April 21, 2006

No more Irish to kick around anymore

Growing up a Notre Dame fan, I have to admit I can usually see the downside of an event that should be happening tomorrow. Jimmy Clausen is a highly touted prep quarterback who is expected to announce his decision to sign with the Irish. Clausen apparently will make his decision while in town visiting the campus for the annual Blue-Gold (and Red and Green) Game.

Here is my take on the news: First, the quarterback competition will be fierce in 2007 after Brady Quinn departs after this season. Zach Fraser and Demetrius Jones were already highly touted quarterbacks who signed with the Irish and will hit campus this fall. Clausen did say he hopes to enroll early and participate in spring ball next year.

So here is the quandary. I count three quarterbacks and one ball. Look for the third-most quarterback to transfer after spring ball next year. I have just a hunch that unless Demetrius Jones accepts a position transfer, then it will be Jones looking for another campus.

On the flip side, as an Irish fan, I am giddy. I was in heaven when Holtz was in his heyday in South Bend but then suffered with the Davieham Years – the struggling, bumbling, fumbling Irish. Touchdown drives were more of a result of planetary alignment more than any play-calling prowess. Defense was just as it is today – bend but break. Athletes like Clausen were headed to other outposts without considering South Bend. We were lucky to get about one or two guys to be excited about, but mainly I had to just read about what great character of kids we were getting. Oh, and their stats were decent, too. I am not saying suddenly Charlie Weis resembles Jimmy Johnson and we’re pulling in renegades, but rather I get to hear stats and numbers before hearing about their character (which mainly has been good).

What all does this mean? I love watching the media squirm. Look, Notre Dame is either loved or hated. Mark May? Hater. Beano Cook? Loves us. But more importantly, it’s the CBS Sportsline and ESPN.com hacks that used to butcher the Irish that now have to report the turnaround. No longer are the Irish the Great Paradox – a fading program, but a big win if you beat them. The Irish are on their way back. This time its for real. I can remember life after some of the Davieham better years and the recruiting classes that followed never capitalized on the momentum, especially Ty Willingham’s 10-3 debut. Charlie Weis has ended that. I expect that Clausen’s signing will boost Notre Dame to another highly respected class. I also wouldn’t be surprised if another visitor or two this weekend verbal right along with him.

More importantly, you can sense the momentum gaining by reading columns around the country. Suddenly, the Irish aren’t a punch line. Weis and the team still have work to do before fans like me can get cocky. The defense is still a huge question mark heading into the 2006 season. The offense will now have a year’s worth of game tape available to the country to inspect and devise defenses. Michigan, Tennessee, and Ohio State still shut down the offense, but the Irish pulled out two of the games. The talent level is not elite yet, but with the signing of Clausen it does feel like its getting there – in a hurry.

Genius. Motivator. Winner. (Yes, I have a man-crush.)

If anything, Charlie did accomplish his goal in 2005 in that the attitude is completely different. The team believes in itself and now they are simply stockpiling the talent. Good attitude + elite talent can only equal future glory.

It’s about time, because the Holtz-era video clips need to be retired with more new memories.


Ben said...

Good stuff. I can imagine the nd nation's excitement with the Clausen commit.

However, I'm curious to hear your take on the theatrics associated with it. As a tradition-laden program with expectations of honor and integrity, are you embarassed?

Or, do you simply feel that these kind of media stunts will be necessary for Chuck in order to get the ball rolling with recruiting and marketing the program again?

The College Game said...

Yeah, it was a bit over the top, however, I have no worries about Charlie being able to bring him back to Earth once he hits campus. He is a good signing, but "the LeBron James" of football? Uh, no.

Ben said...

Yeah, some of the Clausen butt-licking may ironically formulate his demise.

I know most defensive front sevens want a piece of him. I've even heard rumors that he's not exactly a popular guy with the current ND roster.

In either event, even if he's a huge bust, he's going to put your recruiting over the top this year.

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Heavenly time period: College football season until the championship game of March Madness.