Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Notre Dame Football 2007
Issue 1: Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech Rush Offense vs. ND Rush Defense

22 Tashard Choice returns as Tech's starter, after averaging 105 yards on approximately 20 carries per game in 2006. Choice also had 12 rushing TDs in 14 contests. With the departure of Reggie Ball and Calvin Johnson, Choice is arguably the centerpiece of this offense. He'll be aided by an offensive line that returns four starters. 20 Jamaal Evans and 3 Rashaun Grant return as Choice's backups, after each averaging about 3 carries per game in 2006. Fullback Mike Cox is an excellent blocker, but did not have a single carry last year.
If offensive linemen age like fine wine, Georgia Tech has a great set of blockers. The four returners are either true or redshirt seniors, and the new man is a redshirt junior. That will be an interesting challenge to Notre Dame, who will be debuting their 34 look. 98 Trevor Laws will continue to play like he always has. Some are trying to compare undersized NT Pat Kuntz to Chris Zorich, but first they should see if he can replicate Derek Landri's success from last year. 57 Dwight Stephenson and 94 Justin Brown are both hungry to prove that they deserve a starting end spot, just like 49 Toryan Smith and 52 Joe Brockington are hungry to show they deserve to start on the inside next to 40 Maurice Crum.

ND Rush Offense vs. Georgia Tech Rush Defense

To say Notre Dame has depth at running back this year is an understatement. To say they have experience, on the other hand, is another story. 26 Travis Thomas will be on offense full time once again, and begins the year as the starter. Thomas had 13 carries for 81 yards last year, including a 43 yard pickup on a fake punt. Three people are listed as Thomas' backup, 34 James Aldridge, who averaged 3.8 yards per carry last year; speedy freshman 5 Armando Allen; and the veteran 37 Junior Jabbie. Fullback Asaph Schwapp is back from an injury; he carried the ball 4 times in two games, averaging 3.8 YPC. He'll be backed up by sophomore Luke Schmidt.
Despite Georgia Tech's reputation for blitzing, offenses still averaged 104 rushing yards per game against the Jackets last year. Defensive end 42 Adamm Oliver had 11 tackles for a loss last season, and 70 stops overall.

Georgia Tech Pass Offense vs. ND Pass Defense

13 Taylor Bennett has been praised for his talent, and perhaps some of that praise has come from being directly compared to Reggie Ball. However, Bennett is a bit short on experience. Saturday will be his third career start. Bennett no longer has the benefit of Calvin Johnson, but he does have 89 James Johnson returning. James averaged 3 catches and 43 yards per game in 2006, and did have 7 total touchdown catches. Tashard Choice was the Jackets third leading receiver behind Johnson & Johnson, averaging a reception and 7 yards per game. After that, no returning player averaged more than one catch per game in 2006.
This is a matchup to watch. A veteran offensive line, but inexperienced receivers and quarterback, against a defense that hasn't been able to shut down the pass in a few years. On paper, Notre Dame's secondary looks more promising than it has in a while. Then again, the games aren't played on paper. 9 Tom Zbikowski returns for a fifth year after a disappointing 2006. He'll be joined by 27 David Bruton at safety. The starting cornerback positions were hard earned. 20 Terrail Lambert won his spot with his 2006 showing; 2 Darrin Walls won the other spot with his raw talent and showing in practice. 22 Ambrose Wooden, expected to retain his starting job from 2005 and 2006, will instead have to settle for steady work in nickel and dime packages. Up front, 90 John Ryan will be the pass rushing outside linebacker, backed up by 53 Morrice Richardson. On the other side, 54 Anthony Vernaglia won a starting OLB spot with his coverage skills.

ND Pass Offense vs. Georgia Tech Pass Defense

Who will it be? 13 Evan Sharpley has the experience. But rumors favoring 3 Demetrius Jones have popped up everywhere from NDNation to Facebook to wedding receptions. Whoever is starting will have to deal with the loss of ND's top three receivers in terms of catches. They will, however, have a big target in 89 John Carlson returning. Last year, Carlson averaged 4 catches and 58 yards per game. The receiving corps have been dubbed "The Smurfs," as most are on the short side of 6'0. Papa Smurf is 11 David Grimes, who averaged 2 catches and 28 yards per game in 2006. He did a good job as a tertiary option, but how will he fare as a secondary or primary option in this offense? Across from Grimes will be 19 George West, who last year had only one more catch (2) than carry (1). The backups are a talented but green bunch. 1 DJ Hord is trying to prove himself after losing 2006 to an injury; he reportedly hasn't dropped much of anything in practice. 82 Robby Parris had one catch last year, and he'll look to top that in the opener, given the chance.
Irish fans may may remember MLB 41 Philip Wheeler as the human torpedo who liked to lead with his helmet. But Wheeler was also Georgia Tech's sack master with 9, and 14.5 TFL overall. The Yellow jackets recorded 13 interceptions last year, and 9 of those came from players returning to the secondary in 2007, in the form of safeties 23 Djay Jones (4) and 4 Jamal Lewis (3) and corner 2 Kenny Scott (2).

Special Teams

Travis Bell is back for his third year as Tech's kicker. Bell made 12 of 18 field goals in 2006, including 10 of 12 from inside 40 yards. Notre Dame's place kicker is still to be determined, but it won't be 39 Ryan Burkhart. Burkhart failed to crack the two deep, but walk-on 35 Nate Whitaker and freshman 14 Brandon Walker
Tech also returns punter 39 Durant Brooks, who averaged 45.5 per punt in 2006, with a long of 63. That's only slightly better than 17 Geoff Price's 45.5 yards per last year. This will truly be a game of field position.
Rashaun Grant and Jamaal Evans return as Tech's kick returners, after averaging 16.2 and 22.8 yards per return, respectively, in 2006.
If and when Notre Dame receives the opening kick of 2007, a highly-touted freshman will be the first member of the blue and gold to touch the ball. Armando Allen and 23 Golden Tate are listed as Notre Dame's kick returners to start the game. If either falter, Darrin Walls and George West are waiting in the wings.
43 Tyler Evans was Tech's best punt returner in terms of yards per return last year, at 9.6. For this, Evans was rewarded primary punt return duties this year.
Tom Zbikowski is back for his third year as a punt returner. After averaging 14 yards per return in 14, Zibby had a pedestrian 9 yards per last year. He also had a 52-yard touchdown.

Look for a big game from Carlson, the O-Line, Crum, and Zbikowski.

ND 23, Georgia Tech 17: Aldrige plunges in, Grimes finds the end zone, one of the returners break one, and the placekicker makes up for a missed PAT with an easy field goal.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Know Thy Enemy

I plan on posting each team's "Know Thy Enemy Links" on the Monday or Tuesday before that week's game - so good luck getting any work done this fall. If I have left you off this list, screwed up your link, or grossly misinterpreted your blog title, please send an email to, or stop by our message board.

Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech Sports Blog
Golden Tornado
GT Sports Blog
Ramblin' On
Ramblin' Racket
AJC TechBlog
What's the Good Word?
YellowBlazer's World
Fanblogs Georgia Tech
FanHouse Georgia Tech

Penn State

Back in Happy Valley
Black Shoe Diaries
Bleed Blue 'n White
50-Yard Lion
Fight On State
Lion in the Desert
The Nittany Line
Nittany Lines
The Nittany Notebook
The Nittany Turkey
Penn State Fan Letter
PSU Football Fanatics
Run Up the Score
There Is No Name On My Jersey
2 the Lion Football
Zombie Nation
Fanblogs Penn State
FanHouse Penn State


Ace of Sports
Autumn Thunder
Big House Football
Blah Me to Death
The Blog that Yost Built
Blue Cats and Red Sox
Dangerous Logic
The Diag
Football Outsiders
The Hoover Street Rag
iBlog for Cookies
Jim Harbaugh Scramble
The M Zone
Maize 'n' Brew
Michigan Against the World
Michigan Football Saturdays
Michigan Sports Center
Mr. Wolverine
Motown Sports Revival
Off Tackle
A Pudge is a Sandwich
Quo Vadimus
Rob in Madtown
Ronald Bellamy's Underachieving All-Stars
SportsLog Michigan
Stadium and Main
Straight Bangin'
Sweaty Men Endeavors
Varsity Blue
Westsider Rider
Winged Helmets
Yet Another Michigan Sports Blog
Fanblogs Michigan
FanHouse Michigan

Michigan State

Bleeding Green
The Enlightened Spartan
Spartan Bob
A Spartan for All Seasons
Spartans Insider (was "Grinz on Green")
Spartan Tailgate
SpartyMSU Blog
Fanblogs MSU
FanHouse Michigan State


Boiled Sports
Boiler Station
Boilermaker Banter
It Came from Black Background
Off the Tracks
Unrestricted View
Fanblogs Purdue
FanHouse Purdue


Bruin Roar
Bruins Nation
Dump Dorrell
Inside UCLA
Insomniac's Lounge
LA Seitz of Chicago
Talking Bruins
What's Bruin(.net)
What's Bruin (LA Times)
What's Bruin, Dawg?
Fanblogs UCLA
FanHouse UCLA

Boston College

The Bricks House
Eagle in Atlanta
For Here Men are Men
Heights and Lows
News from the Hill
Fanblogs Boston College
FanHouse Boston College


According to USC Trojan
Adam Rose
Attak Kat
Boi from Troy
A Choad's Guide to USC Football
Conquest Chronicles
Crazy Trojan Musings
Daily Trojan
DC Trojan
The Displaced Trojan
Fight on Forever
I Can't Complain
Inside USC
Irish Trojan
It's a Definite Maybe
Lex Icon
Play Tusk!
SC Football
Scott Wolf Inside USC
Student Body Right
Talking Trojans
Tommy Trojan's Blog
Tribute to Troy
Trojans Football News
USC Football Fan
USC Football Tailgate
USC Herd
USC Trojan Football
We Are SC
Fanblogs USC
FanHouse USC


Adam Ballard 4 Heisman
The Birddog
Pitch Right
Fanblogs Navy
FanHouse Navy

Air Force

Fanblogs Air Force
FanHouse Air Force


News-Record Sports Extra
Fanblogs Duke
FanHouse Duke


College Hotline
Stanford Tree
Fanblogs Stanford
FanHouse Stanford

... and Know Thyself

Notre Dame

The Blue-Gray Sky
Chris Wilson's Blog O' (Irish) Fun
Classic Ground
The College Game
Daily Contentions
Domer Law Blog
The Extra Point
Fire Mark May
The Galvin Opinion
Haiku Notre Dame
Her Loyal Sons
Here Come the Irish
The House Rock Built
Irish Blue and Gold
The Irish Brogue
Irish Eyes Power Hour
Irish Insights
Irish Law
Irish Round Table
Irish Stew
John Walters
Kelly Green
Majorly English
Marchand Chronicles
Mark May be Wrong
Musings of a Domer
NDNation Blog
OC Domer
Pass Right
Rakes of Mallow
Robot Charlie
The Rock Report
Running at the Mouth
A Season of Saturdays
Sports Syndicate
Tough Guy
Unrestricted View
We is Notre Dame
What Thou the Odds
Fanblogs Notre Dame
FanHouse Notre Dame

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Know Thy Enemy
Georgia Tech

Editor's Note: Look for a complete Know Thy Enemy, and Know Thyself post tomorrow, listing all ND and opponent blogs for the season.

In the meantime, if you have a GT blog that isn't listed below, or if something with your link or blog title is awry, please let me know via email or the message board. (Links are at the top of the page.)

Georgia Tech Sports Blog
Golden Tornado
Ramblin' On
Ramblin' Racket
AJC TechBlog
What's the Good Word?
Wreck Ramblin
YellowBlazer's World
Fanblogs Georgia Tech

The National Lampoon Sports Minute (Or So)

Editor's Note: Catching up, again. Also, if you've sent me a link request within the last 4-5 months, please resend it. I've done a terrible job of housekeeping this summer.

The National Lampoon Sports Minute (Or So)
Written by Steve Hofstetter, Adam Hofstetter, Cody Marley, Ryan Murphy, Rich Ragains, Elliot Steingart, and Chris Strait

More bad news for Michael Vick. Nike has decided to delay the release of his new $100 shoes because of the recent allegations of whipping, beating and torture. Of the Chinese workers who make the shoes.

Elsewhere in the NFL, a state appeals court ruled that the 49ers are allowed to pat down fans before they enter the stadium. There's no shortage of men in the Bay area applying for the job. They should pat someone down - they've been allowing opposing teams to go untouched since the 1990s.

In baseball, the Braves signed 48-year-old Julio Franco. At least he thinks that's what they said; they weren't speaking very loudly.

Two players on the Pittsburgh Pirates admitted that they have Attention Deficit Disorder. It's a special version of the affliction that only lasts for nine innings.

LeBron James has been invited to host the season premiere of Saturday Night Live in September. And we thought he had a bad supporting cast in Cleveland.

Knicks guard Stephon Marbury has expressed interest in playing in Italy. Sorry, Knicks fans have expressed interest in Stephon Marbury playing in Italy.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is expected to recommend that the league expand by two teams. Chicago is thrilled, as they haven't had a professional team for decades. Maybe the NHL might expand to new territory - like Canada.

And Johannesburg cyclist Robert Hunter won the 11th stage of the Tour de France with a sizzling time of 3 hours, 47 minutes and 50 seconds. It's the fastest a white South African has moved since the end of Apartheid.

For more of the Sports Minute (Or So), visit

The National Lampoon Sports Minute (Or So)
Written by Steve Hofstetter, Adam Hofstetter, Cody Marley, Ryan Murphy, Rich Ragains, Elliot Steingart, and Chris Strait

The Pacers Jermaine O'Neal requested a trade to the Lakers. Kobe Bryant is thrilled, since he can't win without an O'Neal.

It was week of milestones as A-Rod hit his 500th home run, Tom Glavine won his 300th game, and Barry Bonds hit his 755th reporter. When Bonds hit his 755th home run, some in the stadium cheered while others booed. And that was just the Giants dugout.

Yao Ming married his 6 foot 2 girlfriend. Tallest canopy ever. The couple is looking forward to having many freakishly long babies.

The Cleveland Browns gave a $21 million contract to 22nd pick Brady Quinn. Wow - that's a million dollars for every player another team thought was better.

In Kentucky, new Knicks center Randolph Morris was arrested for reckless driving. Morris explained that's just how the Knicks play. We're surprised that more Knicks haven't been charged with reckless driving, shooting, and trading.

And the movie "Underdog" is flopping at the box office, despite a great performance from villain Michael Vick. In related news, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference has decided not to present an award to Vick. Not because of all the legal troubles, but because he plays for the Falcons.

For more of the Sports Minute (Or So), visit

The National Lampoon Sports Minute (Or So)
Written by Steve Hofstetter, Adam Hofstetter, Cody Marley, Ryan Murphy, Rich Ragains, Elliot Steingart, and Chris Strait

This week, a key defendant in the Michael Vick case asked for a plea bargain. By barking.

David Beckham has released a new cologne named "Intimately Beckham." Sadly, the fragrance is only effective in Europe.

Update on Yao Ming's wedding - it could be his only chance to get a ring during his career.

Cal Ripken Jr. has been appointed a Special Sports Envoy by Condoleezza Rice. It's the first time the government has hired anyone who will show up to work every day. Ripken has already spent more days in Washington than President Bush.

Magic Johnson will hold a fundraiser to support Hillary Clinton's presidential bid. That's perfect, since most political pundits agree that it will take some magic to get her elected.

The Miami Heat signed Penny Hardaway. The deal has been applauded by the year 1995. Penny arrive in Miami shortly, in tiger print pants while doing the Macarena.

Hank Aaron told reporters that he was asleep at his home when Barry Bonds hit his 756th home run. Apparently that's what happens when you have a clear conscience.

And the bad news is that a Los Angeles fan was arrested for throwing a water bottle at the A's Mike Piazza. The good news is that next week he'll be pitching for the Dodgers.

For more of the Sports Minute (Or So), visit

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Notre Dame Football Preview
Defense, Special Teams, and Predictions

Defensive Line

Spotlight: Pat Kuntz

Also Returning: Justin Brown, Neil Kennedy, Trevor Laws, Dwight Stephenson, Jr.
Lost: Casey Cullen, Chris Frome, Derek Landri, Travis Leitko (graduation), John Ryan (position change), Ronald Talley (transfer), Derrell Hand (?)
Gained: Paddy Mullen, Kallen Wade (DNP as freshmen), Andrew Nuss, Emeka Nwankwo (freshmen)

One reason for the switch to the 3-4 is the talent available on this year's team. This is evident on the line, where experience is lacking and the top backup (Hand) may be unavailable for this season. 3-4 ends are bigger than 4-3 ends, and in the 3-4 the nose guard simply takes up space while the ends have more of an opportunity to make plays. That's why ND's top lineman, Trevor Laws, was moved to an end. Pat Kuntz gets his first chance to start, and he will be playing nosetackle despite his small size. But reports say he is a Derek Landri-style tackle - undersized, but with an unbeatable motor. After several years and several position changes, it looks like Dwight Stephenson, Jr. will finally see the starting lineup as the other end. If he doesn't, Justin Brown, one of the top backups from last year, will see playing time at the other end. After the starters and Brown, there isn't much experience but there is a ton of talent among many freshmen and sophomores who didn't see the field last year.


Spotlight: Toryan Smith

Also Returning: Maurice Crum, Jr., Joe Brockington, Steve Quinn, Scott Smith, Anthony Vernaglia, Kevin Washington
Lost: Nick Borseti, Kyle Charters, Mitchell Thomas (graduation), Travis Thomas (position change)
Gained: John Ryan, Morrice Richardson (position changes), Alex Lough, Kevin Smith (walk-ons), Aaron Nagel, Kerry Neal, Steve Paskorz, Brian Smith (freshmen)

Any one of the starting linebackers could have been put in the spotlight this year. Crum will again be expected to lead this unit. Highly touted out of high school, Vernaglia will finally get a crack at the starting lineup. He looks to earn a starting nod based on his all-around skills; the former safety should have superior coverage skills. Brought in as a defensive end, John Ryan becomes a pass rushing defensive end in the 3-4. Of course, Coach Weis promised that we could still see some 43 looks with 34 personnel, so that could be an indication that Ryan will play as a Willie McGinnest-style hybrid, occasionally lining up with his fingers on the ground. But Toryan Smith gets the spotlight because he has apparently stolen a starting inside linebacker spot. "Stolen" may be too harsh a word, considering the sophomore's talent. But the underrated Joe Brockington, who worked his way into the starting lineup last year, will again be coming off the bench thanks to Smith. Speaking of Smith, their are four Irish 'backers with that name, and it would be amusing to see them all on the field at once.


Spotlight: David Bruton

GTacklesINTFum Rec
Also Returning: Sergio Brown, Jashaad Gaines, Ray Herring, Kyle McCarthy, Tom Zbikowski
Lost: Chinedum Ndukwe (graduation)
Gained: Leonard Gordon (DNP as freshman), Harrison Smith (freshman)

Ironically, if you do a Google image search for David Bruton, one of the first results is from a high school all-star game... where he's getting burned by Mario Manningham. Bruton has good size for a safety at 6'2" and has been impressive on special teams. But as past years have shown, all the size, speed, and talent in the world don't help if you're not standing in the right location. Let's hope Bruton and Tom Zbikowski's technique and reads improve greatly under Corwin Brown, or else it could be another long season for the Irish. Following a disappointing 2006, Zbikowski surprisingly came back for another try in 2007. He'll be the veteran leader of this defense, and he appears to come back healthier, in better shape, and with a better focus on football. Ray Herring and Kyle McCarthy will be the top backups in this unit, and they should serve as rather competent backups to Bruton and Zbikowski.


Spotlight: Ambrose Wooden

Also Returning: Mike Anello, Leo Ferrine, Wade Iams, Terrail Lambert, Raeshon McNeil, Darrin Walls, William David Williams
Lost: Tim Kenney, Mike Richardson (graduation)
Gained: Munir Prince (position change), John Leonis (walk on), Gary Gray (freshman)

Wooden returns for his second year in the spotlight. Last time, it was because he was the closest thing ND had to a bright spot at corner in 2005. This year, it's because he was nearly forgotten thanks to injuries and the improved play of Lambert and Mike Richardson. Richardson is impressing in the NFL, while Lambert absolutely broke out with his performance against MSU. With Wooden and Lambert, ND is going into the season with two competent corners for the first time since the #15 jersey wasn't cursed. Speaking of that #15 jersey, Leo Ferrine was the nickelback two years ago, and now finds himself a third stringer. That's no slam on Ferrine, it's simply a testament to the guys who were recruited to replace him. Sophomores Walls and McNeil are the second stringers, with Walls likely playing the nickelback and McNeil coming in for dime situations. The highly touted Gary Gray has been hampered by injuries and will likely sit out this season. Meanwhile, the speedy but undersized Munir Prince will try to learn the cornerback position after a failed outing at running back.


Spotlight: Ryan Burkhart

Also Returning:
Lost: Carl Gioia, Bobby Renkes (graduation)
Gained: Nate Whitaker (walk-on), Brandon Walker (freshman)

Well, Burhart is the experienced scholarship kicker, but that doesn't guarantee him anything. Brandon Walker is a talented freshman with a strong leg, but he may be more of a punter than a field goal kicker. Walk-on Nate Whitaker is the X-factor here, and a good showing in practice will get him on the field on Saturdays.


Spotlight: Geoff Price

GNoAvgIn 20
Also Returning: Eric Maust
Lost: none
Gained: Xavier Burton (walk-on)

After years of looking like a bust, Price burst onto the scene in 2006 and instantly became a Ray Guy candidate. With a young offense and defense, Price could be the team MVP this year. Price will again be backed up by baseball's Eric Maust, and also by walk-on Xavier Burton

2007 Schedule

9-08-07 at Penn State
9-15-07 at Michigan
9-29-07 @ Purdue
10-06-07 @ UCLA
11-03-07 NAVY
11-10-07 AIR FORCE
11-17-07 DUKE
11-24-07 at Stanford

Predicted Wins Legend (final record in parentheses)
Sure wins (4-8)
Win 4 of these 6, and I'll call it a successful season (8-4)
True fans go into every game thinking their team has a shot to win (12-0)

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.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Cleveland Browns 16, Kansas City Chiefs 12

Kansas City's two star running backs didn't even play. Their other top three offensive weapons only made token appearances. (Tony Gonzalez and Eddie Kennison started and each caught one pass. Damon Huard attempted 4 passed after relieving Brodie Croyle.) So it's no wonder their offense was nonexistent. Their touchdown was scored when Browns RB Jerome Harrison let a lateral sail over his head and failed to retrieve it. The safety was scored after Browns PR Brandon McDonald let a punt go by that was stopped at the one. And the final field goal was scored on the 3rd team defense.

That being said, the Browns managed to let the Chiefs stay in this game in spite of themselves. As was the case far too many times over the past two years, the Browns were able to move the ball down the field fairly well, but they fell apart in the red zone. Four trip inside the 20 resulted in three field goals and a botched attempt at a fourth. With time running down at the end of the half and no time outs left, Charlie Frye tried to improvise and scramble for a touchdown but fell well short.

Of Cleveland's starting QBs, Frye did look the best. Sure, most of his passes were checkdowns and dumpoffs, but 3 yards gained is better than no yards gained. Derek Anderson failed to find any rhythm at all, and most of his passes were either off target or forced into openings that just weren't there. Ken Dorsey was supposed to play the entire second half, but Romeo Crennel decided to give Anderson the first drive of the third quarter to attempt to redeem himself. He really didn't. Because of this, and because the game was still relatively close at the end, Dorsey stayed in for the remainder of the game. Despite chants of "Brady, Brady" starting late in the third period, Quinn stayed on the bench.

Jamal Lewis looked fair in his first appearance wearing brown and orange. He averaged 5 yards on 4 carries, and showed good hands hauling in 3 checkdown passes. A bulked up Jerome Harrison had a few good runs against the backup defense, while Jason Wright struggled. Twice the Browns tried to run up the middle on obvious 3rd and short situations, and twice they were stuffed. That's nothing new.

Buck Ortega was the star receiver, as the tight end caught four passes from former Hurricanes teammate Dorsey against the Chiefs third stringers. Seventh round pick Syndric Steptoe looked unimpressive both as a receiver and a returner.

On the line, Joe Thomas was called for holding twice. It could be a case of a rookie needing to adjust to the league, or it could just be a case of the refs calling him tight in his first game. But surely Browns announcer Doug Dieken felt right at home hearing holding called on his old number 73.

On the defensive front seven, Kamerion Wimbley again caused havoc, despite not recording a single tackle. He did however pressure Brodie Croyle into throwing an interception right to Leigh Bodden. Lineman David McMillan and linebackers Kris Griffin and Clifton Smith heard their names called often, which could help them stay on this ballclub.

The secondary played a very good game. On the first drive, rookie Eric Wright was tested on a deep ball. With his back to the play, he simply reached his arm up to knock the ball down. While that's perfectly legal in college, defenders are required in the NFL to turn around and face the pass. So that's something Wright will have to be careful about. Bodden, as mentioned above, had a gift-wrapped interception. Last year, after Bodden the corners weren't anything to write home about. But even those returning DBs played well. Daven Holly had a clean interception.

But the play of the game came with less than two minutes to go, when reserve RB Chris Barclay returned a kickoff for the go-ahead touchdown. With 95 seconds remaining, the Browns still needed to make a stop to seal the victory. They did, but just barely.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The National Lampoon Sports Minute (Or So)

Editor's Note: Real, original football content coming soon, I promise. Or at least I hope.

Written by Steve Hofstetter, Adam Hofstetter, Cody Marley, Ryan Murphy, Rich Ragains, Elliot Steingart, and Chris Strait

Tough week for Michael Vick. A spokesman for PETA announced that he has film of the Falcons quarterback throwing pigskins. Word is Vick is planning to sell his Virginia estate where the alleged dog fights took place, and buy a house closer to his job. In Canada.

Elsewhere in the NFL, some pipes broke and filled the Cleveland Browns locker room with raw sewage, reminding everyone of Tim Couch.

The Texas Rangers traded Mark Texiera to the Braves for four prospects, which they will eventually trade for a washed up pitcher.

Hoping to win back the public's trust, the NBA announced it's new head of officiating - Pete Rose.

In golf, Jim Furyk edged out Vijay Singh to win the Canadian Open. That's just like the US Open, but with nobody watching.

Kentucky Derby winning jockey Jose Santos announced his retirement, and is looking forward to eating again.

Evander Holyfield will fight for a version of the heavyweight title at age 44 in Moscow. In Russia he won't look old, he'll just look poisoned.

And the National Guard is in talks to sponsor Dale Earnhardt Jr's NASCAR team as a great way to recruit more poor people. The Army decided against sponsoring Jeff Gordon for unknown reasons. We didn't ask, they didn't tell.

For more of the Sports Minute (Or So), visit