While we don’t have some of the major burning questions that we did last year (who will be the starting QB?), there are still some unanswered questions coming into season.
Here are the eight questions that I came up with as I pondered the upcoming season in glorious non-slideshow form:
1. Which Tommy Rees will show up?
Yeah, let’s just get the obvious out of the way first.
Rees has given us some wonderful memories such as his winning streak in 2010 and his “closer” moments in 2012. He has also given us all nightmares from his 2011 performances and, unfortunately for him, that is what sticks out most in our minds. And because we can’t shake those memories, every mistake he made, minor or otherwise, during what was otherwise a good 2012 campaign was ridiculously magnified.
Will we get the Rees that can manage a game or will we get the Rees that locks in to his receivers, telegraphs his throws, and becomes a turnover machine?
Right now, I’m leaning towards the one that can put a decent game together. Even though he threw some crazy jump balls in 2012, he put them, in most cases, in spots only his receivers could get them. Here’s hoping I’m right because if not…this season will be quite rough.
2. Will ND return punts for positive yardage?
If there was one major and consistent complaint about last year’s season, it was the fair catch parade from our punt return unit.
While Jack Nolan promised that the plan is to actually return punts, I really want to see it and see it work most importantly. While Jack mentioned a buzz with possible return men in Greg Bryant and Amir Carlisle, it will take a lot more than that to fix the problem. Blocking, and blocking effectively will be key.
Kelly has spoken a lot about depth and I think the depth issues really showed on special teams. Even though Kelly espouses “next man in”, he isn’t going to throw bodies into a higher potential for injury. This means you see a lot of second and third string on the punt return unit and they simply can’t block as effectively, especially against the new shield punting scheme that teams employ.
One Foot Down has an excellent breakdown that I highly suggest you read. A dynamic return man will help a lot, but the Irish will need to see some better blocking to get this unit into shape.
3. Who will step up into Te’o's leadership role?
I would put my money on Louis Nix III personally; however, I’ll admit that is simply because he is my favorite player on this roster right now.
Yeah, I know, solid analysis.
I want to see who is walking up and down the sidelines getting the team ready to go and who the team rallies around in crunch time. Sure, this probably has very little to do with overall team performance, but it is something that intrigues me purely from a fan perspective.
4. Which freshmen will make an immediate impact?
Simply put, this is one of the most talented classes that we’ve seen come into South Bend in quite some time. In most years, we’d probably see many of them starting right away, but the Irish return eight starters on defense and and the offense, while only returning four starters (I’m assuming 1 RB, 3 WR [counting T.J., Goodman, and Toma as the starters in 2012], 1 TE, QB, and 5 linemen here), have loads of players that have already seen significant playing time.
This will be a hard lineup to crack, but if some of the freshmen do, and I fully expect it to happen, they will be quite special to watch on the field.
As discussed before, Greg Bryant has turned some heads as well as Steve Elmer. I wouldn’t discount Jaylon Smith and Max Redfield to find some playing time before the season is over as well.
With this kind of talent hungry to make an impact, I’m very excited to see what will shake out.
5. First Tate, then Floyd, then Eifert, then…?
Who is next in the line of dynamic playmakers for Notre Dame?
While I previously pointed out that T.J. Jones had similar production to Eifert, I’m not completely sold that the major impact will come from a receiver. There is loads of talent in the Irish backfield and I wouldn’t sleep on either GA3, Amir Carlisle, or Greg Bryant making a huge splash. Speaking off…
6. Which running back will rise to the top?
As I mentioned before, GA3, Amir Carlisle, and Greg Bryant all have great potential, but don’t count out Tarean Folston or Cam McDaniel. I’m not sure if the later two will see a lot of carries, but might see roles in the slot or as long distance third down backs.
There is an embarrassment of riches in the backfield and I can’t wait to see how they are used.
7. Will ND finally beat Southern Cal at home?
The last time this happened was 2001. It’s been far too long and I’m tired of seeing the Trojans celebrate a victory on our home turf.
8. Will ND finally win a BCS Bowl before they’re put out to pasture?
Since the BCS started in the 1998 season, the Irish have appeared in four BCS bowl games and lost all of them. The last time the Irish won one of the bowls now was in 1991 when they won the Sugar Bowl.
I won’t lie, I really, really want a BCS win. The last thing I want to hear for years to come was how the Irish never won anything of worth in the BCS era.
BONUS: Will HLS crash during the season?
Because I know someone is going to ask it to troll me. And the answer is: NO.
…or at least it better be or HLS will kill me well before ND Football ever does.
Those are my biggest questions for the 2013 season. What are yours? Let me know in the comments.