Mailbag: Part 2 (A-to-Z, Ishaq, CJ and more)

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Happy Monday to you all. Hope everybody is enjoying the fireworks at the Old Course, with one of the more interesting leaderboards I can ever remember.

But golf? That’s not why you guys are here. So let’s finish the mailbag before we get back to our regularly scheduled programming.

 

@AndrewWinn: 29 profiles of #NDFB players complete for Irish A-to-Z series 56+ players to go 50 days untill kickoff. Can he do it?!

I’m plowing away. It’s both suicidal and fun—a great way to get yourself familiarized with a roster that has a ton of talent on it… and enflame your carpal tunnel.

But don’t worry, I’ve got a handful of profiles mostly written, so while it looks like I’m only on Jay Hayes, I’m waaaaay ahead — (who am I kidding?). But we’ve got a lot left to do this summer, finishing up the Offseason Q&As and another Top 25 ranking of the roster.

 

ncdomer: When Kelly talked about the academic challenges our players face, he referred to “playing on the road, playing night games, getting home at 4 o’clock in the morning” Missing a whole night of sleep sounds like an athletic challenge for the next week too. Why doesn’t the team spend the night after a late road game?

I wondered that for a while, too. But I’m guessing it’s a matter of cost—both money and time. It’s not an inconsequential number to pay for another night in a top-flight hotel for 70 players, 20 coaches and staff members, and a contingency of school officials as well.

Plus, for anybody who travels from the West Coast back to South Bend, you loose a ton of day in the air, so while you’d probably get to sleep that night in your hotel, you’ve put yourself back to campus much later on Sunday than you’d want.

Now throw in things like treatment, film review, prep for the following week’s game… and you really don’t have the luxury of giving away that night, just so you can sleep for an extra few hours.

 

domer521: Summer school ends July 24. How soon after that will we learn Ishaq Williams fate ?

As Brian Kelly pointed out, this is an NCAA issue now. So I’m putting the window at roughly 48 hours before opening kickoff against Texas. (I wish I was kidding.)

While the details of this situation are still really hard to pin down, Williams is likely dealing with some retroactive GPA issues, especially if there were multiple courses in question. But the fact that Notre Dame is working (and I’m assuming, on Williams’ behalf) with the folks in Indianapolis about a way to get Williams back on the field is at least promising.

I’m hoping it works out for Williams, who I still think has an NFL future, even if he only spends the season on the scout team.

 

twebb2: Hey Keith, can you talk about the special teams at some point, especially kick returns and punt returns? This seems to be one of those lingering problems of the Kelly era (like, “Is this the year Ishaq finally breaks out?” – hah)… do you think we’ll make some progress on special teams this year?

For as evergreen as this question seems, complaining about Notre Dame’s special teams under BK also seems like a rite of preseason camp.

I actually think Notre Dame’s special teams were vastly improved last year, but after the Brindza/holder meltdown, you tend to forget about the nifty returns Greg Bryant had and the much improved work on coverage units that we saw from Scott Booker’s troops.

I know, you didn’t ask about coverage teams or kickers. (And you really didn’t complain, either.) But I expect someone like CJ Sanders to come in and potentially add some electricity to the return game, and it sure feels like CJ Prosise would be a fun guy to see get an opportunity as a kickoff return man.

I was not a big fan of George Atkinson as a kickoff returner. While he had a few home runs, he lost me with the tip-toeing, the fastest way to take a 10.3 100-meter sprinter and turn him into a slow-poke. But I’d be surprised if Amir Carlisle was back returning kicks again this year, and I’d hope that Kelly and Booker would be open to giving a young player like Sanders a shot at impacting a game in the third phase, especially when snaps look tough to earn.

 

irishsoccerfirst: Keith, it appears that we have more depth than at any time in recent memory. Can we use this depth to our advantage on game day or is it more important as an insurance policy in the case of injuries? I remember reading that one of the keys to the Seattle defense is rotating D line by series. Supposedly, the fresh linemen are more likely to get pressure on the QB without placing so much reliance on blitzing.

I don’t think there’s anybody inside the Gug who wants to create depth for an insurance policy. I suspect they agree with you, and hope that Notre Dame is able to play as many bodies as possible, especially up front on defense. While there’s been growing grumbling about the Irish staff’s inability to land impact defensive linemen, I’m looking at a front seven that has the most depth we’ve seen in the last 10-15 years.

Now we have to see if that depth is good depth, and if last year’s experience for guys like Jay Hayes, Jacob Matuska, Daniel Cage, Andrew Trumbetti and Grant Blankenship will help in 2015.

I’m not sure we’ll find many similarities between Pete Carroll’s Seahawk defense and the group of guys Notre Dame runs out there. And while depth is helpful for Seattle, so is elite personnel. The Irish have two guys that most think can be elite on the defensive line (Sheldon Day and Jarron Jones). They have a great linebacking corps that can supplement if the pass rush needs it.

But the key to depth is to be able to use it on your own terms. If Notre Dame can do that, it’ll mean Brian VanGorder’s defense looks a lot like the group that started the season, not the one that ended it.

 

smsetnor: Can we just give some love to AJ Pollock? The is an MVP candidate who plays an excellent centerfield and is hitting at a solid clip. I get irritated whenever I see the D-backs sit the guy because he should play every day.

You said it! All-Star game appearance, hitting .300 and filling out the stat sheet. I don’t play fantasy baseball anymore, but those stolen bases and runs scored sure look mighty nice.