After the first week of practice (and a few days), they are still many questions surrounding this team. I'm not sure when the answers will come, other than to say ' We'll see on September 1st. Here is a rundown of things we do know, along with a few maybes. What's a blog good for if we can't speculate?
This is the easiest, we don't know. We may think we know, or we think we might know because someones brother's nephew's cousin's neighbor's kid lives next door to someone who says they know a kid on campus and he thinks that so-and-so is the starter because this student overheard a confession of Darrin Bragg's and said he walked out smiling. Internet rumors are stupid as they are rampant. The media certainly doesn't help matters by throwing ANYTHING against the wall until something sticks. (Someone will tell you they told you so sometime after kickoff against Georgia Tech. Weis has said that he won't release the name until then, so I think we should just take his word and chill. With that said however, whoever the starter turns out to be, Demetrius Jones should, and will, see significant time under center. He has displayed too much talent, savvy, and leadership skills not to. Whether he is the starter or a redzone guy or whatever...#3 will play.
There is now a stable of horses in the backfield for the first time since the mid to late nineties. 5 of them to be exact, and ALL have something to bring to the table. The starter will be Travis Thomas and should see most of the carries. He is a captain and has a good mix of power and speed along with a toughness that cannot be coached. (Justin King just wet himself). If it wasn't for our need at linebacker last year, Thomas would have seen a large amount of carries. Weis had to run what was basically a 3rd down offense for most of the game because of Walkers limitations as a finesse runner. That will be a huge advantage for the Irish this year as opposed to last year. Behind Thomas is James Aldridge. JA has a load of talent and is the same type of runner as Thomas. This will be very important to the Irish as fresh legs are most explosive. ND doesn't have to change its playcalling with JA in when Thomas takes a breather. He (Aldridge) will see a lot of carries... just less than Thomas. Junior Jabbie is a personal favorite of mine since he committed to the Irish. I love the name and the H.S.- Junnior Jabbie from The Hun School. That's badass. Jabbie impressed Weis in spring practice, BEFORE, the Blue-Gold game. Charlie kept saying it, and then we all saw it. Whether or not this translates into this season at all is still a question mark, but he is involved with the competition for playing time which translates into a better unit overall. That leaves the 2 frosh. Armando Allen and Robert Hughes. I have no doubt that Allen will see significant P.T. on special teams and running the ball because of his speed and quickness. Weis loves him and we NEED that homerun threat in the backfield. Hughes will really have to surge on the depth chart, I believe, to see much playing time if any. He may be a "redshirt" before it is all said and done barring any injuries to the other 4. He did make it a point during recruiting that he wanted to play right away and Weis may have promised this, and Weis is a man of his word. We are stacked with talent and should see a lot of production from this unit. Leading the way for these guys will be Asaph Schwaap. Schwaap is a beast who should be laying out any and all who stand in front of him and his runner. Luke Schmidt will see some action as well at FB after a good spring showing and is probably the best runner of the two.
Already this camp, we are starting to see what should be the starters emerge. As of right now the starters consist of: LT-Paul Duncan, LG-Mike Turkovich, C-John Sullivan, RG-Dan Wenger, RT-Sam Young. This will be a very physical line and as the line goes, so will our running and passing game. We will probably see some action from others such as Matt Carufel, Eric Olsen and Matt Romine. Should something happen to Sullivan (God forbid) Wenger will slide over to Center and either Olsen or Carufel will take over the guard spot. John Latina wants a unit that is versatile and interchangeable, and finally with depth we may have that. Chris Stewart returns to OL after a spring stint at NT, but he has some catching up to do despite having, by all accounts, all the physical tools to make an impact. This unit may surprise a lot of "national" media outlets. On paper they have a small amount of total playing time, but will make up for it with a nastiness that was lacking from last years unit.
Yet another huge question mark for the Irish is "Who's catching them?" Only David Grimes has really cemented himself in at WR. I think we will see a large rotation of players. The freshman, Duval Kamara, is a physical presence. He will see the field a lot this season. No one else on the depth chart has his size and abilities all wrapped into one sweet package. George West has made huge strides this offseason and should be the number 2 guy... as of right now. D.J. Hord has really been impressing the staff and media with his practice play. If he can translate that onto the field for gameday, we may have finally found our speedy deep threat. Robby Parris is also in the mix. This could be a blessing in disguise, since defenses will be unable to lock down on who the #1 target might be. That's 5 guys listed, and don't forget about Golden Tate and Barry Gallup who both have great speed and could really mix things up. This unit is severely lacking experience and that may hurt us right away. However, they will improve and could become very deadly with the variety that they offer. Seriously, watch out for Kamara. He could be our answer to USC's Mike Williams from a few years ago.
Tomorrow, I will have the defensive units for you.