Preview: Dublin Fighting Irish

The Fighting Irish held their opponents scorless through 8 games last year before losing out in the second round of the playoff. This year they will be well prepared and hopes are high in the city of Green and Gold.

The Irish have a couple of big holes to fill on defense but have a host of skill players returning on both sides of the ball. 2006 should be another year where the Irish put up a lot of points and the defense is stingy. While the Irish may not be loaded with a lot of big D-1 prospects they do have a couple and a host of solid football players that may be able to take it to the next level at a smaller school. Coaches Holmes has had this group their entire high school career and his conditioning program and weight room focus will be visibly noticeable. This should provide yet another dimension for the Irish this season and increase the opportunities for a talented Sr. class.

The Irish O will be led by 4 yr starter Ben Cochran who is a great all-round athlete and a great field general and decision-maker the versatile Irish version of the wing-T. He has his entire backfield back with Sr. Brian Wilcher leading the attack. Wilcher's breakout yr. was last season and he will be strong again this year with possible hopes of moving on to the next level. Size may keep him from D-1 but his quickness, vision, use of blockers, and hard running style will be sure to keep the attention of more than a few smaller schools and possible even some of the big boys. Brandon Edmond and Jamon Morris will also return and provide a triple threat from the wing. Yet another triple threat will be at fullback where the Irish have 3 strong runners in Will Griffith, Thomas Barnes and Andreakeas Rollins who will probably all share time on the offensive side of the ball.

Cochran loses two targets in Dion McClendon and Jonathan Walters who will also be missed for his blocking. Brandon Taylor was also a favorite target and returns. Taylor has good hands, runs well after the catch, and could see some time at the next level with a solid senior year. The Irish also expect a couple of young players to step in and contribute at tight end and wide out.

The Irish have a solid group of lineman with experience, a young group from last year that showed promise and the most size and strength in years. Big man Chris Johnson will be missed though and it is key for someone to step up fill his shoes. Look for that to be Nick McRae. The offense should score early and often and provide reminders of last season.

The Irish D will once again be stingy with points. Middle linebacker and team captain Nathan Thomas will surely be missed. However, the Irish have a host of players to fill the hole. Leading the linebacker position will be Thomas Barnes who will most likely have the attention of several D-1 schools with his hard-hitting style. Will Griffith and Kenyata O'Neal will also anchor the linebacking core. The big question for the Irish D will be on the line of scrimmage, especially at defensive end where they lose Brett Smith and Chopper Foskey. Michael Hall will probably be moving to one end and will bring speed, aggressiveness, and a hard hitting style. He will be a perfect fit. As of spring the other end is still up for grabs but there are a couple of good prospects. In the middle Chris Johnson will be missed on this side of the ball as well. But the Irish have more size and a group of young players that have gained strength during the off-season and should shine with the backup of the strong linebackers and secondary. The secondary remains intact except for the loss of Dion McClendon. The Irish are loaded with skill players and should have no problem filling this hole.

On Special Teams the most noticeable loss will be the graduation of Justin Miller. However, year in and year out the Irish seem to be a step ahead in the kicking game. This year will be no exception. Drew Griggs should be back to full health after a big scare in early '05 and provide yet another scoring threat for the Irish. Look for QB Ben Cochran to continue the punting duties but he shouldn't have to do it often. Once again speed and aggressivess will provide the Irish with excellent kick coverage and along with the legs of Cochran and Griggs should make it a long way to the endzone for the opponent with a stingy D in front of them.

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