The long, cold winter has come to an end. Spring practice at Notre Dame is just over a week away, as the memories from an unforgettable 2012 season subside and the focus shifts to the 2013 Fighting Irish.
After finishing the regular season with the best scoring defense in college football, Notre Dame was humbled by Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game. Most of the key figures return this season, but the Irish will need a number of young defensive players to go from bench warmer to role player or role player to starter.
True freshmen are excluded from this list, as are any players who have completed two seasons of eligibility. Let's look at five Irish underclassmen whose performances will help define the 2013 Notre Dame defense.