5th-year OG #74 Christian LombardA potential team captain for 2014, Lombard had started 20 consecutive games (13 RT, 7 RG) prior to season-ending back surgery last October -- an injury he had practiced and played through in pain since late-April 2013.
Slated to start camp at right guard, Lombard is unlikely to move back to tackle which means, assuming good health (Lombard missed most of spring ball with a broken wrist) and acceptable play by the team's trio of potential starting tackles, the fifth-year senior will hold down the fort inside until further notice.
Realistic Ceiling: 13-game starter and the best season of his Irish career. Guardian of the Year Award as the squad's best OL.
Other side of the coin: With back and wrist surgery over the last 10 months, injury is a logical concern, so too is regression because of time lost in the weight room.
Freshman TE #13 Tyler LuatuaProspects for training camp opportunity increased with news this week that redshirt-freshman tight end Mike Heuerman will miss August while recovering from hernia surgery. Luatua brings a physical approach to the position, one that could result in an extended look as a blocker (and cover man) on the Irish punt and kick teams. Extended playing time from scrimmage for either he or fellow frosh Nic Weishar would likely indicate an injury to starter Ben Koyack and backup-on-the-rise, Durham Smythe.
Realistic Ceiling: A monogram on special teams; spot appearances from scrimmage.
Other side of the coin: Scout team duties and little challenge for varsity action.
Sophomore CB #3 Cole LukeA fluid athlete, Luke would be the no-doubt starter opposite junior Keivarae Russell if Notre Dame hadn't gained the services of 5th-year senior transfer Cody Riggs, a veteran starter of 26 games at Florida. Luke has regardless positioned himself for ample playing time, either as a starter, part-time starter, or starter in the team's myriad sub packages favored by new coordinator Brian VanGorder.
The Luke/Riggs competition ranks as the most talent-rich and intriguing of the squad's training camp battles.
Realistic Ceiling: Starting cornerback opposite Russell; breakout sophomore season.
Other side of the coin: Backup to Riggs (or Russell); action is limited (a bit) further if Riggs doesn't shift inside in the nickel scheme as projected here.
Senior C #72 Nick MartinPotential team captain No. 2 among offensive line coach Harry Hiestand's unit, Martin was reportedly far ahead of schedule throughout his recovery from mid-November MCL surgery. August, however, will represent his first work in pads and provide the true test. Martin enters training camp as the definitive starting center though classmate and understudy Matt Hegarty can help in a pinch -- the latter will compete for a starting right guard role.
Realistic Ceiling: Among the team's top 5 players at season's end.
Other side of the coin: A slow start similar to that endured by former starting center Braxston Cave who, like Martin, had been out of action since mid-November (foot) surgery. Said slow start is something the Irish can't afford with Michigan hitting South Bend on Sept. 6.
Freshman LB #48 Greer MartiniRanks among a glut of rookies -- true freshmen or otherwise -- among the 2014 linebacking corps, a unit with depth in numbers and potential only. Martini will likely receive his initial evaluation at will linebacker, home of potential All-American Jaylon Smith.
Realistic Ceiling: Special teams work on game days.
Other side of the coin: (Likely) scout team duties as he receives further evaluation among Notre Dame's three linebacker spots heading into the 2015 spring session.