Commentary

Can't wait to see these things this fall

Originally Published: May 12, 2008
By Ivan Maisel and Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

Three Things I Can't Wait To See This Fall In The Independents
Ivan Maisel
Mark Schlabach
Jimmy Clausen1. I'm not nearly as interested in the life and times of sophomore quarterback Jimmy Clausen as I am the guys in front of him. Notre Dame's offensive line got pushed around last year but didn't seem to do much about it. The linemen have gotten bigger and stronger. If they also have gotten more aggressive, Clausen will be able to set his feet. That was a luxury last season.

2. Of all the "big-name" signees brought in by Irish coach Charlie Weis, the most important is Jon Tenuta, who was hired by Weis to improve the defense. He believes in an attacking style, and his linebackers become playmakers. If sophomore linebackers Kerry Neal and Brian Smith grab quarterbacks and headlines, the Irish will have returned from the dead.

3. Former Navy offensive coordinator Ken Niumatalolo takes over for Paul Johnson, the most successful Midshipmen coach in a generation. Big problem, though: Seven offensive starters graduated from a team that led the nation in rushing and scored a school-record 511 points in 2007. How well Niumatalolo and four new assistants smooth out the transition will be evident by midseason. In consecutive weeks, Navy plays Rutgers, then goes on the road to face Wake Forest and Air Force.
1. Can Notre Dame become relevant again? The Fighting Irish simply can't be worse than they were a year ago. With Mike Haywood taking over the offense, and former Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta coming on board, the Irish might be among the most improved teams in the country.

2. Can Navy navigate its way to a bowl game without Paul Johnson? Ken Niumatalolo takes over a program that was seemingly on cruise control each season under Johnson. The Midshipmen still will run the triple-option spread offense and should continue to control the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy.

Carson Williams3. Will Army improve in coach Stan Brock's second season? The Black Knights won only three games in Brock's first season. But with quarterback Carson Williams coming back, Army can make big gains if it cuts down turnovers.

Ivan Maisel | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

Mark Schlabach | email

College Football and Basketball

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