Click here for Part II
Click here for Part III
What Irish Fans (Reasonably) KnowNo's 1 through 10 (linked above) included discussion points regarding Manti Te'o and Tyler Eifert, Zack Martin, Cierre Wood, Notre Dame's defense vs. average/solid offenses, Aaron Lynch, Stephon Tuitt, George Atkinson, the defensive line as Notre Dame's best unit entering the spring, the likelihood that more than one quarterback will start during the season, and the overall lack of known quantities entering spring ball.
As noted in Part III, there's not much to add to this category until spring practice 2012 offers new, promising information...
What Irish Fans Think They KnowParts 1 through 3 (linked above) discussed the importance of Jamoris Slaughter, the kicking situation, a solid pair at left guard/center, the likelihood of at least one freshman starter, a great chance to begin 2-0, Louis Nix, and the inexperienced cornerbacks built in crutch: the front seven.
- Zeke Motta will take the next step: Last we saw the senior safety he scored half of Notre Dame's points and made a leaping down field pass break-up. The plays were out of the ordinary for the solid but previously unspectacular safety. Entering his third season as a starter, each under the same defensive coordinator and scheme, its not unreasonable to expect Motta to add weekly big plays/hits to his game repertoire.
- Prince Shembo will bring the heat: Despite in-season comments to the contrary, few expect Shembo to return to the Dog LB position at which he started last season. The graduation of Cat LB Darius Fleming opens up a spot for Shembo and/or sophomore Ishaq Williams (rumors abound that Williams will be evaluated at Dog instead). Regardless, Irisheyes.com expects both to compete at the Cat (by the time the season starts if not this spring) and more important, for both to play crucial roles as pass-rushing defensive ends in the team's 4-3 fronts.
- Fox and Carlo – Combo inside: Senior classmates Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese were involved in the biggest surprise of August Camp 2011, with the previously little-used Fox winning the Will LB job over the incumbent Calabrese. Fox started next to Mike LB Manti Te'o for all 13 games and in general played better than Calabrese who starred in September and early October 2010 as a first-time starter/competitor. Both have two seasons of eligibility remaining and both have ample room for improvement on a defense that might have to be the deciding factor in several games next fall.
One promising sign for the spring: if Calabrese appears to have overtaken Fox or drawn back even with a still-improving Fox.
What Irish Fans Hope to be TrueOffensive line depth, Theo Riddick, the QB Conundrum (turnovers), Chuck Martin, and Matthias Farley were the first five points included in earlier editions (linked above).
- John Goodman's 5th-year will be better than his 4th: Notre Dame's receiving corps returns three players with a collegiate catch to their credit. Goodman, a player who's started intermittently since 2009, recorded just seven of his 28 career grabs last fall for a mere 65 yards. Aside from a leaping 17-yard catch against Wake Forest, none of his pass receptions impacted a competitive contest.
Notre Dame needs more from an experienced player with straight-line speed, confidence, and knowledge of the offense.
- DaVaris Daniels will breakthrough: For all of August camp and most of September, head coach Brian Kelly hinted that Daniels "had to" play for a thin receiving corps. He didn't, and that's likely for the best as the promising pass-catcher now has four seasons of eligibility for a program in need of perimeter playmakers.
Fans hope he wins a starting job this spring. Regardless of his official status, it would be a bad sign if Daniels isn't at least the No. 4 player in the WR rotation when the Irish take the field vs. Navy…and if he's not among the Top 2-3 when the leaves begin to fall.
- The Coaching Staff has upgraded: Though hardly a basis for fact, Irisheyes.com's staff and moderators end-season report last December included the following voting results for Notre Dame's top assistant coaches in 2011: 1.) Tim Hinton 2.) Mike Elston 3.) Ed Warinner…
Two of the three, Hinton and Warinner, have moved on to join Urban Meyer at Ohio State. In their stead step former RB coach Tony Alford and new OL coach Harry Hiestand. Additionally, every returning offensive coach has a redefined or wholly-different set of duties, including new offensive coordinator Chuck Martin discussed in Part III linked above, and newly-promoted intern Scott Booker. (For a full breakdown of the staff's duties, click here.
While we all hope the staff is improved as promised, it's notable two highly respected members were among the three that left the program in the off-season.
Note: We'll have more musings tomorrow and throughout spring practice