Through the Ranks

O'Malley continues his stream of consciousness breakdown of every Irish player with a look at one from each class.

Click the links below for previously previewed players in our Stream of Consciousness series:

10 in the Trenches: Both sides of scrimmage

Sunday Sampler

Five Freshmen

Six on the Spot

The Returnees (Injured Irish from 2012)

Three Key Juniors

The Quarterbacks: Three to Make One?

Senior Trio

5th-Year Senior Offensive Guard Chris Watt

It's hard to be underrated as a three-year senior starter at Notre Dame, but Watt has managed that distinction -- one of the better run-blocking guards in the college game, both at the point and on the move and now the former pledge to Charlie Weis' last recruiting class ranks among Notre Dame's most indispensable players…Look for Watt to do much more of what we saw late last season -- pulling from his left guard spot on passing plays to move the pocket right, regardless of the quarterback du jour…Finished 2012 with three Top 10 and four honorable mention designations per our film reviews…WIll likely end his Irish career as the most accomplished O-Line starter since the millennium to never win the program's Guardian of the Year Award -- its been claimed three straight season's by fellow left-sider Zack Martin, and it likely will go to Martin again assuming good health.

Senior Wide Receiver Daniel Smith

Earned the coaching staff's trust over the last calendar year and coupled with his blocking prowess, has cemented a role as one of the team's rotation receivers for game days…The best and most consistent blocking receiver on the squad, though not yet in the class of recent players to hold that mantle Michael Floyd , Duval Kamara, and Maurice Stovall…Smith executed two of the seasons key blocks by a non-linemen, springing Cierre Wood for a 62-yard touchdown at Oklahoma, Theo Riddick for a 13-yard game-clincher three quarters later, and Riddick again for the team's only touchdown in Los Angeles to close the season at 12-0…

Needs to be more than a hitch threat as a receiver or teams will key on the Irish running game when Smith hits the field -- a reality exacerbated by the lack of a read-option keeper in the rushing attack this fall…At 6'4" 215, Smith doesn't play fast or strong enough as a pass-catcher/runner though he maximizes that size as a blocker…20 receptions, two touchdowns, and a handful of crucial second-half catches would suffice from the late-blooming senior.

Junior Running Back Cam McDaniel

Love the balance, competitiveness and confidence…Like the compact power base and leg drive…Like the hands in the screen game and maybe even downfield…Don't love the fact that his chief contributions came against Service Academy backups and a team that quit last fall…Love him as a No. 2 kick returner, in fact, I guarantee he wins the role (taking the field alongside the main option)…Look for McDaniel to cover kicks as well -- he's all football player…I sense a smattering of 60-yard efforts next fall, but he's likely best utilized as a No. 2 or No. 3 'back, in fact, i think its indicative of an 8-win football team if neither George Atkinson nor Amir Carlisle can keep him at bay as the team's lead runner…

In good health, there's no way McDaniel doesn't contribute to the backfield's cause and on special teams in 2013, he's simply too versatile to keep off the field for an offense without an identity and a special teams group in need of hard-nosed athletes that can run and will hit.

Sophomore Outside Linebacker Romeo Okwara

Just turned 18, and its a crying shame he burned a season of eligibility as a largely ineffective special teams player and No. 3 outside linebacker last fall…Was pressed into early action thanks to a great August camp and injury to starting field-side linebacker, Danny Spond…Spond returned, Ben Councell remained the No. 2, and Okwara played only in blowouts from scrimmage, though that includes a late game hit and forced fumble vs. then-revered Oklahoma…

Cat-quick at 6'4" and nearly 260, could easily grow into a terror at defensive end, but that would require the oddity of a sophomore redshirt, and he's able to help the team as a pass-rusher, so that won't likely happen…Enters August No. 3 on the Cat (boundary) depth chart behind senior Prince Shembo and junior Ishaq Williams, both of whom will play plenty…The Dog (field) is no more promising with Spond, Councell, and star recruit Jaylon Smith

I'd hate to see Okwara enter his junior season of 2014 as a 19-year old with just two years of eligibility remaining. If he's amenable, time to bulk up and create a new career would best serve both the player and the program.

Freshman Wide Receiver James Onwualu

He's too good at football to redshirt in Year One, but I'd be surprised if the rock-solid Onwualu catches more than five balls…In fact, five might be three or four too high of a projection…Will be involved in one if not all four Irish "run teams" from the jump (KR/PR/Kickoff/Punt)…Could play running back (they have plenty) or safety (ditto), but is best served as a slot competitor, one that could lend a physical presence in relief of Daniel Smith, C.J. Prosise, and scat-back Amir Carlisle…Aside from Carlisle, the Irish appear headed toward the physical in the slot for 2013…

Can he separate as a perimeter freshman? Can he become a threat after the catch? There's no niche to be carved ahead of fellow early enrollee Corey Robinson (a better pure-pass catcher) or fellow frosh Will Fuller (ditto), but Onwualu has a college-ready frame -- he'll play…

Notre Dame's 2012 trio of freshman wide receivers combined to play 38 games last season and caught just four passes...Onwualu vs. Prosise vs. Robinson vs. Fuller vs. Torii Hunter, Jr., will be the spring storyline for 2014 (DaVaris Daniels is the only given, with Chris Brown likely ahead of the pack above)… Top Stories