Deciphering the depth chart

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While head coach Charlie Weis won’t be making the depth chart for week one public until next Tuesday, he did give more than a few hints at what’s to come when it’s revealed.

Here’s a link to the preseason depth chart, that both UND.com and the preseason media guide show.

A few thoughts before analyzing Weis’ Monday comments:

* It’s pretty amazing to see Kapron Lewis-Moore’s name atop the left defensive end spot. Here’s a guy who has gained 50 pounds since he last played in a football game, and never sniffed the field last year (most likely, by design). That’s a lot of South Dining Hall and weight room time. More importantly, that’s a huge responsibility in the 4-3 defense that the Irish will be running. That Weis’ preseason review of Lewis-Moore has been abundantly positive is reassuring, and it’s a huge bonus that we’ll get to start pumping our fists and screaming “KLFM is gonna rock you” when he makes a big hit.

* Holy Smith. Right now, the defensive depth chart has Scott Smith, Toryan Smith, Brian Smith, and Harrison Smith all sitting atop it. It’s a good thing that ND doesn’t do names on the back of the jerseys or that’d get ugly quick.

* It’s great to see Mike Ragone back on the two-deep. He’s been a favorite of mine since I found out he won the 2005 “Beast of the East” wrestling tournament. I’ve got a ton of respect for high school wrestlers, and the last few that ND has had on the roster (John Sullivan, Trevor Laws, Ryan Harris) have been studs. I think both the running game and the passing attack will improve with Ragone back in the mix.

* Having James Aldridge as a fullback is more of a positive than a negative. I hope the Irish can use him the same way USC uses Stanley Havili, who is built similarly to James. While Aldridge may never be the All-American that people like Tom Lemming built him up to be, he could carve a Rashon Powers-Neal like niche in the backfield and still have a chance at a career playing the game on Sundays.

Now getting to a few of the things Coach Weis did say about the depth chart…

* Nick Tausch won the kicking job decisively.

“The field goal kicker is going to be Tausch and the kickoff guy is also going to be Tausch… He won the competition significantly, plus statistically. We just tracked every competitive kick for the entire camp and he won it fairly convincingly.”

Weis now has three scholarship kickers on the roster, two punters, and a long snapper. That’s got to be a record of some type, and I think a sign of how the Irish’s specialists have really plagued them. (It’s even more of a reason why missing out on All-American Kai Forbath has haunted Weis and company.)

* Left tackle is still up for grabs. Weis spoke highly of Matt Romine, another heralded recruit that had started to slip from our collective thoughts. Weis is already cross-training Romine at left tackle and right tackle, and mentioned that Paul Duncan has missed some time with injuries. I obviously don’t need to remind people that the offensive line is going to be one of the largest X-factors of the season, but I’d feel a lot more comfortable if Weis had Jimmy Clausen’s blind side protector already set in stone.

* Steve Filer and Manti Te’o are coming. Some of the best news Irish fans have heard. Both heralded prospects came to South Bend with high expectations, and hearing Weis rave about Filer was very exciting.

“His arrow is pointing up,” Weis said. “Now, not only is he in the hunt at the SAM position, we look at him as a guy who could find his way on the field in nickel as a regular. If he finds his way on the field as a regular, he might end up being on the field 75 percent of plays.”

Terrific news. And the news on everybody’s favorite Hawaiian is equally promising. Besides battling some nicks and scrapes, Te’o sounds as if he’s already pushing Brian Smith at the WILL position and will also see some time in the Nickel defense from day one. I think that speaks highly on Te’o’s athleticism, and seeing Filer and Te’o in the nickel has to make Irish fans smile, and opposing defensive coordinators cringe. This defense is going to fly…