Five Minute Guide to '99
12 Notre Dame
The success of a new option offense will determine the pluck of these Irish
Jackson will need to play like a top NFL prospect for Notre Dame to land a BCS berth. The Irish lost 12 starters and will play road games at Michigan, Purdue and Tennessee. But Jackson, a 6'1", 228-pound fifth-year senior, has a habit of rising to the occasion. Last year, his first as a starter, he completed 104 of 188 passes for 1,740 yards and 13 touchdowns with just six interceptions. He also dazzled with his powerful running style and ability to make plays out of nothing. "Jarious is like Donovan," Rogers says. "He's a tough competitor. He always feels like he can make a play."
Aiding Jackson will be two speedy tailbacks: junior Tony Driver, a former Parade All-America running back who played strong safety in '98, and sophomore Tony Fisher, a former Ohio Mr. Football. They'll run behind a rebuilt offensive line that looks to be quicker than -- if not quite as mammoth as -- past Irish units. The receiving corps lacks a game-breaker but boasts an All-America candidate in 6'3" junior tight end Jabari Holloway.
On defense the Irish have switched to an attack-oriented 4-3 alignment. The front four of Lamont Bryant, Brad Williams, Lance Legree and Anthony Weaver could be Notre Dame's best since the early '90s, while 6'5", 275-pound junior defensive end Grant Irons, a converted linebacker who has bulked up 50 pounds since his freshman year, is poised for a breakthrough.
With the D looking strong, coach Bob Davie will take some chances on offense. Rogers plans to borrow from Syracuse's option playbook, with an emphasis on ball fakes and misdirection. "It works," Jackson says. "When we watch films, sometimes I have to rewind to see who's got the ball."
Whether those fakes work on anyone other than the fans in Row 30 remains to be seen. Given Notre Dame's lack of speedy receivers and its rugged schedule, however, one thing is clear: If Davie is to contend for a national title this season, he'll need more than a little trickery. He'll need the luck of the Irish.
-- Marty Burns
1998 record: 9-3 (Independent)
Sept. 4 at Michigan
Nov. 6 at Tennessee
Jackson and the defense will keep the Fighting Irish in most games, but they will be hard-pressed to match last season's 9-3 record.
Five Minute Guide to '99
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