One of those faces, offensive tackle Sam Young, has elevated his status the past few weeks. Head coach Charlie Weis announced last week that Young, all 6-7, 292 pounds of him, would start against Georgia Tech in his first game ever in an Irish uniform at right tackle. He's the first true freshman to start a season opener on the offensive line in Notre Dame history.
But Young is unavailable to the media for now per Weis's policy. The Irish head coach first wants the freshman to show a little something in the early part of the season. If Young is as good as advertised, the media won't have to wait too long. Offensive line coach John Latina said usually the learning process takes a bit for freshmen.
"When you first start with any freshman, they're lost," Latina said, who has never coached a freshman offensive lineman that started their first collegiate game. "It's a new language and a new terminology. There are more plays and numbers to learn in our system than compared to most high school systems. Just the volume of learning the plays and the volume of learning the defenses and different blitzes. Having a few additional weeks since we started has really helped him get those reps over and over again.
"He's come out to be the best player at that position. Just like anyone who is starting, it's the best player you have at that position. Anybody who starts earns it and he certainly has."
"He's the starter," center John Sullivan said. "He'll be held accountable just like any other player on the line. But he's been doing a good job so far."
*The play calling duties have switched hands down at Georgia Tech. Head coach Chan Gailey handled them in his first four years with the Yellow Jackets. The results were less than impressive as the best they have finished was 57th in total offense in 2002. Even more remarkably, this was before wide receiver Calvin Johnson set foot on campus.
This season, offensive coordinator Patrick Nix will handle the calls. Nix went to the University of Auburn, where in 1995 he led the Tigers to a 8-4 mark. He turned to coaching and was the head man at Henderson State for two years (1999-2000). In this time, Nix's offense set 18 school records, four Gulf South Conference marks and three national records. Now, he handles the Yellow Jackets play calling duties.
Nix isn't the only coach on the Georgia Tech staff with a new job description. Special teams coach Charles Kelly, also an Auburn alum, spent the last four seasons as Nicholas State's defensive coordinator before coming to Atlanta this year. Weis, always the tape junkie, had a few of his staff members dig up the film for him to view on Nix's Henderson State days and Kelly's time at Nicholas State.
"I wasn't the one who did the research for that, thank God," Weis said. "I was the one who was the recipient of the footage showing up. They came up with both of them. You don't know if that's the way it's going to go. But I know there are a couple of different philosophies that they could use on offense and special teams. As a coach, you have so much time to get prepared during training camp. You can try to prepare for everything. But there's always going to be some uncertainty and things you'll have to adjust to on that fly."
*There is still no decision as to whether offensive lineman Michael Turkovich will make the trip to Atlanta. The sophomore from Bedford, PA hurt his head/neck a few weeks back in practice and was taken off the field in an ambulance. He returned to practice last week and is listed as the backup to Ryan Harris at left tackle. A decision will be made later in the week with safety being the overriding concern.
"I'm not bringing him unless there is no risk to the kid," Weis said.
*The recruiting season never ends. A night game on Saturday allows the coaching staff to hit the road. After Thursday's practice, seven Notre Dame coaches will travel to various parts of the country to handle recruiting efforts on Friday. The NCAA allows six days in season for coaching staffs to visit potential recruits.
*One of the Notre Dame coaches is making a trip back to his old stomping grounds. Defensive backs coach Bill Lewis was the head coach of Georgia Tech from 1992-94, racking up a 11-19 record. Also, Lewis spent two years with Gailey from 2000-01 as members of the Miami Dolphins staff.
One more note on Lewis: last year, he watched the games from the press box. This year, he moves down to the sidelines. Defensive coordinator Rick Minter, who was on the field for the 2005 season, will move up to the press box.
*Notre Dame is 99-14-5 (.859) in season openers, including wins in 17 of the past 20 years.
*Maybe just a typo, maybe not. In the media notes handed out this week from the Georgia Tech Sports Information Department, it lists Weis's first year record as 9-3. That's right on the mark. What's not is how they spelled the Irish head coach's name: "Weiss." For the record, it's W-e-i-s.