Thursday, August 16, 2007

Notre Dame Football Preview


Spotlight: Demetrius Jones

Also Returning: Evan Sharpley
Lost: Brady Quinn, Dan Gorski (graduation), Zach Frazer (transfer)
Gained: Darrin Bragg (position change), Justin Gillett (walk-on), Jimmy Clausen (freshman)

Those who do listen to Charlie Weis seem ready to annoint Sharpley as the starter. Those who don't listen to Weis seem ready to give the job to Clausen. But what about Jones? What happens when you combine Charlie Weis and a mobile quarterback?
Clausen has the arm and the golden boy reputation, but Sharpley has the experience (limited though it may be) and poise. Outside observers assume Sharpley is a pocket passer a la Clausen, but Weis keeps reminding everyone that Sharpley has a combination of Jones and Clausen's skills. My interpretation is that Sharley is a poor man's Brady Quinn athletically, able to elude a rusher and scramble when needed.

Running Back

Spotlight: James Aldridge

Also Returning: Junior Jabbie, Travis Thomas
Lost: John Lyons (graduation), Dex Cure, Munir Prince (position changes), Darius Walker (NFL)
Gained: Armando Allen, Robert Hughes (freshmen), Nikolas Rodrigues (walk-on)

Thomas is the proven commodity, at least as proven as anyone on this team. Fans can't stop raving about Hughes and Allen's thunder and lightning potential. But where does that leave Aldridge in the rotation?


Spotlight: Luke Schmidt

Also Returning: Asaph Schwapp
Lost: Matt Augustyn, Ashley McConnell (graduation)
Gained: Dex Cure (position change), Mike Narvaez (walk-on)

Everyone knows what Schwapp can do, and he does it well. Unfortunately, though, Schwapp isn't much of an offensive threat. Is that where Schmidt comes in? Schmidt was a highly-touted as a freshman last year, but never saw the field. If Schmidt becomes the "offensive fullback," does he keep the job next year, or would he just be keeping it warm for Hughes?

Wide Receiver

Spotlight: David Grimes

Also Returning: Brandon Erickson, Richard Jackson, Robby Parris, Kris Patterson, Nick Possley, Jake Richardville, George West
Lost: Chase Anastasio, Craig Cardillo, David Costanzo, Rhema McKnight, Jeff Samardzija (graduation), Darrin Bragg (position change)
Gained: DJ Hord (injury), Barry Gallup, Jr. (DNP as freshman), Sam Vos (walk-on), Duval Kamara, Golden Tate (freshmen)

The spotlight is on Grimes, but not because he's the only proven player in the receiving corps. Grimes has a huge responsibility this year - lead a young unit, prove to be a reliable option for an untested quarterback, and draw attention away from John Carlson. Grimes had a good year as Notre Dame's third, fourth, or fifth option. Fortunately, with Carlson still around, Grimes has another year as a secondary option to learn his craft.
As opposed to the height over the last two years, this year's receivers are, according to Coach Weis, the Smurfs. There's talent, but no size outside of Kamara. That will force this year's quarterback to be much more accurate. George West, actually shorter than Grimes, looks to have turned his limited 2006 experience into the other starting job.
The X factor here is D.J. Hord, who may be Notre Dame's #1 receiver this year if not for an injury that kept him out for all of 2006.

Tight End

Spotlight: John Carlson

Courtesy AP/Paul Sakuma
Also Returning: Kevin Brooks, Konrad Reuland, Mike Talerico, Will Yeatman
Lost: Marcus Freeman, Michael Planalp (graduation)
Gained: Mike Ragone (freshman)

No surprise here. Carlson broke out in 2006, with one of the best seasons by a tight end in Notre Dame season. The lanky, athletic target will draw much more attention this year, especially as the only proven star on the offense.
But the rest of the tight ends are stars in the making. With the defense's attenton on Carlson, and short, unproven receivers, the Irish QB may find himself opting for a taller safety valve more often than not.

Offensive Line

Spotlight: John Sullivan

Also Returning: Matt Carufel, Paul Duncan, Eric Olsen, Jeff Tisak, Michael Turkovich, Sam Young
Lost: Dan Chervanik, Ryan Harris, Brian Mattes, Bob Morton, Dan Santucci (graduation)
Gained: Chris Stewart, Bartley Webb, Dan Wenger, (DNP as freshmen), Thomas Bemenderfer (transfer), Taylor Dever, Matt Romine (freshmen)

2006 was a rough year for the Irish line. Sullivan returns for his fourth year as a starter, and he will once again anchor the line at center. Duncan and Turkovich were the primary backups last year, and it looks like they'll anchor the right side of the line. Meanwhile, it appears that a new face will step in at the other guard.
Sullivan's backup will be Thomas Bemenderfer, a local product who just transferred from Northwestern. Bemenderfer's older brother was a walk-on defensive back, and I most certainly was not a walk-on defensive back.