A relatively quiet summer was interrupted with news that sophomore tight end Joseph Fauria won't be enrolled at ND for summer school or for the fall semester. The University put out a release that Fauria won't be around for personal reasons and that Charlie hopes he will return for the spring semester. Fauria was reached and confirmed that the plan so far is for him to return.
"I'm just taking it in stride," Fauria told the Tribune on Wednesday night. "The plan is to come back."It's rough news for the Irish offense as Fauria was one of the most improved players in the spring and would be counted on as a steadily improving blocker and 6'7' passing target for Clausen. He had pushed even to Ragone for the #2 TE job and might even have passed him with a strong fall camp. But now Ragone is the solid #2 counterpart to rising star Kyle Rudolph. It might sound like ND will be just fine with the extremely talented Rudolph/Ragone duo at TE. But, as noted in Michael's spring opus, the ND offense works much better when there are multiple legitimate pass catching tight ends on the roster. And given Ragone's two major knee injuries, the more depth the better.
So now eyes will turn to transfer-turned-walk on Bobby Burger. Ideally, ND would be able to preserve a year of eligibility for incoming freshman tight ends Tyler Eifert and Jake Golic. If Burger can continue to build on his strong spring showing, then ND will have three competent tight ends and the freshmen can benefit from a year on the sideline. At 6'3" 242 pounds, Burger has the size to contribute and received some positive press from Charlie in the spring when he was still the #4 tight end.
“Very seldom do I call a walk-on out this early,” Weis said, “but I’m not going to be afraid to play this kid now.”Meanwhile, Fauria hopefully will follow the path of Darrin Walls and Gary Gray, who both missed semesters for personal reasons, only to return back ready to play. The silver lining for Fauria is that he won't lose any eligibility since he played as a freshman in '08 and can use the 2009 as his de facto redshirt year. In the meantime, hopefully the recent ND TE hex will take a breather for awhile and ND can play the 2009 season without having to resort to plugging in reserve offensive linemen in tight end spots. Assuming everyone stays healthy, a depth chart of Rudolph, Ragone, and Burger, not to mention the two freshmen, is still better than what most teams have.
Burger started his college career at the University of Dayton, where he was a defensive lineman. He sat out last season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, but he and then-freshman Jonas Gray were the consistent standouts for the ND scout team in practice against the Irish starters last season.