Spring Questions

Life after BQ, day one, begins today. Junior Evan Sharpley, sophomores Demetrius Jones and Zach Frazer, and freshman Jimmy Clausen will pull on their red jerseys for the first time without No. 10 around, beginning a quarterback competition unlikely to be decided until the fall. The four guys with outstanding prep accolades will be the main attraction of Notre Dame's spring football camp.

There is several other things to be excited about and anticipate over the next month, concluding with the Blue-Gold game on April 21. However, just like at quarterback, don't expect many answers until September.

But there are plenty of questions and competitions.

The first day of the quarterback derby coincides with the beginning of the Corwin Brown era. While Irish head coach Charlie Weis is spending most of his time with the offense and particularly the quarterbacks, Brown will be implementing his new 3-4 personnel package with the defense. How will this package work? How will the Irish players adapt to the new defensive coordinator and his system in practice? Who will line up where? Can Brown stop texting Irish recruits for a couple hours to run practice?

Back to the defensive storylines soon.

Jeff Samardzija and Rhema McKnight, two of the most prolific pass catchers in Irish history are gone. Who replaces them? There has been speculation about junior David Grimes having surgery after the season. How healthy is he? D.J. Hord missed all of last season with an Achilles injury, and didn't play much in the Irish's deep receiver rotation two years ago as a freshman. Is the speed and burst that made him an Army All-American still there? Who emerges from the talented sophomore group, going from the scout team to the first team? Senior Darrin Bragg has been playing receiver for two seasons now, and will get another opportunity to finally impact the program.

With Darius Walker deciding to forego his senior season and enter the NFL draft, linebacker Travis Thomas moves back to running back, where he proved to be effective two seasons ago. The fifth-year senior will get plenty of competition for the starting job from sophomores James Aldridge and Munir Prince, and freshman speedster Armando Allen, who could be the homerun threat the Irish have been missing since Julius Jones.

Fullback Asaph Schwapp is back from injury. How far can he drive the sled this spring? Is sophomore Luke Schmidt ready for an advanced role?

Center John Sullivan decided to return for a fifth season. So does Dan Wenger move to guard for a season, with three openings across the offensive line? Is sophomore Sam Young now the team's left tackle, taking over for Ryan Harris, after starting on the right side last season? Paul Duncan shared time with Young, so is he the incumbent at right tackle? Will Michael Turkovich play tackle or guard? How will Wenger and the four other talented sophomores minus Young effect the position battles along the line?

John Carlson is not a question at tight end, but will Konrad Reuland or Will Yeatman create a separation from the other and grab the No. 2 spot. Or will the receivers struggle, and Weis have to use all three tight ends in some capacity come fall.

Things are even more hectic on defense. Trevor Laws could slide over to defensive end from defensive tackle. Who will play tackle if that happens? Is it finally a healthy Derrell Hand? Does the 6-foot-5 367-pound (actually how much does Chris Stewart weigh now?) Stewart move from offensive guard to defensive tackle? Is Justin Brown, Paddy Mullen or Pat Kuntz the other end?

Does the new defensive scheme give career backups Anthony Vernaglia and Dwight Stephenson Jr., an opportunity to finally make an impact at outside linebacker? Maurice Crum will start inside, but who joins him. Joe Brockington is a returning outside linebacker, but in the new formation is more suited for the inside. Toryan Smith will give him strong competition. This defense sounds perfect for sophomore Morrice Richardson. John Ryan and Kallen Wade will also get a look at outside linebacker. Steve Quinn, Nick Borseti, Scott Smith and Kevin Washington get another opportunity to prove they deserve game reps.

In the secondary, Tom Zbikowski isn't going anywhere from his safety spot. David Bruton appears to be Chinedum Ndukwe's predecessor, but will be pushed by Kyle McCarthy, Sergio Brown and Jashaad Gaines. Or does Ray Herring, who played very well when Zbikowski was injured last season, slide over and try to crack the starting lineup.

Terrail Lambert is coming off a solid year as Notre Dame's best cornerback. But sometimes being the team's best cornerback was like being the tallest midget. Ambrose Wooden is a two-year starter, but those guys will have to beat out talented sophomores Darrin Walls and Raeshon McNeil, and freshman Gary Gray, who were all blue-chip recruits. Leo Ferrine has also played a lot of key downs the last two seasons and will be in the mix.

Geoff Price will be one of the nation's best punters, but can kicker Ryan Burkhart and his strong leg become more accurate?

Those are just the spring questions and competitions. Wait until another talented freshman class arrives on campus and impacts the fall depth chart.


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