Let The Good Times Roll

You've got to give Bob Davie credit where the Irish find themselves these days. They began two-a-day drills for the entire squad Thursday and, really, there are few question marks. The Irish are a solid, talented team; and this is always the time of year for optimism. So, let's get giddy. Why can't the Irish go all the way?

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 August 16, 2001

 Davie Deserves Credit

By The IrishEyes.Com NewsService

NOTRE DAME, Ind. (IE) – You've got to like where Bob Davie has brought the Irish. And even though it's easy for the optimism to flow on Media Day, you get the idea that Davie's Irish are a pretty good team going into two-a-days.

There are few question marks, no glaring holes and the kind of depth that makes for healthy competition.

You also have to like the way Davie is putting things this year. While the Irish have a tough road schedule, including their opener at Nebraska, and home games against USC and Tennessee, Davie isn't using that as a built-in excuse for mediocrity.

 Did he even say that the Irish will be hard-put to find themselves an underdog this year?

 Maybe, that's because when the Irish walk into the Sea of Red that will be Nebraska, they already will be used to it after last year's debacle which saw so many Irish "fans" sell (scalp) their tickets to Huskers fans. Regardless, you've got to like the talk Davie talks.

 "I think we are a more talented team that we've ever been," Davie said in addressing a throng of media before starting two-a-day drills with the full squad on Thursday. "I don't shy away from high expectations with this team. No one has higher expectations that I do.

"I'll be honest. I don't think we'll be the underdog all year, based on the kind of players we have, hopefully the kind of coaching staff we have."

Even if the Irish find themselves underdogs at Nebraska, Davie said it doesn't matter.

 "It still comes down to players playing against players. I think we're going to have an excellent opportunity each and every week to go win. That's why my expectations are high going into this season."

There are valid reasons for the optimism; and, hell, we may as well get giddy over it.

Nebraska is still more than three weeks away and the Huskers and Tennessee are the only Irish opponents ranked higher than ND in the primary preseason polls.

The Irish will start with a seasoned quarterback in Matt LoVecchio, and that position can only get better. LoVecchio, who won seven straight games as a freshman last year, also boasted an 11-1 TD-to-INT ratio. He should only be and get better. If Carlyle Holiday or Jared Clark beat LoVecchio out for the job as the season progresses, you've got to figure it's because they would deserve it, bringing more productivity to the offense.

The Irish have three seasoned running backs returning. Davie named Tony Fisher the starter, Terrance Howard No. 2 and Julius Jones, because he brought on the problems himself which led to his ineligibility for spring practice, as No. 3.

 There are three seasoned fullbacks, although Mike McNair, who everyone wants to have a breakout year, has yet to have a carry in a game.

The offensive line has seasoned tackles returning in Jordan Black and Kurt Vollers, a bear of a center who is All America material in Jeff Faine, Sean Mahan and either Sean Milligan or John Teasdale at guards. It is the best offensive line since Mike Rosenthal & Co. stood as sentinels in 1998. All of them are in the NFL and this year's offensive line is probably more athletic than that one. 

 The receivers are potentially explosive with David Givens, Javin Hunter and Arnaz Battle. John Owens will be a tough blocker at tight end.

 The only real question marks are whether the defensive line with potential standouts like Grant Irons and Anthony Weaver will live up to billing; who will replace Anthony Denman at the all-important Will linebacker; and whether the Irish can find a cornerback opposite Shane Walton who can stand up to a strong passing game when they face it.

One of the most interesting battles in training camp will be between Clifford Jefferson, speedy Vontez Duff and a healthy Jason Beckstrom at cornerback.

Indeed, Davie deserves credit for assembling this team which is long on experience, depth and maturity. There are 29 seniors, nine of them fifth-year seniors.

 Davie believes that so long as the chemistry and unselfishness are the hallmarks of the team, the Irish have the talent to go far. Certainly, another BCS bowl is not out of the question; and if lightning strikes in Lincoln (it really can) this could be one helluva season.

"I feel good where we are," said Davie. "We have some good people, got some good players. I'm jacked up. I mean, I'm anxious to play."

 So are we!

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