Sophomore OL #60 John MontelusMissed most of the 2013 season (summer conditioning, in-season, bowl preparation) while recovering from shoulder surgery following his prep career. And in Montelus' case, "missed" refers to any time in football pads. The former four-star prospect was listed at 345 pounds on the team's official camp roster 12 months ago, but down to 320 last spring. He enters camp with a chance to challenge for a backup guard role but it appears anything greater is on hold until 2015.
Realistic Ceiling: An outstanding training camp leads to time with the varsity rather than scout team during the season. His first appearance in an Irish uniform ensues.
Other side of the coin: Scout team duties and a definitive third-string status throughout the campaign.
5th-year senior LB #8 Kendall MooreMoore likely played his best ball as a redshirt-freshman under Brian Kelly and former defensive coordinator Bob Diaco in 2011. Since he's shown intermittent flashes on special teams while toiling behind since-graduated veterans Manti Te'o, Carlo Calabrese and Dan Fox as an inside 'backer. Moore remains inside in Brian VanGorder's scheme and will battle with redshirt-freshman Doug Randolph and a host of others for the right to backup Jaylon Smith at the will position.
Realistic Ceiling: Special Teams Player of the Year. Spot duty and strong work against the run in the team's short-yardage defense.
Other side of the coin: 2012, a season in which Moore regressed. (He was better in 2013.)
Freshman LB #5 Nyles MorganThe program's top incoming defensive prospect, Morgan is expected to challenge for a starting job by the time the squad reconvenes -- for 2015. This fall, he'll likely get an initial look in the middle, where starter Joe Schmidt and injured former starter Jarrett Grace are the only non-freshmen combatants. Morgan has a chance to reach "1B" status in the middle, but Schmidt's knowledge of the scheme and underrated football ability will likely keep the senior in the lead role -- assuming good health -- throughout the season. (Grace's injury remains a major concern.)
Realistic Ceiling: Starting sam or middle linebacker at some point in 2014; failing that, weekly contributions, both from scrimmage and on special teams.
Other side of the coin: Intermittent action from scrimmage and a nondescript special teams effort.
Freshman OL #53 Sam MustipherMy projected starting center for 2016, Mustipher enters camp with no expectations for playing time this fall, but his (expected) conversion from guard to the pivot position and work thereafter is something to monitor for Irish fans that enjoy roster management.
Realistic Ceiling: No. 2 center with the varsity behind Nick Martin, though senior guard Matt Hegarty would be the No. 2 game day center.
Other side of the coin: He does not surpass junior G/C Matt Harrell in the pecking order among backup pivots.
Freshman OL #55 Quenton NelsonThe 2014 class's top prospect offensively, Nelson purportedly impressed in summer workouts, both in terms of preternatural strength and his ability to mix it up in 1-on-1s. Notre Dame's depth along the offensive front likely precludes a starting spot -- if Nelson were to even challenge for that status beyond the mid-point of camp, it'd be an indication he'll be a special player down the road.
Realistic Ceiling: Regular rotation member at guard -- first guard off the bench. Failing that, the team's No. 4 offensive tackle, though that likely would equate to less playing time.
Other side of the coin: A redshirt-season, and that's not a bad thing. Notre Dame is stacked with veteran depth. (Nelson is likely too good to redshirt, but if the Irish offensive front remains healthy and is as advertised on game days, he need not burn eligibility, either.)