Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Notre Dame's Top 5 players
By Brian Bennett
As you may have noticed, here at ESPN.com we've been counting down the Top 25 players in each conference over the last month or so. Well, what about the most famous team that's not in a conference?
It's time for Notre Dame to get its due. Here are my choices for the top five Irish players heading into the 2010 season, using the same criteria as the conference lists: past production and potential for this season. This is a list of the best players, not necessarily the most important ones for this year.
Away we go:
Dayne Crist, QB, Soph.
2009 numbers: Threw for 130 yards on 10-of-20 passing with one touchdown and one interception in four games.
Making the case for Crist: There's nothing in last year's numbers to merit this ranking for Crist. But quarterbacks shine in coach Brian Kelly's system, and with no serious competition behind him, Crist will have every opportunity to post huge numbers.
Darius Fleming, OLB, Jr.
2009 numbers: Made 29 tackles, 12 for loss and three sacks with one forced fumble.
Making the case for Fleming: This is another pick based largely on potential, as Fleming moves to the outside linebacker spot in the 3-4 alignment after showing his ability to get into the backfield last year. Kelly's defenses usually create high sack totals for rush specialists, and that's what Fleming should be this year.
Kyle Rudolph, TE, Jr.
2009 numbers: Caught 36 balls for 364 yards and three touchdowns in 10 games.
Making the case for Rudolph: There's no reason why Rudolph shouldn't be regarded as the nation's best pass-catching tight end this season. The 6-foot-6, 265-pounder has all the physical attributes, along with a great pair of hands and tremendous athleticism. Look for him to be used a lot in the spread offense.
Manti Te'o, LB, Soph.
2009 numbers: Had 63 tackles, 5.5 for loss and one sack.
Making the case for Te'o: As a true freshman, Te'o emerged as one of the top playmakers on the defense even though by his own estimation he was lost most of the year. The former super recruit has all the tools to be a superstar, and his move to inside linebacker and defensive signal caller should allow him to be in the middle of all the action in 2010.
Michael Floyd, WR, Jr.
2009 numbers: Had 44 catches for 795 yards and nine touchdowns in seven games.
Making the case for Floyd: The only thing standing between Floyd and absolute superstardom is health. When he's 100 percent and in the lineup, he's nearly unstoppable and clearly one of the best receivers in the game. He hasn't been able to avoid the injury bug his first two seasons, however. If he can stay on the field in 2010, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Floyd is capable of putting up truly monstrous statistics in Kelly's explosive offense and challenging for the Biletnikoff Award.
Next five: Armando Allen, RB; Ian Williams, DT; Kapron Lewis-Moore, DE; Ethan Johnson, DE; Chris Stewart, OL.