#14 -- KickerReturning junior starter Kyle Brindza, former program record-holder and 5th-year senior Nick Tausch, preferred walk-on freshman John Chereson.
BCS Championship Level Starter? Though he missed eight of 31 field goals over an 11-game span, Brindza didn't miss a clutch kick last fall, his first season as the program's place-kicker. His 23 successful boots set a program record. His consistency could improve; his timing was impeccable.
Proven Depth: Tausch set a since-broken program record with 14 consecutive field goals as a true freshman under Charlie Weis in 2009. After missing (twice) thereafter, he's attempted just two field goals over three seasons since, connecting on both. Curiously, Tausch has misfired on four of his 36 extra points to date and has been felled by injury twice, once in November 2009 -- he thereafter was beaten out by walk-on David Ruffer -- then in September 2012, when Brindza took over and shined in his stead.
Theoretical Depth: Preferred walk-on John Chereson, a two-time first-team Pennsylvania all-state selection,was awarded the status for a reason (preferred status means a non-scholarship player doesn't have to try out with the rest of the walk-on hopefuls.) In other words, even Notre Dame's No. 3 kicker could be pretty good.
Final Analysis: I've likely ranked them too low as a unit, but to nit-pick, Brindza has tailed off considerably as a kick-off specialist in November in both of his first two seasons and his status as the team's new lead punter won't help with what was deemed leg weariness. Tausch has missed significant time with undisclosed leg ailments, both vexing episodes for his head coach at the time (Charlie Weis in November '09, Kelly last September).
Regardless, Notre Dame fans enter 2013 with a quality kicking situation on paper, one that should likely have been rated ahead of No. 13 Field Safety and possibly No. 12, Running Back (discussed previously at the link above).
#15 -- QuarterbackSenior Tommy Rees, senior (redshirt-junior) Andrew Hendrix, early enrollee freshman Malik Zaire.
BCS Championship Level Starter? Not anymore.
Proven Depth: Not anymore, as Rees' ascent to the role in the wake of Everett Golson's expulsion from the University robbed Notre Dame of one of the nation's most experienced, successful backup plans. Hendrix threw just one competitive pass last fall (a two-yard hitch) and his only action outside of mop-up duty was vs. Brigham Young when Golson was out due to concussion. The senior has completed just over half of his 44 career attempts with two interceptions and a touchdown, though it should be noted, both picks came vs. standout defenses in Stanford and Florida State, 2011 and as part of an offense hamstrung by injuries to its center and lead running back. It should also be noted both picks were the result of terrible reads and passes.
Theoretical Depth: Now it gets interesting. Hendrix's legs can help Notre Dame, but can he balance that skill with improved passing acumen? The Hendrix we've seen to date cannot pass the Irish to a BCS Bowl berth. Zaire is all theory, but as a runner he's likely ready -- can he complete passes in a high percentage offense vs. quality defenses?
Final Analysis: The unit could well out-perform this slotting, but entering 2013, quarterback is no longer expected to be a position of BCS Bowl-caliber strength at Notre Dame.
At first blush, none of the Rees/Hendrix/Zaire trio can singularly take Notre Dame back to the nation's Top 10. But can they if used expertly in congress? Or as a duo with one of the runners augmenting Rees? Can Hendrix and Zaire handle a similar yo-yo playing situation in which Rees thrived last fall? Can the offense avoid predictability with any of the three under center?
It seems impossible Kelly won't use the trio to his best advantage this season, just as he does every other position on the roster. Irish fans have previously seen running-back-by-committee (and will again this fall). They've seen multiple receivers and tight ends. They've seen job shares at inside linebacker, Cat linebacker, and along the defensive front.
They're likely to see another at the trigger in 2013.