The breakdown: The secondary was the biggest concern going into 2012, and it ended up becoming the biggest surprise. Though the group had a night to forget on Jan. 7 in Miami against Alabama, three starters are back from a stingy unit that suddenly finds itself with another numbers problem -- this time a good one.
Russell, a converted freshman running back, did better than anyone could have ever imagined after rising to the No. 1 spot when Wood went down with a preseason Achilles tear. Jackson lived up to the high preseason words of the coaching staff, finishing third on the team in tackles (65) and adding four picks. Farley, another converted player who made his first appearance in the secondary on a college field (after a redshirt season), adapted well as a tackler. He put in all the necessary post-practice work with safeties coach Bob Elliott to emerge as a strong starter after Slaughter -- who is done after being denied a sixth year by the NCAA -- went down with an Achilles tear of his own. Like Russell, Farley has three years left at Notre Dame.
Wood, a projected starter last season before getting hurt, enters the mix this season as well, though how much he'll be able to do this spring remains to be seen. Collinsworth saw extensive action at safety as a sophomore but underwent both shoulder and back surgeries that forced him to sit out all of last season. He is expected to be back this spring. He will surely give Notre Dame another proven body in the defensive backfield.
Baratti saw plenty of time on defense in his first college season, and you can expect to see him on the field often in one capacity or another. He played often on special teams last season too. Shumate was essentially the Irish's nickelback after converting from safety, so it will be interesting to see where he ends up given the numbers situation back there in 2013.
Among newcomers, Redfield has received the most attention, as he was the No. 23 overall player from the Class of 2013, according to ESPN. He will not enroll until the summer.