Our Part II follow-up column offered a look at lesser-known competitors expected to battle for starting and backup roles during the spring, summer, and August camp including a quartet that saw meaningful action as rookies last season, but will have to fight returning vets for more playing time in 2012:
In our concluding segment below, Irisheyes.com examines the 11 offensive rookies who've yet to play under Brian Kelly and his staff – the 11th joining the fray sometime Monday afternoon.
- Offensive Guard Brad Carrico – Has the advantage of a full spring, summer, August camp, and scout team season under his belt entering spring 2012 – an interior prospect that will likely backup senior-to-be Chris Watt on the left side if he can't beat out classmate Connor Hanratty or potential 5th-year senior Mike Golic for the right guard role.
- Wide Receiver DaVaris Daniels – One of the team's three most important rookies entering spring practice as the 6'1 ½" 185-pound Daniels should challenge for a starting role at either the W or X wide receiver position (the "W" vacated by the graduation of Michael Floyd. If forced to choose one 2012 opening day scrimmage starter from this list of 18, Daniels would be the no-brainer first selection. Regardless if he wins the starting job or simply finds his way onto the field often in what should be an extended WR rotation, the Irish offense needs him to be a consistent producer and/or playmaker as a redshirt-freshman next fall.
- Wide Receiver Matthias Farley – A perimeter X-factor entering spring 2012 as Farley has the speed and athleticism to press his way into the rotation despite most analyst's belief he'd be a safety in college. At 5'10" 194, Farley will likely compete with starter Robby Toma and a host of newcomers next fall for slot receiver snaps – his 15-practice spring offers a leg-up. Appears to be a natural punt return candidate as well as the Irish revamp their return unit.
- Quarterback Everett Golson – The squad's Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year is the fan's choice entering spring ball, then again, that's usually the case for talented, untested freshmen who've yet to show any flaws at the collegiate level. His quickness, arm strength, and playmaking skill would be a welcomed addition to the offense but beating out a 16-game starter and physically talented sophomore would be a tall order by the end of April. Look for the starting QB battle to be determined in mid-August instead.
- Offensive Guard Connor Hanratty – Broke into the two-deep at right guard early last season though the plan was to redshirt Hanratty from the beginning (he'd have played in an emergency situation only). Purportedly transformed his body between National Signing Day 2011 and some point last season when the effort earned praise from his head coach. The 6'4" 315-pounder also apparently possesses a bit of a mean streak – a key ingredient at a program lacking anything of the sort along its offensive lines for most of the millennium.
- Offensive Lineman Matt Hegarty – The 6'4 ½" 295-pound freshman appears to be the most versatile of the first-year quintet, taking snaps at center as well as guard and tackle as a Scout Team player last fall. Hegarty will most likely begin the spring working for a role at the wide open right guard spot, though his progression at center could decide his 2012 fate – slotted as 5th-year senior Braxston Cave's backup as the Irish pivot man with an inside track toward the 2013 starting job. Cave's classmate and potential 5th-year senior Mike Golic would provide competition at both center and guard should he return.
- Quarterback Gunner Kiel – Douglas Farmer, editor of Notre Dame's student newspaper, The Observer confirmed rampant speculation that Kiel, set to enroll Monday at LSU for the spring semester, flipped his commitment and chose instead to enroll at Notre Dame (Kiel link here.) The 5-star Scout.com prospect will compete with Golson and incumbents Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix – another four-man quarterback derby from which Kelly must find a suitable pecking order by the end of August camp. Don't expect any of the quartet to be named a starter exiting spring ball.
- Offensive Lineman Nick Martin – Earned a spot behind his brother on the team's official two-deep depth chart last fall, though like Hanratty, Martin was not slated to see action barring a rash of injuries to the team's veteran backups. Will either compete with classmate Jordan Prestwood for the backup left tackle role, with sophomores Christian Lombard and Tate Nichols for the starting right tackle spot, or be part of a multi-player Battle Royale for the right guard spot vacated by graduating senior Trevor Robinson.
- Offensive Tackle Tate Nichols – Withheld from action as a true freshman in 2010 then missed all of 2011 due to injury: first a dislocated knee cap knocked out for three weeks; then a shoulder injury that required surgery in late September. The 6'8" 320-pound Nichols is expected to compete for the starting right tackle role. Among the team's backup competitors, the massive Nichols appears the least likely to move to an interior position.
- Offensive Tackle Jordan Prestwood – Lauded by Kelly for his quick feet and technical ability as a scout team tackle, Prestwood appears to have the first shot at the No. 2 left tackle role, though Nick Martin could also compete at the position. Prestwood transferred from Florida State following the 2011 spring semester and was therefore ineligible to play in 2011 for the Irish, a reality that kept him from any official listing on the depth chart. Of the freshman five, Prestwood appears the only member definitely slated for tackle duties.
- Running Back Cameron Roberson – The 2010 freshman and Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year missed all of 2011 with one torn and one partially torn knee ligament. Kelly noted multiple times that Roberson's recovering was slow in nature and most outside observers believe he'll have a better chance to compete for a key role in 2013 than in 2012. Roberson injured his knee at the Loftus Center in a late-March practice; 2012 kickoff will be a full 17 months from the date of injury, but spring practice is just one calendar year removed. He joins seniors (for 2012) Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick and sophomores George Atkinson III and Cam McDaniel as spring competitors at the position with a pair of incoming freshmen entering the fray in the summer.