Since it's been awhile without any ND football discussion, the updated numerical chart is out. It's always interesting to take a peek at some of the freshmen numbers. Sometimes you can almost predict how a player's career is going to turn out by looking at the jersey number.
First of all, you have to love Dayne Crist as #10. Apparently he is struggling mightily in camp with all the new terminology and info overload swimming around in his head and has a long way to go to catch up to Evan Sharpley (which is to be expected for a freshmen), but he's got every tool that you could possibly want in a QB. The guy is Brady Quinn Jr. in every way. I watched the Blue and Gold incoming recruits video a couple months ago, and the guys on the video were absolutely raving about him. He looked unbelievable in the video. Clausen is clearly the man for the next few years, but Crist looks like a superstar in the making. Would it be a decent idea to redshirt him this year?? If Crist redshirts, he'd have two years as the ND starter after Clausen graduates instead of one. We already have Evan Sharpley as a very solid backup QB, so it would be nice if we could convince Crist to redshirt this year. We would be absolutely set at QB for the next 5 years if that succession plan came into place.
Another freshmen who has "star" written all over him if he stays healthy is Deion Walker. Good god, he's the best athlete I've see on an ND roster in a long long time. Watching him in the Blue Gold video was like watching the guys you would normally see in the SEC. Could be a gamebreaker. It is fitting that he has the #1 jersey this year. Maybe he grew up as a Derrick Mayes fan or something. By the accounts of practice that I've been reading on the Rivals site, Deion Walker has been REALLY impressive (even more impressive than Floyd). That doesn't surprise me one bit. I'd love to see him emerge right away as a 3/4 receiver.
Michael Floyd is Mo Stovall Jr. with more polish and maybe a little more speed. Watching him go up for balls at the Army All-American Game was a thing of beauty. He is going to put up ridiculous numbers at ND. Just get him on the field starting right away against San Diego State. I already love that jersey number on him. #3. Can we just pretend that Demetrius Jones never had that number??
Joseph Fauria was another guy who caught my eye on the Blue Gold video. I'm pulling for Kyle Rudolph because he's a Cincy guy, but I was actually a little more impressed with Fauria than I was with Rudolph. Fauria is the total package...big, great hands, good speed, good blocker. He is going to be a stud tight end. Rudolph seems like an incredible athlete who had some spectacular catches on film, but most of his highlights were with him split out as a wide receiver. I don't doubt that Rudolph will be a great player, but I'd like to see how he looks lined next to the big uglies before having an opinion on him. Our tight end recruits are quite possibly the best in the nation. Both of those guys look like All-American type players.
Honestly, even though there was not a whole lot of fuss about Jonas Gray when he signed with ND, I thought he looked like a darn good back on video and it doesn't surprise me to see him showing off some talent in practice. Sounds like the coaches love him. He's not a gamebreaker, but he's one of those guys who always seems to find the crease for 5+ yards. I don't know how much time he will get at ND with our stable of running backs and Cierre Wood coming in, but I also wouldn't be surprised if he had a Tony Fisher type career at ND.
It sounds like the gem of this o-line class is Trevor Robinson, who is turning some heads in practice. How sad is it that we have true freshmen who are beating out juniors and seniors on the offensive line?? The Willingham era offensive line recruiting still wreaks havoc on this program. I was not blown away by our other freshmen o-line recruits, but the good news is that we have a ton of bodies at this point. Probably the key to this program over the next 5 years is how the o-linemen and d-linemen develop. We have more than enough skill guys, but we gotta get more physical and dominant up front. The guys on the video were saying that experience is everything on the o-line, so hopefully that area is significantly improved.
How about Ethan Johnson at #9?? Intriguing number. Always fun to see a defensive linemen who wears a number in the single digits. The practice reports on him and Kapron Lewis-Moore are pretty encouraging. When our defensive line is going to prominently feature the likes of guys like Morrice Richardson at 250 pounds and Justin Brown and John Ryan, there is plenty of room for a freshmen to get a lot of snaps this year.
I would not be surprised if the crown jewels of this 2008 class might be coming from the linebacker unit. Darius Fleming and Steve Filer are turning heads, and all the coaches seem to be raving about their athleticism. It is borderline scary to think about this linebacking corp in a few years with Brian Smith, Kerry Neal (who is just plain dominating in practice), Fleming, Filer, and McDonald. Upperclassmen like Toryan Smith better get it in gear, or they are going to be passed up quickly on the depth chart.
Finally, I absolutely love everything about Gary Gary as #4. That is a perfect number for him. I know he's not a freshmen, but I'm still excited to see him on the field for the first time. Sounds like Lambert and McNeil will be starting, but Gray is going to be a major improvement over guys like Leo Ferrine and Ambrose Wooden as a 3rd corner. He's another one of those guys with "SEC speed" as Kirk Herbstreit loves to say, so I expect him to play well this year.
Couldn't be more excited about the future of ND football. The talent that Weis is bringing in is going to pay off. We now have legitimate competition at every position on the roster, and there is not one guy who has a job handed to him. If you get complacent, you get replaced. I love it. USC has claimed that their practice competition is more intense than their games, and I would like to see that someday at ND. As Beano Cook would say, it's all about "the material"!!