New Year, New Team

In the first of several looks at Irish recruiting through the 2013 and 2014 cycles, breaks down Notre Dame's 2013 roster, incoming freshmen included.

To borrow a line from Notre Dame prospective 5th-year senior Dan Fox:

"New Year, New Team."

And for subscribers, a new set of priorities.

Now that Notre Dame has proven to be among the nation's top five teams -- though anything but its best -- its time to take a look at what must happen for that essential "next step," beginning with the roster's depth on offense, a side of scrimmage for which the 2013 recruiting cycle is near, if not at completion.

Quarterbacks (5)

Senior Tommy Rees (1), senior Andrew Hendrix (2), junior Everett Golson (3), sophomore Gunner Kiel (4), and incoming freshman Malik Zaire (4/5)

Chance of Defection: If history is our guide, it's inevitable.

Strength at Present: Among the nation's best and deepest, ideally- tiered units

Need for addition to 2013 class: None

Need for addition in 2014 class: A quarterback, or athlete-quarterback, should be part of every recruiting class, without fail, no exceptions. Survival of the fittest...

Running Backs (5)

Junior Georgie Atkinson (2), junior Cam McDaniel (2), junior Amir Carlisle (3), sophomore Will Mahone (4), incoming freshmen Greg Bryant (4/5) and Tarean Folston (4/5). Pending: 5th-year senior Cierre Wood.

Chance of Defection: Aside from Wood, not overly likely, though its always safe to assume one of six running backs will be injured or lost in the shuffle over a 3-4 year period.

Strength at Present: Questionable with Carlisle an injury risk, Atkinson far less impressive early than late, and the two top talents likely the pair of incoming freshmen. The unit could be average -- or inconsistent -- in 2013 and lights out in 2014.

Need for addition to 2013 class: None

Need for addition in 2014 class: Because one is unlikely in 2013, a running back becomes mandatory in 2014. With no graduating seniors following 2013, only a top tier talent should join the fray for the 2014 cycle.

Tight Ends (4)

Senior Alex Welch (2), junior Troy Niklas (2), junior Ben Koyack (2), incoming freshmen Mike Heuerman (4/5)

Chance of Defection: Very slim

Strength at Present: The position took a massive hit with the loss of All-American and 2.5 year star Tyler Eifert, and it won't be as imposing in 2013 as it was in 2012, but next year's crew should fare well with 2014 signifying the arrival of yet another dominant effort from the position in South Bend.

Need for addition to 2013 class: Actually, it wouldn't have hurt, but it won't happen, and there's no technical "need" especially with incoming freshman DE Jacob Matuska capable of playing a blocking tight end role during his career.

Need for addition in 2014 class: Definitive, and likely two should be courted and secured early in the process. There's no reason a college football team should have just four tight ends with one a true freshman (hurts the latter's redshirt potential if needed). Following 2014, three of the four (Welch, Niklas, Koyack) listed above will be gone.

Wide Receivers (11)

Seniors T.J. Jones (1), Daniel Smith (1), and Luke Massa (2), junior DaVaris Daniels (3), sophomores Justin Ferguson (3), Davonte Neal (3), and Chris Brown (3), incoming freshmen Torii Hunter (5), Corey Robinson (4/5), James Onwualu (4/5), and Will Fuller (4/5).

Chance of Defection: When's the last time nine or 10 wide receivers co-existed? Logic and attrition dictate one of the nine won't be around in 2014.

Strength at Present: Promising, with Jones and Daniels lead candidates for starting roles and Neal the heir apparent to Robby Toma in the slot (a potential upgrade). Hunter will most likely miss 2013 with a broken femur suffered on January 1 but the remaining youth-filled backups have enough talent to join Smith as a No. 4 and No. 5 player in the rotation. Chris Brown could be a star, though expect him to break out in 2014 rather than next fall.

Need for addition to 2013 class: None.

Need for addition in 2014 class: One is already onboard in Speedway, Ind., star Justin Brent. Another should be added to give the squad six in a two-year cycle and nine in a three-year span. The 2015 unit would then (potentially) have a 5th-year senior (Daniels), three seniors (Neal, Ferguson, Brown), three juniors (Robinson, Onwualu, and Fuller), a redshirt-sophomore (Hunter) and two sophomores (Brent and a pledge to be named later).

Wide receiver is also the most likely position to lose a member to the other side of scrimmage (defensive back). Re-stocking is always warranted. Of the group, Fuller seems to have all the attributes necessary to develop as a defensive back, but (at least this writer) much prefers him at wide receiver due to his advanced ball skills.

Offensive Linemen (15 )

Zack Martin (1), Chris Watt (1), Christian Lombard (2), Tate Nichols (2), Bruce Heggie (2), Conor Hanratty (3), Nick Martin (3), Matt Hegarty (3), Ronnie Stanley (3/4), Mark Harrell (4), Mike McGlinchey (4/5), Hunter Bivin (4/5), Colin McGovern (4/5), Steven Elmer (4/5), and John Montelus (4/5).

Chance of Defection: Both Nichols and Hegarty are at a career crossroads due to unfortunate injury/health conditions. Notre Dame will have more definitive news on the future of both by August camp if not the spring session. Career-altering Injury (yet another) is far more likely than transfer along this dedicated unit.

Strength at Present: Precarious without a proven center (or even a high school center available to compete in 2013), though three quality starters return in Martin, Watt, and Lombard, and Hanratty and Nick Martin enter their third seasons in the program poised to compete. Ronnie Stanley could be advanced as a second-year player as well, getting his feet wet last September before missing the rest of the season with an elbow injury. If the center position is played at level on par with normal BCS conference starters, Notre Dame's offensive front will at least be solid in 2013.

Need for addition to 2013 class: None

Need for addition in 2014 class: Two are already on board in Jay Hayes (Brooklyn Prep, Brooklyn, NY) and Jimmy Byrne (St. Ignatius HS, Cleveland). Expect at least two more as it remains necessary to re-stock after a pair of class of 2011 losses (Brad Carrico to injury and Jordan Prestwood to transfer). As many as five total pledges could again be on tap for 2014, especially considering the unknown futures of Hegarty and Nichols.


The offense houses 37 true offensive players for 2013, with its offensive line easily the most likely to suffer attrition between now and the 2013 season opener. Wide receiver depth has been restored since the Kelly regime hit South Bend, and running back numbers are also ideal, with ample talent in place, though none of it proven at a BCS Bowl level.

Heuerman appears to be a keeper at tight end as do his three veteran tutors, but the presence of one tight end per class is a dangerous game as the position is necessary for high level special teams success, and two tights are essential to any power running game (two "starting" tight ends means the team needs four it can count on, physically. Notre Dame had three in 2012 with Alex Welch out for the season).

As long as Golson or Kiel remains in South Bend through 2015 as expected, the quarterback position is in good hands, with incoming lefty Malik Zaire ready for a year of scout team action before hitting true competition. Rees remains the ultimate one or two-game insurance policy entering his senior year. Top Stories