Notre Dame Football: Freshman Impact

cfb360 .comSenior Analyst IJuly 3, 2008

By Radio Man - www.cfb360.com 

Remember the name Michael Floyd.  Soon it will not matter.  He is going to be making big plays for the Irish from the outset of his Notre Dame career—sorry, San Diego State defense.

After a truly exhausting recruiting process, Floyd decided to attend Notre Dame despite overtures from the likes of Ohio State, Michigan, Miami, Wisconsin, Florida, and the home state Gophers.

That's just the beginning of the story.  It will continue to progress if all that has been said about Floyd—albeit privately, based on the early returns from his summer workouts at Notre Dame—is legitimate.

When asked about the current team and who looked good, without hesitation the voice on the phone said, "Michael Floyd.  He looks really good."

Think about it.  The kid is only a freshman, and he was the first player mentioned.  Now that, my friends, is a good sign for Floyd's football future, and Notre Dame's.

Another receiving target to watch for will be Kyle Rudolph.  The tight end from Cincinnati, Ohio was the nation's no. 1 prep tight end last year and chose Notre Dame over Ohio State and many others.  Rudolph was a very good high school basketball player as well, a good sign of his athletic prowess.

Look for Rudolph to be a weapon in the Notre Dame offense this upcoming season, especially on passing downs and in the red zone.  At roughly 6'7", Rudolph will have a decided advantage against any defender when quarterback Jimmy Clausen decides to throw a "jump ball" towards Rudolph.

Just because Rudolph is listed as a tight end does not mean he will take snaps from a three-point stance at all times.  Rudolph's size, athleticism, and excellent hands will allow him to line up out wide and be another option in three, four, and five wide receiver formations.

Moving to the defense, Ethan Johnson spurned Southern California and Michigan to come to Notre Dame.  The 6'5", 275-pound defensive end brings a skill set that quite frankly does not usually inhabit Notre Dame straight out of high school, as the Irish traditionally struggle to find talented defensive linemen with the academic profile to match Notre Dame as well.  Johnson fit the bill, and Irish fans are going to enjoy his style of play.

Do not assume Johnson's 275-pound frame makes him just another big run stuffer.  Johnson can get after the quarterback quite well.  His size will in fact help against the run.

That's a rarity for a true freshman defensive lineman: a talent that is good enough to play a considerable amount of snaps against the pass and the run.  Usually a freshman defensive lineman is geared more towards one skill set or the other.  Not Johnson.  He will contribute early and often to the Irish defense.

Notre Dame needed an influx of front seven talent, and it succeeded by adding two excellent prospects from Chicago: Darius Fleming and Steve Filer, both physically capable of lining up at linebacker or placing one hand on the ground and playing defensive end.

At least for now, Filer will be playing the JACK position, which is the inside weak side linebacker position in the 3-4, but could also move around in the 4-3 defensive alignment.

Fleming will likely play outside linebacker during the plays in which Notre Dame lines up in a 3-4 alignment and move to defensive end during plays in which Notre Dame lines up in a 4-3 alignment.  His versatility will be welcomed.

Do not be surprised to see Filer play outside linebacker (with the intent to rush the passer) or defensive end during passing downs either.  Both players possess outstanding quickness.

Several other freshmen could make an impact at Notre Dame as well, including Robert Blanton, Deion Walker, John Goodman, and Sean Cwynar, just to name a few.

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