Halfback and Fullback
Spotlight: Nick Tausch
Also Returning: Ryan Burkhart, Eric Maust, Brandon Walker
Lost: Joe Bizjak (graduation)
Gained: David Ruffer (walk-on), Ben Turk (freshman)
Stepping onto campus this fall, Nick Tausch had a chance to be Notre Dame's kickoff specialist, and possibly even their placekicker. Well, he's already won both jobs.
No, you won't see Tausch booming kickoffs out of the back of the end zone - yet, at least. Tausch won kickoff responsibilities based on hangtime. Charlie Weis is a big fan of hangtime on kickoffs, and it's that philosophy that helped Notre Dame's kick coverage team hold opponents to the lowest return average in the nation last year. (Of course, players like Mike Anello, David Bruton, and Sergio Brown helped those numbers too.)
Some Irish fans may think Tausch won the placekicking job by default, since his only competition was Brandon Walker. But bear in mind that after a rough start, Walker was very dependable down the stretch - at a time when the rest of the team was faltering. Plus, Walker was 39 for 39 in PAT attempts last year, an impressive feat for a college kicker. So Tausch still had to show something to beat out the incumbent for his spot.
Eric Maust returns as Notre Dame's punter, with a respectable career average of 41 yards per punt. But Maust wasn't without consistency problems in 2008, so look for Ben Turk to push him for playing time. Maust can forgo a fifth year of eligibility in 2010 to focus on a professional baseball career, so Coach Weis may want to get Turk some playing time this year in case the freshman is needed for full-time duty next season.