Head coach Brian Kelly (16-10 overall at Notre Dame) took the Fighting Irish to the 2012 national championship game in his second year at the helm – where his team got drubbed, 42-14. If the Irish are going to make noise on the national level again this year, they’ll have to do it with a rebuilt offense that is replacing eight starters.
Junior quarterback Everett Golson (6-0, 185) will be the offense’s leader. He completed 59 percent of his pass attempts last year for 2,405 yards with 12 TDs and 6 INTs. Everett also ran for 298 yards and scored six times on the ground.
Right tackle Christian Lombard (6-5, 309, Sr.) is the only returnee up front to protect his quarterback.
Receiver T. J. Jones (5-11, 190, Sr.) will also be back. Jones caught 50 passes last year for 649 yards and 4 TDs. Tailback George Atkinson III (6-1, 210, Jr.) had three starts a year ago and saw plenty of action as the backup tailback. He carried the ball 51 times for 361 yards and 5 TDs.
Notre Dame Statistics, 2012
|Offense (Nat'l. Rank)||Defense (Nat'l. Rank)|
|25.8 (78)||Scoring (PPG)||12.8 (2)|
|189.4 (38)||Rushing (YPG||105.7 (11)|
|222.8 (71)||Passing (YPG)||199.8 (25)|
|412.1 (54)||Total Yards (YPG)||305.5 (7)|
The defense is in a better position with the return of seven starters from a year ago. The 3-4 alignment will have two returnees on the line: All-American end Stephon Tuitt (606, 303, Jr.) and noseguard Louis Nix III (6-3, 326, Sr.). Tuitt had 47 tackles in 2012, 13 of which were behind the line of scrimmage, including 12 sacks. He also had 9 quarterback hurries, forced three fumbles, recovered one for a touchdown and blocked a field goal.
Nix recorded 50 tackles with 7.5 for losses, including 2 sacks. He also had 3 QB hurries and forced a fumble last year.
Two of four linebackers return this fall. All-American Manti T’eo is off to the NFL. Outside LBs Prince Shembo (6-2, 250, Sr.) and Danny Spond (6-2, 248, Sr.) will again be chasing ball carriers this year. Shembo made 51 stops in ’12 with 10.5 behind the line of scrimmage, including 7.5 sacks. He also had 12 QB hurries and recovered a fumble. Spond had 39 tackles with one for a loss, and he intercepted one pass.
Three-fourths of the secondary will be back in 2013. Senior cornerback Bennett Jackson (6-0, 185) was third on the team with 65 tackles and second with four picks. The other corner, KeiVarae Russell (5-11, 182, Soph.), made 58 tackles and intercepted two passes. Safety Mathias Farley (6-1, 200, Jr.) had 49 tackles and 1 INT.
Junior kicker Kyle Brindza (6-1, 225) will be back to lead the special teams in scoring and kickoffs. Last year, Brindza made all but one of his 29 PATs. He hit 74 percent of his 31 field goal attempts with a long of 52 yards. He kicked three against the Sooners last year from 34, 44 and 46 yards out. The Irish will be looking for a new punter, and that job may also go to Brindza.
ND will also be looking to replace the long snappers and holder. Atkinson will be the main kickoff return specialist again this year coming off a 20-yard average a year ago.