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Junior George Atkinson is expected to be one of ND's top ball carriers this season.
Days after Everett Golson was suspended for the season, Irish coach Brian Kelly named Tommy Rees the starter. But he did so with the following caveat: He was committing to Rees only for the opener, nothing beyond. Rees two years ago was a turnover machine, and that, coupled with his offseason arrest prior to his junior year, opened the door for Golson. Rees will never be confused for Golson, and he isn't nearly the runner as the two guys behind him on the depth chart, classmate Andrew Hendrix and true freshman Malik Zaire. Rees does, however, have something that neither of those two have, and that's starting experience. He's 14-4 in that category.
Freshman Jaylon Smith began fall camp as the No. 3 outside linebacker, but things changed over the last few weeks. Danny Spond entered fall camp as the returning starter and junior Ben Councell his backup, with Smith pushing. Spond, however, was forced to give up the game because of a medical condition, opening the door for Smith. He plowed right through. When Notre Dame's depth chart was released on Tuesday, Smith was listed as the starter. Sure, that could change if he stumbles, but Smith is a star in the making, and expect him to become a household name.
Others to watch:
USC transfer Amir Carlisle was ruled eligible last year but a leg injury wiped out his season. He's fast and elusive. He's expected to share time with junior George Atkinson.
Tight end Troy Niklas could be the next star Irish tight end, following in the footsteps of Anthony Fasano, John Carlson, Kyle Rudolph and Tyler Eifert, all of whom are in the NFL.
Steve Elmer is listed as the backup at right tackle, but Kelly said on Tuesday that the situation is fluid, and that either Elmer, a freshman, or Ronnie Stanley could start.
Corey Robinson, another freshman, was impressive in camp and earned a spot on the two-deep. Robinson is the son of former NBA star David Robinson.
Neither KeiVarae Russell nor Bennett Jackson had started a game at corner prior to last season. Each started all 13 games and return this season.