If Notre Dame is going to return to the national championship game in 2013, a few surprise players must make an impact. Players who are not listed on the two-deep depth chart must contribute.
This happens every season for successful programs and will be no different for the Irish. Whether it is on offense or defense, guys must step up and help the team accomplish its goals. Last season, guys such as Tommy Rees, KeiVarae Russell and Matthias Farley did just that.
Here are five players positioned to do the same this season.
Notre Dame is being referred to as "Tight End University" lately, so folks are wondering who will be the next great player to step up at that position. Expect Ben Koyack to be that guy.
According to Tim O'Malley of Scout, head coach Brian Kelly likes the way Koyack has progressed during spring ball.
I would not put him in a category with Tyler Eifert in terms of his ability to push vertically and ball skills. But he’s certainly a guy that’s very capable of running option routes and a lot of the inside combination routes. We never played Eifert where Ben is right now. Tyler did not play that position. Where we have him, we believe that he can help us in that inside slot position.
Koyack is 6'5", can get down the field in a hurry and line up in different spots due to his physicality. He should become a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses and will have no problem contributing to an offense that is desperate to find playmakers.
Notre Dame has one of the best defensive lines in the country, and that is without mentioning Jarron Jones. A player who has had to overcome many obstacles, Jones has the potential to become somebody special.
At 6'6", he has the body frame that you usually don't see in college, and he could soon become a load to block for any offensive lineman. He is strong at the point of attack and does a terrific job of carrying his weight, which is close to 300 pounds.
Jones does a nice job of using his hands and can become more than just a space-eater, as he has a decent get-off for a guy his size.
With the starting defensive line already set, Jones will certainly have to continue to fight to see any significant playing time. However, I see limitless potential with this kid and believe he will turn some heads during his redshirt freshman season.
Notre Dame wants to become a physical team on offense, and that can start with running back William Mahone. Right now, the redshirt freshman is an afterthought on the depth chart, but he is that physical runner that this offense seeks.
No more bouncing it to the outside and being fancy, Mahone can run between the tackles and carry the rock 25 times a game. He also has great hands and could become that slot receiver/running back that head coach Brian Kelly likes to use.
It has been a while since the Irish have had a workhorse runner who can carry the load, but Mahone could be that guy.
Mahone will have to have a great fall camp to climb up the depth chart, but he has great potential and should have little problem making an impact at running back.
There are few players that I am more excited to see than linebacker Ishaq Williams. Not even guaranteed a starting position, Williams is sure to see the field often this season. I'm just not sure many know of this kid's potential.
With terrific size at 6'5" and the ability to get physical, Williams is the total package as a defensive player. He can shoot through the gap, has proven to be a solid open-field tackler and is getting better at shedding blocks as he continues to bulk up a bit.
Williams is one of those players who covers a lot of ground and can become a difference-maker immediately.
Now with Manti Te'o no longer in the picture, many are wondering who that game-changer will be on defense. Starter or not, Williams has the ability to fill that role.
C.J. Prosise has seen reps at safety and outside linebacker. Now he is set to give it a try at wide receiver. Just hearing that, you already know Prosise has a unique skill set and is probably extremely athletic.
You would be correct with that assumption. Prosise has good size at 6'2", can line up in several different spots on the line and covers a lot of ground with his long, rangy strides. He also has strong hands and is capable of making plays after the catch due to his above-average athleticism.
Notre Dame has a better wide receiver corps than it did a year ago. But is still searching for that No. 1 guy who can help stretch the field. Prosise still has to prove he can make a complete transition to offense, but the potential is there, and I see him being a solid contributor at wide receiver.