NCF Nation: Brad Carrico

Roster breakdown: Offense

March, 28, 2012
3/28/12
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With Notre Dame a week into spring practice, the fifth-year players officially returning and the 2012 recruiting class finalized (we think), let's break down the Irish's complete roster, position-by-position, as it gears up for Year 3 under Brian Kelly.

We'll start with the offense today and delve into the defense tomorrow, with special teams coming Friday.

QUARTERBACK

The players: Tommy Rees, Andrew Hendrix, Everett Golson, Gunner Kiel

The incoming: None

The breakdown: Experience is the only real way to rank these guys, as Rees has 16 starts, Hendrix has played in five games, Golson has sat a year learning the offense and Kiel arrived on campus just two months ago. Nonetheless, that likely won't matter as Kelly goes to a square-one approach, opening the playbook from the beginning to allow for a fair chance for everyone. The decision -- which will likely be up in the air deep into the summer -- may prove to be Kelly's biggest so far with the Irish.

RUNNING BACK

[+] EnlargeCierre Wood
Rick Osentoski/US PresswireCierre Wood is still the clear favorite in Notre Dame's backfield, but the Irish have other running backs ready to vie for playing time.
The players: Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick, George Atkinson, Amir Carlisle, Cam Roberson, Tyler Plantz

The Incoming: Will Mahone, KeiVarae Russell

The breakdown: Wood is the clear No. 1, as he was heading into last season as well. Riddick broke off a pair of huge runs toward the end of Saturday's scrimmage, and Kelly wanted both him and Atkinson to see more time back there as Wood rested with a minor quad injury. (Kelly said Wood did go in the rodeo drill earlier.) Both Riddick and Atkinson are capable of playing in the slot, and may end up seeing more time catching balls this season than taking handoffs, though Tony Alford will coach both regardless.

Carlisle, the USC transfer, is eligible to play in 2012 but out for the spring with a broken ankle. Where he fits in will be interesting, as carries may be hard to come by if Atkinson really progresses this spring in the backfield. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Carlisle was featured on kickoffs last season with the Trojans, and there, or on the punt return team, may prove to be the fastest way on the field for him.

WIDE RECEIVER

The players: John Goodman, T.J. Jones, Robby Toma, DaVaris Daniels, Daniel Smith, Luke Massa, Eric Lee, Nick Fitzpatrick, Ryan Liebscher

The incoming: Justin Ferguson, Davonte Neal

The breakdown: Goodman has talked about making the most of this last chance, and the coaching staff would not have invited him back for a fifth year had it not believed in him. Whether he can be a top target is up in the air, but he should bring some stability and leadership to a group loaded with youth. Jones has been solid through two years and Kelly has said he is on the cusp of breaking out. Toma has done everything asked of him and then some in the slot when replacing the oft-injured Riddick, and he may have the position to himself this year.

Daniels has the complete package physically, but he has yet to take a snap after redshirting last season. He was seen running with the 2s to start spring, but that could easily change with a strong showing. Smith, too, ran with 2s to open spring, but he must stay healthy first. Ferguson has the tools to compete for playing time upon arrival, but that could likely depend on how the incumbents step up in front of him. Neal is pegged as an athlete, but Kelly said there are no plans right now to play him at corner upon his arrival. He could possibly be a playmaker at receiver or on special teams.

TIGHT END

The players: Tyler Eifert, Troy Niklas, Alex Welch, Ben Koyack, Jake Golic, Arturo Martinez

The incoming: None

The breakdown: We all know what Eifert can do, which is why he almost entered the draft this year. Niklas is the big question mark. And by big, we mean it literally. A switch from linebacker -- where he started one game last fall as a freshman -- to tight end for the 6-7, 252-pounder has many excited to see what the offense can do with a potential two tight end set. Everyone saw what the New England Patriots did last year with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

It would be foolish to expect that much so soon -- both without Tom Brady as the Irish's quarterback and without Niklas having played the position since high school. How quick Niklas can master the playbook and blocking could go a long way in seeing some of these sets come to fruition. The move does leave some to wonder what this means for Welch and Koyack, but the duo is young and, according to tight ends coach Scott Booker, up for the challenge.

OFFENSIVE LINE

The players: Zack Martin, Chris Watt, Braxston Cave, Mike Golic, Tate Nichols, Christian Lombard, Bruce Heggie, Jordan Prestwood, Matt Hegarty, Conor Hanratty, Nick Martin, Brad Carrico, Matt Tansey, Dennis Mahoney

The incoming: Mark Harrell, Ronnie Stanley

The breakdown: Cave will not be playing much, if at all, this spring as he recovers after injuring his foot last season. Golic, who started in his place, is the center with Cave out, but it would not be surprising to see Golic move to right guard upon Cave's return. Right now Lombard is manning the right guard spot, with Nichols at right tackle. How the second unit gets shuffled upon Cave's return to the starting unit remains to be seen, but to open spring, it consisted of Heggie, Prestwood, Hegarty, Hanratty and Martin.

Changes afoot for Irish spring

March, 22, 2011
3/22/11
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The absence of Michael Floyd isn't the only noticeable difference for Notre Dame as it prepares to begin spring practice on Wednesday. Here are some other changes and tidbits that head coach Brian Kelly outlined on Tuesday:
  • Austin Collinsworth has moved from receiver to safety. Kelly said the coaching staff loved Collinsworth's tackling and instincts on kickoff coverage last year.
  • Early enrollee Brad Carrico, listed as a defensive lineman when recruited, will move to offensive line. "He showed us in a short period of time in conditioning that he has quick feet and moves well," Kelly said. "He's a guy who we'll be able to get out in space, and he gives us some size and athleticism on the offensive line."
  • As previously reported, quarterback Luke Massa is headed to wide receiver, while Bennett Jackson goes from receiver to cornerback.
  • Assistant coach Kerry Cooks will move from outside linebackers coach to working strictly with the cornerbacks. Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco will handle the outside linebackers. Chuck Martin now will oversee the safeties. Ed Warriner becomes the running game coordinator, allowing offensive coordinator Charley Molnar a little more time for overall planning.
  • Defensive lineman Sean Cwynar is in a boot after surgery on a foot fracture and will not participate in the spring. Cwynar also had back surgery in the offseason and recovered well from that, Kelly said.
  • Star linebacker Manti Te'o had a scope done on his knee, and the Irish will be cautious with him this spring. "I think it's pretty safe to say right now we know a lot about what Manti Te'o can do," Kelly said.
  • As for the quarterbacks, Kelly said Dayne Crist (knee surgery) will be limited but should follow the same plan as he did last spring when he was recovering from an ACL surgery. That means he'll go through most drills but be held out of live contact. Andrew Hendrix and Everett Golson, who are more mobile quarterbacks, will get tackled some this spring to get a true evaluation of what they can do while running. Kelly said Crist's availability should make for a true competition this spring and that hopefully a pecking order would be established by the end of spring. But he said he had no idea of how the competition will go.
  • Though Theo Riddick will stay at slot receiver, there will be some packages where he and running back Cierre Wood are moved all over the field.

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