Joe Hettler | Thursday, September 4, 2003
Gary Godsey likely won’t play Saturday against Washington State because of a knee injury, but the Irish have plenty of players ready to step in his place at the tight end position.
Jared Clark and Billy Palmer will start against the Cougars, while Anthony Fasano and Marcus Freeman are also likely to see playing time.
“You’ll probably see a rotation of all four of those guys,” Irish offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick said. “We’re going to try and keep those guys fresh and rotate them in.”
Godsey, who had 16 receptions last season, has seen limited practice since injuring his knee. Godsey’s possible absence allows other tight ends a chance to play.
“You’re always concerned when you have an injury to a returning starter,” Diedrick said. “But that also gives the next guy a great opportunity to step up and make some plays.”
Clark caught seven passes last season for 104 yards and played exceptionally well in the spring game, grabbing 2 passes for 47 yards and a two-point conversion.
Diedrick said Clark has shown steady improvement since the spring practices.
“His progress has been very satisfactory,” Diedrick said. “He’s improved a great deal with his blocking skills and he’s been catching the ball very consistently. “
Clark, who converted from quarterback during the 2002 spring practices, has worked hard to become a solid tight end for Notre Dame.
“When you look back on how much improvement you’ve made over the years, it’s pretty incredible,” Clark said. “You look at the young guys and remember how hard it was for you when you were young. I haven’t made it yet, I’m still a long ways a way, but I think I’m getting there.”
Palmer should be opposite Clark and played in just over 81 minutes of football as well as making 97 special team appearances. He caught one pass in 2002 for four yards. This season, Palmer will step into a bigger role within the offense.
‘I’m just trying to go out there and get better every day in all aspects,” Palmer said. “I’m looking forward to Saturday and just getting on the field.”
The other two tight ends in the rotation will be guys that have yet to step on the field for a single college down.
Fasano was a first team all-state New Jersey selection as a senior, grabbing 78 passes for 1,460 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior. He has improved his route running and blocking abilities throughout spring and fall practice.
Freeman was a two-time all state selection from Minnesota and had 16 catches for 400 yards as a senior. At 6-foot-4, 242 pounds, Freeman gives the Irish another big body at the position.
Diedrick is somewhat concerned with the inexperience of Fasano and Freeman but said that will all change after the first few plays Saturday.
“There is a concern [about their lack of inexperience[, but that won’t last very long because after that first step they become veteran,” Diedrick said.
The Irish lost their top tight end recruit when freshman Greg Olsen trasnferred from the team last week.