All the rage of most spring practices is centered around battles at each two-deep, and predicting the outcomes of those battles is even more fun.
As I stated in an article published last week, there will be a few heated competitions on the Irish roster in the coming weeks.
Who will be the winners and losers?
Follow along to find out!
- Tommy Rees
- Andrew Hendrix
It's only fitting that the two most experienced quarterbacks on the roster will begin spring practices as one and two on the two-deep.
However, it is widely expected for Everett Golson to make a strong case to be named the starter. Do not be surprised if his name is listed at the top following the Blue-Gold Game.
Rounding out the quarterback competition will be heralded freshman Gunner Kiel, a 5-Star prospect from Columbus, Ind. Kiel will push the other three quarterbacks, but is expected to take a redshirt year in 2012.
- Cierre Wood
- Theo Riddick
The Irish have a proven playmaker at running back in Cierre Wood, who was Notre Dame's leading rusher a year ago. Wood accumulated 1,102 rushing yards on 217 carries last season, becoming the 20th player in school history to rush for at least 1,000 yards in a single season.
Right behind Wood will be Theo Riddick, who transitioned from wide receiver to running back during the latter stages of 2011 because of a season-ending injury to former running back Jonas Gray.
Riddick, along with George Atkinson III, will fill the role of a hybrid receiver/running back, a type of player Brian Kelly has deemed crucial in the offense.
Aside from Wood, Riddick and Atkinson, another name to watch out for is incoming freshman William Mahone, a 4-star prospect out of Austintown, Ohio.
- John Goodman
- DaVaris Daniels
Perhaps the most intriguing position battle on the roster aside from quarterback, this receiver spot likely will not be final until fall camp.
John Goodman figures to take the top spot on the two-deep, but will likely split time evenly with redshirt freshman DaVaris Daniels.
Both players are unproven at this point, so spring practices will give us a much clearer view of who is capable of producing on a consistent basis.
- T.J. Jones
- Luke Massa
This receiver spot is the murkiest on the roster, as T.J. Jones is the only certainty, having been a starter as a freshman and sophomore.
Luke Massa has rarely seen time on the field after transitioning from quarterback to wide receiver as a freshman.
Massa could potentially be supplanted by incoming freshmen Chris Brown and Justin Ferguson, although nothing will be become clear until the conclusion of spring practices at the earliest.
- Robby Toma
- Matthias Farley
Because the Theo Riddick project did not go as planned, Robby Toma took over as Notre Dame's lead slot receiver. He did not disappoint, either. After taking over as the starter in the slot, Toma hauled in 19 receptions for 207 yards and one touchdown.
However, there is limited depth behind Toma. Matthias Farley, who redshirted the 2011 season, will begin spring practices as Toma's backup, but incoming freshman Davonte Neal will push Farley during the fall.
- Tyler Eifert
- Ben Koyack
Tight end is the deepest position on the Irish roster and will be solidified by the addition of Troy Niklas to the group.
Niklas' move indicates that the Irish plan to use more two and three tight end sets this season.
Not only do all four players block well, but each are lethal pass-catching threats, making the Irish offense that more dangerous.
- Zack Martin
- Jordan Prestwood
Zack Martin returns for his junior season as one of the nation's premier left tackles. Irish quarterbacks will continue to have no worries about their blindsides, with Martin dominating at the point of attack.
Jordan Prestwood will serve as Martin's backup after transferring from Florida State and serving a redshirt year last season.
- Christian Lombard
- Tate Nichols
Now that Taylor Dever has graduated and moved onto the professional ranks, Christian Lombard and Tate Nichols will battle it out for the starting spot.
Lombard was a 4-star prospect in the 2010 class, but has yet to make an impact on the field.
This is one of the best true position battles on the roster.
- Chris Watt
- Conor Hanratty
Chris Watt proved himself as a solid starter at left guard last season and figures to be a more complete player during his redshirt junior year.
Running plays to the left should be a strong suit for the Irish, with Watt and Zack Martin mauling opposing defenders.
Conor Hanratty, son of former Notre Dame quarterback Terry Hanratty, will serve as Watt's backup despite being unproven.
- Nick Martin
- Brad Carrico
The Irish will miss Trevor Robinson, but the younger brother of current left tackle Zack Martin should prove as a worthy replacement.
Martin arrived in South Bend as a freshman at 6'4" and 280 pounds, but has packed on extra weight to his frame since then, transforming him into a legitimate starter at the position.
Brad Carrico will serve as Martin's backup after making the switch to the offensive line from the defensive line during fall camp of 2011.
- Braxston Cave
- Mike Golic, Jr.
Notre Dame's offensive line will be in good hands with fifth-year seniors Braxston Cave and Mike Golic, Jr. manning the two-deep.
Cave has been a solid center for the Irish the last two seasons, and his absence was certainly missed down the stretch last season. Golic, Jr. filled in admirably for Cave, proving that the Irish need not worry if Cave were to be injured again.
- Aaron Lynch
- Chase Hounshell
The gem of the 2011 recruiting haul, Aaron Lynch proved to be just as dominant as expected. Lynch was a stalwart defensive end, making an impact in pass-rush.
With a season of experience under his belt, Lynch should be even better in 2012.
Lynch has a more-than-capable backup in Chase Hounshell, who spurned the University of Florida to attend Notre Dame. He adds depth to a group that will challenge as one of the nation's best.
- Louis Nix
- Tony Springmann
The Irish boast a behemoth of a nose tackle in Louis Nix, who plugs up the middle, and is often double-teamed in the run game.
Another offseason conditioning program with Coach Paul Longo will improve Nix's conditioning, giving him the ability to stay on the field for longer durations.
His backup, Tony Springmann, came into his own after coming to Notre Dame as a 3-star prospect.
- Kapron Lewis-Moore
- Stephon Tuitt
Mike Elston's defensive line will have a versatile defensive end group, highlighted by the duo of Kapron Lewis-Moore and Stephon Tuitt.
Lewis-Moore will be a fifth-year senior in the fall, while Tuitt will be entering his sophomore season after a stellar freshman campaign.
Depth will be a key factor for this group.
- Ishaq Williams
- Danny Spond
After a full season of learning the linebacker position, Ishaq Williams is, essentially, a surefire starter at outside linebacker.
The 6'5", 255-pound Williams will be charged with living up to his 5-star billing.
His backup will be Danny Spond, a special teams fixture who has shown flashes of brilliance in two years as a backup.
- Manti Te'o
- Kendall Moore
Notre Dame fans breathed a collective sigh of relief when Manti Te'o announced his decision to return to school for his senior season, and for good reason.
Te'o has led the team in tackles the past two seasons and is considered the heart and soul of Bob Diaco's defense.
Te'o will play a large role in preparing Kendall Moore to take over as the starter after the 2012 season.
- Prince Shembo
- Ben Councell
The move of Troy Niklas to linebacker has shaken things up at outside linebacker, most notably the elevation of Ben Councell into the two-deep.
Councell has yet to receive significant action in real time, but will be tested in pass coverage after Irish linebackers were anemic against the pass in 2011.
- Dan Fox
- Carlo Calabrese
While Fox and Calabrese may be excellent defenders against the run, each struggled mightily in pass coverage last season.
Both players were a major source of frustration for Irish fans. Unfortunately for those fans, Fox and Calabrese will both be on the field once again next season.
- Bennett Jackson
- Jalen Brown
Tee Shepard, a 4-star prospect out of Fresno, Calif., that was considered the best pure cover corner in the country coming out of high school, should have been back to add much-needed depth here. Instead, the CB spot is a bit thin.
Bennett Jackson will have to go from reliable backup to starer after transitioning from receiver to cornerback last season. His speed and ball-tracking skills will prove to be essential at the position.
Watch out for Jalen Brown, though. Departed WR Michael Floyd made mention last year how difficult it was to go up against Brown in practice, so he might be an option here as well.
- Lo Wood
- Josh Atkinson
Lo Wood will take over as a full-time starter at cornerback after serving as an understudy to Gary Gray and Robert Blanton the last two seasons.
The highlight of Wood's career thus far was a interception returned for a touchdown last season against Maryland at FedEx Field. Whether that flash of brilliance will translate into success this season remains to be seen.
Josh Atkinson will serve as a backup, a season after being a special teams stalwart a season ago.
- Jamoris Slaughter
- Austin Collinsworth
Slaughter returns for a fifth year and will be a voice of leadership among the members of the secondary. He is also key in defending the triple option offense as a hybrid safety/linebacker.
Austin Collinsworth should see the field at safety this season, as he has been a special teams player for the better part of two years on campus.
- Zeke Motta
- Eilar Hardy
Zeke Motta has been the target of barbs of criticism during his career at Notre Dame, as his pass-coverage skills have been anemic at best.
He will be pushed by Eilar Hardy, a heralded recruit who redshirted 2011 with a knee injury.