Junior G/C #75 Mark HarrellThe backup interior lineman made his initial collegiate appearance late in the team's Pinstripe Bowl victory over Rutgers last December. The quickest path to playing time for Harrell this fall might be as a blocker on the team's field goal protection unit or perhaps on the punt team, as veterans -- not to mention highly touted rookies -- abound at both center and guard.
With recent developments at tight end (see Heuerman, Mike, below), Harrell could conceivably help as a short-yardage blocker at the position as he played tight end in high school. Now at 305 pounds, Harrell would likely have to lose a bit of ballast to regain the necessary footwork on the edge.
Realistic Ceiling: Playing time in multiple contests on special teams.
Other side of the coin: No snaps other than in home game mop-up roles.
Freshman DT #93 Jay HayesAmong a host of intriguing freshmen front seven competitors that could earn varsity roles as the team whittles down its ranks in preparation for Rice at camp's conclusion. Hayes, along with fellow frosh Daniel Cage and early enrollee Andrew Trumbetti, appear the most physically ready interior prospects while there are a healthy handful of edge competitors that could carve a niche this fall.
Hayes has the necessary approach ("violent" is a word that comes to mind to describe his game in high school film review) but he'll encounter a vastly different level of competition this month and in September should he be thrown to the fire.
Realistic Ceiling: Playing time in support of starters Sheldon Day and Jarron Jones inside.
Other side of the coin: Injured senior Tony Springmann (2013 knee surgery) returns to form and the aforementioned Cage moves ahead of Hayes in their ongoing competition for snaps. A redshirt season ensues.
Senior G/C #77 Matt HegartyThe team's feel-good story of 2013, Hegarty ended the season as the team's starting center, held that role throughout the spring, and has since been evaluated as a potential starter at guard as his classmate, Nick Martin, returns to the starting pivotman role.
Though machinations for the Irish starting front abound, for Hegarty, it comes down to this: can he prove to be a better guard than Steve Elmer or Christian Lombard? And as an ancillary challenge, can Hegarty be a better guard than redshirt-freshman Mike McGlinchey is a tackle? (Because it's likely that Hegarty will became a backup guard if McGlinchey impresses as the team's right tackle.)
Realistic Ceiling: Starts at guard for multiple contests while playing extensively in each. Earns a fifth season with the program in 2015 as a result.
Other side of the coin: Plays the season as a true No. 2, either at center or guard, and rarely breeches the rotation during competitive contests.
Junior TE #9 Mike HeuermanReportedly out for the duration of training camp as he recovers from hernia surgery -- his second such surgery in a ten-month span. Heuerman was behind classmate Durham Smythe in the tight end pecking order after missing most of 2013 due to injuries. His status for the first month-plus of 2014 is logically in question.
Realistic Ceiling: Playing time this fall in competitive game action.
Other side of the coin: A season on the sidelines.
Freshman Rush End #43 Kolin HillNotre Dame needs to manufacture a pass rush to reach its defensive goals in 2014, and Kolin Hill circa 2013 at the prep level, could get to the quarterback. That will be the freshman's chief charge this August and he'll receive a healthy dose of competition from at least three incoming classmates, plus senior Anthony Rabasa who, like Hill, excelled in this realm as a high school prospect.
Realistic Ceiling: A regular, or failing that, rotation player, in the team's sub package at rush end.
Other side of the coin: Scout Team 2014.
Senior DE #50 Chase HounshellHasn't played since December 2011 so any aid he could lend against top competition remains theoretical. Hounshell made it through every padded workout of the 15-practice spring without re-injury and was confident his hard work would pay off this fall. He joined Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt as true freshman to play in 2011, though in a much less significant capacity than his teammates, both of whom were drafted by NFL teams in 2014.
Realistic Ceiling: A solid season as a defensive line backup, both at DT and DE.
Other side of the coin: A fourth shoulder injury ends his Irish career.