The season of 2007 could have been viewed as "exciting" for one reason: the freshman class.
As soon as that class stepped in the door, many of them were projected to find a spot in the starting rotation or to see significant playing time. Although Clausen and Co. were a great haul by Charlie Weis, the freshman did not have to earn their minutes. Instead, they were handed them.
Fast forward to the year 2009.
At every position on the depth chart, you can find depth and skill. The gift of handing out playing time is no longer an option for Weis and his staff.
Rather, a player must push himself to the edge and give 110 percent in order to find himself on the field on September 5th. This environment allows for competition to be present and provides game-like practices.
The recent fall camp has produced battles across the board, thanks in part to another talented freshman class. The latest rumblings:
- Reports from camp have Darius Fleming working his way to the No. 1 strong side-linebacker spot over senior Scott Smith and close friend, Steve Filer. Weis recently called Fleming one of the best players on the roster, very high praise for the sophomore out of Chicago.
- Nick Tausch is pushing junior Brandon Walker for the place-kicking job. Weis said there is a legitimate shot that Tausch will handle both kicking jobs this season because of his hang time on kickoffs and powerful leg. He is competing with Ryan Burkhart and David Ruffer for the kickoff job.
- From Weis' Thursday press conference, Shaquelle Evans has looked like a polished receiver. He was compared to a Golden Tate-type player, but with more knowledge of the game coming in as a freshman. He may be the sleeper pick for the No. 3 receiver job.
- On the fullback front, James Aldridge is happy with his transition from tailback. The versatility of the position (receiving and blocking) is exciting for the senior. Aldridge was also elected to the team's leadership council.
- A relatively-quiet Sean Cwynar has been moving up the depth chart. He now finds himself sitting behind Ian Williams at defensive tackle.
- Weis also hit on the Manti Te'o project in his press conference Thursday. It is still unknown how big of a role he will play against Nevada, but he will definitely see the field in the opener. On another note, Ethan Johnson has been serving as a mentor for the Hawaiian.
- Based on the assessments of the freshman from Weis, the freshman most likely to find the field, including special teams: LB Manti Te'o, RB Cierre Wood, RB Theo Riddick, K Nick Tausch, LB Zeke Motta, LS Jordan Cowart, WR Shaquelle Evans, WR Roby Toma, P Ben Turk, TE Tyler Eifert.
- Note: Freshman media day, the one day of the year the freshman will be allowed to speak to the media, is scheduled for Friday. I will have more on that tomorrow.
- Junior RB Robert Hughes will be suspended for the first half of the season opener for an incident dating back to last year's USC game.
Information from IrishIllustrated.com and WNDU.com