2008 Notre Dame Football: Luck of the Irish or Bottle of Smoke?

Colin JohnsonContributor IJanuary 19, 2008

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are coming off of a horrible 3-9 football season.

The 2007 team was virtually last in every category football has.

Their wins—against struggling UCLA, pitiful Duke, and the always-bad Stanford—don't exactly pop on a team's resume. The best thing the Irish have to look back at was their two-game win streak to end the year.

In 2008, the Irish are going to lose many key players, but will gain a ton of young talent.

A number of Irish seniors will graduate before the 2008 season. Some of the key losses include tight end John Carlson, safety Tom Zbikowski, and defensive end Trevor Laws. Other losses include Joe Brockington, Ambrose Wooden, Travis Thomas, Junior Jabbie, and John Sullivan. Pat Kuntz is not decided on whether he will be back or not.

These losses leave the Irish weak at linebacker, cornerback, running back, and center.

However, a slew of new freshmen will be coming in to provide the Irish with more youth on their team. Some of the new players are quarterback Dayne Crist, tight end Kyle Rudolph, and wide receivers Michael Floyd and Deion Walker.

Other recruits include Steven Filer, Darius Fleming, Anthony McDonald, David Posluszny, and Jonas Gray, who will help the Irish fill in weak points at linebacker and tight end.

Despite the infusion of freshman talent, the Irish will have to rely on current players filling in for the lost seniors, such wide receivers Robby Parris, David Grimes, Duval Kumara, and Golden Tate, linebackers John Ryan and Brian Smith, cornerbacks Darrin Walls, Terrail Lambert, and Raeshon McNeil, running backs James Aldridge, Armando Allen, and Robert Hughes, and center Dan Wenger.

The ascension of these players will solidify Notre Dame's running and receiving game and shore up their linebacking corps, potentially making their defense strong once again.

With all the young players both coming in and already on the team, Charlie Weis is going to have to stress discipline to his players, so they will not get into trouble and cause distractions for the rest of the team.

He will have to also get Jimmy Clausen mature into not being afraid to throw the ball away to avoid sacks. Throughout last season, Clausen seemed to prefer taking a sack over throwing the ball away to avoid one. Remember, the Irish have one of the top prospect quarterbacks in the country, and they also have Evan Sharpley ,which they can replace Clausen with as well.

The running backs and wide receivers must also play their part this year, in order to give Clausen options, and the offensive line will also need to step up to give Clausen the protection he needs to get rid of the ball.

If these players can fill their roles, Notre Dame will start putting up points—which is exactly what they couldn't do last season, until the final few games.

The Irish will have the same tough schedule they always do. Their schedule is as follows: San Diego State, Michigan, at Michigan State, Purdue, Stanford, at North Carolina, at Washington, Pittsburgh, at Boston College, at Navy in Baltimore, Syracuse, and at USC.

With all the new talent coming in, despite all of the losses, the Irish should have between five and eight wins in 2008. I predict that the Irish will have an 8-4 season, losing only to Michigan, Michigan State, Boston College, and USC.