2014 ND Preview: What You Need To Know
Notre Dame WR DaVaris Daniels
Notre Dame WR DaVaris Daniels
Posted Jul 26, 2014

Preview 2014 - What You Need To Know About Notre Dame (Getty Images)

2014 Notre Dame Preview

What You Need To Know

- 2014 Notre Dame Preview  

What You Need To Know About The Offense: Notre Dame fans, this is what you’ve been waiting for out of a Brian Kelly offense. The O hasn’t been bad since Kelly took over, but it hasn’t been the high-flying spectacle many were hoping for right out of the gate. As rough as things might have gotten under Charlie Weis, his 2009 team averaged more than 450 yards and 30 points per game – none of Kelly’s offenses so far have hit those marks. This one will, and then some, and if it doesn’t that means something went very, very wrong. The O line that allowed just eight sacks last season gets three good starters back. The backfield is loaded with options, and the receiving corps won’t miss a beat without leading receiver T.J. Jones. Tommy Rees really was good last year, but Everett Golson is the right quarterback for what Kelly wants to do. Expect the big plays and the explosion to come.

What You Need To Know About The Defense: After finishing 31st in the nation in total defense and doing a great job against the pass, the defense needs a little bit of tweaking. In comes Brian VanGorder, the former Auburn defensive coordinator and New York Jet linebacker coach before taking on the Irish defensive coordinator job. He’ll attack a bit more from all sides, utilize his veteran secondary in more press coverage, and will manufacture pressure into the backfield from several areas. Does he have the talent up front to do what he’d like? He’ll play around with the schemes, utilizing more of a 4-3 – but he needs linemen to help replace Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt. Sheldon Day and Jarron Jones are promising tackles, but former super-recruit Ishaq Williams needs to come into his own at one end.

Players You Need To Know

1. LB Jaylon Smith, Soph.
A superstar of superstar linebacker recruits, Smith was brought in from nearby Fort Wayne to be the next great Notre Dame defensive star. In his first year, he didn’t disappoint finishing third on the team with 67 tackles with one pick and a forced fumble, coming up with 11 stops against Pitt and proving to be a steady producer throughout the season starting every game. At 6-3 and 230 pounds he has the right size to go along with the range and the blast to run through a ball-carrier. With his athleticism as well as his size, he should grow into more of a pass rusher now with Prince Shembo gone and with the shifting in alignment.

2. DT Sheldon Day, Jr.
While he might not be another Stephon Tuitt, the 6-2, 290-pounder has decent bulk as a 3-4 end or a 4-3 tackle, and as he showed last year, he can produce no matter where he plays. He’s not much of a pass rusher, but he held his own against the run making 33 tackles with 5.5 tackles for loss, and now he’s the only returning starter up front. Great from the start, he stepped in as a true freshman and came up with 23 tackles with two sacks, and while he’s not going to be an anchor, and he might not receive a ton of accolades, he’ll be a key part of a potentially strong run defense.

3. CB KeiVarae Russell, Jr.
The hope is for this to be among Brian Kelly’s best secondaries yet, and he has a good one to build around in the 5-11, 190-pound junior out of Washington state. A hitter as well as a pure cover-corner, he can get physical, making 51 tackles, and he can get after the ball when it’s in the air making a pick with eight broken up passes. Two years ago he came up with 59 tackles with two interceptions in a fantastic true freshman season, and while he’s versatile enough to play anywhere in the secondary, his home is at corner.

4. WR DaVaris Daniels, Sr.
Not listed on Notre Dame’s official web site this offseason after being suspended from the team for an academic issue, he’s expected to be back and the main man for the passing attack. At 6-2 and 203 pounds, Daniels has good size and a world of upside to do even more after averaging 15.8 yards per catch two seasons ago and finishing second on the team with 49 catches for 745 yards and seven touchdowns last year. A great recruit, he has the raw speed to go along with the size, and now he’ll be the main man after proving he could produce when targeted. Streaky, he came up with four touchdowns in the first three games, didn’t score for six games, and then came up with a touchdown in each of the last three regular season outings. Now he’s the No. 1 guy – once he’s out of the doghouse.

5. QB Everett Golson, Sr.
But can he hold off Malik Zaire? Golson led the team to the BCS championship game two years ago – and actually looked like he belonged on the same field as the Crimson Tide at times – but he missed all of last year after exercising “poor academic judgment.” One of the leaders and catalysts in the great run of 2012, the 6-0, 200-pounder has extremely confidence, a good enough arm, and great feet, completing 59% of his passes two years ago for 2,405 yards and 12 touchdowns with six picks, while running for 298 yards and two scores. One of the most accomplished passers in the history of high school football, throwing for 11,634 yards and 151 career scores despite missing half of his last year hurt, he's a baller's baller who showed what he could do as one of the few bright spots in the loss to Alabama with 270 passing yards and a score to go along with a rushing touchdown. However, Zaire could be the perfect recruit for the Brian Kelly offense. The left-hander is a top dual-threat option with tremendous speed and a smooth throwing motion, but can he offer anything different than Golson?

6. OT Ronnie Stanley, Jr.
The Las Vegas native went from being a little-used backup to a starting right tackle who got the call in every game. An outstanding pass protector with 6-6, 318-pound size, he’ll get physical and can blast away, but he’s at his best when he’s able to engulf pass rushers. Able to play either left or right tackle, the one-time four-star recruit is still growing into his job and has the upside to become an anchor to work around. Expect to see him on the left side.

7. C Nick Martin, Sr.
The 6-4, 295-pound veteran center suffered a knee injury and missed the final two games, but he’s still one of the leaders and most productive blockers up front. Able to play either guard spot as well as center, he’ll move around where needed, and he can even play tackle in a pinch. The younger, smaller brother of former star tackle Zack Martin, he has been tried out in a few areas, but his home is in the middle.

8. RB Tarean Folston, Soph.
While he’ll have to fight at time for carries with Greg Bryant and Cam McDaniel too talented to not get the ball – McDaniel led the team with 705 yards and three scores, yet he’s probably going to be third in the pecking order. The 5-9, 207-pound Folston was a great recruit out of Florida – like Bryant – who could’ve gone anywhere. A home run hitter, he finished third on the team in rushing with 470 yards and three touchdowns averaging three yards per carry, and caught five passes for 35 yards. The speed and quickness are there to add more to the passing game and even be used as a kick returner if needed.

9. TE Ben Koyack, Sr.
Big and with good hands, is he Notre Dame’s next great receiving tight end? Troy Niklas was the team’s third-leading receiver last season, but Koyack was more dangerous averaging 17.4 yards per try on his ten catches for 171 yards with three scores. Not used much early in the year, he came on in the middle as a No. 2 tight end who took advantage of teams working on Niklas. Even with his good 6-5, 261-pound size, he’s not a blaster of a blocker like Niklas, but he’ll become a better receiver with more of a role.

10. RB Greg Bryant, RFr.
The sky’s the limit. Thanks to a balky knee, the true freshman didn’t get into the mix like Tarean Folston did, but he’s a four-star talent with a much bigger upside. Not necessarily the quick back that Folston is, the 5-11, 200-pound Bryant is more of an all-around runner who cranked out over 3,500 yards and 42 touchdowns for his Delray Beach high school in Florida. While he’s not necessarily a speedster, he has enough quickness to get by. Able to be used as a receiver, too, he doesn’t need to come off the field.

- 2014 Notre Dame Preview