30 million on a quarterback if they think he’s got a good head on his shoulders. Football smarts might be different than classroom smarts, but I’m surprised that Team Clausen didn’t have Jimmy better prepared.

* Here’s a great note from Brian Hamilton’s story about winter workouts, and a good look at Kelly’s coaching style.

An unnamed player who ceaselessly barked in workouts that he could run a
4.5 40-yard dash. So the drills stopped. Out came four stopwatches.

And the player ran a 4.85-second dash in front of the entire team.

“Strengths and weaknesses,” Kelly said between sips of coffee Tuesday
morning. “You can’t be a great leader until you’re humble enough to
know you have some strengths and weaknesses.”

If there’s one thing about Brian Kelly that I’m really optimistic about, it’s his ability to humble his players and get them back down to reality. While I never picked it up then, it’s easy to see how Charlie Weis’ players might have picked up the perceived arrogance of their coach, especially with the early success they achieved. Expect that to be out of their system by the time Longo Beach rolls around.

* Looking for your chance to see the Irish in action for the first time during the Brian Kelly era? Blue-Gold game tickets are on sale at the Notre Dame ticket office. The game will be held April 24th at 1:30 p.m. in Notre Dame Stadium. There’s plenty of time to break down what we’ll see during the intrasquad game, but I expect a large crowd to make their way to South Bend for their first look at Kelly’s Irish.

* Received a few emails from readers about the conference conversation and I haven’t heard anything overly compelling yet. If you emailed me, I apologize about the lack of response, but trust me, you’re on the weekend to-do list.