Mike's Mailbag

I'm back with another round of your questions answered for Mike's Mailbag.

Hey Mike: What do you think of Luke Schmidt's future? Is he going to play fullback? A FB/HB hybrid? Just wondering because it looks like Asaph will be here three more years after his injury this year. What are your thoughts?

Mike: I assume you mean Asaph would file for a medical redshirt, thus be granted another year of eligibility? I assume that could happen, but I also think it would depend on who's on the roster and playing at the time. I think Schmidt has a lot of potential as a big back. But the key for him is to learn how to block and catch. Ultimately, I think Weis would like to find a big back who can run, catch and most importantly block. Will that be Schwapp or Schmidt or someone else? I think any medical redshirt for Schwapp would probably depend on how much he's playing at the time. Just my two cents.

How many games will we win next year based on new players on offense?

Mike: That's a tough question to answer because I really don't know how certain players will progress over the winter, spring and summer. All I do know is most teams who usher in a new quarterback usually struggle offensively. But then you have a team like Texas, who started a new quarterback and had a pretty impressive season offensively. But Texas also had some excellent offensive linemen returning, all their running backs, and some great receivers.

The Irish will lose at least three offensive linemen, Quinn and both starting receivers. I believe if the Irish can get some good offensive line play, maybe the drop off won't be as bad, but I also feel that it's probably too soon to ask these young players to fill such big shoes. Defensively, the Irish will likely struggle as well with losing at least three out of their four starters up front. There doesn't appear to be anyone who's an obvious choice to start next year along the defensive line, which is never a good sign. Games are won and lost in the trenches, and the Irish might be suspect on both sides of the ball when it comes to line play. Knowing this, I'd say the Irish will be lucky to win eight or nine games next year.

Can you compare our LB recruits over the last two years to any former players? Do their films remind you of anyone else's films who we would all know?

Mike: That's another interesting question. When I look at a guy like Toryan Smith, I don't really know of anyone he reminds me of recently at Notre Dame. He reminds me of your typical middle linebacker, and the Irish probably haven't had a true middle linebacker in awhile. The guy looks like he was born to play the position. Morrice Richardson is hard to classify because he played defensive end in high school. To me he looks like a faster version of Jimmy Friday. I just hope he isn't a "tweener" in the fact that he's not big enough to play defensive end and not quick or instinctual enough to play linebacker. So far it appears he'll stay at linebacker, but as I mentioned, he hasn't played the position much, and there is quite a learning curve at linebacker.

Aaron Nagel reminds me a lot of a guy like Joe Brockington, who I thought was a pretty good prospect coming out of high school. Brockington has had back problems that have hindered his development a bit. Joe also played running back, but it was clear he was more of a defensive player. Nagel has more quickness and probably overall speed than Brockington, and seems to like to hit as well. Quickness will be his game.

As for Steve Paskorz, we really don't know. He's been more of a running back at the high school level, and we don't have a lot of film on him at linebacker. He certainly shows he's a good athlete on film, but there aren't enough clips of him playing defense to really compare him to anyone.

The thing that bothers me the most about this is three out of the four have never really played linebacker that much, but their films certainly show quickness and athleticism. But like Notre Dame's current secondary, I don't think you can have an entire group of players playing in a unit who have never really played the position before. Some will work out, but not all. I'm hoping the Irish start landing more players who played the position exclusively out of high school like Smith. I do believe the other three have great potential, but I do think you're taking a gamble as they haven't played the position a great deal prior to coming to Notre Dame.

Mike, with ND's problematic DT recruiting, how about beefing up linebackers to play D-line ala Holtz? I'm sure Charlie is aware of this...your thoughts?

Mike: I'm not sure if you're suggesting taking players on ND's current roster and adding weight or recruiting players to do that with. I'll answer it both ways.

I really don't see any good candidates on Notre Dame's roster or coming in this recruiting class that you could do that with. Scott Smith might be the one exception, but even he would have to put on 50 pounds. Maurice Crum, Joe Brockington, Anthony Vernaglia, Toryan Smith and Morrice Richardson all are under 240 pounds. You just can't throw 50 pounds on a guy in a year or two. I really don't think you can do that with any of these players.

Notre Dame could look at doing that with some future guys. It appears teams are going with smaller and quicker guys on defense. You still see some 300-pounders inside on some teams, but you also see a lot of guys weighing 280 pounds playing inside. However, you'd have to find a big linebacker—a guy who's likely 240 already and has plenty of room to grow—and then add the weight. Also, most linebackers frown at the idea of playing defensive tackle. Most consider linebacker to be ultimate position and want to make the big hits.

I know Jeff has a feeling Romine may be leaning to ND right now. What do you think? Also, what about Lorenzo Edwards? I haven't heard much on him in past couple of weeks.

Mike: I think the Irish have a good shot to land Romine. I honestly think the only thing holding up the process is the distance, and he wants to announce at the Army game. I'm still not 100 percent sold ND has overcome the distance objection, but we'll see. I think there's a better than average chance they will. I do think ND might have the lead in this race, but I wouldn't say it's an overwhelming lead, and I'm not sure that the distance obstacle has been overcome.

As for Edwards, it's hard to really say because Lorenzo doesn't say much to anyone about it. He's not dropping any clues either way. I do think ND has a slight lead for him. I also feel ND's main competition might actually be Michigan and not Florida. I'm going to guess he already knows where he's going but just doesn't want to tip his hand before he announces.

How many students will we sign this season?

Mike: I assume you mean how many student/athletes in this recruiting class? That's another tough question because I'm not certain which school each guy will choose that's left on the board. Notre Dame could take as many as nine players left on their board, but I don't believe they'll get to nine. I think they'll likely add another six or so to the current 16 committed.

What are you hearing about possible position changes for the spring? Will Chris Little wear the gold helmet?

Mike: I really haven't heard much as far as position changes. I wouldn't be surprised to see Travis Thomas move back to running back. I'm guessing the plan will be to move Toryan Smith to the middle, Maurice Crum back to SAM, and then let Joe Brockington man the WILL position. As for other changes, about the only thing I could see would be maybe a running back or wide receiver moved to defense.

As for Chris Little, I believe he will choose Notre Dame, but I'm not certain of that yet. I'd feel a lot better about it if he answered our calls. ?

Have you heard anything on the progress of John Carlson and his potential availability for the Sugar Bowl? I see him as being a big key to our success against the Tigers.

Mike: I've heard he should be ready to go. I agree with you about Carlson. I think he's vital to Notre Dame's success. He opens up everything for the Irish in the passing game, and he also helps in the running game. Defenders cannot sneak up to the line of scrimmage with Carlson in the game because he'll run right past the defender and hit them for a big play. One main problem for the Irish is Carlson has been left in far too often to block because the Irish struggle at times with pass protection. If Carlson is left in to block, that negates what he can do in the passing game. But just having him in the game puts doubt and fear into the opposition and teams are more reluctant to send blitzers for fear Carlson will make them pay. He'll also likely be the next quarterback's favorite target next year if he comes back. Irish fans have to hope and pray he does because he'll be a big part of the offense next season as well.

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