Notre Dame had a magical run to the national championship game this past season. However, it will not get back to that level of play without some big contributions from key players.
The Fighting Irish will lose a lot of talent heading into next season. Leading rusher Theo Riddick, leading tackler Manti Te'o and leading receiving target tight end Tyler Eifert were all seniors last season and will move on to greater things.
This will put a lot of pressure for players like Louis Nix III and Zach Martin to continue their great level of play. In addition, it also means that these men must step up their efforts from last season to be able to repeat and even improve the success of 2012.
Everett Golson, Quarterback
Notre Dame's 2013 season will only go as far as Everett Golson will take it.
The first-year starter showed a lot of potential last season for the Irish with his arm and his legs. He was simply able to make things happen, although he did have a lot of mistakes to go along with it.
Overall, he completed only 58.8 percent of his passes and threw only 12 touchdowns to go with six interceptions. His efficiency rating of 131 ranked 65th in the country.
For a team looking to contend for a national title, this is not going to get it done.
Golson needs to raise his performance next season. That means making better passes and avoiding turnovers as he looks to produce long drives for scores.
Otherwise, Notre Dame will struggle all next season.
George Atkinson III, Running Back
There is a lot of debate over whether George Atkinson III can be a full-time running back in college football. However, he will need to be close to it next season.
Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood will no longer be with the team next season, leaving Atkinson and a bunch of freshmen to take over the load in the backfield.
Of course, the sophomore has shown a lot of potential in his limited playing time. He averaged 7.1 yards per carry in 51 attempts during the year and finished with five rushing touchdowns.
Even if he is not an every-down back for Brian Kelly, he will need to come through with big plays to help an offense that could become stagnant at times.
Dan Fox, Linebacker
The Irish are losing Manti Te'o and a bunch of talent on the defensive side of the football. This will mean the experienced players will need to step up in their absence.
One of those players is Dan Fox, who will be a fifth-year senior next season.
Fox was fourth on the team with 63 tackles last year, including two for a loss. For the defense to be close to as good as it was last season, the linebacker will need to get that number closer to triple digits.
Notre Dame will be looking for leadership in 2013. Fox is the man that needs to provide it next season.
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