Bruce Feldman from ESPN has been doing some college football “year in review” type articles over at ESPN.com the past week or so and today came out with one featuring the “biggest disappointments and most dubious moments of 2007“. As you can probably have guessed, our beloved Irish earned a place on his list (rightfully so).
3. The Notre Dame offense: Starting with the failed spread experiment against Georgia Tech, the Irish O was shockingly inept. Despite having an All-American-caliber tight end (John Carlson) and a couple of returning starters on the O-line — including a three-year starter at center (John Sullivan) — to go with a host of hyped young skill talent, ND ranked dead last in Division I-A in total offense, 116th in scoring offense, 115th in rushing offense and 110th in passing. The 3-9 Irish also lost to Navy for the first time in 44 games.
Also on the list was Dennis Dixon’s knee injury, the FSU academic scandal, Dennis Franchione’s newsletter, and USC’s historic upset loss to Stanford. You know what wasn’t on the list though? Michigan’s embarrassing loss to Division 1AA Appalachain State. If USC’s loss to Stanford made the list, how in the hell did Michigan’s not find a home amongst the 10 biggest disappointments and dubious moments of 2008? At least USC loss to a division 1a school (barely). Michigan lost at home, on opening weekend to a team that should have been able to beat with their second string.
Back to Feldman’s comments on Notre Dame though. Did he actually make it sound like we were overflowing with experience on the offensive side of the ball? What he failed to mention was that despite having an All-American caliber tight end in Carlson, we had to start 3 OL who never saw any meaningful minutes prior to 2007, 2 new wide receivers, a new running back, and a new quarterback. Not exactly a recipe for success. To be fair however, there was more than enough talent to be ranked much higher than 116th in scoring offense and dead last in total offense.
I’ll give Feldman credit for having Notre Dame on his list of 10 teams that will make the biggest jumps in 2008.
On the bright side, the Irish did play a bunch of true freshmen, 11 in all. Linebackers Kerry Neal and Brian Smith were solid, as was NT Ian Williams and WR Duval Kamara. WR-KR Golden Tate flashed some much-needed big-play potential and QB Jimmy Clausen got a ton of experience. The Irish do lose a handful of key seniors, most notably DE Trevor Laws, their best player, and TE John Carlson. Still, Clausen should be better as Charlie Weis talked about him bulking up. His outside receivers will benefit from the added experience. And if Clausen doesn’t get better fast, then incoming freshman Dayne Crist may overtake him. Even though the Irish O-line loses three-year starting center John Sullivan, it should be improved from the dismal showing in 2007, when they looked bewildered every time they faced a blitz. Another big plus: The schedule is lighter. The Irish trade Georgia Tech for San Diego State; UCLA for Washington; Air Force for Syracuse and Penn State for Pitt, meaning they lose four bowl teams and get back none.