(UHND.com) – Notre Dame released its official depth chart late Monday night with a surprise for Notre Dame fans – sophomore Darrin Walls is listed as the starter at the left corner position over fifth senior Ambrose Wooden. Monday’s release also illustrates very clearly the overall youth of this year’s squad with a total of 35 under classmen listed on the deep chart on offense and defense alone.
The youth movement on the 2007 Fighting Irish comes as no surprise, but the move of Walls ahead of Wooden does after the fifth year senior had been seen running with the first team defense during the media portion of the drills as well as during the open practice two weeks ago.
Weis has said from day one that the best player will start regardless of class or seniority and this latest move is a very clear indication that it’s not all talk. Wooden has 15 career starts under his belt including all 12 games of the 2005 season. The fifth year senior from Baltimore had lost his starting job to Terrail Lambert last year after being slowed by injuries, but many felt he had the starting corner spot all but locked up.
Walls, a true sophomore, saw the field early in 2006, but looked lost at times. In his first collegiate game, Walls found himself lined up one on one with Calvin Johnson of Georgia Tech and to his credit he held his own. Where Walls struggled was in zone coverages and in playing the run, but it appears as though a year of working with Bill Lewis has prepared Walls for the starting role opposite Lambert.
Aside from the Walls-Wooden flip flop, the thing that stands out most about the depth chart is the massive number of freshmen and sophomore listed. Thirty-five different underclassmen have their names listed as players capable of getting on the field.
Amongst the year’s freshman class, only linebackers Aaron Nagel and Steve Paskorz, cornerback Gary Gray, and defensive linemen Emeka Nwankwo and Andrew Nuss find their names not listed.
One of the few positions that was still up in the air, the second outside linebacker spot, appears to have been won by Anthony Vernaglia who is listed alone as the starter. Meanwhile, at inside linebacker, it appears as Joe Brockington and Toryan Smith are still battling for the starting spot with both being listed as co-starters for now.
Youth in the Return Game
Armando Allen and Golden Tate are currently listed as the top two kick returners which should allow for some big plays in the return game this year. Both Allen and Tate have the kind of speed Notre Dame has been lacking and with kickoffs being pushed back to the 30 this year, having explosive return men could have a big impact on the outcome of games this year.
Wide Receivers Aplenty
The official depth chart lists seven different wide receivers which is a stark contrast to a year ago, when the wide receiver position was not over flowing with depth. David Grimes and George West are listed as the starters with DJ Hord and Duval Kamara backing up West and Robby Parris, Barry Gallup, and Golden Tate backing up Grimes. According to Weis, players listed on the depth chart are capable of playing in a game which would suggest that all seven of these wide receivers could see the field early.
Filling out the Offensive Line
Notre Dame completely fills out the two deep across the offensive line without having to list any player more than once. It’s been a while since Notre Dame had this kind of depth, albeit inexperienced, along the offensive line. The first unit consists of Paul Duncan and Sam Young at the tackles, Dan Wenger and Michaek Turkovich at the guards, and John Sullivan at center. The second unit has two freshmen, Taylor Dever and Matt Romine, at the tackles, Matt Carufel and Eric Olsen at the guards, and Thomas Bemendefer at center.
For now it looks like the Dever and Romine have passed sophomore Bartley Webb who along with Chris Stewart are the only sophomore offensive linemen not listed on the depth chart.
The official depth chart lists eight different safeties – four at each position. Backing up Zibby at strong safety will be Ray Herring, Sergio Brown, and Leonard Gordon (in that order) while Kyle McCarthy, Jashaad Gaines, and Harrison Smith will backup David Bruton.