The first official depth chart of the year was released on Friday. There weren’t a whole lot of surprises outside of Eric Olsen being listed as the starting center with Dan Wenger backing him up, but the overall theme of the this year’s depth year is…. well, depth. For the first time in a long time, Notre Dame is at least two deep across the board – three deep in many positions – with talented and experience players. Unlike years past, if true freshman are going to see substantial playing time, they are going to have take it away from those listed ahead of them.
Here’s a quick run down of the offensive depth chart. We’ll follow up with a breakdown of the defensive side of the ball as well.
- Jimmy Clausen (Jr) – 6-3, 223 lbs
- Dayne Crist (So) – 6-4, 235 lbs
- Evan Sharpley (5th) – 6-2, 215 lbs
For the first time in a long time, Notre Dame has a great combination of depth, talent, and experience at the quarterback position. Jimmy Clausen is back for his 3rd season as a starter, Dayen Crist is an immensely talented sophomore, and Evan Sharpley is a 5th year senior who can provide solid insurance should Clausen go down with any serious injury. Weis mentioned on Friday he feels very comfortable that Crist could come in and run the offense if he had to. He also mentioned that he expects Clausen to significantly cut down on his interception to touchdown ratio.
- Armando Allen (Jr) – 5–10, 200 lbs
- Robert Hughes (Jr) – 5-11, 234 lbs
- Jonas Gray (So) – 5-10, 220 lbs
- Cierre Wood (Fr) – 6-0, 218 lbs
- Theo Riddick (Fr) – 5-10, 195 lbs
For the first time since 2006 when Darius Walker was the unquestioned starting tailback, Notre Dame enters fall camp with a clear cut starter in Armando Allen. Allen, who started last year as well, separated himself from the pack by being the most well rounded back according to Weis yesterday. Robert Hughes and Jonas Gray will push for carries, but Allen’s ability as a receiver makes him the logical choice to be the every down back in this offense. It’s also worth noting that Allen is listed at 200 lbs – the first time he has been out of the 100’s since arriving at Notre Dame. Speaking of weight gains, the reports the Cierre Wood put in some time in the weight room this off-season have been confirmed as the frosh is listed at 218 lbs after being listed at 192 on the Signing Day release.
- James Aldridge (Sr) – 6-0, 225 lbs
- Steve Paskorz (Jr) – 6-2, 245 lbs
- Mike Nrvaez (Sr) – 5-11, 238 lbs
Weis did not make mention of James Aldridge yesterday which was a bit surprising considering this is a new position for the former five star recruit. Regardless, Aldridge enters fall camp as the first team fullback and will hopefully be able to play a role similar to that of Rashon Powers-Neal in 2005. Steve Paskorz has bulked up considerably this off-season and should see him as a blocking back.
Wide Receiver (X)
- Golden Tate (Jr) – 5-11, 195 lbs
- Duval Kamara (Jr) – 6-5, 219 lbs
- Deion Walker (So) – 6-2, 193 lbs
- George West (Sr) – 5-10, 196 lbs
- Shaquelle Evans (Fr) – 6-1, 203 lbs.
Wide Receiver (Z)
- Michael Floyd (So) – 6-3, 220 lbs
- Robby Parris (Sr) – 6-3, 205 lbs
- John Goodman (So) – 6-3, 203 lbs
- Barry Gallup (Sr) – 5-11, 190 lbs
- Roby Toma (Fr) – 5-9, 175 lbs
The top receiver spots have been cemented for some time with Michael Floyd and Golden Tate possessing a stranglehold on the positions and combining to form one of the most lethal wide receiver duos in the country. There will be some great competition in fall camp for the 3rd and 4th receiver positions though. Duval Kamara and Robby Parris will start off fall camp as the backups but John Goodman, Deion Walker, and Shaquelle Evans all figure to be in the mix. Since Weis has been at Notre Dame, the Irish have not had enough depth and talent at receiver to run legit 4 wide receiver sets. With all of the talent at the position this year, that should change. Notre Dame’s new found depth at the position is exemplified when you consider that in 2007 George West was a starting wide receiver. On the first depth chart of the season, he’s listed as the 4th option at the X position with Shaq Evans very likely passing him in the near future.
- Paul Duncan (5th) – 6-7, 315 lbs
- Matt Romine (Jr) – 6-5, 295 lbs
- Lane Clelland (So) – 6-5, 290 lbs
As in the spring, Paul Duncan is listed as the starting left tackle after sitting out last year. He is backed up by Matt Romine and Lane Clelland. Romine has been a bit of an enigma because he has been injured more often than not, but if he can stay healthy, he’ll push Duncan this fall.
- Chris Stewart (Sr) – 6-5, 330 lbs
- Braxston Cave (So) – 6-3, 310 lbs
- Alex Bullard (Fr) – 6-3, 290 lbs.
Chris Stewart started to come into his own towards the end of last season and is considered one of the top 5 linemen on the team by the coaching staff. He held onto his starting role over Dan Wenger who lost his starting spot at center to Eric Olsen as camp beings. Braxston Cave, who spent last season at center, has made the move to left guard and put in considerable time in the weight this off-season. Cave was putting up 520 lbs on the bench this off-season according to Weis on Friday. Weis praised Cave for transforming his body this off-season, but cautioned that just because he looks the part, he still needs to play the part.
- Eric Olsen (Sr) – 6-4, 305 lbs
- Dan Wenger (Sr) – 6-4, 302 lbs
- Mike Golic, Jr (So) – 6-3, 293 lbs
The biggest shakeup in the depth chart entering fall camp comes at center where Eric Olsen slides over from his left guard position and into the starting position. Olsen has consistently been the toughest and meanest offensive lineman at Notre Dame since assuming his starting role in 2007. Weis said on Friday that Olsen played at center last spring when Wenger was down with an injury so this will not be completely new to him, but it will still be interesting to see how he handles a new position after spending the last three at guard. Wenger is listed as the backup center, but could end up with his starting job back if he earns it in camp.
- Trevor Robinson (So) – 6-5, 305 lbs
- Andrew Nuss (Jr) – 6-5, 300 lbs
- Chris Watt (Fr) – 6-3, 295 lbs
Trevor Robinson played a lot for a true freshman last year and might have the most potential and upside of any offensive lineman on the Notre Dame roster. Like Olsen, Robinson exhibited the mean streak that is necessary for linemen to have at this level in order to excel. Despite missing the spring with an injury, Robinson enters fall camp as the starting right guard and has the full faith of his head coach. Weis talked about how the right guard position is one which ends up being isolated at times in this offense and how he had faith that Robinson could handle the responsibility. Andrew Nuss played a lot in the spring and will push for playing time, but likely won’t seriously challenge Robinson for the starting spot.
- Sam Young (Sr) – 6-8, 320 lbs
- Taylor Dever (Jr) – 6-5, 301 lbs
- Zach Martin (Fr) – 6-5, 285 lbs
Is this the year Sam Young takes that next step everyone has been waiting for him to take for the past few seasons and become a dominant lineman? He enters fall camp 10 lbs slimmer than the 330 lbs he was listed at in the spring and has one last chance to become the dominant tackle everyone thought he was going to be. Taylor Dever is listed as the backup, and likely won’t challenge Young for his position.
- Kyle Rudolph (So) – 6-6, 260 lbs
- Mike Ragone (Jr) – 6-5, 251 lbs
- Bobby Burger (Sr) – 6-3, 248 lbs
- Tyler Eifert (Fr) – 6-5, 237 lbs
- Jake Golic (Fr) – 6-4, 232 lbs
There’s no question that Kyle Rudolph is the starter here and Mike Ragone is the backup, but there is still a question about how effective Ragone will be in the backup role. After sitting out all of last season with an ACL injury, Ragone showed signs of rust in the spring and based on Weis’s comments on Friday still might not have cleared the mental hurdle of coming back from a second serious knee injury. Ragone’s effectiveness as the second tight end will be one of the barometers for success for the Irish offense in 2009. Notre Dame did not have a capable backup at tight end after the suspension of Will Yeatman in 2008 and the offense suffered because of it. Attrition at tight end has left Notre Dame with very little leeway at position with two true freshman listed behind Rudolph and Ragone.
Speaking of Rudolph, he’s now listed at 260 lbs on the depth chart and could be ready to explode onto the college football scene this season if Ragone comes on strong and fills in the #2 role effectively.