August 23, 2007

The competition for positions

Dwight Stephenson Jr. vs. Justin Brown-Fifth-year senior Dwight Stephenson Jr., was listed as the starter at right defensive end upon the conclusion of spring and on the first two depth charts released during pre-season camp. But the mental and physical metamorphosis of senior Justin Brown during the off-season and through the first two weeks of camp tilted the competition his way.

Stephenson will play. Stephenson has to play with the shortage of depth/age along the defensive front. But Brown went out and won this job in the pre-season at a position the Irish needed a pleasant surprise. He'll be put to the test right off the bat against several quality offensive lines, particularly those of Georgia Tech (Week 1), Michigan (Week 3) and Purdue (Week 5).

Weis declared Brown the most pleasant surprise of camp, particularly since it came at a significant position of need.

Will Yeatman vs. Konrad Reuland-Yeatman moved up to No. 2 tight end behind John Carlson after Marcus Freeman graduated and based upon his playing time edge (29:11 to 18:14) over Reuland from their rookie seasons. But they went into pre-season camp in a virtual dead heat.

Due in part to a 10-pound advantage but mainly because of his blocking prowess, Yeatman figures to be the guy aligned with Carlson the first time the Irish come out in a two-tight end set. If that's not the first play of the season, it likely will come in the first series.

Reuland will play, however, and he'll likely play a lot as he begins his development as another in the long line of talented Irish tight ends. The Irish will use four tight ends this year, taking advantage of freshman Mike Ragone's pass-catching abilities.

It may be too simple to say that Yeatman is the better blocker and Reuland is the better receiver. But then again, that may be what it comes down to.

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