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Jun 30, 2010

Mr. November: Brian Kelly

Many post-1988 ND teams have faltered down the stretch. Even Lou Holtz had November miscues, notably in 1993. The Irish entered November 2002 8-0 and November 2009 7-2 before falling flat. Since winning the title game after the ’88 season, Notre Dame has a .648 winning percentage. In November, though, the mark shrinks to .603.

Brian Kelly’s track record suggests his Irish teams will reverse the trend. Kelly coached Cincinnati to a 10-1 November record in three seasons with the only loss coming against No. 5 WVU. Bringing in his Central Michigan numbers, Kelly has a .727 November win rate as a Division I coach in comparison to his .707 overall D-I mark.

Those six seasons are evidence that Kelly will increase ND’s annual November wins. While our yearly goal involves not one month but an entire season of perfection, Kelly’s success rate in college football’s most crucial month shows he is capable of turning around one of the program’s biggest problems since the late 80s.

Jun 29, 2010

Film Review: Ben Councell

On his way to a state championship, three-star outside linebacker commit Ben Councell dominated the largest classification in North Carolina in his junior film, courtesy of Athlete Vault. Although he is not the most graceful runner, Councell is an impressive combination of speed and size with the range to play sideline to sideline. His ability to defend the flats in pass coverage is remarkable for a 6-5, 225 prospect. In one instance Councell caught a running back from behind and he typically goes for the big hit. Opponents used power offenses and the spread, and he defended both well.

Councell played with a hand down only sparingly in high school, but his weak first step won’t be a huge problem in the OLB spot at ND. Unlike earlier verbal Clay Burton, sacking the QB is not Councell’s bread and butter. No current ND defender or committed recruit has Councell’s particular skill set, except the new-and-improved Manti Te’o we saw in the Blue-Gold Game. Right now Councell defends the pass better than the run, but he is perfect for Bob Diaco’s defense because the highlights show he already understands a no-crease defense. Councell’s ability to meet the diverse demands of a 3-4 OLB will give a great chance to start after the strong linebacker classes of ’07 and ’08 graduate.

Jun 28, 2010

Top-10: Favorite Fighting Irish Football Players of All-Time

Here it is, the first of many Top-10 lists to come from “Irish Creed.”

TheNDleprechaun’s Top-10:
Favorite Fighting Irish Football Players of All-Time:

#10 - Timmy Brown - our only modern-era Heisman winner - His athleticism and ability to make big plays as a wide receiver and kick returner made for quite the spectacle.  He played with a certain toughness and style that I hope current star wide receiver Mike Floyd will aspire to.

#9 – Jerome Bettis – “The Bus” – He was either the fastest full-back or the biggest running back in Notre Dame history, I’m not sure how to categorize him.  It didn’t really make a difference to the defenders who tried to tackle him though, since they all ended up knowing what it felt like to get run over by a bus.

#8 – Elmer Layden – The full-back in the “Four Horsemen” backfield – Not only was he a crucial part of the best rushing attack in college football history, but as a defender he returned two interceptions for touchdowns during the 1924 National Championship game.

#7 – Don Miller – The right half-back in the “Four Horsemen” backfield – His three older brothers attended Notre Dame before him, where he went on to amaze crowds during his 1924 senior season when Coach Rockne called him “the best open field runner I’ve ever had.”

#6 – Jim Crowley - The left half-back in the “Four Horsemen” backfield - Nicknamed "Sleepy Jim" because of his calm demeanor even during the toughest games, he led the team in scoring during Notre Dame’s first National Championship season in 1924.

#5 – Harry Stuhldreher - "The Little General" – The signal-caller of the “Four Horsemen” backfield - Not only did he lead the Fighting Irish to their first National Championship, but he was also the smallest quarterback in Notre Dame history at 5’7” and 151 lbs.

#4 – Johnny Lujack – After taking over as the starting quarterback in 1943, he left Notre Dame to fight in the Navy until the end of WWII.  When he returned, he led the Fighting Irish to three National Championships and picked up a Heisman along the way.

#3 – Angelo Bertelli – He played in just six games during the 1943 season before answering the call of duty and serving in WWII as a Marine. Not only did this true Fighting Irishman become the first Heisman winner at Notre Dame that year, but after learning of his award while on active duty in the Pacific he went on to add a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart to his trophy case.  Can you get any more All-American than that?

#2 – Golden Tate – GT is the most electrifying player that I have personally seen play for the Fighting Irish.  He played with a swagger and a sense of style that made the game fun for him and all of us who got to watch him (except those who tried to cover him).  He is also a great dude and his presence on campus did a lot for Notre Dame.     

#1 – Raghib “Rocket” Ismail – “GO GET IT!” His nickname says it all.  From his explosive playing style, to his passionate retelling of the 1988 Catholics v Convicts story, to his preacher-like pep rally speeches, everything about The Rocket is on fire.

(Check out the Top-10 lists for FightinIrish1313 and TenDomer in the comment section below.  Feel free to comment on our lists and create your own.)

Jun 26, 2010

Film Review: Eilar Hardy

New four-star safety commit Eilar Hardy will probably play cornerback at Notre Dame, according to the South Bend Tribune. Hardy lined up at corner occasionally in sophomore clips but played safety, usually in the box, in his junior highlights from Scouting Ohio. He is more of a sure tackler than a big hitter, and he needs to add muscle to his frame. His strength is run support as he disrupted the line of scrimmage and flourished in the open-field tackling situations in which many current ND defenders have failed.

Hardy succeeded in the limited film in which he had pass coverage responsibilities. While safety is a huge concern for the 2010 season, ND will also need cornerbacks by the time he arrives. Hardy fits the new staff’s demand for tall corners, but he must spend time on the Longo Plan to help get his weight up to par. His excellent tackling fundamentals, which would have been the envy of many ND linebackers a year ago, increase his chance of playing early at either corner or free safety.

Jun 25, 2010

Interview with the Leprechaun

Irish Creed author TheNDleprechaun recently teamed up with fellow bloggers at Her Loyal Sons for an interview about being the official Fighting Irish Leprechaun, the launch of our new blog, and various other topics of interest for the Fighting Irish faithful.

Our conversation covered everything from mascot rivalries to pushups, crazy fans, "The Shirt," and Irish tattoos. Be sure to check out the interview, and stay up to date with Irish Creed and Her Loyal Sons for much more exciting material coming soon.

Jun 23, 2010

A National School

In Murray Sperber’s definitive Shake Down The Thunder: The Creation of Notre Dame Football, former AD and head coach Jesse Harper explained the program’s national schedule: “I had to go someplace where I could get some ball games.”

The cause was prejudice and blacklisting from regional teams. The result was the national identity that caused ND football to become America's team and the university to grow into America's Catholic school.

Almost a century after Harper first coached the Irish, Brian Kelly, fearful that potential conference alignment could regionalize ND recruiting, inherits a roster whose geographic diversity lives up to the University’s identity and strengthens the case for continued independence.

Jun 21, 2010

From Lange to Longo

Editor's note: Irish Creed completed the following story on Saturday, June 19, and planned to publish it at a later date. It was researched and composed entirely independent of Pat Forde's article today that focuses on Paul Longo with a reference to Father Lange.

Top-notch strength and conditioning has returned to Notre Dame football.

Brian Kelly brought ‘third coordinator’ and strength guru Paul Longo to ND for their seventh season together. Longo’s intensity and ingenuity connect him to Rev. Bernard H.B. Lange, C.S.C., a former de facto Irish football strength coach from Rockne to Parseghian. Their similarities—uncommon exercises, ultra intensity, extreme demonstrations of mental and physical strength—surpass differences in training methods that have naturally accrued over time.

East Prussian-born Lange, the strongman-priest, operated a Brownson Hall weight room for all ND students during the mid-twentieth century. Although Lange lacked the sort of title that Longo carries, weightlifting expert John Wood said Lange became Notre Dame’s “secret weapon” after beginning work with the football team in 1922. Mike Burgener, class of 1968 and a member of the ’66 title team, said “the biggest reason for me choosing to go to Notre Dame was because of Father Lange.”

While Longo has probably not been a deciding factor on a specific ND recruit to this point, new running backs coach Tim Hinton says if a prospect “has X amount of talent, I guarantee you coach Longo will make that an X-plus.” With Longo, Kelly is 42-1 when entering the fourth quarter with the lead.

Lange pioneered unusual exercises, a trait that lives on in Longo. The “ingenious leg press device designed and built by Father Lange” was a staple of his workouts. Longo is likewise inventive with his physical constructions such as the 80-yard training sand pit called Longo Beach and counterpart uphill pitch nicknamed Mt. Longo. According to ESPN’s Brian Bennett, “Longo has been known to ask his guys to lift unusual items like tires and perform what's called a Farmer's Walk, where you walk while carrying a heavy object in each hand.”

Longo is a modern match for Lange’s intensity. Former ND baseball player Kent Durso said “Father Lange ran the gym the way Bismarck ran Europe.” Ed Fitzpatrick, class of ‘69, recalled another exchange: “…in 1927 he was considered the 4th strongest man in the world and held the world record for the bench press at 407 pounds for 7 reps. I asked him why 7 reps. He said he was trying for 10 but started to laugh for some reason and had to stop.” Spring 2010 workouts induced more than one ND player to lose his lunch. Longo’s reaction? “I don’t even blink.”

Longo’s mental toughness offering, Camp Kelly, teaches players to “operate when you are extremely uncomfortable,” such as its first two ND installments at 5:00 a.m. on St. Patrick’s Day and the first day of spring break. Lange spread mental toughness to players by example, or at least via the memory of one of his own stunts as a student. After climbing atop the Dome and placing “his right arm around Our Lady,” Lange led police on “a frantic chase through St. Ed's Hall and down to St. Mary's Lake, where he made good his escape by swimming under the ice to the far shore, where he broke from the lake headfirst and disappeared into the woods,” according to 1970 graduate Dr. Paul G. Gill, Jr., M.D., and later told in Jim Dent’s Resurrection: The Miracle Season that Saved Notre Dame.

Today, the Rockne Memorial weight room is named for Lange. Longo doesn’t work with non-varsity athletes, but he is now part of ND’s strength and conditioning tradition that Lange built. Although today’s methods seem tame compared to the most legendary weightlifting priest of all time, Longo has the same intensity and ingenuity to do Lange—and Notre Dame—proud.

Jun 20, 2010

Early-Impact Freshmen

Most ND freshman football players report to campus today. Here are the five freshmen most likely to contribute in the fall. The Irish aren’t counting on many freshmen to play immediately. For 2010, freshman impact generally constitutes competing with the second unit.

1. T.J. Jones
Probable starter at WR after fast-paced spring. Expect his 2010 numbers to fall somewhere between Floyd’s freshman receiving record from ’08 and Kamara’s then-best ’07 numbers.

2. Luke Massa
Top Kelly target since the coach’s UC days, and Massa should give Nate Montana serious competition for the second-string job right away. He’s already been participating in voluntary summer drills for two weeks.

3. Christian Lombard
Played well in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Could be an instant second teamer at right tackle. On signing day, Kelly said Lombard was “going to help us short term.”

4. Austin Collinsworth
More likely to play in part because he’s the ultimate in versatility, although the coaches like him at WR. Kelly said Collinsworth “physically is going to be able to compete immediately.” Dad Cris included former pro teammates in saying he’s “never met a more competitive kid in my entire life.” Austin’s a winner whose high school dominated Kentucky competition to three consecutive state championships and a No. 3 USA Today national finish. Assuming his broken thumb from last fall is fully healed, he could make a special teams unit or possibly inroads at safety, a position of concern.

5. Bennett Jackson
He’ll be hard pressed to break into the WR two-deep but track speed and YAC penchant give Jackson a chance. More likely, he’s one solution to Kelly’s trial-and-error search for a dynamic returner.

Jun 19, 2010

Win one for Our Lady

I have been antsy. The excitement of starting this blog has been dampened by my uncertainty of what to write about in my first entry and what the impression of my first article will leave readers expecting from me. I was going to focus on history, connecting current ND topics to the Notre Dame of my grandpa (Frank Leahy's secretary) and my father (football office employee under Dan Devine) and waking the traditions buried long ago.

But then Clay Burton committed on Friday and I realized that all I care about is our future, winning the ‘ship, and getting to replace all of the “11 National Championship” banners hanging around my house and dorm room.

I was born on January 9, 1989, and I still have the Sports Illustrated that came out the same morning that I did: "CHEER, CHEER FOR OLD NOTRE DAME! IT'S A CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON FOR TONY RICE AND THE IRISH"

During his sophomore year at ND, my father enjoyed the 1977 national championship over Earl Campbell and the Texas Longhorns. My grandfather never witnessed Notre Dame lose a game as a student, went to school with two Heisman winners and celebrated three national championships. And I... well, other than being the curse of Notre Dame football, being a freshman during the worst season in school history, and personally attending every loss since I've been a student... I got nothing.

Since accepting the job as head football coach of the University of Notre Dame,
Brian Kelly has done everything right. As of now you can chalk him up as the best PR man in Notre Dame history, but I really believe he is the man for the job. As a self-proclaimed subway alum growing up, Brian Kelly never got to experience what being a Notre Dame student was like. Charlie Weis did, and he had the opportunity to come back for "grad school," but BK is like a giddy freshman soaking it all up. His three years at Cincinnati were like his transfer process; pulling the all nighters, skipping the parties, and doing everything to his fullest to ensure that he could enroll at Notre Dame in the fall. And the recruits he is pursuing to build his dynasty are the icing on his cake, his 4.0 report card if you will.

Everyone knew Charlie Weis was a great recruiter and a wizard with an offensive playbook. What he lacked was the control, the guidance, and the discipline to lead a bunch of 18-22 year-old players to victory. There is no denying that we had the players to be a BCS contender almost every year, however, Charlie Weis was coaching the NFL Development League and building the selfish egos of promising athletes. For players, the goal was an NFL check four years from now and ‘doing what I need to do to ensure that I make it big.’ He didn't focus on the winning for Our Lady, he didn't instill camaraderie, brotherhood, togetherness. The team was not made up of Notre Dame guys.

But I'm living in the future now, a future where our head coach embraces that it is a privilege and an honor to come to Notre Dame, and if you aren't interested in winning a title for Our Lady we don't have a scholarship for you. We have guys like Clay Burton who are "trying to work hard and just getting ready to start (his) career and legacy at Notre Dame.” A guy who is already motivated to beat Urban Meyer and Burton’s older brother, a quarterback at Florida, in the national championship. Not only is he having a stint at Notre Dame, but he is ready to leave behind a legacy in South Bend. He’s not yet ready to make the big bucks in the NFL and look straight through his college career. He’s living in the present and keeping his eyes on the prize.

A national championship ring. Not a Super Bowl ring.

Clay is ready to
earn his spot at Notre Dame. There are no inherited spots anymore. If someone isn't performing, Kelly will replace him with a walk-on if need be. Like Brian Kelly said during his student talk at the Mendoza College of Business, “It’s not enough to give your best. We need your all, all the time.” If you are not giving your all, if your attitude isn't right, you are not playing on this team.

Clay echoed these sentiments on Friday, saying, “I’m so honored to even have the opportunity, and I’m definitely ready to help bring Notre Dame nation to where it should be. I want to be part of the revival of the program.”

I'm right with you, Clay. I'm amped up, baby. 76 days until kickoff. 204 days until the first trophy of the Brian Kelly era. 568 days until the 23rd anniversary of my birth, the end of the curse, and a back-to-back national championship run for Brian Kelly and the Fightin’ Irish.

Jun 18, 2010

Burton is Irish!

Venice, Fla., outside linebacker Clay Burton verbally committed to Notre Dame today, according to Irish Sports Daily’s Steve Wiltfong.

His offers include Clemson, Georgia Tech, Florida State, LSU, and Tennessee, according to Rivals, which has yet to rank him. ESPN rates four-star Burton as the nation’s 22nd-best defensive end. Burton’s end-linebacker combination meshes perfectly with the OLB role in Diaco’s 3-4 scheme. Various sites list Burton anywhere from 6-3, 225, to 6-4, 235. According to his Scout profile, Burton carries a 3.8 core grade-point-average and plans to enroll early in January, 2011.

Burton spoke glowingly of ND throughout the ISD interview:
“I’m so honored to even have the opportunity, and I’m definitely ready to help bring Notre Dame nation to where it should be. I want to be part of the revival of the program.”
In my estimation of his ESPN highlight film, Burton is a natural pass rusher, especially when taking uber-wide splits from his high school DE spot. One worry from the ESPN film is Burton's failure to close out the pursuit with sacks, but his Rivals highlight reel better captures the 12 sacks he totaled last season. Just as his biggest asset is pressuring the quarterback and forcing him out of the pocket, the most glaring weakness is his inability to get into the backfield against the run. Nonetheless, Burton’s athleticism and style are in the mold of ND junior hybrid Darius Fleming. Burton is a big commit at a position that will suddenly become a need after Brian Smith, Kerry Neal, Darius Fleming, and Steve Filer all graduate. Burton means that the Irish cupboard is restocking before it had a chance to be bare. Expect Burton to contribute to the ND defense by 2012.

Jun 17, 2010

The New Leprechaun Craze

On Thursday, Argentinian soccer legend and head coach Diego Maradona was the latest person to seemingly strike the pose of the beloved ND Leprechaun:

Much respect, Maradona. Everybody's doing it:

If you have a good picture of yourself or someone else striking the "Fighting Irish" Leprechaun pose feel free to post it on our facebook page.  We just might display our favorite one on our blog.

Jun 16, 2010

The Texas Connection

Tuesday’s Texas-led Big XII revival affirmed ND athletic director Jack Swarbrick’s foresight last week: “It increasingly feels like there'll be a lot of change, or very little,” he told Pat Forde June 7 for an article published two days later.

His on-point prediction—and admission of the latter option when chaos seemed inevitable—suggests Swarbrick at least sustained discussions with the involved parties (which is his job as an AD) or perhaps even direct influence (which would make him good at his job). Keith Arnold considered the possibility of a behind-the-scenes agreement in his fascinating NBC

In any case, UT athletic director DeLoss Dodds and Longhorn decision makers just did ND’s independence a Texas-sized favor. Brian Kelly openly prefers football independence, and on Tuesday he
told Bruce Feldman that the Texas decision was “huge piece” for this goal.

As Swarbrick prudently
mentioned to the Chicago Tribune during the height of realignment chaos, the Nebraska and Colorado decisions impacted the Irish only indirectly.

A UT move would’ve been quite different, and Swarbrick recognized this priority by May at the latest, when he talked to
USA Today for a feature on Notre Dame and Texas. Swarbrick said he and Dodds share “a similar perspective.” His Texas counterpart’s reluctance to create a 16-team conference meshes with Swarbrick’s cited concern of having “a different division of college football all of a sudden.”

The extent to which Swarbrick interacted with Dodds during the process is an interesting but ultimately less important question. Results matter, and as the dust temporarily settles, ND indeed benefited from the Texas decision. Despite the Dodds assist, the win for Notre Dame shows that the
half of Swarbrick’s time devoted to realignment was truly well spent.

Jun 13, 2010

Welcome to IRISH CREED

Welcome to IRISH CREED, a blog created by three Domers who seek to celebrate the University of Notre Dame and share our unique perspectives with all members of the Notre Dame Family.

The words "Fighting Irish" are a testament to the indomitable spirit that has persisted at Notre Dame throughout history. To revive that spirit in full, new head football coach Brian Kelly recently created "The Irish Creed" to guide Notre Dame football into the future. As described in an article by ESPN's Mark Schlabach, The Creed boldly states: "The pride and tradition of Notre Dame football will not be left to the weak, timid, or non-committed."

The "Irish Creed" now holds a prominent place on a wall inside the football locker room, and we hope it will soon come to hold a prominent place in the hearts of all those who are proud to call themselves members of the Notre Dame Family.  We see "Irish Creed" as a fitting title for our blog because we intend to create a collective statement of faith through our discussion of all things Notre Dame.  Most importantly, we chose the name to represent the fact that we simply believe in the greatness of our university.

At Irish Creed, our mission is to provide in-depth information along with insightful commentary, personal stories, long-forgotten histories, as well as inspiring photos, poetry & artwork.  We will offer the Fighting Irish faithful a window into Notre Dame through our own perspectives as recent students and graduates.

tendomer:  "I am a 2010 Notre Dame grad, and as a student I was co-president of the Leprechaun Legion, the student section for Notre Dame basketball.  The 2008 Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl was the only home, away, or neutral site football game during my time at ND that I did not attend. Woe the timing."

FightinIrish1313:  "I will be a 2011 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, and will be taking over as President of the Leprechaun Legion during my senior year.  I’ve only missed 2 away football games since I’ve been a student (both wins) and have never witnessed a National Championship for the Irish. My Grandfather was a 1949 Graduate of Notre Dame and my Father graduated in 1980. Both were secretaries for their head football coaches (Leahy and Devine) during their time as students. I’ve got one more year to cheer on a National Championship while I’m a student, or my family will disown me for breaking our streak."

TheNDleprechaun:  "I am a proud native of Buffalo, NY who graduated from Notre Dame in 2010 and I will be attending Notre Dame Law School as part of the entering Class of 2013.  In 2009-2010, I had the honor of serving as the official Fighting Irish Leprechaun.  My time as one of the foremost leading symbols of the Fighting Irish was an unforgettable experience that I hope will bring excitement to IRISH CREED."

We hope you enjoy our upcoming posts and we invite you to come back often.  GO IRISH!

2012 Notre Dame Football Schedule

2012 Notre Dame Football Schedule
DateOpponent / EventLocationTime / Result
09/01/12vs. Navy Dublin, IrelandW, 50-10
09/08/12vs. PurdontNotre Dame, Ind.W, 20-17
09/15/12at SpartyEast Lansing, Mich.W, 20-3
09/22/12vs. SkunkbearsNotre Dame, Ind.W, 13-6
Shamrock Series
10/06/12vs. Da UChicago, Ill.W, 41-3
10/13/12vs. TreesNotre Dame, Ind.W, 20-13 (OT)
10/20/12vs. BYU Notre Dame, Ind.W, 17-14
10/27/12at Oklahoma Norman, Okla.W, 30-13
11/03/12vs. Pittsburgh Notre Dame, Ind.W, 29-26 (3OT)
11/10/12at Backup College Chestnut Hill, Mass.W, 21-6
11/17/12vs. Fake Worest Notre Dame, Ind.W, 38-0
11/24/12at U$C Los Angeles, Calif.W, 22-13
1/7/13vs. AlabamaBCS CHAMPIONSHIP
(Miami, Florida)
L, :(