SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - No. 23 Notre Dame will have at least one
freshman starter on the field when it opens the season against Nevada on Sept. 5, and it won't necessarily be highly touted linebacker Manti Te'o.
Freshman Nick Tausch of Plano, Texas, will handle kicking duties for the Fighting Irish after beating out junior Brandon Walker. Walker struggled early last season, making just one of his first seven tries. He finished the season 14-of-24.
Tausch won the competition fairly convincingly, coach Charlie Weis said.
"Besides having a strong leg and good pop, he has good elevation, which is one of the reasons he's also the kickoff guy," Weis said.
During a practice open to the public and media on Aug. 15, Walker went 3-for-5, although Weis blamed one of the misses on a bad snap. Tausch went 4-for-4, including a 39-yard field goal that ended practice. He was mobbed by teammates afterward because it meant they wouldn't have to run.
"I could feel the fire inside. It felt good," Tausch said Friday, one of the few times Weis allowed freshmen to talk with the media.
Tausch said he was pleased with the way camp had been going.
"I came in with the mindset to do well and I've put myself in good position so far," he said.
Weis isn't releasing the full depth chart until next week, but did announce several other starters.
Eric Maust will punt. On punt returns the Irish will use a tailback Armando Allen Jr. or receiver Golden Tate. Competition for kickoff return is still ongoing, Weis said. Sophomore Darius Fleming will be the starting strongside linebacker. Fleming started three games last season, finishing with 24 tackles in 13 games.
Weis also said he also is encouraged by the play of linebacker Steve Filer, who was listed along with Fleming as a possible starting strongside linebacker when the depth chart was handed out in early August. He said Filer could get on the field on nickel defense and could be on the field for 75 percent of the plays.
Filer's strength is coming off the edge and both Filer and Fleming could be playing on opposite sides in nickel situations.
"We could have that Chicago connection coming off the edge right there," he said.
Weis wouldn't say whether Te'o will start, although he said last week he expects to see him on the field for the opening game. He also wouldn't say which position Te'o would most likely play, although Te'o has been practicing the most at weakside linebacker.
"That doesn't mean we'd pigeonhole him where he couldn't play somewhere else," Weis said.
Weis he expects Te'o and cornerback Darrin Walls, who have been slowed by inflamed hamstrings, to be ready to go full speed on Tuesday.
With classes beginning at Notre Dame on Tuesday, Weis said he's
approaching this week as if it were a game week. One of his concerns is getting Allen some work at tailback because he's been slowed by a hamstring injury. He said there is good competition between the five tailbacks.
"I wouldn't say that has resolved itself yet because we have very good ability and competition at that position," he said.
The rushing game has been a struggle for the Irish the past three seasons, posting the three worst rushing totals in school history.
Weis, who has been saying that it's time for the Irish to show, rather than tell, everyone how good they are, said he's cautiously optimistic heading into the season.
"I think we'll learn a lot more two weeks from now," he said.
Weis also announced Monday that Maust and tight end Bobby Burger
have been given scholarships. Maust, who also plays baseball, had a
one-year scholarship last year. Burger sat out last season after playing defensive end at Dayton in 2007. His father, Bob, played offensive guard on Notre Dame's 1977 national championship team.
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