Down the Tunnel Tailgate recap

-Sgt Shamrock

The inaugural Down the Tunnel tailgate is in the books and boy was it a good one. The drinks were flowing, grill was fired up and our friends at Indiana Whiskey were on site with some of their delicious whiskey for everyone to enjoy. I just wanted to thank everyone who came out and made it such an awesome event and even better weekend. The weekend was filled with meeting good people, good drinks, and good times. Special thanks to our friends at Indiana Whiskey for coming out and hanging out with all of us. There were rave reviews about their whiskey and I again encourage everyone to make sure they pick up a bottle (If you have not already) next time you are in the Indiana area. With the spring game over we are without football until the fall but it give us at Down the Tunnel to game plan some new ideas we are kicking around to improve our tailgates and the overall game day experience for our loyal Down the Tunnel readers. Again thanks to everyone who came out. It was great to meet you all. If you were not able to make it this weekend we look forward to meeting you next season.

 

 

 

 

5 HOT (and Quick) Takes from Blue/Gold Game

Spring practice is in the books!  Can I use the terms/phrases “practice” and “in the books” for employees? Kidding, kidding…put the pitch forks away. I’ll give you plenty better opportunities to skewer me. While the Sarge continues to lead the DTT Spring game experience on-site, thought I’d provide a few quick observations from the Blue/Gold Game. For full disclosure, I am not of the opinion that a lot can be gleaned from what amounts to a glorified practice. It’s far more special and relevant for those able to make the trip than those of us looking to extrapolate what it means going forward. Nonetheless, people LOVE to extrapolate (even when they don’t know what that word means), so let’s get down to business:

1. QB “Battle”: Unquestionably, the number one “thing to watch” for today was the quarterback position. The return of the prodigal son, Everett Golson vs. the self-confident Malik Zaire. Twitter and Mike Mayock have declared the big winner of the day to be Zaire. I’m critical of Mayock’s analysis though because he did not tell me Zaire’s height and weight. Mayock, when in full lather over a particular player always tells you the size measurements while wiping some drool from the corner of his mouth. He did it for Golson pre-game. He did it for Jaylon Smith. Perhaps I just missed it.

Now to the game. I would *generally* agree that Zaire had the better performance. The stats bear that out. His reads came out quicker, he was more accurate, and most importantly to me….he looked like he wanted to compete for the starting gig. Golson was perhaps most disappointing with his reluctance to cut the ball loose. This issue plagued him at times during 2012, and I think many hoped he’d display a greater command of progressions after a one year quarterback boot camp. It’s important to remember a few things though: 1) This is but one practice. Folks need to realize Brian Kelly will not be making any final decisions based upon this one game. However, that Zaire looked ready to compete may create some intrigue for the inter web-professional-football-analysis-society from the summer months. 2) When you have 2 mobile quarterbacks battling in a “game” where they can’t be hit, it’s difficult to assess their true effectiveness. The refs were generally willing to let the QB’s continue to run around (and eventually throw) in situations where they will not be as fortunate in game situations. Golson’s rushing TD was a clear example. He scored. In a game, he’d have been pancaked between two rather large defensive players. To go along with this: Why in the WORLD was a screen pass run????? It happened early, but just seemed ludicrous to me. QB can’t be touched (and knows it), line comes flying through…Well executed(?) I suppose.

My more general take: First of all, I wet myself just a bit (it was early) to see both of our QB’s scramble, look elusive, and demonstrate plus arm-strength on the run. The Tommy Rees era is over, and I for one (all) couldn’t be happier to have it reaffirmed that it is possible to both run and throw the ball. Both quarterbacks exhibited the arm strength necessary to take advantage of the team’s speed and depth at the wide receiver position. While a function of the flag football game atmosphere, there were many deep attempts and routes down field suggesting a perhaps more vertical passing game while utilizing the TE and RB positions as safety valves.

2. FIELD TURF!!!! OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG: In a super fun troll job by the ND administration, Jack Swarbrick confirmed once and for all that field turf is a-coming to Notre Dame following Spring commencement ceremonies. So many words and blood have been spilled over this topic over the past few years that there’s no need to re-hash it. It’s a business decision, it’s a completely reasonable decision, and it will not impact game play for the negative in any material respect. Something I’ve harped on in the past is that something is not tradition just because it’s been done for a while. Rockne’s teams played on grass because that was more desirable to playing on dirt. ND never jumped the gun to install the horrendous astro-turf surfaces that led to many an injury in the 70′s, 80′s, and 90′s. However, field turf’s come a long way. It’s not tradition to embrace a technological advancement that is more economical, provides greater reliability of playing surface, and doesn’t impact injury concerns. Get with it folks, or tell me why I’m wrong in the comments without mentioning the word “tradition.” I *might* listen then.

3. Hello Running backs: Greg Bryant did Greg Bryant things the way we’d all been Greg Bryant’ing he’d do. See what I did there? I used his name like the word “Smurf” was used back in the day. Bryant, of course, is not smurf. Rather, his speed and agility are more reminiscent of Sonic the Hedgehog coming out of a 360 degree loop and catapulting up into the atmosphere to claim rings and decimate all obstacles in his way. Take the spring game for what it is: confirmation that all angst associated with the unsubstantiated rumors of Bryant’s transfer were well deserved. I look forward to seeing him decimate all obstacles in his way in an effort to claim another type of ring.

In the meantime, Tarean Folston was quite active catching passes. Again, there’s a limit to attempting to extrapolate that this is a new trend, but he demonstrated good hands and improvisation as a safety-valve pass catching option. This facet was missing from ND’s offense last year. However, with a return to a more free flowing mobile quarterback style, a good pass catching option coming out of the backfield should not be under-appreciated. Theo Riddick was good at this in 2012 when, you might remember, good things happen for the team at large. I like to see things that *could* convert to a new offensive wrinkle in the season to come, and this fits the bill quite nicely.

4. The Defense…Lost? Okay…what does that mean? I have a difficult time really grading anything that occurs on the defensive side of the ball. The inability to hit/sack the quarterback is such an impediment that it’s difficult to consider the defense’s effectiveness.  Add that to the team still learning a new defensive-system and philosophy and the always straight-forward vanilla game plan, and you aren’t left with too many takeaways. I thought Cole Luke looked generally good and made some great plays on the ball in difficult situations. I thought Austin Collinsworth looked severely under-sized and slow attempting to cover the wide receivers, but I’m not going to read too much into that. Perhaps more telling, Brian Kelly during a second half interview explained that he asked BVG to dial back some of the pressure schemes so the offense could get the “looks” it wanted to run plays. Does that mean the line is better than expected? Does it mean the offensive line is a little bit worse? Perhaps a mixture? Yeah….I’ll go with mixture for the day.

5. The BVG: Finally, the most legit thing I saw all day was in fact VanGorder stomping around the sideline. He’s intense, rocks as legit a ‘stache as any in the business, and I give him bonus points for his 1970′s hair dew. I think fans are going to be pleasantly surprised in the short-term with VanGorder’s increased aggression. He comes into a great situation where the experience of the secondary may let him get more exotic up front to compensate for the losses of Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt. We’ve been down the road of a hyper aggressive defensive coordinator trying to make something out of nothing (I’m looking at you Jon Tenuta), but the caliber of athlete BVG has available is superior to what Tenuta dealt with, and the secondary is an entirely different animal. Perhaps grasping at straws, I also enjoyed seeing BVG on the sidelines. Being cerebral and up in the booth fit Bobby Diaco quite well. The same holds true for seeing VanGorder stalk the sidelines.

We now enter the dark days where there won’t be much to report or look forward to for several months. Share your comments or thoughts and feelings about the B/G Game and what you’re looking forward to for 2014 in the comments below. I’m sure Sarge will be back sooner rather than later to fill you in on the Down the Tunnel Tailgate and the reception to our sponsors the Indiana Whiskey Company being gracious enough to come on out this morning.

Cheers!

- Moons

The Shirt 2014 released.

The Shirt 2014 was unveiled today in from of Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore. Here it is:

The shirt 2014. Photo credit: Theshirt.nd.edu

The shirt 2014. Photo credit: Theshirt.nd.edu

What do you all think? It’s hard to get a grip on the exact color from these photos. On the webcast, it has a more blue color to it, almost royal blue. Some pictures it looks grey. It’s hard to say the exact reason for the color, but I think it most likely echoes the original shirt. The slogan is strong, the design is very good as well. I want to like it. I do. But I just cannot wrap my head around why choosing one color is such a bad thing. The Leprechaun Legion does green every single year, and it works. Well. As my co-author Moon said on twitter, “If The Shirt were woven from Rockne’s letter jacket people would still gripe. Not the worst by a long shot.” I can’t disagree with that. After all who can forget the mustard year, or the bright yellow year?

If you’re not watching twitter tonight, people are either in full meltdown, ordering twelve of each size or kinda indifferent. Sarge summed up his opinion in one word – “awful”. I reached out to Dixie Domer for his opinion, he just said “What’s a shirt?” No matter how you feel about the color choice, in the end we all have to remember, that The Shirt is for charity, and it does benefit quite a few people. If you like it, buy it. If you don’t, don’t. I will leave you with this; If you do find yourself without a ticket for a game, and need to figure out how to get in, I’ve got you covered. Wear this little number, and the guards will never see you:

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Taking a Look at the Spring Game

-Sgt Shamrock

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Its finally here. The 2014 football season begins this Saturday with the 85th Annual Blue Gold game. Its that time of year where the fan base is actually optimistic for a change. Well at least most of the fan base. There are always those outliers who always want to complain about something or another. But I digress. Saturday will be our first glimpse at the 2014 version of the Irish football squad. Now while the spring game is nothing more than a glorified scrimmage and we as fans are not going to see to much of anything in terms of scheme and the playbook, it is a good opportunity to see how some of the individual players have progressed through spring practice and to get an idea of who might be ready to contribute on the field this fall. And almost even more importantly, it will give anyone who is coming to town to watch the game a chance to come by the first ever Down the Tunnel Tailgate with our partners at Indiana Whiskey. So along with meeting good people and enjoying some great whiskey, here are some things to watch for on Saturday.

What to Watch For:

Receiving corps- With Davaris Daniels suspended for the spring and TJ Jones and Troy Niklas headed to the NFL, the Irish receiving corps is going to look very different this spring than what we have grown accustomed to over the last couple years. While some of the young receivers did get playing time last season, Tommy Rees was the one throwing them the ball. In fact only one receiver who is on the roster for the spring game has actually caught a pass from Everett Golson; Chris Brown. While the amount of talent in the receiving corps is not argued, it will be interesting to see how the connection between Golson and receivers like Corey Robinson, Will Fuller, and Justin Brent will look after being away from the team for over a year.

Everett Golson- Speaking of Golson, this will be the first opportunity for Irish fans to see him on the field since he was dismissed from the university last spring. During his time away, Golson worked with renowned quarterback guru George Whitfield and so far the reports out of practice paint Golson as a “Bigger, stronger, and faster” version than before. Yes it is just the spring game, but this will give everyone an opportunity to see how Golson has improved in his year away from the program.

The defensive line- After losing Louis Nix, Stephon Tuitt, and Kona Schwenke to the NFL the defensive line is a bit too thin for my liking. Sheldon Day, who has shown flashes of brilliance so far in his career, is going to have to be the leader in the group and we all expect Ishaq Williams, who was moved to defensive end from OLB this spring, to finally start living up the hype he received when he signed with Notre Dame. Now the defensive line we see Saturday will most likely not include everyone who will receive playing time next season, as incoming freshman like Jay Hayes will almost certainly be among the rotation if not only due to the lack of depth at the positions. Don’t expect to see any new wrinkles in the new defensive scheme that Defensive Coordinator Brian Van Gorder has brought with him to South Bend just yet. Coaches don’t normally do anything but run a plain base defense in a spring game. But it will be nice to see the individual players along the D-line and be able to see who has stepped up to fill in some large voids

It’s good to finally have football back, if only for a short while. The Spring game is always a fun event that helps bring excitement to a new season of Notre Dame football. So if you are in town to attend the game, enjoy the great experience and make sure to stop by the Down the Tunnel tailgate. Indiana Whiskey will be there along with a lot of other delicious beverages, tasty foods, and good people. I have the final details and information for everyone tomorrow so stay tuned. Its going to be a fun weekend. If you are watching from home, just kick back have a drink and enjoy the first glimpse of 2014 Notre Dame Football.  

 

Irish Mixtape

Now that we’ve gotten past the craziness of the first day of this month, time to get back to (virtual) reality.  With the Blue & Gold game just around the corner, the guys at the Irish Mixtape were kind enough to have me aboard to speak to THE @KnuteSchoolFool about the various story lines/things to watch the spring game might provide. For the record, this is the only use of “THE” that I endorse.  You can catch the podcast here:

http://knuteschoolfools.blogspot.com/2014/03/032914-talking-to-moon-irishmoonj.html

If you’re unfamiliar with these guys, they’ve had a few different names in recent years including “The Irish Coffee and Doughnuts” podcast featured on The Subway Domer’s site as well as the “The Irish Twins” podcast featured on Her Loyal Sons.  Different names, same great content.

If you’re into high quality audio, hot beats, and quality Irish content, this is the best I’ve heard….

Check out their current site at http://knuteschoolfools.blogspot.com

A catalog of their archives can be found at the Subway Domer’s site here.

You can also do as I do and subscribe to them on iTunes.  KSF’s indicated the goal is to continue to add to the archives throughout the offseason months.

Finally, follow them on Twitter at @KnuteSchoolFool and @IrishMixTape to keep up to date on their musings and new releases. If they’re not your thing, then you’re wrong, or a Michigan fan, which is still wrong but also embarassing.

- Moons

Roughing The Passer – Episode 4

On tonight’s show we talk about the upcoming Blue & Gold game, a bit about the unionization movement and nominate some Kiffys. After you watch the show, vote for your favorite Kiffy.

Once Upon a Time and a Half. The Union Question.

Like many of you, I read the Northwestern decision the other day, and like many of you I had questions of my own. If you want to see all of the legalities of the decision, and what it could possibly mean, make sure you read Moon’s piece from earlier this week:

http://downthetunnel.com/2014/03/28/what-the-northwestern-decision-means/

I spent a good few years working in a Union shop, so when I read the decision, it immediately raised a bunch of questions for me. For those of you who have worked in a union shop before, some of this will seem very, very familiar. For those of you that haven’t ever had an experience with a union, it’s going to seem very strange. I won’t directly say which union I was a part of, but it is one of the most powerful ones in this country, and people associated with it have been known to come up missing. I worked in a factory and had several interactions with the union in my time there, not because I was bad at my job, but because that’s the way it is.

First, and foremost, the first question I had when I read that college athletes wanted to unionize was what about union dues? You see, everyone has to pay to be a part of the union. It’s not just a right that you get, and then they provide representation out of the kindness of their hearts. Union dues are how a lot of the unions make their money. I paid $25 every other paycheck, it doesn’t seem like a lot, but I was just a college kid working my way through college during the summer. So my real first question was, who pays the union dues? Are they going to expect a broke college kid to pay $50/month for union membership? Keep in mind, this is just an arbitrary number, they may pay less, they may pay more. Does it come out of their scholarship award?

I was only a “summer relief” employee, meaning that I worked during the summer months and I went back to school around September. The kicker was that when I returned the following spring to start working again, I was responsible to pay my back union dues. That’s right, the union kept a tab on what I would have owed in dues, and if I wanted to get my “Union card” back and be able to work, I had to pay them. There was no getting around it either, you paid, or you weren’t allowed in the plant. Do the math. Nine months at $50/month, that’s right $450 I had to pay my union before I started working again so that I could work. So does that mean that college football players will have to pay back dues every spring and fall from the off-season? It’s not much of a reach my friends. Just look at what the unions stand to make off of this if it happens. Let’s just say union dues are $50/month, and let’s just say they limit it to Division 1 football players on scholarship only, within the FBS schools. That’s 120 schools, at 85 scholarship players per year. The union stands to make $6.12 MILLION just off of the players and their dues. You can see why the labor unions are chomping at the bit to get this decision through. Unions are big business my friends.

There are a lot of other things that go with union shops, and I in no way claim to be an expert on these things but I have some experience. You see even though I paid my dues each month and was an employee of the company, I was a “temporary” employee. That meant that even though I was in the union, I had no rights to union protection. That’s right, they could fire me, and the union which I paid to protect me from unfair termination couldn’t do anything about it. Sounds crazy doesn’t it? It’s 100% true. So, that raised a ton of questions for me after this decision.

First, we’re not talking about union rights that are going to be in place so that players can file a grievance against the coach for making them do too many up/downs, or making them run 350′s in heat above 80 degrees. I don’t think that will ever be the case. Let’s assume for a minute that a coach suspends a player for “violating team rules”. Maybe a player fails a drug test. Maybe his grades aren’t quite what they should be. Does the union step in and undermine the coach’s decision? You wouldn’t think so, but that’s what unions do. I have seen people do things that were blatantly wrong and even unsafe, and keep their jobs. I have seen two grown men throwing down in the lunch room, and literally kicking the hell out of each other, committing assault, and keep their jobs after they were fired and had a “hearing”. There is literally so much money at stake in these instances that the union has that ability. Will they step in to save players that are caught up in autograph scandals, improper benefits and the like? (Johnny Football, O$U) I think that there will be so much of it, that it could ruin the sport. You may never even know, because any union/employee action is 100% confidential, unless the people involved talk in public about it. That’s a union member’s favorite past-time, bitching about the company and talking about how they “are out to get us.”

Each shift at my plant had a “Steward”, a representative for the workers. He or she was the one that brought your case to the higher-ups at the plant and was basically your lawyer in the Kangaroo court. So are there going to be individual player stewards? You would think there would be. In my experience, they always played both sides, never trying to upset the company, but trying to save somebody’s job. They didn’t want to stir up the waters too bad, so they played both sides… there could be a new contract coming soon. My biggest question was, will there be contracts and job descriptions? Because it’s not a union unless you can say “That’s not in my job description/contract”. Can you imagine?

“Get in there and return a punt”….”That’s not in my job description coach”… “You’re suspended”….”Im filing a grievance”…

What exactly doe the players hope to gain from unionizing? Contracts? Pay for Play? The right to negotiate the amount of training that they have to participate in? The ability to make money from their name? If you are a regular reader of the site, you know how I feel about some of these issues. Yes, I believe that a lot of people make a lot of money off of these kids, and they should have the right to some of it or outlaw it in every way shape and form. The sports memorabilia business is out of control. It makes me wonder what the real reason was for the players at Northwestern asking for the right to unionize. I wonder if someone “got in their ear” from a union and saw the money sitting there for the taking.

People have been asking “can the players strike? then what?” It’s a good question, but not one that is exactly rooted in reality. You see, there are plenty of unions out there that can’t strike, and probably wouldn’t if they could. The police, the firefighters, nurses, nuclear plant employees, etc. Some jobs just have it in their contracts that they can’t strike, in fact it can be straight up illegal. Here in Ohio, Firefighters and Police are prohibited from striking in a manner that denies public services. I suppose when they are off duty they could picket, but they cannot stop working.

I’m not saying that all unions are bad, there are some great benefits to being in one. Sometimes they keep jobs around so that good, hard-working people can make a good living. Sometimes they prevent large corporations from abusing workers and not providing safe work environments. But you also have to see it for what it is. Another business, that makes a metric shit-ton of money every year. They aren’t always failsafe, look at Detroit. If they were a be-all-end-all, Detroit would still be one of the richest and biggest cities in America. Money talks, bullshit runs the marathon my friends.

-Mayhem