No Vacancy

Notre Dame found its twelfth member of the 2012 recruiting class Sunday night. Consequently, each verbal commitment that follows between now and National Signing Day will force a group of 14 potential 5th-year seniors to fight for a roster spot on the 2012 squad.

Sunday night's verbal commitment by Ardrey Kell High (Charlotte, N.C.) defensive end Romeo Okwara, coupled with the expected finalization and enrollment of Florida State transfer and former Notre Dame verbal pledge Jordan Prestwood, completes the 2012 Irish roster.

The addition of the pair brings the total number of current or pledged Irish with collegiate eligibility for the 2012 season to the NCAA limit of 85.

There will be defections, of course – the inevitable transfer of current players or a de-commitment – as well as the possibility of an early NFL Draft entry by junior linebacker Manti Te'o, and/or another upperclassman with eligibility. And Unfortunately, a player suspension or other disciplinary matter that will likely dent the current Irish roster between now and National Signing Day, 2012.

But at present, there are no more spots available for outsiders looking to join head coach Brian Kelly's Inn. And since the 2012 recruiting class will include far more than its current number of 12 recruits, there's but one obvious, uncomfortable scenario on tap:

The majority of 14 potential 5th-year seniors will not be asked, or allowed back for the 2012 season – their final season of football eligibility at the University. Each will likely graduate with a Notre Dame degree next spring, but the prospect of a 5th-season in 2012 that seemed tantalizing during a red-shirt season under former head coach Charlie Weis' staff won't exist, thanks to the on-field progress demanded by the program's new regime.

Below is a look at both the current status and 5th-year projection for each 2011 senior with remaining eligibility following the season.

Ask and you shall receive

Three members of the class should be considered far more valuable than potential commitment between now and February. The only thing keeping this trio from a 5th-season is their unlikely leap to the NFL at season's end.

  1. Kapron Lewis-Moore (DE): Has started the last two seasons after sitting out 2008 as a 230-pound freshman. An anchor and sure 2011 starter at one of the three most important positions on the team, Lewis-Moore was IrishEyes #8 ranked overall player for Notre Dame in 2010.

  2. Braxston Cave (C): The only proven center on the squad, and his backup Mike Golic (discussed below) has never started a college game. Cave is a lock to return in 2012, his third season as Notre Dame's pivot.

  3. Sean Cwynar (NG): 2011 will be his first full season as a starter, but the unheralded Cwynar helped save the season, stepping into injured Ian Williams' starting role last November and anchoring the defense's best one-month performance at the program in nearly three decades. Unlike Lewis-Moore or even Cave, a standout season by the undersized Cwynar would barely elicit an NFL Draft decision: he'd return for year five at the program.

Perform and you shall receive…

2011 production, performance, and progress will directly impact the 2012 scholarship standing for each. I expect you'll see this entire grouping back in an Irish uniform next fall, then again, last season didn't play out according to Hoyle.

  1. Dayne Crist (QB): Full or part-time starting quarterback and team leader status in 2011 would secure Crist's return in 2012. An injury, or definite No. 2 status would likely elicit a change for Crist, who will graduate in December 2011. Expect to see him back in an Irish uniform in '12.

  2. Jamoris Slaughter (S): My projected starter next to Harrison Smith this fall, Slaughter cannot afford another injury truncated season. Whether he starts or rotates with junior Zeke Motta this season, the tandem ranks as the obvious starting safety pairing for 2012.

  3. Hafis Williams (NG): Would you rather offer a random high school senior four years at your school or keep what would be a two-year contributing, 300-pound defensive lineman on your roster for a possible BCS, or repeat BCS run? My answer is the same as the coaching staff's…

Position fits, common sense, or the outside looking in?

Both players occupy a potential position of need for the 2012 roster. Both could use serious field time to ensure 2012 roster occupancy.

  1. John Goodman (WR): Currently ranks as either the team's No. 3 wide receiver (ahead of sophomore T.J. Jones) or No. 5 (behind junior Robby Toma) in the rotation. Goodman has shown flashes, but one touchdown, four career starts (three last fall) and fewer than 10 yards per reception on 15 grabs in 2010 doesn't guarantee a 5th-season on this increasingly competitive roster.

    Notre Dame loses star Michael Floyd at season's end, and its WR ranks thinned considerably over the last calendar year thanks to a transfer (Shaquelle Evans) and two position switches (Bennett Jackson and Austin Collinsworth) – each from recruiting classes below Goodman's. Add to that the presence of one true wide receiver in the 2011 class, in DaVaris Daniels (though two others could play the position) and Goodman could provide 2012 veteran value…assuming drastic improvement this fall.

  2. Mike Golic Jr (C/G): Can backup two positions, and appears to be the only backup center on the potential 2012 roster, though junior Chris Watt has been evaluated for the role and its likely another incoming freshman (Conor Hanratty?) could be as well. Still, a 5th-year senior backing up another 5th-year starter at center is much more appealing to a head coach – not to mention offensive line coach – than a redshirt-freshman or newbie in the No. 2 role. Golic also serves on the Irish special teams.

Uphill Battles

Each needs 2011 to redefine his career to date in order to lock down a fifth season at the program.

  1. Dan McCarthy (S): The squad returns five safeties for 2012: Slaughter, Motta, Collinsworth, incoming freshman Eilar Hardy, and returning freshman *Chris Badger, while at least two (possibly three) more incoming recruits will receive initial evaluations at the position. McCarthy must not only crack the two-deep, but receive rotation playing time…while excelling on special teams, to find his way back in 2012. The first step toward that end? Stay healthy.

  2. Anthony McDonald (ILB): Oft-injured linebacker must supplant either redshirt-freshman Kendall Moore or junior Dan Fox for a No. 2 role behind Manti Te'o and Carlo Calabrese inside. The catch? Each of those four return in 2012, as will incoming freshman Jarrett Grace. McDonald's 2011 will serve as a six-month audition vs. a potential 2012 inside linebacker recruit. The senior tore his ACL in 2008, suffered a hyper-extended knee in August 2010, and a torn pectoral muscle last spring. He's expected to be ready for August 2011 camp.

  3. Deion Walker (WR): Did not see action last season after briefly making headway early in 2009 under Weis. Has one career catch (the season-opener in '09) but seemed to push his way into the six-man rotation at wide receiver during spring 2011. Walker must not only hold down the No. 6 role this fall, but prove he can be a key member of the rotation going forward. In short: he has to be at least as reliable as Goodman, but bring something additional to the table.

  4. Lane Clelland (OT/OG/C): Jack-of-all trades has yet to master one. Clelland also played tight end for Weis in 2009 and has served as a lineman on special teams over the last two seasons. He must cement a spot on the 2011 two-deep depth chart to return in 2012 – a tall order with ample young talent behind him and entering the program.

  5. David Posluszny (ILB): Ranks behind McDonald in the ILB pecking order, but a breakthrough season as a No. 2 linebacker, coupled with standout special teams play could change his status. Poz was, for some reason, not credited with a snap last season, though he appeared in five games, recording a scrimmage tackle vs. Navy.

  6. Brandon Newman (NG): Has appeared in two games over two seasons and enters camp as the No. 4 nose guard with junior Tyler Stockton returning from a knee injury to battle him for that role. Newman would have to crack the nose guard rotation (three-deep) this fall to earn a 5th-year in 2012.

Current 2012 Irish Roster

Potential 5th-year players are detailed in bold type while 2012 verbal commitments are denoted with an asterisk.

2012 Linebackers (Eligibility following 2011 season in parenthesis):
Manti Te'o – ILB (1)
Carlo Calabrese – ILB (2)
Dan Fox – OLB/ILB (2)
Prince Shembo – OLB (2)
Danny Spond – OLB (2)
Kendall Moore – ILB (3)
Justin Utupo – ILB (3)
Jarrett Grace – ILB (3/4)
Ben Councell – OLB (3/4)
Ishaq Williams - OLB (3/4)
Anthony Rabasa – OLB (3/4)
Anthony McDonald – ILB (1)
David Posluszny – ILB (1)
* David Perkins – OLB
* Romeo Okwara – OLB/DE

2012 Defensive Linemen (Eligibility following 2011 season in parenthesis):
Tyler Stockton – NG (2)
Kona Schwenke – DE (2)
Louis Nix – NG (3)
Chase Hounshell – DE (3/4)
Aaron Lynch – DE (3/4)
Tony Springmann – DE (3/4)
Stephon Tuitt – DE (3/4)
Troy Niklas – DE/OT (3/4)
Sean Cwynar – NG (1)
Kapron Lewis-Moore – DE (1)
Hafis Williams – NG (1)
Brandon Newman – NG/DE (1)

2012 Defensive Backs (Eligibility following 2011 season in parenthesis):
Zeke Motta – S (1)
Austin Collinsworth – S (2)
Bennett Jackson – CB (2)
Lo Wood – CB (2)
Eilar Hardy – S (3/4)
Jalen Brown – CB/S (3/4)
Josh Atkinson – CB/S (3/4)
Chris Badger – S, returns from his mission for the 2012 season with 4 season of eligibility remaining.
Dan McCarthy – S (1)
Jamoris Slaughter – S (1)
*John Turner (S)
*Ronald Darby (CB)
* Nick Baratti (S)
*Tee Shepard (CB)
*C.J. Prosise (S)

2012 Offensive Linemen (Eligibility following 2011 season in parenthesis):
Zack Martin – OT (2)
Chris Watt – OG (2)
Christian Lombard – OT (3)
Tate Nichols – OT (3)
Bruce Heggie – OL (3)
Brad Carrico – OT/OG (3/4)
Conor Hanratty – OG (3/4)
Nick Martin – OT (3/4)
Matt Hegarty – OT (3/4)
(Transfer) Jordan Prestwood – OT (4)
Braxston Cave – (1)
Lane Clelland – (1)
Mike Golic, Jr. – (1)
*Mark Harrell – OT
*Taylor Decker – OT

2012 Wide Receivers (Eligibility following 2011 season in parenthesis):
Theo Riddick (1)
Robby Toma (1)
T.J. Jones (2)
Daniel Smith (2/3)
Luke Massa (3)
DaVaris Daniels (3/4)
Matthias Farley – WR/DB (3/4)
John Goodman (1)
Deion Walker (1)
*Deontay Greenberry
*Justin Ferguson

2012 Tight Ends (Eligibility following 2011 season in parenthesis):
Tyler Eifert (2)
Jake Golic (2)
Alex Welch (3)
Ben Koyack (3/4)

2012 Quarterbacks (Eligibility following 2011 season in parenthesis):
Tommy Rees (3)
Andrew Hendrix (3)
Everett Golson (3/4)
Dayne Crist (1)

2012 Running Backs (Eligibility following 2011 season in parenthesis):
Cierre Wood (2)
Cameron Roberson (3)
George Atkinson (3/4)
Cam McDaniel (3/4)

2012 Specialists (Eligibility following 2011 season in parenthesis):
Jordan Cowart – LS (1)
Nick Tausch – K (1)
Ben Turk – P (1)
Kyle Brindza – K/P (3/4)
*Scott Daly (LS) Top Stories