Friday, April 07, 2006

Lightnin' Hoskins | by Pat

Ever since his impressive hurdle of a Washington Husky on a kickoff return, we've been waiting for Justin Hoskins to make an even bigger impact somewhere in the starting lineup for the Irish. But it seems that won't be happening now, as the former Michigan Gatorade Player of the Year has decided to transfer from Notre Dame.

"It just wasn't a good fit for me here," Hoskins said. "I didn't get a whole lot of playing time here and I had an option of leaving so that's what I'm doing."
Many fans expected Hoskins -- a terrific athlete -- to contribute as a speed back for the Irish or possibly as a split end or cornerback. However, the emergence of Darius Walker and various other setbacks kept Hoskins on the bench. He actually did start the bowl his freshman year, but Bill Diedrick put him in to throw a trick-play, halfback pass and then pulled him. During the crucial spring practice session with new coach Charlie Weis, Hoskins was suspended for a violation of team rules. Honestly, I don't think he ever fully got out of Weis' doghouse after that. And on top of that, he injured his shoulder in the fall which required surgery from which he is still recovering.

With Hoskins missing a second straight spring practice, I'm sure James Aldridge had already passed him on the running backs depth chart. Meanwhile, George West, Terrail Lambert, and David Grimes continued to make headway as the early leaders for kickoff return, pushing Hoskins further down the ladder. In fact, Weis seemed to confirm this to Hoskins.
"He just wants to play," Brenda Hoskins said. "He's a very gifted, talented athlete. They told him his playing time was not going to be very good."
We wish Hoskins well wherever he ends up, but at the same time, I respect the honesty from the coaching staff. It's easy to try and placate guys who will end up sitting on the bench, making veiled promises of possible playing time, but at least our coaches were up-front with Justin. Now Hoskins will be able to find a situation where he can be a featured back, and ND will have another scholarship to use next year.

A few weeks ago I speculated that both Hoskins and Munir Prince wouldn't finish their ND career at tailback. But with Hoskins leaving, I think that's the deathblow to the fledgling "Prince to cornerback" theory seen floating around various message boards. Obviously a lot can change, but you have to think that Prince now assumes the speed back, change-of-pace mantle for the forseeable future.

Justin Hoskins is seventh player from this junior class to leave the football program. Out of an original seventeen only ten remain, including only three players on the offensive side of the ball (backup QB David Wolke, Darius Walker, and QB turned WR Darrin Bragg). Put another way, next season there will be 25 juniors and sophomores (combined) on the team, and 28 freshman. This lack of upperclass depth is really going to hit ND hard in the next couple of years -- unless the incoming freshmen (both this year's and next's) can step in and play right away. At some positions, they're going to have to.