Fighting Irish faithful greet the new year with relief. The bitter disappointment of 2008, which had many of us ready to throw Charlie Weis under the bus (your correspondent included) has, with both time and recent events begun to fade.
It is time to turn the page and face the future. And, gratefully, so far so good.
The bowl losing streak, so gleefully and shamefully flogged by everyone from Bleacher Report haters to ESPN, was finally and definitively ended. The Hawaii Bowl (hopefully) shows what we have to look forward to.
The team is back to full strength…no major injuries in the offseason, and the attrition we get through graduation is minimal due to the youth of this team.
And speaking of the team's youth, this team will be a seasoned, grown-up unit starting in 2009. It won't be men (USC) against boys (ND) in 2009.
And most importantly of all, Weis is cleaning house with the assistant coaches.
Already gone is:
Oliver: The play of his defensive line was unacceptable, so he is gone.
Haywood: Mike Haywood was both offensive coordinator and running backs coach. In searching for his replacement, Weis is only interviewing for the latter position (i.e, Weis is calling the plays in 2009).
(Don't be surprised if he does it from the press box. You saw in Hawaii what advantage that gave him.)
Latina: Of all the coaches that needed to go, it was offensive line coach Latina. His replacement, Frank Verducci, is already in place. Verducci coached the o-line for the Cleveland Browns in 2007 (they won 10 games), for the Cowboys and Bills, and more importantly, 10 years for the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Look up their record during his tenure and you will know we are going to see a big improvement in the running game.
My bet is there may be another change or two—watch special teams and quarterback, but these are less certain.
Now, if Weis can instill a missing killer instinct in these guys, we can go far.