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Old 12-01-2019, 01:01 PM   #1
IrishLax
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State of the Program

Let's talk big picture and look beyond Brian Kelly. What are people's general thoughts on the season? Will it matter to you how ND does in the Camping World Bowl against Texas?

It's hard to argue that with ND winning 10+ games in four out of the five past seasons and three years in a row means that the program is healthier, right now, than at any other point post-Holtz. They have also taken 4 out of 5 from USC, which is the only real rivalry game ND has. If you count all trophy games, Notre Dame over the past five seasons has generally excelled there too... yes, even accounting for the 4-8 abomination.

Looking at the offense, it's a forgone conclusion that Chip Long is gone. How the offense performed over the past few weeks in Tommy Rees' audition means to me that they should go to some sort of a collaboration between Rees, Kelly, and Quinn rather than start over from square one. That also means going back to more zone blocking on the OL rather than some of the nonsense we saw last year and the first eight games of this year. They are wasting some talented players, and also exposing the untalented ones. Losing Claypool is big, and despite what Kmet said I expect him and Book to also move on. So then what? Well, if Austin is back and plays as advertised I expect the group of receivers next year to be dangerous. You're talking about Austin, Johnson, Lenzy, and Keys in slot as the guys you would pencil in right now... and then people shouldn't sleep on Watts or Brunelle. I would be surprised if ND doesn't have a prolific, big play offense next year regardless of whether Book comes back. They are finally starting to upgrade talent on that side of the ball, and I think Tyler Buchner has almost unlimited potential. The single most important thing to ND's future might be making sure Buchner signs here 13 months from now.

Looking at the defense, ND needs to keep Clark Lea as long as possible. I would even be OK with "head coach in waiting" or other nonsense. Boy, did ND get lucky that Elko left for A&M. Lea is as good of a defensive coach as you can find. Elston also has built unbelievable depth on the DL. Biggest area where improvement is needed? Corners and linebackers. Need to upgrade talent at both positions. But it's crazy to watch ND have the injuries they had... losing two studs like Hayes and Okwara, for example... and then not really miss a beat. The ND defense has come so far from the Weis years and the excuses of how ND "can't" recruit that side of the ball. It is now the group that carries ND.

There are two areas where the program needs to improve if they're going to take the "next step":
1. Recruiting - Need more Tyree, Johnson, Buchner types. Really that simple. You layer four classes in a row that have a handful of 5-star players and then you can really compete with a Clemson or Alabama without needing to have the ball bounce your way.
2. Big road games - ND needs to figure out why they sometimes just implode on the road. It's preparation or it's mental or it's something... but there is no excuse for Miami '17 and Michigan '19. ND now excels at protecting home field advantage... but the difference between "good" and "great" comes down to the ability to go on the road and beat an elite team. ND can't get blown out by good-not-great teams and expect people to take them seriously as a contender.

I think regardless of how much longer Kelly stays, ND now has the foundation in place to be competitive on a yearly basis. It's up to the administration to ensure that they continue to operate at this level and that there isn't a Monk Malloy 2.0 after Jenkins that tries to kill the football program. We are already seeing with student apathy that being an elite national university means you're attracting a lot of students who are just prestige whores and don't care about football or ND tradition. As long as the administration doesn't lose their way, I think ND is set up for an extended run of quality football as long as they don't overthink the "next" hire. You are often better going with a good fit Lincoln Riley or Ryan Day than a "big name" like Jim Harbaugh. A resume doesn't win football games.
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Old 12-01-2019, 01:10 PM   #2
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Good thoughts overall and I agree with much of it. For me, the season was an overall success and the program is finally in a state of consistency. I think the only thing holding us back is elite playmakers on offense. I really think that the staff, with the right personnel, can take this program up a notch. They need to recruit elite athletes every cycle.
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Old 12-01-2019, 01:36 PM   #3
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I think the state of the program is doing much better than people think.

Concerning BK-- I think he retires here. If ND were to get a new head coach your starting all over with a new plan, culture, etc.

Concerning the offense-- it all starts at the QB position. We all know the talk in the off season will be Book vs. Jurkovec. If Book comes back I think Jurkovec leaves. I think Chip Long needs to go, bring in fresh blood.

Concerning the defense-- Mike Elko who? Coach Lea has been a blessing and if I am ND I make him the 2nd highest paid coach on the staff. I think the ceiling is higher for Lea at ND.

Concerning the recruiting-- I like this staff and they are brining in the right kids that fit their style for the program. You win some and lose some. We can't get them all.

Right now, Kelly is the right coach for this team. If not, who ya gonna get?
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Old 12-01-2019, 01:43 PM   #4
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(1) Yes, they need to win their bowl game. It doesnít matter who they play. Whoever they are matched up with will be a lesser opponent, so for the optics, a victory is important. If they win that game, the season is for sure a success.

(2) Iím slow on this, but has it been confirmed for sure that Rees has been calling plays on offense?

(3) It is going to be tough to keep Lea. Like really tough. Also, Elston is a boss. He has been very loyal to ND and I have a lot of respect for him.

(4) Are you basing Book leaving on his body language / sound bites or is it pretty much a done deal in the circles that know? If so, why? He will be a guaranteed starter next season with plenty of weapons and a chance to continue building on his resume. Heís proved that he hasnít quite hit his ceiling.

Great thread!
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Old 12-01-2019, 01:43 PM   #5
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Overall this is the healthiest Iíve seen the program (I was just a kid during the Holtz era). If I were to give a grade it would be a B+. It would have been an A- if we were competitive against Michigan.

Iíve said it before but Mike Elston is the most underrated coach on the staff. He deserves every praise and accolade for our success.

Coaches who are coaching at an A grade are Lea, Elston and Taylor. I know the RBís didnít have a lot of success but I think he got the most out of them this year and his recruiting has already upgraded from Denson.

Coaches who are in the B range are Lyght, Alexander, Rees, and Joseph and Polian. I think are DBís played better than most will give them credit this year.

Coaches at C or worse would be Quinn, Long and Kelly. No reason for us to get manhandled by an inferior team like Michigan. Kelly should know how to prepare this team by now. Looking forward to a fresh face on offense.

Like Lax, Iím beyond thrilled at the offensive recruits in the next two classes and hope that we get them to stick. Our defensive recruiting is good but can improve.

All in all we have a great foundation and a few tweaks to the program recruiting and coaching wise could and should lead us to compete for a championship and have even more sustained success.
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Old 12-01-2019, 01:58 PM   #6
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Agree with most of what you said. I don't believe Kmet comes back. I think he has the right intentions, but he will grade higher than he expects and that will send him on his way. However, I don't think I agree with Book leaving. Where would he go? I feel like he loves ND and won't transfer...XFL? He is not gonna get drafted based on this season. If he comes back, with the offensive staff changes, and plays the way he did the last four games his draft stock soars.

I see BK getting an extension through 2023 or 2024 and then retiring as the winning-est coach in ND history and one NC under his belt.

Curious to what staff changes there will be.. Lyght, Long, who else?
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Old 12-01-2019, 02:36 PM   #7
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I don't see Book or PJ leaving. It makes no sense for either to make a move.

Like some of the above posters, I would love to hear whatever insights you have on the playcalling to end the season. Was Rees actually making the calls?

I expect ND to be 8-0 heading into the Clemson game at home next year. Should be a wild one.
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