Football camp for the fall season opens this Saturday, August 4th for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The start of a new year brings some serious questions that will have an enormous effect on how well the Irish will perform in 2012-13. Here are ten questions that are on every fan’s mind:
10. Can Braxston Cave stay healthy?
The offensive line figures to be a great strength for the Irish. They return several of last season’s starters, including LT Zack “Goblin” Martin, to a group that more than held its own in 2011. Yet, they did struggle a bit down the stretch, giving up nine sacks in the last two games.
Part of that reason was that starting center Braxston Cave was out due to injury and replaced by Mike Golic Jr. on the interior. While Golic Jr. is certainly a serviceable replacement, the Irish need Cave on the field this season to lead the rushing attack that suffers in his absences.
9. Which freshmen will surprise us?
Brian Kelly has done an excellent job, for the most part, in recruiting and establishing depth so that the Irish are not forced to rely on freshmen each year. However, there are breakout freshmen every season and this one will be no different. Here are some names to keep an eye on:
Chris Brown – WR
Davonte Neal – WR
Justin Ferguson – WR
Jarron Jones – DL
Nicky Baratti – S
CJ Prosise – CB
8. How will all of the tight ends fit in?
TE might be Notre Dame’s deepest position group this season. They are led by senior Tyler Eifert, who turned down the NFL to come back for one final year. He is an absolute stud, and is unquestionably the best offensive player the Irish have. But while he will get his fair share of balls thrown his way, what will happen with the guys behind him?
Kelly has made it clear that blocking is the number one priority for the backup tight end, which makes many fans salivate for the massive defensive-end-turned-tight-end Troy Niklas to step in. His 6′ 7″, 252-pound frame is perfect for pancaking defenders, so he is certainly a viable option. Don’t sleep on sophomore Ben Koyack or junior Alex Welch however, as both are excellent pass-catchers.
7. Can Nick Tausch return to freshman form?
Tausch has had an interesting career at Notre Dame so far. As a freshman he received ample opportunity as senior Brandon Walker simply couldn’t get the job done. He made the most of it, setting the record for most consecutive field goals made by a Notre Dame freshman with fourteen. He then was beaten out by walk-on David Ruffer (who eventually earned a scholarship) the next two years.
After waiting patiently in the wings, Tausch should provide a very reliable kicking option this fall.