Throughout the offseason, you have heard whispers that Notre Dame is a better football team in 2013 than it was a year ago. Whether this is a true or not obviously remains to be seen. But regardless if you are jumping on that bandwagon or playing the "wait and see" approach, you have to admit that there are many strong points to this team.
On both sides of the ball, the Irish have plenty of positions with depth and talent. This is the reason there is a lot of optimism in South Bend and why some hardcore fans believe a trip back to a BCS bowl is a real possibility.
With many areas to choose from, here are the five strongest positions for Notre Dame entering the 2013 season.
It doesn't take long to see that Notre Dame is still missing that No. 1 wide receiver. But even without a true go-to guy, this is a group of players that is more than capable of getting the job done.
T.J. Jones and DaVaris Daniels provide the experience now that they are the top two receiving options with Tyler Eifert in the NFL. But the depth of Chris Brown and C.J. Prosise really makes this unit, as they are the playmakers who can help stretch the field and make plays over the top. Both should see more playing time and have the potential to have a breakout season.
You won't see insane receiving numbers, and none of these guys will be in Heisman conversations, but as far as sure-handed and reliable receivers, Notre Dame has got it in this group.
No, you did not read this incorrectly. Even without Manti Te'o around, Notre Dame still has a solid linebacker core returning.
With Dan Fox, Carlo Calabrese, Kendall Moore, Danny Spond and Prince Shembo, this is a unit that is loaded with experience. Fox should be ready to return from shoulder surgery and will continue to be that defender who flies all over the field. Calabrese looked inspired during the spring game and could end up taking his play to another level during his fifth year.
Jarrett Grace, somebody who is supposed to replace Te'o, has looked great throughout the spring and has the coaching staff buzzing about his performances. There is also Ishaq Williams, who will see an expanded role at linebacker and will be that extra pass-rusher coming off the edge. Having somebody like Jaylon Smith doesn't hurt, either.
There may not be anybody as popular as Te'o in this group, but this position remains talented and will be just fine without him.
Starting with Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame is loaded at defensive end. Easily somebody who could be drafted in the first round of next year's NFL draft, Tuitt is an athletic specimen coming off the edge and should have little trouble reaching double-digit sacks for the second straight year.
Sheldon Day is the end who will start on the opposite side, and he has the skill set to be extremely special. With a solid frame and good hands usage, Day is an active defender who will be able to bat down passes and get to the quarterback. In just his second season on campus, he should prove to be an upgrade over Kapron Lewis-Moore in due time.
There aren't many defensive end combinations as special as this one. While it is going to take more than two players to keep the Irish defense on the same level it was last year, both Tuitt and Day will hold down the fort up front.
It doesn't matter what you think about Everett Golson, there are plenty of schools out there that would gobble him up in a heartbeat. With his skill set and still learning on the fly, the ceiling remains high for the young man. It may not be until his junior year where he figures everything out and becomes the quarterback we think he can become, but just having a potential game-changer on the roster is good enough.
Then there is a veteran backup in Tommy Rees, who proved his value last season time and time again. He may never be starter quality, but having a quarterback who can come off the bench and get the job done is priceless. Andrew Hendrix is the forgotten man in all of this, but he is one of the best backup quarterbacks and could be a starter elsewhere if given the opportunity.
Notre Dame also has its future in place with 2013 recruit Malik Zaire, who is considered by many to be better than all of the signal-callers on the roster.
While only one quarterback can start at a time, you won't find another team that is this comfortable at the most important position in the game.
The running game was the strong point of the offense last year. and it looks like that will remain the case this season. Mainly a two-headed monster with Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood, the Irish now have many backs capable of contributing this season.
George Atkinson III and Cam McDaniel are both searching for bigger workloads after performing fairly well in limited action. Will Mahone is a big back who is seriously underrated, and Irish fans couldn't be more excited about the possibilities of playmaker Amir Carlisle this season.
Notre Dame will continue to lean heavily on the running game and should easily top last year’s numbers of 189 rushing yards a game.