Notre Dame Football: Projecting Brian Kelly's 2013 Offensive Depth Chart
By the time next year's fall camp begins in earnest, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly will have a brighter view of how his offensive depth chart will stack up.
Of course, that process begins with Notre Dame administrators extending fifth-year invitations to eligible candidates, which will likely occur a few weeks following the Irish's date with Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 7.
The final additions to the Irish's 2013 recruiting class will also play a part in the shaping of the offensive depth chart, though the class won't become official until National Signing Day on Feb. 6, 2013.
For now, I'll present a rough estimate of how Brian Kelly's offense will stack up next season.
Starter: Everett Golson
Backup: Tommy Rees
For the first time in Brian Kelly's tenure at Notre Dame, a quarterback controversy will not be a point of discussion during the impending offseason.
Everett Golson, who will be a redshirt sophomore next season, grabbed the starting job by the horns during the Irish's improbable run to a berth in the BCS National Championship Game.
In 11 starts this season—Golson missed the Irish's win against BYU due to post-concussion symptoms—the Myrtle Beach, S.C., native completed 58.9 percent of his passes for 2,135 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Most importantly, Golson took care of the football on a consistent basis, only throwing five interceptions on the season. It was a welcome relief after former starting quarterback Tommy Rees committed 19 of the Irish's 29 turnovers in 2011.
Having Golson back as next season's starting quarterback will be an integral piece of the improvement of the Irish offense.
Starter: Greg Bryant*
Backup: Amir Carlisle/George Atkinson
Before dissecting, please notice the asterisk next to class of 2013 commit Greg Bryant's name.
This is an indication that yes, the possibility exists that Bryant could de-commit at any time. For now, we'll assume that he'll remain committed to Notre Dame and will sign his National Letter of Intent in February.
Also, another possibility exists in the form of current redshirt junior Cierre Wood returning to school for a fifth season should he be offered that opportunity, spurning the NFL draft.
Should Wood pursue his NFL dreams, Greg Bryant would become the heir apparent to the starting running back position at Notre Dame.
The 5'11", 197-pound running back out of Delray Beach, Fla., is an every-down type of back, as witnessed by a junior season at American Heritage School in which he rushed for 2,180 yards on 224 carries.
Even if Wood decides to return for a fifth season, Bryant will certainly be in the mix for carries.
Starter: DaVaris Daniels
Backup: Daniel Smith
Daniels, the son of former NFL defensive end Philip Daniels, has blossomed into a consistent, productive receiver for the Irish this season.
The redshirt freshman missed the Irish's final two regular season games after suffering a shoulder injury during the Irish's 21-6 victory at Boston College on Nov. 10. Luckily for Daniels and Notre Dame, he has returned to active status in practice and will be available during the BCS National Championship Game.
Prior to his injury, Daniels has snagged 25 receptions for 375 yards, which was good for second on the team in both categories.
Backing up Daniels will be hometown product Daniel Smith, who is from nearby South Bend (Ind.) Clay High School.
Starter: T.J. Jones
Backup: Chris Brown
Jones will be back in 2013 for his fourth consecutive season as a starting receiver for the Irish.
This season, Jones has racked up 43 receptions for 559 yards and four touchdowns, making the junior the Irish's second-leading receiver behind tight end Tyler Eifert.
Next season, Jones will likely take Eifert's place as the team's leading receiver, but needs to improve as a run-blocker to round out his game in order to impress pro scouts.
Jones' backup will be Chris Brown, a seldom-used receiver (aside from his 50-yard reception against Oklahoma), who will also be a track and field star for the Irish in the spring.
Starter: Davonte' Neal
Backup: Torii Hunter, Jr.*
Before discussing this position, please notice the asterisk next to class of 2013 commit Torii Hunter, Jr.'s name. He has yet to sign his National Letter of Intent.
The starter at the Z receiver position will be Davonte' Neal, who was the Irish's starting punt returner this season.
Neal will inherit Robby Toma's starting job next season and is expected to produce immediately given his tremendous speed and athletic ability.
Starter: Troy Niklas
Backup: Ben Koyack
The Irish will sorely miss incumbent starting tight end Tyler Eifert, but someone must continue the sterling lineage of tight ends at Notre Dame.
Next in line appears to be Troy Niklas, who was recruited by Notre Dame as a linebacker.
Niklas was utilized primarily as a run-blocking tight end this season, and his statistics showed, as the Anaheim, Cal., native recorded just five receptions for 75 yards.
The Irish will need Niklas to expand his game next season, particularly with Eifert out of the picture.
Starter: Zack Martin
Backup: Ronnie Stanley
Notre Dame received great news in the form of Zack Martin's announcement that he will be returning next season rather than enter next spring's NFL draft.
2013 will mark Martin's fourth consecutive starter along the offensive line, where he protects quarterback Everett Golson's blind side.
Martin's backup will be current freshman Ronnie Stanley, who appears to be a starter-in-waiting.
Starter: Chris Watt
Backup: Connor Hanratty
Chris Watt, pending an invitation for a fifth season, will be back as the Irish's starting left guard next season.
Watt's presence combined with starting left tackle Zack Martin forms a formidable left side of the Irish's offensive line that will be a preferred destination for Brian Kelly's preferred zone rushing attack.
Behind Watt will be Connor Hanratty, an unproven lineman who is also the son of former Notre Dame quarterback Terry Hanratty.
Starter: Matt Hegarty
Backup: Bruce Heggie
With the absence of incumbent starting center Braxston Cave, the center position will be thrust into a period of uncertainty.
Current sophomore Matt Hegarty appears to be Cave's replacement, though he was injured for a long portion of the current season.
Backing up Hegarty will be seldom-used lineman Bruce Heggie, who was a member of Brian Kelly's first recruiting class at Notre Dame.
Starter: Nick Martin
Backup: Connor Hanratty
Martin, the brother of starting left tackle Zack Martin, will fulfill the brothers' dream of playing together next season.
The 6'4", 290-pound redshirt freshman will replace incumbent starter Mike Golic, Jr. next season, though he will enter without a single start under his belt.
But if his brother's success is any indication, Nick will be a fine lineman for the Irish.
Depth at right guard remains a mystery, so for now, we'll assume that Connor Hanratty will assume backup duties at both left and right guard.
Starter: Christian Lombard
Backup: Bruce Heggie
Lombard will return for his second season as a starter at right tackle next season, though who will be beneath him on the depth chart is still a murky situation.
For now, we'll assume that Bruce Heggie will assume backup duties at both center and right tackle, though one of the offensive line commits in the 2013 class could step in as a backup, particularly John Montelus.