Notre Dame Spring Game 2013: Blue and Gold Team Analysis
Three months after suffering a 42-14 defeat in the BCS National Championship, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame are set to take the field once again, though this edition pits two halves of the team against each other.
There are several questions remaining to be answered, and the annual Blue-Gold game Saturday is an opportunity to flesh out the issues within the ranks.
The scrimmage will be head coach Brian Kelly's fourth at Notre Dame, which should make for somewhat of an entertaining contest—at least in the first half—due to the intimate knowledge Kelly has of his team.
When and Where to Watch
Where: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind.
When: Saturday, 1 p.m. ET
Live Stream: http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/25889627/ns/sports-notre_dame_central/
Watch: NBC Sports Network
The Irish's leading rushers from a season ago—Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick—have taken their talents to the professional ranks, leaving their vacant position in a state of flux.
George Atkinson, a former 4-star prospect in the 2011 class, is the most experienced of the bunch left behind, which also includes Cam McDaniel, William Mahone and Amir Carlisle (Carlisle will not participate in the spring game while recovering from a broken collarbone).
How Kelly divides the blue and gold teams will go a long way in determining who will receive the most carries, though it's fair to assume that Atkinson and Mahone will earn the most looks.
McDaniel has flown under the radar at Notre Dame, which has included a switch to cornerback last fall, but he remains a fan favorite. In this humble writer's opinion, McDaniel is this team's "Rudy."
Now that three-year starter Braxston Cave is pursuing his dreams in the NFL, his vacant center position has come down to a two-man race between Matt Hegarty and Nick Martin.
Since committing to Notre Dame nearly three years ago, Hegarty has been presumed as Cave's heir apparent, though Martin has since challenged that notion.
It's a position that likely won't be solved after the spring game and will carry into the summer and fall camp.
Taking a thorough look at the Irish depth chart, no true battles exist, though the possibility of a perceived lock at a position being usurped remains in play.
The spring game won't produce shocking changes on the depth chart, barring injury.
Fall camp is likely to provide more drama within the defensive ranks as several heralded prospects—most notably linebacker Jaylon Smith, defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes and safety Max Redfield—will arrive on campus.
The safety position is perhaps the most intriguing on the defensive side, as Elijah Shumate has made a rapid rise overtaking Nicky Baratti for Zeke Motta's vacant free safety spot.
And though Matthias Farley started nine games in 2012, his job can't be considered truly safe as Redfield, a 5-star prospect per Rivals.com, is the type of athlete a coaching staff simply can't glue to the bench.
One such player who has become familiar with a reserve role is linebacker Jarrett Grace, though the Cincinnati native is in the midst of a gradual transition into Manti Te'o's former inside linebacker position.
There doesn't appear to be competition for that spot, so expect to see No. 59 on the field when the Irish face Temple in the season opener on Aug. 31.
Early Enrollees to Watch
Corey Robinson, WR, 6'4", 197 lbs
Aside from starting tight end Troy Niklas, the Irish need a red-zone threat, and they have found one in the son of former NBA standout David "The General" Robinson.
A U.S. Army All-American, Robinson has impressed thus far through spring ball, entering the rotation at the X-receiver position along with Chris Brown and DaVaris Daniels. Becoming a starter as a freshman is another challenge in itself, though Robinson will be a valuable asset to the Irish, particularly inside the 20-yard line.
Robinson will skip Saturday's scrimmage because he still is recovering from an elbow injury.
C.J. Prosise, WR, 6'0", 220 lbs
The need for bodies at slot receiver following the transfer of Davonte' Neal to Arizona landed Prosise an opportunity despite having been recruited as a safety.
The redshirt freshman is in a two-man race for starting duties at the position with Daniel Smith, and reps during the spring game might be a determinant in who locks up the job.