SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 08: Stephon Tuitt #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish sacks Robert Marve #9 of the Purdue Boilermakers at Notre Dame Stadium on September 8, 2012 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Purdue 20-17. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Updated: September 5, 2013 7:09AM
SOUTH BEND — The extra film sessions. The bonus time spent in the weight room. The final rep in practice.
It’s done with a shot at the national championship in mind.
Notre Dame was one of two teams to play for the title last year. But Alabama routed the Irish 42-14.
Notre Dame opens camp Monday with plenty of experience, particularly on defense. The Irish also have some questions to address.
How will quarterback
Tommy Rees perform?
Everett Golson is serving a suspension for the fall term, meaning Rees regains the starting quarterback role.
Rees appeared in 11 games last year, and made two starts. The previous season, he started 12 games.
“He took every mental rep, even though he didn’t get them in the games, he was engaged in practices, he got tons of reps, got a chance to really see the games unfold,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “That year, although it wasn’t one of a number of snaps, he was in critical times, influenced games, and helped us have an undefeated season. He learned a lot last year.”
Who will step up
in the running game?
Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood led the Irish in rushing last year. Both are gone.
That leaves George Atkinson III and Cam McDaniel as the most experienced backs.
Some of the other options include Amir Carlisle and Greg Bryant.
“We were doing a video clip of some of our big plays last year. When we put it on, we saw George quite a bit. We know we have a big play guy in George,” Kelly said. “He has things he needs to continue to work on, ball security, low pads, all the things everybody in this room knows about. But Cam McDaniel showed us he can be a very good back for us as well.”
How will the defense do without Te’o?
Manti Te’o led the Irish in tackles on the way to finishing as the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. Eight members of Notre Dame’s defense started at least nine games last season.
Nose guard Louis Nix III and defensive end Stephon Tuitt leads that group.
“Here is a young man, again, that knows in his last season of competition, it’s his chance to make his mark,” Kelly said of Nix. “It’s his opportunity to help lead a football team back to a championship. He knows it can be done.”
What weapons exist
in the passing game?
Tight end Tyler Eifert led the Irish with 685 receiving yards. TJ Jones was second with 649 receiving yards. Both had 50 catches and four touchdown receptions. Jones is back to aid Rees and the passing attack.
“When you have a Michael Floyd and a Tyler Eifert, get them the ball, it’s that simple,” Kelly said. “We don’t have those two guys. But we do have a TJ Jones, who I think is one of the best route runners in the country. Wouldn’t surprise me if he’s a first round draft pick, he’s that good. Sometimes he doesn’t get enough of the accolades. I think he’s a great receiver.
“I think you’re going to see (DaVaris) Daniels emerge, Chris Brown. I think our tight ends can all catch the football. Our running backs have proven to be very good.”
What will ND do for an encore?
At Notre Dame, the expectations are always high.
“It’s pretty clear that our players are committed to one goal, and that is to get back to a national championship,” Kelly said, “Just as every other BCS school on media day is expecting the same thing.”