In today’s lesson in depth chart engineering, I will take a very early stab at projecting the offense for the 2007 Irish. With all of the new starters and the relative lack of depth (especially along the offensive line), this is about as inaccurate a science as you will find, but there is very little recruiting news out there right now so let’s have some fun.
(I reserve the right to change my opinions on this post many, many times between now and fall camp)
- Jimmy Clausen (Freshman)
- Demetrius Jones (Sophomore)
This will be one of the most talked about races in college football this summer. Replacing Brady Quinn will not be easy and Notre Dame fans will find out just how good Quinn was for Notre Dame very quickly. The challengers will be 2006 backup Evan Sharpley, 2006 freshmen Demetrius Jones and Zach Frazer, and incoming super recruit Jimmy Clausen. Sharpley has the most experience in the system, Jones has the most athletic ability, and Clausen probably has the most talent of the group.
Because he enrolled early and will have all spring and fall camps to learn the offense, my guess is that Clausen starts from day one. He tore it up the entire week of the All American Bowl and he has all the tools to step right in. Jones is the wildcard in the group, however, because of his athletic ability. With three new offensive linemen, a new half back, and two new wide receivers, Jones’s ability to make things happen with his feet could be a major asset for this offense. Still, I think Clausen will win this in the fall.
- James Aldridge (Sophomore)
- Travis Thomas (5th Year Senior)
A couple weeks ago no one really thought we would be discussing the race for the starting running back position, but when Darius Walker left early for the NFL, this position battle moved right to the top of the list of most anticipated races. It’s been widely speculated that Travis Thomas will move back over to running back this season. Thomas has looked good in the limited carries he’s seen the past two years, but if James Aldridge is healthy, I think he will be the every down back. Aldridge has got speed and power, but didn’t cut well this year after coming off the knee injury. If he can regain full confidence in his knee early on in spring I think he is starting the season off as the #1 running back.
I think we’ll still see Thomas get plenty of carries, but if Aldridge is completely healthy, I don’t think Weis will be able to keep him off the field.
- Asaph Schwapp (Junior)
- Luke Schmidt (Sophomore)
Losing Schwapp this past year hurt the Notre Dame offense more than most people realize. Schwapp is a very powerful fullback who the Irish really could have used blocking for Darius Walker. When healthy, Schwapp is a load for any linebacker to take on. I’m not sold on his ability to convert short yardage situations yet, but he didn’t get many chances last year before being hurt. Schmidt could see some time as well because of his athleticism. He isn’t a pure blocking fullback like Schwapp, but he is a better “athlete” at the position. We should see him get some time this fall.
- David Grimes (Junior)
- DJ Hord (Junior)
- Robby Parris (Sophomore)
- George West (Sophomore)
- Greg Little (Freshman)
I’m listing the wide receivers in terms of what the order they would be in a five wide receiver set as opposed to listing two positions because Weis likes to use a lot of multiple receiver sets. Grimes will start off the year as “the guy” at receiver for the Irish. He showed some signs of progress this year and has the most experience by far of any other receiver on the roster. DJ Hord could have been “the guy” this year had he not missed the entire year because of injury. People seem to forget that Hord was the headliner in Weis’s first ½ recruiting class. The kid has the makings of being a very good receiver.
After Grimes and Hord things get really messy. There are a lot of ways this could play out, but my guess for the remaining pecking order at receiver come the season opener would be Parris as the 3rd receiver, West the 4th, and Little the 5th. Parris is almost a Jeff Samardzija look a like in terms of his build. He has good hands and can use his size to his advantage. West saw some playing time this past year, but his progression above his fellow classmates at receiver probably had a lot to do with the fact that he got a head start on them as an early enrollee.
My wild card here is Greg Little. Some people just love to pencil this kid in as a linebacker, but I for one can’t wait to see him get a crack at wide receiver. Because of his pure athleticism, he should be able to work his way up the depth chart rather quickly. I also think Duval Kamara has a shot to earn playing time by season’s end. He is going to be very raw because his offense in high school was very run oriented, but he has got all the physical tools. Had he been an early enrollee, I wouldn’t have been surprised if he was the 3rd receiver.
- John Carlson (5th Year Senior)
- Konrad Reuland (Sophomore)
There’s very little guesswork here. Carlson is going to be a pre-season All American and Mackey Award hopeful. He will become the best friend of whoever is the starting quarterback because of his ability to get open and catch the ball. I also expect Konrad Reuland to make an impact as the second tight end. After a year in the strength and conditioning program, he should be ready to for some serious PT. A multiple tight end set of Carlson and Reuland poses some interesting mismatch potential for opposing defenses.
- John Sullivan (5th Year Senior)
- Daniel Wenger (Sophomore)
Sullivan should return as the leader of the offensive line. Only he and Sam Young will be returning starters along the line for the Irish in 2007. Having an experienced center like Sullivan should help usher in a new quarterback just a tad more smoothly. Backing up Sully should be sophomore to be Dan Wenger. Some have speculated that Wenger could move over to the defensive side of the ball, but Wenger is the only other true center on the offensive line and should be Sullivan’s backup.
- Sam Young (Sophomore)
- Michael Turkovich (Junior)
Young started every game in 2006 at right guard, but with Ryan Harris graduating, he should slide over to left tackle where he will protect the blindside of whoever wins the starting QB job. Young could be one of the most dominating offensive linemen to come out of Notre Dame in a long time by the time he graduates. He started from day one and while he had some growing pains, the experienced he gained last year will be invaluable to him this season. Look for Young to start dominating this year. Michael Turkovich will probably back up Young, but if something were to happen to Young, I could see Weis moving over Duncan who has more experience and starting Turk over at right tackle.
- Paul Duncan (Junior)
- Bartley Webb (Sophomore)
Duncan spelled Young at times this year and played fairly well. Duncan has the size to be a good tackle on the college level and after two full seasons in the strength and conditioning program, he should be ready to step into a starting role. Notre Dame is very thin on tackles this year with only four non freshman tackles. Bartley Webb will most likely backup Duncan. Webb might be a year of experience and lifting away from being able to make a major contribution, but he’s got good toughness and has shown to be a very hard worker.
- Eric Olsen (Sophomore)
- Chris Stewart (Sophomore)
Olsen might be one of the meanest offensive linemen on the roster. He cracked the two deep last year and with the departures of both Bob Morton and Dan Santucci, Olsen should step into a starter’s role. Because of stellar recruiting by Ty Willingham, Notre Dame has no upper classmen at the guard positions – meaning the Irish will have a trio of sophomores and one freshman to fill the guard positions. Chris Stewart spent most of last season getting into playing shape and should be one of the backup guards.
- Matt Carufel (Sophomore)
- Matt Romine (Freshman)
Carufel was another freshman to crack the two deep last year on the offensive line and should start this year. Carufel is a very talented prospect at guard and should be able to handle the starting job. Matt Romine was very impressive at the All American Bowl in January and will be the other backup guard for the Irish next season.[tags]Notre Dame Football, Jimmy Clausen[/tags]