Monday, August 31, 2009

St. Martin's Press/Thomas Dunne Book Reviews

St. Martin's Press and Thomas Dunne Books were kind enough to send me advance copies of two books and a DVD, due out September 1. Read all about 'em:

DVD Review: Echoes Awakened

Echoes Awakened is the companion DVD to Jim Dent's new title Resurrection, about Ara Parsegian's first season at Notre Dame. The DVD is a great concept: Dent had already interviewed many key figures for his book, so why not put them in front of a camera and let them tell the story of 1964 themselves?

The DVD starts with an introduction by Lou Holtz. If you could only say two truths about Coach Holtz, they're these: he loves Our Lady's University and he can sell anything to anyone. Holtz's excitement is tangible as he explains why the 1964 season was one of the greatest moments in Notre Dame football history.

Player, coach, and media interviews are intertwined with narration by Brent Musberger. Say what you will about Musberger, but his voice has become one of the iconic sounds of college football, and that voice helps make this DVD.

Together, the likes of Nick Rassas, Tony Carey, Ara Parseghian, and others guide the viewer through the 1964 season, from the reorganization process that began with Parseghian's hiring to the heartbreaking loss to USC at the end of the year.

For those who have read Resurrection, it was nice to put current faces and voices to the names featured in the book, like Rassas, Carey, John Huarte, and Ken Maglicic. Huarte's forehead may be a little longer than it was 45 years ago, but the quarterback is still as handsome as his college days, with a golden voice to match. It's a wonder why he isn't a broadcaster these days.

Echoes also gives viewers a chance to hear from a few people who were perhaps overlooked in Resurrection, like center Norm Nicola and offensive coordinator Tom Pagna.

The DVD ends, like the 1964 season, on a bit of a sour note. Several players are still bitter over the shoddy refereeing in the USC game that they feel cost the Irish a National Championship. It's hard not to get caught up in their emotions, even all of these years later.

Echoes Awakened is the perfect companion DVD to Resurrection, and a great look at the 1964 for any fan of the Era of Ara.

Echoes Awakened is due out on DVD September 1 and is available in the Notre Dame Bookstore. Thank you to Thomas Dunne Books and St. Martin's Press for sending a review copy.

Book Review: Resurrection by Jim Dent

Inept coaching. An administration deemphasizing football. Highly-touted recruits who didn't produce on the field. The team's best talent rotting on the bench. Dwindling fan support.

What has been true of the past decade of Irish football was true in the 1950s and early 60s, as Notre Dame followed Frank Leahy's tenure with a series of underqualified coaches and dismal records.

That is, until 1964, when the administration broke its tradition of hiring alumni of Irish descent and signed an Armenian Presbyterian to be there new head coach. If he could succeed and run a clean program at Northwestern, there's no reason why Ara Parseghian couldn't do it at Notre Dame.

Resurrection: The Miracle Season That Saved Notre Dame follows Parseghian and some of that rotting talent as they put together one of the most memorable years in Notre Dame's long history. Resurrection follows the miracle theme by highlighting, among others, Tony Carey, All-American Nick Rassas, NFL legend Jack Snow, and Heisman Trophy winner John Huarte, all of whom rarely saw the field before Parseghian took over. Jim Dent, author of The Junction Boys, does a fantastic job of intertwining the players' and coaches' stories with the events of the day, like the mourning of JFK and the advent of the British Invasion.

If you're a fan of the Era of Ara like we are, there's no reason not to love this book (especially thanks to a cameo appearance by Coach Yonto that's sure to elicit a smile from those who knew him). In building a chronological library of Notre Dame football history, Resurrection picks up where Shake Down the Thunder and Leahy's Lads left off.

Resurrection is due out September 1 from St. Martin's Press and Thomas Dunne Books. Thanks to both for the advance copy.

Book Review: Rough & Tumble by Mark Bavaro

A true football novel can only be written by someone who played the game. Mark Bavaro makes that clear from the first chapter of his debut novel, Rough & Tumble. It's one thing to say a tight end ran a five-yard hitch to make a catch, it's quite another to spend two pages describing every little juke, maneuver, and evasion technique it took to slip past the defense to get in place to make the catch.

But Rough & Tumble isn't a dry, drawn-out story about play on the field. It's a fast, enthralling look at the full life of a football player - from the morning routine on the trainer's table, to the boredom of team meetings, to the cheap shots suffered on even the most basic of plays.

Bavaro's alter-ego Dom Fucillo must deal with a cast of characters that surely are already familiar to Giants fans - a hard-nosed head coach, a star linebacker who parties too hard, and an injured quarterback whose main concern is a future in broadcasting. But those aren't Fucillo's only demons, as he also must deal with an estranged girlfriend, a faith that has become more superstition than religion, and injuries that could end his career at any moment.

If Bavaro deserves any criticism for Rough & Tumble, it's from his fine literary skills outshining the supposed lack of intelligence of his first-person narrator, Fucillo. Still, all of that is quickly lost in an entertaining and exciting story.

The paperback version of Rough & Tumble is available September 1 from St. Martin's Press and Thomas Dunne Books. Thank you to St. Martin's and Thomas Dunne for an advance copy.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Notre Dame Football Position Preview: Kicker and Punter

Previously Covered
Halfback and Fullback
Wide Receiver
Tight End
Offensive Line
Defensive Line

Spotlight: Nick Tausch
2008 (HS)-9-15--

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.

Notre Dame Football Position Preview: Cornerback

Previously Covered
Halfback and Fullback
Wide Receiver
Tight End
Offensive Line
Defensive Line

Spotlight: Darrin Walls

Also Returning: Mike Anello, Robert Blanton, Gary Gray, Raeshon McNeil
Lost: Terrail Lambert, John Leonis (graduation)
Gained: Michael Garcia, Nick Lezynski, Andrew Plaska, Ryan Sheehan, Joshua Stull (walk-ons), Jamoris Slaughter (DNP as freshman), Kael Anderson, EJ Banks (freshmen)

Darrin Walls wasn't enrolled at Notre Dame in 2008. He's spent most of fall practice nursing injuries. Yet he still enters the season as a starting cornerback. That's just how good this kid is.

In recent years, if someone said that a player could walk right into Notre Dame's lineup at starting cornerback after missing all that time, an Irish fan would have just rolled their eyes and complained about the mediocrity at the position going back to Bob Davie's time. (Especially the "Heisman Makers" who were continually burned by Palmer, Leinart, et al.) But that's not the case this year. Notre Dame has a slew of talented corners this year, and for Walls to beat them out is more of a testament to his own talent than a knock on anyone else's.

Robert Blanton will start opposite Walls. Blanton earned that right after inspired, emotional play in the second half of 2008. Now, the playmaker - who recorded two interceptions and three tackles for loss as a freshman - will have to prove he has the discipline to be an every-down cover guy. Obviously, the Notre Dame coaching staff has faith in him, otherwise they wouldn't be starting him in front of Raeshon McNeil or Gary Gray.

McNeil, seemingly forever in buddy Darrin Walls's shadow, quietly stepped up when Walls couldn't go last year, to the tune of 41 tackles and two interceptions of his own. Now, just as quietly, he will return to his role as a nickel or dime back.

Waiting in the wings are two more talented young players, Gary Gray and Jamoris Slaughter. Slaughter is listed as Walls's primary backup at right corner, while Gray is third left cornerback behind Blanton and McNeil.

Rounding out the depth chart are freshman EJ Banks and special teams ace Mike Anello. But with all the talent this unit provides, Anello probably won't see any defensive snaps until senior day.

Ironically, in a year when Notre Dame's secondary is the best in years, the Irish opponents have few - if any - household names at quarterback and wide receiver. The best quarterbacks Notre Dame will face - Nevada's Colin Kaepernick and Washington's Jake Locker - are known more for their running ability than their passing (although Kaepernick is somewhat of an underrated passer). Michigan, Michigan State, and USC will trot out highly recruited wideouts, as usual, but each school will also be breaking in a new quarterback this season.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Notre Dame Football Position Preview: Safety

Previously Covered
Halfback and Fullback
Wide Receiver
Tight End
Offensive Line
Defensive Line

Spotlight: Sergio Brown


Also Returning: Chris Bathon, Leonard Gordon, Ray Herring, Kyle McCarthy
Lost: David Bruton, Jashaad Gaines (graduation)
Gained: Harrison Smith (position change - linebacker), Thomas Smith (walk-on), Dan McCarthy (DNP as freshman), Zeke Motta (Freshman)

Last season Sergio Brown impressed everyone with his play, enough to work his way into the starting lineup. Brown especially left a lasting impression at the end of 2008, and it will be interesting to see how he will be used in 2009. Will he remain at nickelback despite Notre Dame's abundance of talent at that position? Or will Harrison Smith slide down to linebacker during passing downs, despite the depth at that position as well? That remains to be seen, and all Brown can do is continue to practice and play well.

Speaking of Harrison Smith, the return to safety - his natural position - has been called "seamless" by Head Coach Charlie Weis. Between the inspired play of Brown and Smith, and 2008 team-leading tackler Kyle McCarthy, the safety position is at the heart of what is already considered the best Irish secondary since the Holtz years.

Behind Smith, Brown, and McCarthy are three talented players in their own right. Ray Herring (of recruiting blog fame) is back for his last hurrah, but he'll have to fight off both Dan McCarthy and Zeke Motta for playing time.

On a less serious note, putting names on the jerseys wouldn't be much help to the casual fan this year. The Irish project to have four Smiths starting on defense this year (Harrison at safety, and Scott, Toryan, and Brian at linebacker), with a fifth - walk-on safety Thomas - waiting on the sidelines.

Notre Dame Football Position Preview: Linebacker

Previously Covered
Halfback and Fullback
Wide Receiver
Tight End
Offensive Line
Defensive Line

Spotlight: Toryan Smith

Also Returning: Tom Burke, Steve Filer, Darius Fleming, Brian Smith, Scott Smith
Lost: Maurice Crum, Jr., Aaron Nagel, Steve Quinn, Kevin Smith, Kevin Washington (graduation), Kerry Neal, Martin Quintana, Kallen Wade (position change - defensive end), Harrison Smith (position change - safety)
Gained: Sean Oxley (walk-on), Anthony McDonald, David Posluszny (DNP as freshmen), Carlo Calabrese, Dan Fox, Manti Te'o (freshmen)

It seems like every year Toryan Smith enters fall practice as the starting middle linebacker, then loses his job before the leaves turn. For Toryan, things must look especially bad this year, as the Irish come in with more talented linebackers than at any time during the senior's career.

If Toryan Smith wants to play as much as possible, he'll have to prove his worth as a run stopper. But even playing him on obvious rushing downs is no longer a given, as Brian Smith and Manti Te'o - the obvious choices to replace Toryan in the middle - already rival him in physical size.

Scott Smith enters with a similar story. The senior has finally worked his way into the starting lineup, but he too will have to prove his worth as a run stopper to stay on the field. There is already talk that Darius Fleming - who similarly does not have much of a size disadvantage compared to Scott Smith - is working his way into the starting SAM spot. And hot on Fleming's heels is Steve Filer - to the point where both may see the field as outside linebackers at the same time.

Then there's the possibility of Fleming playing defensive end on passing downs, like he did as a freshman last year. This is a talented and versatile linebacking group - a problem any defensive coordinator would love to have, especially a blitz-happy one like John Tenuta. To recap, there's Toryan Smith at the MIKE; Brian Smith and Manti Te'o at the MIKE or WILL; Scott Smith at the SAM; Darius Fleming at the SAM, WILL, or defensive end; and Steve Filer at the SAM or WILL.

That's not bad for a group that "lost" nine players from the start of 2008, including two starters. Plus it's not couting newcomers David Posluszny and Carlo Calabrese, who have impressed so far in fall practice.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Notre Dame Football Position Preview: Defensive Line

Previously Covered
Halfback and Fullback
Wide Receiver
Tight End
Offensive Line

Spotlight: Kerry Neal

Also Returning: Ethan Johnson, Paddy Mullen, Andrew Nuss, Emeka Nwankwo, Martin Quintana, Morrice Richardson, John Ryan, Ian Williams
Lost: Dorian Inzunza, Pat Kuntz
Gained: Kallen Wade (position change - linebacker), Christopher Skubis (walk-on), Sean Cwynar, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Brandon Newman, Hafis Williams (DNP as freshmen), Tyler Stockton (freshman)

As Notre Dame transitions back into a 43 defense, each starter has a claim to the spotlight. Kapron Lewis-Moore did not play as a freshman, but a drastic bulking up (220 pounds as a freshman to 270 as a sophomore) and impressive displays in practice have made him a starting defensive end. Ian Williams is looking to rebound from a disappointing sophomore season after a breakout freshman performance. Ethan Johnson moves from a 34 defensive end as a freshman to a 43 tackle as a sophomore.

And then there's Kerry Neal. Neal burst onto the scene as a freshman in 2007, playing opposite Brian Smith at outside linebacker. Neal's 2008 numbers were nearly identical to those he put up the previous season, which is disappointing considering the increased playing time. Now he will attempt to play defensive end despite still playing at linebacker size (6'2", 250 pounds). Presumably, Ethan Johnson will slide over to defensive end on obvious rushing downs, but what does that mean for Neal? In other years, he may have slid back to outside linebacker. But as the Irish linebacking corps improves, Neal may find himself on the sidelines when the situation calls for a big stop on the ground.

While many eyes will be on Jimmy Clausen, or the offensive line, or the running game to make or break the season, it may be the defensive line that dictates how the season will play out. The Irish face a slew of productive and diverse rushing attacks this season. To prevail, Notre Dame will need to rely on defensive line starters that are talented but young, and backups that have failed to live up to the hype.

After the starting four, the depth chart is riddled with players who came in with rich accolodes but have yet to do much while wearing blue and gold. As their years of eligibility tick away or come to an end, names like Morrice Richardson, Emeka Nwankwo, Paddy Mullen (currently the fourth-string nose tackle as a senior), John Ryan, and Kallen Wade will need to prove their worth on the field, or give way to newcomers Sean Cwynar, Brandon Newman, Hafis Williams, and Tyler Stockton - all of whom are ready to produce this year.

Notre Dame Football Position Preview: Offensive Line

Previously Covered
Halfback and Fullback
Wide Receiver
Tight End

Spotlight: Trevor Robinson

Also Returning: Braxston Cave, Taylor Dever, Paul Duncan, Andrew Nuss, Eric Olsen, Matt Romine, Chris Stewart, Jeff Tisak, Michael Turkovich, Dan Wenger, Sam Young
Lost: Thomas Bemenderfer, Jeff Tisak, Michael Turkovich (graduation)
Gained: Bill Flavin, Mike Hernandez (walk-ons), Lane Clelland, Mike Golic, Jr. (DNP as freshmen), Alex Bullard, Jordan Cowart, Tom Freeman, Zach Martin, Chris Watt (freshmen)

Notre Dame's troubled offensive line is out of excuses this year. They have depth, experience, and a new line coach in Frank "Don't Call Me Tom" Verducci. As for the spotlight player, Trevor Robinson: he originally earned the spotlight because his performance last year made him the first lineman off the bench in 2009, meaning he'd also be pushing to take someone's starting role. Well, it's still August and he's already done that. Robinson is currently listed as the starting right guard, pushing Chris Stewart to left guard, Eric Olsen to center, and Dan Wenger to the sidelines.

The current three-deep depth chart at offensive line should be a welcome sight to Irish fans for a number of reasons:
1. the fact that Notre Dame can actually list 15 different offensive linemen on their depth chart (16, really, since right guard is four-deep),
2. the fact that, outside of Robinson and Braxston Cave, the two-deep is comprised entirely of juniors and seniors, and
3. only two true freshmen - Alex Bullard and Chris Watt - are needed to complete the three-deep. Of course, I'm sure it helps that Bullard and Watt already weigh in at at least 290 pounds.

Yes, Notre Dame's offensive line depth has finally started to stabilize. In addition to bringing in five freshmen, the Irish will also add the services of Lane Clelland and Mike Golic, who did not see the field as freshmen, and walk-ons Bill Flavin and Mike Hernandez. That's nine players, or almost two full lines! Hernandez is especially one to watch for, as the walk-on not only made the squad this fall, but he's also listed as co-third string right guard with freshman Chris Watt.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Notre Dame Football Position Preview: Tight End

Previously Covered
Halfback and Fullback
Wide Receiver

Spotlight: Mike Ragone


Also Returning: Kyle Rudolph
Lost: Kevin Brooks, Paul Kuppich, Luke Schmidt (graduation), Will Yeatman, Joseph Fauria (transfer)
Gained: Bobby Burger (walk-on), Tyler Eifert, Jake Golic (freshmen)

Nothing says "attrition" like the tight end position at Notre Dame. Just think how bad it would be if Notre Dame didn't have two starting tight ends in the NFL right now.

Fortunately, Mike Ragone's return from a knee injury will bring much-needed depth and experience to the position. Ragone is in the spotlight here, but Notre Dame fans will probably prefer it if opponents didn't pay attention to him. His main responsibility will be staying home as a pass blocker, freeing Kyle Rudolph to do damage as a receiver.

But speaking of Kyle Rudolph, don't count him out as a pass blocker. The sophomore has bulked up to 260 pounds, which should mean no more getting pushed around by linebackers on running plays. It's just one more step for Rudolph on his path to joining Anthony Fasano and John Carlson on Sundays.

Tyler Eifert and Jake Golic join the squad as freshman, and ideally they'll spend the year in the weight room (and the dining halls) to add bulk and preserve a year of eligibility. But to keep Eifert and Golic off the field, Notre Dame will have to look at other options in short yardage situations. That could mean using extra offensive linemen as the Irish did in 2008, or it could mean turning to walk-on fullback/tight end Bobby Burger.

Even if he doesn't see the field, Burger is still an interesting story. Originally a defensive end at Dayton, he transferred to Notre Dame in the summer of 2008 but didn't plan to play football for the Irish - despite the fact his father was a guard for ND during the Devine years. One year and a position change later, Burger joins the team as an H-Back. Oh, and playing football for the Irish isn't the only way Bobby plans to follow in the older Burger's footsteps - he also plans to become a medical doctor just like his dad.

Notre Dame Football Position Preview: Wide Receiver

Previously Covered
Halfback and Fullback

Spotlight: Robby Parris


Also Returning: Brian Couglin, Michael Floyd, Dan Franco, Christopher Gurries, Duval Kamara, Kris Patterson, Golden Tate, Sam Vos, George West
Lost: David Grimes, Kris Patterson (graduation), Michael Garcia (position change - cornerback), Richard Jackson (transfer)
Gained: Barry Gallup, Jr. (position change - halfback), Derry Herlihy (walk-on), John Goodman, Deion Walker (DNP as freshmen), Shaquelle Evans, Roby Toma (freshman)

With all the talent on Notre Dame's roster, why give Robby Parris the spotlight? Quite simply, the Cleveland-area product has something to prove. Going into his final year of eligibility, Parris is hoping to prove that 2008 was a fluke, and that 2007 (when he was third on the team in catches and second in receiving yards) was a truer reflection of his talent.

After breakout seasons in 2008, Golden Tate and Michael Floyd have locked up starting spots on the Irish depth chart. But the third and fourth receiver spots are still in doubt. Veterans Parris and Duval Kamara appear to be the popular choices for those spots, but they'll have to battle bumps and bruises, a history of dropped passes, and a slew of untested players chomping at the bit. John Goodman, Deion Walker, and Shaquelle Evans have yet to see a college field on gameday, but all figure to make their debuts this year - and quite possibly replace Kamara and Parris on the depth chart.

In 2007, Notre Dame's wide receivers were nicknamed "the Smurfs" by their head coach, because of the short stature of the group. Now, the roster is littered with receivers 6'2" and above, and the lone remaining Smurfs - George West and Barry Gallup - will be lucky to play anything but special teams. Meanwhile, freshman Smurf-in-training Roby Toma will likely spend the year off the field and in the weight room looking to add to his 5'9", 175 pound frame.

Last year, Notre Dame was forced to run multi-receiver sets a majority of the time because of the lack of depth at tight end. This year, they may run multi-receiver sets a majority of the time just to get their best talent on the field.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Notre Dame Football Position Preview: Halfback and Fullback

Previously Covered

Spotlight: James Aldridge

Also Returning: Armando Allen, Jonas Gray, Robert Hughes, Steve Paskorz
Lost: Eras Noel, Nikolas Rodriguez, Asaph Schwapp (graduation), Barry Gallup, Jr. (position change - wide receiver)
Gained: Bobby Burger, Mike Narvaez (walk-ons), Theo Riddick, Cierre Wood (freshmen)

Charlie Weis's spotlight is on James Aldridge, and so is ours. Facing a lack of depth at fullback, and a growing amount of talent at halfback, Coach Weis has asked Aldridge to become a blocker back in his senior year. Comparisons were quickly made to Rashon Powers-Neal, who had a very productive start to the 2005 season as a blocker, receiver, and short-yardage back. Since then, Notre Dame has struggled to find any of those threats out of its backfield. Is Aldridge, a player with zero touchdowns coming into last year and 11 career receptions the answer? Only time will tell.

But who, if anyone, will line up in front of Aldridge on short-yardage situations? Outside of employing a walk-on, or stealing from an already-thin tight end corps, the choice seems to be converted linebacker Steve Paskorz. Paskorz is already in his second year on the offensive side of the ball, and as Junior Jabbie proved, the move from defensive player to blocking back isn't an impossible task.

At halfback, Armando Allen has established himself as the starter. Allen's numbers may not be gaudy, but he does find a way to keep the ball moving down the field, both as a runner and as a pass catcher. Behind Allen is classmate Robert Hughes, who enters 2009 at an impasse. Hughes is a big back who dances like a small back, and his approach brought little success in 2008. Challenged by his head coach to lose weight or start running like a bigger guy, Hughes has chosen the latter, and hopefully that will return him to the flashes of success he saw in 2007. After Allen and Hughes are a trio of young, unproven backs. Jonas Gray saw a good amount of garbage time in 2008, and responded with a few good runs but a few too many fumbles. Gray will need to learn to protect the football if he wants to make a case for future playing time ahead of freshmen Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood.

Notre Dame Football Position Preview: Quarterback

This is the first in a series of previews of this year's Fighting Irish football team.

Spotlight: Jimmy Clausen


Also Returning: Evan Sharpley, Brian Castello
Lost: Nick Lezynski (position change - cornerback), Nate Montana (transfer)
Gained: Dayne Crist (DNP as freshman), Matthew Mulvey (walk-on)

It's a do-or-die year for the quarterback maker and his latest protege. Some consider Jimmy Clausen's performance against Hawaii the football version of a perfect game. But not every contest comes with a month to prepare and a poor pass defense. Clausen, despite popularity among his teammates, has yet to win over the Irish faithful. The Hawaii game may have started a turnaround, but those with longer memories recall a midseason slump by Clausen that was rash with poor decision making. (Hint: throwing the ball down the middle of the field and hoping Kyle Rudolph can outmuscle four defenders is not a good strategy.) Optimistic fans are quick to draw comparisons between the junior Clausen and Brady Quinn's breakout third season. If Clausen can repeat Quinn's success - and he has the weapons with which he can do it - fans will rally behind their blonde-haired hero and Robot Genius once again. If not, both Clausen and his head coach's time could be short in South Bend.

Evan Sharpley was drafted by the Seattle Mariners this past June, and has been tearing up the rookie leagues. Still, he was granted permission by the Mariners to return as a veteran backup to this year's Notre Dame squad. However, if all goes to plan - that is, if no one gets injured and Clausen doesn't give any reasons to be benched - Sharpley won't see any action until Senior Day. That's because Clausen's incumbent Dayne Crist is scheduled to get all the garbage minutes at quarterback. Hopefully, all of those minutes will be played with the Irish on the plus side of the scoreboard.