Tight End Should be a Strength

The Irish will have to replace former two-year starter Anthony Fasano at tight end this season, but dont' feel sorry for Notre Dame as seniors John Carlson and Marcus Freeman should fill the void quite nicely. Wil Irish fans see a third tight end play this season?

Replacing the steady performance of Anthony Fasano won't be an easy task for Irish head coach Charlie Weis, but the second-year coach certainly has plenty of talent at the position heading into fall camp.

A number of Irish fans expect senior John Carlson to jump into the starting role left by Fasano for this season. The 6-foot-6, 255-pound Carlson certainly has the size and probably even more speed than Fasano, but his blocking has probably been his most noticeable weakness prior to 2006.

Carlson has displayed his quickness a number of times on the field, but only caught seven passes in 2005 for an average of just eight yards per reception. Those numbers will have to drastically improve to become a productive player in the Weis offense. But more importantly, it's in the running game where Carlson will have to improve to help a struggling Irish running game that featured just 3.6 yards per carry in 2005.

Irish head coach Charlie Weis singled out the play of Marcus Freeman over the spring saying he was the one player he was most impressed with after a spring practice session—a big compliment coming a guy like Weis.

But like Carlson, Freeman also has little playing experience heading into the 2006 season. The fifth-year senior has just five receptions in his Notre Dame career and didn't catch a pass in 2005.

Freeman certainly looks the part as he appears to have added to his 6-foot-4, 245-pound listed frame. We recently spotted Freeman out and about and he looks to be about 6-foo-4 and around 260 plus pounds heading into fall camp.

The Irish will have to count on both Freeman and Carlson to carry the load this season. Both players have shown flashes of potential, but neither has shown the kind of consistency Irish fans had grown accustomed to when watching Fasano. How well each block this season could play a major factor in how much we see each in the games in 2006.

Behind Freeman and Carlson, the Irish have just two true freshmen to provide depth. Konrad Reuland comes to Notre Dame with the most press after being selected as one of the nation's best tight ends in the 2005 recruiting class. Reuland, known for his blocking as well as his receiving, has some tools that Weis might find very useful in 2006. Will Reuland have the strength to play against the nation's best defensive ends? That will be an important question and likely the deciding factor as to if we'll see the California native on the field in 2006.

The surprise so far has been fellow California native Will Yeatman. Yeatman, as most Irish Eyes readers know, was originally scheduled to attend Notre Dame on a lacrosse scholarship but was granted a football scholarship when former Irish tight end Joey Hiben decided to drop football. Yeatman, listed at 6-foot-6, 255 pounds, is already a large man and is definitely more known for his blocking than his receiving skills. However, early returns have been that Yeatman shows surprising quickness, blocking technique and hands for a freshman. Don't be surprised to see Yeatman on the field this season.

The Irish also have walk-on Tim Gritzman returning to the team at the tight end position. He could also play a factor in the depth chart starting in fall camp.

Replacing Fasano won't be easy. My biggest fear is replacing his blocking as I believe both Freeman and Carlson will be receiving threats in 2006. How well these two can handle their blocking assignments might be the real difference in how explosive this 2006 Irish offense can be.

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