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2008 Spring Preview - The Independents
Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen
Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Mar 12, 2008


As spring ball gets rolling, here are the big questions, the most important positions and more for each Independent team in the CFN Spring Preview.

Spring Preview 2008

Independent Spring Football Previews

By Pete Fiutak 
- 2007 Independent Spring Analysis
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2008 Early Lookaheads - Independents

Army  Spring Practice Begins: March 19  Game: April 12
The early spring buzz ... The coaching staff isn't panicking, but it's changing things up after going without a winning season since 1996. The offense is getting a new look, although it's unsure what that will be, and the athletic department is providing a bit of help by wussing, er, backing out of a few possible tough games for some easier ones. There are dates at Texas A&M and Rutgers, and the next most difficult battles will be against Navy and Air Force. The program is looking for wins, and now it has to take advantage of the Eastern Michigans and Louisiana Techs of the world.
The big spring question is ... What exactly is the offense going to be? Keeping with the times, head coach Stan Brock will likely move to a spread attack to cater to the recruiting limitations. It's harder to run a pro-style offense if you can't get pro-style players, while the spread works better for Army, who can go after smaller, quicker linemen and then get the right quarterback to run things. You don't necessarily need all-star receivers in the spread, just competent ones, and Army, who loses Jeremy Trimble, can do that. Now the big question will be what to do at ...
The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback. Carson Williams is a 6-3, 210-pound bomber who was supposed to transform the Army attack when he arrived on the scene a few years ago. He struggled with interceptions, David Pevoto was more effective, and now the offense appears to be changing. Williams isn't a spread offense passer, but at the very least he could be a great option to keep involved when the team needs to go to the air in comeback mode. The hype will be around
Paul McIntosh, Indiana's Mr. Football and the perfect prospect to run the spread. Will he be ready in time for Temple? What will the coaching staff do with Williams?
Spring attitude... Just start winning. The defense has to replace most of its most productive players, the offense loses Trimble, it's only playmaker, and has to find a running game of some sort, but there's plenty of optimism that with the right changes, a few more victories can be had with the light schedule. Of course, all the average teams on the slate are going to pencil in Army as a win.

Is Army's Carson Williams able to play a role considering he was supposed to be the program's star quarterback a few years ago?

From Don Yates, ArmySports.com

The big question is what kind of offense will Army head coach Stan Brock install. We are pretty sure it'll be some kind of option offense but not sure which. The rumor mill is that it will be the spread option similar to what Florida runs. Carson Williams is more of a drop back passer and may not be suited for any kind of option. In February Army signed 5 quarterbacks including Mr. Indiana Football, Paul McIntosh, who is a 3-star Scout.com prospect. As a senior McIntosh completed 146 of 227 passes for 2,292 yards with 22 touchdowns and six interceptions. He ran 205 times for 1,621 yards and 34 scores in 15 games. The four other quarterback signees also have good running skills.

Navy   Spring Practice Begins: March 5  Game: April 7
The early spring buzz ... There really might not be much of a drop-off in production, if any, in the transition from Paul Johnson to
Ken Niumatalolo. There's still plenty of speed and athleticism in the backfield waiting in the wings despite losing Reggie Campbell and Adam Ballard, while the overall formula will stay in place. Remember, one of the keys to Navy's success under Johnson was an easy schedule, and this year's continues the tradition with Towson, Ball State, Duke, SMU, Temple, Northern Illinois and Army to deal with.
The big spring question is ... What's going to change under
Niumatalolo? Not a whole bunch. He's going with the it-ain't-broke theory, so he's not going to try to fix anything. One thing he does have to address is a secondary that got lit up like a Christmas tree with the nation's worst pass efficiency defense. The defensive backs actually weren't that bad, and Rashawn King and Blake Carter are good corners, but there was no pass rush whatsoever. The defensive front did nothing, absolutely nothing, to get to the quarterback, but there's great depth and two starters back on the front three to hope for more production so the outside linebackers can get into the backfield on a regular basis.
The most important position to watch is ... Center. The Midshipmen don't just need to replace the quarterback on the line, they have to replace Antron Harper, a fantastic all-around blocker who could've played for several much bigger names. Also gone is his backup, Reyn Kaupiko, so Sander Gossard, who was third on the depth chart last year, will get a look, or else someone else needs to slide in. Also a problem is tackle, where Josh Meek and Paul Bridgers are gone.
Spring attitude... Keep everything rolling. The athleticism is still there, Niumatalolo did a great job recruiting, especially getting Kriss Proctor, a tailor-made option quarterback, and the schedule isn't that bad. This is still Navy, so the overall talent level is still going to be far, far less than almost everyone else in D-I, but as long as the scheme is still working, and it will, there's no reason to not go to another bowl.

Notre Dame   Spring Practice Begins: March 28  Game: April 21
The early spring buzz ... Enjoy 2007 while you can Irish bashers, because you'll likely have to deal with a major turnaround. The Irish might not be BCS-good this year, but the latest recruiting class is loaded, last year's team has the potential to be night-and-day better with a little bit of tweaking, and yes, this is a great coaching staff. Remember, last year's offense, as abysmal as it was, had to start six underclassmen with more in almost all the key backup roles.  
The big spring question is ... Will the line be able to protect the quarterbacks? Jimmy Clausen and Evan Sharpley could be Tom Brady and Peyton Manning and they still wouldn't have had much success behind a porous line that led the nation in sacks allowed. It's not like the Irish faced a who's who of attacking, pass rushing defenses; the line was simply awful. But don't forget, the line was lousy when Brady Quinn was under center, too, but he was a veteran who was able to get rid of the ball in a hurry along with the pounding he took. Left tackle Sam Young is a talent, and all five starters return up front, so the potential is there for experience to turn into production. It has to.
The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback. Is it going to be Clausen, everyone's No. 1 recruit last year, or is Sharpley the better overall option to build around, or is new hotshot recruit Dayne Crist the main man? There's no quarterback controversy, at least for the time being; Clausen is the Notre Dame starting quarterback. It's his job, he's the one, he's the franchise. Sharpley is No. 2, but as Charlie Weis showed last year, he's not above making a big change when needed. Crist is the third man in the mix, but he'll get a few chances to compete this summer. However, Weis has said he'd rather not play Crist this year and would just go with his two veterans.
Spring attitude... Rebound. Weis has relinquished the play-calling duties to focus on the entire team, and now he's focusing more on what he can do for the entire team. The time off at the end of last year might actually be a good thing considering it allowed everyone a chance to take a deep breath and start anew, and now with a far more experienced team returning, anything less than a decent bowl will be a unacceptable. However, the team is about a year away from being really, really good again.