SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Lou Holtz has given dozens of speeches in his two years at Notre Dame and has used the same line in almost every post-dinner address.
"None of them are in the Hall of Fame yet," Holtz tells Notre Dame's legion of faithful fans.
That line refers to the two recruiting classes Holtz has been responsible for. Each class has been crowned one of the best in the nation, fueling the eternal fires of hope among Irish football fans.
But Holtz keeps reminding everyone that the kids in those two classes are only sophomores and freshmen.
"We've got a definite numbers problem with upperclassmen so our freshmen and sophomores will have to play a lot," Holtz warns.
While Holtz tries to keep preseason hopes realistic, he also knows this year's club will be better than last year's.
Notre Dame went 5-6 in 1986 but lost five games by a total of 14 points. That was also the first season under Holtz and familiarity alone should make the second-year Irish a winning club.
At the same time, the schedule is roughly the same except Boston College and Miami of Florida replace Southern Methodist and Louisiana State. An 8-3 season would be a vast improvement and is a definite possibility, but will not satisfy national title-hungry fans.
"I think sometimes people want too much from Notre Dame," Holtz said.
Notre Dame has a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate in flanker Tim Brown, who gained 1,937 all-purpose yards last season as a junior with nine touchdowns, two on kickoff returns. Holtz said he hopes Brown has more punt returns for touchdowns than kickoff returns but says he will again be used in every possible way.
"We'll hand it to him, we'll throw it to him and we'll let them kick it to him," Holtz said.
Unfortunately for Holtz, Brown does not take the center snaps. That job this season goes to senior Terry Andrysiak, who played behind Steve Beuerlein for several years. Andrysiak attempted only 30 passes in 1986 and completed 17.
Brown is the only starting receiver coming back, which will make him even more of a target for double-teaming.
However, the offensive line is almost intact from a year ago, when Notre Dame outrushed almost all its opponents. Holtz used a half-dozen backs in 1986 and none rushed for more than 400 yards.