Relative RookiesA quintet of redshirt-freshmen not part of the plan last fall but hopeful -- and in some cases, necessary -- for 2013.
- Defensive End Jarron Jones: The hopes and dreams of Notre Dame's 2015 national championship contention lie on his massive shoulders – hyperbole to be sure , but the program isn't playing in the NCAA's first-ever college football Final Four next season if the 6'5" 299-pound Jones doesn't become a factor in Year 3, when current DL standouts Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt are likely earning a living in the professional ranks…This season, however, is Year 2, and the Irish would benefit from 8-10 snaps per game from Jones of whom D-Line coach Mike Elston noted had elevated his game this spring to that of a "freshman in college" -- Elston compared Jones' approach to that of a "high school senior" last year, his first at Notre Dame…Can Jones emerge as the team's "No. 6" defensive linemen, or more accurate, its No. 4 defensive end behind starters Stephon Tuitt and Sheldon Day and swingman reserve Tony Springmann? The presence of 6 true DL (8 if you count Cat ‘backers Prince Shembo and Ishaq Williams) was the chief reason the Irish reached 12-0 in 2012…Is football more important to Jones, who admitted that last year he wished to be back on campus with friends rather than traveling with the team when it was certain he wouldn't play? (and there should probably be a few exclamation points in that sentence!)
- Guard/Center Mark Harrell: Exited spring ball as the first offensive guard off the bench but will have a fight on his hands to maintain that status with incoming prospects John Montelus, Colin McGovern and Hunter Bivin ready to compete along the interior…Harrell has the advantage of one season in strength and conditioning coach Paul Longo's program, plus a likely head start over Montelus (shoulder injury has precluded heavy lifting) and McGovern (knee surgery in November) who are expected to enter August at less-than-full-strength…Could find a fight with Bivin for the No. 3 center role as well behind the junior pair of Nick Martin and Matt Hegarty – none of the quartet was a center in high school…Look for Harrell to nail down a two-deep guard role this fall then enter a dog fight for the same over spring 2014 and beyond, with only 5th-year senior Chris Watt departing from a deep LG/RG rotation (at least two, if not three 2014 pledges project to G or C).
- Long Snapper Scott Daly: The nation's best in the 2012 cycle will make his debut vs. Temple after sitting out as a rookie. His goal: perform every snap through 2016, his 5th-year senior year…Irish fans would likely settle for the same through his true senior season of 2015…The second LS scholarship player in program history on the heels of 2013 graduate Jordan Cowart, who took two years to grow into the short-snapper's role (field goals and extra points) -- Daly appears poised to handle both from the outset…Nerves will likely be a factor during prime time in Ann Arbor for Week Two, thereafter his skill set should allow for a nearly error-free punt-snap situation in South Bend for his duration with the program.
- Safety John Turner: Seems a touch behind his safety competitors entering fall 2013 but that's what special teams – not to mention four seasons of remaining eligibility – are for…There are open jobs on every Irish "run team" (kick and punt coverage/return), and at 6'0" 220 pounds, Turner has no excuse if he doesn't carve a niche…Time to run, hit, or fall behind for not only Turner, but a sampling of (older) Irish defensive backs still searching for roles…Can Turner show enough to remain a viable three-deep safety entering spring 2014? With Elijah Shumate, Matthias Farley, Austin Collinsworth (a likely 5th-year), Nicky Baratti, and incoming freshman Max Redfield in the mix, a sixth competitive spot seems down to Turner, Eilar Hardy, and Chris Badger.
- Safety Chris Badger: Behind the 8-ball after two years (2010-11) spent on a religious mission in Ecuador, but Badger has two springs (2010 and 2013) and one season (2012) as part of the program – it's probably time to find a specialty role…From conversations with the defensive staff, Badger is unlikely to challenge for a scrimmage role this fall, but Notre Dame's special teams was terrible – not acceptable, terrible – last season, and new life and an attitude is necessary among its ranks. Why not Badger? (Or Turner, or Hardy, et al. Roles are there for the taking.)
(Note: A sixth redshirt-freshman, running back Will Mahone, was previewed in our "Through the Ranks" column linked above. RS-Frosh C.J. Prosise's write-up is forthcoming in our "Newcomers of the Year?" feature.)