Click here for Part II and
What Irish Fans (Reasonably) KnowNo's 1 through 8 (linked above) included discussion points regarding Manti Te'o and Tyler Eifert, Zack Martin, Cierre Wood, Notre Dame's defense vs. average/solid offenses, Aaron Lynch, Stephon Tuitt, George Atkinson, and the defensive line as Notre Dame's best unit entering the spring.
- More than one quarterback will play: Not since his early Central Michigan days has Brian Kelly enjoyed the services of a single starting quarterback over the course of a season. With questions regarding recent starter Tommy Rees, a relatively open competition, injuries commonplace in the read-option spread attack, and at least two young prospects in need of game time evaluation – and playing time to keep their interests under the Dome – it's a near certainty that Irish fans will again compare and contrast signal-callers in 2012.
- We don't know much: Where are the known quantities? Starters at MLB, TE, RB, LT, LG, C, DE, NG, DE, (backup/rotation DL), WLB, and both safety spots are relatively set. Among that group, at least one safety has ample room for improvement, so too do both WLB competitors while one DE (Stephon Tuitt) is coming off a shortened season, another (Kapron Lewis-Moore) suffered a season-ending injury.
Notre Dame's redshirt-sophomore, sophomore, and redshirt-freshman ranks must greatly impact the 2012 campaign.
What Irish Fans Think They KnowParts 1 and 2 discussed the importance of Jamoris Slaughter, the kicking situation, a solid pair at left guard/center, the likelihood of at least one freshman starter, a great chance to begin 2-0, Louis Nix, and the inexperienced cornerbacks built in crutch: the front seven.
- The end of one season has no affect on the beginning of the next: Kelly and the Irish ended 2010 on an all-time high, at least for a team that lost five games along the way. They ended 2011 with a noticeable thud: two losses and the last "impressive" win occurring in mid September. The key to 2012, however, is that none of this matters.
The Irish looked great, and most important, sound, to end 2010 but were a train wreck early in 2011. Conversely, Notre Dame's last national title team of 1988 lost its last three in 1987, each in more convincing fashion than the last.
Attitude and confidence play a major role in college football. Both change week-to-week for most.
- Toma and T.J. are ready for bigger roles: The pair combined for 16 starts (Jones 12), 57 receptions, 573 yards and four touchdowns last fall. The latter, Jones, has caught three touchdown passes in both of his first two seasons but none after Game 5 in either. Robby Toma has yet to catch a pass prior to Game 4 in any of his three seasons as a contributor. Both are expected to provide a chain-moving presence with increased aptitude after the catch.
- Ishaq Williams could start as a sophomore...and prove invaluable: Banking on a 19-year-old, relatively unseasoned defender to morph into a viable starter is a dangerous proposition, regardless of his potential and ranking out of high school. Williams seems to have all the physical tools but readily admits his weakness was "learning to play hard."
We'll see if playing hard (and thus, disciplined) is a learned trait somewhere near Navy's 10th option play in early September…during Purdue's first 3rd and long, and when Denard Robinson comes to town, etc., etc.
The Irish could use his athleticism, both on the perimeter in space and coming off the edge of the pocket.
What Irish Fans Hope to be TrueOffensive line depth, Theo Riddick, and the QB Conundrum (turnovers) led off this less-than-appealing category, which continues below.
- Chuck Martin will improve the offense in 2012 as he did the defensive backfield in 2010: The truth is, Irish fans have no idea how well former offensive coordinator Charley Molnar and Brian Kelly meshed. They do, however, remember Chuck Martin turned one of the least impressive pass defenses in program history into a solid, disciplined, stingy unit in his first season coaching the position in South Bend (2010).
That secondary fell from grace last fall, and Martin moved to the critical OC role for 2012. In the opinion of Irisheyes.com, Martin is a top notch football coach, one that has been well-versed on both sides of scrimmage for the better part of 25 years (including his playing days). But 18 years of waiting has turned Irish fans into skeptics and the former Grand Valley State head coach definitely has something to prove this fall and beyond.
- Matthias Farley is a diamond in the rough: We'll touch on the team's other returning veteran receivers in later editions of these musings, but Farley's speed, quickness, and overall athleticism (plus ball skills) in the slot rank as a potential difference-maker on a unit bereft of that known quantity at present.
QB Everett Golson was the Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year. Farley was the runner-up. Irish fans would like to see why as soon as possible.