Running BacksThe position is technically running back/slot receiver, but I have no such requirement to adhere to that oddity.
Given Strength: Cierre Wood – One of the 5 to 7 best players on the squad last season, Wood was the first ‘back to gain more than 1,000 yards at the program since Darius Walker in the 2005-06 seasons. A much-more well-rounded player last fall than in his debut season 2010, Wood will be the key to a successful September for the unknown that is the Irish offense.
Emerging Competitor: Early indications show Wood's classmate Theo Riddick as a legitimate 1A to Wood's first unit status, but past tales of Riddick's promise have yet to come to fruition on Saturdays.
Unanswered Questions: Who'll be trusted to grind out two yards on third down? Will transfer Amir Carlisle be 100 percent for August camp after breaking his foot in March? Is junior Cam Roberson a viable option this fall, or will he not see the field in meaningful action until 2013? (Roberson tore knee ligaments in late-March 2011).
Look Out For: Sophomore George Atkinson: a third potential home-run hitter to compliment Wood and Riddick. Can he show the consistency to earn playing time in September or vs. quality competition as the season progresses?
Unsolicited Advice: Neither Atkinson nor fellow freshman Cam McDaniel earned head coach Brian Kelly's trust through 12 games last season, necessitating the move of Riddick back to the backfield for the season-finale at Stanford. If Atkinson shows he can compete at a consistent level through August, Kelly and the offensive staff need to involved the speedster with a few touches and opportunity each week regardless of the game score/situation.
QuarterbacksOffensive coordinator Chuck Martin verified what anyone following along already knew: the Irish won't name, or know their starter, until at least August, and potentially well into camp.
Given Strength: Prior to an uneven two seasons for his quarterbacks in South Bend, Brian Kelly has an extensive history of developing championship and/or capable quarterbacks at each of his three stops.
Emerging Competitor: Starter Tommy Rees. There's no indication his trio understudies has come close to taking his job should the Irish be forced to play a game at the end of the week, end of the month, or prior to another 28 practices in August.
Unanswered Questions: Can Gunner Kiel keep up when the offense goes from "Page 1" to prime time? Can a slow-footed quarterback improve his mobility or at least ability to keep plays alive and find passing lanes on the move? Has Andrew Hendrix learned to see the field better than he showed last November/December? Can Golson fix his purported ball security issues? Should a team with three viable quarterbacks, each of whom have been on campus between 15 and 27 months be this uncertain at the position?
Look Out For: A big push from Everett Golson over the summer. The hunch at IrishEyes.com is that Golson is pressing in April, but his decision-making and consistency will catch up to his playmaking ability in August camp.
Unsolicited Advice: With several weeks of preparation, each of the four competitors should be able to guide the Irish to victory vs. Navy and Purdue (the defense and running game has proven it can do the heavy lifting vs. both). Find the quarterback that can win at Michigan State in Week Three and against Denard Robinson in Week Four under the lights in South Bend and start him in Dublin on Labor Day weekend.