The Fighting Irish are back.
After several years of absence from the upper echelon of college football, head coach Brian Kelly has rebuilt his program and Notre Dame is once again among the best teams in the country. At 4-0 for the first time since 2002, the Irish are ranked as a top-10 team in the nation and have already knocked off a pair of ranked opponents in Michigan and Michigan State.
Big matchups still loom ahead of Notre Dame this regular season, but there’s no question that expectations for Irish fans and college football fans around the country have been solidified: This team should hang with the best and compete for a major BCS bowl.
In order for the team to get there, however, there are a few key individuals who need to step up—or continue the steps they have already taken—to carry the Irish to the finish line. Here are five players of utmost importance to Notre Dame’s success.