Defensive LineDepth took a hit as three major players departed from 2011 including transfer Aaron Lynch, expected 5th-year senior Sean Cwynar, and the graduated Ethan Johnson. Of the group, only Johnson was assumed gone during the 2011 campaign.
Kapron Lewis-Moore: 5th-year senior enters his fourth year as a starter, though this time will primarily lineup at left defensive end rather than the right side. As he has since 2009, Lewis-Moore will shift inside often in four-down alignments.
Kona Schwenke: Player 1A in the team's new starting nose guard tandem. Schwenke was the team's defensive captain after a standout spring and he's yet to relinquish his spot as the technical starter. Has two years of eligibility remaining.
Louis Nix: 1B on the nose after 10 starts last season. Nix updated the media today that the status of the position has not changed: both will play ample snaps each week, reminiscent of the division of labor at Will linebacker last fall (described in the section below).
Stephon Tuitt: Viewed by most as the team's most talented underclassmen: no player on the roster has a higher ceiling from 2011 to 2012 production than does Tuitt. Will line up at right defensive end and can play inside as well, earning experience on the nose in September last fall.
Chase Hounshell: Played sparingly last fall as a backup interior player vs. Air Force (4 tackles) and appears set as a backup defensive end, and regular player, in 2012. Three seasons of eligibility remaining.
Sheldon Day: The promising true freshman's varsity presence is nearly guaranteed due to his early enrollment, talent, and dearth of prospects at the position.
Jarron Jones: Expected to redshirt to grow into his massive frame. Two injuries could force the true freshman into action as it did Kona Schwenke in 2010 (and 2011).
Tyler Stockton: Senior did not play last season and has not played since Week Six 2010. Stockton was hampered last spring and August by a PCL sprain and lack of conditioning thereafter. Lost 17 pounds prior to spring ball to compete as a senior.
Justin Utupo: Moved to his more natural rush end position (DE) after toiling at inside 'backer last fall. A special teams regular and now, a backup Dime pass rusher, it appears.
Inside LinebackersCalabrese is suspended for the season opener vs. Navy. Schmidt is a preferred walk-on and only non-scholarship player to appear on the initial installment of our Roster Rundown series.
Manti Te'o: Nation's best and sure-fire team captain.
Dan Fox: Started all 13 games last fall and will make it 14 straight in Dublin. Fox said his PCL sprain during the spring would not have kept him from the Blue Gold Game had it been an regular season contest.
Carlo Calabrese: Lauded Saturday post-practice by head coach Brian Kelly for his approach in the wake of one-game suspension.
Jarrett Grace: "The Next Big Thing" per Manti Te'o in an interview last week, Grace is the Mike linebacker backup and should see time vs. Navy due to his history facing option offenses.
Kendall Moore: Behind Grace in the Mike 'backer pecking order. Moore is expected to be special teams regular again this season. Was instrumental blocker on the team's best speciality unit, the kick return team, last fall.
Joe Schmidt: Sophomore preferred walk-on traveled with the team twice as a true freshman last season. Irish fans will see him on special teams and potentially in backup scrimmage roles this fall.
Outside LinebackersDanny Spond's status for August is in doubt after a "non-head injury" at Wednesday's practice. Said Kelly of his junior Dog linebacker: "We've been able to eliminate some things. First of all, he did not have a concussion. We've exhausted a number of different tests, he's come back clean on all of them. We'll do a little more work before we move any further with him relative to contact getting him on the field. Cleared him for a concussion and we have some more testing to do and I can probably update you some time next week."
Prince Shembo: Moved to Cat linebacker after toiling last season as a sophomore at Dog. Said Shembo of the move earlier this week: "I played D-end in high school, so I just wanted to go get quarterbacks. That's all I wanted to do. I have a much better chance to do that at Cat. It will be fun."
Ishaq Williams: Sophomore is battling Shembo for the starting Cat role. Look for a position share not unlike nose guard and Will linebacker.
Ben Councell: Surged to the front of the race at Dog linebacker after Spond's injury. The two appeared to be neck-and-neck prior with Spond generally taking first team reps in our limited practice viewings. Councell noted post-practice today his strength is in coverage as he works to improve vs. the run at the vexing position.
Danny Spond: Status in doubt until further notice as describe above.
Anthony Rabasa: Redshirt-freshman is back working at Cat linebacker after a 2011 season spent learning inside 'backer spots. Rabasa is a natural pass-rusher and should help the Irish coming of the edge in 2013 if not 2012.
Romeo Okwara Kelly noted today the true freshman has been moved to Dog linebacker as a contingency plan following Spond's injury.
C.J. Prosise: Was a safety prior to Spond's injury, now the 6'2" 200 pounder will be evaluated as a Dog. Said Jamoris Slaughter of Prosise last week, "He's bigger than me. He might be bigger than Zeke (Motta). He's a big guy. He's going to be a good player, he's the one that stood out (among safeties)."
SafetyOf the group, only Slaughter and Motta have played extensively from scrimmage.
Jamoris Slaughter: Teams most versatile player and among the top four indispensable Irish per our pre-season feature.
Zeke Motta: Has massive shoes to fill in his move to the field safety position owned by former team captain and 2012 first round draft pick Harrison Smith.
Danny McCarthy: Now the team's No. 3 safety after season ending surgery for junior Austin Collinsworth.
Chris Salvi: Walk-on earned a scholarship prior to spring ball and could be a two-deep safety entering September.
Eilar Hardy: Sat out last season after tearing his ACL in August. Special teams appears his fastest route to the field as a redshirt-freshman.
Matthias Farley: Picked off a (gift-wrapped) pass in Wednesday scrimmage. Spent last year as a Scout Team receiver where he finished second to Everett Golson for Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year. One of the quickest back line options.
John Turner: Showed better movement than anticipated at Wednesday's scrimmage and already has enough size to survive at the position as a true freshman.
Nick Baratti Versatile athlete a good bet to be part of the Irish "Run Teams" (Coverage and returns) as a true freshman.
Chris Badger: Getting back in the flow after two seasons spent on a religious mission in Ecuador. Badger is eligible through 2015 but was a member of the 2010 recruiting class and an early enrollee that January.
Austin Collinsworth: Will receive a medical redshirt after off-season surgery for a torn labrum.
CornerbackThe position will debut its first new pair of starters at the program since 1998.
Josh Atkinson: Cross-trained at field and boundary in the spring and appears to have settled there of late. Kelly noted of Atkinson: "Josh is so gifted as an athlete but we've got to continue working technique, continue to get better at taking care of the little things for him."
Jalen Brown: Backup field cornerback did not play as a true freshman last fall. Said Kelly of Brown on Wednesday: "Jalen Brown has stepped up his game. We had a play the other day where George Atkinson broke from the outside, he was the off corner and he made it all the way across the field. He's got some ability and it seems like he's starting to mature a little bit."
Cam McDaniel: Kelly included the converted running back as a highly improved player at the position (along with Lo Wood) in a recent post-practice press conference. McDaniel played last year on special teams and in mop-up time at running back and thus has three seasons of eligibility remaining.
Keivarae Russell: True freshman converted from running back and has shown "punch and athleticism" on the corner through the first week-plus of camp.
Elijah Shumate: Said Kelly of the true freshman's move from safety to cornerback: "I think he's got a lot of athletic ability and he's physically very, very mature. He's physically able to compete right now. We wanna make it easier for him. No matter how smart he is, and he's got some rally good football instincts, it's easier to get you on the field at that position than trying to break through with Slaughter and Zeke and (Dan) McCarthy's got a lot of knowledge back there."