Notre Dame Football: Underclassmen Who Will Soon Become High-Profile Players
Since being hired as the head coach at Notre Dame, Brian Kelly has brought in three full recruiting classes, each of which has been filled with the type of talent Kelly needs to succeed in South Bend.
Among the players in the 2011 and 2012 classes, which are bound to evolve into high-profile players?
For a closer look, let's sift through the slideshow.
Sheldon Day, DE
After former Irish defensive end Aaron Lynch transferred to South Florida, Notre Dame was left thin at the spot he left vacated.
Fifth-year senior Kapron Lewis-Moore has been pegged as the starter in Lynch's absence, with Sheldon Day as his backup. That sets up for Day to fill Lewis-Moore's shoes as a starter in 2013.
Day, who was rated as a 4-star prospect by Rivals.com, has tremendous size for a defensive end in a 3-4 scheme, checking in at 6'2" and 286 pounds. Intense work in the weight room with strength coach Paul Longo will likely push Day past the 300-pound plateau.
Day's commitment to Notre Dame was considered significant not only because of his billing as one of the nation's elite players, but also because he was the first player from Indianapolis' Warren Central High School, an annual force on the prep scene.
Could Day's commitment have been the creation of a pipeline from Warren Central to Notre Dame? Only time will tell.
Ishaq Williams, LB
Part of the vaunted 2011 recruiting class, Ishaq Williams' entry into the spotlight has been delayed thus far in his career at Notre Dame.
Having played exclusively as a defensive end at Lincoln High in Brooklyn, Williams' transition to outside linebacker didn't exactly go as planned. Williams had a difficult time adjusting to his new position, as well as absorbing the playbook and understanding defensive coordinator Bob Diaco's scheme.
Williams also dealt with bouts of homesickness, as Brian Kelly ordered the 6'5", 255-pound linebacker to return home for a week to contemplate his future at Notre Dame after the Irish's loss to Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl.
Obviously, Williams decided that he truly belonged at Notre Dame and has since shown that locking up a starting spot is inevitable.
George Atkinson III, RB/KR
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
If you've viewed a Notre Dame game nationally televised by ABC in the past five seasons, you've likely heard commentator Kirk Herbstreit question the Irish's speed and athleticism.
Well, Mr. Herbstreit, that's no longer an issue at Notre Dame, and running back George Atkinson is a perfect example.
Atkinson is one of college football's fastest players, as evidenced by his time of 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Atkinson and his twin brother, Josh, are also members of Notre Dame's track and field squad, competing in sprints.
While George only carried the ball nine times last season, he made his presence felt as a lethal kick returner for the Irish. The 6'2", 194-pound Livermore, Calif., native recorded two kickoff return touchdowns last season, and will only increase to his total in the seasons to come.
Davonte' Neal, WR
One of the most dynamic playmakers in the 2012 recruiting crop, Davonte' Neal has given Notre Dame a surefire slot receiver for the next four years.
Neal's commitment to Notre Dame didn't come without drama, though.
The 5'10", 175-pound receiver was set to announce his decision at his former elementary school, but failed to show up at the scheduled time. Approximately 600 elementary school students were returned to their classrooms, only for Neal to show up three hours later to announce his decision to attend Notre Dame.
Neal's ability on the gridiron will never be uncertain, mind you. His speed (4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash) is Neal's greatest weapon, and is lethal when combined with his agility and footwork.
Expect to see Neal become one of Notre Dame's top offensive playmakers as a freshman this season.
DaVaris Daniels, WR
Redshirt freshman receiver DaVaris Daniels has an incredible opportunity facing him this season.
That opportunity is becoming the next game-changing wide receiver for the Irish, in the wake of Michael Floyd exhausting his eligibility at Notre Dame.
The 6'2", 190-pound Daniels, the son of former NFL player Phil Daniels, has added to Notre Dame's overall team speed, having recorded a time of 4.45 seconds in the 40-yard-dash as a prep phenom at Vernon Hills (IL) High.
Daniels' athleticism goes without question, specifically after head coach Brian Kelly stated that Daniels' numbers at Notre Dame's simulated combine would have been on par with a number of prospects at February's NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
Whether that supreme talent translates to production on the gridiron remains to be seen, but Irish fans remain hopeful that Daniels is the answer to the loss of Michael Floyd.