Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Guest Blogger: The Return of Blue-Gray Sky

Blue-Gray Sky was an innovative blog that served as a template for many you see today. The crew there did a great job of mixing analysis, humor, and the passion of being a fan into a daily read. Sadly they hung it up earlier this year. Fortunately one of their founders, Jay, agreed to answer a few questions regarding this year's Notre Dame team. My questions and his answer below.

ATLEeagle: I've been very surprised by how much Kelly is passing. To me it seems like he is putting a lot on Crist's shoulders. Do you think there will be more emphasis on the run game this week or will Crist chuck it 40+ times again?

Blue-Gray Sky: Much of that is predicated on talent at hand. We have a novice, but capable quarterback in Crist, a very good tight end in Rudolph, a potential All-American wide receiver in Floyd. Add in a couple of exciting younger receivers in Theo Riddick and T.J. Jones, and it's natural to play to our strengths. Also, we're transitioning from a pro passing attack into a pass-first spread, so I think the continuation of passing is somewhat expected, no matter what Kelly might have claimed in the preseason.

I think the biggest issue right now in achieving balance is the precarious backup quarterback situation. We have no credible replacement for Crist, and after he got hurt against Michigan the backups promptly started throwing interceptions. I don't think Kelly wants to expose himself like that again, so he's erring on the side of caution in not running with Crist. The read option/quarterback keeper is an important cog in his offense, so the lack of a credible running threat at QB is definitely putting the kibosh on the running game.

ATLeagle: The Irish seem to have real problems stopping the run. Is it the new scheme or is it a talent issue? How do you think they will adjust this weekend?

Blue-Gray Sky: I know we're not doing a good job statistically, but keep in mind that Michigan, Michigan State, and Stanford are all top 20 rushing teams this year (especially Michigan), and in each game we held them to lower than their rushing average. Cold comfort, I know.

But I actually think we are improved -- or, improving. On runs up the middle, I think we look very stout, with hard-nosed sophomores Carlo Calabrese and Manti Teo cleaning things up. (Teo, by the way, had 21 tackles against Stanford. He's everywhere.) It's with the outside runs that we're having the most problems: we don't get to the edge fast enough, we take poor angles, and we don't get off our blocks well.

ATLEagle: You are only four games into the Brian Kelly era. How are you feeling about things? Are there any signs of what the future holds?

Blue-Gray Sky: I farmed this question out to some ND friends. Here are some selected quotes.

"I think it's way to early to make too formulate any feelings. We aren't that far away from 3-1, in fact we probably should be but can't say that I would feel much different. I am a little concerned that Kelly wasn't able to put MSU or Michigan away but that happens. I think how the team responds will tell us more about how Kelly's tenure turns out than the first 4 games."

"I don't think anyone can watch the last four games and come off with positive feelings about where our program is right now. Given that we're in a different offense, I hesitate to make comparisons on that side of the ball - although I think Dayne Crist looks good for a first year starter - but defensively, I think tackling is much improved from previous years. You don't see a lot of "throw the shoulder into the guy" type tackles anymore - the players wrap up and take them to the ground. That bodes well."

"Personally I think its far too early to make long term judgments on Kelly at ND at this point. History shows that even elite coaches need a year or two for their systems to take root. Saban lost to Louisiana-Monroe at home with a Crimson Tide roster that had their opponent outmanned at every position. Afterwards, he lamented, "I can't play my defense". It takes time. Carroll went 6-6 and had USC fans screaming for his head as well as Garrett's in 2001 for another failed hire."

"What comforts me is that unlike previous ND coaches, Kelly has done this before. He's not a rookie learning how to be a coach. He's a guy who has 20 years of experience at the CFB level. He knows the pitfalls, he knows what he wants to do, and he's been successful everywhere he's been. All we can do is sit, watch, and hope that his plan of action works."

ATLEagle: What is your prediction for the game?

Blue-Gray Sky: After hanging up my BGS jersey, and having been a front row witness to the last five years of Irish football, the only thing I can predict is that the game probably will not go according to any predefined script I have rattling around in my head. On paper, you'd have to think Boston College is the weaker squad coming in. I think ND should win the game, but as always in this series, it's best to chuck any expectations out the window.


mod34b said...

If ND passes 40+ times on our porous soft pass defense, that is going to be a problem.

If ND shuts down our run, and forces us to pass, we better hope Rettig is up for the task.

Key stats from last year:

M. Harris 22 rushes for 38 yards, an anemic 1.7 yards per carry; long 14 yards

Total BC rushing last year: 70 yards

ND knows how to stop BC's running game.

Like it or not, we need Rettig to pass well in order to open up the running game.

It going to be an exciting and memorable game, one way or another!

Brett said...

This is an odd question, but with Tranquil's clear inability to adapt and overly conservative play-calling with Marsco and Rettig's identity as a "gunslinger," is it at all possible that Rettig gets in the game and calls his own plays?

I know this should only happen in movies - freshman QB comes in and carries the team despite stubborn and boring coaching staff - but has it ever happened?

Clearly just trying to rationalize my fantasies. I'm very pessimistic about this game.

harrow said...

spaz has refuted the report that rettig is the starter according to weei interview

mod10aeagle said...

I haven't seen a down of ND football this year, so I have no idea what we're in for. However, the comment about ND being "stout" against the run up the middle doesn't give me a lot of confidence. VT's front seven were also concentrated between the tackles, but I don't recall BC making any effort to get the ball wide in a hurry, e.g. a quick pitch to get Montel or a quick WR slant. Those aren't in Tranq's book, apparently, and if Rettig really is going to start, that book is getting thinner this week, not thicker.

BCDoubleEagle said...

coverage map for the game:

Big Jack Krack said...

Brett - when I watched Doug Flutie "way back when", I had the distinct impression that he audibled many plays. In fact, I used to joke that when Bicknell made all of his hand signals, what he was really saying was "Make me look good, kid".

I guess it's a new day, but a QB should be able to change a play. Very difficult for a freshman, however. Plus the coaches wouldn't tolerate it long - unless of course the QB was successful and the fans were behind him.

Harrow - intersting comment on Spaz refuting the report on Rettig as the starter. If Spaz turns out to be a major waffler - a HC unable to make a decision - BC is in Deep Kimchee for sure. Head Coach Frank Waffliani and OC Gary (No imagination) Nyquil. Add that combo to an OL that can't block - wow.

Saturday night is supposed to be clear and autumn cool - be there in spirit if you can't be there in person. Go BC.

Sometimes a team has to find a way to win on its own!

evr2xl said...

Being in deep kimchee would be a delicious place to be.

BCDoubleEagle said...

I don't think Spaz is waffling, just trying to keep ND guessing and make them prepare for 2 QB's.

Bravesbill said...

Wouldn't Tranquil's game plan be the same for either Marsco or Rettig? Conservative, conservative, and even more conservative.

mod10aeagle said...

It's the one time Tranq may be unpredictable -- just when it's crystal clear that the offensive game plan simply must change, he keeps it the same! He's crazy like that. There's just no keeping up with how his mind is always working. Or not! See? Try planning for that, ND!

mod34b said...

I may have my games confused, but I believe Tranquil's opening play against ND last year was Shinskie faked the hand-off to Harris, and then stepped back and threw a long ball on the money to a wide open Larmond -- who dropped the ball!! So, Tranq may have a few tricks up his sleeve.

Did I "misremember" that?

evr2xl said...

We don't know if the initial reports that Rettig would start ever came from Spaz - more likely a GA or someone of the sort. So I don't think he can be accused of waffling in this instance.
Also, just for the sake of precision, he probably isn't refuting those reports to keep ND guessing, per se, since they already know it'll be either Rettig or Marsco and they have no way of preparing for Rettig. Anyway, they're similar style QBs so preparing for one is pretty much preparing for the other.

BCDoubleEagle said...

BC's first offensive play at ND last year was an incomplete pass to Harris.

1-10 BC 29 Shinskie, D pass incomplete to Harris, M.

mod34b said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mod34b said...

hmmm.. it must have been another game.

Big Jack Krack said...

BCDouble - I hope that's the case. I do not wish for my HC to have problems - I wish the guy the best. But by the same token, we've got to see some effort to improve each week. Coaching = teaching.

William said...

I'm a Long-time ND fan & (former) BGS addict. Know there tends to be some bad blood between our teams & fans, but you guys pulling Jay out of retirement, even if just for a moment, leaves me feeling indebted to BC! Tell Jay to come back, and bring the other BGS guys w/ him!

In all seriousness though, good luck to you guys this weekend. Your front 7 worries the hell outa me, and we face them just when our running game is looking its worst. Do us a favor and don't drop 8 into coverage like Stanford did, because apparently we can't handle that, passing OR running... sigh.

chris said...

I am an Ohio State fan and am here because of BGS. They were the first sports blog I followed and were fantastic.

Come back BGS, the college blogosphere misses you.

Andrew said...

Blue Gray Sky still runs neck 'n neck with Every Day Should Be Saturday as the greatest football ever written. It is missed. Too bad NBC didn't hire those guys to blog ND football full time. Thank you, ATLEAGLE for the long-missed treat of Jay's insights.