Freshman drawing early notice
They may not turn out to be the players most identified with Notre Dame during the 2011 season, but young defensive players such as defensive tackle Louis Nix and defensive ends Aaron Lynch, Stephon Tuitt and defensive end/outside linebacker Troy Niklas have been impressing coach Brian Kelly during training camp, which bodes well for the future.
"Those guys are physically imposing," Kelly said of the aforementioned group. "They get your attention right away. They get my attention because I'm on the offensive side so much that when we put our second unit out there, it feels like a screen every play, we're cutting people loose. You notice them from that perspective."
Several freshman offensive skill position players don't have the luxury of taking a year or two to develop. Kelly is counting on receiver DaVaris Daniels and running backs George Atkinson III and Cam McDaniel contributing right away to an offense that lacks depth at running back and wide receiver.
"Those guys are going to have to play for us this year," Kelly said. "Are they ready right now? No. [But] they have the athletic ability to play BCS football right now."
Nick Martin was elevated to second string when a knee injury ended sophomore tackle Tate Nichols' season. Fortunately for him, easing his transition is older brother Zack Martin, who started all 13 games for the Irish last season and was one of the team's most consistent linemen.
"He's being mentored by somebody that has a vested interest in seeing he does well, and that's his brother Zack Martin," Kelly said. "Zack has kind of taken him under his wing. Nick has done a nice job."
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