8 Big Questions for the 2013 Season

HLS EFS CSC TunnelWith the season nearing ever closer, I started to think of some of the big questions on my mind for the 2013 campaign.

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.

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Those are my biggest questions for the 2013 season. What are yours? Let me know in the comments.

  • http://twitter.com/BrianJMcKeown Brian McKeown (@BrianJMcKeown)

    I’m most intrigued by the running game. My belief is that this facet of the game is going to dictate the team’s overall success. I think Cam can have a breakout season if used correctly. He doesn’t have the speed or natural-born athleticism of some of the other backs but he certainly knows how to run. Using him on third downs might be just what the doctor ordered.

    • NDtex

      He’s definitely getting reps in the practice videos that come out from FIDM. It seems like Kelly values finding Cam a spot.

      It’s definitely going to be interesting. I don’t know if I’ve ever looked at _any_ football team and said “There are five guys that I wouldn’t mind taking the ball.”

  • trey

    1. I dont feel that it’s ONLY 2011 that causes me to distrust TRees. He didnt really look that good to me, even though he eventually DID win the games in 2012. But he still was absolutely predictable all season. I was blown away in Oklahoma when I saw him come in but Eifert still got single coverage on him. You KNEW thats where he was throwing. I pray the reports are accurate coming out of fall camp that he looks very impressive, mobile, and strong this year. If not…
    2. I think our best bet for PR yards this year is to take advantage of the sophomore year of the “modified halo rule” and just get 15-yds for the kicking team interfering.
    3. Prince Shembo
    4. Jaylon Smith. I couldnt believe the player I saw at the AA game last year. Kid has a motor on him that puts Kyle Busch to shame
    5. T.J. Jones. Guy is MY favorite ND player
    6. Ive said it before, but Run CMC
    7. Kiffykins is USuCk’s iteration of Boob Davie
    8. No. Ive got us at 9-3 so..Champs Sports here we come!

  • G. P. Books

    Rees will emerge as leader and a ‘star’, not merely manage the game.

    Punt return is work in progress, but will make some strides.
    Given last two years, it can hardly be otherwise.

    Farley will be leader with Nix.

    Look for the two freshmen defensive players to have the greatest impact, but if Carlisle is hurt it could be Bryant. Freshman off lineman have too huge a learning curve.

    Tough prediction, not having seen enough of them in game action, but speed kills. Fans sometimes overlook a back’s ability to block/pick up blitz. At this stage GAIII has the advantage, but the others will all get a chance to shine and these coaches are good evaluators of talent.

    Yes. The score will be ND 51 USC 3.

    Yes again.

    Going to as great season.

    • NDtex

      Rees a star, ND blowing out USC, AND winning a BCS bowl?

      Sir, please send me the Koolaid you are drinking. I think it will help my health and let me sleep better at night!

  • NavyND

    Big fan of HLS and loyal reader for years.
    1. Has TR really inspired confidence? I don’t see why everyone is so optimistic this year other than the fact there really is no other choice. With EG around no one would be talking about the great strides TR has made. I guess it reminds me of when I was a kid. I wanted to believe in Santa (TR being good this year) , but I really knew there wasn’t one (TR has shown us ample times who he really is). However if there were presents under the tree I was happy anyway (who cares if ND wins).

    2. Punts. I have given up returns. It seems the last good returns in the punt game came from zibby.

    3. Leadership. I think Z. Martin has been overlooked. He is a lock IMO to be a captain. However not sure if he is the type to rally the troops on the sidelines. Hoping Nix can be the guy on D.

    4. Running backs. I, like everyone else, is excited to see how these six compete on the field. I am hoping that with six quality guys the law of averages says at least one will shine. My concern is if the WRs and QB can’t get the passing game going everyone will load the box. With an unproven right side of the line I think there is cause for concern.

    5. U$C. F*ck SC. The only good thing that happened there is they hired kiffen. at least he will surely run the program into the ground.

    6. BCS. It definitely would be nice to get one W. I put up (along with all other ND fans) with a lot crap from people just wanting to rip ND because they are ND. This would go far in quieting that crowd.

    Although this may read as a down synopsis I think that 10-2 is not wishful thinking and I am willing myself to still believe in Santa.

  • http://gravatar.com/clearwall trey

    I am the anti-Grantland-X of this site(I dont really like TRees at all as a QB) but I think where people are speaking highly of him, it’s not inspired confidence as much as it is positivity. From the reports of people who hve seen him in the offseason, he seems to have eliminated a lot of his problem areas(movement, pre-snap reads, locking onto rec). So while I dont expect him to ever be close to EG, I think he’ll trend closer to 2010 TRees over 2011 TRees.

    • NavyND

      I get that it is looking at the glass half full mentality. I am trying also. But was 2010 TR really that great. I am not trying to sound overly down on the guy. I am pulling for him as much as anyone. But who didn’t get that disturbing feeling when TR came in a game in 2012. Honestly I am hoping that 2013 TR is not like 2010 TR, but something we haven’t seen yet (preferably a GOOD something).