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2008 Notre Dame Preview - Offense
Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen
CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Notre Dame Fighting Irish Offense
Preview 2008 - Offense
2008 CFN Notre Dame Preview | 2008
Notre Dame Offense
2008 Notre Dame
2008 Notre Dame
2007 CFN Notre Dame Preview |
2006 CFN Notre
What you need to know: Put it
this way, you could've been the offensive coordinator and the
Irish offense wouldn't have finished any lower. The ineptitude
is mind-boggling considering Charlie Weis is supposed to be an
offensive guru. Dead-last in total offense averaging 242 yards
per game. 116th in scoring averaging 16.42 yards per game. 75
rushing yards per game, 167 passing, 113th in the nation in
passing efficiency, dead-last in sacks allowed ... you get the
idea. While the attack won't suddenly explode now that Weis has
handed over the play-calling duties to Mike Haywood, things
should get better with nine starters returning, along with
plenty of depth, a healthier Jimmy Clausen, who's showing the
arm strength to be the star quarterback everyone thought he'd
be, and potential in the running game. The O line has to
immediately improve and the receivers have to prove they can
beat a jam and get open. The desperate hope is that experience
will help in both areas.
Passing: Jimmy Clauson
138-245, 1,254 yds, 7 TD, 6 INT
Rushing: James Aldridge
121 carries, 463 yds, 0 TD
Receiving: Duval Kamara
327 catches, 357 yds, 4 TD
Star of the offense: Sophomore QB Jimmy Clausen
Offensive line, wide receiver
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior OT
Paul Duncan & senior OG Mike Turkovich
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore TE Mike Ragone
Best pro prospect: Junior OT Sam Young
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Young, 2) Clausen, 3)
WR Duval Kamara
Strength of the offense: Experience, skill potential
Weakness of the offense:
Jimmy Clausen never had a chance. The much-hyped
superstar recruit could never live up to the expectations in his
true freshman season, but he had nothing go his way. The line
was miserable and didn't give him room to breathe, the skill
players were new and just getting their feet wet, and worst of
all, Clausen was never healthy after off-season arm surgery. He
completed 56% of his passes for 1,254 yards with seven
touchdowns and six interceptions, but most importantly, he got
better. After missing time after getting banged up, he came back
to be sharper in the final three games leading the Irish to two
wins while throwing six touchdown passes and just one
interception. Now he's healthy, he showed off a better arm with
more zip, and the 6-3, 207-pound sophomore now appears ready to
start becoming the player everyone has been expecting. 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
Projected Top Reserves: Under a strange shroud of
secrecy, Charlie Weis wouldn't reveal his opening day
quarterback until the last second. It was senior Evan
Sharpley, and he got blasted by the Georgia Tech defensive
line. While he completed 10 of 13 passes for 93 yards in the
33-3 loss, and he finished with 736 passing yards with five
touchdowns and three interceptions, he wasn't able to lead the
way to any wins, and he'll be forever known as the Notre Dame
quarterback who lost to Navy. He has good 6-2, 216-pound size, a
good arm and decent athleticism serving also a strong infielder
for the baseball team.
Watch Out For ... Clausen to be far better. It
wasn't like he was awful last season, but he didn't have
anything to work with. The line should be a bit better, the
receivers and backs more experienced, and Clausen will be
Strength: Experience. In hindsight, it would've been nice if
Notre Dame could've made an exception to its non-redshirt policy
and let Clausen get 100% healthy, but the experience of getting
the tar beaten out of him might be invaluable down the road. Sharpley can play, but like Clausen, he didn't get any help.
Weakness: Running. It's not like Clausen and Sharpely are
immobile, but there's no rushing threat whatsoever coming out of
Outlook: For the most part, the quarterbacks
didn't take the blame for the problems last year, and rightly
so, but the coaching staff kept trying to find a spark that
wasn't there, got Clausen in the mix too early, and now everyone
has to hope that the strides made at the end of the year were
for real and not just because the Irish played three lousy
defenses. Clausen will be fine, but he needs one more year of
Little used, sophomore Robert Hughes carried the ball
just 18 times over the first ten games, seeing time as a power
runner and in mop-up duty, and then he became a bit of a folk
hero over the final two games rushing for 110 yards and a
touchdown in the win over Duke and 136 yards and a score in the
victory over Stanford. At 5-11 and 238 pounds he's a power back
with nifty moves to get out of trouble, and while he ripped
through some bad defenses in the final two games, he showed this
off-season that he could really be the real deal.
Trying to pave the way for the ground game will once again be
senior Asaph Schwapp, a decent power runner who has the
6-0, 261-pound size to be a sledgehammer of a blocker. He
overcame a torn ACL in 2006 to play in every game last year
running for 14 yards and catching three passes for 27 yards.
He's a good, unsung cog in the attack.
Projected Top Reserves: If Hughes doesn't take the
starting job by the horns, it'll once again go to junior
James Aldridge, a 6-0, 222-pound veteran with a good mix of
power and speed. He was one of the stars of the 2006 recruiting
class but he only ran for 142 yards as a freshman and a
team-leading 463 yards with no scores last season, Not used much
as a receiver, he only caught five passes, but he has the talent
and skills to do far more.
Adding more speed to the mix is sophomore Armando Allen,
a 5-10, 190-pound bolt of lightning who has sub 4.4 speed. He
broke his leg his senior year of high school but was able to get
to campus early last season and ended up finishing second on the
team with 348 yards. However, his longest run was only 15 yards.
He's too fast to not be a home-run hitter.
Backing up Schwapp at fullback is 6-3, 248-pound sophomore Luke Schmidt, a top recruit
two years ago 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. He caught three passes for 16 yards
and ran twice for six yards and will be the main backup behind
starting tight end Mike Ragone.
Watch Out For ... Hughes. While he'll technically
be a backup going into the fall, with Aldridge likely to get the
opening day call, Hughes will end up being the team's most
effective back. Even if he's used in spurts, his power will wear
down defenses. At least that's the hope.
Strength: Talent. The three backs are good, even if the Irish
running game was the worst ever averaging just 75.25 yards per
game. Sacks took plenty of yards off the total, but the running
game still stunk because of inexperience and a bad line. The
three backs should combine to be far better, while Schwapp is a
good fullback who'll make more of an impact.
Weakness: Production. Yeah, Hughes looked great late in the
year, but that was against Duke and Stanford. There has to be
some concern that the backs didn't do much of anything for long
stretches, even though defenses put everyone and the mascot up
on the line to stop the run.
Outlook: Outside of his blocking ability, the loss
of Darius Walker early to the NFL didn't turn out to be that big
a deal; he wouldn't have helped the ground game behind last
year's line. The three backs would be phenomenal if they could
be combined into one player, but as a trio they should quickly
make the Irish ground game a strength if the passing game is
able to pen things up a little more downfield and if the line
isn't next-level bad again.
Everyone is back in the receiving corps except for the one big-time
player, tight end John Carlson, who was slightly overrated, but led the
team with 40 catches for 372 yards and three touchdowns. Looking to fill
the void will be 6-5, 230-pound sophomore Mike Ragone, a good
receiver but a questionable blocker. He caught one pass for seven yards,
but he has tremendous speed and should be great at stretching the field.
He was a big-time recruit who has to play like it.
The team's leading wide receiver option is sophomore Duval Kamara,
a 6-5, 222-pound presence who finished second on the team with 32
catches for 357 yards and a team-leading four touchdowns. While he's not
a speedster on the outside, he has good enough wheels to get deep averaging 11.2 yards per catch. His longest grab last year was
just 35 yards.
Back at the other starting receiver spot is veteran David Grimes,
a 5-10, 177-pound senior who was overshadowed early in his career but
didn't break out last season, partly because of an ankle injury that
cost him two games, catching 27 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns
averaging a mere 8.3 yards per catch. He has tremendous speed and should
start making bigger plays both inside and out if he can get in the
clear. He has a problem getting beaten up by bigger defensive backs.
Projected Top Reserves: While Kamara is the best
option at the outside X position, it was 5-10, 197-pound junior
George West who saw the majority of the starts. However, he only
caught 21 passes for 172 yards averaging a mere 8.2 yards per grab. He
has good speed and quickness, showing it off as a kick returner, and
showed excellent promise after a big spring last year, but he suffered a
hand injury and while he got healthy, he didn't make a big impact
showing no ability to get by more physical defenders.
6-4, 209-pound junior Robby Parris is a good-sized target who
started in four games and finished third on the team with 29 grabs for
361 yards and a touchdown. He's a smart, tough veteran who disappeared
late in the year but was the team's best receiver for a six-game
stretch. He might be a number one target, but he'll burn a lot of
secondaries as a two or a three.
Senior D.J. Hord returned from an Achilles tendon injury who only
played in six games and made just two catches for seven yards. At 6-1
and 197 pounds he has good size to go along with tremendous speed,
possibly the best on the team, but he has to show it off. He was the
Missouri Player of the Year for 2004 and is due for some good luck.
At some point, 6-0, 190-pound sophomore Golden Tate will be a
big-time player. Buried on the depth chart, Tate might have problems
seeing time early on, but he had a big spring and is too talented not to
become a factor. One of the team's biggest recruits two years ago, he
has 4.4 speed, decent size, and phenomenal all-around athleticism. He
made six catches last year for 131 yards and a touchdown in a limited
On the way is top recruit Michael Floyd, a 6-3, 200-pound Mr.
Football in Minnesota, he caught 59 passes for 1,247 yards and 17
touchdowns as a senior. A great athlete, he's expected to step in right
away and be a factor
Watch Out For ... Ragone. Even though he suffered
a knee injury in high school, he was considered one of the nation's best
prospects with his combination of speed and toughness. Along with being
a great football player, he was a star high school wrestler. Now he has
to be a featured go-to, bail-out target for Clausen over the next three
Strength: Potential. There's a ton of speed, good size, and lots
of promise among a group that didn't provide much help for the
quarterbacks, but didn't get much help, either. With everyone of note
returning there's no reason this can't be a far better unit.
Weakness: A true number one target. Eventually, Kamara or Grimes
could be the number one, go-to guy for big plays, or it could be Ragone,
but there isn't any one target who'll make defenses sweat on day one.
Outlook: It was a chicken-and-egg situation. Was
the receiving corps lousy because of the quarterbacks or were the
quarterbacks lousy because of the receiving corps? There's a ton of
returning experience, good promise, and speed, size, and talent. Now
everyone has to grow up.
Projected Starters: One of the worst offensive lines in
America gets everyone back but its strong center, John Sullivan.
A long-time starter, he was replaced late in the year by 6-4,
287-pound junior Dan Wenger, who has great upside and
talent with the ability to play guard, where he started for the
first three games of last season, or center. After struggling
his first year with an arm injury, he has grown into a good
prospect who should replace Sullivan without a problem.
The star of the line is supposed to
be junior Sam Young, a superstar recruit from the 2006
class, but he hasn't lived up to his pro potential yet. At 6-8
and 310 pounds he has tremendous size and has been a durable
option on both the left and right sides, starting in 25 straight
games, but he has been mediocre in pass protection and hasn't
used his combination of skills to be a force. He's a great
athlete who should be an anchor, and while the problems on the
line weren't all his fault, he didn't help the cause.
Back on the other side is 6-7, 308-pound senior Paul Duncan,
who started out last year at left tackle before switching to the
right side after two games. With his size he needs to be more of
a mauler for the running game and he has to be far more
consistent for the passing attack. Pass protection has been a
major issue after having major problems.
Senior Mike Turkovich took over for Dan Santucci and
started every game at left guard. The 6-6, 301-pound senior is
physical and versatile, and now he should finally come into his
own, at least that's the hope, after a year of starting
experience and with a neck injury suffered early in his career
Back again at right guard will likely be 6-4, 303-pound junior
Eric Olsen, who started over the second half of last
season and turned out to be decent. Extremely athletic for his
size, the 2006 New York Gatorade Player of the Year has the feet
of a tackle and the toughness of a defensive tackle. He'll have
to battle to keep the job, but he should grow into a good one
with more time.
Projected Top Reserves: Combining with Olsen at
right guard is 6-5, 339-pound junior Chris Stewart, the
team's biggest lineman and potentially a good run blocker. The
former defensive lineman saw time over the second half of last
year at guard, and while he's best suited for the inside, he
could be a backup at tackle if needed.
It'll be up to a pair of untested sophomores, Matt Romine
and Taylor Dever, to be the main backups at tackle. The
6-5, 279-pound Romine saw a little bit of time early on but got
hurt and was out for the year. He still needs to get past an
ankle injury, and he's not that huge at 6-5 and 279 pounds, but
he'll get every shot possible to take over the left tackle job
The 6-5, 289-pound Dever was a nice recruit who isn't going to
beat out Young on the right side, but could quickly take over on
the left if he's more consistent in practices than Romine or
Watch Out For ... the left tackle job to be a
battle all season long. Duncan might be a veteran, but he hasn't
been very good. Romine and Dever will be given long, long looks
to take hold of the gig.
Strength: Experience. Four starters return and Wenger might as
well be counted as a fifth returning starter. This group took
its major lumps as it got its feet wet, and now it has to pay
off with a more consistent year.
Weakness: Production. To be fair, recent Irish lines were full
of veterans and they produced a fat load of jack squat. Last
year's group at least has the excuse of inexperience, but if it
isn't far better, the offense will continue to go nowhere.
Outlook: The 2006 line was full of long-time
veterans and had the same starting combination for all 13 games.
It was awful. Last year's line was full of mostly new starters
and good recruits with excellent résumés, and it was beyond
awful allowing 58 sacks and getting no push for the ground game.
The performance was inexcusable, and while Young is a great
talent to work around, Turkovich and Duncan have to be
night-and-day better on the left side.