Player's Preview: Freshmen on Offense

On August 8 the Notre Dame football team will officially report for practice and while the coaches will be quoted often that every position is an open competition, it's likely that only three spots on offense and six on defense will be an open competition. Which players have a shot at early playing time?

In the weeks leading up to the start of fall camp we will take a look at each player and discuss what they have done thus far in their playing careers at Notre Dame and their potential for earning playing time in the 2005 season.

Days of Adjustment

When the freshman class signed their letter of intent back in February, all of them discussed their desire to play in their initial year. The reality of the situation is most will need a year to add strength and adjust to the speed of college football. On top of the physical adjustments the players will go through, they will also need to learn schemes that are much more complex than they played in during their high school careers.

The Prospects

Evan Sharpley: Evan ended up being Scout's No. 18-rated quarterback, but one must remember that last year's quarterback class was very deep. Evan is very similar to Miami's recent commitment Pat Devlin, which might explain why Notre Dame didn't pursue Devlin. Evan has good mobility, he has very good accuracy, a good touch and he's a smart player. He won't earn the starting position, but with Darrin Bragg and David Wolke as the only other scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, it is very possible Sharpley could become Notre Dame's No. 2 quarterback. Weis will need to get the second quarterback experience, so there is a chance that we will see Evan Sharpley at some point this year.

D.J. Hord: If you're going to put your money on one guy in the freshman class to play meaningful minutes outside of special teams play, you might place it on Hord. He was Notre Dame's highest rated recruit (Scout's No. 12 wide receiver) and D.J. has good size. The adjustment from high school to college isn't as big for the wide receiver position, and you see freshman wide receivers play often. Maurice Stovall, Rhema McKnight, Matt Shelton and Jeff Samardzija have a lock on the top four receiver slots, but Weis will likely use five and six receivers, and with the transfer of Chris Vaughn, the door swings open a little further.

David Grimes: David is a smaller receiver at 5-9, 160 pounds - he's your Deion Branch type receiver. He doesn't have blazing speed, but he appears to have excellent quickness, outstanding hands, and will catch everything thrown his way. Although there is opportunity to grab some playing time at wide receiver, it's likely that David will use the year to add size and strength. I'm very interested in seeing Grimes during fall camp.

Asaph Schwapp: Of the freshman, Asaph is probably the guy that is most physically ready to play, as he's a mass of muscle at 240 pounds. His biggest hurdle to playing time will be his ability to learn the Charlie Weis' offense, which will be no small feat. Weis likes to throw to the backs, so he'll need to show that he can catch the ball. Fifth-year senior Rashon Powers-Neal will handle all the meaningful minutes for the Irish, and Asaph will battle Ashley McConnell for the back-up duties.

Joey Hiben: If you're a tight end you couldn't walk into a better situation. Charlie Weis likes his tight ends and he'll likely use them all. Anthony Fasano, Marcus Freeman, and John Carlson will likely get the lion's share of playing time, but Hiben is capable of squeezing into the lineup at some point during the season. Joey has good size already, but the question will be his strength. His high school didn't have a weight program, which left Hiben the responsibility of motivating and lifting on his own.

Paul Duncan: Any Notre Dame fan reading this article knows that Notre Dame has depth issues up and down the offensive line. Mark LeVoir and Ryan Harris will start at right and left tackle respectively., and they have been relatively injury free their entire careers. Unless pressed into duty, almost all offensive linemen need a year at the training table and a year in the weight room. Expect Duncan to use the year to learn and grow. He's a younger freshman, so the physical transition will be even more difficult.

Michael Turkovich: Turkovich is probably further along in his development than is Duncan, but he'll need to add some size and strength before he's ready to play. Like Duncan, Michael will likely end up at offensive tackle. He'll need to the entire year in the strength and conditioning program to develop the size and strength needed to play at the college level.

Next we'll take a look at the freshmen defensive players who will be reporting in August and their prospects of seeing playing time this fall. Top Stories