Sunday, October 2, 2005

You're a Good Man Charlie Weis

Mrs. Linklater writes about Notre Dame football?  Has she lost her mind?  You be the judge.

Joe Kuharich, a perfectly nice guy, was arguably the worst football coach Notre Dame has ever had. This became apparent when Ara Parsheghian, after eight years at Northwestern, assumed head coaching responsiblites in 1964. He inherited a Kuharich team with a 1 and 9 record.

One of the first things Ara did when he got to South Bend was to reevaluate the players, moving them all around, shifting them to positions they may not have been playing under their former coach.

That reinvented team, which was virtually the same bunch of guys that could only muster up a single win the year before, went on to post a record of 9 and 1, winning a national championship for the school and Coach of the Year for Parshegian.

Perhaps we'll see something similar this year with new coach Charlie Weis. The man who just engineered the Patriots winning Super Bowl offense may be able to take a team that was 6 and 5 under fired coach Ty Willingham to a national championship.  

Certainly a bigtime bowl game.

Having said all that, the USC game in two weeks, following a bye week, will tell the tale.

Ty Willingham got fired after losing 41 to 10 to the Trojans last year, amid much turmoil and controversy. When push comes to shove, the greatest sin for an ND coach is to lose big to their fiercest rival.

This year's game will feature two former NFL coaches with very successful track records in the pros going head to head in college -- that ought to be nasty.

Under Weis, in his rookie year, Notre Dame is already 4 and 1 with their only loss coming in overtime to Michigan State, which, to throw a monkey wrench into things, unexpectedly lost to Michigan yesterday, which had earlier lost to Notre Dame.

Such is the nature and unpredictability of college football.

The most telling change -- to the average viewer -- in Charlie Weis' program is the emergence of a wide receiver who hadn't been near a touchdown pass in the past two years under Willingham, but finds himself a key factor in his new coach's scoring schemes. Currently, he's on a pace to set a Notre Dame record for touchdowns in a season.

Number 83, Jeff Samardzija, a tall [6'5"] skinny [216 pounds] white kid nicknamed "The Shark" for his resemblance to a character in the animated movie Shark Tale is catching everything that his quarterback, Brady Quinn, is throwing at him.

Apparently, his other skills as a player on ND's baseball team have been coming in handy lately, particularly his soft hands from all those years of playing throw and catch, no doubt.

A junior, he's starting in place of injured wide receiver, No. 21, senior Maurice Stovall.

Usually white guys aren't considered for wide receiver routes -- the slowness thing. If they're tall enough and heavy enough, they are often used as tight ends for blocking and short routes, like The Shark's teammate, Anthony Fasano, No. 88, who is 6'5", 255.

Samardzjia's number, usually reserved for tight ends, says that somebody may have relegated him to that role at some point in time. Perhaps as a freshman, when they thought he might get bulked up as he got older.  

But even Mrs. Linklater can see he is still too lanky to be as intimidating as Fasano, so he wouldn't be a good fit at that position. At the same time his whiteness and the stereotype that goes with that meant he wouldn't be top of mind as a showcase receiver. Until Stovall got hurt.

And suddenly he has become an unexpected, deep threat in his other sport.

Maybe Weis watched film of Samardzjia playing last year in the Insight Bowl, the first time he ever started, in the first game after Willingham was fired.

Maybe Weis had a chance to see how good The Shark's hands were in practice and realized that even though this kid didn't fit into the classic mold of a wide receiver he always managed to get free and he could catch anything.

Who knows?

Maybe it's just that Weis was always a big fan of Ed McCaffrey when he played for the Broncos and saw the similarities between the two.

The best part is that instead of getting pigeonholed, the long, tall baseball player from Valparaiso, Indiana is having a chance to show that a smart, savvy coach can spot talent when he sees it no matter what kind of a package it comes in. And then have the good sense to design plays around him.

When Stovall gets healthy enough to play, Weis probably won't keep one of them on the bench. He'll figure out ways to utilize them both.

But first USC.

If ND wins, Weis is a genius.

If ND loses -- the bloom will start coming off the rose.


bosoxblue6993w said...



jevanslink said...

Weis also roomed with Joe Monana. Mrs. L

ksquester said...

football..zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz wake me up when it's over. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzAnne

swibirun said...

I'm with you, Mrs. L, and can I also say that a woman who can really talk sports among other things in her skills set is a very intriguing woman? [exit brown nose mode].

I was glad when ND ran into a down cycle because they had been good for so long but it's fun rooting for them again!  Speaking of which.....I'm tired of USC's success.....go golden domers!


belfastcowboy75 said...

Charlie, come back...the Pats neeeed you.

suzypwr said...

I'll just be over having a drink with ksquester until football season is over...xoxo