Several big statements from the big man yesterday with regard to the depth chart. Looks like some of these moves could affect the starting roster in all three phases of the game.
1) Nick Tausch.....your new starting kicker
Not only did Nick Tausch win the kickoff job, he is now the starting placekicker heading into the Nevada game. WOW. Either Tausch is headed for a spectacular four year career as the ND kicker or Brandon Walker did not impress anyone in camp. Here is Weis' quote on the kicker competition from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette:
“(Tausch) won the competition rather significantly statistically. “For a freshman to come in and statistically win both positions means he has done a heck of a job.”
Agreed. Tausch has a big leg, and he could be a real weapon for this team. The only thing that makes me nervous just a little bit is that he's only a true freshman. You never really know how someone is going to perform until you see them under those bright lights at Notre Dame stadium, especially as the weather starts to get bad and the field gets ripped to shreds. Maybe I'm just scarred by all the kicking problems we've had in recent years, but I will be a little uneasy about the kicker situation until I see Tausch in action for the first time. Brandon Walker wasn't the answer, and it would have been a shame to see us lose a game on a missed field goal down the stretch.
By all accounts, Tausch has been very good. That decision by Charlie Weis to give him a scholarship is turning out to be a prudent one since he may be the only freshman who starts in the opener.
2) Eric Maust remains as the punter
Ben Turk gave Maust a heckuva a run, but Maust sticks around as the punter this year. I think Maust has been fairly pedestrian thus far, so I don't think this race is finished just yet. Sounds like Turk is one of the strongest guys on the team. Another Weis scholarship there that might pay off down the road.
Oh and Jordan Cowart is the starting long snapper as a freshman. When it's all said and done, I think the 2009 recruiting class (which has been much maligned at times) is going to turn out to be a very very good class. It's a small class, but there are a lot of high quality guys in there who are going to contribute early in their careers.
3) Golden Tate and Armando Allen returning punts; no kick return announcement
I like the punt return decision as well, but I think I'd just give the job to Golden Tate outright. Tate has the ability to be a Tom Zbibkowski type punt returner. He just refuses to go down. Do not be surprised if he breaks one early in the year.
Should be interesting to see if one of the true freshmen wins the kick return job right from the start. You KNOW Cierre Wood is chomping at the bit to get on the field, and I think Charlie Weis would like to show off his new toy and get him some meaningful snaps. That's my prediction for now. Cierre Wood returns the opening kickoff against Nevada.
1) Matt Romine making noise at left tackle
There's a name we haven't heard much in awhile. Here's Weis' quote on him:
“Duncan’s missed a little time with injury and he’s being pressed by Romine right now, he’s getting pressed pretty good. Matt Romine is a guy that we’ve gained a lot of confidence in that not only could he play left tackle, but he could play right tackle as well,” said Weis. “He’s really kind of elevated himself in this competition and is a name that I normally wouldn’t be talking about as a frontline person.”
“He had gotten sick last year and was 270 soaking wet. Now he’s at 295, in that range right there. He always had good ability, especially as a pass blocker, but now because he’s bigger he’s become better at the point of attack,” said Weis. “Now he’s providing more of a challenge where he’s been out there and been healthy the whole camp plus he’s a lot bigger than he was last year.
Another very encouraging sign for the future. With Duncan and Sam Young both graduating after this year, we are sorely in need of a couple tackles to step up heading into next year. That's really the only position that we're going to need heading into 2010. Romine has had some injury problems, but it seems like he's working his way back into the picture. If Romine could man that left tackle spot in 2010, that would be a great sign. Maybe he even pushes past Duncan as this season goes along.
What does that mean for Duncan?? Not sure if it means Weis is down on him or if Romine is really stepping up, but left tackle could be a position to keep an eye on in the first few weeks.
2) Mike Ragone
Weis is fired up about Ragone. Me too. I thought he looked GREAT in the spring game. All this worrying from people about the TE position with Fauria missing, but I think it's going to turn out to be one of the strongest positions on the roster.
1) Darius Fleming will start at strongside linebacker
To quote Bob Davie, I tell you what, you better be awfulllllllllllllly good to crack the lineup at linebacker this year for the Irish. Now that we're in the 4-3 again, there's a ton of competition for those three spots, especially with Brian Smith locking down the weakside LB spot. Between Fleming, Filer, Te'o, and Toryan Smith, you're talking about four highly recruited guys fighting for two spots on the field. Plus, guys like Scott Smith and McDonald and Posluszny are in there mixing it up.
So for now, we're looking at Fleming-Toryan Smith-Brian Smith on opening day. It will be interesting to see if that changes. Gotta think that #5 is going to play his way on the field at some point. Filer is another guy who might get in there on passing downs to rush the passer with Brian Smith moving over to the middle. Lots of depth to work with.
Overall, this linebacker group is probably the strongest crew of LBs we've had since the Davie era. Lots of Davie Era kinda guys in there. Tell me that a guy like Darius Fleming wouldn't have been filling the Kory Minor role back in the late 90s!!
This theme keeps coming up every time I read anything on Notre Dame football this year: DEPTH, DEPTH, DEPTH. This team finally has some depth to create some competition and some different looks on the field. The linebackers can go big, small, pass rush unit, run stop unit, 3 on the field, 4 on the field. And all these guys are pushing each other, and there are players to come in if someone goes down. It's sort of fun to think about the possibilities. Same goes for the DL although not to the same degree. There are some interesting combinations to work with up front as well.