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Rachel Terlep
Rachel Terlep
Notre Dame beat writer Rachel Terlep offers scribbles and stories about Fighting Irish sports.



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Five Notre Dame storylines to follow as Irish roll into off-season

National Signing Day, Everett Golson and more.



Posted on Jan. 2, 2014 at 12:00 a.m. | Updated on Jan. 2, 2014 at 11:45 a.m.

As college football slides closer to the off-season, Notre Dame football largely slips off the radar (news of imaginary girlfriends and NFL interviews nonwithstanding) except for the occasional recruiting blip or transfer request.

But following the chaos that was the 2013 off-season, Notre Dame has quite a few things to look forward to during the dead period in early 2014. Here's what to keep an eye on in the next several days, weeks and months:

1. The return of Everett Golson.

Everett Golson was re-enrolled at Notre Dame on Dec. 13, bringing back a 10-1 record as a starter, a full year of experience and months of tutelage under one of the nation's best quarterback coaches.

Golson popped up for the occasional on-camera interview during his semester-long suspension, and the physical change in the now-junior quarterback was evident.

"He got quite a bit bigger," quarterback guru George Whitfield told NBC's Keith Arnold. "He came out here at maybe 189, 190. He just weighed in at 204. So he’s been dedicating himself and putting it in.”

We'll get our first live look at Golson in April, where we'll see just how much that semester off re-molded the to-be junior.

2. New defensive and offensive coordinators and staff shuffles.

Although Notre Dame has yet to officially announce anything, there's a very good chance that its next defensive coordinator will be Brian VanGorder, currently the New York Jets linebackers coach. After the Dec. 28th Pinstripe Bowl, head coach Brian Kelly said he'll be announcing the new defensive coordinator "very, very soon."

But who will be the new offensive coordinator? Will it be interim coordinator Mike Denbrock? Kelly has a tendency to hire offensive coordinators that he's had previous a professional relationship with, a habit that dates back to his days at Grand Valley State. If the trend continues, expect to see Denbrock calling the offense this fall.

And what about the other coaches? Will cornerbacks coach Kerry Cooks seek another job after being passed up for the defensive coordinator promotion? Will that lead to Bob Elliott taking full control of the Irish secondary? Whatever happens in the coming weeks, the coaching shuffle should be interesting.

3. Stephon Tuitt's decision.

Stephon Tuitt's decision to enter the NFL Draft or return for his senior season seemingly became less clear after his review from the NFL Draft Advisory Board in December.

Tuitt, who had been projected as a Top 10 pick by major draft analysts throughout the season, was informed by the draft advisory board that he'd fall into the second-round range.

Will Tuitt stay or will he go? We'll find out soon, as the cut-off date for underclassmen declaring for the draft is Jan. 15.

4. National Signing Day.

Ah, the drama that is College Football's Christmas Day.

Notre Dame currently holds the nation's seventh-best recruiting class based on verbal commitments, and the Irish hope to add a few more following the Under Armour Game and U.S. Army All-American Bowl later this week.

Notre Dame's current headliner is five-star offensive tackle Quenton Nelson, who will likely see playing time immediately following the graduation of Zack Martin and Chris Watt. The Irish have also pulled in four-star defensive tackle Jay Hayes and four-star defensive end Matt Dickerson to help plug the holes Louis Nix and (possibly) Tuitt leave behind.

National Signing Day is Feb. 5, which leaves a full month of flipped decisions, projections and down-to-the-wire battles.

5. Injured players returning for spring ball.

Watch for the return of several up-and-coming Notre Dame players who were injured during or prior to the 2013 campaign.

Biggest names to look for in the spring:

  • Greg Bryant, running back (knee surgery)
  • Torii Hunter Jr., receiver (broken leg)
  • Jarrett Grace, linebacker (fractured tibia and fibula)
  • Ben Councell, linebacker (ACL injury)

Others, like safety Nicky Baratti and defensive lineman Tony Springmann, figure to make a big impact by the start of the season, but won't be ready to participate in spring ball.



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