Notre Dame's 2011 freshman class was forced into early duty this season. As the calendar turns to 2012, five standouts from that class will develop into leaders for the Irish.
Brian Kelly brought in a top recruiting class heading into this season. On paper, the Irish were lauded for a deep class stocked with the type of athletes that hadn't been heading to South Bend in recent years.
Fortunately for Notre Dame, the story on the field played out just as the paper predicted. The Irish freshmen stepped in and stepped up, filling important roles and gaining valuable experience. As those youngsters mature, Notre Dame fans can expect more of the same.