The presence of two true freshmen along the offensive line shouldn’t cause alarm – neither would be the first player in should the listed starter fall to injury. According to offensive line coach Ed Warinner, redshirt-freshman right tackle Christian Lombard will back up both tackle positions, at least until classmate Tate Nichols returns from a dislocated knee cap suffered in early August.
Versatile 5th-year senior Andrew Nuss is the next man in at both guard spots and could fill in at either tackle position in a pinch as well.
Left Tackle: Zack Martin – The team’s top returning lineman has three season of eligibility remaining.
Left Tackle: Nick Martin – A late offer in the 2011 recruiting cycle, Martin earned the staff’s trust after Nichols was lost to injury.
Left Guard: Chris Watt – Earned the starting nod over Nuss and purportedly challenged departed 5th-year senior Chris Stewart for the role in both August 2010 and throughout the season. One ex-Irish defender told Irisheyes.com that Watt was the clearly superior talent midway through the ’10 campaign. Watt is eligible through 2013 after sitting out ’09 as a true freshman.
Left Guard: Andrew Nuss – His return for a 5th-year could prove valuable this month.
Center: Braxston Cave – Widely viewed as the line’s most improved player over the last calendar year, the senior has two seasons of eligibility remaining.
Center: Mike Golic – Should see a series or two in each contest as he’s vastly improved from his junior season of 2010. Also a senior, Golic can apply for a 5th-year following the season. He’s capable of backing up both guard positions as well.
Right Guard: Trevor Robinson – Regressed a bit last year but is poised to capitalize on a huge senior season. Robinson has played in 35 games; starting 27 in his Irish career.
Right Guard: Conor Hanratty – A string of injuries would have to occur to press Hanratty into first-year service. His ascent to the second unit for game week practice is noteworthy nonetheless.
Right Tackle: Taylor Dever – September 2010’s offensive surprise, Dever’s return for a 5th-year gives the Irish an impressive veteran/rookie tandem at right tackle.
Right Tackle: Christian Lombard – The most game-ready player along the second unit, Lombard will back up both tackle spots until Nichols returns (somewhere after Game Four).
“X” Wide Receiver: T.J. Jones – Sophomore can also back-up the slot position and actually enjoyed his most productive game of 2010 in an emergency role vs. Navy.
“X” Wide Receiver: DaVaris Daniels – Unlike the pair of freshmen offensive linemen, Daniels will see action early for an Irish receiving corps that has just five reliable veterans.
“W” Wide Receiver: Michael Floyd – Senior ranks as the nation’s best and will shatter every relevant program receiving record if he remains in good health.
“W” Wide Receiver: John Goodman – Can also backup the X spot and the Z in a pinch. Kelly noted last week that Goodman enjoyed his two best practices of August as camp came to a close.
Slot (Z) Wide Receiver: Theo Riddick – Now a junior, the team’s Z receiver is the offense’s X-factor for 2011.
Slot (Z) Wide Receiver: Robby Toma – Riddick’s classmate provides quickness, elusive after-the-catch skills as an ideal No. 4/5 receiver.
Running Back: Cierre Wood – With three years of eligibility remaining, the junior from Oxnard, Calif., has only scratched the surface. His health in 2011 is a major storyline as the Irish have few scholarship bodies behind him.
Running Back: Jonas Gray – Senior runner looks to make his first major impact after three seasons of inconsistent play. Will be counted on heavily in the Irish power packages.
Tight End: Tyler Eifert – One of the nation’s most unsung players nationally, Eifert has three years of eligibility remaining and is a downfield mismatch for nearly every linebacker on the schedule.
Tight End: Mike Ragone – Suffered another August camp injury (quadriceps); the 5th-year senior lends power to two tight end sets and the running game.
Quarterback: Dayne Crist – Senior leader has two seasons of eligibility remaining and a world of pressure on him entering September.
Quarterback: Tommy Rees – One of the nation’s five most accomplished backup quarterbacks. Rees is a true sophomore with four wins and owner of several program records for first-year signal callers.
Notes: The freshman backup tandem of Cam McDaniel and George Atkinson could both see time over the season's opening weeks as could tight ends Alex Welch and Ben Koyack. Welch is a redshirt-freshman while Koyack is in his first season at the program but turned heads with a strong showing in August.