Notre Dame Football: 5 Under-the-Radar Players Who Will Emerge in 2013
Notre Dame fans are accustomed to hearing the names of the Irish's star players—Golson, Nix, Shembo, Tuitt, etc.—on fall Saturdays, but they have yet to become familiar with those players who were relegated to the sidelines last season.
Those players, whether they were once heralded prospects or have made their way onto the team as walk-ons, have the unmistakable opportunity to emerge from the shadows entering the 2013 season.
What names will fans need to familiarize themselves with before kickoff of the Irish's season-opening contest against Temple on Aug. 31?
The answers await.
5. Elijah Shumate, CB
Recruited as a safety out of New Jersey's Don Bosco Prep during the 2012 recruiting cycle, Elijah Shumate fulfilled the role of nickel back for the Irish last season.
The lack of depth of at cornerback prompted Shumate's transition from his natural position, though there was no apparent drop-off aside from the expected mental growing pains that torment most freshmen.
Despite being burned deep on multiple post routes against Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game, Shumate remains a promising young player who will only improve in time.
The saying is a common one, but with a full season of experience under his belt, Shumate will look the part of a player who belongs on the field in 2013.
4. Justin Ferguson, WR
Justin Ferguson's freshman season at Notre Dame began in Dublin, Ireland and ended a few short miles from his hometown of Pembroke Pines, Fla.
What he has to show for the season is minimal, though, in his case, any game action was better than redshirting.
The 6'2", 196-pound receiver only recorded one reception for nine yards in 2012, which occurred in mop-up duty during Notre Dame's season-opening 50-10 demolition of Navy.
Aside from playing garbage time minutes, Ferguson's only opportunity to get on the field was through special teams, which he did with little, if at all, any fanfare.
Ferguson's door to the lead rotation at receiver is opening quickly, as he and Daniel Smith will battle for backup duties to DaVaris Daniels at the X receiver position.
3. William Mahone, RB
William Mahone, like many freshmen running backs, was redshirted last season due to a crowded backfield.
His competition for minutes at the running back position will be fierce, with four other backs currently on the roster all vying to get on the field.
However, Mahone's advantage in the competition will be his expected role as a bruising, every down type back. At 5'10" and 211 pounds, Mahone fits the description of "bruiser" well.
True, he's not a 240-pound Mack Truck, but he plays with a low pad level and is durable enough to sustain the body blows that come along with running between the tackles.
2. John Montelus, OL*
Before you scream at me for including John Montelus in this list, please note that he won't be an official member of the Fighting Irish until he signs his national letter of intent on Feb. 6.
Should he sign his name on the dotted line in a few weeks, Montelus will all of a sudden be in the thick of the race for the starting job at right guard.
The U.S. Army All-American, who checks in at 6'5" and 295 pounds, already looks the part of a college-ready player. Aiding his case for a starting job is his billing by Rivals.com as the nation's best prep offensive guard, though those types of distinctions don't always pan out.
Montelus will be battling Nick Martin and Bruce Heggie for the starting gig at right guard, though don't be surprised if he has won the job when the dust settles on preseason camp.
1. Davonte' Neal, WR
Davonte' Neal spent his freshman season at Notre Dame as the Irish's starting punt returner, and is best described as a heart attack waiting to happen.
He's an electrifying athlete, though he plays out of control at times due to his intense desire to make plays.
Next season, Neal will likely add the title of starting slot receiver to his job description.
His main priority will be to contain his jittery play, and channel his brimming energy into making good decisions and playing within himself. Any "hero" plays in which he attempts to make something out of nothing will only result in turnovers and lost yardage.