Coach: Tyrone Willingham
1st year
2001 Record: 5-6
at Nebraska LOST 10-27
at Texas A&M LOST 3-24
at Boston College LOST 17-21
NAVY WON 34-16
at Stanford LOST 13-17
at Purdue WON 24-18

2001 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

Gerome Sapp returns to the experienced Irish secondary. (AP Photo)
2002 Outlook

The 2002 Notre Dame Fighting Irish football campaign will be one that tries to erase recent humiliation and "Return to Glory". The troubles in South Bend started when fan favorite Lou Holtz decided to step down one win shy of Knute Rockne's school record. Bob Davies replaced Holtz and did a satisfactory job, which included a BCS bid to the Fiesta Bowl. However, the blowout loss to Oregon State in that game would be the beginning of the end for Davies. The search by Athletic Director Mike White for a replacement would end up being a debacle when no high profile coaches like Jon Gruden or Tom Coughlin wanted the job and George O'Leary's hiring and firing was the cherry on top. Now it is up to former Stanford coach Ty Willingham to restore order to the most storied college football program of all time. If the 2002 Irish are to bring back some of the luster to the somewhat tarnished perception of the golden dome they will have to navigate a brutal twelve game schedule that features nine 2001 bowl teams. Their first six opponents and eight of their first nine are against teams that played in last year's postseason. Throw in the fact that the players will be learning a new, more diversified system and a coach that will be adjusting to life at Notre Dame, and you may have a recipe for disaster. If Willingham has a successful year and maybe scores a couple big upsets he will be considered a miracle worker and the Irish will "Return to Glory". Senior leadership should smooth out some of the bumps when you consider the fact that the offense will have nine seniors starting and the defense will have eight. Seventeen seniors starting should be a positive for a team in transition. Even if the Irish have another down year, a true fan can take solace in the fact that if you like to watch Notre Dame football you will have every opportunity. The 2002 "Tyrish" are on national television every week this year against high quality football programs. Traditional rivalries with Michigan, Florida State, and U.S.C. highlight a schedule that could be considered the toughest in all of college football this year.

Projected 2002 record: 8-5

QB - 3.5 DL - 3.5
RB - 4 LB - 3
WR - 3 DB - 4
OL - 4.5 ..

Passing: Carlyle Holiday, 73-144-7, 784 Yards, 3 TD's

Rushing: Julius Jones, 168 att., 718 yds., 6 TD's

Receiving: Julius Jones, 9 rec., 57 yds., 1 TD

Scoring: Nicholas Setta, 17 FG, 23 PAT, 68 pts.

Punting: Joey Hildbold, 64 punts, 42.2 avg.

Kicking: Nicholas Setta, 15-17 FG, 23-23 PAT, 68 pts.

Tackles: Courtney Watson, 76 tot., 35 solo

Sacks: Ryan Roberts, 3 sacks

Interceptions: Vontez Duff, 3 for 37 yards

Kickoff returns: Julius Jones, 18 ret., 22.5 avg.

Punt returns: Julius Jones, 18 ret., 10.7 avg.


OFFENSE: Tony Fisher-TB, Terrance Howard-TB, David Givens-WR, Javin Hunter-WR, John Owens-TE, Kurt Vollers-OT, Matt LoVecchio-QB (transferred), Julius Jones-TB (dismissed)
DEFENSE: Anthony Weaver-DE, Andy Wisne-NG, Grant Irons-DE, Rocky Boiman-OLB, Tyreo Harrison-ILB, Clifford Jefferson-CB, Ron Israel-SS, Donald Dykes-FS (dismissed)

written by Brad Smith

STRENGTHS: The Irish attack this year will try to capitalize on their large offensive line, team experience, and special teams. Four starters, including studs C Jeff Faine and OT Jordan Black, return to anchor a line that will be expected to overpower defenses. Opponents better be "Sean Guard" when you add guards Sean Milligan and Sean Mahan with OT Brennan Curtin to a line that averages over 300 pounds. Team experience is evident across the offense except at receiver and tailback. After the annual Blue/Gold spring game, Willingham would not officially commit to either Carlyle Holiday or Matt LoVecchio as the starting quarterback. Ty's hand was forced on May 23 when LoVecchio announced that he would take his two years of eligibility elsewhere. It makes you wonder if there was any quarterback controversy at all. The tailback position took a huge blow when its 2001 top ground gainer Julius Jones was dismissed academically. But sophomore Ryan Grant, who was the offensive MVP of the rain soaked 3-0 Blue/Gold game, is available pushing for the starting nod. Grant is a bigger back that may be able to endure the pounding that a running attack will demand. Special teams should be a major part of the Notre Dame game plan with K Nicholas Setta and P Joey Hildbold coming off solid years. Vontez Duff and Jones are a threat to return one for a touchdown every time they touch the ball.

CONCERNS: There are many concerns for the offense to improve upon from a pathetic 2001 performance. Even though Ty has been known for developing quarterbacks, he will have a challenge with Holiday making the transition from an option attack to a west coast style. To say that the Irish were inept on offense last year would be a huge understatement. They passed for 100 yards per game and scored nineteen points per game for their lowest totals since the early eighties. For Willingham to be successful in opening up the offense a strong receiving corps would be helpful, which does not appear to be the case this year. Flanker Arnaz Battle will be asked to be the leader and playmaker while racking up a lot of YAC's (Yards After Catch). He showed signs of brilliance at receiver last year before a broken fibula cut his season short and was an exciting running quarterback before he broke his wrist in 2000. The QB position is not deep behind Holiday because Jared Clark has been converted to tight end. The Irish lost their only two receivers who had more than nine catches last season. Besides Grant and Jones the tailback position is not deep. These two backs are going to have to be tough for Notre Dame to have a successful year because they are going to have to pound the ball behind that huge line. It is clear that the Irish are thin at their skill position depth so a string of injuries would be costly, and considering the quality of defenses the Irish will be playing this year, injuries could be a major factor. Ty and offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick will have to stick to the running game this year and move toward the west coast style in future years as recruiting dictates.


Returning Starters in Bold
QB Carlyle Holiday-Jr Pat Dillingham-So
FB Tom Lopienski-Sr Mike McNair-Sr
TB Ryan Grant-So Marcus Wilson-So
WR Arnaz Battle-Sr Omar Jenkins-Jr
WR Carlos Campbell-So Ronnie Rodamer-Jr
TE Gary Godsey-Sr Billy Palmer-Jr
OT Jordan Black-Sr Mark LeVoir-So
OG Sean Mahan-Sr Ryan Gillis-Sr
C Jeff Faine-Sr Ryan Scarola-Sr
OG Sean Milligan-Sr Ryan Gillis-Sr
OT Brennan Curtin-Sr Dan Stevenson-So
K Nicholas Setta-Sr ..



written by Brad Smith

STRENGTHS: The 2002 Irish defense will be an experienced squad. The spring depth charts indicate that it could be nine seniors and three juniors on defense with two senior kickers on the special teams. The secondary appears to be the strength of the unit even though depth will be a concern now that Donald Dyke's and Abram Elam's expulsions have been upheld. Shane Walton and Gerome Sapp return to the defensive backfield that will include speedster Vontez Duff, Glenn Earl Jr., and Jason Beckstrom. Seniors Darrell Campbell, Cedric Hilliard, and Ryan Roberts will anchor the defensive line while Courtney Watson and Carlos Pierre Antoine will hold down the inside linebacking duty. Replacing Weaver at defensive end will probably fall on the shoulders of underclassmen Kyle Budinscak or Brian Biedatsch. The defense is in the same boat as the offense in the fact that senior leadership is a positive but depth will be a concern.

CONCERNS: Defensive coordinator Kent Baer intends to throw a lot of different packages at the opposition this year which could help offset the losses of the heart of the defense; NFL draftees Anthony Weaver and Rocky Boiman. The 2001 defense kept Notre Dame in some close games last year but the lack of offensive inevitably left the "D" on the field to long. Again, injuries must be avoided because of the lack of depth behind the starting eleven. The schedule strength is a concern in the fact that the Irish defense is going to face some real high-powered offenses including a Halloween trip to Tallahassee. The Irish secondary will have to come up big if they are to hang with the Seminoles.


Returning Starters in Bold
DE Kyle Budinscak-Jr Brian Beidatsch-So
DT Darrell Campbell-Sr Greg Pauly-Jr
NG Cedric Hilliard-Sr Jeff Thompson-So
DE Ryan Roberts-Sr Jason Sapp-Jr
OLB Derek Curry-Jr Jerome Collins-Jr
ILB Carlos Pierre-Antoine-Sr Mike Goolsby-Jr
ILB Courtney Watson-Sr Corey Mays-So
CB Vontez Duff-Jr Preston Jackson-Jr
CB Shane Walton-Sr Jason Beckstrom-Sr
SS Gerome Sapp-Sr Lionel Bolen-So
FS Glenn Earl-Sr Quentin Burrell-So
P Joey Hildbold-Sr ..
Quarterback Carlyle Holiday made things happen with his legs in 2001 as he rushed for 666 yards, second-most on the Irish team. (AP Photo)