Sunday, August 30, 2009

Embarrassment of Riches | by George

Everybody wants Notre Dame to have a power running game, bringing back lucid memories of the days when Jerome Bettis used to peel defenders off of his cleats in between plays, while bulksters like Marc Edwards and Ray Zellars would chew linebackers up and spit them out...those were indeed the days. They are also long gone, but only to be replaced by an attack that hopefully blossoms this year as equally effective. What will it take to get there? Let's examine peg number six on our 12-step ladder of Irish importance:

#6 - Cavalcade of Wide Receiving Stars

Arriving in 2009 (fingers crossed) should be an absolutely scintillating Irish passing attack. I know we're all supposed to temper the enthusiasm on Jimmy Clausen's bowl performance because "it was just Hawai'i", but the kid didn't only carve up Hawai'i, he looked like a totally different QB in process. Meanwhile, Notre Dame has one of the best one-two punches at wideout in all of football, from the NFL-prototype known as Michael Floyd to the shape-shifting speedster with the vertical of a man twice his height, Golden Tate. As Irish fans we know that. You can bet every defensive coordinator the Irish go up against knows it too.

In analyzing the Weis passing scheme, the most successful year was 2005. Brady Quinn had not just two dependable, 6'5" receivers in Samardzija and Stovall, but also arguably the nation's best tight end, an abnormally sure-handed #1 running back (Darius Walker not only posted a 1000 yard season but also caught 43 passes and helped craft a lethal screen passing game), and a grinder, "possession" receiver - as opposed to all those non-possession receivers out there - to look for when teams keyed on his big men (Matt Shelton). In 2008 the Irish came close to duplicating this formula, but Armando Allen wasn't looked to quite as often, Kyle Rudolph the freshman wasn't as polished as Fasano the junior (though he was damn close and ought to be ahead of the curve with a full offseason under his belt), and David Grimes was thrust into a top-two role when Floyd got injured.

All the while, injury and inconsistency left the Irish relying on lots of jump balls and "draw in the dirt" plays that relied on the athleticism of Floyd and Tate. For 2009, the Irish passing attack must evolve or perish. Duval Kamara and Robby Parris, junior and senior respectively, have earned their way back onto the depth chart, and for the time being Weis has said they will be there in front of second-year freshman John Goodman, Deion Walker, and true frosh Shaquelle Evans. If they prove why in the first few games of the season, Jimmy Clausen won't just look like a great quarterback - Notre Dame will have the makings of an elite offense.


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