The newest iteration of professional spring football will fall short of satiating college football fans’ offseason hunger for the same reasons as its predecessors: It lacks the talent of the NFL and the absurdity of college football. The USFL may well serve as adequate background noise, but that has never been the role of college football.
College football may have more in common with professional wrestling than it does the USFL. As much as the action the field, the hijinx, the oddities, the rabid fan bases are what draw our attention, if not more so.
At Notre Dame just last week, those off-field dynamics reached a new mark of comedy when Ed Orgeron visited an Irish spring practice.
Yes, that Ed Orgeron, who served as USC’s head coach when Notre Dame beat the Trojans, 14-10, in 2013. A coach who spent 11 years at USC across two different stints was brought into an Irish practice with open arms.
Go ahead, try to understand the world we live in.
Orgeron visiting various programs this year is not abnormal. Many coaches do that in the year following a firing. They can collect their buyout money while they network and stay in touch with the game, so when they do decide to take over another program, they still have fresh connections in the coaching community.
In Orgeron’s case, bringing his sons with him helps their networking, as well, with one son an offensive analyst at Louisiana-Lafayette and another an offensive intern at Miami.
“I wanted to show them what Notre Dame was and be around,” Orgeron said last week. “It was the first time I got to come in and enjoy being around campus. Going into that Stadium, going to battle and having great memories — yesterday, when we drove up to the Stadium to see the locker room, we went right, I’m used to going to the left.”
— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) April 12, 2022
Set aside Orgeron’s typical motivational speaking abilities. His appearance was not because of those. Rather, walking through the number of things that had to happen in the last two years is to outline a story that even professional wrestling would not attempt to claim as reality.
— A pandemic needed to propel Notre Dame into the ACC for a season to create an Irish path to the College Football Playoff and make Brian Kelly again a possible top-line coaching candidate.
— Derek Mason needed to go 0-9 to lose his job at Vanderbilt, where he had once shown some promise. Again, the pandemic forcing the Commodores into an SEC-only schedule further doomed Mason’s prospects.
— Clark Lea needed to take the job at his alma mater.
— Marcus Freeman needed to spurn LSU in favor of Notre Dame as Orgeron and Kelly both chased the then-Cincinnati defensive coordinator.
“I think he liked LSU,” Orgeron said. “I think it was a family decision to stay up here. He has six kids and a beautiful wife and it’s hard to move them to the south. Notre Dame is a great school. It looks like he made the right decision to me.”
But we’re not done.
— Jimbo Fisher and Texas A&M needed to upset Alabama this season, leading to the Aggies boosters doubling down on Fisher as their head coach.
— Cincinnati needed to beat Notre Dame in early October to keep the Bearcats in the Playoff chase into December and head coach Luke Fickell committed to that dream.
— Orgeron needed to be fired in record time following a national championship at LSU.
— Lincoln Riley needed to turn down LSU to bolt Oklahoma for the USC job.
— Kelly needed to take the LSU gig even though Notre Dame was still somewhat in the Playoff chase.
— Irish director of athletics Jack Swarbrick needed to promote Freeman to head coach, thereby creating the personal connection at Notre Dame for Orgeron to reach out to.
It is these ebbs and flows, these narratives, these twists that make college football fun. They do not matter on the field in the slightest, but they are what differentiates this game from the USFL.
SPEAKING OF THE USFL …
Yes, that is Bob Diaco who is the defensive line coach for the New Jersey Generals.
And yes, NBC and Fox aired the same game at the same time on Saturday night, an unprecedented approach in broadcasts in the last 50 years. Let’s file that away for another conversation later this spring …
AN IRISH DE-COMMITMENT
Notre Dame lost the pledge of consensus four-star cornerback Justyn Rhett (Bishop Gorman High School; Las Vegas) over the weekend. The No. 53 prospect in the class and No. 7 cornerback, per rivals.com, Rhett was reportedly visiting Georgia this weekend.
Rhett committed to the Irish in December, a year before he can put figurative pen to paper. That will be a challenge for Notre Dame with plenty of top recruits under Freeman’s edict to prioritize recruiting above all else. Other schools still chase players, even after they have committed.
The Irish have eight commitments in the class of 2023 currently, with two defensive backs still included in consensus four-stars Peyton Bown and Adon Shuler.
Still hoping someone out there wants to drive me to Midway from South Bend on Saturday, leaving at ~4 ET. Come on, y'all, help out a Wolves fan.
— Douglas Farmer (@D_Farmer) April 18, 2022
INSIDE THE IRISH
— Turnovers to determine Notre Dame’s QB battle; notes on Ohio State, Tennessee State and Brian Kelly
— Notre Dame adds former four-star Indiana signee, RB Gi’Bran Payne, to incoming freshman class
— Leadership, route running keep Notre Dame TE Michael Mayer improving despite rampant successes already
30s today, 70s on Saturday for the Blue-Gold Game pic.twitter.com/nXCoSEN7z3
— Brian Fremeau (@ndfremeau) April 18, 2022
— Brian Kelly, LSU and a $100 Million Gamble
— Malik Willis, Kyle Hamilton among 21 prospects who’ll attend 2022 NFL Draft
— What is a typical Notre Dame athlete’s day REALLY like? I asked one
— The Shirt 2022 to be unveiled in person on April 22
— Fox, NBC to use drones, helmet cameras for USFL coverage
Hamilton's o/u draft position is 9.5 or 10.5 depending on the book (I played over 9.5 on Friday at -120)
I think there is a good chance Hamilton is available at 11 https://t.co/A2m5NHqyWP
— Tim Murray (@1TimMurray) April 18, 2022