Seniors (19): Kona Schwenke, Louis Nix, Alex Welch, Andrew Hendrix, Luke Massa, Christian Lombard, Tate Nichols, Kendall Moore, Justin Utupo, Chris Badger, Lo Wood, Bennett Jackson, T.J. Jones, Austin Collinsworth, Tommy Rees, Daniel Smith, Prince Shembo, Danny Spond, Bruce Heggie
Juniors (22): Kyle Brindza, Troy Niklas, Stephon Tuitt, Chase Hounshell, DaVaris Daniels, Ben Koyack, Eilar Hardy, Josh Atkinson, Jalen Brown, Matt Hegarty, Nick Martin, Conor Hanratty, Tony Springmann, Ben Councell, Jarrett Grace, Anthony Rabasa, George Atkinson, Cam McDaniel, Amir Carlisle, Ishaq Williams, Matthias Farley, Everett Golson
Sophomores (16): Gunner Kiel, Jarron Jones, Will Mahone, Mark Harrell, Scott Daly, C.J. Prosise, John Turner, Nicky Baratti, Ronnie Stanley, Justin Ferguson, Davonte' Neal, Chris Brown, Sheldon Day, Romeo Okwara, Keivarae Russell, Elijah Shumate
Incoming Freshmen (23): Steve Elmer, Jacob Matuska, James Onwualu, Colin McGovern, Mike McGlinchey, Hunter Bivin, Rashad Kinlaw, Devin Butler, Malik Zaire, Corey Robinson, John Montelus, Jaylon Smith, Mike Heuerman, Isaac Rochell, Doug Randolph, Michael Deeb, Will Fuller, Cole Luke, Max Redfield, Torii Hunter, Tarean Folston, Greg Bryant, Durham Smythe
*Each is listed in terms of class according to the University, not football eligibility.
The players listed above number 84. (There's never been an indication from either the players or the staff, or from those close to either party, that the four prospective 5th-year seniors listed will not return.)
Also to be considered as potential roster returnees:
Seniors in Limbo: Jamoris Slaughter, Nick Tausch
Slaughter appealed the decision by the NCAA that denied him a sixth season of eligibility. Tausch has been a backup since mid-November 2009 but would be just the second scholarship kicker/punter on the Irish roster should he return for 2014.
Simple Math: Room for One84 scholarships filled, one spot remains. Or, if Notre Dame were to decide a second pledge is more important than one of the prospective 5th-years above, two spots would remain, and three 5th-year players would return for 2013.
The return of just three 5th-year seniors is unlikely for myriad reasons, not the least of which is detailed directly below...
Logic-Based: Room for TwoThe Notre Dame football program has had at least one player transfer out, between seasons, for the last 30 years. (Its likely more than 30 straight, I stopped counting with a definitive sample size available.)
So yes, someone from the 2012 squad with 2013 eligibility will transfer to another school. The Irish staff likely has an inkling who might look to continue his football career elsewhere, and can thus bring in a 25th pledge for 2013 with no unfortunate over-signing situation materializing next summer when the class enrolls, and the number of scholarships must officially hit 85 or less.
25 has been the target number for Irisheyes.com since early fall.
Reality-Based: Room for ThreeIn addition to a near-certain transfer is the likelihood that at least one player on scholarship will follow the paths of offensive lineman Brad Carrico and running back Cam Roberson last fall -- accept a medical scholarship to remain in school but no longer be part of the football team.
That unfortunate reality would open a scholarship for another incoming freshman or fifth-year player for the 2013 season, allowing for a third pledge, taking the class to 26 members.
After a 16-man class in 2012, 26 in 2013 would not be considered excessive.
New Math: Room for More StillImagine no present transfers are known to the staff. Imagine any pending medical situations aren't ironclad in their conclusions. Imagine then that Eddie Vanderdoes, Deon Hollins, Kylie Fitts, and Torrodney Prevot -- an aggregate 17 recruiting stars among them -- all asked to pledge Irish in the next week? Or if another prospect materialized late?
Its hard to believe any of the above prospects would be turned away. Then again, neither would Zach Martin or Chris Watt. Nor would the team's only returning inside linebackers with meaningful experience, Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese (34 starts between them).
Among the four scenarios detailed above, this situation is of course, the least likely. My guess is if two of Notre Dame's remaining targets announce for Notre Dame, that pair would then fill the 2013 class's final two spots…unless Vanderdoes is third in line and he decides to become Irish thereafter.
Since Notre Dame is unlikely to over-sign and hope things work out by mid-Summer, the addition of more than three pledges would likely indicate future roster defections have already been decided.