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Friday, December 8, 2023

Pre-Bowl: "Not So Fast, My Friends..."


Into the great wide open
Under the skies of blue...
Out in the great wide open
A rebel without a clue.


Dateline:  Flint Lake, IN


One of the less endearing character traits of many Notre Dame fans is their self-perception that we - and that of the athletic programs - are special.  Not Jerry Lewis Kids 'special' - though one suspects there are more than a few in the fan base that would comfortably qualify for that fraternity - but "we're really better than y'all" special.  Some are less discrete than others in putting that vibe out into the world.

So when the transfer portal phenomenon hits, along with the insidious undercurrent of NIL inducements, and one starts seeing more than a few ND athletes jump in... there's a near immediate reaction of disbelief, disappointment and outrage by ND Nation.

"Hey, Notre Dame is a special destination, not a thru-way.  We're the summit of Everest, motherf*cker, not base camp..." 

And yet, considerable, increasing empirical evidence is suggesting that Maslov's Hierarchy of Needs never accounted for "early playing time" somewhere high up on the pyramid.

This observation is not meant to be a diss on du Lac - in many, many ways the institution is undeniably rare -- but rather to set up a factual basis as it relates to player movement in the 2023 college football world.

On December 4th, 2023 the first day of college football transfer portal declaration: 

Over 1100 athletes put their name on the list.

In a word, what's happening at ND is neither unusual, surprising or extreme.  

It's simply the way of the world, circa 2023.



Quote of the Week


"Show me the incentive and I'll show you the outcome..."
                 Charlie Munger
                          

All you need to know in order to understand the transfer portal / NIL dynamic.


Word of the Week


Used in a sentence paragraph
:  Young Jerrence found himself unable to let go of trying to work out the mindset of a thousand athletes deciding they were going to walk away from their chosen schools.

Some after only one year at their institutions.  Some as proven starters with seemingly very bright futures ahead of them. 

This confused Jerrence. 

NIL money does have its limits... so all the movement can't be attributed to a kid's (or their family's) cupidity.  So what is it?  Just about increased playing time?  More understandable for the graduate transfers but the undergrads' decision seemed more complicated:  poor fit with school / program culture?  Movement of the coaching staff?  Or just a 'cut and run at the first sign of adversity' immaturity.  

One thing felt a certainty: the NCAA competitive model was broken, self-interest (and TV money) ruled the day.  And there was no one seemingly interested in fixing it.

December Thoughts  


I know who I want to take me home... 

As a big fan of immediate gratification, if there's a (perhaps singular) silver lining to the transfer portal -- at least as a fan / observer -- it's that the players do NOT f*ck around with making a decision.  It reminds me of b-school where, compared to undergrad (at least for your English major, maybe not the case for the pre-professional psychos), everyone was immediately, completely outcome-oriented.  And extremely serious about it.

For these portal travelers, none of this dicking around for 12-18 months like when their self-absorbed 18 year old selves (and their parents) played the field...  each wrestling with their own unique interpretation of what a 'commitment' does or doesn't mean... 

Nope, it's now a Wham Bam Thank You Maam process where a few schools make their best pitch and said athlete moves immediately to Go Time. 
 
Other thoughts:

Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl?!
  
 When your football season's final game  is determined via a hat draw, like you just won the big fruit basket at your church's annual fundraiser in the elementary school's cafeteria, one realizes -- as the philosopher Jerry Garcia would've put it -- just what a long strange trip the 2023 season has been.  

And candidly, it's a game that's tough to get terribly excited about. With all of the transfer portal / opt out's, non-playoff bowl games have essentially become more lucrative Spring game scrimmages.  Make sure to print out your roster because there's going to be a lot of "who the hell is that?!"

Not that there's anything wrong with that. (I'll still watch!). FWIW, ND is currently a 10 pt. favorite. 



Oregon State?
  Under normal circumstances, which this decidely is not, this would've been a pretty interesting game.  A rematch with a top 20 team whose QB lit up ND when he was a freshman at Clemson a few years back.  

But this ain't that team.  Not only has virtually the ENTIRE coaching staff defected to Michigan State but several of their best players have already opted out, including their top two QB's, an All Pac-12 LB and their 1st round draftable OT.

But it will allow one to be able to say "Beaver" repeatedly without feeling naughty.  So there is that.

Mike Brown?
  Channeling the late, great Chandler Bing -- could you have any more of a generic name -- by all accounts, this seems to be a really solid WR hire at a time when filling that void with some urgency appears critical.  Maybe not the flashy home run hire but definitely an extra base hit.  And so far, every ex-Cincinnati coaching staff that Freeman's brought on board has worked out pretty well.  

One of the more compelling attractions of Mr. Brown seems to be his ability to develop the WR talent.  He's had four players from his Cinci days make the NFL - and it wasn't like those guys came in as 5 stars.

The Independent podcast, with Messrs. Sampson and Fortuna, made a trenchant point as it relates to both player development and the allure of the portal:  even beyond the pressures of acclimating to the exponentially higher quality of football at ND, freshman year is really hard.  

And for almost everyone, the initial adjustment ain't easy.  (As someone who was genetically encoded to go to ND, I still hated ND first semester freshman year.  For every Bob Spittler who helped me survive Calculus, there was 2-3 tools who made sure you knew they aced their SAT's or made All State in some sport.)

The point is, if you're a black kid probably picking ND largely for the football opportunity, it puts a lot on the coaching staff to be that support, on and off the field, even after the recruiting is done.  Let's hope that'll be coach Brown's super power.

Portal movement?  Here's a counter-intuitive idea:  not every portal move is driven by NIL money.  Beyond the obvious motivation - I want to play more - there's also the draw of being in an environment that's maybe more familiar with a known support system.  Case in point:
  • Chris Tyree.  Heading back, literally, to home (UVA).  Honestly, good for him. 
  • Tyler Buchner.  Heading back to... ND?  In LAX?!  Did NOT see that coming. 
    • While not entirely confirmed, that would be pretty sweet.  And yet another driver for Jerrence to create a Springtime LAX blog - and maybe a tailgate opportunity?!

I'm going home... 





We Agreed To... What?  

Oh boy... 


Notre Dame and NBC’s Peacock streaming service are planning to produce a season-long documentary on the Irish football program, athletic director Jack Swarbrick confirmed to reporters on Wednesday.

The series is going to be in a similar vein to HBO’s popular NFL program Hard Knocks and will debut in 2024.

The announcement about the upcoming docu-series for Notre Dame football on Peacock comes on the heels of NBC’s new deal to retain the broadcast rights for Fighting Irish home games through the 2029 season. 

Buddy's Buddy


As perhaps more than a few of you have heard me whinge... 

The thing that I find most distressing about the out-of-control fluidity in college athlete movement is this kneeling at the altar of Id-driven adversity avoidance.

Which is to say, seemingly if I'm not playing immediately, or if I'm not seeing the ball enough, or I don't like the philosophy of the Coordinator, I'm moving on.

Broadly speaking. 

Whatever happened to working through the tough times, including home sickness?  (And tangential to this decision making, where are the parents in all of this?)

Which is why the 2023 Bronko Nagurski winner, Xavier Watts, is this week's Buddy.   For a kid who had more justifiable reasons than many to bail, he didn't.  Here's a quote from the young man:

"The journey I've been through, it's been difficult, and then to just get to that point where I'd be able to be recognized as the best defender in the nation is unreal."

Bravo, Xavier.  And to his family / support group.  Talk about being The Exception to the Rule.




And someone will have to explain to me how a safety can win the Bronko Nagurski award - recognizing the best defensive player in the country -- but not even be a finalist for the Jim Thorpe award, given to the nation's top DB. 


RE-PETE (A shameless, illegal lift of Pete Sampson's weekly mail-bag)



What's on everyone's mind these days?

Portal, portal and, oh yeah, portal.

So with sincere apologies to Mr. Sampson (and his legal counsel), find below my most egregious exercise in plagiarism -- theft is such an ugly word -- but his article this week on ND's portal recruiting aspirations sums it up better than I ever could.

And as I am but a mere insect, more like protozoa, in the media cosmos, I'll risk his wrath (and legal salvo)....

Welcome to day one of Transfer Portal Season.

ND appears to be ready for it, at least as much as any program can be.

“We’re always aware of the portal,” said coach Marcus Freeman last month. “We’re unique in terms of the guys we can truly get from the portal to Notre Dame, and so you’re always aware of those guys that could be graduates or the guys that are first-year guys.

Notre Dame had early evaluations down on defensive back Jordan Clark and wide receiver Kris Mitchell, which helped the Irish land both. But the Irish won’t (and can’t) stop there. But by week’s end, Notre Dame could be halfway home to its portal needs. 

Here’s what the Irish need to get done to fortify their roster heading into 2024

Land Riley Leonard this week

Former Duke quarterback Riley Leonard will be on campus this week, and there’s an expectation he could announce a commitment to Notre Dame by Friday. The Irish pursuit of Leonard is closer to its conclusion than its beginning, which would stabilize the QB depth chart for next season, even if it might further complicate how the Irish approach the Sun Bowl.

A week ago, Freeman said he expected Hartman to play in the bowl game. But after the bowl announcement, he softened that stance, deferring to the QB himself to announce his plans. Considering the likelihood of OT Joe Alt and Blake Fisher opting out, along with running back Audric Estime, never mind the departures at WR, the idea of Hartman putting himself at risk one more time for ND feels like a reach.

So, if Notre Dame lands Leonard and Hartman opts out, what does Steve Angeli do? The sophomore could get his first start at Notre Dame or he could feel the need to look around for his next destination. Regardless of any potential fallout, taking Leonard will be the priority.

The Alabama native should be an easy fit in Notre Dame’s locker room, although his skill set is different from Hartman, both as a passer and runner. Leonard has thrown just 24 TD's over the past three seasons. Hartman threw 101. But Leonard is the more dynamic runner, with his 19 rushing TD's one short of Hartman’s career total despite the former Wake Forest QB playing in twice the number of games.

The ramifications of these differences in skill set is for offensive coordinator Gerad Parker to resolve during spring practice. 

Keep momentum at WR

Kris Mitchell was a good start, but only if he’s a start.

The Florida International grad transfer put up 64 catches for 1,118 yards and seven TD's last year, meaning he’d have led Irish receivers in all three of those categories each of the past four seasons. He’ll be able to help the Irish outside the numbers, where ND returns little production from this season following injuries and transfers

Notre Dame’s original plan was to sign two WR from the portal this winter, but Freeman also hoped to have Rico Flores on the roster. While it’s not clear if the Irish will take three WR instead, it is clear who they’re targeting in Beaux Collins (Clemson) and Josh Kelly (Washington State). Kelly visited this week and will see Texas Tech next. Collins is expected in later this week, likely with Leonard.

Kelly led Washington State with 61 catches for 923 yards and eight TD's in 2023. Collins was 3rd in the Clemson passing game with 38 for 510 yards and three TD's.

If Notre Dame lands two portal WR it would likely mean 10 scholarship receivers on next year’s roster, although six of them would be freshmen or sophomores. 

Other notable receivers in the portal to track are Will Sheppard (Vanderbilt) and Chimere Dike (Wisconsin). Dike worked under Mike Brown, expected to be Notre Dame’s new WR's coach. Dike finished his Badgers career with 97 receptions for 1,478 yards and nine TD's. Sheppard, who’s already picked up offers from around the SEC, finished his Vanderbilt career with 152 catches for 2067 yards and 21 TD's.

Enhance both lines of scrimmage

Notre Dame wants to sign at least two linemen from the portal, one OT and one pass rusher.

The Irish plan to be without Alt and Fisher next season, likely returning Tosh Baker and Aamil Wagner as potential starting OT's. Charles Jagusah and Sullivan Absher will be coming off redshirt seasons. A graduate transfer at tackle could create more competition. The same could be true on the interior.

The DL has at least one clear candidate in RJ Oben from Duke. The product of St. Peter’s Prep (NJ) — alma mater of the Ademilolas and Brandon Wimbush — had modest production last season (17 tackles, 6 TFLs, 5 sacks), but at a lean 6'4", 260 lbs., perhaps can offer some of the production as Javontae Jean-Baptiste.

It’s not clear if ND needs another interior DL considering the roster in-house, but 6'4", 300-lb Joey Slackman from Penn might be worth a look as an Ivy League player. He’s already picked up offers from Michigan, Florida, Washington, Miami and USC.

Round out the secondary

Notre Dame got a jump-start by landing Clark, the nickelback from Arizona State. The son of 13-year NFL veteran and former LSU defensive back Ryan Clark visited Notre Dame last weekend with his father and needed barely 24 hours to decide.

On paper, he’s a like-for-like replacement for Thomas Harper, a graduate transfer from Oklahoma State last winter. He wasn’t as sure a tackler as Harper, but he was more active in the pass game with eight pass breakups compared to Harper’s one.

Notre Dame will return a wealth of talent at CB in Benjamin MorrisonChristian Gray and Jaden Mickey as potential starters. If Clark fits in the slot, it leaves S as the spot Notre Dame needs to hit next. Xavier Watts said he’ll play in the Sun Bowl and was already talking about how he’d manage his academics if he did return for a 5th year, which is promising. But the Irish are desperate for help after losing DJ BrownRamon Henderson and Antonio Carter II.

That leaves a pair of sophomores, Ben Minich and Adon Shuler, and an incoming 3-man S class to round out the roster. That’s not a comfortable place to be.

It’s worth remembering that nickel is a starting position in ND’s defense. The Irish had at least five DB's on the field on 85.7% of snaps against Ohio State and 60.1% of snaps at Clemson.

Find a new kicker

Following who Riley Leonard follows on social media has become a parlor game for fans (and media) in the past week, as he’s clicked on several key Irish players, a few transfer targets and even the football program’s communications director. Among those social media connections? Former South Carolina kicker Mitch Jeter, who entered the portal this week as a graduate transfer. And that may be exactly what special teams coordinator Marty Biagi is looking for in his next specialist

Jeter went 23-of-25 on FG's the past two seasons, hitting multiple kicks from 50+ yards. Jeter, an academic honor roll student, would seem to fit that bill.


 Source: The Athletic
December 6, 2023

Cocktail of the Week

Literarily speaking, nothing screams, "It's Christmas time!" quite like a Dickensian tale of squalor, debtor's prisons, orphanage work houses and tragic deaths amidst a Victorian Era back drop that looks super romantic when portrayed on TV or film - but you know, if only from a personal hygiene standpoint, inreality had to absolutely suck

But the tales, while oft times irritatingly circuitous, do inevitably end in a happy ending.  So there's that.

Merry Christmas!

David Copper Mug
David Copperfield (1849)
by Charles Dickens


No, not the magician who made the Statue of Liberty disappear back in the '80s.  David Copperfield the novel began its life as a serialized story in a British newspaper (aka author Charles Dickens' favorite way to roll out a story).

In it, our poor title charatcer grows up fatherless (and eventually motherless and brotherless) but ends up happily wedded -- after suffering enough Dickensian troubles to make anyone reach for a drink.

Our British-inspired mule should help the depressing parts go down fast.

*  2 oz.  vodka 
*  1/2 oz. lime juice 
*  Ginger beer, to fill
*  1/2 oz. red wine, to float 
*  Lime wheel, for garnish

Pour the vodka and lime juice into a copper mug.  Fill with ice, add the ginger beer and float the red wine on top. 

Garnish with a lime wheel and enjoy the dickens out of it.


Source:  Tequila Mockingbird 
Cocktails With a Literary Twists
by Tim Federle

 Schedule 2023


August
26            Navy (Dublin, Ireland)                W

September 
2                  Tennessee State                         W                                   THE CALM BEFORE...
9                  @NC State                                  W
16                Central Michigan                       W
-----------------------------------------------------
23               Ohio State        NIGHT              L
30               @Duke             NIGHT            W

October                                                                                                       THE STORM.
7                @Louisville      NIGHT              L
14                USC                 NIGHT              W
-----------------------------------------------------
28             Pittsburgh                                      W

November 
4             @Clemson                                        L                                          BEFORE       
18           Wake Forest                                    W                                        FINISHING...  
25          @Stanford                                        W
                                                                                                         STRONG?



Wager 2023


I just robbed a grocery store.
I'm going to Disneyland... 


Well, don't go booking your tickets to Disneyland just yet - there's a tie-breaker yet to be played.   The scoring system is 'same as it ever was'...
  • Pick the bowl games with the spreads - 1 pt. for each correct answer (10 pts total)
  • Pick the over / under for each game - 1 pt. for each correct answer (10 pts. total)
  • Answer the three multiple choice question - 1 pt. for each correct answer (3 pts. total)
  • Guess ND's false start total and when the first will occur - 1 pt. for each correct answer (2 pts. total)
Get your guess in any time before kickoff on the 29th.  By my rough estimate, should everyone pony up, the pool (after subtracting for the winning group getting next year's (2024) fee covered) should be about $725.  But remember, English major here, so my math will need to be checked. 


        Bowl                                Line             (Over / Under)
1. Gator Kentucky vs. Clemson (-7.0)     (47)
2. Sun    Oregon St. vs. Notre Dame (-8.5)     (44)
3. Cotton            Missouri vs. Ohio State (-0.5)     (49)
4. Peach Mississippi vs. Penn St. (-3.5)     (49)
5. Orange    Florida St. vs. Georgia (-14.0)     (45)
6. Reliaquest Wisconsin vs. LSU (-10.5)             (56)
7. Citrus            Iowa (+2.5) vs. Tennessee (-7.5)     (36)
8. Fiesta.          Liberty vs. Oregon (-16.5)             (65)
9. Rose.  Alabama vs. Michigan (-1.5)     (45)
10. Sugar.          Washington vs. Texas (-4.0)     (64)


Q1
How many Ken’s appear in Greta Gerwig’s multi-billion dollar global hit, “Barbie?”



1) 3

2) 7

3) 10

4) 23


Q2. According to the book, “American Prometheus,” what does the “J” in J. Robert Oppenheimer stand for



1) Jerrence

2) Julius

3) Jerome

4) Jay-Z


Q3. One of Jerrence’s favorite books of 2023 was “The Art Thief: A True Story of Love, Crime and a Dangerous Obsession” by Michael Finkel. 

It chronicled the world’s most prolific art thief, 20-something year old St├ęphane Breitwieser who with only his girlfriend, a backpack and a Swiss army knife, stole over 300 objects from European museums, castles and cathedrals.  

And never sold any of it.  How much, ultimately, were the stolen art roughly estimated at?


1) $25 million

2) $50 million

3) $100 million 

4) $2 billion  

Q4. How many false starts will be called on Notre Dame in their bowl game?

Q5. On which offensive series will they be called for their first false start?

------------------

Finally, for those below whose name is not highlighted, I'd appreciate it if you could send me your $25 entry fee. (And if you gave me the money and I forgot, of course let me know.)



Wins

ND Lacrosse God

Domer




12



Kevin Corrigan

 

A Corrigan as national champ?


Perfection.


 


Brian M.John P., John L.



11



Matt Kavanagh

 

The first of the Kavanagh clan, his career mirrors that of how an 11 win season might be construed - undeniably excellent, just not quite good enough.


DarylDave M.PeterRay




10


Pat Kavanagh

 

Nobody embodies 'tough' more than this guy... suggesting a 10 win season, with all the unknowns on the team (e.g., WR's), may say more about the team's fortitude - and future - than two losses might.


 

JerrenceJP,  

Brian W, Jay, BillRyanMattGarrettCincoBucks,  

SullyRaz, Ted, LiniJim B.,  Spit the Elder,  Spit the YoungerMike B., Bryan




9



Chris Kavanagh


How would a 9-win season be viewed?  The guess here is "wow, that year was crazy, a little unhinged, certainly unpredictable!"


Which seems to be the most perfect description of the youngest Kavanagh. 

 

 

Jim S.Bob J.,  

GutschJim T.Jerry P., UngieCoat Man, Alex, Mike G., George, Feif




8



Sergio Perkovic.


The pride of Bloomfield Hills, arguably the Austin Carr of his era (check out sometime how he singlehandedly brought the team back in a NCAA semi-final vs. Denver).


Yet no one remembers him in light of the team's recent success.  Just like no one will choose to remember an 8-win outcome.


 

Albert, Jerry W., Blair



7



Liam Entenmann


7 wins, ugh.  No one would be happy with that - yet out of it may reveal a preternatural performance or two (ala our man Liam in Philadelphia), setting up an optimistic 2024 scenario.


Dare to dream.


 



6



Gerry Byrne

 

Nothing optimistic about 6 wins or less.  Just looking for someone to blame.  In this case, why not point the finger at the former 2nd in command to Corrigan, architect for a top tier defense strategy who (got tired of waiting and) left for the top job at Harvard.


Not fair but so what.


 



5




This is lacrosse 'when it was a club sport' territory...


 



4



How are the fencers looking this year?

                                                          



Schadenfreude of the Week.


Truth be told, with so much transfer portal angst enveloping every program (except maybe Michigan which seems to be living in some kind of Ann Arbor / Brigadoon fantasyland - at least until they play Alabama), schadenfreude is not in short supply. 

But because this is the Christmas season, it'd be wrong to pick on everyone.  (I'll save that for January.)

So let me be singularly focused:


1) Florida State
.  Passed over for the BCS Playoff despite going 13-0... Winner of the Bobby Bowden Lifetime Achievement award as well as the "Hey Seminole Nation, We Didn't Hear You Bitching Back in '93 When Notre Dame Received A Similar Shafting" designation.



Here's the most delicious irony:  If your ACC Commissioner hadn't helped shoot down the 12 team playoff concept a year (maybe two?) ago, the expanded playoff would've been instituted this year and you'd be in.  


Terry's Tools.

One would think that, Christmastime, the world is going to be on its best behavior, right?

Peace on Earth and Goodwill Toward Men!

Yeah, fat chance of that.

So one won't be surprised that there isn't exactly a dearth of cretins  as we roll into this year's holiday season.  And it's only Jerrence exhibiting uncharacteristic restraint that he's limited the list to three.

Albeit three super-qualified dopes.


1)  Big Dom.   When one hears a moniker like that, what's your immediate reaction?    Soprano's character, right?  

What'd be the second?  He's gotta be from Philadelphia.  

Bingo!  From the city that gave us fans that throw snow balls at Santa Claus, a new vintage "yep, that sounds like Philly" moment... 




To wit:  the Philadelphia Eagle's head of security, the aforementioned Dom DiSantro, thinking himself to be some kind of Lincoln Financial Field bouncer, inserts himself into a player fracas during a hotly contested game between the NFC's two best teams.  

And while it'd be a huge stretch to think Dom to be that strategic -- hello, one doesn't get called 'Big Dom' for being a Mensa candidate -- one has to give him credit for taking one for the team -- being ejected -- while getting a key 49'er LB'er kicked out as well.


2)  BCS Playoff Committee.  One would have to imagine that if there's a group of people for which the 12-team college football playoff format CANNOT come quickly enough, it's got to be these guys.  

Now it's irrelevant whether one thinks the committee made the correct call (which this blogger actually does), the fact is some team was going to get BOHICA'd with more than a fair amount of justification for feeling wronged. 

Bummer!  

Everyone hates you, Committee, even those who made the playoffs (see Michigan).

3)  Deion Sanders.  The runaway recipient of the "I'm Due Back on Earth Now" award for most clueless, least self-aware comment of the year.  From the man who's been an "It's All About Me" publicity machine since his days at FSU, this is just... wow.


Sayeth coach Prime, "You always wish that you had a little more privacy. The same thing that makes you shine will show your blemishes."

How magnanimous of the Sports Illustated Man of the Year.


Final Thought


Here's how Jerrence's future is looking - with any luck, the next blog will be fueled by flaky croissants and French wine (of which I'll try to make Mark U. identify the provenance).


December
 

18   Jerrence enters the portal (well, American Air) 
       Hello, Marbella!

29   Bonjour Paris! 
      Hanging with Shea and Jack

January

8    Home - last year it took until March to write a final season blog.  

So if one receives a wine-fueled blog that spends more time on the new additions at the Musee D'Orsay than Angeli's performance, consider it a win.  

                                                    "I want to miss you a Merry Christmas..."