Monday, August 22, 2005

Full Ride Surprise | by Pat

Remember when I wrote that the scholarship numbers post would be wrong in under a month? Seems I was a bit optimistic. How about 72 hours?

Today walk-ons Casey Cullen, Rob Woods, and Brandon Harris were officially awarded scholarships for the 2005 season. It's a great reward for three guys that worked hard all year, and while their names might be somewhat unfamiliar, Woods and Harris have already logged a little game time and are expected to make even more contributions this season.

Harris, in particular, is getting looks at kick and punt returner and he's running with the second team on occasion at cornerback, according to various practice reports. Granted, "walk-on cornerback running with the second team" isn't exactly Plan A, but Harris sounds like he's quick enough to handle the work. Recently he was the subject of a profile in the South Bend Tribune that detailed his studies as a music major and his late entry into the world of big time college football. And given the fact that Weis has been rather reluctant to single out individual players for praise so far, his words about Harris reveal someone who might contribute more than just mop-up duty:

"When I came here, I wouldn't say I was concerned about the overall speed," Weis said. "I just didn't know what we had. But now that they're out there and you see them all running, all of a sudden you've got some guys who have some giddyup. And he's one of them. He has top-line speed."
Woods has the most playing time of the three new scholarship players as he appeared in the Washington, Purdue, and Oregon State game last season as a wide receiver and special teams player. Wide receiver is one of the deepest positions on the team this season, so Woods not might not get many reps at that spot, but he definitely will play a lot on special teams. Practice reports from the fall mention his consistency, and at 6'2", 208 he isn't going to be undersized when he steps on the field. I'm not sure what's more impressive about Woods; walking-on and then earning a scholarship at a deep position like wide receiver, or the fact he has a 3.95 GPA as a mechanical/aerospace engineer. I'm leaning towards the latter, as it's one heck of an accomplishment and a testament to his work ethic.

Cullen might be the longest shot to see the field this year, but he does suit up at a rather thin position. A defensive lineman, Cullen is going to need to add bulk if he's truly only 235 lbs, as listed. Almost reflexively, another undersized scout team defensive end pops into your head ("235 and nuthin! And hardly a speck of athletic ability!") and you almost feel sorry for the guy.

Then you read further in the press release and find out he was an all-state player in Texas who led his team to a 12-1 record and a state championship. So while he may find playing time hard to come by, he's no Rudy-shaped human tackling dummy. Odds are you will see #60 flying down the field on special teams during the season.

And when it comes to Irish bloodlines, I don't think anyone can touch Cullen. He's a triple legacy who had both mom and dad attend ND, as well as his grandfather. And his grandfather, Christy Flanagan, did more than just attend ND. He was a two-time All-American at halfback at Notre Dame under Knute Rockne.