One of the biggest mainstream media storylines is Notre Dame sitting at 0-3, without scoring an offensive touchdown. From Rece Davis, to Sportscenter, to fanboys on forums, people are talking about Notre Dame before anything else in college football. And it's confusing me. On forums across the country, there is an underlying argument about Charlie Weis in comparison to Ty Willingham. People wonder why Weis isn't feeling pressure, and again, it's confusing me.
As the title asks, why is anyone surprised at Notre Dame's struggles? We all knew the losses they had coming into this season. It's impossible to expect that team to be any better than 1-2. Penn State and Michigan, in the preseason, were in the top 20. Georgia Tech, too. So why would anyone reasonably expect better than 1-2? You shouldn't have. 0-3 is very understandable for a young team.
Remember, this team lost a 1st round draft pick and all-time leading passer in Brady Quinn. They lost their top 2 wide receivers who combined for 1,924 yards and 27 touchdowns! They also lost the most underrated player on the entire team - Darius Walker. He ran for over 3,000 yards in his 3 seasons, and in his senior year, he had 1,267 yards at 5 yards a pop, plus he caught 56 passes! All in all, the offense lost their top 4 playmakers to the NFL and MLB.
Defensively, the losses were heavy, too. They had a 2nd round draft pick in DE Victor Abiamiri gone, along with 5th round pick DT Derek Landri, and starter Chris Frome graduated. Landri and Abiamiri combined for 17.5 sacks, or 56.5% of the sacks for the entire defense. Losses were rough in the secondary, as well. FS Chinedum Ndukwe was 2nd on the team in tackles, and in my opinion, a more dynamic player than Tom Zbikowski. CB Mike Richardson was a fulltime starter and was drafted by the Patriots.
All in all, of the 5 returning starters on defense, only Maurice Crum and Zbikowsi are dynamic. Trevor Laws at DE can be one, too. Offensively, TE John Carlson is about it. C John Sullivan returned from an already mediocre line that 3 lost starters.
Now, keep in mind of the stats. The offense only returned 74 starts, with 50 coming from Carlson and Sullivan. The defense only returned 125 starts, 35 from Zbikowski.
So, again, why is anyone surprised?
Now, the Weis/Willingham debate. Some people wonder why Weis's seat isn't a bit warm, because you know, Ty only got 3 years. It comes down to 2 numbers: 15 and 19. The former is the number of wins Ty had in 2003 and 2004, with the latter being the number of wins Weis had in 2005 and 2006. Period. Willingham had a 10-3 season followed by a 5-7 season. Weis? 9-3 and 10-3.
While I don't need to go on, I will. In Willingham's 10 win season, ND outscored opponents by an average of 5.4 ppg, and in 2003, they were outscored by an average of 6 ppg. In Weis's 2005, they outscored the enemy by an average of 12.2 ppg, and in 2006, 7.2 ppg.
Starting to make sense? Good. Also, keep in mind Notre Dame is starting 7 freshmen and sophomores on offense. They put together the #8 Rivals recruiting class this past February, and the same rank in 2006. As of right now, for 2008, they are #1. Willingham had #12 in 2003, but #32 in 2004. So, Weis is taking these wins and making the future brighter. But he needs time, and he's earned it. It's unfair to expect a young team to keep pace with a team that had the best 2 year win total at ND since 1992-1993!
So, I ask, why are you surprised?