If you want to get to know about the Irish it has to begin and end with reading Blue Gray Sky, one of the most regal college football blogs, which should be a daily read for all college football fans across America. Those guys make it easy, letting us know everything to know about their legendary football program. Luckily for us, the boys over at BGS took a full inventory of the Irish defense and offense this past week.
On the Irish offense, BGS has concerns about the Irish OL:
Now, in terms of defense. The Irish are worried about their front line:
As far as the backups go, Travis Leitko has quietly been having a solid year moving the pile and getting his hands up into the passing lanes during his limited time on the field. Freshman John Ryan has made a surprise appearance on the depth chart as Victor's backup at defensive end. Ryan really hasn't done much yet this year, but the fact that the coaches trust him enough to send him out there when Victor needs a break is a good sign for his future. Classmate Morrice Richardson has the quickest first step of any of the defensive lineman on the roster, and I really hope he gets more chances this year to duck that shoulder under the reach of the opposing left tackle. With the loss of Talley, it will be interesting to see if Justin Brown and/or Dwight Stephenson will finally get onto the field. Derrell Hand has been M.I.A. so far with injuries. Getting him back and some game time experience would be nice for next year.
Linebackers. A big concern coming into the season and, quite frankly, still a big concern. ND has played the nickel or dime in a vast majority of the defensive snaps this year, with an extra defensive back replacing the third linebacker. That alone says much about the staff's faith in the Irish linebackers. Mo Crum still looks undersized playing in the middle, but is having a very productive year. Travis Thomas's lack of size makes it easy for offensive linemen to run him out of the play, but his speed has been a real asset, especially in blitzes. Mitchell Thomas and Anthony Vernaglia have had some guest appearances as the 3rd linebacker but neither have really shown that much during their time on the field. Vernaglia has been getting some more time lately, which I suppose is a sign the coaches are encouraged by what they see in practice. Hopefully his play late in the Stanford game is the first step towards increased production on the field. With more ground-oriented teams on the horizon he'll have plenty of chances to make an impact. Freshman Toryan Smith has had only a small handful of snaps so he's still a big unknown. Will he get more of a chance in the second half of the season? Or will ND stick mainly with the nickel package and Crum and Travis Thomas as the lone linebackers?
In any event, the only way the Irish will probably lose this game, or be at a disadvantage despite not having a huge talent talent advantage over UCLA, is if they come out unprepared, unfocused, and not fired up about playing UCLA. In other words, if the Bruins even come close to a moral victory this Saturday, the Irish fan may get concerned about their own coaching staff. I don't see it happening.
So, that is what we have been reduced to under Dorrell. The only chance of victory (then again, moral victory is sufficient for some losers in Westwood) in a game like this is when the other team puts up a Lavinesque uninspiring performance (kind of like what Southern Cal did back in 2004 at the Rose Bowl when they were sleep walking (well except for Reggie "House" Bush). Thanks again Dorrell.