Dayne Crist (Quarterback)The Situation: Crist is locked into his role (backup quarterback to Jimmy Clausen) as much as any player on the roster. A move from backup to starter can come to fruition in three plausible scenarios – two of which are not pleasant: Clausen is injured; Clausen is incredibly ineffective vs. Nevada and Michigan (and maybe Michigan State); Crist channels Joe Montana circa 1989 in fall camp…with a little Tony Rice in the open-field thrown in for good measure. Failing those scenarios, Dayne Crist is your backup QB for 2009.
Dan McCarthy (Free Safety)Current Situation: McCarthy begins 2009 as the team's backup free safety (behind Harrison Smith). The Irish have three proven football players at safety in Smith, McCarthy's brother, Kyle, and backup strong safety/nickel back Sergio Brown. Dan McCarthy has a bright future as a starting safety at Notre Dame beginning in 2010 but he won't beat out his brother or Smith for a starting role.
Best Case Scenario for McCarthy in ‘09: A similar role to that of his brother in 2007 (when K. McCarthy backed up Tom Zbikowski). D-Mac can learn the position at a leisurely pace, spelling (plausibly both) Smith and K-Mac for a few plays or a series per contest. Its unlikely D-Mac will move into the nickel role ably manned by Sergio Brown (and to be challenged by CB Raeshon McNeil).
Braxston Cave (Center)Current Situation: Cave is the second-string center behind senior Dan Wenger. The sophomore from Mishawaka is not considered a redshirt due to just over two minutes of playing time late last season.
Best Case Scenario for Cave in ‘09: Cave will be the backup center unless Wenger is extremely ineffective and Cave is simultaneously dominant both in fall camp and September practice. Wenger, a senior with two years of eligibility remaining, was recently named as one of 44 preliminary finalists for The Rimington Trophy, which is awarded to the nation's best center at season's end. As the second-string center, Cave of course must be ready for game action and the crucial center/quarterback exchange at a moment's notice. Expect to see Cave receive cautionary playing time throughout the season to minimize the risk of this situation at a crucial, unforeseen time. Though he was technically moved to guard, redshirt freshman Mike Golic, Jr. could return to center to challenge Cave for a spot on the two-deep depth chart if Cave slips or Golic impresses in August.
David Posluszny (Linebacker)Current Situation: Posluszny is listed as the defense's backup MLB entering fall camp. It appears to be the best position for Posluszny (in terms of skill set) both now and in future seasons (competition for the role notwithstanding).
Best Case Scenario for Posluszny: A starting role. Senior Toryan Smith's time has come…but we said that in pre-season 2007 as well. Smith and sophomore Steve Filer are both candidates for the middle linebacker role (Filer finished the spring listed as Brian Smith's backup at weak side linebacker), but Posluszny won't go down without a fight. Middle linebacker is the only position along the Defensive 11 in which no final scenario would completely surprise me.
Jamoris Slaughter (Defensive Back/Special Teams)Current Situation: Slaughter, primarily a safety in high school, is listed as the backup to senior Raeshon McNeil at one cornerback spot.
Best Case Scenario for Slaughter: It will be a crowded house at cornerback in the fall with the return of (redshirt) junior Gary Gary, who missed Spring Practice due to personal reasons. Gray will in all likelihood win back his second string CB role from Slaughter (or any other CB challenger outside of the Walls/McNeil/Blanton trio). As a result, Slaughter appears headed for a third-team CB spot…or a move to safety where he could challenge fellow redshirt freshman Dan McCarthy for the backup free safety role. Regardless, Slaughter should challenge for a gunner role on kick and punt coverage and could likewise inherit the crown as the program's best No. 5 CB since Shawn Wooden circa 1993. (Wooden emerged during the course of the season, winning a role as the defense's dime DB. He recorded the second most important Irish pass break-up of the last 30 seasons, batting down a Charlie Ward pass to secure a win over then No. 1 Florida State.)
John Goodman and Deion Walker (Wide Receivers)The Situation: Goodman and Walker, profiled in greater detail here, are technically third string receivers entering fall camp, but Coach Weis has expressed the need for six viable receivers each week with three (sometimes four, depending on the opponent) generally handling the majority of the snaps. Michael Floyd and Golden Tate have a two-year stranglehold on the top spots, while junior Duval Kamara has an inside track to the coveted third receiver role in the Irish passing game. Both Goodman and Walker have a chance to unseat senior Robby Parris in August and/or early September with a strong showing both in terms of natural pass-catching skills and by exhibiting a working knowledge of crucial route adjustments and the overall offense. The fourth receiver spot ensures several more snaps over the course of the season than those awarded to the fifth wide-out in the rotation.
Best Case Scenario for Goodman: The role of fourth receiver is certainly within his reach and any slippage from Kamara (or a mere repeat of last season) would open the door for a shot at the third spot in the rotation…a de facto starting role in Weis' offense. The multi-talented football player could see additional playing time in special packages (Goodman can throw and run and understands the scheme after taking snaps as the third-team QB in the spring).
Best Case Scenario for Walker: Win the fourth receiver role by proving he can be more reliable than the senior Parris. Walker has ample talent, and he could record in excess of 50 more receptions than does Parris when both of their Irish careers have ended, but he has to prove he's a better all-around option than Parris for the 2009 offense. He'll have to catch everything and show he brings a missing, necessary element to the offense than can Goodman, Parris, or freshman Shaquelle Evans. Baby steps for a college wide receiver often prove the most difficult.