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Thursday, May 9, 2013
What we learned this spring, Notre Dame

By Matt Fortuna

1. New season. Notre Dame has been adamant this spring that it is not resting on its laurels from its renaissance 2012 campaign, which saw Alabama ruin national title hopes in the final game of the season. The lessons learned from that defeat have stuck with the Irish, who think they are a lot closer to the top than that game indicated. But they know everyone starts with a clean slate in 2013, and that the always big target on their back will only grow bigger after an unceremonious finish to last season.

2. New play-caller. Chuck Martin will take on an even bigger role this season offensively. The former Brian Kelly successor at Grand Valley State-turned-Irish safeties coach-turned offensive coordinator is adding new duties to his plate in 2013: play-calling. Kelly hopes the delegation will allow himself to be more hands-on with the entire team on game day and not get lost in the emotions of play-to-play. Martin and quarterback Everett Golson's relationship has grown after the signal caller's first year as a starter, as the two occasionally play basketball together and communicate much better.

3. Tyler Eifert's not walking through that door. Tight End U might be without its usual flair early this season, as a trio of players fight for extended playing time after being limited physically (Alex Welch) or as simply blockers (Ben Koyack, Troy Niklas) in the past year while Eifert had another strong season. Welch appeared to have the inside track for the No. 2 job last summer before an ACL tear ruined those hopes. The converted linebacker Niklas seemingly has the most upside, and Koyack has the most experience. The three players have combined for 10 career catches and won't be expected to exactly fill the shoes of Eifert (and Kyle Rudolph before him, and John Carlson before him, and Anthony Fasano before him) from Day 1, but watching who emerges from that group this season will be telling for the Irish's future at that position.