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ESPN’s Pollack: Notre Dame not yet among elite

2013-01-04T21:45:00Z ESPN’s Pollack: Notre Dame not yet among eliteERIC HANSEN and BOB WIENEKE, South Bend Tribune nwitimes.com
January 04, 2013 9:45 pm  • 

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. | David Pollack isn't a naysayer when it comes to Notre Dame and whether the football program should expect to be in the conversation of the nation's best teams over the next few years.

He just isn't ready to hand the Irish a permanent spot at the table of the elite because of one year's worth of success.

“No. You’ve got to do things consistently to expect to be back on a yearly basis,” the ESPN studio analyst said Friday morning as the hype continued to build for Monday night’s BCS National Championship Game between the top-ranked Irish (12-0) and No. 2 Alabama (12-1).

“I don’t think anybody’s given that right. I think you earn it, and one year doesn’t say that we should expect them to be that next year.

“Are they a great team this year? Yeah, they’ve won all their games. But you look at Alabama, that’s the only team in the country that I say now that you expect to be back.

“Oregon has put themselves in position, with Chip Kelly, that you expect them to be in the running every year. Les Miles and LSU, you expect them to be in the running. I think you’ve got to do it several years to be expected to do something. That’s how I perceive it.”

Pollack shared a number of other thoughts during a brief meeting with the press following Friday’s round of player interviews.

On ND linebacker Manti Te’o’s role in Monday’s game: “He’s going to be pivotal. When I turn on the tape and watch him, he’s got that thick lower body, the thick booty. He reads things super quick, diagnoses things super quick. He sees things before everybody else on tape every single time.”

On which ND receiver scares him most beyond tight end Tyler Eifert: “Theo Riddick. If I was Alabama, I’d say Theo Riddick would be the next guy that demands the most attention.

“Notre Dame has two guys, Eifert and Theo Riddick — when you know where a guy is going to line up it makes it extremely easy to take him away. When you’ve got guys like that who can play receiver, can play tight end and can play running back, you can move them around. Advantage me, because I get to use them as a chess piece.”

On what ND quarterback Everett Golson can expect from the Alabama defense: “Everett Golson is going to come up to the line of scrimmage and my No. 1 advice is ‘Don’t believe what you see,’ because Alabama is the best at being able to show something and disguise it, especially with four weeks, five weeks, six weeks off, whatever it is. It feels like a hundred weeks off.”

Hoop Dreams alive

When Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson arrived in South Bend for the spring semester of 2011, his hope was not only to rise to the top of the QB depth chart quickly, but to play a little point guard, too.

Golson won state championships in both football and basketball at Myrtle Beach (S.C.) High School, and earned all-state honors in hoops after his junior season in which he averaged 19.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists. He did not play as a senior, because he enrolled early at Notre Dame.

After two years of lukewarm interest from ND men’s basketball coach Mike Brey and an even more tepid response for Irish head football coach Brian Kelly, the 6-foot, 185-pound Golson still hasn’t pushed aside his hoop dreams.

“Me and coach Brey exchanged words, but nothing too solid to really stick,” Golson said Friday of the original inquiry into playing two sports at ND. “Obviously, basketball is my love. But my primary right now is football. I'd like to say I would like to have the chance of playing basketball someday here. But like I said, football is my primary, and what I'm focused on right now is the national championship.”

The last Irish football player to suit up for Brey was tight end John Carlson, who played in three games and scored two points during the 2003-04 season.

No Lucky Charms?

The dreaded “lucky superstition/pregame ritual” question pretty much got stiff-armed by both Golson and ND offensive coordinator Chuck Martin.

“I don't think it's for me,” Golson said. “I don't really have any pregame rituals. I think maybe the only thing is I sing a little bit, and some of the guys will sing a little bit, too. But we're mostly like focused for the most part, just focused on the test that we have ahead.”

Added Martin, “Yeah, we have no superstitions, zero. Actually I have one: When you walk in the locker room to address your guys, there's a lot of really good players in there. That's my superstition.

“Other than that, we try not to do anything the same way twice, because then we can never be off schedule — we didn't put our socks on the right way today. There's a lot of things that can creep in your mind and help you lose a game. We try to stay away from those.”

Copy cats

Martin admitted Friday to watching a lot of Texas A&M film in preparation for Monday’s title tilt. The Aggies were the only team to beat Alabama this season (29-24), scored the most points against the nation’s No. 2 scoring defense and were one of only two teams to break the 400-yard mark in total offense against the Tide this season (LSU was the other).

The hardest part to replicate? The 20-0 first-quarter lead the Aggies forged.

“That would be absolutely nice if that would ever happen,” Martin said.” But third downs were key for them, and then their quarterback (Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel) ad-libbing a little bit. When things weren't there, he made three or four plays.

“So we're planning on (Everett Golson) doing the same thing for us, that when we call a lousy play, he just ad-libs a little bit, makes something happen, which he has a tendency to do at times, which we really like.”

Squibs

Notre Dame’s final practice with a media window was held Friday at the Miami Dolphins’ practice facility at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Among the highlights during the short viewing session was the Irish running a lot of option plays and quick pitches on offense.

The Irish practice completely behind closed doors on Saturday with a final walkthrough scheduled for Sunday at Sun Life Stadium.

As the reporters introduced themselves before asking questions in Friday’s Notre Dame football press conference, one media representative claimed to be from “edwardjonesinvestements.com” — and did ask a football rather than a financial question.

Interestingly enough, edwardjonesinvestments.com is a URL that does not exist. The website for Edward Jones investments is edwardjones.com.

How much is defense a central part of the Alabama football culture? The Tide depth chart breaks convention and lists the defensive players first.

The best name you’ll hear ESPN play-by-play announcer Brent Musburger utter Monday night? How about Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. The sophomore from Orlando, Fla., starts at safety for Alabama. Notre Dame was one of his finalists in recruiting, though he went by “Hasean” back then.

According to Fanatics.com apparel website, Notre Dame and Alabama not only finished 1-2 in the final BCS standings, they finished that way in merchandise

Notre Dame also made the largest increase over last year — 223 percent — followed by Northern Illinois (197 percent), Kansas State 112 percent and Texas A&M (101 percent).

More than 90 percent of the customers who purchased ND swag on Fanatics.com lived outside of the state of Indiana and all 50 states were represented in the customer base.

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