Friday, December 08, 2006

Draft Decisions | by Pat

Nothing has officially been made public yet, but Yahoo Sports has a list of potential 5th year candidates and which ones just might be returning to ND. Here's the item of interest.

Notre Dame linebacker/running back Travis Thomas has decided that he will return for a fifth year with the Irish, and he plans to return to the backfield for his final season. In fact, the majority of prospects that met with coach Charlie Weis last week have initially voiced their desire to return to South Bend. Those also expected to return include tight end John Carlson, center John Sullivan, defensive tackle Trevor Laws and cornerback Ambrose Wooden. However, safety Tom Zbikowski, who was invited to the Senior Bowl, is expected to declare for the draft after Notre Dame's Sugar Bowl matchup with LSU. Sullivan seems to be the other prospect weighing his options, as it is hard for an interior lineman to improve his grade from one year to the next. He is on course to graduate later this month.
Again, this very well could change with a few guys deciding to leave and/or Zibby deciding to stay. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Zibby did end up returning. The good news is that it appears that many of the players with the option to be drafted are planning on returning. Next year will be a much younger team and the experience and leadership, not to mention talent, of many of these 5th year guys will be very beneficial.

It's also interesting to note the "he plans to return to the backfield for his final season" news bit on Travis. Obviously I don't think next year's depth chart has been settled, but returning Travis full-time to the offense would only help a running back position that surely will be called upon often to take the pressure off the new QB. As for linebacker, the best case scenario involves the emergence of Toryan Smith in the middle, allowing Crum to move back to his more natural outside linebacker spot, along with Joe Brockington, who really came on strong in the last half of the season.

The deadline for declaring for the draft is in the middle of January, which is when Fasano announced his decision last year. With a larger number of players on the NFL/5th year fence this season, my guess is that something official will come out a bit earlier, especially with news items like this getting out there.