The Tight Ends and Wide Receivers enter the 2009 campaign in very different situations. The Tight Ends were decimated by injuries and attrition in 2008 but have a strong possibility of bouncing back in 2009. The Wide Receivers on the other hand had a couple of breakout performances in 2008 and look to build on them in 2009. Despite their overall youth this group of Tight Ends and Wide Receviers is as deep and talented as any you will find in the country right now. There are several players competing for time that would be runaway starters at almost any other program. Of note the below does not take into account inbound freshmen Tight Ends Jake Golic and Tyler Eifert or Wide Receivers Shaquille Evans and Roby Toma.
Listed below is the opening spring depth chart by position for the Tight Ends and receivers. Players with an * next to their class are eligible to apply for a 5th year after graduation. Players in Italics are either limited or out for the spring due to injury.
9 Kyle Rudolph (Sophomore) Rudolph was a serious factor as a Freshman in 2008 and with his ball skills and formidable frame I expect he will continue to develop into a complete terror for opposing defenses over the next 2-3 years. I am personally of the belief that great Tight Ends are at a premium and if you have one that is employed correctly it creates a wide array of problems for opposing defenses. The Weis offense makes great use of the Tight End for that exact reason and I expect that Rudolph will shine in 2009 and beyond.
83 Mike Ragone (Junior*) Ragone was Rudolph two years ago, the only difference was that he was coming off of a knee injury and sitting on the depth chart behind current Seahawks TE John Carlson. He jumped both Konrad Reuland and Will Yeatman on the depth chart as a freshman in 2007 prompting Reuland to transfer to Stanford. He suffered another setback last fall with a subsequent knee injury opening the door for Rudolph to step in as a freshman. By all accounts he’s battling back and the 1-2 punch of Rudolph and Ragone could exponentially increase the problems the Irish offense causes for opposing defenses in 2009.
87 Joseph Fauria (Sophomore) Fauria was still a bit light as a freshman and was overshadowed by Rudolph but saw some time due to Ragone’s injury and Yeatman’s subsequent suspension. As a freshman he saw limited action but has since bulked up and appears to be coming into his own as a solid 3rd option here. Knowing that Weis likes to use a three tight end set at times Fauria will be in the mix in 2009 and is currently battling the recovering Ragone for the #2 slot here. Having Rudolph, Ragone and Fauria as options will be a serious factor in the 2009 version of the Weis offense.
86 Bobby Burger (Senior*) Burger sat out last year as a transfer and is repping both at Tight End and at Fullback. This leads me to believe Burger is more of a blocker than a receiver but gives him the potential to contribute nonetheless. Burger is a non-scholarship player that could potentially work himself into a situational role in 2009.
23 Golden Tate (Junior) Golden is like a young Steve Smith with ridiculous speed and great ball skills. He’s a complete nightmare for corners and the definition of a dynamic football player. Unfortunately for some of his team mates you can’t keep this kid off the field. He will continue to pose problems, draw double teams and still burn you on occasion. No defense will line up against the Irish in 2009 without accounting for #23.
18 Duval Kamara (Junior) In 2007 Duval set Freshman receiving records at ND for receptions and touchdowns only to find himself struggling to get consistent playing time behind Tate and then freshman Michael Floyd in 2008. Kamara is an imposing physical specimen that would likely be a runaway starter at almost any other program in the nation. As it stands he’s battling for the #3 slot and backing up Tate. I’d like to see him come through and get back in the mix.
1 Deion Walker (Sophomore*) Walker was a highly touted recruit that spent his freshman season learning the ropes. Heading into 2009 he’s now ready to get in the mix. The only problem is that there’s a long line. Thus far it sounds like Walker has been having a pretty decent spring but considering the cast ahead of him i
t will be tough for him to crack the lineup.
19 George West (Senior) West is a great kid that will likely round out his career as a backup. I was curious to see if he would push for time in the slot but with him out this spring that’s looking much less likely. For now I’m assuming he’s going to round out his career as a backup.
3 Michael Floyd (Sophomore) Floyd shattered all of Kamara’s freshman receiving records in 2008 and looked great doing it. This kid has a special level of talent that long careers at the next level are made of. It will be highly enjoyable to watch him for the next couple of years. He’s the real deal.
82 Robby Parris (Senior*) The spring ball rumor mill is that Parris has looked very good and is pressing hard for the #3 spot. It will be interesting to see how he and Kamara duke it out down the stretch.
81 John Goodman (Sophomore*) Goodman is right there with Walker and from the sounds of it is ready to contribute. Charlie has also put in an offensive package that features Goodman as the QB running a variant of the spread. With the log jam in front of him at receiver that could be where he makes most of his appearances in 2009.
21 Barry Gallup Jr. (Senior*) Gallup is entering his 4th year in the program and has bounced back and forth between receiver and running back during that time. Like West he will have difficulty cracking the lineup in 2009.
Like the Linebackers the Tight Ends and Wide Receivers are very deep, very talented and still very young. If the Irish can establish some semblance of a ground game to keep defenses honest and Clausen has time to get these guys the ball the offense could be very interesting again in 2009.