OT Sam Young

2007 Statistics

Coach: Charlie Weis
22-15, 3 years
2007 Record: 3-9
at Penn State LOST 10-31
at Michigan LOST 0-38
at Purdue LOST 19-33
at UCLA WON 20-6
NAVY LOST 44-46 (3OT)
at Stanford WON 21-14

2007 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2008 Outlook

We all know that Notre Dame stunk up the FBS proceedings last season with possibly their worst season ever. But was it really the worst season in this program’s long, storied history? Nine losses is the most ever for the Irish, but three two-win efforts (1956, ’60 & ’63) are less than 2007’s three wins, saving last year from clearly being the most futile. Prior to 2007, no Irish squad had ever lost six in a row at home, and for a school that had only one losing season up until 1956 (and has had only 10 losing campaigns ever) as well as the most prideful, loyal fans in the game, painful futility won’t be tolerated for very long.

Consider how Weis – who won the most games (19) in his first two years here than any other Notre Dame coach - is possibly in over his head. Open arms welcomed alum Weis in 2005 after he had just won two consecutive Super Bowls at New England, and a roster full of upperclassmen guided Notre Dame to respectable heights after ex-coach Ty Willingham had already brought them into the fold. Willingham’s recruits made Weis look solid, but now we see a more realistic profile of how the New Jersey (Trenton) native might actually do in tougher times. Martin Luther King, Jr. and golfer Bobby Jones had a truly insightful and eerily similar standard for measuring someone’s abilities – don’t judge that person when everything is going fine; judge their character when times are tough, by how they manage the situation. In this classic scenario, Weis – loaded with hugely talented recruiting classes only Notre Dame can land – will not be given much more room to fail. This is Notre Dame, and not winning enough games will mean he’s gone faster than potatoes at the bottom of a corned beef pot, no matter how many extensions/promises his contract has.

With its worst point total since 1963, the offense has its work cut out. The first win last year had nothing to do with the 140 yards of total offense to which UCLA held the Irish. After his true freshman year was tainted by a nagging shoulder problem, No.1 QB recruit Jimmy Clausen will be more for last year’s pains. If he struggles, look for Evan Sharpley to be inserted since he looks just as poised to have learned from 2007’s tough sequence. The last two games of ‘07 – both wins – under Clausen, as well as a tough-but-productive spring, have many thinking he’s turned the proverbial corner in his development. Injuries to both hurlers will be the only way this year’s No.2 pro-style prospect (6’5 Dayne Crist) sees playing time. Crist’s redshirt, if he gets one, should be seen as a testimonial that the unit has improved.

The running game’s abysmal numbers (through the first eight games last year, ND’s average per carry was 1.09 yards…see OFFENSE section for more details) are also going to rebound. Hughes and Allen are behind Aldridge, for now. Even Schwapp seems to us like he should get a longer look, but the coaches feel the size-speed combo of Aldridge is their best hope. And of course, the thing that took production south – the weak OL – is why there is still concern and why the rushing totals have less to do with the stable of RB talent and more to do with the protection. Weis is trying to improve things by making the linemen even bigger, but in an age when speed usually trumps sluggish size, we question this tact. Weis giving up the play calling will probably help everything else team-related. The tweaks on this side of things will go the farthest toward improving the win total.

The (No.39 total) defense was the lone bright spot and the only reason more losses didn’t come. Forced to save the day many times over, enough of the same faces return so that this area won’t become a sudden liability. Corwin Brown was really tested as a first-time coordinator and passed with flying colors. The only thing missing from his first crew were big plays, so LB/assistant head coach John Tenuta has been brought in from Georgia Tech to liven up the stat lines. Riskier blitzes and turnovers are now in vogue, but over-pursuit can result.

The schedule is another bear. No more 43-game winning streak to protect, just a lot of revenge games. Penn State is gone, but a budding Washington squad has Willingham hosting his old team with something to prove against his successor. Beating the Stanford squad that had earlier beaten USC kinda washes the 38-0 home loss to the Trojans…well, not really for anyone who wears green on Saturdays. Going to Los Angeles to end the year will measure any progress so that 2009’s needs will be clear.

Will 2009 see this school hire its 29th head coach? Only this season can answer that. But the team that America has both feared and respected for over a century is surely headed in the most important direction, the one toward higher GPAs and better graduation rates. Weis has his team hitting the books like never seen here before – in earning a team GPA of over 3.0, his players have not only broken new ground, but have done so now for five straight semesters. In a place where classroom activity seems like it takes a backseat to deep, overwhelming gridiron heritage, most won’t notice this important fact. Most will judge Weis purely by his football numbers, which is a shame and reflects a real disconnect between fan/alum expectations and why student-athletics exist.

This is a great school first and foremost, and to field a superior football team is a privilege, one we have all come to expect. But let’s look at how Willingham was ignored for his approach to teaching, and how Weis is presently having his educational efforts similarly skirted to see where/why college football has lost its focus on what’s most important. Weis may not survive here if ND tanks again, but hopefully the trends of he and Willingham will continue to bolster the country’s most popular program.

Projected 2008 record: 6-6
QB - 3 DL - 3
RB - 3.5 LB - 3.5
WR - 3 DB - 3.5
OL - 3.5 ..
2007 Statistical Rankings
Total Off:
Sacks Allow:
Total Def:

Passing: Jimmy Clausen, 138-245-6, 1254 yds., 7 TD

Rushing: James Aldridge, 121 att., 463 yds., 0 TD

Receiving: Duval Kamara, 32 rec., 357 yds., 4 TD

Scoring: Brandon Walker, 6-12 FG, 22-23 PAT, 40 pts.

Punting: Eric Maust, 21 punts, 42.1 avg.

Kicking: Brandon Walker, 6-12 FG, 22-23 PAT, 40 pts.

Tackles: David Bruton, 85 tot., 55 solo

Sacks: John Ryan, 2.5 sacks

Interceptions: David Bruton, 3 for 20 yds.

Kickoff Returns: Armando Allen, 33 ret., 21.3 avg., 0 TD

Punt Returns: David Bruton, 1 ret., 11.0 avg., 0 TD


FS David Bruton
OFFENSE: John Carlson-TE, Travis Thomas-RB, John Sullivan-C
DEFENSE: Trevor Laws-DE, Dwight Stephenson-DE, Joe Brockington-ILB, Anthony Vernaglia-OLB, Ambrose Wooden-CB, Tom Zbikowski-SS, Geoff Price-P, Darrin Walls-CB

Pitiful. Just pitiful. That’s the only way to describe the Irish offense last year. Consider the numbers – 242 total yards per game and 3.52 yards per play (worst in the nation for both, with no other team under 4.15 per play), 16.42 points per game meant ND tied Temple and Syracuse to finish just above Florida International for team scoring, and the 52 total points scored in the second quarters of last year’s games was the most points for any of their quarter’s aggregate totals. To go on would be cruel to the Irish nation, but you see how scoring the least amount of points since 1963 under the direction of an offensive guru like Coach Weis is both suspect and criminal. A healthy Notre Dame (on this side of the ball) makes the college football world a better place, so this year’s improvements will go a long way toward buoying FBS parity even more.

Ok, so Weis decided to start a freshman last year…it cost him 2007, but that decision now has this offense the better for it. That QB was last year’s No.1 pro-style prospect, Jimmy Clausen. Adding some strength in the off months had Clausen looking better this spring. "He's made more development[s] physically than he has mentally," Weis said. "He already had a lot mentally. His body will help him in a lot of facets. It's not just arm strength and being able to deliver the ball, but it's also being able to shrug off bodies when you have a hand on you. There were way too many times last season when he'd go down too easily, or he'd get knocked off too easily. When you add some girth, he's a lot more solid than he was last year." In 2007, Notre Dame’s QBs - Clausen, backup Evan Sharpley and departed Demitrius Jones - went down a combined 58 times (worst in the nation), which means to say Clausen still completed 56% of his tries and Sharpley 55% speaks of their potential under fire. A year older and with another spring under his belt, Clausen has progressed some, but not as far as a five-star recruit with nine starts under his belt should have. His leadership skills will be scrutinized, but this former prep National Player of the Year (Ball Park’s Hall Trophy, USA Today, Touchdown Club of Columbus, and Parade) has a wide range of results he’s capable of fulfilling…like most, it’s up to Jimmy how his destiny plays out. Sharpley tutored under Brady Quinn when Quinn was a senior and he a frosh. Evan offers stability, but less overall skill. Like at many places, a top prospect like Clausen will be given every chance to develop into the impact player he promises to become; Sharpley will be playing second fiddle until Clausen is either hurt or stinks it up enough that he is replaced. Against Navy, Sharpley started and earned the Irish their most points in regulation (28 was same amount against Duke) of the season, but against USC, he was blanked by the stubborn Trojan D.

If you know of the excessive sacks allowed, then the paltry rushing totals won’t surprise you. The RBs still did rather well as a group considering the penetration seen. Armando Allen is lightning in a bottle, but he’s not a banger. Allen wouldn’t bump outside enough this spring to truly reach his strength as an open-field runner, so when given chances this fall, Allen has to find open space. Both the biggest halfback and the biggest producer this spring (as well as the best last fall if average per carry is important since he led the team at 5.5 per try), big Robert Hughes is pushing for reps. The Chicago native looked good in every opportunity he was given last year, with Hughes gaining 246 yards on 35 carries in the last two games (started once). The combination of Hughes’ power approach and Allen’s quickness is the deemed starter, James Aldridge. The nation’s No.3 RB recruit in 2006, Aldridge has never scored a TD in college and averaged fewer than four per carry last season. How Hughes doesn’t start seems confounding, but that scenario is probable if Aldridges’ seniority keeps him in front of the obviously more consistent producer(s). The fullbacks both are capable workhorses in case injuries affected the tailback unit, and employing them early and often could be a good jumpstart for the ailing running dimension.

William Yeatman had a rough spring after a DUI led to his suspension, but this cross-sport (lacrosse) player is back and ready to be a first string, “go to” target Weis loves. Cherry Hill TE product Mike Ragone is the other guy on the outside of the line. Ragone isn’t much of a pushing element, so he’ll telegraph the play call when he comes in (hint: it will probably be a pass). The top tight end prospect of this year’s national class is Kyle Rudolph, a sure-fire production machine who will quickly be incorporated into the offense. The top five WRs are all back. Led by bigger, possession-types Kamara and Parris, this corps is decent, if not full of budding stars. Hoboken’s Duval Kamara isn’t so fast, but he runs his routes nicely and can get open when things look covered. Robby Parris is a step faster but still not a blazer. West, Jr. is found underneath, but offers little game-changing speed. Grimes is even smaller, but again, there is no more team speed coming from his skill package. Speed is the moniker of newbie Deion Walker, but it’s five-star Mike Floyd who is rated by Rivals as being this year’s top incoming deep threat.

Getting back to the front line, they will be the pivot for any improvements since we know the RBs are lined up and capable.
Mike Turkovich is one of two senior returning starters around whom the line is being built. Turkovich can bump outside – where he played in 2006 – or he has the mobility to pull. Eric Olsen has even better wheels for doing whatever is needed. Leaned upon during the tough ’07 span that started with BC (four straight losses), Olsen started the last six contests and needs to bring tough lessons to bear if this line is to improve (one player at a time). The biggest improvements have to be seen in center Dan Wenger; this lumbering type has had arm/shoulder trouble and might have been in over his head as a freshman in such a pressure-packed time. Wenger doesn’t have John Sullivan as a mentor anymore after Sullivan was the lone senior on last year’s line. That covers a decent interior, and the tackles look even more promising. But with the bulking up of former No.1 tackle prospect Sam Young exemplifying the tendency toward bigger linemen (in an age when mobility seems key), we question this tactic to improve the overall play up front. Young went from around 300lbs to 330, and even though he seems built to handle the girth and will lose little quickness, the overall impact of making everyone bigger could backfire. Duncan definitely embodies this theory, too, but he isn’t going to be any better with size if his footwork can’t keep up. Romaine is a former No.3 tackle prospect (2007), but he is the lone standout sub amongst a suspect group of second stringers. It’s not impossible for this line to come together and become more than the sum of its parts. The recent step to improve the OL’s cohesion is that they do many things together, even off field, from interviews to wearing the same color/kind of shirts.

Play-calling duties are being relinquished by Weis and handed over to coordinator Mike Haywood. "It means that all the offensive coaches now won't have to worry about the head coach breathing down their neck all the time," Weis said. There’s only one direction this offense can go, and that’s up after one of the worst showings in Irish history.


WR David Grimes


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Jimmy Clausen-So (6-3, 212) Evan Sharpley-Jr (6-2, 216)
FB Asaph Schwapp-Jr (6-0, 261) Steve Paskorz-So (6-2, 230)
TB James Aldridge-Jr (6-0, 222) Robert Hughes-So (5-11, 240)
Armando Allen-So (5-10, 190)
WR Duval Kamara-So (6-4, 225) George West-Jr (5-8, 200)
WR David Grimes-Sr (5-10, 175) Robby Parris-Jr (6-3, 205)
Golden Tate-So (5-11, 188)
TE Mike Ragone-So (6-5, 241) Will Yeatman-Jr (6-6, 260)
OT Paul Duncan-Sr (6-7, 308) Matt Romine-So (6-5, 290)
OG Mike Turkovich-Sr (6-6, 301) Chris Stewart-So (6-5, 340)
C Dan Wenger-So (6-4, 300) Thomas Bemenderfer-Sr (6-5, 285)
OG Eric Olsen-Jr (6-5, 303) Andrew Nuss-Fr (6-5, 303)
OT Sam Young-Jr (6-8, 330) Taylor Dever-Fr (6-5, 306)
K Brandon Walker-So (6-3, 188) Nate Whitaker-Jr (5-9, 178)


There will be some areas of concern, but, still, the defense was not the liability last year; it was actually the main reason the team held it together the modicum that they did. The modest amount of hats that left seem tough to replace, none bigger than ends Trevor Laws (team-leading tackle total also the most by any lineman in the nation) and Dwight Stephenson. In the 3-4 usually applied, losing the top two ends is tough, but not an impossible situation with two capable, proven upperclassmen. Justin Brown is a rarely seen two-star prospect, but his ascension into a starting role shows why his fifth year will be his best. Brown was the starter ahead of Stephenson by the end of last season to assure Brown’s not just inheriting something he couldn’t earn by himself. Opposite Brown will be John Ryan, a hybrid linebacker (started eight games at OLB) with a sharp acumen for playing near the line. Richardson is the same kind of combination player (actually recruited as a LB), while Nwankwo used to be on the other side of the ball until arriving here. Losing Kuntz inside will hurt if he cannot return (academic issues), but two-time starter Ian Williams saves the day after his Freshman All-American year assures inside stopping power from the Florida product. Kuntz also could be moved to the outside upon his return. True froshes Sean Cwynar and Brandon Newman can offer instant help like Williams did last year, but expectations placed upon incoming players as they enter the high profile atmosphere here can often backfire like we’ve just seen on offense.

Behind the linemen is a mix of experience and budding talent, but they get a new unit coach in blitz-happy John Tenuta. This group may not be ready to fulfill Tenuta’s aggressive approach. That seemed to be the case this spring as blitzing LBs went right by the ball carriers while on their way into the backfield. The two returning starters will surely hold down their side. Look for OLB Kerry Neal to expand on his modest freshman effort. JACK Maurice Crum, Jr. is the most consistent week-in, week-out of anyone in the corps. The son of a Miami Hurricane legend (LB Maurice, Sr. led Canes in tackles from 1988-90), Crum grounds those around him with his leadership and tenacity. The rest of the linebackers seem chosen directly from the plethora of American Smith families. Rome, Georgia’s Toryan is a sizable inside presence especially made for run stuffing, while legacy Brian was a big-time freshman contributor like fellow outside linebacker Neal and will be even better with a year under his belt. Junior Scott Smith plays hard and smart, leading by example as he now earns playing time at both linebacking spots. Harrison Smith is even rumored to be moving up to possibly compose/complete an all-Smith lineup at times. Washington and Quinn each have admirably worked their way up, so they will have to stay sharp to thwart the newcomers. This class has two guys from Chicago, with both being the No.8 linebacking prospects at their respective specialty (ILB Steven Filer and OLB Darius Fleming) and both having turned down Michigan to be here. Too many injuries would affect the corps’ ability to tie the defensive efforts together effectively.

The run stoppers kept the Irish secondary from having to be tested very often; foes threw it only 38.5% of the time, so stats are a bit skewed to make the DBs look pretty good. But second-year coordinator Corwin Brown is in charge of the DBs, so he likely has them even more tuned up as Brown’s systems are second-hand by now. That’s even more probable since three upperclassmen promise this seasoned group will be better. This unit took a big hit when CB Darrin Walls decided not to enroll this fall for personal reasons. He was poised to become a shutdown corner.
Fifth-year guy Terrail Lambert has as much raw talent as Walls, but he seems to lack the ability to put forth the same consistent results. That should allow anagrammatic Gary Gray to show off his highly touted skills after shoulder surgery kept his freshman campaign at a standstill. Raeshon McNeil looks solid, too, as a replacement for Walls but the problem is that now depth will have to be provided by incoming freshman. The biggest name to leave was also the biggest reason so little broke through this defense the past four years – Tom Zbikowski’s exit poses the largest void. The good news is Kyle McCarthy bring much of the same approach as his predecessor. Like Zbikowski, McCarthy is an ex-QB with 4.4-speed, but he has little first team experience (started at free safety once). He will likely be the one to move up into a linebacking role on passing downs as extra DBs handle the coverage schemes. David Bruton proved that he might have been the better of the two safeties last year, depending upon whose opinion comes forth. Already on this year’ Nagurski Award watch list, Bruton led the Irish tacklers in solo efforts (55). Brown and Gaines have yet to make anyone turn their heads, so injuries in the deep middle might be costly.

The approach of Tenuta seems to be the direction Weis wants to go, so DC Brown, in his first coordinators job, seems “stuck like/by Chuck” in being forced to adapt to these new, more aggressive ways. That’s not a problem, really, for the players all seem able to turn it up a notch so as to take a few more risks for the rewards that might follow. After only nine INTs and 19 sacks last year, turning it up a notch to produce some big plays is just what the doctor ordered.


LB Maurice Crum


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Morrice Richardson-So (6-2, 258) John Ryan-Jr (6-5, 260)
DT Ian Williams-So (6-2, 306) Pat Kuntz-Sr (6-3, 285)
DE Justin Brown-Sr (6-3, 271) Emeka Nwankwo-Fr (6-4, 290)
OLB Brian Smith-So (6-3, 239) Scott Smith-Jr (6-3, 235)
ILB Toryan Smith-Jr (6-1, 244) Kevin Washington-Jr (6-1, 241)
ILB Maurice Crum-Sr (6-0, 235) Steve Quinn-Sr (6-2, 231)
OLB Kerry Neal-So (6-2, 240) Kallen Wade-So (6-5, 244)
CB Raeshon McNeil-Jr (6-0, 187) Gary Gray-Fr (5-11, 185)
CB Terrail Lambert-Sr (5-11, 195) Jamoris Slaughter-Fr (6-1, 185)
Robert Blanton-Fr (6-1, 177)
SS Kyle McCarthy-Jr (6-0, 200) Sergio Brown-Jr (6-2, 197)
FS David Bruton-Sr (6-2, 205) Jashaad Gaines-Jr (6-0, 202)
P Eric Maust-Jr (6-2, 177) Brandon Walker-So (6-3, 188)




Eric Maust took almost 30% of last year’s punts and proved to be a more consistent performer than now-departed Geoff Price. Hopefully Maust can get the same consistently strong coverage found in ’07 (13th-ranked net results). Brandon Walker doesn’t look like a huge foot for those tough FGAs. PK Ryan Burkhart seems more consistent, in both his leg strength and career results. Zbikowski gives way to David Grimes (for now) at punt returner. Allen was the main KR guy, but Walls, Gray, Tate, West and Gallop are all names floating around on the list of hopefuls.