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Wannstedt talks Irish

Dave Wannstedt met with the media to discuss the showdown this Saturday night with Notre Dame. Here are a few observations:

* Wanny was certainly complementary of the offensive weapons Notre Dame has. He said quarterback Jimmy Clausen “is playing as good as any quarterback around.” After watching tape on all of Pitt’s opponents, Wannstedt said “without a doubt Golden (Tate) is the best player that we have faced.” (Although if you look at their schedule, I’m not really sure how big of a stretch that is.)

In fact, I’m going to argue that Clausen, Tate, and Michael Floyd are the three most talented offensive players that Pitt has seen this season.

* Wannstedt also spoke glowingly about the Notre Dame running game.

“They’ve got as talented of running backs as anyone. They’ve got as good of an offensive line as anyone, it’s experienced. I think their running game is scary. It really is. They’ve got players that can take it the distance at any time.”

Wannstedt talks specifically about Armando Allen and Theo Riddick, two backs that he recruited out of high school. Maybe Wannstedt could be clairvoyant, as many Irish fans are still waiting for the Notre Dame running backs to break a run of 40 yards or more.

* When asked to compare where his team was compared to the team he had that played Notre Dame in 2005, Wannstedt admitted he overestimated the ability of the 2005 squad.

“We’ve got more depth right now. We had to play some freshmen in that game...We’ve got better depth now, that’s the first thing. We thought we were a heck of a lot better than we really were. We found out very quickly that we had work to do. I think we had good leadership then, but we were probably just a little bit ahead of ourselves. I was trying to figure out who could do what. I was with the kids for (just) a month.”

It’s amazing that it’s been five seasons since both Weis and Wannstedt maid their debuts at their alma maters. I remember vividly watching the Irish that day and being absolutely delighted with the breakout performance of Jeff Samardzija and Brady Quinn, and quitely thinking that this team might have something. Back then, people were just happy to see an adequate passing game that didn’t rely on Matt Shelton to break one on a fake bubble screen. (Ahh, how jaded Irish fans have gotten...)

* Once again the relevancy questions comes up, and once again a coach admits that people still get amped up for Notre Dame. (Shocking, right?)

“Notre Dame is one of those schools that has great, great, tradition, and great national tradition. Maybe the most nationally recognized team in the country. They probably are, anywhere. I know firsthand recruiting against them, here and when I was at USC that they can go into any state, any high school, anywhere, and they are going to be one of two or three schools recruiting a kid...whether it’s California, New Jersey, or Texas. There’s no other place in the country that can really do that. They have had great tradition.”

As I mentioned yesterday, two of ESPN’s lead reporters were in attendance at Weis’ Tuesday afternoon press conference, so I expect this game to get more and more coverage from ESPN as the week goes on.

* Like all coaches find a way to do, Wannstedt even found a way to say something nice about Notre Dame’s defense, the achilles heel of this Irish squad.

“Defensively, they’ve got a few younger players. They’re athletic. They do more pressure stuff. The linebackers make a lot of plays. Their corners can cover. I think with what they’re doing on defense, the personnel matches up well.”

Good to see coachspeak is alive and well...