Notre Dame Football: Key for Improvement in 2008

Chris AlfsonCorrespondent IJuly 17, 2008

My grandfather, in his wisdom and experience, sort of shrugged his shoulders at one point, and simply said, "Maybe he knows something that we don't."

It was sometime during the summer of 2007 and our conversation had centered, as many of them do. around the Notre Dame Football team and why Darius Walker, the star junior running back, leave school a year early when it would seem that his senior season would have him primed to be the offensive focus for the football team, and almost certainly enhance his stock as a NFL player.

Irish fans all over the world take pride in the fact that Notre Dame does not accept just anyone into their school. In order to come to Notre Dame and receive an education, you have to be intelligent.

While Notre Dame fans everywhere questioned Darius Walker’s decision and wondered what the “underlying” reason was for him leaving after his junior campaign, history shows us that he made the right move.

Last year, Notre Dame fans suffered through the worst season many could remember. Of more relevance, Notre Dame fans suffered through what has to be considered one of the worst offensive lines in big time college football history.

As the 2008 season approaches and everyone dreams of glory and success, the single most important aspect of the team that has to change is the offensive line.

This is a situation that is not about any single player, coach, scheme, or any other reason that you can come up with. In order for the 2008 Notre Dame football team to improve and be competitive, the offensive line has to learn to play football. Period.

Preseason magazines everywhere point to Jimmy Clausen being healthy, the running game establishing itself, coaching and philosophy changes within the program, depth and talent from recruiting, and many other things as being a key for Notre Dame’s football program to have improved.

Notre Dame plays four of their first five games at home this season; on paper the schedule appears to be more favorable, and optimism abounds everywhere and most certainly there is reason for it.

However in order for anything else to be relevant in the least bit, by the time the Notre Dame football team takes the field in 2008 the offensive line play has to have improved in obvious, tangible aspects for every phase they are on the field. This is an offensive line that has to effectively run block, pass block, read blitzes, and allow success to happen.

Going back to 2007, by the third or fourth game the offensive scheme no longer allowed for the shotgun to be implemented because the center to quarterback exchange could not be completed effectively. 

Let’s think about that again. Approximately one third of the way through the season, a major, modern day college football program was forced to abandon the shotgun formation in every aspect because they could not handle the center to quarterback exchange of the football.

Analyst’s everywhere are touting the development of Jimmy Clausen, the emergence of Robert Hughes at running back and the expected defensive improvement with the hiring of Jon Tenuta. At the end of the day, or more appropriately, the start of the season, the 2008 Notre Dame Football team's ability to improve from 2007 starts and ends with the play of the offensive line.