Notre Dame football fans across the nation are hoping Year 2 of Brian Kelly's up-tempo, no huddle offense will yield the results they were expecting in Year 1.
It's probably fairly reasonable to assume that the offense will perform better with a year under its belt and mostly the same pieces in place at the skill positions.
The 2010 Irish offense ranked 66th out of 120 teams, scoring 26.3 points per game on average.
With expectations raised to 2006 levels in South Bend, there will be a significant amount of pressure on quarterback Dayne Crist to turn the 2011 Irish offense into a top 20 unit—one that can score 35 points on any given Saturday.
With that in mind, let's take a look at some projections for the Irish skill position players in 2011.
Filling in for an injured Kyle Rudolph at tight end, Tyler Eifert racked up 26 catches for 335 yards and two touchdowns over the final seven games of the 2010 season.
Over a 12-game season, those numbers might look like 45 catches for 575 yards and four touchdowns.
With Eifert at 6'6" and 242 pounds, head coach Brian Kelly is expecting big things from the physically gifted junior in 2011. Similar to Rudolph before him, Eifert is extremely athletic and should serve as the perfect safety valve for quarterback Dayne Crist.
I anticipate Eifert will soon have his name etched alongside the long list of great Notre Dame tight ends to play in the NFL.
2011 Projections: 50 catches, 600 yards, six touchdowns
Theo Riddick was well on his way to a breakout campaign in 2010 like many had predicted (myself included) before suffering a severely sprained ankle in the seventh game of the season against Western Michigan.
Riddick emerged as the perfect complement, lining up opposite of All-American Michael Floyd—benefiting greatly from the double teams Floyd faced on nearly every snap.
During the four-game stretch before he was injured, Riddick racked up 33 catches for 343 yards and three touchdowns. Projected over a 12-game season, we could be talking about 100 catches for 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns.
2011 Projections: 70 catches for 800 yards and eight touchdowns
My choice for breakout player of the year in 2011, Cierre Wood went out with a bang in 2010. During the last four games of the season, Wood carried the ball 60 times for 329 yards—an average of 5.48 yards per carry.
At 6'0", 210 pounds, Wood looks exactly like you would want your running back to look like. Armed with blazing speed and elusiveness, Wood is a multi-dimensional player out of the backfield with the ability to take a screen pass or a hand-off straight to the house whenever he touches the ball.
After Dayne Crist, Cierre Wood remains the key to success for Brian Kelly's high-powered offense in 2011. It's absolutely imperative that he remain healthy for all 12 games considering the lack of depth in the Irish backfield.
Wood is hoping to become the first Irish running back to reach 1,000 yards rushing in a season since Darius Walker accomplished the feat in 2005.
2011 Projections: 200 carries for 1,000 yards (5.0 yards per carry) and 10 touchdowns
Michael Floyd will break every career receiving record in Irish history next season and will go down as the greatest receiver ever to play for the University of Notre Dame.
Floyd had 79 catches for 1,025 yards and 12 touchdowns last season despite missing one game due to injury.
Possessing above-average speed for a 6'3", 227-pound wide receiver, Floyd has scored 28 touchdowns in 29 career games for the Irish.
2011 Projections: 85 catches for 1,100 yards and 13 touchdowns
Dayne Crist (6'4", 235 pounds) will be given the keys to Brian Kelly's offense for the second year in a row and will be faced with an enormous amount of pressure to lead the Irish back to a BCS bowl.
Last season Crist threw for 2,033 yards with 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions in just seven-and-a-half games.
Crist suffered a season ending knee injury for the second straight year in 2010, and his health in 2011 remains the biggest question mark heading into the season.
If Dayne Crist plays in all 12 games next year, you can bank on 10 wins and the first BCS berth for the Irish since 2006.
2011 Projections: 3,500 yards passing with 35 touchdowns and 10 interceptions