Offensive Skill Positions StartersHead coach Brian Kelly's offense ranks 28th nationally at 439.25 yards per game and 32nd in scoring offense (33.38 per contest).
Quarterback #11 Tommy Rees: Has suffered two interceptions (one costly) and a fumble in his last five quarters after playing 12 quarters of turnover-free football, previous. Rees has 15 touchdown passes this season, with five more he'll become the third quarterback in program history to toss at least 20 in a single season (Brady Quinn and Jimmy Clausen).
Running Back #20 Cierre Wood: Bounced back from his worst career outing vs. USC with two touchdowns and 66 yards on 11 carries vs. Navy. Leads the Irish in rushing yards with 721, the most at the school since the 2006 season. Wood is tied with Jonas Gray for the team lead in touchdowns (8).
Running Back #25 Jonas Gray: Easily the program's most improved player since last season and since Kelly took over in South Bend. Threatening the program's all-time yards-per-carry average for a single season (currently an obscene 8.0) and has exceeded his career rushing totals by nearly 200 yards through eight games this season (502 in 2011, 309 from 2008-2010).
Wide Receiver #3 Michael Floyd: Has four double-digit reception games, four 100-plus yard receiving efforts, and last week, added his second two touchdown game of the season including his first career rushing score – a 10-yard lateral pass from Tommy Rees. The unquestioned team MVP and the offense's crutch, Floyd cannot be replaced this year or in 2012 by a lone competitor.
Wide Receiver #7 T.J. Jones: Ranks fourth on the squad in receptions (26) yards (280) and is tied for second in receiving TD (3). Jones has just six receptions over his last three games, though Kelly spoke highly of him this week, noting "You could make the case he's under-utilized."
Slot Receiver #6 Theo Riddick: Riddick's 17 receptions over the last three games ranks first on the team; his 197 combined yards in that span second only to Floyd.
Tight End #80 Tyler Eifert: Ranks first nationally among tight end in receptions (40) and third in receiving yards (446). Eifert needs 15 receptions in the remaining five contests to break Ken MacAfee's long-standing program record of 54 set in 1977 (11 games).
Slot Receiver #9 Robby Toma: Did not catch a pass last week after securing three grabs including a touchdown over the previous four contests. Rushed for 12 yards on his first career carry last week vs. Navy.
Quarterback #12 Andrew Hendrix: Did not appear last week after serving as a change-of-pace signal-caller in relief of starter Tommy Rees in the previous two contests. Hendrix was held in check in limited action by USC after breaking out for 111 rushing yards on just six carries in his previous contest vs. Air Force.
Tight Ends #18 Ben Koyack and #82 Alex Welch: The tandem is used in three-tight end sets in some short-yardage and goal line situations. A true freshman, Koyack has one reception this season while the redshirt-freshman Welch still searches for the first of his Irish career. Welch has had two passes intended for him intercepted this season including one last week.
Offensive LinemenOnly 5th-year senior guard Andrew Nuss is likely to see action in a reserve role during a competitive contest. Other reserves include senior center Mike Golic and sophomore tackle Christian Lombard. Notre Dame's 5.68 yards per carry ranks 8th in the nation – three of the seven teams ahead of Notre Dame run triple-option offenses; two others full read-option attacks (Oregon and Michigan).
LT #70 Zack Martin: 6'4" 303-pound junior is the only offensive lineman to appear on the Irisheyes.com Top 10 player list following each contest. Martin has started 20 consecutive games after sitting out as a true frosh in 2009. Ascended last week to Irisheyes.com's No. 2 overall player through eight games.
LG #66 Chris Watt: Ranks as the site's second most productive lineman through eight contests. The 6'3" 310-pound Watt is the only first-time starter along the offensive front this season.
C #52 Braxston Cave: 6'3" 303-pound two-year starter (21 straight games) is at his best at the point of attack, manned vs. an opposing nose guard. Cave has shown a penchant, if not consistency, for finding and taking down linebackers at the second level and will likely grade out as the team's third-best OL this fall.
RG #78 Trevor Robinson: 6'5" 311-pound senior leads the offense in total starts (35) and was lauded by his head coach in late September as the team's most improved lineman.
RT #75 Taylor Dever: 6'5" 301-pound 5th-year senior has improved greatly over the last two years, sealing the backside pass rush and run blitz lanes.