Notre Dame Football: Previewing the 3 Biggest Fall Camp Position Battles
Notre Dame's 2013 training camp will commence in foreign territory.
During a brief press conference Thursday afternoon, head coach Brian Kelly announced that the team will complete its first four practices of camp at Shiloh Park in Marion, Ind., roughly 100 miles southeast of campus.
It is there that the eagerly anticipated position battles will take shape.
Perhaps the most thoroughly discussed position throughout the offseason has been running back, where the Irish are attempting to overcome the loss of both Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood, each of whom has since joined the professional ranks.
For the first time in Kelly's tenure at Notre Dame, he'll enter fall camp with a minimal level of experience at running back.
The Irish will no longer enjoy the services of Riddick and Wood, who formed a dynamic duo last season, combining for 1,659 rushing yards. The departure of that duo leaves the Irish with a combined 486 rushing yards remaining on the depth chart from George Atkinson (361) and Cam McDaniel (125).
Question marks continue to surround Atkinson, as his upright, rigid running style is not conducive to becoming a consistent, successful every-down back.
Atkinson will face legitimate competition for reps by both Amir Carlisle and William Mahone, each of whom redshirted last season. Adding to the competition will be freshmen Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston, both considered 4-star prospects, per 247Sports.com.
Fans will gain a clearer idea of which backs will be members of Kelly's rotation within the first week or so of training camp.
For the past four seasons, former safety Zeke Motta was a consistent presence in the Irish backfield.
Motta has since signed with the NFL's Atlanta Falcons, leaving his former position wide open. Luckily for the Irish, a wealth of talent and options exists at this position.
Elijah Shumate, Max Redfield and Nick Baratti are each candidates to claim the starting job, though a split in reps between the trio remains a possibility. Regardless of who is chosen, he'll join a veteran secondary, consisting of cornerbacks KeiVarae Russell and Bennett Jackson, as well as strong safety Matthias Farley.
Shumate has long been discussed as Motta's heir apparent, but the stunning amount of raw athleticism of Redfield, a freshman, can't be overlooked or ignored.
Depending on Redfield's grasp of the defense, Shumate should be considered the No. 1 option at free safety.
The most consistent presence along the offensive line during Kelly's first three seasons at Notre Dame was center Braxston Cave, who has since signed with the Cleveland Browns after not hearing his name called during April's NFL draft.
Replacing the Mishawaka, Ind., native is no small task, though the competition features just two players in Nick Martin (younger brother of starting left tackle Zack Martin) and Matthew Hegarty.
Following an impressive spring, Martin entered the summer as the presumed favorite to win the job, though Hegarty, despite concerns over his recovery from a minor stroke suffered in December, remains a legitimate threat to Martin's chances.
The battle between the two may be, perhaps, the most intriguing of training camp.
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