Notre Dame has 60 returning players in 2013. The number does not include 5th-year seniors. The Irish have 16 current pledges, which equals 76 scholarships currently allotted to 2013.
Of the nine 5th-year seniors, its highly unlikely two would return after never cracking the two-deep depth chart. It's equally unlikely Tyler Eifert would stay rather than jump to the NFL after graduation. That leaves six potential returnees, with one, kicker Nick Tausch, in position where he must kick his way to a 5th-year. The guess here is that he'll have to be "better than good" to do so. (Tausch is at worst, "good.")
That leaves, for the sake of argument, five spots allotted to 5th years. One such spot belongs to Cierre Wood who's at least more than 50 percent likely to go pro after graduation if he has another strong season, one reminiscent of the 1,100 yards and 9 touchdowns last fall.
Four then remain: Zack Martin, Chris Watt, Dan Fox, and Carlo Calabrese. None appear to be in position to forgo a year of eligibility to enter the NFL draft, though Martin's ascent to that status is not out of the question. Fox and Calabrese play the same position, the Will linebacker, but the team will lose middle linebacker Manti Te'o at season's end, and bringing back a pair of former starters inside to help the transition toward an obvious youth movement at the position is ideal for a program …should both Fox and Calabrese earn those spots, of course.
For our purposes, Notre Dame's likely number of 5th-year returnees is thus four, allowing room for two from the Wood/Fox/Calabrese/Tausch quartet to join Martin and Watt.
Thus: 60 (returning) + 16 (current pledges) + 4 (5th years) = 80 scholarships presently held for 2013.
How does 16 + 5 = 23?Why do we assume seven more spots when there's an 85-scholarship limit, and when seven more pledges would take the present total of 80 assumed to 87?
A possible medical casualty exists with two Notre Dame players, one far more likely than the other to be decided prior to 2013. Add to that the certainty of a transfer because no class in the last 30 years (and likely longer, I just stopped researching at 30) has avoided a transfer. In fact, most seasons include more than one, and head coach Brian Kelly has had seven players depart from South Bend, a number that doesn't include numerous graduates who've chosen (or been sent) to play elsewhere for their fifth season of eligibility, such as Dayne Crist.
The question isn't "if or who" will transfer, it's how many? Thus to allow wiggle room and margin for error, I included two more spots opening up due to medical scholarship alleviation, transfer, or both. Instead of 5 pledges remaining, there are therefore 7.
So yes, 23 could become 24 if Martin goes pro, or there is more than one transfer. Or it could become 22 if Tausch or Calabrese simply earn 5th years with outstanding effort in 2012. Projecting further, it's far less likely to be 21 and even more unlikely to be 25 for reasons detailed above.
23 is your baseline guide, which means 7 spots remain. Neither is set in stone. And something tells me we'll have to revisit this math in early September.
Because as Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey mused about a potential roster overload heading into next season: "These things tend to work themselves out."
In other words, if Kelly wants seven more for his 2013 class and seven more want to join, it will be done.