2009 Notre Dame Preview - Offense
Notre Dame WR Golden Tate
Notre Dame WR Golden Tate
Posted May 14, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Notre Dame Fighting Irish Offense

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Preview 2009 - Offense

- 2009 CFN Notre Dame Preview | 2009 Notre Dame Offense
- 2009 Notre Dame Defense
2009 Notre Dame Depth Chart
2008 ND Preview | 2007 ND Preview | 2006 ND Preview 

What you need to know: The offense wasn't quite as good as it should've been, considering all the key parts were Charlie Weis recruits, but it was far better than it was in 2007 when it averaged 242 yards and 16.42 points per game. The big key to the improvement was the pass protection that allowed 22 sacks a year after finishing dead last in America in sacks allowed. This year, with everyone coming back, and the one big hole, left tackle, being filled by 2007 starter Paul Duncan, there's no excuse for the attack to not be more consistent and to not be even better. Weis will be handling the play-calling again, and he has a loaded passing game led by QB Jimmy Clausen, who's about to play up to his prep hype after taking his lumps for the last two years. The receiving corps is jaw-dropping good with Golden Tate, Michael Floyd and Duval Kamara a tremendous trio that'll blow up on a regular basis, while tight end Kyle Rudolph will be among the best in America with a little more time. There's experience at running back, but there needs to be far more production after averaging 110 yards per game.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Jimmy Clauson
268-440, 3,172 yds, 25 TD, 17 INT
Rushing: Armondo Allen
134 carries, 585 yds, 3 TD
Receiving: Golden Tate
58 catches, 1,080 yds, 10 TD

Star of the offense: Junior QB Jimmy Clausen
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior OT Paul Duncan
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore TE Kyle Rudolph
Best pro prospect: Clausen
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Clausen, 2) WR Golden Tate, 3) WR Michael Floyd
Strength of the offense: Experience, Wide Receiver
Weakness of the offense:
Running Game, Line


Projected Starter Junior Jimmy Clausen, the over-hyped, coming-out-of-a-limo recruit who was going to put Notre Dame over the top finally might do it if he can be more consistent. 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, but he struggled early on. Killed behind a miserable offensive line and with no receivers to throw to as a true freshman, and trying to get over arm surgery, he threw for just 1,254 yards and seven touchdowns with six interceptions. The 6-3, 217-pounder bulked up, has a stronger arm with more zip on his throws, and he showed an inkling of what he can do when everything is clicking with a 22-of-26, 401-yard, five touchdown day against Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl after coming off a disastrous 11-of-22, 41-yard, two touchdown performance against USC. On the year he completed 61% of his throws for 3,172 yards and 25 touchdowns, but he threw 17 interceptions with two or more in eight games. He had a terrific spring overall and appears to have a far better command of the attack. With NFL skills and two years of experience, now is the time to live up to the potential. His brothers Rick and Casey were starters at Tennessee. 

Projected Top Reserves: If Jimmy Clausen wasn't the franchise, Dayne Crist would be given a longer look for the starting job. The 6-4, 233-pound sophomore looked the part this offseason with a big-time arm that can make all the throws and better running skills than Clausen (who's one of Crist's best friends since they were kids). While he didn't play last year, he appears ready to step in if needed and the coaching staff would love it if he gave Clausen more of a push.

Yes, sophomore walk-on Nate Montana is the son of you-know-who. Mostly a scout teamer, the 6-4, 200-pounder is bigger than his dad and has a live, accurate arm. However, if he's playing this year, it's either a blowout or disaster has struck.

Watch Out For ... Crist to worked into the fold. There's no real battle for the No. 1 spot, it's Clausen's, but the second there's a chance, the sophomore will be on the field getting some work in. He really is that good and that promising.
Clausen. It probably would've been smarter overall for Clausen to have redshirted as a true freshman rather than play hurt, but the lumps he took should pay off now that he's a two-year starter. Remember, Brady Quinn didn't make the leap into superstardom until his junior year.
Running. Forget about much of a threat out of the backfield. Clausen isn't a statue, but linebackers aren't going to have to deal with the option of a running quarterback.
Outlook: Surprise, surprise. The O line provided a little time, the receiving corps matured a bit, and all of a sudden, Jimmy Clausen wasn't so awful. He had to force things that weren't there to get the offense going and he had a nightmare of a time with interceptions, but he's mature, in command, and ready for a huge year. Dayne Crist is a good enough backup to prevent any sort of drop off if Clausen goes down.
Rating: 8

Running Backs

Projected Starters: While it's a running back-by-committee approach in the Irish backfield, best option of the bunch is Amando Allen, a tough, quick, 5-10, 195-pound junior with sub-4.4 speed and great hands for the passing game. He not only led the team with 585 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, he finished second with 50 catches for 355 yards and two scores and served as a killer of a kickoff returner averaging 25.9 yards per try. This offseason was about him becoming a tougher inside runner, and he showed he could handle it. With his wheels, getting him in the open and on the move as much as possible is a must. 

Part fullback, part tailback, 6-0, 225-pound senior James Aldridge will do a little bit of everything for the backfield. With a good blend of power and speed, he finished third on the team with 357 rushing yards and three touchdowns, and he caught three passes but netted just one yards. While he's expected to work more as a tailback and should be a workhorse from time to time, his blocking skills and his all-around ability will keep him on the field for three downs.

Projected Top Reserves: Bringing the inside power is Robert Hughes, a 5-11, 237-pound junior who ran for 382 yards and four touchdowns. Not the receiver that Armando Allen is, he's a decent plow-horse of a back who became a bit of a folk hero late in his freshman year by running for 110 yards against Duke and 136 yards against Stanford to close out the year. With his rushing ability and his size, he'll also be used a bit at fullback.

Jonas Gray could be the lost man in the mix. The 5-10, 220-pound sophomore got a little bit of work last season rushing for 90 yards on 21 carries. A nice recruit coming out of Detroit, Gray showed off flashes of quickness to go along with his size and power, but he won't likely be a major factor until next year and should spend most of his time on special teams.

If and when James Aldridge is at tailback, 6-2, 235-pound junior Steve Paskorz will likely get the first look at fullback. He was a backup last season and saw time in ten games, and while he didn't handle the ball, he showed upside as a blocker.

Watch Out For ... more power. Running back coach Tony Alford spent this spring trying to bust this group into better shape and be more aggressive. Part of the problem last year was the line, but the backs needed to do a better job of finishing off runs and bang away on the inside. This should be a harder running set of backs.
Strength: Options. With the top four backs of last year returning, keeping everyone fresh and going with the hot hand won't be a problem. Defenses will have to prepare for all four backs with the coaching staff more than happy to spread the wealth around.
Production. The backs are fine against the bad teams, but they struggled to be consistent and they didn't break off any big runs. The longest run from any of the top four backs was just 21 yards, and that can't be blamed only on the line.
Outlook: The four returning backs should morph into a better, more productive ground game after the Irish finished 100th in the nation averaging 110 yards per game. There aren't enough big runs and there hasn't been enough consistency, but Armando Allen, Robert Hughes, and James Aldridge have been around long enough to know what they're doing. This is a serviceable set of backs, but hardly special.
Rating: 6.5


Projected Starters: Junior Golden Tate was a huge recruit for Charlie Weis a few years ago, but he struggled to do much in his first year, partly due to the problems across the board for the Irish offense. And then he blew up. One of the nation's premier deep threats, the 5-11, 195-pound speedster with 4.4 wheels averaged a whopping 18.6 yards per grab with a team-leading 58 catches for 1,080 yards and ten touchdowns. A consistent producer all season long, despite being shut out by Navy and catching just two passes for 15 yards, he started to really turn it on late in the year catching seven passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns against Syracuse and making six grabs for 177 yards and three scores against Hawaii. He missed most of this spring because he spent a bulk of his time playing baseball, but he'll be the No. 1 target on the outside X position come fall.

6-3, 215-pound sophomore Michael Floyd went from being Minnesota's Mr. Football to a star target in the Irish passing attack without a problem. One of the team's top recruits of 2007, he didn't disappoint catching 48 passes for 719 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 15 yards per catch, with three 100-yard games. He was unstoppable against Pitt with ten catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns, but he didn't score over the final five games of the season, and miss the final two games of the regular season, with a leg problems. While he missed most of spring ball healing up, he'll be a star again at the Z position.

Kyle Rudolph stepped in when Mike Ragone went down with a knee injury and came up with a huge freshman season at tight end. The 6-6, 258-pound not only showed he could block, but he caught 29 passes for 340 yards and two touchdowns. The first freshman tight end to ever start on opening day for the Irish, he has All-America potential and will be more than just a nice safety valve for Jimmy Clausen.

Projected Top Reserves: With Golden Tate playing baseball, junior Duval Kamara was listed as the starter at the outside X position despite having problems with a hamstring injury. The 6-5, 219-pounder isn't a speedster, but he has been able to make consistent plays down the field averaging 10.3 yards per catch last year. While his role will be diminished because of the emergence of Tate, he should equal last year's production of 20 catches for 206 yards and a score. He led the team in 2007 with 32 grabs.

On the verge of big things is Rob Parris, a 6-3, 210-pound senior who was fantastic when he got his chances this spring and should see more time in three-wide sets and playing behind Michael Floyd at the Z. While he only caught nine passes for 50 yards last year, he was a key target two years ago with 29 catches for 361 yards yards and a score. The veteran is a great route runner and has excellent hands.

There's a lot of excitement about two emerging sophomores, 6-2, 188-pound Deion Walker and 6-3, 197-pound John Goodman. A key scout teamer last year, Walker has tremendous speed on the outside and could be used in three-wide sets as a field stretcher. Goodman is a big inside target with excellent athleticism and the skills to potentially be a No. 1 target down the road.

While Kyle Rudolph has emerged as a special tight end and the starter for the next three years, Mike Ragone will see a spot somewhere. The 6-5, 251-pound junior was supposed to be the next big thing for the Irish offense, but he suffered a torn ACL and is just now getting back into the swing of things. He's still not quite back to form, at least he wasn't this spring, and will need to take a few shots before he trusts his knee again. One of the nation's best recruits, he was a superstar high school wrestler along with being a great receiver. 

Watch Out For ... the depth. There's no question that Tate, Floyd, and Rudolph are the stars of the show and the starters the passing game will work around, but after a great spring, Parris and Goodman will see more action. Ragone, knee problems and all, is way too talented to not see time at tight end.
Sheer talent. It's not a stretch in any way to suggest that this could turn out to be the best receiving corps in the long and storied history of Notre Dame football, and when all is said and done, it might not even be close. Tate and Floyd are special, and it'll be a shock if Rudolph isn't an All-American sooner than later. 
Weakness: Health. Can Tate hold up after double-dipping as a baseball player this offseason? He's not as big or as strong as Jeff Samardzija, who did the same thing, was. Kamara has a hamstring issue, Floyd is recovering from a leg problem, and Ragone's knee is always going to be iffy. Injuries are the only thing that can ruin this great corps.
Outlook: It's all there with size, speed, experience, depth, and next-level talent. As long as everyone stays healthy, this should mature into one of the nation's better receiving corps as it grows along with the maturation of Jimmy Clausen. The lumps taken over the last two years should pay off with all the star recruits looking to take things to a whole other level after a breakout 2008.
Rating: 9.5

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: There's only one opening on the veteran front five, but it's an important spot with Michael Turkovich gone at left tackle. It was supposed to be a long battle to win the job, but senior Paul Duncan came through with a big spring after missing all of last year with a hip problem. The 6-7, 308-pounder started 11 games in 2007 seeing time on both sides, but he was as good as new this offseason and was fantastic. Now he'll have to prove he's better in pass protection than he was two years ago.

The star of the line is Sam Young, the one-time superstar recruit, who was considered by some to be the No. 1 national prospect in the 2006 class. He hadn't lived up to his pro potential, but he has improved enough to be the anchor of the line. The 6-8, 330-pound senior has the size and the experience, having started all 38 games after getting on the field on day one of his true freshman season. While he has improved and is far better than he was a few years ago, but he'll have the dreaded tag of Right Tackle Only for the next level. He has the size, but he's not an elite enough athlete to handle most star speed rushers. However, he's decent for the ground game and he has become more consistent.

6-5, 306-pound sophomore Trevor Robinson started three games last year at right guard and will likely be back in the role again once he's healthy, he's extremely versatile, able to play anywhere on the line, and has the potential to be the team's best guard sooner than later. He'll have to fight for the right guard job after being out for most of the spring, but he's too good not to be a part of the starting mix.

Senior center Dan Wenger started every game last season at center and is improving to the point of being a major plus. Very smart and with good size, the 6-4, 302-pound veteran can handle the shotgun snap without a problem and has grown into a strong quarterback up front. While not a dominant run blocker for his size, he has improved.

Back again at left guard will be 6-4, 303-pound senior Eric Olsen, a rock up front as the starter for the last 19 games, the 2006 New York Gatorade Player of the Year, has great feet, big-time toughness, and a nasty disposition when he locks on to a lineman. While he hasn't been as good as he probably should be for the ground game, his pass protection has been a major plus.

Projected Top Reserves: While Trevor Robinson might be the team's best option at right guard, Chris Stewart is the most experienced. The 6-5, 337-pound senior started nine games last year and was solid, but he'll be worth most for his versatility. He can play almost anywhere on the line, and after seeing time as a defensive tackle early in his career, he's tough enough and experienced enough to do even more in his last year.

Trying to battle for the starting left tackle job is Matt Romine, a 6-5, 292-pound junior who'll likely be the starter next year, but he has been hurt with an ankle injury and he was sick this spring. He has beefed up enough to be a regular at the position, but he'll most likely start the year as a key backup.

Working as the understudy behind Sam Young at right guard, and the likely starter next year, will be 6-5, 301-pound junior Taylor Dever, a good prospect who could play either tackle spot once he gets healthy. Out for most of spring ball, he'll be fine by the start of the season and could step in if Young ever moves to left tackle.

Watch Out For ... Duncan. He's the one new starter up front and he's at the most important position. He was just good enough this offseason to allow the coaching staff a chance to exhale, but if the production in pass protection goes down this year, he might be the one who'll get blamed first.
Experience. Not only do four starters return, not including Duncan, who started most of 2007, but this line has a few seasons of experience at some spots. Young, Olsen and Wenger all started every game last season, while Stewart and Robinson can each shine at right guard.
Production for the running game. The pass protection improved by leaps and bounds, it couldn't have been any worse after the disastrous 2007, but there wasn't any push for the ground game. These are talented players who either 1) were overrated coming out of high school, 2) haven't been developed properly, 3) are about to put it all together and come up with a big year, or 4) all of the above.
Outlook: After a disastrous 2007 when the line couldn't stop getting the quarterbacks hit on a regular basis, things were better with improved play in pass protection. The running game never materialized, and now the coaching staff is making a point of getting this group to be tougher, more physical, and a strength. There's a ceiling on what Notre Dame can do this year unless the line play is far better, and while it should be stronger than it's been in three years, this still won't be a dominant front five.
Rating: 6

- 2009 CFN Notre Dame Preview | 2009 Notre Dame Offense
- 2009 Notre Dame Defense
2009 Notre Dame Depth Chart
2008 ND Preview | 2007 ND Preview | 2006 ND Preview