By Radio Man
The Notre Dame 2007 youth movement proved to be a bad thing and a good thing. Stating the obvious, many talented freshmen and sophomores will be better prepared to play against upper echelon Division I competition. With that said, an even better recruiting class will joining the Fighting Irish this weekend, as the Class of 2008 officially enrolls for summer school at the University of Notre Dame. Here is a look at a handful of the players that should compete for playing time during the 2008 season.
Michael Floyd – Because wide receiver is one of the easiest positions for a freshman to learn, combined with Floyd's raw skills and Notre Dame's uncompromising need for playmakers not named Golden Tate, Floyd holds the honor as the most likely to start from day one at Notre Dame. Regardless of when Floyd makes his first start, he will play early and often. He's special.
Ethan Johnson – Despite missing his senior season to help further rehab a leg injury, Johnson will be ready to go this summer and compete for playing time come early August when the Irish open up fall camp. Johnson's father recently revealed on an Internet message board that his son was 6-5, 275-pounds and healthy. Few players that possess Johnson's size or strength can also boast his first-step quickness off of the snap of the football. And this just in: Notre Dame needs impact defensive lineman in a desperate way. Do not be surprised if Johnson is placed into the starting rotation or even the starting lineup at strong side defensive end before the end of September. As a side note, a certain Pete Carroll had Johnson as his no. 1 West Coast last year regardless of position. That's a good sign.
Steven Filer – How quickly Flier relates to the defensive packages from the 3-4 and 4-3 will determine the amount of playing time earned. Filer's athleticism and speed cannot be denied. A likely scenario finds Filer coming into games and being used as a blitzer from one of the insider linebacker positions.
Darius Fleming – Fleming comes off of the edge with more than just speed; he utilizes his hands well to ward off offensive lineman and tight ends. While it would be a stretch to write Fleming into the two deep at outside linebacker or defensive end, his pass rushing prowess cannot be overlooked. Therefore, he should play this fall.
Kyle Rudolph – 6-7 tight ends with the hands of a top-notch wide receiver do not come around often. Meet young Mr. Rudolph. Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis often utilizes tight ends, and Rudolph can also be used as a big wide receiver. Look for Rudolph to become a prime target in the red zone on "jump ball" passes against smaller defenders.
Hafis Williams – One of the more underrated defensive linemen in the country, in large part due to the lack of availability of his high school film, Williams possesses excellent feet for a 285 pound defensive lineman. He could play nose guard in the 3-4, perhaps even the strong side defensive end in the 3-4, or defensive tackle in the 4-3. Notre Dame has little to no depth at nose guard behind incumbent Ian Williams. The door is open for Hafis to play.
Brandon Newman – Like Williams, the lack of nose guard depth will aid Newman's opportunity to play this upcoming football season. Built like a compact car, Newman utilizes strong legs to penetrate between offensive linemen. He truly fits the 3-4 nose guard role well.
Robert Blanton – Some guys just have a knack for blocking punts and field goals. Blanton goes beyond the ordinary, as he constantly penetrated protection schemes to find himself blocking another kick during high school games. Notre Dame has a plethora of cornerbacks moving into the 2008 season, but nobody on the Notre Dame roster can boast the type of kick blocking abilities Blanton provided during his high school career. In addition, Blanton fits the mold of a boundary corner, i.e. the short side of the field. Look for Blanton to compete for playing time by the end of this season. Blanton is a competitor.