Notre Dame is heading into the 2013 season with a huge chip on its shoulder. The program was flat embarrassed in the BCS National Championship game in January, and it left the Irish faithful wanting more from their beloved team.
The new year is expected to bring the same success, but there is a short list of important items that have to be taken care of before this program can return to the heights it achieved last season.
This is a look at the five things that the Irish will address this spring and summer as they prepare to make another run at the crystal ball. Brian Kelly knows what it takes to win, and these items have his attention heading into 2013.
Entering the new year the Irish are facing a possible transition at quarterback. Everett Golson was the starter that took the Irish to the title game and is the incumbent, but there is a load of talent that stands behind him ready for a shot.
Tommy Rees has experience as does Andrew Hendrix, but Gunner Kiel and incoming early enrollee Malik Zaire are the names to watch in the race.
Golson has proven that he can be a manageable quarterback in this system, but Brian Kelly needs a player that can be a game-changer from the position. This spring and summer has to be used to sift through the crowd and declare a starter at the position.
The sooner the quarterback controversy is completely closed down, the better off this offense will be.
Manti Te’o finished his Notre Dame career as one of the best in program history.
The Hawaii native put up masterful numbers from inside linebacker, ending his career with 437 total tackles, 34 for loss, 8.5 sacks and seven interceptions. All seven picks came in his senior year.
This will be a tough player for the Irish to replace, but it helps that Notre Dame returns four experienced starters at linebacker this fall.
This will be a big focus for the Irish this spring and the experience surrounding the newcomer should provide a solid support base, but losing seven turnovers and nearly nine tackles a game will be tough to overcome.
Notre Dame loses its two leading rushers, and a top receiver from the backfield heading into 2013.
The Irish will replace Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick in the backfield this year, hoping to find a few incoming freshmen that can help ease the loss.
Wood and Riddick combined for 1,659 yards and nine touchdowns in 2012. Riddick also added 36 catches, 370 receiving yards and two touchdowns last year.
George Atkinson III is an incumbent runner that will fill one spot, but finding a second and third option to help this offense is a task that remains unfinished heading into spring.
This offense needs a solid backfield, and this will be a major focus for Brian Kelly this offseason.
The Irish return TJ Jones and DaVaris Daniels in the receiving corps next fall, but Theo Riddick, Robby Toma and Tyler Eifert—Notre Dame’s leading receiver in 2012—will all be gone.
Troy Niklas’ five catches make him the most experienced returning player behind Daniels and Jones.
This is going to be one of the biggest points of emphasis for this team heading into the offseason. Finding a third receiver to help continue the progression of this offense is a must.
Heading into the new year, the expectations for this Irish program are sky high. The fans are hoping for another run at a title, and the team is not forgetting the loss in Miami anytime soon.
The one thing that Brian Kelly must accomplish this fall above all else is to temper the expectations for this program.
He has to preach this is a new year, and a new day for this program. Forget yesterday and create a championship effort today.
If Kelly can relay that message, this program will reach its full potential this fall. That may include a second national title run.