Notre Dame rose to the top of college football by the conclusion of 2012. They were the only remaining undefeated squad before the bowl season began.
However, a big loss to Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game opened eyes to a number of positions that will face battles heading into spring.
Running back will have a big void, with the coaching staff looking for new playmakers, and the linebackers will have to find an instant-impact player from day one with the graduation of Manti Te’o.
Notre Dame has a lot of incoming and returning talent that will fill out the depth chart for 2013.
Looking ahead to the spring, these are the top five position battles for the Irish.
The Irish lose two key contributors from the backfield this spring with Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick leaving the program. That brings only one solid contributor back from last year’s 12-1 season.
George Atkinson III was a big role player, but he didn’t carry a heavy load for the Irish. That may be an issue this spring as the Notre Dame offense looks for a consistent playmaker.
Greg Bryant will be an incoming freshman in the fall for the Irish, but during the spring, Cam McDaniel and Atkinson III will hold down the backfield.
There looks to be a tight race ahead for carries out of the Notre Dame backfield in 2013.
Tyler Eifert announced that he would enter the NFL Draft after a solid season at tight end for the Irish. He was the leading receiver for the Notre Dame offense and won the Mackey Award for 2012.
Behind Eifert last fall was Troy Niklas and Ben Koyack. Both will look to step in this spring and replace Eifert as the team's new pass-catching threat at the position.
Niklas appears to have the edge in playing time after a solid contribution to the offense in 2012, but Koyack is a strong competitor and will still gain his share of snaps this coming fall.
Look for this battle to be tight and one of the most important in the spring for the Irish program.
Notre Dame will walk into spring with three less starting linebackers than they finished the season with. The Irish are losing seniors Manti Te’o, Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese.
All were major players for the Irish defense this past fall.
There is talent waiting in the wings to take over these positions, but that trio's experience will be deeply missed heading into spring football. The Irish need a lot of fast development and leadership to fall into place in the next few months.
The linebacker position has been the consistent leadership platform for the Irish defense in the past few seasons. Look for rising stars Jarrett Grace, Kendall Moore and Joe Schmidt to make waves this spring.
The Irish need production immediately from their new linebackers, or they could see a big slide on defense heading into the new year.
Zeke Motta was a gamer for the Irish at the safety position this past fall. His senior campaign was the best of his career, and it helped solidify his status as a key contributor to the Irish program over the past four years.
The Irish will lose Motta and two other reserve safeties heading into the spring. A number of young players will fill the void left behind, but they will do so without crucial game experience.
Matthias Farley was a major contributor at strong safety this fall, but he will need a partner to patrol with in the future.
The overall talent level is actually on the rise in the secondary for Notre Dame, but there will be growing pains this spring and fall as the defense adjusts to the young blood in the secondary.
The most controversial battle ahead is the quarterback race in South Bend.
The Irish received quality play from Everett Golson this past fall as the season progressed, but talent waits on the depth chart, and those guys aren’t going to sit idle this spring.
Look for Gunner Kiel, Andrew Hendrix and Tommy Rees to be major players in the race as the Irish continue to look for consistency from the position.
Golson showed tremendous growth this past year, but was it enough to seal the job heading into the 2013 season?
Golson should have a leg up on the competition as the returning starter, but there is too much talent on campus and coming into the program for the Irish coaches not to potentially entertain other options.