In the first installment of our prediction series, the Slap The Sign staff takes a shot at predicting the breakout star for Notre Dame football this season.
Editor’s Note: This is the first installment in a week-long series leading up to Notre Dame’s season opener against Texas next Sunday. Check back in for a new set of predictions each day until Sunday.
With about half of last year’s starters gone on both sides of the ball, there are plenty of open spots that need to be filled for Notre Dame. But who will be the one to really step up and lead the Irish with a breakout season? Our writers take a stab at predicting the most unpredictable of categories.
Greg Hadley: Greer Martini, LB
The easy choice for this prediction at linebacker would be Nyles Morgan, who many are looking to to be “the guy” for Notre Dame’s defense this season. But one his fellow juniors, Greer Martini, could be just as good, if not better.
Right now, Martini is slated to start at “Will” linebacker, but he has the versatility to back up Morgan at “Mike” or James Onwualu at “Sam” and be a force all over the field. He has the unenviable task of replacing Jaylon Smith, but he has experience, starting last season against the triple-option offenses of Georgia Tech and Navy.
Martini is also the biggest of Notre Dame’s starting LBs, and he will be absolutely punishing against the run this year.
Danny Cunningham: Equanimeous St. Brown, WR
There are a number of places where I could see a breakout player or “X-Factor” for the Irish this year, but I’m going to look in the receiver room at sophomore wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown. The former four-star recruit was able to see time last year as a freshman, mainly on special teams and sparsely on offense before a shoulder injury cut his season short.
St. Brown will have the ability to make a big impact on offense this season with the departure of Will Fuller, Corey Robinson, Amir Carlisle and Chris Brown. Torii Hunter Jr. is the only receiver coming back with any real experience, and that leaves the door wide open for someone to step in and have an impact. I think St. Brown is going to be that guy for Notre Dame and have a very productive year.
Ben Belden: Nic Weishar, TE
Since Tyler Eifert left Notre Dame, the Irish have lacked a go-to receiver at the tight end position. Nic Weishar may end up being that guy for the Irish.
Weishar is a former four-star prospect who chose Notre Dame over Iowa, Michigan and Ohio State and is looking to make the most of his opportunities this season. Last season, he was the beneficiary of extra opportunities in practice after Durham Smythe went down with an injury and Alize Jones struggled with freshman growing pains. This season, he’s been given another opportunity in the light of Jones’ suspension.
Weishar has made waves in practice leading up to Notre Dame’s season opener against Texas. It has been said that both quarterbacks trust him, which makes him a particularly valuable piece and a key part of Notre Dame’s passing attack.
Alex Koslow: Josh Adams, RB
Notre Dame’s breakout player will be sophomore running back Josh Adams. Adams had a great 2015 season as a complimentary piece to CJ Prosise, and this year should just be more of the same.
The receiving corps doesn’t have much in terms of experience, with only one returning starter. So while the passing game tries to find traction, Adams should get his fair share of opportunities to show fans they should be just as excited for the running game as they are the quarterbacks. Adams will have to try and outplay Tarean Folston, but after his freshman year Adams should be seen as the feature back in South Bend.