Click here for a look at incoming freshmen and their chances for 2012 playing time. Click here for a review of the 10 sophomores on the Irish roster that saw collegiate action in 2011.
September Starting Aspirations
There's a decent chance none of the quartet below will start the opener vs. Navy but that each will start at some point in 2012 and that all four could end the season as the No. 1 player at his position.
DaVaris Daniels: Notre Dame's best hope for a game-breaker on the perimeter in 2012 is this 6'1" 190-pound athletic target. Daniels could finish as high as second on the squad in every major receiving category or struggle with the daily and weekly duties of a long season, relegating him to a supporting role behind veterans such as John Goodman and T.J. Jones.
Everett Golson: The People's Choice to start the season, Golson's lack of attention to detail (ball security, getting the play in from the sideline quickly, and showing up for practice on time) proves the devil is indeed in the details for college quarterbacks. He can run, throw, and escape pressure and was born to play the position…but that was high school.
Nick Martin: In a battle vs. 5th-year senior Mike Golic, Jr. for the starting right guard spot. It would be a great sign for the line's future if Martin can earn the nod entering 2012. But the bet here is Golic gets the call.
Ben Councell: Also in a one-on-one battle for a starting role, this at Dog linebacker vs. junior Danny Spond. The rangy Councell has the ideal build for the position, but no player on the Irish roster appears to have all the tangible traits necessary to nail down the starting spot…and that dates back to 2010.
Depth is the Key
Two of the group are slotted behind two of the team's best players, thus limiting their opportunity at present. Another looks to enjoy his second straight season on the official two-deep roster while the remaining trio recovers from various injuries over the previous calendar year.
ILB Jarrett Grace: From all reports and practice viewings, Grace ranked among the team's best non-starter on the spring defense. He nonetheless has a year to watch Manti Te'o before he assumes control of the middle linebacker spot for what could be a three-year starting career in South Bend. Look for Grace in the rotation and on special teams, though he noted late in the spring he was not working at the other inside 'backer position (the Will) occupied at present by the senior tandem of Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese.
S Eilar Hardy: Still recovering from August 2011 ACL surgery, Hardy should see early time on special teams while fighting for the remaining two-deep safety roles. He worked a touch at Star linebacker (Nickel package where the starter is Jamoris Slaughter) but mostly as the field (deep) safety during the spring.
OG Conor Hanratty: An official member of the varsity in 2011 (along with Nick Martin, above), Hanratty would have only played in an emergency situation. He remains on the two-deep, now behind certain starter Chris Watt at left guard. (A senior, Watt has two seasons of eligibility remaining.) Look for Hanratty to battle his classmate Martin for the starting RG spot next spring, summer, and fall.
OT Jordan Prestwood: Prestwood was singled out by Kelly for his quick feet as a future starting left tackle. In fact, the Florida State early enrollee and 2011 summer transfer was the first of five offensive linemen in the class to be (publicly) designated a position. Unfortunately for Prestwood, that position is left tackle, home of two-time Guardian of the Year Zack Martin…and Martin could win the award this year and the next should he apply for a 5th-season in 2013.
OLB Anthony Rabasa: Originally assume for Cat linebacker duties, Rabasa moved inside in 2011 before undergoing shoulder surgery in late-September last fall. He worked outside for most of the 2012 spring session, again at Cat, but possibly because starter Prince Shembo was sidelined with a foot injury. Rabasa can handle the load athletically -- mental reps are essential if he's to win a consistent spot in the rotation, inside or out.
NG Tony Springmann Sat out the spring after off-season back surgery, Springmann nearly beat out senior Hafis Williams for a varsity spot last September. Kelly and the staff have spoken glowingly of his play on the nose -- this despite a transition from defensive end in high school, one Springmann noted was quite difficult early last fall. Still, back surgery for a sophomore nose guard could hamper his early camp, or early season strength and conditioning level -- the Irish need him in the rotation as a true backup nose (thus allowing Schwenke and Tuitt to play fresh at both DE and NG throughout the season) but Springmann's presence might not be felt until the leaves begin to fall.
The Climb Continues
Injury, position switches, and a step back this spring define the quartet below, though an impressive August can erase most of those maladies.
CB Jalen Brown: At present we know this of Brown: Michael Floyd was complimentary of his efforts; Brian Kelly is encouraged by his ability to play press man coverage; Kelly noted he needs ample work in zone schemes. And the Irish play predominantly zone defenses. Brown has been rumored for a possible position switch to safety but that's nonsensical considering the numbers at corner (5 with him) and at safety (11 without).
S Matthias Farley: Finished second to quarterback Everett Golson for offensive Scout Team Player of the Year honors last fall. Now he's back at safety where most analysts originally projected. His first playing time will undoubtedly be on specialty units as the defensive staff indicated he had far to go in the late stages of spring ball before earning consistent scrimmage snaps. Still, his athleticism suggests otherwise, assuming he can translate from the film room to the practice field.
C Matt Hegarty: First, the snap, apparently both standard and shotgun, judging by the Blue Gold Game's myriad miscues, must be mastered. At that point Irish fans can get a glimpse of the team's center of the future. A 4-star Scout.com offensive tackle prospect, Hegarty is far from the field with 5th-year seniors Braxston Cave and Mike Golic, Jr. on hand for 2012.
OG Brad Carrico: It's not yet been officially announced, but Carrico is believed out for the season, or at least most of it, due to a lingering foot injury that's troubled him since his arrival. Surgery should shelve him for the bulk of 2012 with a fresh start in spring 2013.