Fresh faces: Notre Dame

July, 17, 2009
7/17/09
2:00
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Preseason camp begins in just a few weeks, and freshmen are already reporting to campus all over the country. Which new players could make an immediate impact at Notre Dame? Here are a look at three incoming freshmen to keep an eye on when practice begins:

Manti Te'o, LB: Pick an accolade, any accolade. Te'o was USA Today's defensive player of the year, The Sporting News 2008 high school athlete of the year, the inaugural winner of the high school Butkus Award and the No. 2 overall player on the ESPNU150. Simply put, the 6-foot-2, 225-pounder from Hawaii is a can't-miss prospect and the crown jewel of this recruiting class. He could be the kind of dominating, athletic linebacker that the Irish have lacked. And given Notre Dame's defensive lapses, it wouldn't be a surprise at all if he works his way into a starting role immediately.

Cierre Wood, RB: One of the top prep running backs in the nation last year, Wood rushed for 1,632 yards and 20 touchdowns as a senior following a 2,600-yard junior campaign. He has good size at 6-feet, 192 pounds, and scouts love his vision and balance. Notre Dame's problems in the running game have been well documented. If Armando Allen, James Aldridge or others don't step forward, perhaps Wood will get a shot.

Shaquelle Evans, WR: Ranked by ESPN's Scouts Inc. as the nation's fourth-best wide receiver last year, the California native chose the Irish over USC. He caught 51 passes for 810 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior and has speed (6-1, 203 pounds), size and explosiveness. Because receivers have a relatively easier adjustment to make to the college game than other positions, Evans has a better chance to get on the field quickly than some of the other highly-touted Irish recruits, like offensive linemen Chris Watt and Zach Martin and defensive tackle Tyler Stockton. But Evans will have to crack what looks like Notre Dame's most loaded position group, which already boasts stars Golden Tate and Michael Floyd.

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