Thursday, August 30, 2007



Join intrepid reporter Shannon O’Keefe as she ventures into the mind, heart and soul of the Notre Dame follower. Before she takes you inside the storied program, O’Keefe enters the realm of the faithful, let’s see what these fanatics might have to say.

College football season is finally upon us. The endless summer blogging about what to expect this season is about to transition into endless fall blogging about unexpected successes and dismal failures. I knew that then-ers will own the Internet. So where does that place me? Put me firmly into the camp of hopers and dreamers. This season, I’d rather believe in leprechauns than statistics.

Like any Irish faithful, I do believe in this team, or at least its leaders. Charlie Weis being chief among them. This season is going to be tough, and potentially ugly, but I believe Coach Weis can put us on the right path – if not to the Louisiana Superdome, then at least a path of progress. I hate the term transitional year because no true fan wants anything to do with transition. We want wins. We want to be in the race. We want some seriously hard hits and airy forward passes on the ESPN highlight reel. Still, let’s face it, best case scenario, we’re in the middle of a good transitional year. A couple of exciting wins, a few close calls and the promise of something great … to come.

I believe in Tom Zbikowski, a fifth-year safety, who can be so dangerous, so explosive, when he’s focused on the field – and this year he is – he’s leaner, quicker and a serious contender for All-America accolades.

I believe in John Carlson, a fifth-year tight end and the only 2006 Mackey Award finalist to return this season.

I believe in Geoff Price, a fifth-year punter with a strong leg.

Domers might be fixated on the quarterback race – Jimmy Clausen, with his newly disclosed off-season surgery; Demetrius Jones, the seeming forerunner; and Evan Sharpley, Quinn’s backup. Putting anyone under center at Notre Dame is anxiety inducing; following Brady Quinn begs trainers to add Xanax to the pre-game routine.

Instead, I’ll be watching Joe Brockington, who is moving to inside linebacker, two freshmen, Armando Allen and Golden Tate, who are the top kick returners and the wickedly talented Sam Young at right tackle.

The first real test will come this weekend against Georgia Tech.

Can we beat them? Yes. They don’t have the talent of Michigan or USC. Will we? Hard to say. They have a good running game and our defense is unproven, particularly in the new 3-4 scheme under defensive coordinator Corwin Brown. However, Georgia Tech has also lost some primetime talent. They may have namesakes to fill the void – James Johnson, but it’s going to take more than the same name on the back of the jersey to replace Calvin Johnson. Defensively, they blitz on 75 percent of snaps. I’d suspect the Irish eyes are on Demetrius Jones to tuck and run. Travis Thomas returning to running back, John Sullivan at center and Carlson at tight end, which will help to bring some continuity to our untested offensive leader.

Still, if our offense could only put 14 up with Quinn under center last season against the Rambling Wreck, well, here’s hoping.

Go Irish!

Look for weekly updates on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish from Shannon O’Keefe.