Considering Charlie Weis has 13 freshmen on the official depth chart, it’s obvious that we are going to see A LOT of the frosh this year. Here’s a quick look at what to expect from each member of the class of 2011 this year.
- Armando Allen - At this point, Allen is the most hyped freshman on the Notre Dame roster within the Notre Dame community. The national media is still focusing on Clausen, but if you read the Notre Dame boards, Allen is the one generating more hype at this point. Weis has Allen listed as an “OR” for the 2nd running back position on the depth chart right now so expect to see a lot of Allen early and often. Allen should get some running plays as well as some short passes called for him to get him in open space where he can turn on the jets and make some plays. He is also listed as the top kickoff returner along with fellow freshman Golden Tate so it’s very possible that the first play of the 2007 season could involve Armando.
- Jimmy Clausen – Is healthy? Is he not healthy? Who knows at this point. What we do know is that baring one hell of a good job by Weis at keeping things quiet, Clausen won’t be the start come Saturday. All of the buzz lately has been around Demetrius Jones taking the snaps Saturday. Weis, however, has been tight lipped so anything is possible I guess. Still, look for Clausen to not see the field right away (as in the first couple weeks). After that, it’s anyone’s guess at this point.
- Taylor Dever – Dever is listed as the 2nd right tackle behind Sam Young already so it’s likely he’ll see action early than most probably thought when he committed last winter.
- Gary Gray – Gray broke his hand in the spring and then had shoulder surgery which should prevent him from seeing the field this year. Gray would have been in the mix among the reserve corners had he stayed healthy.
- Robert Hughes – He’s listed as the 5th running back right now, but he should see the field for meaningful minutes. Hughes could develop into at least the goal line back this year because of his strength. Mike Haywood has been seen riding Hughes a lot in practice footage which is usually a good sign.
- Duval Kamara - There is a ton of competition at wide receiver right now for Notre Dame and Kamara might just be the most physically gifted receiver in the group. Picking up this offense is not an easy thing though so expect Duval to be eased into the game plan throughout the season. By season’s end, Kamara could be a very productive receiver for the Irish.
- Aaron Nagel - Nagel played safety in high school and is being asking to play inside linebacker for the Irish. Nagel just doesn’t have the size right now to be able to contribute much on defense. Special teams maybe, but he’s going to take some time to bulk up before he makes his way on the field at inside linebacker.
- Kerry Neal - Neal is a freakish athlete with the kind of athleticism that the Notre Dame defense has been missing. Anthony Vernaglia is listed as the starter at outside linebacker opposite John Ryan, but I would be surprised if Neal was not at least splitting time with Vernaglia by the end of the season. That is if Neal can hold off fellow freshman Brian Smith.
- Andrew Nuss - Nuss is playing defensive end for the Irish, but will need to spend quite a bit more time in the weight room before getting on the field.
- Emeka Nwankwo - Like Nuss, he’ll need some time to bulk up before he’s ready to make an impact at defensive end.
- Steve Paskorz - Like Nagel, Paskorz is going to need some time in the weight room before he’s ready for meaningful playing time at inside linebacker.
- Mike Ragone – He’s already on the depth chart, albeit 4th behind Carlson, Yeatman, and Reuland. Ragone’s got the best speed of the bunch though and can stretch the interior of a defense so look for Weis to work him into the game plan in some specific situations.
- Matt Romine – Romine is the backup left tackle behind Paul Duncan right now. He’s extremely talented and should see some time, but he might not be fully ready to play for extended periods of time. If either Sam Young or Duncan go down with an injury, Michael Turkovich could very possibly move back to tackle with Eric Olsen of Matt Carufel taking over at guard. Both Romine and Dever should see some spot duty though.
- Brian Smith – Smith was a late addition to this class, but he’s been very impressive this summer and is challenging for playing time at outside linebacker with Kerry Neal behind Vernaglia.
- Harrison Smith – Smith is listed as the 4th free safety right now, but expect to see him move up the depth chart throughout the season. Smith should also be a solid special teams contributor from the get go.
- Golden Tate - Tate’s a special athlete with elite speed. He’ll be back returning kicks from the start with Armando Allen and with his speed and athleticism, I would be surprised if Weis didn’t have a few plays designed for Tate. I could see Tate getting some wide receiver screens and quick hitters. Like Kamara though, he’ll likely be eased into the game plan, but because of his skill set, Tate could see more situational time than Kamara early on.
- Brandon Walker - Walker is battling with Nate Whitaker for the kick-off and place kicking duties. Weis has said its likely one kicker will do one job and the other kicker will do the other, but he hasn’t said which would do which. Reports out of practice have been that Walker has the best accuracy within 40 yards, but not from beyond at this point.
- Ian Williams – Williams might be the only true nose guard on the Notre Dame defense and will start the year backing up Pat Kuntz. Williams is a big boy and moves very well for a kid his size. If he shows he is capable of hanging with the big boys early on, his role will expand week to week.
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