DB/PR Tom Zbikowski

2006 Statistics

Coach: Charlie Weis
19-6, 2 years
2006 Record: 10-3
at Georgia Tech WON 14-10
at Michigan State WON 40-37
UCLA WON 20-17
at Navy WON 38-14
at Air Force WON 39-17
at Southern California LOST 24-44
Louisiana State LOST 14-41

2006 Final Rankings
AP-17, Coaches-19, BCS-11

2007 Outlook

In case you didn’t know, the pressure to win at “the University of College Football” is immense. Whereas third year head man Charlie Weis has truly brought modern football to South Bend, his passing-oriented approach may have to take a step back with a new signal caller yet to be anointed. The talent is there at QB – whoever wins the starting role – but the luxury of Brady Quinn is gone, so watch how Weis fits a new offensive approach tailored more for the tendencies of their new hurler. New faces in every offensive unit means this approach can/will work, just look for more running until the passing game can catch up. DL coach Jappy Oliver has his work cut out, but otherwise the defense looks strong due to the entire starting linebacking corps returning, though there are size issues there. Two losses at the end of ’06 have to prove a rallying cry with the schedule starting off so strong. Eight of their twelve 2007 foes went bowling last year, and the first eight games are against seriously strong BCS-aligned programs. None of this is anything new to Irish fans, but it is still daunting every year for which to prepare. Notre Dame may lose a few more games this year, yet improvements on defense would go a long way toward securing Weis at his post since the offensive genius allows mega-points when his team loses (all three ’06 losses saw opponents score 40+). If procured properly, this time will be looked back upon as when the beginnings of a championship ball club took place. But if alumni impatience again rears its ugly head, we will remember some great individual talent the next few years but not any landmark Irish squads that achieved true greatness.

Projected 2007 record: 7-5
QB - 3 DL - 2.5
RB - 3.5 LB - 3.5
WR - 3 DB - 3
OL - 3 ..

Passing: Evan Sharpley, 1-2-0, 7 yds., 0 TD

Rushing: James Aldridge, 37 att., 142 yds., 0 TD

Receiving: John Carlson, 47 rec., 634 yds., 4 TD

Scoring: John Carlson, 4 TD, 24 pts.

Punting: Geoff Price, 50 punts, 45.4 avg.

Kicking: None

Tackles: Maurice Crum, 100 tot., 47 solo

Sacks: Maurice Crum, 4 sacks

Interceptions: Terrail Lambert, 3 for 27 yds., 1 TD

Kickoff Returns: David Grimes, 21 ret., 24.5 avg., 0 TD

Punt Returns: Tom Zbikowski, 16 ret., 9.0 avg., 1 TD


TE John Carlson
OFFENSE: Brady Quinn-QB, Rhema McKnight-WR, Jeff Samardzija-WR, Marcus Freeman-TE, Ryan Harris-OT, Dan Santucci-OG, Bob Morton-OG, Carl Gioia-K, Darius Walker-RB (NFL)
DEFENSE: Victor Abiamiri-DE, Derek Landri-DT, Chris Frome-DE, Mike Richardson-CB, Chinedum Ndukwe-FS

Let the great Notre Dame quarterback derby of 2007 begin. Dual-threat Demetrius Jones redshirted last year, and the former No.2 recruit at his position has the size-speed combination coaches love. Evan Sharpley may not be the most gifted but is the only one on the roster with actual playing experience. Jimmy Clausen is the top QB prize in this year’s national class. Ron Powlus, now the QB coach, has a challenging job in his first season, though all should be quick studies and the competition (to find a starter) itself will only make whoever is eventually picked that much better. Sophomore James Aldridge also has enough size and speed to make defenders respect his potential, or else. Super quick true frosh Armando Allen will explode out of the backfield, but the nation’s No.2 prep RB prospect this year has to climb the depth chart first (past quite a few other four-star recruits). Again, all of this only benefits ND that much more, and Darius Walker will not be missed, trust us. Keep an eye out for LB Travis Thomas, who finished third on the team in rushing. David Grimes is the lone receiver with significant reps, though Richard Jackson and newbie Duval Karama should emerge quickly so the major losses amongst the corps are minimized. Senior TE John Carlson will also afford the new QB(s) another downfield option, and since two-TE sets could be used more often with the line being revamped, garnering both of the No.3 TE prospects in the last two recruiting classes will soon pay dividends. Senior center John Sullivan and five-star tackle Sam Young form a solid foundation upon which to build up front. Recent classes have also delivered many four-star linemen, so any steps back within the level of OL play will soon mean even more steps forward…trial-by-fire brings out the best, baby. But there has to be more of a commitment to running the ball if Notre Dame is to start beating teams ranked above them, and with a new QB, this is highly likely. Few coaches can take this much undeveloped talent and be expected to immediately produce strong results, yet only a fool would think Charlie Weis sees his offense’s glass as half empty. Regardless, we will see just what kind of coach he is with this many holes to fill.


C John Sullivan


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Evan Sharpley-So (6-2, 212) Demetrius Jones-Fr (6-4, 210)
Jimmy Clausen-Fr (6-3, 207)
FB Asaph Schwapp-So (6-0, 255) Luke Schmidt-Fr (6-4, 252)
RB Travis Thomas-Sr (6-0, 218) James Aldridge-So (6-0, 213)
WR David Grimes-Jr (5-10, 174) D.J. Hord-So (6-1, 192)
WR George West-So (5-8, 188) Robby Parris-So (6-3, 201)
Richard Jackson-So (6-3, 204)
TE John Carlson-Sr (6-6, 259) Konrad Reuland-So (6-6, 255)
OT Paul Duncan-Jr (6-7, 292) Bartley Webb-Fr (6-7, 291)
OG Mike Turkovich-Jr (6-6, 299) Eric Olsen-So (6-4, 300)
C John Sullivan-Sr (6-4, 290) Thomas Bemenderfer-Jr (6-5, 285)
OG Dan Wenger-Fr (6-4, 282) Matt Carufel-So (6-5, 295)
OT Sam Young-So (6-8, 315) Jeff Tisak-Fr (6-5, 300)
K Ryan Burkhart-So (5-11, 196) Nate Whitaker-So (5-9, 165)


With so many departures along the line, there will be some readjustments within the defense as everyone settles in. But after the last group could only muster a 61st ranking nationally for run stopping, the turnover might be just what is needed. Senior Trevor Laws is a great building block – as the only returning starter, his overachievements from his tackle slot are the perfect examples for learning eyes. Tackle Pat Kuntz and end John Ryan are all that saw significant action in 2006, and with two classes light on DL talent, there is work to be done before ND can even return to the level at which they just were. Lots of help can come from all of its light, quick starters at LB returning as seniors. Riverview (FL)-grad Maurice Crum has to be an All-American consideration the way he rules the middle, while outsiders Joe Brockington and Travis Thomas are capable of sealing their sidelines. The corps has to work on recovering against teams that practice superior play-action after failing to really stop any ’06 foes who were supposed to beat the Irish. Size and depth issues, with so many major conference opponents, also seem to be germane. Senior All-American safety Tom Zbikowski is a huge reason the Irish survived making so many mistakes. Zbikowski’s superior speed (only guy I ever saw catch Ted Ginn from behind) means he is almost always in on or around the tackle, and he reacts well to play development. Ray Herring and David Bruton, both juniors, will bolster the deep middle, with Bruton likely to get the nod at the free position. The corners look solid with junior starter Terrail Lambert back and senior Ambrose Wooden finally earning the other slot. There is an abundance of DB talent stacked in the wings, so expect improvements in the secondary to actually be seen. A defense with this much talent cannot disappoint like it did at specific times in 2006; there have to be rumors in South Bend that Weis is incapable of fine tuning the defense like he does the offense. The juries still out…


LB Maurice Crum


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Trevor Laws-Sr (6-1, 295) Dwight Stephenson-Sr (6-2, 257)
DT Pat Kuntz-Jr (6-2, 272) Chris Stewart-Fr (6-5, 340)
DE Justin Brown-Jr (6-3, 255) Paddy Mullen-Fr (6-3, 285)
OLB John Ryan-So (6-5, 244) Anthony Vernaglia-Jr (6-3, 233)
ILB Joe Brockington-Sr (6-2, 235) Toryan Smith-So (6-1, 244)
ILB Maurice Crum-Jr (6-0, 225) Scott Smith-So (6-3, 244)
OLB Morrice Richardson-So (6-2, 235) Kevin Washington-So (6-1, 240)
CB Terrail Lambert-Jr (5-11, 191) Leo Ferrine-Jr (6-0, 189)
CB Ambrose Wooden-Sr (5-11, 190) Darrin Walls-So (6-0, 180)
SS Tom Zbikowski-Sr (6-0, 210) Ray Herring-Jr (5-10, 190)
FS David Bruton-Jr (6-2, 202) Sergio Brown-So (6-2, 196)
P Geoff Price-Sr (6-3, 196) Eric Maust-So (6-2, 177)




The nation’s fifth-ranked punter, now-senior Geoff Price, elicited the 11th-ranked net results. Ryan Burkhart or true frosh Brandon Walker will probably be an improvement on the measly kicking efforts seen last year (longest FG was 40 yards). Grimes and Zbikowski as kick and punt returners, respectively, are more weapons that mean Weis’ boys usually win field position battles.