Aug 27, 2013, 3:15 PM EST
Former Notre Dame football linebacker Kory Minor (@KMine4) took time out of his busy schedule to preview the 2013 Irish football season. Minor, a four-year member of the football squad went on to the NFL for a few years and is currently traveling the country speaking at colleges, universities and corporations on leadership and the concept of winning. Minor’s first book, “Make a Touchdown of Your Life” is due out soon. You can order the book at KoryMinor.com.
It’s that time of year again, Irish fans. Time to make travel arrangements, time to put the Notre Dame schedule on the refrigerator, time to hang the big ND flag outside the front door across the street from the neighbor with the Dallas Cowboys flag, time to call every ticket broker to buy season tickets when you know the games are already sold out, and time to tell your wife or significant other that Saturdays are no longer chore days. And whatever you do don’t say, “because Kory said so”.
Every fan and even critic knows there is nothing like Notre Dame Football. We all remember the 2012 campaign and how much fun it was to watch our team win the big games and pull out victories in the close ones. It was a season for all to remember.
In 2013, a new Irish team with take the field with a new perspective, but the same goals and dreams hold true.
So what does this Fighting Irish team have to do to be successful and move up in the polls? Before I discuss that let me just shed a little light on my opinion of what the theme should be for this season.
In my eyes the theme is simple, it should be: “One Play At A Time.”
Why you ask?
Most fans don’t realize that when players watch the game film their position coaches grade them on every play. It’s the letter grading from when you were in school — in A, B, C or D — it’s much worst than that. It is best summed up this way, “Did you WIN on the play or did you LOSE on the play?” It’s that simple, period. There is no middle ground. Having a middle ground leaves room for excuses.
Imagine if every player on the field — all 11 guys — focused on doing his assignment correctly down after down, play after play. Each guy taking a personal look at himself and striving to grade out a winner on every snap. Now I know this is unlikely based on the number of plays per game, but visualize it for a moment.
If every player on each play focused his ability on doing the little things right while keeping razor-sharp focus on his assignment, success would be almost inevitable. Hence, what if a player could grade out a winner on 90 percent of the plays he played in? Logic would show there would be less positives plays for the opponent.
What does that mean?
Again, I know it’s not possible for a player to be near perfect on every play. However, holding each player accountable for doing his job is possible. When Notre Dame players have more WINS while watching the film versus their opponents then without a doubt ND can beat every team they play against and rightfully so.
Hence, my theme of “One play at a time” the only way you can grade out successfully is to concentrate on being the best on each single play. Think of the game as 60 different games in one. The number 60 represents the amount of plays performed by the offense or defense. Breaking the game up in this way gives it a whole new outlook and possibility.
So with that being said here are my four keys for the Fighting Irish to have a successful season and stay in the conversation come January;
1. Play one down at a time.
As I mentioned earlier a sign of a great team is not dwelling on past success or failures and channeling all energy to focus on each and every play. Having a mindset of one play at a time allows the players to be present in the moment and execute on the fundamentals that have been taught. Learn to be immune to the past stay focused on the now.
2. Road games: Pack your defense and special teams.
Coach Holtz always stressed this on every road game. When you are in hostile environment most times it is hard to hear especially on the offensive side of the ball. A stellar defense and great special teams give you a shot to win even if the offense is lagging behind. If the opponent never scores it is safe to say you will never lose. Even if you have to kick field goals all night so be it a win is a win. Success in the special teams department and creating big plays on defense means great field position and anytime you can play the game of football on a short field this increases your winning percentage tremendously.
3. Create at least three special-game changing plays each game.
Creating three special plays a game allows for better field position as well as more points from other avenues. For example, an interception return for a touchdown; a punt block that leads to great field position; a sack and fumble recovery that leads to great field position or a score. These special plays act as an ally for any offense because they can simply change the momentum of a game. For instance, if you can rely on your defense or special teams week after week to score points and create great field position, then winning can become routine. There isn’t any coach in college football that wouldn’t want to take the pressure off of his offense from having to score more than 30 points to win a game by getting help from the defense and in the kicking game (special teams).
4. Become a great finishing team.
It is no secret that many games have been lost in college football during the last two to four minutes of a game. Creating the mindset and mental attitude needed to be able to finish is important. Being in a position to have a lead on a team and never look back is the dream of any coach. Putting teams away helps a squad develop character and become more of a cohesive unit and winning more football games. One of the biggest reasons is the ability for coaches to use second and third string players to create depth. Don’t underestimate the value of having depth. It is hard to win any championship with a lack of depth especially if the injury bug starts brewing. Alabama’s success over the past three years can be attributed to having an amazing amount of depth at every position on the field. Anytime you can replace a starter and not lose a beat, then winning will become routine.
So, there are my keys to this season.
Good luck and as always, Go Irish.
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