2009 Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football Preview
2008 Record: (7-6, 0-0)
2008 Bowl: Hawaii Bowl vs. Hawaii (W 49-21)
Coach: Charlie Weis (29-21 at Notre Dame, 29-21 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Charlie Weis
Defensive Coordinator: Corwin Brown and Jon Tenuta
Other Key Returnees: WR Michael Floyd, RB Robert Hughes, WR Duval Kamara, DE Kerry Neal, G Eric Olsen, TE Kyle Rudolph, LB Brian Smith, G Chris Stewart, C Dan Wenger, DT Ian Williams, OT Sam Young
Key Losses: DE Justin Brown, S David Bruton, LB Maurice Crum, CB Gary Gray, WR David Grimes, DT Pat Kuntz, CB Terrail Lambert, OT Michael Turkovich
Over the last two years Notre Dame has taken a big step back. However, the players were just not there for Coach Charlie Weis to be successful. As much as everybody likes to blame Coach Weis, it is really not entirely his fault that the Irish have won just ten games over the last two seasons. The last two years the Irish have been young…they are not anymore.
Notre Dame's Strengths:
The Notre Dame defense was not as bad as it often looked last year. Coordinator Jon Tenuta wants to blitz and blitz a lot, but he did not have the experienced players to do it last season. This year should be different. The Irish will be moving to a 4-3 defense and it is at linebacker where holes need to be filled. Brian Smith is an experienced player, but players like Toryan Smith and Scott Smith are capable of making a big impact. The line is in great shape despite the absence of Justin Brown and Pat Kuntz. End Kapron Lewis-Moore and tackle Ian Williams will be a dominating force, but it is Ethan Johnson, who can play both end and tackle that will turn the Irish frontline into something special. As good as the line is, the secondary could be better. Safety Kyle McCarthy is a superstar and the team’s leading tackler a year ago. With Harrison Smith by his side and corners Robert Blanton, Raeshon McNeil and Darrin Walls back, the Notre Dame secondary is in for a good year.
Notre Dame's Weaknesses:
But the defense can only do so much. The offense never found a running game last year and that is the number one goal for this season. Quarterback Jimmy Clausen did an admirable job considering he had no ground game to lean back on, but he certainly has room to improve as well. With Golden Tate returning, the passing attack will be alright, but it will all depend on the offensive line making room for a rusher. Armando Allen is back after rushing for a team high 585 yards last year. Robert Hughes and James Aldridge return as well. Those three combined for 1,324 yards and ten trips to the end zone, but it was only Allen who averaged more than four yards per carry. It will be up to him to spark the ground game. Otherwise, the offense will struggle nearly as much as it did last year.
The Bottom Line for the Fighting Irish:
With four starters returning to the offensive line, and the return of Paul Duncan who started 11 games in 2007, the running game could be surprisingly good. It is not like the line was that good last year, but they are a year older and how much wiser and better they are this year compared to last year could be the difference between another disappointing season and a big bowl game for Notre Dame. Coach Weis’ job probably depends on it.
By Joel Welser
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