QB Brady Quinn

2004 Statistics

Coach: Charlie Weis
1st year
2004 Record: 6-6
at Brigham Young LOST 17-20
at Michigan State WON 31-24
vs. Navy WON 27-9
at Tennessee WON 17-13
at Southern California LOST 10-41
vs. Oregon State LOST 21-38

2004 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2005 Outlook

The chief reason for Willingham's absurdly abrupt dismissal was supposedly due to recruiting. While Willingham wasn't bringing in enough talent (to appease the alums), his firing created enough bad publicity to affect the first class brought in by Weis. Additionally, the playoffs/Super Bowl kept Weis occupied through January, the most crucial recruiting month, and Weis' first class was subsequently rated No. 40 (Rivals.com), abysmal by Irish standards. But there is still a silver lining, for this is Football University, U.S.A., and destiny seems to be smiling down as one of their own comes home.

Weis (class of '78) will motivate the ample talent already here with (intangibles like) charisma, attitude and directly via his brilliance with Xs and Os. Weis, the first alum to be coach since interim guy Hugh Devore (class of '34) in 1963, understands the importance of winning in South Bend. To rebuild that tradition of excellence, he's focusing on a classic formula sure to appease the scrutnous fan-base - making his players tougher. His four Super Bowl rings speak volumes, but we'll see just how much time they give Weis before his seat heats up.

Given what does come back, though, this looks to be an offensively strong team that should struggle, especially early, on defense. If Lewis and Minter can't improve the pass defense, Weis' stay in South Bend could rival the brevity of Willingham's. The schedule is brutal, especially early. The Irish open against a resurging, Dave Wannstedt-coached Pittsburgh squad, and Palko should light up that secondary to initiate their egos. Stellar Michigan, Purdue and USC teams, as well as an emotional game against Willingham's Washington squad, then pollute their slate, a slate that is always the most diversified in its thorough toughness. But the Irish almost always respond well to this highest of difficulties, building character as they perpetually compete while failing to complain. Weis will align all of these other factors to produce a winner…but how soon?

Optimistically speaking, Notre Dame/Quinn did beat a pair of BCS teams while coming up a combined seven points short against BYU, Boston College and Pitt. With better pass coverage and the beginnings of offensive consistency, ND appears to be in for improvement. But Notre Dame and its fans have to realize that it takes time to rebuild a program so that it doesn't just collapse again, and that one bad year can't be viewed as enough of a collapse to constantly think restocking the coaching staff is a realistic answer. Like anything else in the world, the best takes time to build. Accordingly, advancements won't be seen just in actual victories on the field.

More immediately and realistically, this team just doesn't have the horses to win (more than) eight games against its schedule - consider a pre-New Years bowl win a reasonable accomplishment in Weis' first year. But the luck of the Irish has been known to make for some suddenly unexpected great seasons.

Projected 2005 record: 7-4
QB - 4 DL - 3
RB - 3.5 LB - 2.5
WR - 4 DB - 2
OL - 4 ..

Passing: Brady Quinn, 353-191-10, 2586 yds., 17 TD

Rushing: Darius Walker, 185 att., 786 yds., 7 TD

Receiving: Rhema McKnight, 42 rec., 610 yds., 3 TD

Scoring: D.J. Fitzpatrick, 11-15 FG, 34-35 PAT, 67 pts.

Punting: D.J. Fitzpatrick, 76 punts, 41.8 avg.

Kicking: D.J. Fitzpatrick, 11-15 FG, 34-35 PAT, 67 pts.

Tackles: Brandon Hoyte, 74 tot., 39 solo

Sacks: Brandon Hoyte, 3 sacks

Interceptions: Mike Richardson, 1 for 32 yds.; Tom Zbikowski, 1 for 22 yds.

Kickoff Returns: Chase Anastasio, 19 ret., 18.6 avg., 0 TD

Punt Returns: Rhema McKnight, 3 ret., 5.3 avg., 0 TD


LB Brandon Hoyte
OFFENSE: Ryan Grant-RB, Carlyly Holiday-PR/WR
DEFENSE: Kyle Budinscak-DE, Greg Pauly-DT, Derek Curry-OLB, Mike Goolsby-ILB, Dwight Ellick-CB, Carlos Campbell-CB, Preston Jackson-CB, Quentin Burrell-FS, Justin Tuck-DE (NFL)

Believe in the Rosary: The West Coast offense will no longer be forced upon junior Brady Quinn. The junior will get to work in (pretty much) the same vertical attack new head coach Charlie Weis coordinated so effectively with the New England Patriots, a system better suited for Quinn's talents. How much the passing scheme matches to N.E.'s in terms of complexity remains to be seen, but Quinn has the physical ability, poise and receivers to finally thrive. He also has the experience, finally, with two years as starter - least of all, he definitely knows what not to do. Quinn improved modestly from a 47 completion rate and 15 interceptions in '03 to 54 percent and 10, and his yardage total represents the second-greatest single-season mark ever at ND. He should take bigger steps forward, especially with Weis and former Ole Miss coach David Cutcliffe to mentor him. The depth (back-up Dillingham chose to graduate) will be young and untested with freshmen all expected to battle for position. RS David Wolke is a big, strong-armed pocket passer who is ideal in this Weis offense, as is newbie Evan Sharpley. Both are just elusive enough (ala Brady) to effectively keep moving while one eye is keenly focused on downfield routes. Watch for fulfilling developments here, with skill-levels being displayed to make many wonder why Willingham couldn't get this unit to perform to potential.

Running Back
As a true freshman, Darius Walker won the starting job and emerged as a potential star. He's not exactly Corey Dillon, but he gives Weis an outstanding back to build a running game around. Walker is fast (4.45 speed) and explosive with good vision and cutback ability. Weis adapts his offense based on his personnel. With a talented back like Walker around, don't be surprised to see ND watch his prowess and then gravitate more toward calling plays that showcase his strengths, as warranted. Fifth-year senior Marcus Wilson brings plenty of speed, while junior Travis Thomas is a talented mix of speed and power who has yet to be utilized enough. Thomas, Wilson and Walker combined for 18 catches, which shouldn't change much under Weis. In the Irish tradition (Bettis), two-year starting fullback Rashon Powers-Neal has tailback ability. He, too, was never properly utilized in the West Coast system, having almost as many catches (10) as carries (13). The ingredients are here for a solid running game that should put up better numbers as Quinn becomes able to stretch the field.

There's plenty of potential as an underachieving group returns (almost) intact to test its Irish luck with a new offense. Rhema McKnight, the leading receiver the past two seasons, remains the go-to guy, though he's not much of a deep threat. That role should go to either Maurice Stovall, who is tall (6-5), fast (4.3 speed) but is coming off an injury plagued season, or Matt Shelton. A fifth-year senior, Shelton was a surprise in coming up with a school-record 25.8 yards per catch to go with his modest (but team-leading) six TDs. Top recruit D.J. Hord is another well-sized set of soft hands with sprinter's speed who will impact this unit. Stovall and Shelton are the type of field-stretchers who will open up Weis' running schemes to perfection, also allowing McKnight and the TEs to snarl the rock when WR-options are covered. Size here also will become good at blocking downfield. This is a strong group who will be invaluable if the Weis Way is to succeed.

Tight End
Anthony Fasano, an adequate blocker who developed into the team's No. 2 receiving threat, gives Quinn another sure-handed open-field target. Expect Fasano & Co. to continue facilitating the passing game, especially under Weis, who knows how to use his TEs like a scalpel (to open other things up). Joey Hiben, this year's No. 9 TE recruit (Rivals.com), gives them another athletic receiving target, but will have to bulk up to displace the other two experienced TEs. This unit gets at least four touches per game, a number that we expect could even increase.

Offensive Line
This group returns intact, led by fifth-year seniors RT Mark LeVoir and RG Dan Stevenson. There's been plenty of shuffling here and little cohesion, which will only continue with a new coaching staff. There will be improvement under former Ole Miss offensive coordinator John Latina, who will find a way for this well-seasoned meat to decrease allowing 25 sacks while increasing their average per run to over 4.0. LeVoir and junior LT Ryan Harris are two strong pass-blockers made for a pocket approach, while junior center John Sullivan should be the leader in the middle. As usually holds true, all of the potential at the skill spots doesn't mean much when improvement up front is the key. This line mixes size, mobility and potential well, so the coaches' ability to motivate is what we are looking at here. Under new management, the line will give Quinn more time to throw while producing a rushing attack that ranks better than 85th.

Those returning will now have to figure out Weis' complex NFL attack, and how much time it takes to adapt is unknown. The new boss says he works to the strengths of his personnel, so expect him to adjust his offense and all other variables to fit the skill level(s) of his players. Quinn is due to improve, and with a solid group of receivers, he should be able to stretch defenses enough to open seams for Walker and the running game. The line will eventually develop and adapt to the new schemes, and offensive efficiency will then be achieved. But, again, we ask how long? If/whenever the Irish are in disarray up front, a mediocre scoring output is to be expected. With Weis, it is all about execution, so what, then, is to be expected? First off, don't be surprised as something besides the West Coast approach ignites the passing game. Moreover, anticipate struggles to start that, once overcome, will allow the offensive production to take off like spinning wheels dropped onto the pavement. Mixed results will become more consistently successful by the campaign's latter half.


WR Rhema McKnight


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Brady Quinn-Jr (6-4, 220) David Wolke-Fr (6-4, 205)
FB Rashon Powers-Neal-Sr (6-2, 243) Ashley McConnell-So (5-11, 243)
TB Darius Walker-So (5-11, 200) Travis Thomas-So (6-0, 212)
WR Rhema McKnight-Sr (6-1, 215) Jeff Samardzija-Jr (6-5, 215)
WR Maurice Stovall-Sr (6-5, 227) Matt Shelton-Sr (6-0, 175)
TE Anthony Fasano-Jr (6-4, 256) Marcus Freeman-Jr (6-2, 248)
OT Ryan Harris-Jr (6-5, 289) Chauncey Incarnato-Fr (6-6, 280)
OG Bob Morton-Jr (6-4, 300) Dan Santucci-Jr (6-4, 292)
C John Sullivan-So (6-3, 295) ..
OG Dan Stevenson-Sr (6-5, 293) James Bonelli-Jr (6-4, 290)
OT Mark LeVoir-Sr (6-7, 310) John Kadous-Fr (6-7, 310)
K D.J. Fitzpatrick-Sr (6-1, 195) Bobby Renkes-Jr (6-0, 190)


Defensive Line
A stellar front seven rebuilds with the loss of four of the team's top five pass rushers. Junior DE Victor Abiamiri needs to live up to his potential and be the dominant pass rusher needed with Justin Tuck's departure to the NFL. Abiamiri, a five-star recruit, has the quickness and agility to be a force on the end, and he's beefed up to 270. Inside, NT Derek Landri is a small-but-quick and physical run-stopper who can penetrate, as is junior Trevor Laws. Brian Beidatsch, a fifth-year senior, is a big and strong enough to play in the middle, but fast enough to have been moved to DE last fall. He'll likely be shuffled as new defensive coordinator Rick Minter gets a feel for his personnel. The return of reserve Travis Leitko gives Minter another big, quick end to throw into the mix. There's plenty of physical ability here, but not much experience or depth. The run defense, which ranked fourth in the nation and gave up only six ground scores, bailed this team out several times. Developing another solid unit will be a key to this team's success, and it won't happen right away.

Two-year starter Brandon Hoyte, another fifth-year senior, is the lone returning starter from an impressive trio. Hoyte is a quick, explosive playmaker who leaves TOs in his wake (forced three fumbles). He is good enough that he'll lead a group that's breaking in two new starters while maintaining his performance level in spite of some drop-off in play up front. Corey Mays and Mitchell Thomas have had plenty of reserve snaps and are the favorites to take over. Mays, a fifth-year senior, is a physical run-stopper who should play in the middle, and Thomas is another beefed-up plugger with 4.5 speed who could develop into the ideal pass-rusher/contain-end needed at the strong-side spot. This is a well-sized corps, with speed and sharp senses, but little experience outside of the starters. Reflecting the fourth best run-stopping and 116th-rated pass defense, you can see how the LBs' assignments must have been off. Watch for new schemes that allow them to drop back more and then use their mobility to make the play in front of them, not over-commit to the run so as to leave the DBs on islands, as happened under Willingham. Watch for nickel and dime looks until the LBs are again solid.

Defensive Back
This unit's revamping should be the key to the entire defense. A blessing in disguise like this tells volumes: three-fourths of that 116th-ranked group is gone. Blue-and-Gold fans will soon relish the cliché "addition by subtraction". Weis brought in Bill Lewis, who he said gave him fits with the Miami Dolphins, to whip this bunch into shape. He'll build around converted-QB (junior) now-SS Tommy Zbikowski, a speedster who is (at least) tough against the run, and (potential) top cover corner Mike Richardson. CB Freddie Parish IV (national Tae Kwon Do champ) is another tough-guy who was tossed in against USC for seasoning, knowing that, at this rebuilding point, they would benefit from such. Junior Jabbie heads a well-sized underclass of DBs eager to prove it can be what the last crew couldn't, so expect improvements here to come surprisingly quickly. But when we see the bar still being raised with each incremental growth/step, then we will know ND is ready to elevate itself back into the ranks it once ruled.

ND's impressive run-halting numbers were eventually earned by reputation, as foes learned to throw first and foremost to avoid the "Christmas rush stuffers". It's amazing that this team beat the likes of Michigan and Tennessee with their overall numbers, though it does say much of the streaky DB play that will be eradicated. You don't need to be a football genius - the key for this revamping Irish D is affecting foes' passing efficiency. Finding the right combinations and getting a feel for the strengths of the personnel will be the main challenge for this new staff. But we feel that the potential is there for a special unit to be born. The LBs have the size-speed combo that can stop any facet of offense imposed on them, and the line falls into this same category of energized, well-managed girth. They just can't leave this young, ungelled secondary alone, so expect less pressing and more zone until the subtleties needed for (run) blitzing can be instilled, and then orchestrated.


DE Victor Abiamiri


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Chris Frome-Jr (6-5, 271) Travis Leitko-Jr (6-6, 275)
NT Derek Landri-Jr (6-2, 278) Trevor Laws-So (6-0, 285)
DT Brian Beidatsch-Sr (6-2, 295) Brandon Nicolas-Fr (6-5, 275)
DE Victor Abiamiri-Jr (6-4, 269) Ronald Talley-Fr (6-4, 245)
SLB Brandon Hoyte-Sr (5-11, 231) ..
MLB Corey Mays-Sr (6-1, 243) Mitchell Thomas-So (6-3, 230)
WLB Joe Brockington-So (6-1, 225) ..
CB Ambrose Wooden-So (5-11, 186) Junior Jabbie-Fr (5-11, 190)
CB Mike Richardson-Jr (5-11, 190) Terrail Lambert-Fr (5-10, 190)
SS Tom Zbikowski-So (5-11, 203) Jake Carney-Jr (6-0, 192)
FS Freddie Parish-Jr (6-0, 202) Anthony Vernaglia-Fr (6-4, 220)
P D.J. Fitzpatrick-Sr (6-1, 195) Geoff Price-Jr (6-3, 190)




Punter and Kicker
D.J. Fitzpatrick, a fifth-year senior, should be one of this team's top weapons. He fared much better in the dual-role last fall. His punting improved to 41.8 per while dropping 29 inside the 20. He has a big, accurate leg on field goals, having hit 11-of-15, including 4-of-5 from 40+. Coverage will improve with so many LBs and DBs looking for reps, though allowing a combined three return TDs will be a focus. Really, for Weis has stated that special teams at Notre Dame have "stunk" for years, so expect plenty of emphasis on improvement here.

Return Game
Chase Anastasio, a backup receiver with 4.5 speed, proves to be a decent option on kicks, as is soph RB Justin Hoskins. But Junior Jabbie and D.J. Hord are our candidates, each with size-speed to make it all the way. Watch spring production here to get actual answers.