Sunday's Stream of Consciousness

O'Malley's fourth edition of off-season thoughts covering each of Notre Dame's 83 scholarship players…

Click the links below for previous Stream of Consciousness musings:

Ten from the Trenches

Six on the Spot

#1 -- Outside Linebacker Ben Councell

Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco offered Councell was among the defense's most improved players this spring, and there are myriad reasons why the junior drop linebacker might have pressed incumbent Danny Spond for a spot with the first unit, from a nagging neck/shoulder injury to Spond, to simple opportunity for more reps, but if Councell continues to make this a race through August camp, the Irish defense just got deeper -- and better…No matter how effective Spond was last year filling every role asked, the reality is that Spond could likely benefit in the long haul (four months from Camp through Thanksgiving and 12 games in 14 weeks) to the occasional snap on the sidelines…Why didn't the athletic, 6'4" 239-pound Councell (now 248) make more of an impact on special teams last season? Why did so few Irish, for that matter? Is there something Councell does better than Spond? Because the latter held the edge exceptionally well prior to facing Alabama and he was quite adept in pass coverage to boot...

#2 -- Linebacker Anthony Rabasa

Speaking of junior linebackers with three seasons of eligibility remaining, has missed opportunity cost Rabasa a future on the edge? If the first move inside (2011) didn't fit, why would the second two years later other than to add third-string depth to an inside 'backer unit bereft of bodies…I was often impressed with Rabasa's pass-rush skills, both on film and in snippets of scrimmage last fall, but with Prince Shembo, Ishaq Williams, and Romeo Okwara all in competition ahead of him, there was simply no room at the Cat 'Backer Inn for 2013…Rabasa would be a natural transfer candidate except he generally appeared to be one of the most engaged players on the Irish sidelines each week, let's hope he sticks it out and carves a niche…Special Teams, anyone? My kingdom for a dedicated, productive athlete on the Irish run teams!

#3 -- Tight End Mike Heuerman

Speaking of running, this dude can flat-out go, but it takes a lot more than speed down the seam to break the game day tight end rotation in South Bend…Considering the team's depth over the next two seasons but not in 2015, it'd be nice if both Heuerman and fellow frosh Durham Smythe could be withheld from action this fall…If upperclassmen Troy Niklas, Alex Welch, and Ben Koyack are healthy, I can't imagine Heuerman being targeted for more than 4-5 passes…He could though be a complete tight end by 2015, his third season in the program and with three seasons of eligibility remaining…Ask Koyack if he'd like a season of eligibility back after playing a deep reserve role in 2011…

#4-- Tight End Ben Koyack

Speaking of which, can the former FOX Sports NEXT five-star finally fulfill his potential as a pass-catcher this fall? Koyack can't run or contort his body like the departed All-America Tyler Eifert, but he is blessed with quickness, a large frame, and a receiver's set of hands…Head coach Brian Kelly cited confidence as one of Koyack's biggest gains this spring; that's refreshing to hear because it was clear Koyack suffered from a lack of it after dropping an easy crossing route on Notre Dame's first drive of the season vs. Navy (he dropped another "game of catch" pass later)….Koyack noted his biggest area for improvement is blocking in space, and I'd agree. Still, he's an X-factor for the offense, a player that could reel in 20 passes, two scores, and a handful (or two?) crucial third-down catches in constant competition with his classmate Niklas and the senior Welch...

#5 -- Defensive Lineman Tony Springmann

One of the unheralded keys to last season's undefeated run, Springmann's play as a rookie off the bench helped give Notre Dame its best defensive line depth in recent memory -- now he needs to provide that every week, and on more snaps…The "next step" can be tough for a second-season player, but the junior from Fort Wayne has the benefit of three top tier defensive linemen with which he can rotate/play alongside…Three seasons ago, defensive line coach Mike Elston mentioned he'd prefer his line "not need" a swingman -- that need still exists, with Springmann the chief candidate off the bench to play any of three different spots on the line…If pressed, I'd project Springmann to finish as one of the team's top 20-22 players (through film reviews) by season's end -- if that ranking is higher, the Irish defensive line will be the nation's best. Top Stories