June Mailbag

Part one of two this weekend sorts through mail from subscribers this month.

1.) Tim, enjoying the prediction series, though you're going a bit too slowly for my taste. I have one pertinent question for you. Will Malik Zaire start a game this season? Not play, not contribute, but start. And why? -- Eric, Austin, TX

Yes, and it will be because of injury to Everett Golson, either via the wear and tear of the season or an actual issue that precludes the senior from answering the bell in a given week. And to build on that, an additional prediction: Unless Zaire is otherworldly in his efforts, Golson will then return to the helm due to what will be a solid/standout season to date.

Tommy Rees started all 13 games last fall for Brian Kelly, a first for the head coach since his Central Michigan days.

2.) What's the starting offensive line against Rice, and if they stay relatively healthy, are there any changes over the course of the season? -- Lisa, Spokane, WA

Left to right: Ronnie Stanley, Steve Elmer, Nick Martin, Christian Lombard, Mike McGlinchey.

And yes, I think both Hegarty and Hanratty will start at least a game at guard. Only Stanley and a healthy Martin are head and shoulders above the otherwise solid fray. I think eight players are ready (Hunter Bivin) and the group is blessed with a handful of starting candidates for the future -- both redshirt and incoming freshmen.

3.) Who are your choices for team captains this year? No seniors come to mind, but what about Everett Golson? -- Mike, Indianapolis

I'm sticking with my post-bowl game prediction of Keivarae Russell and Kyle Brindza and omitting Jarrett Grace, removed from the equation due to injury. Other candidates that come to mind are Christian Lombard, Nick Martin, and Sheldon Day. Jaylon Smith would be the first sophomore captain in program history -- but I think Brian Kelly might just left him lead on the field.

As for Golson: no chance pre-season. I could see Kelly naming captains post-season or game-by-game this year though, opening the door for his redemption heading into 2015.

4.) Who'll start at running back in the opener? Who'll lead the team in rushing? Who'll start the season finale and will it be the same runner? -- Edward in Cincinnati

Cam McDaniel, Tarean Folston, Tarean Folston…but Greg Bryant will be the best 'back by season's end.

I think McDaniel gets the nod due to seniority and consistency in August, plus he has Kelly's trust. I think Folston leads the team in carries and therefore yards, while much like the Irish backfield of decades past, the most imposing runner, Bryant, might have to earn his stripes. Bryant is this year's Tony Brooks (1988, 1990-91).

I'm also impressed that I worked in all three running backs to further cloud the situation...

5.) What happens if Sheldon Day or Jarron Jones gets hurt? -- Tom in South Bend

I know what doesn't happen: Notre Dame football on or around New Year's Day.

DL coach Mike Elston will have his youth-filled group ready to compete, but the line unequivocally needs its best player, Day, and it's biggest, Jones. The latter needs to improve, the former to be as good as the coaches offer he is, or can be.

As important is that two from this group emerge: Tony Springmann, Isaac Rochell, Andrew Trumbetti, Daniel Cage and/or Jay Hayes. Youth shall be served, unfortunately.

Another Q&A is on tap for tomorrow:

IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories