Notre Dame Football: Updating the 5 Best Spring Football Battles

Connor Killoren@@Connor_KillorenSenior Analyst IApril 2, 2012

Notre Dame Football: Updating the 5 Best Spring Football Battles

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    Spring football is typically the starting point for position battles that will last well into fall camp. The same is true at Notre Dame, where position battles have been a common theme for the Fighting Irish under Brian Kelly.

    Definitive winners of these battles are not likely to be announced before the annual Blue-Gold game, but Brian Kelly and his staff may be willing to shed some light on a few.

    For an update of the five best position battles on the roster, follow along.


Wide Receiver

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    By now, every Notre Dame fan should know that Brian Kelly and his staff are on a wild goose chase to replace departed receiver Michael Floyd.

    They may have found their answer in fifth-year senior John Goodman.

    When asked about Goodman's status thus far in spring ball, Kelly was quick to answer.

    "He’s got a ways to go, but I expect him to do really big things for us. He’s faster. He’s one of the fastest players on the team. He’s got length. He can play taller than the average defensive back. I think, more than anything else, it’s just consistency with John."

    Should Goodman show consistency on a day-to-day basis, he should be lining up at Floyd's former spot with the first-team offense.

    Don't forget about South Bend Clay High School product Daniel Smith, though. Michael Floyd had nothing but praise for the junior-to-be.

Inside Linebacker

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    Much like last year's spring practices, Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese find themselves in a two-man race for the starting inside linebacker spot opposite Manti Te'o.

    Not much has changed, either.

    Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, as he said last year, does not believe that either one will be the true "starter". Rather, the two will split playing time evenly in a 1A, 1B scenario.

    The good news for Fighting Irish fans is that both Fox and Calabrese have been showing increased aggressiveness at the point of attack. That means we're likely to see a heavy dose of Calabrese in obvious rushing downs, while Fox will be inserted into zone pass coverage packages. 

    Either way, we'll be seeing 48 and 44 equally this season, just as we did in 2011.

Free Safety

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    While some have assumed that Zeke Motta is guaranteed the starting free safety spot with the departure of Harrison Smith, that may not be the case.

    Motta has struggled for the better part of his three seasons in South Bend, which leads me to believe Austin Collinsworth will give Motta a run for his money.

    Brian Kelly echoed that sentiment at a post-practice press conference on Saturday when he said that Collinsworth is "going to be on the field a lot." Collinsworth will also be top option when Kelly puts five defensive backs on the field.

    This should be quite an intriguing battle and is likely to last well into fall camp.


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    With Gary Gray and Robert Blanton both gone, the coaching staff has shifted its focus to the up and coming players at the position.

    Bennett Jackson has been, perhaps, the most impressive of those up-and-comers through five spring practices. Brian Kelly certainly agrees

    "I can tell you Bennett Jackson is going to be a heckuva football player for us. I feel really good about that position."

    If that isn't an indication that Jackson has locked up a starting spot, I don't know what is. Even has pegged Jackson as a starting cornerback.

    The starter opposite Jackson shouldn't be a mystery, as Lo Wood was the only cornerback on the roster with legitimate playing experience prior to spring practice.

    He'll be pushed by redshirt freshman Jalen Brown, will serve as Wood's primary backup.

    Cam McDaniel, a former running back, has impressed coaches thus far at his new position, despite a lack of true experience as a cornerback.


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    This is the granddaddy of them all: the battle for starting quarterback at Notre Dame.

    Incumbent Tommy Rees has been the target of loads of fan criticism throughout the offseason, and deservedly so. The junior-to-be failed to show improvement through the course of 12 games during the 2011 season.

    Rees' inconsistency has led to another circus of a quarterback controversy that garnered more attention when the nation's top-ranked prep quarterback, Gunner Kiel, joined the race.

    Brian Kelly has been uncomfortably quiet on the matter, and only had a few nuggets to share with the media following Saturday's practice.

    "This is going to be a long process. It’s, ‘Call it and play'. As you remember last year we ran so many checks, (where we) check ourselves out of plays. That gives you a perspective of how far we are from even being able to say a quarterback is ready."

    That news should be burning the retinas of Notre Dame fans, as the Irish are one steady, consistent quarterback away from making the jump to a BCS-caliber squad.

    It's going to be a wild ride on this one.