Guest Blogger: Blue-Gray Sky
Charlie Weis is in year 5 but do any of us have a good feel of what to expect. The Irish have improved from the past two years, but are they for real? To get a better feel of what we will face, I've asked Jay from Blue-Gray Sky a few questions about the Irish. His answers are below.
ATLeagle: Jimmy Clausen is playing very well and living up to the hype. Last year BC played a lot of zone and forced him to make tight throws. Do you see a similar scheme working this year? When the Notre Dame has bogged down this year, what have been the causes?
BGS: I think the BC game last year was sort of an emblematic event for Jimmy in 2008, in that he threw a few terrible interceptions into coverage that were just plain mis-reads on his part. He's really cleaned that up this year, to the extent that there's really only been one "terrible" throw all year (the ill-advised swing to Allen -- a lateral, really -- that got returned for a touchdown by Washington). He's reading coverages very well, and his two interceptions weren't really his fault: one bounced off of Allen's hands and to a defender, and the other was a half-ending heave on a Hail Mary to the end zone.
I'm sure your defense will disguise coverages and try to duplicate the success you had last year against him, but he has really grown in his ability to read and make the right decision. And let's not forget that a big part of your defensive gameplan last year involved Brace and Raji blowing up our OL; those guys are gone, and our OL seems much improved anyway. So I think you'll have your hands full on defense.
ATLeagle: I am sort of amazed how everyone but Nevada has been able to move the ball on the Irish. There's talent there and Tenuta has a good track record. What has been the problem with the defense?
BGS: poor tackling, missed assignments, "no" assignments (in the case of USC tight end Anthony McCoy, who seemed to run around all day unhindered), and a seeming backslide in production by our defensive backs. The secondary was supposed to be the strength of the D, but they've allowed many a "quarterback of the week" performances from opposing signalcallers this year. It's a mystery; in fact, it's probably the biggest mystery being discussed by Irish fans all over. I will say that the poor performance is not for lack of trying to find the right mix on defense; Tenuta and Corwin Brown have been shuttling such a high number of players in and out of position as the year has gone on, sometimes it looks like a hockey shift change. This week, for instance, expect to see Harrison Smith start splitting time at free safety for the first time all year. The DL rotation has been hot and heavy. And Manti Teo supplanted Toryan Smith at starting linebacker four games into the season. They're trying everything, but I suspect it is scheme-related as much as personnel-related. And back to tackling for a second: it's been piss poor. That, at least, is something they can improve on with practice and focus.
ATLeagle: Although there has clearly been progress and improvement from 2007 and 2008, to outside observers, it still seems like Notre Dame fans are divided on Charlie Weis' tenure and future in Notre Dame. I also know how much of your
fanbase strongly dislikes BC. Does that make this game a "must win" for him to keep his job?
BGS: I don't think it's overstating it to say that every game for the rest of the regular season is a "must win" for Charlie. A close loss to an 8-1 Pitt team might be forgiven, but any other is a hanging offense, including this Saturday.
What is your prediction for the game?
BGS: After winning and losing five games in a row by a touchdown or less, we're officially out of the prediction business for this Irish team. I think it could be another heart-stopper, though. We shall see.