We have five questions heading into spring practice for the offensive side of the ball and also give an early look into what we expect the answer to be following the Irish spring game.
Question One: Who steps up and takes the No. 1 receiver spot for the Irish in the spring?
Early Answer: With the loss of Michael Floyd the Irish will be looking for a new go-to guy and have one already on the roster who has proven his ability. While many will be looking to a handful of guys listed on the depth chart, I feel Brian Kelly and his staff will find even more ways to get Tyler Eifert the ball.
Question Two: Will a quarterback step up and challenge Tommy Rees for the starting job?
Early Answer: Yes, however fans will not know Brian Kelly's plan for the position after the spring game. Despite belief by many Rees is headed to the back of the depth chart, he is still a player holding 16 career starts. Rees is not going to go down without a fight and that should make for great competition and bring out the best of Andrew Hendrix, Everett Golson and freshman Gunner Kiel.
Question Three: What changes will come with three new coaches on the offensive side of the football?
Early Answer: It is no secret the Irish offense did not run the way Brian Kelly envisioned over the past two seasons. Out at offensive coordinator is Charley Molnar who was replaced by former defensive assistant Chuck Martin.
Also leaving the program are running backs coach Tim Hinton and offensive line coach Ed Warinner.
Hinton has been replaced by Tony Alford who will add running backs to his slot wide receiver duties while veteran coach Harry Hiestand was hired away from Tennessee to replace Warinner along the offensive line.
Add Scott Booker who takes over the tight ends for Mike Denbrock (who moves to outside wide receivers and passing game coordinator) and you can see the Irish offense has endured a complete shift in duties.
There will be some changes and maybe even a few hiccups during the spring. However, look for Kelly to feel comfortable with Martin in his role and for the Irish offensive line to take a more physical approach.
Question Four: Is Cierre Wood ready to be one of the best running backs in college football?
Early Answer: Yes! Wood has continued to progress the past two seasons and this spring will allow for him to take the next step toward becoming an elite back. Look for Alford to push Wood hard during the spring to prepare his mindset to be a complete back and not just a back capable of making a big run.
Question Five: Will the offensive line take a step forward under new coach Harry Hiestand?
Early Answer: Hiestand was hired to give the Irish a new demeanor. Anything less and Brian Kelly will not be happy with the unit's performance.
Taylor Dever and Trevor Robinson are gone so both spots on the right side are open, and battles loom along the line with a new coach looking for the five guys he's willing to stake his reputation on. Many feel the Irish have been soft along the line the past two seasons when it mattered most. Hiestand's past in the NFL and the collegiate level have the masses excited about the direction the Irish are taking along the trenches.