Five Players Notre Dame Needs to Make an Impact in '09
Coming off of 3-9 and 7-6 campaigns after starting the Charlie Weis era with two BCS appearances, there is no doubt Notre Dame feels the pressure to make a run towards the BCS in 2009.
If they can get improvement and a more positive impact from these five men in 2009, they could very well be on their way...
5. Brandon Walker
Brandon Walker struggled to start 2008 but improved throughout the season. He finished only 14-of-24 on field goals despite being a perfect 39-of-39 on PATs.
There is no doubt that the Irish will need a last-minute victory or two if they plan on reaching the BCS in '09. Will Walker be able to step up and make the big kick?
4. Manti Te'o
Notre Dame's linebacking corps is depleted from the 2008 season, with only Brian Smith being back from the starting four a year ago. Part of the selling point of Notre Dame to Te'o was the opportunity for him to make an immediate impact.
If he is as good as advertised early on, then the Irish defense could be that much better. If he struggles in the middle, then the D as a whole could very well do the same.
3. Jimmy Clausen
There is no doubt Clausen enters 2009 with a world of pressure on him, as many believe he hasn't lived up to expectations at Notre Dame this far. I'm not saying that Jimmy has to be a Heisman candidate for the Irish to make the BCS; instead, he will be a Heisman contender if the Irish do.
Clausen's arm strength is there, but accuracy remained an issue late in the 2008 regular season. He has perhaps the best group of targets to throw to in the nation. Now if he can learn to throw the ball away better and avoid losing extra yards while continuing to run backwards during a heavy pass rush, the Irish should be in business.
2. Ian Williams
Perhaps Williams isn't ever going to be an elite defensive tackle at Notre Dame, but there is no doubt the Irish could use a standout nose tackle this season. Williams has the size but needs to put together a full season for ND.
If he can get into the backfield or just mess up the line of scrimmage enough for the linebackers to make plays, the defense gets that much better. If he fails to, then so much of the defense is worse off because of it.
1. Sam Young
This will be the fourth and final year that Young finds himself as a key cog in Notre Dame's offensive line. He was supposed to be the biggest impact recruit that Weis brought in after his first season in South Bend, but in his time Young is yet to live up to the expectations he came in with.
Last year Notre Dame lost at least three games due to an ineffective running game. Much of that was because of the line, which lacked a dominant lineman who the running backs could consistently pick up yards when running behind. Young is a solid pass blocker, but if he can figure out run blocking a bit better, this offense could be downright scary to face.
There is added pressure on Young since he is the four-year starter known by all in Irish Country, but the whole offensive line will be what makes or breaks the Irish's BCS chances in 2009.