Three that won't prove pressing
Last Thursday, Irisheyes discussed three questions posed this preseason that will affect the outcome of Notre Dame's season. Today, we take a look a three questions that - while unanswered - the Irish should feel confident about addressing. 1. Who starts at running back? Brian Kelly first touched on this in his opening press conference. "I'm not as concerned about announcing who the starting running back is," Kelly said. "If it happens, that would be fine. So I think with that, there's enough room for all three of those guys to play substantial roles in our offense, and I would expect that all three of them do." Through fall camp so far, however, Greg Bryant has done most work with the first team, Tarean Folston has run primarily with the two's while Cam McDaniel has gone with the three's. Bryant and Folston should get the majority of reps if all goes according to plan. Obviously, different situations on the field will call upon the unique strengths of either player, and Kelly won't shy away from keeping the best man in the game if he's on a roll at any certain point during four quarters. Isn't that what you want in your backfield? 2. How much will Notre Dame's red zone offense improve? Notre Dame converted 80 percent of their chances into points last year inside the 20-yard line. The Irish scored 24 touchdowns (53 percent) and knocked in 12 field goals (27 percent). If the Irish are going to do a better job of scoring points this year, something that's been emphasized repeatedly entering this season, red zone efficiency will have to take a rather big step forward. Notre Dame scoring touchdowns inside the red zone may prove to be one of the Irish's least worrisome stat lines. A mobile quarterback like Everett Golson provides unlimited value deep inside opponents' territory, especially if the zone read comes to life. Combine Golson's dual-threat ability wih weapons like Ben Koyack, Corey Robinson, Chris Brown, DaVaris Daniels, Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston, and opponents will have their hands full slowing down that attack. 3. Is there enough (quality) depth in the secondary? Beyond the projected starters in Cole Luke, KeiVarae Russell, Cody Riggs, Austin Collinsworth and Max Redfield, on paper it would appear the depth at the top faces some question marks. Notre Dame will expand its use of its attack in the secondary with Brian VanGorder at the helm, so an abundance of healthy bodies will be needed. Losing an unproven Rashad Kinlaw and two-year starter Bennett Jackson while having to catch Devin Butler, who was injured in the spring, up to speed isn't ideal, Notre Dame has a respectable mixture of talent and experience sprinkled throughout corner and safety. We'll see what roles (if any) Eilar Hardy and Elijah Shumate have in VanGorder's defense, but Josh Atkinson should see some playing time, impressing all of the media on hand at practice on Saturday. Drue Tranquill was getting most of his reps at safety and could provide some depth if called upon. And, finally, when asked which freshmen have looked the part so far, Kelly didn't hesitate to name cornerback Nick Watkins. The key in the secondary for Notre Dame this year is for your starters to live up to full potential. If Cole Luke takes another step forward in his game, Max Redfield overcomes any rookie mistakes to make an impact, and Matthias Farley shows he's capable of bouncing back after a below average season last year, much of your concern in the secondary is diminished.
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