Scouting Report: Notre Dame

The Navy Midshipmen travel Dublin, Ireland to face the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in Ireland for the first time since 1996, in the Emerald Isle Classic. Tens of thousands of Notre Dame and Navy fans are expected to make the trip to Ireland to see a historical 86th match-up that will be broadcast nationally.

Last year at Notre Dame the Irish jumped on Mids early, scoring on their first two possessions and finishing the game with seven rushing touchdowns in the 56-14 whooping. The Irish return eight starters on offense and seven on defense and will look to build from their 8-5 season a year ago that ended with a 18-14 loss to Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl.

Returning starter Tommy Rees is serving a one game suspension that opened things up for redshirt freshman Everett Golson who was named the starting quarterback. The Irish were recently dealt another blow when coach Brian Kelly announced star running back Cierre Wood would be suspended the first two games of the year for violating team rules. Notre Dame ran for 5.8 yards per carry and 23 rushing TDs last year behind Wood's 1,291 yard effort.

Filling in for the suspended Wood is a versatile senior who has bounced back and forth between slot receiver and running back. As a true freshman Theo Riddick broke the school record with 849 kickoff return yards in a season. As a sophomore he was switched to slot receiver and finished second on the team in receptions (40), receiving yards (414) and receiving TDs (3). In 2011, due to injuries, Riddick was switched to running back for the Irish's loss to Florida State. Backing up Riddick is sophomore George Atkinson III, a track star who placed third in the 200-meter and returned two kickoffs for TDs as a true freshman.

With the graduation of standout receiver Michael Floyd the Irish will be looking for someone to fill the void of his 100 catches, 1147 yards, and nine TDs a year ago. T.J. Jones is a leading candidate to increase his 366 receiving yards and 3 TDs in 2011. Senior Robby Toma had 207 yards and a TD a year ago but after him no other returning receiver had over 200 receiving yards. Fifth year senior John Goodman earned the other starting receiving spot with five career starts and 28 catches for 315 yards. DeVaris Daniels, Daniel Smith, and true freshman Davonte' Neal will also seek to contribute on the Notre Dame receiving corps.

In 2011 Tyler Eifert was one of the top tight ends in the country with 63 catches and 803 yards in an effort that broke Notre Dame's record for catches and receiving yards in a season by a tight end. Sophomore Ben Koyack played in 12 games as a freshman, catching only one pass, and looks to see significant time behind Eifert this year. The Irish were dealt another blow here when junior Alex Welch suffered a season ending ACL injury. Welch was in good position to claim the number two spot behind Eifert.

The Irish offensive line is led by returning starters Zack Martin, Braxston Cave and Chris Watt. Cave anchors the line at center and had started 22 consecutive games before a foot injury ended his season. At left tackle Zack Martin returns to the position he's had 24 of his 26 career starts at. Also returning to a position he's familiar with is senior Chris Watt who started all 13 games at left guard right next to Zack Martin. This group allowed just 17 sacks over the season and helped the Irish running backs rush for 4.8 yards per carry. An experienced Irish line gets more depth at right guard from fifth year senior Mike Golic Jr. who started the last four games of 2011. Junior Christian Lombard takes over the starting right tackle after seeing a reserve role in 2011.

The Notre Dame defense returns a touted group of seasoned linebackers including three returning starters. Inside linebacker Manti Te'o turned down big NFL money to return to the Irish for his senior season. Te'o has started 36 games with 324 tackles, 28.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks. Returning next to Te'o is senior Dan Fox who also started every game of 2011 and finished sixth on the team with 48 tackles.

On the outside Prince Shembo looks to improve from his 31 tackles, 3.5 for a loss and two sacks in 2011 the junior pass specialist started eight games last year. Backing up Shembo at outside linebacker is sophomore Ishaq Williams who will also see the field plenty after playing in 11 games a year ago. Sophomore Ben Councell will take the other starting linebacker spot and will be backed up by freshman Romeo Okwara a 6-foot-4, 239 pounder who has gotten rave reviews in camp and will also start in the nickel package on third downs.

With 29 starts under his belt defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore will lead the Irish defensive line. The fifth year senior led the line in tackles in 2009 and '10, and if not for a season ending knee injury would of last year as well. Stephon Tuitt will hold down the other end spot after finishing his freshman year with 30 tackles and two sacks over three starts and nine games. Freshman Sheldon Day and sophomore Chase Hounshell will also work in the defensive end rotation.

At nose guard Notre Dame has a set of talented juniors in Kona Schwenke and Louis Nix III. Nix started 11 games a year ago, finishing with 45 tackles with four and a half for a loss. Schwenke should also see a fair bit of action behind Nix after an impressive fall camp.

Already thin Irish at cornerback the Irish secondary was hit again when Lo Wood suffered a season ending Achilles injury. Junior Bennett Jackson played in all 13 games a year ago and totaled 18 tackles with seven coming on special teams and looks to be a top contender for the starting corner spot. True freshman Keivarae Russell won the starting corner spot after beating out a trio of sophomores in camp. Russell will be backed up by Josh Atkinson helped the Irish win the Big East championships in indoor and outdoor track, the sophomore track star primarily played on special teams last year.

Safeties Jamoris Slaughter and Zeke Motta lead the secondary with 16 starts each. Motta is the most seasoned in the Irish secondary -- playing in all 38 games in his career -- and has the third most career tackles (102) among active Irish players. Slaughter is a versatile fifth-year senior who leads the secondary at safety after 45 tackles, four for a loss and an interception in 2011.

Senior kicker Nick Tausch set a school record with 14 consecutive field goals made in his freshman season but missed the final three games of the year with a foot injury. Tausch will take the starting kicker spot after seeing limited action as a sophomore and none as a junior. Ben Turk is back for his fourth season as starting Irish punter averaging 39 yards per punt over his 147 career punts.

The forecast for Saturday predicts excellent 71 degree, partly cloudy weather with little chance of rain.

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