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FOOTBALL COMMENTARY: Going back to a familiar unknown

Chris Hine | Friday, August 31, 2007

In 2007, Irish fans step back into the unknown.

Some people dread the unknown and fear that 2007 will bring disappointing results. After all, who could blame them for thinking that way? Last season, everybody knew who everybody was on the team. Quinn, Samardzija and Walker were known quantities. They were reliable, consistent and brought with them the security of a good season, but those days of security are now over.

This season is for those who relish the unknown and the chance to take a journey that is sure to hold moments of both disappointment and excitement.

The first and most obvious unknown is at the quarterback position. Some have called coach Charlie Weis arrogant for not revealing his starting quarterback earlier, but in reality, what difference does it really make whether or not fans learn the starter Saturday morning or if they had learned a month ago? The starter does not have to deal with all the preseason buildup of being Notre Dame’s quarterback and maybe it will confuse Georgia Tech. Maybe it will not, but it does not hurt to try.

Fans should be confident knowing that whoever gains the starting job had to beat out two very good candidates this training camp and will be ready to take the field Saturday. Come Sunday morning, the question, “Who is the starter?” will be a distant memory and all the talk will be about the play of the quarterback. Regardless, there is little to fear given the talent at the position and Weis’s ability to develop his quarterbacks into national stars, as he did with Quinn.

On defense, the Irish bring back some familiar faces, such as defensive end Trevor Laws, linebacker Maurice Crum Jr. and safety Tom Zbikowski. The unknown here is whether Corwin Brown’s new 3-4 personnel scheme can stop big plays and keep the Irish in games when they may not score bunches of points.

Based on the results of summer camp, the Irish are pushing themselves harder than ever on defense. Sophomore Darrin Walls beat out traditional starter senior Ambrose Wooden for the cornerback spot opposite Terrail Lambert. The competition for each defensive spot must have been intense and only makes the secondary better in the end because everybody has to push harder everyday in practice.

Nobody knows what to expect from anybody this season. Remember 2005, and having that feeling of uncertainty that the season could come crashing down or, if a couple things went right, could be memorable?

I have the same feeling.

Notre Dame has a roster mixed with veterans and younger players with untapped potential. They face a schedule, which, on paper, is among the hardest in the nation. Expectations should be low.

But after all, this is Notre Dame – a place where the term “low expectations” doesn’t exist. Maybe Notre Dame can win 10 games and make it to another BCS bowl game, but the odds are that will not happen.

Just have a little patience while some of the younger players find their groove and this season could be a special one. In other words, welcome back to the unknown.

Contact Chris Hine at chine@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.