With names like Manti Te’o, Everett Golson, Tyler Eifert and other Notre Dame players leaving, football coach Brian Kelly will have plenty of work to do to fill the holes left by these great players that helped lead the Irish to a perfect regular season.
Yes, it will be hard for Notre Dame Fans to not see the great players of the past on the field against Temple in the home opener, but this is what really makes college football so great. It gives the opportunity for new players to leave their marks on the hearts of fans and college football history books.
So now let’s take a look at the open positions and who has the best chance at filling them for The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.
Quarterback – Who would have thought two months ago that this would be a position that would need to be filled, but Golson being off the team due to academics, it looks like Tommy Rees will be the guy at the controls.
Last week, Kelly named Rees the starter heading into fall practice, but I’m not buying all of that. At some point during the season I believe Kelly will lean on Andrew Hendrix to win some games and the position will turn into more of a platoon position.
Center – Yes the quarterback position is the most important position on the field, but when it comes to the offensive line, the center is the most important. For the last three seasons, the Irish had Braxston Cave a rock at the position that will not be easy to replace.
It appears that Nick Martin will be the man in the starting position, as back in December Matt Hegarty had a minor stroke who was once looked at as Cave’s heir apparent.
Don’t be surprised though if Hegarty is the starter by mid-season as he has recovered from the stroke, but missed all of spring practice.
Tight End – This could end up being the most difficult position for the Irish to fill. Eifert just wasn’t a great tight end but also Notre Dame’s most dynamic offensive weapon at any position.
This position will be used a lot differently than it was last year as Kelly and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin will have to use more multiple tight end sets to protect the less mobile Tommy Rees. Last season, they never really had to use many of those formations because of Golson’s mobility at the quarterback position.
Troy Niklas, Alex Welch, Ben Koyack and Mike Heuerman are the three top candidates this fall and all will be used in different game situations.
Right Guard – Right now, Connor Hanratty sits on top of the depth chart, but by the time the season opens, it very well could be true freshman John Montelus starting at the right guard position. Montelus was a 4 – star recruit and one of the most highly recruited offensive linemen recruited during the Brian Kelly era.
Slot Receiver – When the season ended, it looked like Devonte Neal would be the guy at the slot position when the 2013 season opened. Boy, have things changed a lot since then. Neal has since transferred and C.J. Prosise has been moved from free safety to take over the open slot position.
Senior Daniel Smith will push Prosise, but after having a big Blue Gold Game, it is Prosise position to lose.
Running Back – With the loss of playmakers Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick, the Irish will now have to lean heavily on George Atkinson III and USC transfer Amir Carlisle.
The biggest question I have is: Can the thin framed Atkinson III be able to take the pounding that a featured back must be able to take?
Carlisle has consistently had issues with injuries and missed all of 2012 because of them. The Irish have plenty of talent at the position but will either of them be able to stay on the field?
Free Safety – Brian Kelly lost one of his main stays with Zeke Motta now in the NFL. Motta was a three year starter and a captain of the defensive backfield. With Matta now in the NFL, it will be up to Elijah Shumate to take over the free safety position.
Shumate played the nickel back position in 2012 but is poised to have a breakout season at his natural free safety position in 2013.
Nick Baratti will more than likely back up Shumate and could push him for the starting position in fall practice.
Middle Linebacker – It looks like it’s a one man race to see who will replace one of Notre Dame’s most legendary linebackers Manti Te’o. Junior Jarrett Grace put a vice grip on the position during spring practice but will be pushed in the fall by backup Kendall Moore.
Tags: Alex Welch Amir Carlisle Ben Koyack Brian Kelly C.J. Prosise Chuck Martin Cierre Wood Connor Hanratty Del Yates Jr Elijah Shumate Everett Golson George Atkinson III Irish Jarrett Grace John Montelus Kendall Moore Manti Te'o Temple Owls Theo Riddick Tommy Rees Troy Niklas Tyler Eifert Zeke Motta