SportsCrack Blog

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


If you are a Notre Dame fan then this new NBC trailer for the upcoming season should get your heart pumping. New head coach Brian Kelly will win at least 9 games this season. Mark it down. Of course Ty Willingham and Charlie Weis both won big in their first season under the Golden Dome so what does Kelly need to change to make sure he doesn't "fail" like his predecessors?

Passion and defense. It's been awhile since Notre Dame came out and actually punished people. Their defense has been "soft" for over a decade. Will it change this year? Hard to say.

The strength of the defense should no doubt be the linebackers. Inside guys Manti Te'o and Anthony McDonald are two extremely athletic linebackers with a nose for the football. Te'o will be an All-American. The guy is a freak of nature warrior who not only tackles people but takes their souls.

Te'o returns as an experienced sophomore who got plenty of pops in his freshman season. McDonald on the other hand is a junior who saw limited action last year after redshirting his freshman season. McDonald has been nothing short of reliable so far in camp and appears to have beaten out Carlo Calabrese (the Italian Stallion) for co-head hunter with the Hawaiian Hitman. Both Te'o and McDonald should be a joy for ND fans to watch this year. Think of Stonebreaker, Stams, and Pritchett and how they swarmed and killed people back in the late 80's. That is what Te'o and McDonald have to do to put the fear back into the opposition.

The outside linebackers consist of returning starter Brian Smith (prediction: honorable All-American for the 4 year starter), rising junior Steve Filer (the Freak), Darius Fleming (8 plus sacks this season), and senior Kerry Neal. All 4 of these guys were highly touted 4 star prospects coming out of high school and for the most part have not lived up to their billing. I wouldn't so much as blame on them as I would the old staff. Under Jon Tenuta and Corwin Brown the defense was a clusterfuck full of origami puppets. No one knew where to be or how to react. Were they a 3-4 defense or a 4-3 defense? New defensive coordinator Bob Diaco installed the 3-4 and plans to stick with it. Thank Touchdown Jesus!

The key of course to any defense is the ability of the defensive line to penetrate and take on blockers to free up your linebackers to make big plays. And this is where Notre Dame could get burned. They don't have a Chris Zorich or a Bryant Young to plug the middle. They missed out on guys on the recruiting trail like Omar Hunter, Justin Trattou, Chris Martin, and Gerald McCoy at the last moment. But make no mistake they return plenty of starting talent in Kapron Lewis-Moore, Ethan Johnson, and Ian Williams. Kap and Johnson should be ready to blossom as true juniors. Both have had their moments but the Irish will need more consistency and disruption to make the defense excel. Williams is a returning 2/3 year starter at nose tackle who should have an excellent senior season. The Irish are going to need all 3 of these guys to go above and beyond because simply the Irish don't have a ton of talented depth on the line. They got bodies but they don't have the talent the SEC teams and Texas and USC's regularly shuffle in and out during the game.

The secondary is going to be good. I have no doubt. Cornerbacks Gary Gray, Darrin Walls, and Robert Blanton are all capable of "locking down" receivers and as upperclassmen no the lay of the land. Most programs would kill to have one or two of these guys. Notre Dame has three. The safety position is led by breakout star Jamoris "Man" Slaughter. I watched Slaughter crush skulls while playing at Tucker high school down here in Atlanta and there is a reason why every big time program wanted him. The kid is simply a player. He has the 6th sense of knowing where the ball is going to go and then either laying down a devastating hit or intercepting a pass. Why the previous staff moved him to cornerback made little sense to me. Now he is at his natural position and he should be the last line of defense which is great news if you are a Notre Dame fan. He has the speed to not get burned deep. Harrison Smith is a returning senior who's career has been enigmatic to say the least. Harrison might have most god given talent on the defensive roster but it's what's between the ears which has held him back. I'm putting my confidence in the new staff with his switch back to safety (he played some linebacker) and have hope they finally unleash the beast within. Harrison had offers from Alabama, Auburn, and Tennessee who all saw him as a future star. He can still be that guy his senior season. If not then sophomore Zeke "And Destroy" Motta will be more than capable of filling in.

The defense as a whole has a ton of elite starting talent. The question remains through a grueling season do the Irish have enough depth to stop the other teams? I'm not sure yet. The defense was horrific during the 5 years of the Weis Era. If the Kelly Era is to be a success (BCS Bowl Game WINS) then he is going to need to develop a defense with some passion who is proactive instead of reactive. Time will tell.

Zach Lee... a Tiger... no a Dodger... Geauxtcha!

Hey LSWho fans, Zach Lee will not be your quarterback after all. The Dodgers made the "unsignable" 28th pick in this year's draft an offer he couldn't refuse. Who can blame Lee and his family? I'd take the $5.25 million signing bonus. Congrats Zach!

I know the pictures is from '04, but I couldn't resist. I'm glad we don't have to face you on Saturdays in the fall! Less than 18 days until Christmas, I mean college football season! GOOOOOOOOOOO DAWGS!!!

Hitting Jesus + Pitching Jesus = same old Nationals

After all of the drama, the Nationals signed Bryce Harper to a 5 year, $9.9 million dollar contract. Congratulations Nats! Let's focus on reality. Strasburg has shown himself to be a very good pitcher, but still beatable and Harper has all the tools to be an amazing hitter, but can you count on 1 pitcher and 1 hitter to revive a franchise? The Phillies couldn't, the Yankees couldn't, the Braves couldn't, the Red Sox couldn't, why would the Nationals?

Unlike tennis, baseball is a team sport. No crap right?!? Strasburg pitches 1 out of every 5 starts. To be successful, a team needs a 1 - 2 punch, at a minimum, with at least a decent bullpen to back them up. The Nats have a 1 - ?. The bullpen has looked good with Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen, who has ridiculous potential by the way, but over the course of a season, you can not count on 2 bullpen arms to get you through.

In a line-up, there are 9 hitters. Someone has to get on base, someone has to drive them in. There are power hitters, there are role players, and there are clutch hitters. Ryan Zimmerman is an excellent hitter, fielder, and leader, but if the Nationals lose Dunn, who else is going to hit on the team? A line up with Dunn, Zimmerman, and Harper would look good, but outside of those three, who scares you as a pitcher? Who are the role players? Who is going to get on base?

While Strasburg and Harper are true one of a kind talents with an almost limitless amount of potential, the Nationals still need to understand the team concept and focus on building a foundation of players that can win as a team, not creating a scenario where they are just likely to win every fifth day and likely to get at least 2 hits a game from Harper. I commend them for starting somewhere, but you don't rest the hope of your entire franchise on 1 player. Just ask the Cleveland fans about Lebron. If the King himself can't win a championship on a team of five, how will a possible prince carry a team of 9 to the holy land?

While I wish these guys all the best and am thrilled to know that the Nationals are working hard on turning around a franchise that hasn't been good since the Andre Dawson days, it's going to take more than 2 kids to consistently win in a division that is getting better and better as a whole.

Regardless, congratulations Mr. Harper. I look forward to seeing your career and watching the Bravos beat up on the Nationals regularly for the foreseeable future. Yea, I'm biased, I know.

On another note, congratulations to one of GA's own, Kaleb Cowart out of Adel, GA. Kaleb signed last night at the last hour with the Los Angeles Angels. The 18th overall pick in this year's draft and the 2009 - 2010 Gatorade National Player of the Year award winner signed as a pitcher and has been clocked as high as 97 MPH in high school. I know your family is proud and I wish you all of the best.

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