What We Know, Think We Know, and Hope

To be fair, we don't know much about a football team in June, but I figured I'd give it a shot...

2012 Quarterbacks

What We Know: Summer's voluntary workouts, coupled with a yet-to-be determined (or made public) period of August camp will decide the team's starter for the season opener if not for the foreseeable future. Last year's camp winner was lauded as a player the staff expected to be the starter for the entire season. He lasted 30 game minutes. Don't expect a similar proclamation this August or more important, don't expect such a seamless process in 2012.

What We Think We Know: With his next court date set for July 17, Rees' pending legal issues and a possible University or team-levied suspension would greatly impact his chances for winning the starting role, at least at the season's outset. (Rees' presence at the recent Football 101 event does not indicate a potential internal suspension either way. It was a charity event, one suspended receiver Michael Floyd took part in last season.)

What We Hope to be True: That the competition's winner will either be a true dual threat, or in Rees' case, a vastly improved third-year starter capable of keeping defenses honest with accuracy and consistent pre-snap reads rather than with the threat of the run.

Unit's Current Standing: Weakness

2012 Running Backs

What We Know: That Cierre Wood is a bona fide top 15-20 starting running back and that the team's relative depth is as impressive as any at the program over at least the last seven seasons (since Julius Jones and Ryan Grant entered 2003 as competitors).

What We Think We Know: The team's next star is sophomore kick returner/RB George Atkinson. That there's a potential breakout senior in Theo Riddick and a potential sophomore transfer of impact in Amir Carlisle. The Irish shouldn't be short on runners in 2012 and there's a quality offensive line to boot.

What We Hope to be True: Wood isn't a top 15 back, he's a top 5 runner…Riddick is ready to be a true dual threat as a runner and receiver cutting up the short and middle zones…Atkinson is a breakaway threat…Carlisle is physically healed from a broken foot suffered in March and is capable of challenging any of the above for playing time.

Unit's Current Standing: Team Strength

2012 Wide Receivers

What We Know: That Michael Floyd will be missed and that returning, contributing players have yet to scare a defense.

What We Think We Know: That DaVaris Daniels is Brian Kelly's next great wide receiver in an offense that provides ample opportunity for perimeter playmakers.

What We Hope to be True: That John Goodman will have (by far) his best season as a 5th-year senior…That T.J. Jones will improve by leaps and bounds in his third season as a starter/regular…That incoming freshman Chris Brown can provide a playmaking threat downfield…That Robby Toma can get open, consistently, vs. quality defenses…That the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Unit's Current Standing: Weakness

2012 Tight Ends

What We Know: That Tyler Eifert is the nation's best and that two tight end sets will be a focal point of the offense.

What We Think We Know: That either Ben Koyack, Alex Welch, or former linebacker Troy Niklas is next in a 40-year, nearly continuous run of top tight end play, and that one or more of the trio will develop into an integral part of the offense this season.

What We Hope to be True: That Eifert is as effective without Michael Floyd drawing the bulk of attention from defenses…That Koyack and Welch can go from one catch apiece last year to prime time performers in 2012…That Niklas will be a three-year stud at tight end, not a player needed to move because Koyack and Welch could struggle as in-line blockers.

Unit's Current Standing: Team Strength

2012 Offensive Line

What We Know: That three positions are set, with left tackle Zack Martin, left guard Chris Watt, and center Braxston Cave returning as solid, potentially all-star starters.

What We Think We Know: That the team will feature a line capable of carrying the offense in September as the team's quarterback of choice settles in.

What We Hope to be True: That the right side can replace a pair of two-year starters with better players in the long run…That Cave's foot injury is not one likely to recur…That true depth has been attained through solid recruiting over the last four cycles.

Unit's Current Standing: Team Strength

2012 Offensive Staff

What We Know: That no coach returns to his previous position…That the offense scored 16, 14, and 7 points in its last three games last fall and change appeared necessary if not mandatory.

What We Think We Know: That new offensive coordinator Chuck Martin will work expertly in congress with head coach Brian Kelly just as the pair did earlier this decade at Grand Valley State…That Tony Alford is back where he'll be at his best, coaching the position he played and coached previously for two decades…That new offensive line coach Harry Hiestand will bring a much more physical approach to the running attack…That new WR Coach Mike Denbrock's experience with multiple positions (OT, TE, WR) will serve him well on an offense that will blend its TE and WR talents throughout the season, in each practice, and in terms of late adjustments as the newly minted passing game coordinator.

What We Hope to be True: That Brian Kelly's previous magic touch working with quarterbacks will appear better late than never in South Bend.

Unit's Current Standing: Side of Scrimmage in serious need of improvement...

Next: What we Know, Think we Know, and Hope to be True regarding the team's defense.

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