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This is my Notre Dame Season preview.  I am grading and predicting everything Notre Dame Football related for this upcoming year.  Many non-believers are saying that Notre Dame is going to have a down year, but looking at this team, they can be very dangerous to their top ranked opponents like Michigan and USC. 

 

Third Year Magic or Misery?

 

The third year is normally a vital year in a Notre Dame Coach's career.  Coaches like Parseghian and Holtz have won championships in their third year, but coaches like Ty Willingham and Gerry Faust have been abysmal in their third year.  Charlie Weis is now entering his make it or break it year, but he doesn't have the same expectations.  Using Willingham's terrible recruiting classes, he isn't expected to do much.  Here are the seasons for third year head coaches.

 

Knute Rockne, 1920: 9-0, unranked (pre-AP)

 

Hunk Anderson, 1933: 3-5-1, unranked (pre-AP)

 

Elmer Layden, 1936: 6-2-1, number 8

 

Frank Leahy, 1943: 9-1, number 1

 

Terry Brennan, 1956: 2-8, unranked

 

Joe Kuharich, 1961: 5-5, unranked

 

Ara Parseghian, 1966: 9-0-1, number 1

 

Dan Devine, 1977: 11-1, number 1

 

Gerry Faust, 1983: 7-5, unranked

 

Lou Holtz, 1988: 12-0, number 1

 

Bob Davie, 1999: 5-7, unranked

 

Ty Willingham: 6-5, unranked

 

As you can see, there are some very different outcomes.  Weis does not have the talent to finish number one like Leahy, Parseghian, Devine, and Holtz, but there is also a very small chance that Notre Dame finishes under .500 like Anderson, Brennan, and Davie.

 

Corwin Brown=Can History Repeat Itself?

 

Defensive Coordinator Corwin Brown has no experience running a defensive, but is that necessarily a bad thing?  This is not the first time that this has happened, and the last time it turned out to be very successful.  After the Notre Dame defense ruined a great offense in 1987, Lou Holtz decided to fire experienced defensive coordinator Foge Fazio, who had head coaching experience for Pitt, and hire a relatively unknown coach named Barry Alvarez.  Alvarez had never been a defensive coordinator, and he had only been coaching for less than ten years.  It seemed like an odd hire for a team that showed national championship potential.  Alvarez turned out to be a great success, leading players like Chris Zorich and Michael Stonebreaker to All-American honors and making the Irish defense stellar again.  This is very similar to the situation today at Notre Dame.  The athletic department decided it was time for a change at the defensive coordinator position, firing experienced coach Rick Minter, who had been the head coach at Cincinnati and worked under Holtz.  Brown was the defensive backs coach for the New York Jets, and he runs the 3-4 defense which has been installed.  Brown has been a factor on recruiting, bringing in top recruits on defense.  Brown has already been deemed as a successful hire, and hopefully everything pans out with his players.

 

5th Year Seniors

 

On this Notre Dame team, freshmen and sophomores outnumber juniors and seniors by more than two-thirds.  But there is definitely not a lack of leadership.  There are nine fifth year seniors on this team, the most in Notre Dame history.  Tom Zbikowski, John Carlson, and Travis Thomas are all captains.  By Zbikowski and Carlson, two almost certain first day picks, staying at school, it shows commitment to Weis and Notre Dame.  This can hopefully influence the younger players like Maurice Crum, another captain, who have an extra year of eligibility to stay.  The fifth year seniors this year are Zbikowski, Carlson, Thomas, punter Geoff Price, nose tackle Dwight Stephenson Jr., center John Sullivan, cornerback Ambrose Wooden, defensive end Trevor Laws, and inside lineman Joe Brockington.  All of these players are projected to be starters or share the starting job.  They will bring great experience and leadership to the Irish locker room. 

 

Position Grades

 

QUARTERBACKS:

 

#3/Demetrius Jones/So/4 Years of Eligibility

#7/Jimmy Clausen/Fr/4

#13/Evan Sharpley/Jr/3

 

Grades-

Starter: undefined-This is the only grade that is impossible.  Since Weis has not announced a starter, no one can possibly gauge what this rating should be.

 

Experience: ½*-Evan Sharpley is the only quarterback to have even attempted a pass.  Even though the QBs are very talented, they are very inexperienced.

 

Depth: ***-They may not have experience, but they have a lot of depth.  If there was an injury, another good QB is ready to fill in.

Overall: **-The quarterback position's importance will not as big as Brady Quinn.  With all of the experienced running backs, running will be more vital to winning than passing.

 

RUNNING BACKS/FULL BACKS

 

#26/Travis Thomas/5th/1

#34/James Aldridge/So/3

#37/Junior Jabbie/Sr/2

#5/Armando Allen/Fr/4

#33/Robert Hughes/Fr/4

 

#44/Asaph Schwapp/Jr/3/

#32/Luke Schmidt/So/4

 

Starters: **

Experience: ***

Depth: ****

Overall: ***

 

WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS

 

#11/David Grimes/Jr/2

#19/George West/So/3

#1/D.J. Hord/Jr/3

#80/Richard Jackson/So/3

#82/Robby Parris/So/3

#18/Duval Kamara/Fr/4

#23/Golden Tate/Fr/4

#21/Barry Gallup/So/4

 

#89/John Carlson/5th/1

#88/Konrad Reuland/So/3

#84/Will Yeatman/So/3

#83/Mike Ragone/Fr/4

 

Starters: ***

Experience: *1/2

Depth: ****

Overall: ***

 

OFFENSIVE LINE

G/C

#78/John Sullivan/5th/1

#55/Eric Olsen/So/3

#77/Mike Turkovich/Jr/2

#51/Dan Wenger/So/4

#73/Matt Carufel/So/3

 

OT

#74/Sam Young/So/3

#71/Bartley Webb/So/4

#72/Paul Duncan/Jr/2

#75/Taylor Denver/Fr/4

#70/Matt Romine/Fr/4

 

Starters: **

Experience:*1/2

Depth: **

Overall Grade:*1/2

 

DEFENSIVE LINE

 

DE

#98/Trevor Laws/5th/1

#57/Dwight Stephenson Jr./5th/1

#94/Justin Brown/Sr/2

#97/Kaleen Wade/So/4

#93/Paddy Mullen/So/4

#91/Emeka Nwankwo/Fr/4

Andrew Nuss/Fr/4

 

NT
#96/Pat Kuntz/Jr/2

#59/Chris Stewart/So/4

#92/Derrell Hand/Jr/3

#69/Neil Kennedy/Sr/4

Ian Williams/Fr/4

 

Starters: **

Experience: **

Depth: **
Overall: **

 

LINEBACKERS

OLB
#90/John Ryan/So/3

#54/Anthony Vernaglia/Sr/2

#41/Scott Smith/Jr/3

#53/Morrice Richardson/So/3

#42/Kevin Washington/Jr/3

ILB
#40/Maurice Crum/Sr/2

#52/Joe Brockington/5th/1

#48/Steve Quinn/Jr/2

#49/Toryan Smith/So/3

Aaron Nagel/Fr/4

Steve Paskorz/Fr/4

 

Starters: **

Experience: ***

Depth: **1/2

Overall: **1/2

 

DEFENSIVE BACKS

CB

#20/Terrail Lambert/Sr/2

#22/Ambrose Wooden/5th/1

#8/Raeshon McNeil/So/3

#2/Darrin Walls/So/3

#25/Munir Prince/So/3

#15/Leo Ferrine/Sr/2

#4/Gary Gray/Fr/4

 

S

#9/Tom Zbikowski/5th/1

#27/David Bruton/Jr/2

#6/Ray Herring/Jr/2

#28/Kyle McCarthy/Jr/3

#29/Jashaad Gaines/So/3

#31/Sergio Brown/So/3

#24/Leonard Gordon/So/4

Harrison Smith/Fr/4

 

Starters: **1/2

Experience: ***

Depth: **

Overall: **1/2

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

LS

#61/J.J. Jansen/Sr/2

 

K
#39/Ryan Burkhart/So/3

#33/Nate Whitaker/So/4

#14/Brandon Walker/Fr/4

 

P
#17/Geoff Price/5th/1

 

Starters: ***

Experience: **1/2

Depth: ****

Overall: ***1/2

 

Game-by-Game Predictions

 

Notre Dame 21 Georgia Tech 10-After this game, ND fans are saying that Brown has completely turned around the defense, and he is the greatest coordinator in history.  Demetrius Jones will start this game, running a mix between the spread and Weis offense. (1-0)

 

Notre Dame 31 Penn State 30-Sure fans are worried about the defense, but they will take the upset win.  I start a petition to change Demetrius Jones' number to nine and call him Tony Rice. (2-0)

 

Michigan 38 Notre Dame 34-Michigan's athletic defense is too much for Jones aka Rice, but ND scared them, and DJ showed composure.  Most ND fans do not recognize the name Clausen. (2-1)

 

Notre Dame 41 Michigan State 17-The cocky Michigan State fans are expecting the offense, but most of them leave Notre Dame Stadium crying, which of course gives me endless enjoyment.  DJ tears them apart, and fans have demanded that ND Stadium be called DJ Stadium.

 

Notre Dame 24 Purdue 20-Purdue is a little better than Michigan State, but they needed a late touchdown just to get it close.  The running game is dominant against the Anthony Spencer-less Boilermakers.  Aldridge has started to get more touches than Thomas at this point.

 

Notre Dame 17 UCLA 13-DJ throws 3 picks, and fans are calling for Clausen.  They have decided to change the number 3 on the newly erected Jones statue to a 34 for new superstar Aldridge.

 

Boston College 31 Notre Dame 30-The BC kicker kicks a game winner.  My heart broke just writing this.  Next game.

 

Notre Dame 34 USC 33-This game is a tribute to the '77 season when ND embarrassed USC.  Remember kids, you can't spell sucks without USC.  The score, of course, adds up to be 77.  DJ is now the next Montana.

Notre Dame 43 Navy 30-Notre Dame scores 43 points for each consecutive time they have beaten my favorite rival Midshipmen.  Fans have decided to buy tickets to the Orange Bowl and hope that the Convicts win the ACC.

 

Notre Dame 31 Air Force 20-Notre Dame has a mini-scare by not pounding them.  Mark May proceeds to burn a Notre Dame flag on the air, hopefully getting the most bias analyst fired.

 

Notre Dame 77 Duke 0-Okay, it might be closer, but this is what it would be if Weis didn't take out the starters after ND is up by 21 after the first quarter.  Jimmy Clausen is pondering transferring to Tennessee.

 

Notre Dame 34 Stanford 31-ND fans start to panic and call the team a fluke and pray that they don't make a BCS Bowl so they won't be embarrassed again.  Demetrius Jones was just elected mayor of South Bend.

 

BOWL GAME!!! Notre Dame 31 Miami 21 in the Orange Bowl-All the ND haters have to redo ndsucks.org (real website.  Check it out if you need a good laugh.  The creators' pictures re in the dictionary next to hater) Notre Dame breaks their bowl streak, and Mark May begins to sob.

 

Fans have started making the '09 BCS Championship banners and t-shirts.  I buy 10 of each.

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