Spring is Here

Spring practice will officially kick off on Wednesday, but Irish fans will get their first taste of spring football today when Irish head coach Charlie Weis and his coaching staff hold another media day this afternoon. What will Irish fans learn about the 2006 season this spring? Here are my thoughts.

We won't like find out a lot about the Irish today, but a few things will probably become clear. Some questions might take longer to answer, and some might not be answered until the fall.

Who is coming back for a fifth year?

A number of players are eligible for a fifth year and we expect a lot of them to be coming back. Players such as Derek Landri, Mike Richardson, Bob Morton and Dan Santucci are certain to be back. There are some that likely won't be back. My best guess is Jeff Jenkins, James Bonelli, Scott Raridon and Jake Carney won't be back for a fifth year.

What will the linebacker situation look like this spring?

This position, more than any, will be wide open this spring. A number of players will be fighting for positions. We'll likely get confirmation of Maurice Crum's back surgery at media day today, and without Crum this spring, all three spots will be wide open. I can't begin to predict who will win these spots in the fall, and we expect fierce competition this spring.

How are players bouncing back from injuries?

The Irish are hoping to have a number of players at full speed this spring. Wide receiver Rhema McKnight recovered from his knee injury and was moving full speed during bowl practices. He should be full speed ahead this spring. However, I expect Weis and wide receiver coach Rob Ianello to use McKnight sparingly this spring to make sure he's ready this fall.

Fifth-year senior defensive end Chris Frome is also recovering from knee surgery. We haven't heard a lot about Frome's condition, but he's had plenty of time to rehab his knee. He'll likely practice this spring, but like McKnight, we expect him to be limited as well.

Linebacker Abdel Banda also appeared to be recovering from a knee injury all season. He also has had plenty of time to recover and should be moving full speed this spring. Banda will have to be full speed if he hopes to land one of the starting spots this fall.

It's now or never

A number of players will be feeling the heat this spring to stake their claim on the depth chart. Some have been patiently waiting their turn. Others might not ever find considerable minutes.

Brian Mattes will compete with freshman Michael Turkovich and Paul Duncan for a starting spot. He'll have to nail down the starting spot this spring or he'll have a battle on his hands this fall.

Mitchell Thomas and Nick Borseti have likely their final shot at landing the middle linebacker position.

Defensive end Nate Schiccatano has one final shot to earn some playing time as a rush end if he's back for his fifth season.

Punter Geoff Price has a golden opportunity to win the punting job. He'll have to make a strong push this spring.

Seniors Joe Brockington, Chase Anastasio, LaBrose Hedgemon, Ashley McConnell and Travis Thomas will also feel some pressure to secure their roster spot. They'll also be fighting for a fifth-year next season if they want one.

Which sophomores might we hear about this spring?

Receiver David Grimes, and offensive tackles Turkovich and Duncan appear to be the most likely to be making a push this spring. I also wouldn't be surprised to see Patrick Kuntz, David Bruton, Ray Herring and Scott Smith to start making some waves at their respected positions.

Will we hear much about the three newest members of the Irish football team?

My guess is we won't hear a lot, at least not early. Like all freshman, James Aldridge, George West and Chris Stewart will be in the "information overload" stage early this spring practice. But, their natural athletic ability will likely show sometime during spring practice and hopefully we'll hear about it. Aldridge, as a running back, is the most likely to shine because of the nature of the position, but West could also make an early impact, especially on special teams.

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