Speculation this offseason about Notre Dame's possible return to glory has centered around the maturation of quarterback Jimmy Clausen as he approaches a make-or-break 2009 season, and rightfully so. Especially when considering the lack of gamebreakers in the Irish backfield, a potent passing game will have to be the team's bread and butter this year. If Clausen trends more Joe Montana, the Irish are looking at a potential title shot. If Clausen goes the way of his quarterback coach Ron Powlus, Charlie Weis will be looking at a pink slip prior to his team's trip to Shrevport for the Independence Bowl.
Just the Irish's luck: the 2009 schedule is loaded with creampuffs, which should allow ND to put up the kind of gaudy offensive numbers witnessed in Weis' first two seasons in South Bend.
Wideout Golden Tate should benefit from Pear Bryant's passing proclivity as well. The athletic Tennessean turned into ND's top receiver during his sophomore year. Besides catching 10 touchdowns, Tate also eclipsed the 1,000 yards receiving mark, averaging nearly 20 yards per catch. He capped off a stellar 2008 with three touchdowns and 180 yards receiving on just six grabs in the Hawaii Bowl.
Tate probably lacks some the overall athleticism of his sophomore-to-be cohort Michael Floyd. However, he still poses a strong downfield threat with good speed and quickness. Having Floyd lining up on the opposite side of him should help open up some holes for the dynamic Tate as defenses try to account for the growing number of weapons at Clausen's disposal.
Bottom line is that if Charlie Weis wants to revive his passing attack, Clausen is going to be looking for Tate early and often. Once the ND hype machine kicks in gear, expect Tate to begin to garner All-America talk.