As the Notre Dame Fighting IrishÂ football team embarks on its first season with new head coach Brian Kelly,Â there is a certainÂ understandableÂ angst among fans of the Golden Dome, having to do with the unsurfeited hunger for their team to once again climb back intoÂ nationalÂ prominence. Quarterback Dayne Crist takes the reins let go of by earlyÂ NFL draftÂ enter-eeÂ , Jimmy Clausen. He’ll have some nice offensive complements to work with, most glaringly the 6′-3″, 227 pound, Michael Floyd, who has the potential to be the Irish’s best non-baseball-playingÂ wideout since Derrick Mayes, and beast tight end Kyle Rudolph.
Kelly will employ a spread offensive system similar to the one that Crist ran in high school, which should suit the quarterback’s athleticism (and will hopefully obscure the fact that ND’s running game has recently been featured in an updated version of Soul Asylum’s “Runaway Train” musicÂ video -Â whichÂ they actually re-titled “Running In Place”). Senior halfback Armando Allen shouldÂ have something to say about this, however, especially given the fact that he will be running behind a veteran offensive line anchored by Junior, Outland Trophy candidate, Trevor Robinson.
The Fighting Irish’s defense should be a bigger question mark, although it does featureÂ its own fair share of returning talent, including one of the nation’s fiercest youngÂ linebackers, Manti Te’o. Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco will try toÂ implement theÂ gritty, smashmouthÂ styleÂ of play he employed at CincinnatiÂ last season, looking to veterans such as Ian Williams, Darrin Walls, and the aptly named Jamoris Slaughter, to pick up the slack. God knows we haven’t seen such nastiness at NDÂ since the days of Chris Zorich and Demetrius Dubose.Â
Despite an always brutal season-opening schedule, Coach Kelly will have a bit of history on his side, given the fact that even Tyrone Willingham came out of the gates 8-0 in his first season, ditto for Frank Leahy, andÂ Charlie WeisÂ came out 4-1 before losing a nail-biter to USC.Â Â ForÂ Irish eyes toÂ be smiling this fall, however,Â it will likely take more than the luckyÂ guidance of theÂ University’s first Irish football coach sinceÂ Leahy.
*Hopefully the Pat Haden broadcasting curse has been lifted now that he’s been hired away by his alma mater, USC. Q: What kind of a genius broadcastingÂ network hires a formerÂ USCÂ quarterbackÂ Â (and a former Rhodes Scholar, at that) to do color commentary for Notre Dame football?Â A: The same one that continues to nationally broadcast every home game of a team that has gone a combinedÂ 16-21Â the past three seasons. (And Pat Haden apparently is some kind of masochist!)
**A fun fact about this year’s Irish: ESPN commentator and ND alum Mike Golic has not one, but two sons on the team, including center Mike, Jr.,Â who may just windÂ upÂ snapping the football to Joe Montana’s son, Nate,Â duringÂ mop-up duty.
***For a complete 2010 schedule andÂ link toÂ purchase ticketsÂ (good luck getting them cheap), click here.