Aug 13, 2008

Tin Soldiers?

Head Coach Charlie Weis eluded to this term, "Tin Soldiers" back towards the end of the 2007 season and even more so before the start of spring practice. He was referring to the way his players were acting on the field and off of the field as well. They were emotionless. Void of feeling, more than likely brought on by a season of lows unseen except by those dwelling in the last circle of hell.

I noticed this emotionless wave early on in the 2007 season. For me, I saw it start to peak by not only the players but the fans as well after the Navy loss. As I walked out of Notre Dame stadium after that horrific loss, I heard fans saying "At least it was a close game." I was furious! I almost reached a point were I was going to go all superfan on them and start yelling profanities and blind accusations, until my own wife said the exact same thing. I felt betrayed. I felt hollow. This team, this University, this NATION had drifted into a black hole.

Flash Forward: News Flash- Jon Tenuta to be hired by Notre Dame as Assistant Head Coach and Linebackers Coach.

The news that Tenuta was coming to ND was very surprising AND very exciting for Irish fans and players everywhere. He is one of the most brilliant defensive minds in the game and brings a toughness and attitude not seen at ND for a very long time. I instantly dreamed of quarterbacks being squashed by a bevy of Irish blitzers.

Flash Forward: National Signing Day Febuary 6, 2008.

Irish fans are buzzing with excitement for the future. Notre Dame locked up what at the time was the #2 recruiting class in the country behind only Alabama. (Several months later 7 players off of the commitment list for The Tide either did not qualify or are playing baseball, essentially making the 2008 Irish class the #1 class in the nation). They addressed every need they had and added a few instant impact players on both sides of the ball.

Flash Forward: Blue-Gold Spring Game April 19, 2008.

The team showed signs of major improvement on both sides of the ball, and more importantly they showed some real fight in them... literally. Irish fans were mostly enthralled by the team fights at practice and during the Blue-Gold game itself. The players were starting to come alive as emotional masters of disaster and were dripping with blood lust.

Flash Forward: Fall Camp 2008.

Irish nation was witness to things we didn't see in 2007. Full, physical practices with competition and big hits coming from everywhere. The team is encouraged by Weis and the staff to be vocal and exuberant in their play and their celebrations. At one point, the team was told to redo a celebration that Weis found totally unacceptable.

It has been a beautiful thing to watch as this team has pulled itself up from the dark abyss of 2007 and actually worked on being more physical and emotional out on the field. But of course there are Negative Nancies out there that are saying that the fact that Weis is "teaching" the players to celebrate is laughable and wrong.


All Weis is doing is keeping his word and his philosophy of change intact. He is making sure that this team becomes a physical team that thrives off of the emotion of one another and funnels it into hard play. No more infantry of "Tin Soldiers" in South Bend. This will not be a team that just goes through the motions and is allowed to get away with it. They won't let themselves. And that is the point and the lesson learned.

1 comment:

SirJohn said...

I think we all saw that the team was without emotion and flat. I won't go into the divisions on the team or that D Jones as that is well covered. I do think a team feeds off the crowd. Notre Dame Stadium is as quiet as the Basilica during a Mass, past the student body Perhaps 60,000 people asking an excited fan to "shut up and sit down." I can't hammer the ND ticket holders enough on this matter. It's football you morons not ice skating.