August 24, 2011 // Notre Dame Football

Fox, Watt, Slaughter, Cywnar Win Starting Jobs

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The big news of the day was obviously the naming of Dayne Crist as the starting quarterback for the 2011 season (more on that later), but the results of other key position battles were also announced with a few surprise winners in the mix.

We’ll start with the biggest surprise of the day.  Junior Dan Fox has beat out incumbent starter Carlo Calabrese for the starting WILL linebacker position.  Both Brian Kelly and Bob Diaco said that they consider both players starters, but Fox will be the one getting the reps with the first team and seeing the field first.  With a pair of athletic quarterbacks including the very dangerous Denard Robinson on the schedule over the first two weeks of the season, this makes a lot of sense – even if Calabrese was very effective in his first season as a starter in 2010.  Fox brings more speed and athleticism to the table – something that will be needed those first two weeks.

When Notre Dame plays the Michigan State’s, Boston College’s, and Stanford’s of the schedule, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a little more of Calabrese than we do early in the season because he is so strong against the run.  That said, the job was won by Fox in camp and he’ll have every opportunity to hold onto it.  Two years ago I wrote in the annual Here Come the Irish season preview that Fox was my sleeper pick of his class and based on this year’s camp, he may just prove me right.

In another somewhat surprising move, Jamoris Slaughter retook the starting role at field safety he lost to Zeke Motta last year after suffering through some injuries.  Kelly mentioned that both Slaughter and Motta will play a lot – just like Fox and Calabrese will both play a lot – but Slaughter is the one who will be in the starting lineup. Slaughter came to Notre Dame as a corner before converting to safety and like Fox, gives Notre Dame a little more athleticism on the field early in the season.

Moving over the offensive side of the ball, one of the few positions up for grabs was the right guard spot which will be manned by Chris Watt after he beat out Andrew Nuss for the starting gig.  Just like at field safety and WILL, however both players will see the field.  Starting Watt makes a lot of sense because Nuss is a little more versatile and can play multiple positions, making him very valuable off the bench as the first reserve in at guard and tackle.  Watt has not seen the field much so far in his career, but a lot has been said about him by both this coaching staff and the previous staff for Notre Dame fans to be excited.  It would not surprise me at all if Watt turned out to be this year’s Zack Martin.

The only freshman thus far to win a starting job will be place kicker Kyle Brindza who will handle the kick-off duties this season.  This should come as no surprise as Brindza came in with the reputation for having a huge leg capable of producing touchbacks with greater frequency than Notre Dame fans are used to seeing.

Lastly, though Kelly did not specifically mention it on Tuesday, Brian Hamilton reported that Sean Cwynar will get the nod at the starting nose tackle position over sophomore Louis Nix.  Like the other spots that were won Tuesday, expect to see a lot of Louis Nix along with Cwynar even though Cwynar will reportedly be the starter.  Nix is still working his way into the shape he needs to be in to handle the bulk of the reps.  He has made huge strides in that area this off-season and with continued work there he could be ready to be a dominant force on a consistent basis in the near future.

Comments to this Article

  • Chris commented on August 24th, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    I could really care less to a degree as to how the offense performs against South Florida. I am hopeful BK’s play calling stays tough and things take care of themselves. What I really want to see is a major major statement by this vaunted defense! I want to see a dominant, swarming defense! South Florida is no gimme game and will be a good test out of the box for the Irish! If the defense leads like it is supposed to then this may very well turn out to be a season many fans have been waiting for since All Ball Bob screwed things up when he stepped into Lou’s shoes. The schedule this year is more favorable then next year to make a deep run. We are long overdue and hope the Irish see the potential to be a great team this year. GO IRISH!

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  • BruceB commented on August 24th, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    You can’t help but be impressed with the job Kelly and his staff have done with this team. Right from the first day, they’ve worked to improve the conditioning, confidence and coaching at ND. By mid-season last year, the improvement in all three areas was obvious. Even the really BIG guys actually look like athletes now. And it’s really impressive to see guys like Calabrese, Nix, Motta, Rees and Nuss on the SECOND unit – with more talent waiting in the wings. I always thought the three previous coaches completely ignored the concept of player development.
    The fourth quarter of the USC game and the Bowl game looked like an Irish team from the old days, something that’s been pretty rare lately. If this team has improved as much as the coaching staff seems to think, Irish fans may be in for a real treat this season.

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  • KIEFER commented on September 6th, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    anayone who did their homework ,knew of s. FL. potential and staff. Our yardage numbers looked good, but if you dont score… it just doesnt matter. Look out michigan… I wouldnt want to be on your side of the field this week. I am sure we will be playing with more intensity. GO IRISH…

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