Secret Squirrel Shenanigans.

If you follow us on twitter, I’m sure that by now you have seen the cryptic tweets and pictures that we have been sending out over the last week. We are working on a Top Secret project for our readers, viewers, friends, and fans. It’s something we’re sure you will all be extremely excited about. Right now, deep in a lab somewhere in the United States we are feverishly pounding down Indiana Whiskey, and wrapping up the project. We can’t wait to tell you what we’ve been up to. For now, the tweets and picture we sent out will have to do. An official announcement will be made on a special edition of “Roughing The Passer” on May 5th, on our Youtube channel.

Tune in, we promise you won’t want to miss this……

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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.