2009 Early Independent Lookaheads
Notre Dame WR Golden Tate
Notre Dame WR Golden Tate
Posted Feb 15, 2009

After a huge performance against Hawaii, the expectations are sky-high for Golden Tate and Notre Dame. Can they come through with a BCS season? Here's an early look-ahead at each Independent team with what needs working on, why to be excited, and grouchy.

2009 Independent Early Lookaheads

2009 Pages
Army | Navy | Notre Dame

2008 Pages
Army | Navy | Notre Dame

- 2007 Independent Lookback/Recaps | 2008 Independent Lookaheads

- 2009 Independent Lookaheads


CFN Preseason Prediction: 1-11    Final Record: 3-9

Why to get excited
: Rich Ellerson. Cal Poly was No. 1 in the nation among FCS teams in total and scoring offense, averaging 487 yards and 44 points per game, with a wishbone offense that averaged 306 rushing yards per game and was second in the nation in passing efficiency. Meanwhile, his defense was second in the FCS in sacks. The Mustangs should’ve beaten Wisconsin, losing in overtime thanks to some missed kicks. Ellerson inherits plenty of experience with eight starters returning on defense to go along with a good base of veterans on offense.

Why to be grouchy: Ellerson doesn’t have a Jonathan Dally at quarterback, the all-purpose star for Cal Poly last year, and he certainly doesn’t have a Ramses Barden, the record-setting receiver who caught 50 career touchdown passes. It might take a little while for the Army offense to get the right players to do exactly what Ellerson wants.

The number one thing to work on is: Holding on to the ball. Not surprisingly, the offense struggled with fumbles as it tried to figure out how to get the timing of the new attack down. 24 fumbled were way too many, especially considering no one else in the country lost more than 19. The defense didn’t force enough mistakes to make up for the turnovers.

Biggest offensive loss
: RB Collin Mooney
Biggest defensive loss: LB Frank Scappaticci
Best returning offensive player: QB Chip Bowden, Jr.
Best returning defensive player: LB Stephen Anderson, Jr.


CFN Preseason Prediction: 7-5   Final Record: 8-5

Why to get excited
: Even with the loss of LB Jeff Deliz, the defensive front seven has a slew of experience and has some nice players in linebackers Clint Sovie, Ross Pospisil, and nose guard Nate Frazier to work around. Both starting safeties return, while corner Blake Carter is a veteran backup. If he can come through with a big season, the potential is there for this to be the best Navy defense in a long time.

Why to be grouchy: Navy has to face eight teams that went to bowl games last year, including road trips to Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Pitt. Offensively, Ricky Dobbs is the quarterback with Kaipo-Noa Kaheakue-Enhada and Jarod Bryant gone, while running back Shun White and fullback Eric Kettani will be missed. Replacing cornerbacks Ketric Buffin and Rashawn King won’t be easy; they were athletic talents.

The number one thing to work on is: Finding a No. 1 receiver. That might not seem like a big deal for a team that was second-to-last in the nation in passing, but when the offense did throw it, Tyree Barnes usually game through. He only caught 20 passes for 400 yards and two touchdowns last season, but he was good enough to force defenses to worry about him a little bit. There at least has to be some threat that Navy could throw the ball at some point.

Biggest offensive loss
: RB Shun White
Biggest defensive loss: CB Rashawn King
Best returning offensive player: QB Ricky Dobbs, Jr.
Best returning defensive player: LB Clint Pospisil, Sr.

Notre Dame

CFN Preseason Prediction: 7-5    Final Record: 7-6

Why to get excited
: When was the last time the Irish had a receiving corps this good (and that includes a few years ago with Jeff Samardzija leading the way)? Golden Tate, Michael Floyd, Duval Kumara, and tight end Kyle Rudolph still have work to do on their consistency as a unit, and Floyd has to come off a knee injury, but this will be an explosive group that’ll look to build on its huge day against Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl. The schedule is also a major plus with winnable games against Michigan, Purdue, Washington, Washington State, Navy, Connecticut and Stanford almost certain to provide a nice base of victories. Boston College should be down, and Nevada, Michigan State, and USC have to come to South Bend. When the toughest road game is at Pitt, there’s reason to be fired up about the possibilities for a big year.

Why to be grouchy: There’s work to do on defense. The offense should be more than fine with the three lost starters very replaceable, but the D needs to find players who produced at the level FS David Bruton, CB Terrail Lambert, and LB Maurice Crum Jr. did. The line loses two starters, Justin Brown and Pat Kuntz, after a decent year against the run. Uber-recruit Manti Te’o might not be ready on day one.

The number one thing to work on is: Getting more aggressive into the backfield. Defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta will handle the play-calling duties, and he’ll need to get his front seven behind the line on a regular basis. While the defense was decent at hitting the quarterback, it wasn’t disruptive enough against the run and it didn’t force enough mistakes. The secondary has to replace three starters and could use all the help it can get. Starting out against Nevada, one of the nation’s best running teams, will be a test right away to see how productive and how active the revamped front seven can be.

Biggest offensive loss
: OT Mike Turkovich
Biggest defensive loss: FS David Bruton
Best returning offensive player: QB Jimmy Clausen, Jr.
Best returning defensive player: S Kyle McCarthy, Sr.