Offensive BackfieldTommy Rees enters his second Senior Day start with 11 wins and two defeats as the team's starting quarterback. With nearly 2,400 passing yards through 9.5 games this season, Rees is a good bet to join a select group of signal callers with 3,000 yards passing in a single season (Brady Quinn, Jimmy Clausen).
Joining Rees in the backfield will be Jonas Gray, making his fourth career start and last in Notre Dame Stadium. Gray has raced to 730 rushing yards including 307 in the last four weeks. Former starter Cierre Wood still leads the squad in rushing yards and attempts, amassing 907 yards with nine touchdowns and 5.7 yards per pop.
While Gray chases 1,000 yards, Wood could match the 1,268-yard effort of Julius Jones (2003) – the high point of the millennium (Darius Walker ran for 1,267 in 2006).
Rees' backups include senior Dayne Crist – likely to see time Saturday when the game is no longer in doubt – and sophomore Andrew Hendrix, a mobile, change-of-pace option to Rees' pocket presence in four games this fall. Freshman George Atkinson could see time though productive walk-on Patrick Coughlin (#29) – a two-year Blue Gold Game star – would likely get the nod for late-game rushes as a graduating senior.
Perimeter TargetsMichael Floyd will play his last game in the Stadium Saturday. In his first, Floyd snared a 30-yard touchdown grab to provide the Irish their first points of the 2008 season. He's since captured nearly every relevant program receiving record including receptions, touchdown, yards, 100-yard games, and yards per contest.
Complimenting Floyd's effort all season has been junior tight end Tyler Eifert. The Fort Wayne, Bishop-Dwenger product is three receptions short of tying program legend Ken MacAfee's 34-year-old position record of 54 receptions. Eifert likewise needs one touchdown to tie MacAfee's mark of six scores in a single season.
Rounding out the starting quartet of pass-catchers are sophomore T.J. Jones and junior Robby Toma. Toma will make his fourth career start and second of the season; he caught a career-best seven passes for 73 yards last week in a win over Maryland. Jones ranks fourth on the team in receptions (31) and yards (315) and is tied with injured slot receiver Theo Riddick for third with three receiving scores.
Riddick is not expected to play Saturday, opening a spot for senior John Goodman in the four-man receiver rotation. Goodman has four receptions over the last three contests.
Look for senior Deion Walker to see time late should the contest no longer be in doubt. Walker has appeared in two games (Purdue and Air Force) this season.
Backing up Eifert at tight end will be the young tandem of freshman Ben Koyack and redshirt-freshman Alex Welch – both with one reception this season; both serving mainly in a lead blocking role, of late from a full-house backfield.
Offensive LineThe starting five of Zack Martin (LT), Chris Watt (LG), Mike Golic (C), Trevor Robinson (RG), and Taylor Dever (RT) will make its second start as a unit. All but Golic has started each of the team's 10 games this season while the latter replaced injured classmate Braxston Cave (foot) during the Game Nine win over Wake Forest. Cave's season is over after foot surgery but the senior is expected to return to action in the spring after earning a likely 5th-year of eligibility.
5th-year senior Andrew Nuss backs up all three interior line spots while sophomore (redshirt-freshman) Christian Lombard is the backup tackle. Nuss can play tackle in a pinch as well. Redshirt-freshman Bruce Heggie is also available for action at center and guard while the rest of the team's depth chart will be withheld from action barring catastrophe this season.
Special TeamsRecord-setting 5th-year senior David Ruffer will make his final appearance in the Stadium. Ruffer has connected on five straight field goals and is 7 of 11 on the season after hitting 18 of 19 last year, and 23 of 24 to begin his career.
His holder, as always, will be fellow walk-on senior Ryan Kavanagh. Kavanagh also serves as the long snapper for the punt team while junior Jordan Cowart handles the short-snapper duties (field goal/PAT).
Freshman sensation George Atkinson III is the lead kick returner; Atkinson is one of five players in the nation this season to return multiple kicks for touchdowns and averages 28.2 yards per return. Joining him deep is sophomore Austin Collinsworth (7 returns with a long gain of 41 on the season; 20.4 average).
Freshman kicker Kyle Brindza will kick-off (65.5 per boot with 10 touchbacks and two kicks out of bounds). Junior Ben Turk is the punter (39 yards per punt with 11 kicks inside the 20-yard line and no touchbacks). Turk enjoyed his best game of the season last week, averaging 41.2 yards over three kicks. The junior has four punts in excess of 50 yards this season but has had just eight punts result in fair catches.
Seniors John Goodman and Michael Floyd are expected to handle the punt "return" duties. Notre Dame has not gained a punt return yard since Game Four.