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FRESHMEN ARRIVE; WHO WILL SHINE FIRST? DE LA GARZA A NO SHOW?
By The IrishEyes.Com NewsService
Bob Davie began welcoming Sunday what is called the Class of 2005, although the betting is several, perhaps many, won't see playing time this season and will end up being redshirted soas to allow full potential to bloom.
The crop of freshmen who arrived on campus Sunday for what many will be an eye-popping transition from the comfort of high school stardom to the reality of big-time college football has not been rated the best of the most recent recruiting classes for the Irish. The so-called experts generally rate this group as outside the Top Ten—as far as those ratings are worth anything.
The 19 players come from 12 states—Florida 2, Georgia 2, New York 2, Minnesota 2, Illinois 2, Indiana, Virginia, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Alabama and Washington. Though their listed positions can easily change, there are three offensive linemen, three running backs, two inside linebackers, two outside linebackers, two tight ends, two wide receivers, two defensive lineman, two cornerbacks and a safety.
One anticipated freshman won't be arriving on Sunday--Aldo De La Garza. A representative of the Notre Dame sports information office told IrishEyes that De La Garza, a big, powerful offensive and defensive lineman, will not be taking his place with the freshmen on Sunday. Another source told IrishEyes that De La Garza's academic credentials may still be held up in the NCAA clearinghouse.
Three members of the arriving group on Sunday are members of the Parade All America team—consensus All America tight end Mark Levoir from Eden Prairie, Minn.; and offensive linemen Zachary Giles from Marshfield, Mass., and Dan Stevenson from Barrington, Ill. Linebacker Corey Mays from Chicago and Giles were named to the USA Today prep All-American second team. Levoir (27th), Mays (54th), Giles (89th) and Stevenson (95th) were among the Top 100 players rated by recruiting guru Tom Lemming.
You can bet this will be a difficult transition for these youngsters. After arriving Sunday, they will meet as a group with coaches and assistants Sunday evening, spend their first night away from their families in a dorm on campus, wake up to a group breakfast and suit up for their first practice scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday.
They will also practice Monday afternoon and go through double sessions again on Tuesday when the upperclassmen are due to arrive. Media Day and Fan Appreciation Day is Wednesday with the first day of two-a-days for the entire team scheduled for Thursday.
In the past three years, Davie has gotten at least one workhorse and potential star out of his incoming freshman class. This year, it looks different.
In 1998, Anthony Weaver stepped to the forefront at defensive end, playing more minutes, by far, than any other freshman (175), starting 10 of 11 games and finishing with 28 total tackles. Weaver was named to the 1998 All Freshman first team by Football News and, if things go right for him and the Irish, could be poised for an All-American year this season.
In 1999, Julius Jones made major contributions for the Irish, and not only on special teams where he led Notre Dame in both kickoff and punt return yardage. He finished with 375 yards on 65 carries from scrimmage for a 5.8 average yards per carry, better than his 4.1 last season when he was hampered by injuries.
Last year, no one can forget the understated and unlikely heroics of quarterback Matt LoVecchio. It wasn't his sizzle that startled, but the stability he showed after stepping in for the injured Arnaz Battle after a brief experiment with Gary Godsey failed. The intangibles and maturity that LoVecchio showed in his freshman year were truly remarkable. He threw 11 TDs and only one interception in starting seven games, and without his consistency and ball protection instincts, the Irish would have never made it to that BCS bowl we would all rather forget.
So, it isn't often that freshmen compete in a big way, and there will be less of a chance this year. It is not so much a reflection on the quality of the incoming class as it is on the talent and quality of the rest of the team.
Davie says this has the potential to be the most talented team since he's been head coach. Except for question marks at inside linebacker and the perennial (it seems) question mark at cornerback, Davie will bring a pretty settled team onto the practice field later this week.
Oh sure, Davie will still tinker at quarterback. He would like nothing better than to use LoVecchio, Carlyle Holiday, Jared Clark and—even, Arnaz Battle—in situations to keep the opponent guess and off balance. But there are few needs that freshmen have to fill this season, or will be asked to, and that bodes well for the Irish and their fans.
Davie has taken bows for replenishing what he has said was a talent-depleted squad when he took over as head coach, and he does deserve some plaudits for beefing up the depth.
As we mentioned, Mark LeVoir, who comes in as a tight end, is the most highly touted of the incoming freshmen. Listed at 6-7 and 310 pounds, he is more likely to end up in the offensive line, and not this season. Dwight Ellick is the fastest, reputed to be in the high 4.20s for the 40-yard dash, but you can't always believe those times coming out of high school. Ellick, from Tampa, Fla., is 5-11, 170 pounds. Maybe, down the road, he can give the Irish the help they need at cornerback.
Here's the list of incoming freshmen:
Brian Beidatsch, DL, 6-4, 265 Milwaukee, Wis, (Marquette);
Lionel Bolen, CB, 6-1, 185, Weshampton, N.J. (Rancocas Valley);
Quentin Burrell, S, 6-1, 185, Decatur, Ga. (Southwest DeKalb);
Carlos Campbell, WR, 6-1, 190, Hampton, Va. (Hampton);
Dwight Ellick, CB, 5-11, 170, Tampa, Fla., (Wharton);
Zachary Giles, OL, 6-4, 285, Marshfield, Mass. (Marshfield);
Ryan Grant, RB, 6-1, 198, Nyack, N.Y. (Don Bosco Prep);
Brandon Hoyte, ILB, 6-0, 219, Parlin, N.J. (Sayreville War Memorial);
Cory Jones, RB, 6-2, 215, Seattle, Wash., (Kennedy);
Darin Mitchell, OL, 6 –4, 285, Jonesboro, Ga., (Lovejoy);
Rashon Powers-Neal, OLB, 6-3, 215, St. Paul, Minn., (Cretin-Derham);
Matt Root, TE, 6-6, 225, Tallahassee, Fla., (North Florida Christian);
Matt Shelton, WR, 6-1, 170 (Collierville, Tenn. (Collierville);
Dan Stevenson, OL, 6-5, 300, Barrington, Ill., (Barrington);
Jeff Thompson, DL, 6-5, 265, Granger, Ind., (Penn);
Justin Tuck, OLB, 6-5, 215, Kellyton, Ala., (Central Coosa County);
Marcus Wilson, RB, 5-11, 180, Staten Island, N.Y. (Poly Prep).
IrishEyes and Irish fans wish them the best in their Notre Dame experience.