Freshman DE #55 Jonathan BonnerIs he a defensive end? Is he a rush end? Could he play as a true linebacker? The good news for Irish fans is Bonner appears to have a bright future at multiple positions (he'd be a dynamite tight end), but for August 2014, and early look at rush end in competition with senior Anthony Rabasa -- plus fellow freshmen Kolin Hill, Jhonathan Williams, and perhaps Grant Blankenship -- seems logical.
Realistic Ceiling: Contributing pass rusher to the team's myriad sub packages; grows into a 4-3 defensive end body throughout the season.
Other side of the coin: Tweener status as a rookie and a season in search of a position.
Freshman OL #67 Jimmy ByrneWith Ronnie Stanley (2016), Steve Elmer (2016), Mike McGinchey (2017) and Hunter Bivin (2017) and incoming classmates Quenton Nelson and Alex Bars all prime candidates for tackle positions, Byrne's future appears -- immediate and otherwise -- appears at guard, where his aggressive bent can be of great value to future lines.
Realistic Ceiling: Legitimate two-deep aspirations at guard for 2015.
Other side of the coin: Seniors such as Conor Hanratty and Matt Hegarty both entertain a fifth season at the program and Byrne enters 2015 spring ball well behind the veterans.
Senior CB #41 Matthias FarleyExited spring ball as the team's leader at the nickel position but he'll receive a major challenge from fifth-year transfer Cody Riggs (Florida). Farley though picked up new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder's system quickly and was lauded by defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks as the best nickel the team has had since 2011, when Jamoris Slaughter filled the role.
Farley will carve a niche with the defense, but his best chance as the starting nickel is if Riggs proves too valuable on the outside -- and the Irish have plenty of perimeter competitors as well.
Realistic Ceiling: 13-game starter and impact player at nickel.
Other side of the coin: Serves as the No. 5 CB in a heavy four-man rotation or moves back to safety.
Sophomore RB #25 Tarean FolstonThe media's leader in the clubhouse to pace the Irish rushing, Folston and fellow runners Cam McDaniel and Greg Bryant will compete well beyond August for 1A and 1B status. (It could go as far as 1C, but a more likely scenario is that a definitive third emerges behind a starting tandem.)
Folston's classmate Bryant was the talk of spring ball, but that's largely because he was withheld from action for the bulk of 2013. Both are among the team's top 10 projected players by this website and others alike.
Realistic Ceiling: Leads the team in rushing yards, attempts, and touchdowns.
Other side of the coin: Becomes RB "1C" or even No. 2, and finishes the series with fewer than 100 carries.
Sophomore WR #7 Will FullerAppeared to fall out of favor slightly during the spring session, the result of inconsistency as a pass-catcher -- a sure sign a young player lacking attention to detail, because Fuller showed fantastic hands at the prep level. A true speedster, Fuller enters August as a second string receiver with senior DaVaris Daniels, junior Chris Brown, and fellow sophomore Corey Robinson apparently ahead of him on the perimeter.
That can, and will likely change multiple times between August 4 and Thanksgiving Saturday in Los Angeles.
Realistic Ceiling: No. 3 or No. 4 overall playmaker among the team's receivers and tight ends with intermittent big plays and weekly contributions added to his 2014 resume.
Other side of the coin: Finishes the season pecking order behind the trio lifted above, plus redshirt-freshman Torii Hunter, Jr., and true frosh Justin Brent.