One would think these football players would get a nice break from now until spring ball. The reality of the situation is most players will be working harder than ever. The graduation of Gerome Sapp, Shane Walton, Ryan Roberts, Jordan Black and Sean Mahan will leave the Irish searching for leaders. Losing Jeff Faine to the draft and Brennan Curtin also will have an impact with the loss of their leadership. Some players will have to step up and take that leadership role.
Courtney Watson is a leader, Vontez Duff and Glenn Earl look like a leaders. Cedric Hilliard and Darrell Campbell appear to be leaders. Who is going to lead on offense? The Irish need to find some players that will step into the leadership role on offense and carry this team through winter lifting. These potential leaders will have to demonstrate that leadership in the weight room. An offensive lineman has to take charge and get these younger offensive linemen to make that sacrifice. Omar Jenkins will have to motivate the younger receivers. Ryan Grant will have to motivate the backs. Carlyle Holiday appears to be a leader but he needs to lead the entire offense. Holiday doesn't need to get stronger but he must lead this team to make that sacrifice. I would suggest it's in his physical best interest to motivate this offense.
One positive of this team from last year was they appeared to be in great physical condition. Irish fans didn't see this team wear down at the end of games like we had in years past. This team was in excellent physical condition and to have the same kind of success as last year, they will have to be in even better physical condition. Just take a peek at the first 8 games on the schedule next year. This Notre Dame team will face 8 2002 bowl teams right out of the gate. The first 8 games will likely be the most difficult schedule in recent memory.
Motivation will be critical in the next few months. The offensive line has some serious depth problems right now. Only Sean Milligan would be a guy who would be considered having starting experience. Jim Molinaro and Dan Stevenson did see a lot of valuable minutes last year but the Irish will have to develop and center and another tackle. They have no clear-cut back up behind any of the starters either so a lot of positions will be open and fought for in the spring. A commitment to the weight room this winter will help these younger players with the needed size and strength to compete in the spring and fall. The staff will have to work on technique during the spring.
One thing I am certain of is that Notre Dame will not be a great offensive team until they have clear leadership and a solid offensive line. For the Irish to have the same type of success as 2002, they will need to set the tone this winter in the lifting program. Hopefully we will see positive results in spring ball.