State of the Irish will be a nine-piece miniseries, analyzing Notre Dame football from top to bottom while also predicting what's ahead for the team.
Starter: No. 7 Jimmy Clausen, Junior (6'3", 217)
Being labeled as the No. 1 high school football recruit in the nation is a lot of responsibility to carry on one's shoulders.
Being the No. 1 high school football recruit in the nation and then signing with the University of Notre Dame is an even bigger responsibility.
From day one, Notre Dame fans labeled Clausen as the human form of Touchdown Jesus himself. In fact, Clausen pretty much gave himself the same label.
Being thrown in as an injured freshman with five of my own 80-year-old grandmothers blocking for him, he did a decent job. After the horrific 2007-2008 season (the record has been erased from my memory, and please, do not remind me), Clausen showed signs of endless potential in a 7-6 season last year.
He has the talent, the potential, the receivers, and now, the offensive line. What's stopping him from becoming the Heisman trophy winner he once promised he would be? (He promised four, to be exact.)
The 2009-2010 season will be the greatest test of Clausen's progress under Charlie Weis.
Will he lead the team to a BCS victory and possibly even a win over the Trojans? Or will the season end in another decent, unacceptable-in-Notre-Dame-land season?
Backup: No. 10 Dayne Crist, Redshirt Freshman (6'4", 223)
Most people were in shock when Crist chose the Irish a year after Clausen had. Why would another top quarterback want to sit behind him? Crist had a different mindset.
Try a challenge.
Although Crist will have to wait for his chance to get onto the field, he is doing a great thing for his team already—providing competition at the most important position on the field.
He has the tools, and he certainly has the frame to be the starting quarterback of the Irish. Some fans even have called for Crist to be the starting quarterback, solely based on these skills and the athleticism he provides.
Unlike past years, Notre Dame has security under center. Crist should be expected to see some snaps this year in wide-margin games in order to prepare for the future.
You're looking at the future starting quarterback of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in Dayne Crist.
Others: No. 13 Evan Sharpley, Fifth-Year Senior (6'2", 215)
Maybe best known for his role on the baseball team, Sharpley is pretty good with the pigskin too.
He has been stroking the ball in the minors for the Seattle Mariners and could even decide to turn his focus to the baseball diamond. But for now, he is a football player.
Although he hasn't gotten many opportunities, Sharpley has served as a mentor to the younger signal callers on the roster.
During the games, you will see Sharpley huddling with Weis, Clausen, and Crist, all talking over the last play or deciding on the next call. He always seems to be talking and showing the younger guys how to handle the college game.
Like Crist, Sharpley is a very solid backup option if the starter were to go down with a serious injury. Crist is expected to see most of the mop-up duty, so Sharpley could be restricted to more of a player/coach role this season, which was expected when he decided to return for a fifth year.
No. 16 Walk-On Freshman Nate Montana (6'4", 200)
We finally got to see what Joe's oldest could do on the field this spring, firing the ball to Deion Walker across the middle of the field.
Unfortunately, Nate has decided to transfer for the fall semester in order to get some live playing time.
Pasadena City College looks to be his temporary home as he tries to discover his skills. Montana had few chances in high school to play under center because his concentration was on the court, so this move does appear to be for the better in the end.
According to Weis, Montana has made it known that he will re-enroll at Notre Dame for the spring semester.
Next State of the Irish: Backfield (Running Backs/Fullbacks)