1) Who will be the starting running back?
George Atkinson III is the likely choice on the roster right now, but with incoming freshmen like 5 star Greg Bryant and 4 star Tarean Folston it will be a competition to the end. I think it will be George as the starter, but Bryant getting a good amount of carries if he lives up to his hype.
2) Who will replace Manti Te’o as the leader of the defense?
Manti Te’o is gone and we must accept the fact the defense needs a new leader. If Jamoris Slaughter comes back I think he would be the captain of the defense, but if that doesn’t happen then you will have to look to Fox, Nix, Tuitt, Shembo or Bennett Jackson as the leaders. There is no clear cut captain that will not only that displays leadership through play, but also through preparation.
3) Will Everett Golson improve, worsen, or stay the same?
The ceiling for Golson is very high and as he gains confidence he will get better and better each year. The 2013 class is stacked with talent at wide receiver and with TJ Jones being the main target and Chris Brown as the guy that stretches defense’s it could be a breakout year for him.
4) Who is replacing Te’o, Lewis-Moore, and Motta?
Fox and Calabrese split time last year, but they will more than likely be playing next to each other in 2013. Look for Grace to rotate at the inside linebacker position. Lewis-Moore was a great anchor to the defensive line with that being said there are two guys very capable stepping in. Tony Springmann and Sheldon Day will battle for the starting position. If the NCAA lets Jamoris come back then he will start, but if not Nicky Baratti had a good amount of plays last season as a freshman. Don’t forget about the 5 star recruit Max Redfield who is ready to make an impact right away.
5) How does Notre Dame handle success?
It has been a long time since Notre Dame has had back to back 10 win seasons (92-93), but with most of their talent back in 2013 it shouldn’t be hard when it comes to talent. The mental aspect of handling success has to be humble for teams to keep winning year after year.
6) What recruits round out the class of 2013?
Vanderdoes, Fitts, Prevot, Hollins Jr., Smythe, and Issac are all possibilities for the Irish. The first four are defensive players and the last two are offensive. Vanderdoes would be a great addition and ideal to back Nix up his senior year. Fitts and Prevot are interested in Notre Dame, but it doesn’t look like South Bend will be their destination. Issac is reported to commit to USC once again between now and signing day. Hollins Jr. really likes what Notre Dame has to offer, but will he get a real shot at playing time with the huge linebacker class coming in? Smythe would be the second tight end in the class and is very big standing at 6’6’’.
7) How to increase offensive production?
Confidence does wonders for people and if Brian Kelly can now trust Golson and open up that playbook more than a couple of inches the Irish could be very dangerous next season. They will have speed and some veterans, but Golson has to be the leader to take Notre Dame forward.
8) Offensive line, who will block?
Cave, Golic, and Watt are all gone and will get their shake at the NFL. The big news is that Zach Martin (the best of the offensive line last year) is staying for 1 more year. Lombard will be a senior and then there are 3 spots Notre Dame has to fill. Nick Martin will probably move to guard or possibly center, Connor Hanratty had backed up Watt, Bruce Heggie backed up Golic, and Matt Hegarty was the third string center. 4 guys 3 spots and it will be interesting, because if the offensive line doesn’t perform well it will be hard for Golson to improve.
9) Who will replace Eifert as the go to receiver?
TJ Jones, DaVaris Daniels, or Chris Brown are the logical choices right now, but the freshmen are a talent group and Troy Niklas really came into his own during the season. TJ is the route runner, Daniels is big and fast, Chris Brown will run past anyone, and Troy Niklas is 6’7’’. Golson should have his way with defenses with these weapons.
10) Coach Kelly’s new contract, what should it be?
Charlie Weis is still collecting checks from the University of Notre Dame. He had one good season and they jumped him with a huge contract that will be paid through December of 2015 (19 million after being fired). Coach Kelly deserves a new contract, but let’s not give him 15 years. A 4-6 year contract should be given around 3 million a year. If he then wins a National Championship or 10 win seasons and BCS bowl wins he deserves a bigger one, but Notre Dame shouldn’t assume anything.