Awards Show Preview

Gone is the staid, tired annual football banquet of season's past. Tonight's third edition Awards Ceremony is sure to rank among the most emotional and enjoyable moments of the season for the Notre Dame family in attendance.

Some program awards date back four decades, with winners including such revered names as Hanratty, Theismann, Casper and Browner. Another, and perhaps the football program's most revered, dates back to the team's last national title in 1988.

Six new awards coincided with the start of the Brian Kelly regime in 2010 while the most recent addition, the "Back of the Year" award, was instituted last season.

Winners of tonight's awards will have their names etched in Irish lore -- with the undeniable historical emphasis of a championship-worthy season tied to each.

Assuming the atmosphere isn't akin to an "Every Senior Gets a Trophy Day" moment, below are my best guesses for tonight's awards:

Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year

No one outside the program's walls can offer an opinion on this honor or the one on the opposite side of scrimmage that follows, but I'll embrace ommon sense as my guide... Candidates (educated guesses): Gunner Kiel, Will Mahone, walk-on Nick Fitzpatrick

Predicted Winner: Kiel Choice: N/A

Kelly Era Winners: Cam Roberson (2010), Everett Golson (2011)

Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year

Last year's award went to a graduating senior, defensive lineman Brandon Newman, who provided an evening highlight when he interrupted the "no speech" programming by taking the mic and offering, "I'd like to thank the offensive linemen for pushing me." -- a tongue-in-cheek reference to his role in the award and at daily practice. Candidates (educated guesses): C.J. Prosise, Eilar Hardy, John Turner

Predicted Winner: Prosise Choice: N/A

Kelly Era Winners: Kendall Moore (2010), Brandon Newman (2011)

Special Teams Player of the Year

Each special teams contributor accrues points toward the honor, making any outside prediction difficult. I'll go with the obvious, instead of the likely points leader... Candidates: Kyle Brindza, Ben Turk, Jarrett Grace, Nicky Baratti

Predicted Winner: Brindza (upset possibility for Grace) Choice: Brindza

Kelly Era Winners: Bennett Jackson (2010), Austin Collinsworth (2011)

Offensive Newcomer of the Year

In 2010, that newcomer was a redshirt-freshman. Last year? A senior who'd played more than 20 inconsistent games entering 2011 only to break out in epic fashion. This season, the choice is obvious… Candidates: Everett Golson (thereafter DaVaris Daniels and Christian Lombard)

Predicted Winner: Golson Choice: Golson

Kelly Era Winners: Tyler Eifert (2010), Jonas Gray (2011)

Defensive Newcomer of the Year

Always tricky, as they could consider Stephon Tuitt or Bennett Jackson "newcomers" as well. (Dan Fox won in 2011 despite appearing in all 13 games of 2010). Candidates: Tuitt, Jackson, Matthias Farley, Keivarae Russell, Danny Spond

Predicted Winner: If each is considered: 1.) Tuitt 2.) Jackson, 3.) Spond Choice: Tuitt (if he qualifies), if not, Spond

Kelly Era Winners: Prince Shembo (2010), Dan Fox (2011)

Back of the Year

Institute last season, cornerback Robert Blanton won the award while safety Harrison Smith took home a more prestigious honor (below).

Candidates: Zeke Motta, Matthias Farley, Bennett Jackson, KeiVarae Russell Predicted Winner: Motta Choice: Motta

Kelly Era Winners: Robert Blanton (2011 -- inaugural)

Next Man In

Russell entered the fray pre-season, Farley in Week Three (and intermittently prior), Rees throughout. I'm going with the redshirt-freshman as he replaced standout Jamoris Slaughter and the Irish secondary suffered few major hits as a result.

Candidates: KeiVarae Russell, Matthias Farley, Tommy Rees

Predicted Winner: Farley Choice: Farley

Kelly Era Winners: Tommy Rees (2010), Robby Toma (2011)

Guardian of the Year

Presented to the team's top offensive lineman...and it is assumed a drama-free vote for the third straight season: Candidates: Zack Martin (Chris Watt and Braxston Cave thereafter)

Predicted Winner: Martin Choice: Martin

Kelly Era Winners: Zack Martin (2010 and 2011)

Moose Krause Lineman of the Year

A true dilemma with three, possibly four candidates including the emergence of Cat LB/DE Prince Shembo…

Candidates: Louis Nix, Stephon Tuitt, Kapron Lewis-Moore

Predicted Winner: Lewis-Moore Choice: Nix

Kelly Era Winners: Ian Williams (2010), Darius Fleming (2011 -- also won in 2009)

Rockne Student-Athlete

I'll go with the upset, just to spread the wealth among honorees... Candidates: Manti Te'o and Mike Golic, Jr.

Predicted Winner: Golic Choice: Whoever has the highest GPA

Kelly Era Winners: David Ruffer (2010), Manti Te'o (2011)

Nick Pietrosante Award (Inspirational Leadership)

First presented in 1988 to captain Andy Heck, the award recognizes the Notre Dame player who best exemplifies the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and pride of the late Irish All-America fullback. In any other year, it'd be a heck of a race... Candidates: Manti Te'o, Zack Martin, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Jamoris Slaughter, Theo Riddick

Predicted Winner: Te'o Choice: Te'o

Kelly Era Winners: Robert Hughes (2010), Harrison Smith (2011)

Monogram Club MVP

If you don't know the answer to this one, you're on the wrong website... Candidates: Manti Te'o, Louis Nix, Tyler Eifert, Zack Martin

Predicted Winner: Te'o Choice: Te'o

Kelly Era Winners: Michael Floyd (2010 and 2011) Top Stories