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Friday at 4: Goodbye A-to-Z, Hello 99-to-2

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If he didn’t start it, the Associated Press’s Ralph Russo certainly furthered the “It’s always football season” ethos this offseason. Wait, that’s the whole point. There is no football offseason. It’s always football season.

Russo has used this line to convey news, such as when Northern Illinois hired Jordan Lynch, the former Heisman Trophy finalist, as its running backs coach March 8. It’s always football season.

He has also used it to relay some wit, even if at Notre Dame’s expense. It should be noted: The wit was accurate.

Russo is right, literally. Two days before the 2016 football season actually ended, some had already begun organized practices for 2017.

It’s always football season.

If not truly always, there is hardly an offseason. From tomorrow (Saturday, the 13th), there are 85 days to August 6. Why is Aug. 6 of note? Notre Dame commenced fall practice that day each of the last two years. Why is 85 of note? That is also how many scholarships a FBS team is allotted.

If you discussed one scholarship player a day, you would run out exactly when the Irish took the field to begin official preparations for Temple. Convenient how that works out, isn’t it?

This sounds familiar. It sounds like something Keith Arnold worked on for a number of years. If memory serves correctly, he was even concerned about its future when he left this space.

Keith: So what’s the plan with the blog? … Keep the A-to-Z series rolling?

Douglas: I do not intend to outright abandon any institution or established series you have devoted years to. Thus, I would expect A-to-Z to continue in some form.

Indeed, A-to-Z will live on in spirit, but its name and structure shall change. Beginning tomorrow, a player (or players, but we’ll get to that) a day in the order of 99-to-2, otherwise known as Tillery-to-Williams.

There are both pros and cons to this shift. By using jersey number to order dispersal, players within positional groups will, for the most part, follow each other. This should create added pertinence within each entry. Discussing rising sophomore defensive end Ade Ogundeji (91) shortly after senior end Jay Hayes (93) makes more sense than following Hayes with junior offensive lineman Tristen Hoge (66).

Hopefully, the countdown will be a bit more fun, giving context to how far away the season is. Sure, everyone knows ‘S’ is near the end of the alphabet, but one may not realize there are six Irish players with last names beginning with ‘T’ and six more with ‘W’. Perhaps Durham Smythe shouldn’t necessarily signal the nearing of football season. Contrarily, the discussion of sophomore cornerback Troy Pride will indicate there are no more than 18 players before the end of the series and, thus, the start of fall practice.

Lastly, this 99-to-2 twist allows the fulfillment of the promise made “In That Corner.” This continues the series in an ever-so-slightly different form.

Unfortunately, some idiot milked every drop of spring practice material for content, thus preventing this series from starting two weeks ago. Matching Tillery’s No. 99 with 99 days until new content is available would have been a smoother move. But can you really blame that idiot? Spring practices provided the last-known collection of new material until, well, until about Aug. 6.

About.

Aug. 6 should be viewed as nothing more than an estimate based on the last two years’ of fall practices. Considering it lands on a Sunday, Notre Dame will almost assuredly start practice a few days earlier or later than that.

With that in mind, some days may receive two posts. Both senior center Sam Mustipher and sophomore defensive end Khalid Kareem wear No. 53. Checking in on Mustipher in the morning and Kareem in the afternoon does not seem outlandish. The same goes for junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush and senior cornerback Nick Watkins, both at No. 7.

And, as of now, 16 of the freshmen numbers are not known. That figure rises to 17 when considering graduate transfer Freddy Canteen. How do they fit into a 99-to-2 approach? A little bit of educated guessing. Canteen wore No. 17 at Michigan. Until further notice, he is slotted in there. Some time spent looking at the current roster gives a vague idea of where the freshmen will end up. If those placements prove wrong—and the mere odds indicate they will be off by at least a bit—there is no real harm as long as every player is accounted for at some point.

If you feel there is harm, here is some bad news for you: This space is by no means a democracy. Only the form of this series has changed. Its function remains the same.

If sophomore Jamir Jones (44) following classmate Jonathan Jones (45) by a day rather than vice versa is going to keep you up at night, it may be time to invest in a large bottle of melatonin.

99-to-2, Tillery-to-Williams. Consider it the price paid for Arnold-to-Farmer.

QUICK INTERESTING TRIVIA
From the SportSource analytics’ Twitter handle (@SportSourceA) …

Over the last 10 years, what three FBS programs have won eight or more games each season?

That would be Boise State, LSU and Oklahoma. If you are convinced Alabama belongs in that mix, the Crimson Tide won only seven games in Nick Saban’s first year there, a full 10 years ago. Since then, Alabama has won at least 10 games each season.

PSA
Sunday is Mother’s Day. Don’t say this space never did anything for you. If you call right now, when this posted at 4 p.m. ET on Friday, you just might be able to still convince the florist to deliver a hanging plant for your mom’s backdoor steps.

If not, well then, you’ll be written out of the will. It happens. Considering it is currently late Friday afternoon, you should know what to do with your misplaced miseries.