Notre Dame is gearing up to send a least two players to the NFL in this year's draft, as Manti Te'o and Tyler Eifert are both expected to be first or second-round picks come April.
The Irish are in the middle of a player resurgence in South Bend that's centered around both Brian Kelly's stellar recruiting efforts and a success that has led NFL scouts to really hone in on what Notre Dame is doing to get these guys ready for the pros.
Looking at the current roster, there are more than a few Irish that will draw the eye of NFL scouts during the 2013 season.
Among them are Louis Nix III and Prince Shembo, but the loss of guys like Te'o and Eifert will also give way to more players stepping up across the board to help the Irish avoid a letdown following their 2012 12-1 season.
In the process, there's a good chance scouts will be frequenting Notre Dame quite a few times to check out the local talent. Here are four guys we're dying to see from the 2014 NFL draft class that should have big seasons for coach Kelly.
DT Louis Nix III
Before his somewhat disappointing performance against the Alabama offensive line in the national championship game, Nix was wreaking havoc on almost every opponent that Notre Dame faced during its 12-0 regular season in 2012.
Although he announced that he was returning to school for another season (via Yahoo! Sports) to allow his mother a chance to walk on the field for Senior Night, you can bet that the Irish's loss against Alabama has him motivated and ready to lead the Irish in 2013.
The man known as Irish Chocolate around South bend measures in at 6'3", 340 pounds and is a force along the interior line.
As the biggest, and arguably baddest, player on the Irish defense in 2013, he is going to get most of the attention from NFL scouts. He'll also get plenty of attention from opposing offensive lineman, which should make for an interesting study if he's rendered ineffective by any strategy next year.
OLB/DE Prince Shembo
Shembo played both outside linebacker and defensive end at times for the Irish in 2012, and his versatility and strength make him a fit in both the 3-4 and the 4-3.
Versatility is the name of the game in the NFL.
Besides that obvious plus, Shembo is also 6'2", 250 pounds and is able to get to the quarterback better than the rest of his teammates at Notre Dame. We're too early to start looking at 40 times or foot speed with Shembo, but one thing is already clear from his time at Notre Dame—the guy can get to the QB.
NFL teams will pay a big premium for that ability, and they will be watching this fall.
Dee Milliner grabbed headlines on the other side of the field in the national championship game, but in another world, Bennett Jackson would have been the star cornerback that we all are talking about.
Lucky for him, he has another chance to complete that fantasy.
After being torched in all facets of the game (offense, defense, special teams) against Alabama, Notre Dame's secondary was exposed a little bit in the process. That should motivate guys like Jackson (who has been clocked with a 4.34 40) to work even harder to improve on his four-interception performance in 2012 and help the Irish get back to the promised land.
OT Zack Martin
Martin has started 38 consecutive games for the Irish, meaning he is a solid rock on the offensive line that will gain plenty of interest from NFL teams in the coming months.
Taylor Lewan of Michigan and Jake Matthews of Texas A&M got the most attention for coming back to school this fall, but Martin also chose to return when he would have been in the mix at offensive tackle for quite a few teams in the middle rounds.
Now, he'll have a chance to be a top-five player at his position in the 2014 draft, making this season important for his future prospects.
He and Nix decided not to enter the draft together, meaning both will likely handle leadership duties and making everyone else on the team better for next year.
Martin and Nix have the greatest chance of these four players to be top 10 picks in the 2014 draft, but all four will have plenty of eyes and interested parties as the 2013 season gets underway.
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