Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2016

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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66 PRESEASON 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI QB QUESTIONS Texas started four true freshmen in last year's 38-3 loss at Notre Dame, but there will likely be even far more attention on what could be three true freshmen starting on offense for the Longhorns this season. That's because quarterback Shane Buechele, an early entrant in January, is projected to be one of them after quickly grasping and executing the high-tempo attack of new coordinator Sterlin Gilbert — an Art Briles disciple — during the spring. In the spring game, in the rain, Buechele completed 22 of 41 passes for 299 yards with two scores. A true freshman QB making his first start and defeating Notre Dame might sound ludicrous, but it wouldn't be unprecedented. In game two of the 2009 season, Michigan freshman Tate Forcier passed for 240 yards and ran for 70 in a 38-34 upset of the No. 18 Fighting Irish. There is much intrigue about whether Notre Dame's possible two- quarterback system with junior De- Shone Kizer and senior Malik Zaire will create chemistry problems, but Buechele's expected initial start also will be of vast interest. "What you have to look at is he's surrounded by enough and he has enough around him," said Texas head coach Charlie Strong, who expects veteran Tyrone Swoopes to remain a factor as well. "It really doesn't bother me. I think that he's going to have enough around him where he should feel pretty good about what he's doing." That also includes freshman cen- ter Zach Shackelford (injured during fall camp) and rookie wideout Colin Johnson. It appears to be a recipe for more growing pains again at Texas. Or also a chance to have one of the most memorable or talked about de- buts in school history. OPENING NIGHT ON THE ROAD An unwritten rule for opening games in college football, specifically for "name" schools, is to schedule a relative breather to ease into the campaign. In recent years, Notre Dame has followed that model by opening at home with San Diego State (2008), Nevada (2009), Purdue (2010), South Florida (2011) — which turned into a nightmare — Temple (2013) and Rice (2014). Even the trip to Ireland in 2012 versus Navy resulted in a 50-10 cakewalk. In 2016, college football is taking a significant turn by diving into the deep waters from the start rather than wading in easily. The opening week- end includes Alabama-USC, Clem- son-Auburn, Oklahoma-Houston, Florida State-Ole Miss (Labor Day in Orlando, Fla.), LSU-Wisconsin, UCLA-Texas A&M, Georgia-North Carolina and Arizona-BYU. The Sunday night slot on Sept. 4 will be a solo feature with Notre Dame-Texas in Austin. Based on the 38-3 Fighting Irish romp versus the Longhorns in last year's opener, Texas might still be per- ceived by some in construction mode after 7-6 and 5-7 seasons under now third-year head coach Charlie Strong. However, because it is such a crucial validation game for Strong & Co., in its home venue, Texas will be amped to put on a much better display than it did a year ago — similar to Notre Dame versus USC last season after the Irish were pasted 49-14 a year earlier. Last year, the week after getting slaughtered at home 50-7 by TCU, the focused and determined Texas team handed College Football Play- off-bound Oklahoma its lone regular- GAME PREVIEW: TEXAS Top STorylineS True freshman Shane Buechele, an early enrollee who threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns in the Longhorns' spring game, is in the mix to get the starting nod against Notre Dame. PHOTO COURTESY TEXAS

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