This fall, less-promising prospects await the Irish defense under the opponents' center: 10 of its 12 foes include returning starters at quarterback. Three are Heisman Trophy candidates and two boast 2-0 marks vs. the Irish in their careers to date.
But just as 2009's rookie crop didn't guarantee defensive success (Notre Dame lost to five of the nine relative rookie signal callers) the 2012 slate need not be viewed as an impossible task, not with a veteran Irish front seven and two long-time starting safeties on hand to help a young pair of cornerbacks.
Below is a look at opposing signal callers ready to square off vs. Bob Diaco's third-year Irish defense.
Game One, Navy (Trey Miller): Started just one game last season but that was against the Irish in South Bend. Miller brings an added passing element to the traditional triple-option attack.
Game Two, Purdue (Caleb Terbush, Robert Marve, Rob Henry): TerBush started vs. the Irish last fall; Marve in 2010 with Henry spelling him as a run-first option. The trio will all likely see time in The Opening month, especially vs. Notre Dame in early September.
Game Three, Michigan State (Andrew Maxwell): Senior (redshirt-junior) replaces three-year starter Kirk Cousins (1-2 vs. Notre Dame) at the position. Maxwell has played in nine games but with just 51 pass attempts (one score) to date. He has the benefit of a Week One matchup vs. Boise State to help prepare him for the big stage vs. the Irish.
Game Four, Michigan (Denard Robinson): The nation's top running quarterback over the last two seasons can become the fourth quarterback in college football history to post three wins over Notre Dame in his tenure (Mike Phipps, Matt Leinart, and Andrew Luck are the others).
Game Five, Miami (Stephen Morris): Enters his third year as a regular contributor but with just five starts under is belt, Morris came off the bench in the Sun Bowl loss to Notre Dame after starter Jacory Harris threw three first half interceptions. He sat behind Harris for most of 2011, earning one start.
Game Six, Stanford (Brett Nottingham or Josh Nunes): 2012 No. 1 draft pick Andrew Luck had a stranglehold on the position over the last three seasons and, with all due respect to athletes I've never seen, a drop-off in overall play is assured.
Game Seven, BYU (Riley Nelson): Senior dual-threat started seven games and threw 19 touchdowns last season for the 10-win Cougars.
Game Nine, Pittsburgh (Tino Sunseri): Winless in two starts vs. the Irish and under his third offensive system in as many seasons at the helm.
Game 10, Boston College (Chase Rettig): Like Sunseri, has not defeated the Irish with two defeats during the Brian Kelly era.
Game 12, USC (Matt Barkley): Like Michigan's Robinson, could join a trio of former college greats as the only passers to go 3-0 as starters vs. the Irish during their college careers. Barkley is the nation's leading Heisman candidate entering the season and has tossed six touchdowns without an interception vs. Notre Dame in 2009/2011 match ups, both in South Bend. (He missed the team's 2010 loss to Notre Dame due to injury.)