Notre Dame's to-do list for 2012

January, 20, 2012
1/20/12
5:00
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With the season over, it is time to take a look at which areas Notre Dame must shore up entering 2012.

Figure out the quarterback picture. Tommy Rees is 12-4 as a starter, but his season ended on a sour note, with two consecutive losses. Andrew Hendrix showed promise in limited action but only started one drive in the Champs Sports Bowl when given the chance to split time with Rees. Everett Golson redshirted. And there's apparently a new kid in town. As important as the decision coach Brian Kelly makes is the communication process with his pupils, as none of the two or three eventual non-starters wants to feel misled, which could force an uncomfortable dynamic for all moving forward. Regardless, Notre Dame finds itself with a good problem to have.

Establish a punt return game. Michael Floyd's 41-yard punt return in the Champs Sports Bowl was notable for the fact it was 38 yards more than what the Irish netted returning punts all season long. The normally sure-handed John Goodman is reportedly back for a fifth year, but Kelly has said that Notre Dame needs more of a gamebreaker back there to make a difference in returns. Whether that potential gamebreaker can be Theo Riddick, George Atkinson, Austin Collinsworth or someone unforeseen is anyone's guess.

Retool the secondary. At least three starters are gone from last season's unit, including captain Harrison Smith. On a team that will face elite quarterbacks like Matt Barkley and Landry Jones next season, this is crucial. Zeke Motta and likely Jamoris Slaughter return, with reserves such as Bennett Jackson, Lo Wood and Collinsworth potentially competing for starting spots.

Matt Fortuna | email

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