2007 Notre Dame Preview - Offense
Notre Dame Fighting Irish Offense
Preview 2007 - Offense
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What you need to know: Yeah,
Charlie Weis is a great offensive coach, but there's some
serious rebuilding needing to be done. There are good prospects,
but there are several major concerns and no proven production.
Can the line be better despite losing three starters? Will the
skill players be remotely close to as good as the Brady Quinn,
Jeff Samardzija, Rhema McKnight and Darius Walker foursome of
last year? Are the quarterbacks ready? The quarterbacks appear
to be fine, the running backs will be solid in a combination,
and the receivers are fast and decent. The line will be a plus
by the end of the year, but it'll be a problem early on.
Passing: Evan Sharpley
1-2, 7 yds
Rushing: James Aldridge
37 carries, 142 yds
Receiving: John Carlson
47 catches, 634 yds, 4 TD
Star of the offense: Senior TE John Carlson
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore
QB Evan Sharpley or Freshman QB Jimmy Clausen
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR George West
Best pro prospect: Carlson
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Carlson, 2) OT Sam
Young, 3) C John Sullivan
Strength of the offense: Potential, wide receiver speed
Weakness of the offense:
Sophomore Evan Sharpley will likely start the season
against Georgia Tech, but there might be a quick hook if he's
not fantastic. He has the unenviable task of not only replacing
Brady Quinn, but fighting off superstar recruit Jimmy Clausen
for the job. Sharpley is 6-2 and 212 pounds with a nice arm and
a decent command of the offense. A good infielder for the
baseball team, he's a good all-around athlete who can run a
Projected Top Reserves: Not since Ron Powlus came
to South Bend has there been a buzz about a new Notre Dame
quarterbacks like the hype Jimmy Clausen is receiving.
Expected to be the savior who takes the program to yet another
level, the pressure will be suffocating for the 6-3, 207-pound
true freshman to be special from day one. 42-0 as a high school
starter, he was considered by many to be the nation's top
recruit with the size, athleticism, and arm to have gone
anywhere. His brothers Rick and Casey were starters at
Third in the mix is sophomore Demetrius Jones, a 6-4,
210-pound athlete who provides a running element the rest of the
quarterback options don't have. While he didn't have the hype
coming in like Clausen, he was a top recruit who is too good not
to be part of the starting mix. If he's the odd man out, which
it appears he's going to be, he could end up at receiver just to
get him on the field.
Watch Out For ... Sharpley to not be tossed aside
as quickly as many will want him to be. He's good enough to lead
the offense, and while Clausen is the superstar-in-waiting, he's
not going to get the job on potential.
Strength: Options. There isn't a Brady Quinn, at least yet, but
there are three good options to find the right leader. Everyone
looked decent in spring ball, including Zach Frazer, who might
have been the best of the bunch this off-season, who ended up
Weakness: Game experience. Sharpley got the same number of pass
attempts (two) as Jeff Samardzija. In the end, the team will
probably be relying on a true freshman to carry the offense. No
matter how good he might be, Clausen isn't going to be Peyton
Manning right away.
Outlook: You don't just replace Brady Quinn right
away, and Notre Dame won't be able to despite having a slew of
superstar prospects. Evan Sharpley and Demetrius Jones are each
talented passers who could shine if allowed to develop, but
they're just treading water until Jimmy Clausen is ready to take
over. This will be Clausen's team to run over the next few
years, and the era might begin sooner than later.
6-0, 218-pound senior Travis Thomas went from running
back to linebacker to running back again. A physical runner with
351 career yards and seven touchdowns, he
also has good speed. While he might
not be flashy, he'll crank out yards in chunks and is decent
enough to produce if there's a commitment to getting him the
ball. He'll be the type of back who does nothing for four
carries, and then tear off a home run on the fifth.
Working as both a blocker and a runner will be 6-0, 255-pound
junior Asaph Schwapp, who ran four times for 15 yards
before tearing his ACL against Michigan. A tough blocker, and a
decent enough receiver to get more work his way, his return
should be a big, but unnoticed, spark for the offense.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-0, 213-pound sophomore
James Aldridge was one of the stars of last year's
recruiting class and finished second on the team with 142 yards
despite suffering a knee injury that kept him out for most of
the first half of the season. Even though he's a big back, he
has great moves and can cut on a dime. On raw talent. he's one
of the best backs the program has seen in a while.
Ready to contribute right away is 5-10, 189-pound true freshman
Armando Allen, a speedy, 4.38 40 flash from Miami. He got
to campus early and was part of spring practice after missing
his senior year with a broken leg. Overall, staying healthy is
going to be his issue, but when he's right, he'll be a home run
Backing up Schwapp at fullback is 6-4, 252-pound redshirt
freshman Luke Schmidt, a top recruit last year with good
running ability. More than just a blocker, with his size, hands
and ability, he could be used in a variety of ways, including,
possibly, as a tight end.
Watch Out For ... Aldridge to break out. Thomas is
more than just serviceable, but Aldridge, if everything comes
together from health to consistency to getting one big run to
kick-start his career, could be special.
Strength: An overall depth upgrade. Last year, Darius Walker got
255 of the team's 423 carries. Aldridge got the second most
carries among the running backs with 37. That'll change this
year with Thomas, Aldridge and Allen all able to get work.
Weakness: Workhorse. While it might be a running back by
committee situation for a while, it would be nice if there was
one back to rely on. There's no consistent, proven production to
bet the farm on going into the season.
Outlook: This would've been a major strength had
Darius Walker not screwed up and left early for the NFL. Even
so, the situation isn't all that bad, with Travis Thomas a good
pounder, Armando Allen a good speedster, and James Aldridge good
at doing a little bit of everything. The key will be to find the
hot hand early on and try to get the overall yards per carry up
over four after averaging a mere 3.9 last year.
Projected Starters: It's up
to 5-10, 174-pound junior David Grimes to step in and step up and
become the team's top receiver. Overshadowed by others over the last few
years, he was decent last year with 26 catches for 336 yards and two
touchdowns, coming on at the end of the season, and now he needs to
start stretching the field on a regular basis. With tremendous speed, he
should be the team's most dangerous home run hitter along with being a
star kick returner.
was a key contributor as a true freshman,
mostly on kickoff returns averaging 20.9 yards per try. He caught two
passes for 14 yards, and ran an end around for a touchdown against
Purdue. With fantastic speed, he should be great if he can get the ball
on the move. After a great spring, he should be one of the team's
5-8, 172-pound sophomore George West
The star of the passing game should be 6-6, 259-pound senior tight end
John Carlson, the team's leading returning receiver with 47
catches for 634 yards and four touchdowns. He was one of the nation's
steadiest pass catching tight ends before getting hurt late in the year.
Now he needs to be the go-to target early on until the receiving corps
gets it feet wet.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-1, 195-pound junior
D.J. Hord is back after missing all of last year with an Achilles
tendon injury. With good size and tremendous speed and athleticism,
he'll be a key third receiver and regular in the rotation behind Grimes.
He was great this spring and should have a few huge games when defenses
forget about him.
Playing behind West will be 6-3, 201-pound sophomore Robby Parris,
a big prospect who made one catch for seven yards in limited action.
While he has good upside, he'll have to battle with incoming freshmen
Golden Tate and Duval Kamara for playing time.
The 6-4, 205-pound Kamara was one of the nation's top recruits with a
great all-around combination of size, hands, quickness and blocking
ability. The 6-0, 190-pound Tate is expected to make an instant impact
as a speed receiver on the outside. He did a little of everything in
high school, including punt, and he should grow into one of the team's
top playmakers over the next few years.
Playing behind Carlson will be 6-6, 255-pound sophomore Konrad
Reuland, a tremendous talent who should be a great one once he gets
a little playing time. He got a little bit of work last year, and will
eventually become a key receiver with the size and athleticism to
potentially play at the next level.
Watch Out For ... the freshmen. The coaching staff
will do whatever it takes to get production out of the passing game, and
while West and Grimes should be fine, Tate and Kamara have the potential
to be special.
Strength: Speed. While the corps, as a whole, might be an
unknown, the one thing it should be able to do is run, run and run some
more. There's no lack of speed and athleticism with this group.
Weakness: Proven production. Grimes got a little bit of work
last year, but is he a number one? The team will be relying on true
freshmen to make the passing attack great, and that's asking a lot.
Outlook: There might not be a Jeff Samardzija or
Rhema McKnight, but as good as they were, Brady Quinn made them shine.
There might be an overall dropoff in talent, at least in the short run,
but eventually, freshmen Duval Kamara and Golden Tate will be the new
stars, and for now, David Grimes, George West and D.J. Hord can produce.
Tight end John Carlson will be a godsend on third downs.
Projected Starters: Step one will be to replace tackle
Ryan Harris on the left side, but sophomore Sam Young,
the star recruit of the 2006 class, isn't likely to move over
from the right side ... for now. The 6-8, 315-pounder had a
rough true freshman season, but he gutted it out as the starter
in every game, and now the hope is for him to use his experience
and good talent to grow into his immense potential. A phenomenal
athlete, he got bigger and stronger over the last year and now
should become the team's top linemen.
With Harris staying put, 6-7, 292-pound junior Paul Duncan
will likely take over at left tackle after getting beaten
out for a job by Young before last year. He saw time in every
game in the rotation behind Young, and now he'll sink or swim as
a regular starter where he'll have to be more of a dominator.
Being more of a mauler would be nice.
The veteran anchor will be 6-4,
290-pound senior John Sullivan, a decent all-around
blocker with 33 starts under his belt. A good quarterback up
front, and a physical pounder for the running game, he'll be the
team's steadiest blocker who knows the offense.
Stepping in for Dan Santucci at left guard will be 6-6,
299-pound junior Mike Turkovich, an extremely physical,
versatile player who hasn't done much over his career thanks to
a neck injury. He started out his career at tackle, and now he
should be fine on the inside as long as he's healthy.
In for Bob Morton at right guard will be 6-4, 284-pound redshirt
freshman Dan Wenger, an extremely promising talent who
the coaching staff has been raving about. Originally considered
a star center prospect, he could slide over if needed, but has
to quickly grow into a regular at guard.
Projected Top Reserves: Along with Wenger, the
line's most promising prospects appear to be at guard. 6-4,
300-pound sophomore Eric Olsen will back up Turkovich on
the left side after seeing a little bit of time as a freshman.
The 2006 New York Gatorade Player of the Year has the
athleticism of a tackle and the toughness of a defensive tackle.
Rotating with Wenger at right guard will be 6-5, 295-pound
sophomore Matt Carufel, a tackle by nature who has the
potential to become a starter with good athleticism. A prep
All-American, he was the 2005 Minnesota high school player of
Watch Out For ... the guards. Young might be the
rising star of the offense, but the guards are the meat and
potatoes blockers who'll have to be the difference for the
offense. The great prospects have to dominate right away.
Strength: Athleticism. The line is full of tackles with good
feet, nice strength, and excellent upside. There might not be a
bunch of maulers, but the line should grow into a group of solid
Weakness: Production. Can anyone on the line actually play?
Fine, Young is good, Turkovich will be good, and Sullivan is a
keeper, but the overall combination has to come together
quickly. It didn't last year.
Outlook: The 2006 line was full of long-time
veterans and had the same starting combination for all 13 games.
It was awful. It almost got Brady Quinn killed and did nothing
for the ground game. That's why it's not a big deal to lose
NFLers like Ryan Harris and Dan Santucci; the line didn't do
anything with them. Sam Young has to go from being a good
prospect to a star to build around, while Paul Duncan has to
quickly establish himself on the left side. This group will get
eaten alive by Georgia Tech and Penn State in the first two
games, but should be one of the team's most improved units as
the year goes on.