Posted by BrianBoru at 8/31/2009 3:15 PM EDT
Your wait is over, Notre Dame Nation.
In what has probably seemed like the longest off season of his coaching career, Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis will finally get the opportunity to silence his critics as the Fighting Irish get set to play Nevada on Saturday.
Weis, who I believe should have been fired immediately following the Syracuse debacle last season, will have very little margin for error this season.
Notre Dame will have more talent than all but one team on its 2009 schedule: Southern Cal. Incidentally, losing to the Trojans five consecutive years, which Weis will have accomplished if Notre Dame falls to Southern Cal in 2009, is grounds for summary termination.
If only football were that simple. If only the 2009 season could be played in a vacuum of talent, with the suddenly talent-rich Fighting Irish enjoying an embarrassment of spoils at nearly every position. Unfortunately, though, it is not.
In order for Notre Dame to fulfill the undeserved preseason hype it has been getting, Charlie Weis will have to become the leader that this team sorely needs. His Irish charges will have to demonstrate the "nasty" football he once promised.
Don't believe the hype; Jimmy Clausen is not the most important ingredient to success. Notre Dame's fortunes in 2009 will rest squarely on the weary shoulders of Charlie Weis.
You see, while I understand that no other position in college football is as important as the guy lining up under center, Clausen simply cannot do it alone. No quarterback — not even Tim Tebow — can win without the aid of a solid running game.
This leads to the common complaint among so many Notre Dame fans: the offensive line.
As you're certainly aware, any success running the football is predicated upon having a dominant offensive line. If newly-hired offensive line coach Tom Verducci is the goods, as I have been reading and hearing, then the Irish may well end up with an explosive offensive unit this season.
For Verducci to succeed, however, Weis will need to commit to at least a semblance of a rushing attack, calling more than just a few poorly-disguised handoffs off tackle. If Weis desires to live and work in South Bend in 2010, he will recognize that the only way that will happen is if he abandons his Playstation Football Philosophy.
This does not mean Weis needs to lay aside his passing game entirely; instead, he must learn to compliment his abundant receiving corps with a steady dose of Armando Allen et al.
In case you're wondering exactly what I'm talking about, and if you've already digested your lunch, throw in the tape of last season's game against Boston College. In that game, a battered Jimmy Clausen was betrayed by his head coach's ill-advised game plan. Despite playing the majority of the game in heavy rains, Weis stubbornly called on his ailing quarterback to heave the ball all over that high school bandbox known as Alumni Field. At game's end, Clausen, already beset by recurring hip and elbow injuries, was credited with four interceptions as the Irish fell once more to the annually-mediocre Boston College program.
And the entire game I was shouting at the television: "run the ball!"...
Will Weis change this season? Will he embrace a more physical brand of football, an attitude which he promised during the press conference to introduce him as head coach of Notre Dame? Will Notre Dame field a hard-hitting defense, capable of holding onto second half leads?
If Notre Dame is to have the season many within the media forecast, the answer has to be yes.