Player Observations: Part II

Part II of our stream-of-consciousness observations of every Irish player looks at the skill position players who saw playing time in '09.

Skill Position Starters

  • Jimmy Clausen: Arguably the best pocket passer in Notre Dame history but posted just a 13-12 W-L mark over the last two seasons…kept the Irish in every game despite playing with turf toe injury suffered in Week Three…injury was greatly detrimental to his pocket mobility that had evolved into a strength through the season's first 10 quarters…we've likely seen his last game in an Irish uniform as he's projected to be a high first round draft pick (by Mel Kiper, Jr.).
  • Golden Tate: The best playmaker in South Bend since Rocket Ismail…put the offense on his back for a 5.5 game stretch when Michael Floyd was out of the lineup…his 2009 season was the best (offensive) statistical season by a non-quarterback in team history…his return to South Bend for his senior season ranks as the key off-season question outside of the team's search for its next coach.
  • Michael Floyd: Superman when healthy; merely a top-level receiver when he returned from a broken clavicle in Week Nine…ranks among top 10 skill position players in the nation for 2010…Irish were a shocking 2-5 in games that he played (1-4 in games he finished)…could be the nation's best pure wide receiver as a junior next year.
  • Armando Allen: Evolved from head-shaking, stumbling runner and default starter as a sophomore to essential cog as a junior for an explosive but inefficient offensive attack…Allen made himself into a complete running back as a junior and is the clear frontrunner for the starting job next season despite the presence of faster, more explosive backs in the classes below…will likely rank as Notre Dame's all-time pass catcher among running backs by October 2010.
  • Kyle Rudolph: Should enter 2010 as the nation's top tight end prospect…a difference-maker and clutch red zone target that saved the Irish from defeat in consecutive wins over Purdue and Washington…much-improved from his rookie season as a blocker though has yet to reach former Irish tight end Anthony Fasano's level in that regard…the potential trio of Rudolph/Floyd/Tate would rank as the nation's best next season and easily the top triple-threat trio of pass catchers in program history.
  • Rob Parris: Never shook the injury bug but showed up in the clutch in three consecutive games vs. Purdue, Washington, and USC…should have been a more consistent blocker considering his frame/experience…was not the same effective player in November after battling injuries late vs. USC and again early vs. Boston College.
  • Duval Kamara: The team's best blocking wide receiver, both in-line and downfield…ship has sailed on Kamara the downfield target but can still earn yards after the catch with frame and strength…appears to need to catch a pass early to be fully engaged in the offense…quality No. 3 receiver entering spring drills and a healthy Kamara would likely hold off Goodman/Evans/Walker trio entering fall camp.

Rotation Players

  • Robert Hughes: Showed flashes of old form vs. Purdue, Washington and Washington State but disappeared again in start vs. Navy…ran hard in season-finale at Stanford…at his best through the first hole and as a one-cut runner grinding out 8-13 yard gains…not a true pounder or effective short-yardage back but could wear down a defense over the course of 20 carries if he focuses and hones his skill as a north-south runner.
  • Theo Riddick: Quickest feet among the quintet of running backs who saw action…showed much more potential as a true half back than as a kick returner…already a decent blocker which gives him a chance to challenge Allen for starting role next season…could be dynamic on screen passes with more seasoning/timing…never breaks stride on cutbacks, an un-coachable quality, though someone should definitely teach him not to jump so often lest he become part of the turf.
  • Mike Ragone: Up-and-down effort as a blocker in the run game (first up, then down) which makes little sense on the surface…could use some attention to detail on the simple catches…showed flash of purported speed and put for the hustle play of the season with full-field sprint-and-catch of WSU Safety on blocked extra point return…ultra-competitive and intense player has two seasons of eligibility remaining.
  • John Goodman: Jack-of-all-trades for the Irish offense in his first season as a regular…looked like a threat as a sprint-option QB and punt return but needs to polish his routes to beat out Kamara for the No. 3 role next season…three years of eligibility remaining.
  • Bobby Burger: Excelled as a lead blocking fullback in the off-set I prior to suffering a neck injury vs. Washington State…sat out 2006 season at Dayton and transfer year ('08) at ND and can thus apply for final season of eligibility in '10.
  • Jonas Gray: Fell out of favor after early season fumble and ensuing week issues in pass protection…played his best half of the season in the opening stanza vs. Purdue…new regime will definitely benefit a player like Gray who had fallen behind Allen/Hughes/Riddick in the immediate pecking order.
  • James Aldridge: Converted 2009's opening 4th Down attempt on the season's opening drive and was poised for what appeared to be a solid season as the team's fullback/solo-back in certain sets but suffered a 3rd Quarter shoulder injury in the season opener and was never back at peak performance…graduated last May (in 3.5 years) with a degree in psychology.

Other Offensive Contributors

  • Dayne Crist: Helped Irish defeat Purdue in Week Four, guiding the offense to a 17-7 lead before giving way to Clausen for a last drive comeback win…one drive after tossing a 64-yard scoring strike, Crist tore his ACL in Week Eight garbage time effort vs. Washington State and will likely miss spring practice as part of his rehab…expected to be ready to compete for starting job in fall camp…has three years of eligibility remaining.
  • Shaquelle Evans: Ran imprecise route at an inopportune time in 38-34 loss to Michigan...disappeared from the offense and any meaningful field time after a four-catch, 34-yard effort against Washington in Week Five, or more accurately, disappeared from the team's game plan for USC due to what head coach Charlie Weis stated was illness-related in the practices leading up to the contest with the Trojans…was touted as "really fast" by Weis in August and saw the field as a slot receiver in the season-opener though was referred to as only an "outside receiver" in future press meetings with Weis…appeared in first five games (seven receptions) and then just one of final seven contests…complete loss of field time ranks as yet another maddening aspect of 2009 second half…three seasons of eligibility remaining.
  • Roby Toma: Made collegiate debut in Week Seven vs. Boston College (2 receptions for 13 yards)…also played vs. briefly vs. WSU and UConn…staff and teammates rave about his pass-catching ability in practice…three seasons of eligibility remaining.
  • Deion Walker: Played in four of first six games but just one of the final five…routinely made circus catches in media's 40-minute practice viewing sessions…new regime will provide a fresh start for player that appears to have great potential as a college receiver, especially as a third receiver playing next to the nation's best tandem…three seasons of eligibility remaining.
  • Tyler Eifert: A freshman contender for playing time as noted by Weis in a late-August press conference…appeared in the season-opener but a neck injury cut short his season…will be able to apply for a medical redshirt and subsequently should have four years of eligibility remaining.
  • George West: Senior has exhausted his eligibility and will graduate in May as a finance major…saw brief playing time vs. WSU in the Alamo Dome…scored a touchdown the first time he touched the football on an 11-yard end around in 2006 matchup with Purdue.
  • Barry Gallup, JR.: Served as the team's decision-maker and second kick return option for final 11 contests…broke off the longest KR of the season, a 52-yard effort vs. Purdue, which incredibly ranks as the third-longest KR of the Charlie Weis era (96 and 53 for Armando Allen in 2008 and Gallup's 52 vs. the Wolverines)…can apply for a 5th-year of eligibility at season's end. Top Stories