Notre Dame Football Preview: Return to Glory for the Irish?

Jim SheldonCorrespondent IMay 17, 2008

2007 was a disaster for the Irish. A 3-9 record, last in virtually every offensive category, had many calling for Weis's head.

The 2008 squad will be much improved. The offense, which ranked last nationally in 2007, has some key players who could have a breakout season for the Irish.

Quarterback Jimmy Clausen has looked like a much better quarterback this spring. He's poised in the pocket, confident in his throws and is able to recognize pressure and open receivers. He should put up strong numbers with improved pass protection.

Running back Robert Hughes, the offensive MVP of the Blue and Gold game, ended last season with 246 rushing yards in the final two games. He is a prototypical workhorse-type back and should see the bulk of the carries.

Wide receiver Duval Kamara has drawn comparisons to Dwayne Jarrett. He set the Notre Dame freshman record for receptions and receiving touchdowns in 2007 and has all the tools to be an All-American.

The defense has some holes to fill in 2008. Trevor Laws, the team's best player last season, has moved on to the NFL along with safety Tom Zbikowski. The defense features some players who could have a breakout season in 2008.

Safety David Bruton anchors a secondary that could be the team's best unit this fall. Elected a team captain, Bruton hopes to build off a junior season in which he ranked third on the squad in tackles (85).

Nose tackle Ian Williams was sixth on the team with 45 tackles- three more than starting nose tackle Pat Kuntz, despite making only two starts. He was named to multiple All-Freshmen teams and should have a big impact this season.

Outside linebacker Kerry Neal started five games as a freshman last year and has the chance to take the next step towards becoming a star defender this season. The addition of Jon Tenuta, the former Georgia Tech defensive coordinator, to the Irish coaching staff will be extremely beneficial to Neal. Tenuta is one of the best in the business at getting his linebackers to the quarterback and should be able to take Neal's raw pass rushing ability and turn it into a terror of an outside linebacker.

What does all this mean? Will Irish eyes be smiling in 2008?

I predict an 8-4 season for Notre Dame and a New Years Day bowl game.