Freshman P #85 Tyler NewsomeNotre Dame's punter of the future has an outside chance to win the lead role for 2014. The means to that end: prove vastly superior to incumbent Kyle Brindza, one of the nation's best kickers and a solid punter to boot. Should he earn the role this fall, it'd be a much better sign for the Irish that Newsome wins the job in August rather than for Brindza to "lose it" at any point.
Realistic Ceiling: Starting punter at some point in 2014.
Other side of the coin: Redshirt season.
Junior DE #45 Romeo OkwaraA no-doubt starter in the team's new 4-3 front, Okwara is a likely candidate for sub package duties as well. He enters camp as one of three veterans (seniors Ishaq Williams and Anthony Rabasa) that will be counted upon heavily to provide a pass-rushing presence from the edge. The challenge for projected ends Williams and Okwara is to hold up against the run as well.
Realistic Ceiling: A break out season, one in which he works in congress with a host of backups to form a productive weak side presence against the run. Okwara can add to that by getting to the quarterback in one-on-one battles -- not simply as part of a heavy blitz package.
Other side of the coin: Fails to secure the edge vs. the myriad quality rushing attacks the Irish will face and it thus becomes clear his athleticism would have been best served as a strong side linebacker in the new scheme. (At 260, Okwara is all in as a DE for 2014.)
Soph. LB #17 James OnwualuListed as a linebacker not a safety, Onwualu (now six-foot-one, 220 pounds) will compete with John Turner, Ben Councell, and potentially others for a rotation role on the strong side (sam). Regardless, the physical, aggressive Onwualu will be counted upon to help inject life into the program's moribund kick coverage unit and he'll be a starter on every Irish special team.
Realistic Ceiling: Special Teams Player of the Year; intermittent impact as the sam.
Other side of the coin: A man without a position heading into his junior season.
Junior Slot #20 C.J. ProsiseEnters camp as 1B to senior Amir Carlisle's 1A at the slot position. Both will compete throughout camp and the season for the lion's share of reps -- expect Carlisle to hold down 1A status exiting camp, but Prosise is a player on the rise. Like Onwualu above, he (should be) on every Irish run team (coverages and returns).
Realistic Ceiling: Emerges as the No. 1 slot receiver and makes a weekly impact along the lines of the team's No. 4 pass-catching option. YAC (yards after the catch) becomes his calling card.
Other side of the coin: Backup duty equates to inconsistency, and 10-13 low-impact receptions are the end result.
Senior Rush End #56 Anthony RabasaHeretofore a man without a position, Rabasa might have found his. Not coincidentally, it's one in which he starred as a prep prospect and after seasons as a too-small defensive lineman and a not rugged enough inside 'backer, Rabasa will get his chance to pursue opposing quarterbacks, almost exclusively from the team's sub (nickel/dime) packages.
Realistic Ceiling: Two to three sacks and twice as many QB hurries as a rush end.
Other side of the coin: Status quo.