Tag Archives: Chuck Martin

Tony Alford’s days numbered at Notre Dame?

After a disappointing end to the season, there have been many Notre Dame fans who have been speculating on possible changes to Brian Kelly’s staff.

Most of the chatter has centered on Kelly and Jeff Quinn being reunited with one another in some capacity after Quinn was fired during the middle of his fifth season at Buffalo. Quinn spent several years with the Irish head coach at Grand Valley State, Central Michigan, and Cincinnati.

A subtraction from the staff could be a possibility as well though.

With Jim McElwain taking the job at the University of Florida, Colorado State is now looking for his replacement and Irish running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Tony Alford has been mention as a possible option. Alford was rumored to be looked at by CSU a couple of years back before they hired McElwain.

Just hours after the job officially became open, Alford was already receiving help from the masses to prove he would be a strong choice to get the position.

Urban Meyer, Brian Kelly and Jack Swarbrick ALL called @CSUFootball today’s pushing Tony Alford for the Rams HC position. Strong stuff.

Alford being a candidate makes a lot of sense. The former running back played four years for the Rams and helped his alma mater win it’s first bowl game back in 1990 against Oregon. His wife has family in that area and his mom lives near Colorado Springs as well, so all the ties are there.

Would Colorado State be willing to hire a coach who has yet to be a coordinator in his career though? Alford was passed over for the job by Kelly first by Chuck Martin and this past year by Mike Denbrock. That may be a gamble that CSU might not want to take, especially with the good shape the program is in after the great job McElwain did in his three years there.

If they do end up taking that change, losing Alford would be a big blow to the Irish.

He’s routinely voted as one of the top recruiters in the country by Rivals and the other recruiting services. If he were to go to CSU, Tevon Coney, a big piece to this year’s Irish class, would more than likely opened up his recruitment. The Irish would also be fighting an uphill battle trying to add another running back to this year’s class.

Losing Alford wouldn’t only hurt on the recruiting front. He’s the longest tenured member on the staff, having been the only coach left over from the Charlie Weis era. You can easily credit him with the maturation of Tarean Folston, who appears to be set to have a monster junior season in 2015. He also has a very good relationship with Greg Bryant, who showed strides at the end of the season.

Time will tell where Alford ends up being come next season. It would be a tremendous opportunity for him to get a head coaching job and you can’t argue against that, but the selfish side of me wants him to remain in South Bend for many years to come.

January 2014: The Preston Jackson Smack-Talk-O-Meter

January can be a dark, dark time.  For those of us who set our clocks by the college football season, it’s the equivalent of Midnight:  You just sit around in your own head dwelling on the trivial, inane, and fantastic.  Far too much time gets spent on the three-second sound bite….just ask Richard Sherman.  With that in mind, I’m here to introduce my new offseason barometer:  “The Preston Jackson Smack-talk-o-meter”

For those that don’t remember the diminutive cornerback, here’s his official UND profile.  Some of my good college buddies (BH and C-Plan to name a couple) and I grew to love P-Jack.  He didn’t let the little things, like size or talent, get in the way of a great opportunity to jaw with the opposition.  Few players have shown the resolve of getting burned off the line only to recover in time to make an (assumed quality) yo’ mama joke at the end of the play the way P-Jack could.  He definitely put the “Fight” into “Fighting Irish” in the early 2000’s.

Of course, as that brief anecdote makes clear, the play wasn’t always worthy of the talk, which is how I feel about many of the topics that invade college football offseason.  Much like P-Jack, that doesn’t stop us from talking, but is there merit to the conversation?  The Preston Jackson Smack-talk-o-meter is here to help!  The way I see it (and since this is my scale, the way it is), there are five distinct categories to the Preston Jackson Smack-talk-o-meter:

Freshman P-Jack:  Sadly, P-Jack saw no game action his freshman year.  Deep down inside, I’ve got to imagine he was out on the practice field perfecting the insults that made him a force for years to come.  However, I’m not one for conjecture.  Or am I?  I’ll just let that stew…much like the topics that fall into this category.  On a more general level, this means I get why people are talking, but everyone’s just speculating without any real knowledge into the matter.

P-Jack Island:  While “island” usually connotes a place where receivers go to die, when it came to P-Jack Island, it was more similar to an all inclusive resort with a private beach.  P-Jack was the cabana boy as the gifts rained down from above.  Despite giving up a horrendous play, the chatter continued.  Topics in this category are the same.  Lots of talk without anything to back it up.

Action Jackson:  Sophomore year on P-Jack saw himself on the field a quality amount and peppered each appearance…each quarter…each snap of relevance as an audition on “American Idol.”  Let those vocal chords soar for better or worse!  Hey detractors, dude was playing football for the Fighting Irish.  STOP HATING.  In other words, some chatter’s deserved regardless of the result.

Tacklin’ Jackson:  38 of P-Jack’s 41 tackles came Junior and Senior year when he finally installed himself as the “go to” nickel back.  38 tackles may not seem like a lot (Jaylon Smith had 41 this year alone), but nobody, and I mean nobody, relished each opportunity to lay the smack down the way #15 did.  During those brief moments where Jackson lay atop his defeated foe, the words were decisive and swift.  These moments are worth talking about….even if some of them are just the inevitable end to folly; say after giving up a 25 yard reception.

P-Jack Pick:  The rarest of the rare, it’s when the performance, the importance of the moment justifies the talk.  P-Jack gave ND three of these during his career.  I use the term to describe offseason topic-try in a similarly rare vein.

So, we’re all on the same page now?  Good.  Let me take a brief tour of some of the January topics to invade the collective ND consciousness and grade them on the Preston Jackson Smack-talk-o-meter.  Keep in mind, I will not be discussing these topics at length.  I’m only evaluating them on their general merit for worthiness of discussing.

1. Golson’s Return – Okay, so as it turns out, “Tommy the Closer” couldn’t convert to starter quite as we hoped.  That hope was admittedly the type that would similarly put me in the same place and attractiveness universe of “The Americans” version Keri Russell, but still, coming off a National Title Game Appearance, it seemed disappointing.  EG’s dismissal was a very tough blow to the program.  Combine all those things together, and you can understand the anticipation around his return.  Not only is it the return of the QB who went 10-1 on the way to a NTG appearance, but well….mobility.  I fully endorse the expectation around his return and am excited to see what he can do.  There’s a reason beyond Chuck Martin’s departure that BK will publicly announce he’s back in the play calling seat, and thy name is Everett Golson.  Let’s couch our talk though in terms of a QB who didn’t put phenomenal numbers in that NTG run and is a year removed from all things ND.

Final Rating:  Tacklin’ Jackson

2. Coordinator Changes – This may be the toughest single category to judge.  Primarily because there are different facets that can be judged.  First, for those disappointed, understand that overall this is a good sign.  When other programs want your coordinators, it means you’re doing something right.  Bob Diaco seemed obvious.  Yes, he’s got his awkward qualities, but somehow that just makes him more endearing.  His departure appeared more a matter of “when” than “if.”  Young, charismatic, and with a healthy distaste of things that sap energy, other programs were bound to find him.  While Martin’s departure wasn’t as obvious, this was a proven coordinator and someone who’d even shown an ability to continue BK’s success at previous stops.

In come the new guys.  Mike Denbrock deserved the job.  He made total sense, and really my only surprise is how long it took.  However, given BK’s background and method of leadership, it’s hard to imagine that Denbrock’s appointment would move the scales at all.  On the opposite side of the ball you have Brian VanGorder.  BVG brings a pedigree better than most people realize, and a ‘stache as good as advertised.  BVG will make Diaco seem like a chatter box, but the intrigue of a potentially more aggressive defense and utilization of more 4-3 alignments is worth discussing.  BK’s already come out saying he has no expectation of abandoning the 3-4 depending on match-up, and while that could be a smoke screen, let’s take a giant, deep breath and realize coordinator changes rarely tip the scales overnight.

Final Rating:  Action Jackson

3.  Under Armour Deal – As I stated on the first @Downthetunnel.com video podcast, I consider apparel decisions to be very much a business decision.  The truth is, this issue matters very little in terms of what it means for the program at large.  Notre Dame’s higher ups have a much better idea of the (business) landscape than the casual fan can possibly have access to, and I trust in that process because I have no reason not to.

Additionally, as Evan Sharpley stated, it didn’t matter much to him when considering schools what the apparel provider was.  It’s an issue that inherently seems to matter more to those of us who have to pay for the merchandise than those that get it for free.  Those that get it for free though are the ones that actually impact the end product that even the merchandise driven fan cares most about.  Hey, hopefully these words sound better than my redneck natty loving NASCAR aficionado voice on the podcast did.  So maybe Jared (@Irishfootball11) will even take note despite the lack of CAPS LOCK.

Final Rating:  P-Jack Island

4.  Recruits De-Committing – This was another topic touched upon during the video podcast, but we as a collective fan base need to give up this ghost.  It’s an exercise in futility to debate the relative merits of players that never even get on the field for the Irish.  I get it.  First off, January/February is the time when anyone can become a recruiting expert.  Fan bases will always want the best players for their respective programs, but let’s all agree to stop talking about the hypothetical players.

Whether it’s an Eddie Vanderdoes, Ronald Darby, or lesser last second de-commits, the ND fans need to come to grips that 17-18 year olds kids are inherently unreliable both off the field and on.  Turning your ire towards these guys doesn’t make it better, and I’m quite frankly tired of it.  These guys don’t owe you anything.  Moreover, we’ve all got more tangible things to concern ourselves with than the players we never actually saw.  DO BETTER FOLKS.  DON’T HOLD THESE GUYS TO A HIGHER COMMITMENT LEVEL THAN YOU DEMONSTRATED.  God knows I was unreliable as an 18 (or 31) year old.

Billis King also brought this up on his radio show.  ND will always be more vulnerable to the “dramatic” de-commit from their recruiting class given the national nature of their recruiting effort.  Being a national recruiter means you also will deal with the fact that you can’t be everywhere at once.  Considering the “what could have been” of recruits you never had is the same as considering what you would do with a million dollars.  If that’s your bag, cool.  But don’t this into a referendum on the integrity of high schoolers.

Final Rating:  P-Jack Island

NFL Defections – Graduation always leads to a certain degree of having to deal with this factor.  There are also certain underclassmen that should be expected to turn pro sooner rather than later.  Nix and Tuitt should have come as no surprise.  Yes, Atkinson was surprising though not detrimental to the program.  Niklas’ decision was the biggest shock, but we shouldn’t be be-grudging him.  Similar to the coordinator situation, it’s not a bad thing that the NFL might want ND’s players.

However, let’s stay “on topic” (whatever that means) as this is about the merits of discussing the issue.  Losses of proven players is always relevant.  The problem with it is that we are always left to speculate and make snap decisions.  As an ND contingent, at what point do we stop worrying about developing tight ends given we’ve done it so consistently?  How big a loss is GAIII given our expectations for Folston and Bryant?  How much would he have even played?

The defensive losses are more tangible.  Attempting to replace Nix and Tuitt is not an easy task, but what might a healthy Sheldon Day add?  How will BVG’s scheme impact the relative values of defensive linemen?  When I have these many questions and don’t consider anyone to be a more competent source than TMZ (on the exact same topic), I’m left to conclude…

Final Rating:  Freshman P-Jack

I’m cognizant of the subtle irony of this entire post.  Can something actually be subtly ironic?  No idea.  Seems like a great topic for another post…on another site.  As that thing called the “season” approaches, things become more relevant, but man, like I said at the outset, it’s a dark, dark time.  I don’t want to detract from the generally entertaining offseason dialogue that takes place, but know where you’re at on the Preston Jackson Smack-talk-o-meter. Offseason – you’re welcome, you’re now self-aware.

– IrishMoonJ

Irish close out 2013 with a win. A Bowl game review

– Sgt Shamrock

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While 2013 has been a season full of ups and downs, the Irish were able to finish off the year off on a high note, defeating Rutgers in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl 29-16 on Saturday night. While the score was not as lopsided any many Irish fans had expected, myself included, the outcome of the game was never really in doubt. Notre Dame dominated the flow of the game against a Rutgers team who came into the game with a defense that should have had the Irish coaching staff licking their chops. The score of the game was closer that it should have been, but that’s the only aspect of the game that was close. The Irish offense racked up 494 yards of total offense against Rutgers including 319 yards through the air in Tommy Rees’ last start as Notre Dame’s starting quarterback.

The Irish defense played well day long only allowing 236 total yards to the Rutgers offense and also forced 4 turnovers. Other than Bennett Jackson getting burned deep a few times, the secondary put out one of their best performances of the season. Russell was outstanding in coverage all afternoon, making multiple pass breakups in the redzone. Max Redfield made his first career start and while his name was not called much, that should be considered a good thing for a first time starter. He did not allow any big plays and played his position very well which should excite Irish fans for the future. The secondary was not the only element of the defense that had a big afternoon. The Irish defensive line was able to get pressure even without Louis Nix which was a key factor to the defense forcing turnovers.

Of all of the good things that I saw on Saturday, the running game really impressed me. Going up against a top 5 rushing defense, the Irish were able to amass 175 yards on the ground. Tarean Folston got the start in the Irish backfield and again showed off some insane jump cuts in the open field. Its no mystery that Irish fans everywhere are excited about him leading the backfield for years to come. Folston finished the game with 73 yards on 17 carries and one touchdown while Cam McDaniel who also carried the ball 17 times ran for 80 yards in another impressive outing for the Texas native. While the running backs earned the yards, it would not have been possible if not for the outstanding play of the offensive line, and in particular senior Zach Martin. Martin, who was the first offensive lineman to win an MVP award for a bowl game since 1959, dominated the line of scrimmage all game long and impressed NFL draft scouts in the process.

The 2013 season is over and now we look to the offseason. Irish fans eagerly await to hear if Stephon Tuitt will return for his senior season, or if he will enter the 2014 NFL draft. Brian Kelly also is going to be making some hires to replace Bob Diaco and Chuck Martin, who both left the program to take head coaching jobs at UConn and Miami of Ohio. While Brian Van Gorder has already been hired as the defensive coordinator, the offensive coordinator position is still needed to be filled. The offseason always seems to cause drama for the Irish, but hopefully this season that will not be the case.

We will have much more here at Down the Tunnel with all of the upcoming offseason news, signing day, and preparation for spring football. Stay tuned.

A Trip to the Big Apple. Pinstripe Bowl Preview

-Sgt Shamrock

Christmas is around the corner and while we are all preparing for presents, holiday dinners, and eggnog, the Notre Dame Football team is in New York City making their final preparations to take on Rutgers in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. The Irish and the Scarlet Knights will face off in iconic Yankee Stadium on Saturday in the Big Apple. The Irish enter the contest with an 8-4 record while the Scarlet Knights finished their season at 6-6. Both teams have lost key members of their coaching staff in the weeks leading up to the matchup. Bob Diaco and Chuck Martin left the Irish to take head coaching positions at UConn and Miami of Ohio, while Rutgers head coach fired defensive coordinator Dave Cohen, as well as the quarterbacks coach, and the offensive line coach. While playing in the Pinstripe Bowl was not what the Irish had planned at the start of the season, they still have a chance to finish the season with 9 wins and carry momentum into the 2014 season.

Rutgers offense has had trouble running the ball as season long and relies on the passing game to score points. The Scarlet Knights are averaging 242 yards through the air ranking 52nd nationally, while the running game is averaging a measly 133 yards per game ranking 98th nationally. The offensive line for Rutgers has been a weak link all season long. Not only is the rushing game one of the worst in the country, but the Scarlet Knights have also given up 31 sacks this season which ranks them 98th nationally in sacks allowed. Even with Louis Nix unable to play due to injury, the Irish defensive line led by Stephon Tuitt should be able to have a field day with the Rutgers offensive line. With Rutgers struggling to run the football, expect the Scarlet Knights to pass and pass often allowing the strong Irish defensive line to pin their ears back and rush the quarterback. The strength of the Irish defense is stopping the pass, as they rank in the top 20 nationally. The matchup between the Irish secondary and the Scarlet Knights passing game could very well be the key this game.

While the Irish offense has struggled at times this year with execution and consistency, they should be able to move the ball and put points on the board against a very shaky Rutgers defense. The Scarlet Knights are allowing close to 30 points per game ranking them as one of the worst scoring defenses in the nation. To make matters worst for Rutgers, their passing defense is flat out atrocious allowing 310 yards per game. Only Troy, Idaho, and Cal are worst at defending the pass in the nation this season. Tommy Rees and the receiving corps should be able to throw the ball at will against this awful passing defense. Rutgers game plan is to try and shut down TJ Jones, so look for Davaris Daniels, Will Fuller, and Corey Robinson to make an impact on this game. The Irish are going to need to pass the ball effectively to win this game, since the Rutgers rushing defense is one of the best in the nation. The Scarlet Knights are ranked 4th nationally in rushing defense allowing only 94 yards on the ground per game. Only Michigan State, Louisville, and Stanford are better at stopping the run this season. Notre Dame has had trouble rushing the ball against quality rushing defenses this season but they are going to need to find some production to keep the Rutgers defense honest.   

Notre Dame is a heavy favorite in this game and they should be. Rutgers is not a very good football team and this year has been a rough one already costing three assistant coaches their jobs, and head coach Kyle Flood is on the hot seat. The Irish have the advantage in almost every key matchup in this game and I fully expect the Irish to come to play in this game. While the season has not gone the way they had hoped, they still have the ability to win 9 games this season following a slue of injuries and without Everett Golson, who has recently been readmitted and will be ready to go for next season. This is the last game for the Notre Dame seniors, who as a group have been the foundation for the improvement in the program over the last 4-5 years. Playing in New York City is always exciting for college kids and you can tell by the reaction of many of the players they are ready to play in this game. While 2013 has been an awful year for Notre Dame Athletics, Irish fans should be able to finish this snake bitten year off with a smile. Notre Dame should win this game and it shouldn’t be close.

Players to Watch

Offense- While Rutgers is going to do everything they can to slow down TJ Jones, Davaris Daniels is due for a breakout game. After some early success to start the season, Daniels has since been inconstant and not producing at the level a lot of fans had hoped for. Look for Tommy Rees to find Daniels running through the Rutgers secondary as they try to double team TJ Jones.

Defense- With Louis Nix officially gone for the NFL we now get to see if Jarron Jones cant carry to load at Nose Tackle. Jones has played well late in this season and now we get a glimpse at what is most likely the future at the nose next season. The Rutgers offensive line has struggled this season so I am excited to see how Jones handles the opportunity.

Prediction

Notre Dame 38 Rutgers 17

From all of us at Down the Tunnel, we wish you a Merry Christmas. Go Irish