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Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Irish are 16th in new post-spring Top 25

By Brian Bennett

Colleague Mark Schlabach has a new, post-spring Top 25 out, and Notre Dame checks in at No. 16. Schlabach, who had the Irish ranked 14th in his pre-spring rankings, writes the following:
"The Fighting Irish left spring practice without a starting quarterback. Coach Brian Kelly probably won't name a starting quarterback until shortly before the Sept. 3 opener against USF, as senior Dayne Crist, sophomores Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix and freshman Everett Golson will continue battling for the starting job during preseason camp. Kelly said he'll probably use more than one quarterback this season. Star receiver Michael Floyd's status will the team also remains uncertain after he was arrested on DUI charges this spring. Kelly believes his second Notre Dame team will be better than his first because the Irish will be better on defense. The Irish will play nine games against teams that played in bowl games in 2010 (plus USC), so there won't be much margin for error."

In my ballot for College Football Live's Top 25, I put the Irish at No. 18. It's pretty clear that Notre Dame will be ranked in the preseason and probably will be a Top 20 team to start the year, with or without Floyd for the beginning of the season. And that seems about right, given the team's strong finish last season and the excellent nucleus it returns from 2010. The Irish always receive a little more hype than they probably deserve after any measure of success, and the younger players on the roster will have to learn to deal with higher preseason expectations this summer.

Elsewhere on ESPN.com, Bruce Feldman has a list of 10 breakout players from the spring. No. 2 on his list is Notre Dame freshman defensive end Aaron Lynch.
"The biggest knock on the Irish as their program has slid backward over the past two decades has been their inability to produce big-time defensive linemen. There have been a few (Justin Tuck comes first to mind), but they just haven't had those regular difference-makers along the D-line that many top-10 teams do.

"Enter Lynch, a 6-foot-6, 260-pound early enrollee who looked ready to immediately improve a Notre Dame defense that was only 77th in the nation in tackles for loss. The nation's No. 15 overall recruit was unblockable in the spring game, and he played that way against the Irish's starting offensive linemen."

Lynch undoubtedly had an eye-opening spring game and a bright future seems to await. But the coaching staff is trying to tone down the hype and expectations surrounding him as he continues to learn the college game. Doing it in the spring isn't always the same as doing it in the fall.