Offensive LineThree standouts, another with starting experience, and the only question mark is a former Scout.com No. 2 ranked OT prospect from 2010…you could do worse.
Personnel Developments: Redshirt-freshman left tackle Jordan Prestwood left the team in early August…junior right tackle Tate Nichols injured his knee -- a recurrence from August 2011 -- during camp. The loss of both moved true freshman Ronnie Stanley into a two-deep position at tackle.
Proven Performer(s): Zack Martin is among the nations' most underrate tackles while Chris Watt and Braxston Cave are arguably the best G and C at the program since Dan Stephenson (G 2005) and Jeff Faine (C 2002), though Faine stands atop the grouping.
On the Spot: 5th-year senior right guard Mike Golic and to his right, junior tackle Christian Lombard, the only member of the OL quintet yet to play meaningful snaps.
Quote to Note: "We know when it comes down to it, the line is the heart and soul of whether we're successful or not. We put that on our shoulders to make things happen so the team can do what they have to do." -- Braxston Cave
Running BacksSuffered a major blow early, and previously in the off-season but this unit can likely withstand the hit for a short period.
Personnel Developments: Senior Cierre Wood has been suspended for two games for violating team rules with classmate Theo Riddick set to start in his stead. Sophomore Cam McDaniel is, at present, back at running back after a spring session and early portion of camp spent at cornerback. Transfer Amir Carlisle is unavailable for Week One as he recovers from off-season ankle surgery.
Proven Performer(s): Wood. After the suspended 1,000-yard rusher there's ample potential, but sophomore kick return sensation George Atkinson carried the ball just nine times last season and Riddick served as a slot receiver for the majority of the Brian Kelly era to date.
On the Spot: Riddick, who's to date, only effective in theory.
Quote to Note: "Theo is a guy that has a lot of experience at the wide receiver position, so he's a guy that's extremely effective catching the football. He's a guy that was bred for this position, if you call it a 'hybrid.' Running the ball is his first love, something he's accustomed too through high school and his first year here, and we cross-trained him. So he fits terrifically right now." -- Brian Kelly
Wide ReceiversCompletely unproven as a unit after Michael Floyd's graduation, but the group is aided by the presence of a dynamic tight end and versatile running backs.
Personnel Developments: True freshmen Davonte' Neal is officially on the two-deep (slot) while classmate Chris Brown is sure to see meaningful action early. Redshirt-freshman DaVaris Daniels could earn his first start Saturday as 5th-year senior John Goodman recovers from a late-camp groin pull.
Proven Performer(s): None.
On the Spot: Goodman and T.J. Jones. Fans and media have enjoyed a preseason love affair with the team's trio of freshman and the aforementioned Daniels, but one or both of the pair of veterans must emerge as a consistent weekly performer to aid rookie quarterback Everett Golson during a September slate that includes three bowl-winning teams rom last season.
Quote to Note: "He's not a complete player yet, but boy he can run. We like his speed on the field. It'll be the fastest team that we've had with him on the field with different pieces. He's going to be part of what we do; Daniels, obviously is a guy with great speed. We feel like we're a fast football team with those guys on the field." -- Brian Kelly on Chris Brown
Tight EndsThe nation's best is backed up by two intriguing, and it appears, disparate talents.
Personnel Developments: Junior tight end Alex Welch tore his ACL midway through August camp and is out for the season.
Proven Performer(s): Senior Tyler Eifert was a first team All-America selection last season, breaking two longstanding program records (receptions and receiving yards) at the position.
On the Spot: Sophomore Ben Koyack was neck-and-neck with Welch prior to the latter's knee injury. Now the athletic Koyack must hold off monstrous in-line blocker Troy Niklas (6'7" 260) a former linebacker with great potential in the red zone.
Quote to Note: "It was great for my confidence, I actually have an idea of what I'm doing as opposed to last year where on the field, a split-second before (the snap) I was still wondering. Still sometimes I have to think but it makes the transition (from film to field) much easier." -- Ben Koyack on playing as a true freshman last fall.
QuarterbackOne of the few positions on the squad with no defections or injuries. Aside from the annual August quarterback derby, only Tommy Rees' May arrest and subsequent suspension made pre-season news.
Personnel Developments: Everett Golson will start, Andrew Hendrix will back him up, and suspended Tommy Rees returns to live action on Monday. True freshman Gunner Kiel will only play in Dublin if both Golson and Hendrix are injured…and the game is in doubt.
Proven Performer(s): Tommy Rees is 12-4 as a starter, throwing 32 touchdowns vs. 22 interceptions in approximately 17.5 games played. He's currently No. 1 all-time at the school in career completion percentage.
On the Spot: Golson -- the fan's choice for the entire off-season likely has two games to prove his wares before the head native gets restless and heavyweights begin to populate the Irish slate.
Quote to Note: "If he's not out of character on Saturday, I will safely say, he will do a very good job of taking care of the football, because that's why they play the game." -- Kelly on Golson