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July 18, 2013

The 2013 all-opponent offense

There is a shortage of proven quarterbacks, running backs and depth of standouts on the offensive lines of Irish opponents, which should bode well for a Notre Dame defense that ranked second in scoring defense (12.8 ppg.), seven in total defense (305.5 ypg.) and 11th in rushing defense (105.7 ypg.) in 2012.

Quarterback

Taylor Kelly (Arizona State) - The former spread option prep quarterback has emerged as the top passing threat on the '13 Irish slate following his 3,039-yard campaign in '12. He completed 67.1 percent of his passes with 29 TDs and nine picks.

Devin Gardner (Michigan) is a bit of a wildcard after taking over for an injured Denard Robinson in the second half of the '12 season, but most believe he'll be a force after showing he's a good fit for Al Borges' offense. Kevin Hogan (Stanford) stabilized the Cardinal's shaky QB situation, completing 71.7 percent of his passes while winning all five of his starts -- four versus top 20 teams.

Running back

Damien Williams (Oklahoma) - Irish fans likely weren't very impressed with Williams, who managed just 29 yards on 13 carries against Notre Dame. But Williams rushed for 946 yards (5.4 per carry) and 11 TDs for the season.

Silas Redd (USC) had an inconsistent 2012, much like the rest of the Trojans, but still managed to rush for 905 yards (5.4 per carry) and nine TDs.

Wide Receiver

Marqise Lee (USC) - Not only is he the best receiver on the Irish schedule, he's also the top wideout in the country. He had 118 receptions for a remarkable 1,721 yards and 14 TDs.

Cody Hoffman (BYU) is one of the most underrated wideouts in the country following a 100-catch, 1,248-yard, 11-TD junior season. Devin Street (Pittsburgh) may not repeat his 73-reception, 975-yard, 5-TD season without veteran Tino Sunseri at QB. Jalen Saunders (Oklahoma) is at the head of the pack of wideouts for the Sooners following the departure of Kenny Stills and Justin Brown. He, too, could be hard-pressed to improve upon his 62 catches for 829 yards and three TDs without QB Landry Jones.

Tight end

Chris Coyle (Arizona State) - One of the most underrated tight ends in the country, Coyle had 57 catches for 696 yards and five TDs last year for the Sun Devils.

Xavier Grimble (USC) had a modest 29 catches in '12, but five went for scores. The Wolverines will try to take better advantage of sophomore Devin Funchess (Michigan), who scored five times on just 15 receptions during his rookie season.

Offensive line

OT-Taylor Lewan (Michigan) - The best offensive tackle on the Irish schedule by far and among the top three (along with Texas A&M's Jake Matthews and Alabama's Cyrus Kouandjio) in the country.

Cameron Fleming (Stanford) helps form one of the nation's best offensive lines. Other notable offensive tackles on the Irish schedule include Kevin Graf (USC), Daryl Williams (Oklahoma), Michael Schofield (Michigan) and Fou Fonoti (Michigan State) are formidable.

OG-David Yankey (Stanford) - A first-team All-American in '12, he is the leading candidate to come off the draft board first among guards. In fact, he'll probably be the only guard chosen in the first round.

No other guard on the Irish slate comes close to Yankey's productivity, unless it's Kevin Danser (Stanford), Yankey's running mate at right guard. He earned second-team all-Pac 12 honors a year ago. Keep an eye on Matt Rotheram (Pittsburgh), who as a 6-foot-6, 335-pound red-shirt sophomore, may be ready for the NFL draft after the 2013 season.

C-Gabe Ikard (Oklahoma) - The former left guard moved to center when fellow standout Ben Habern's career ended due to injury. Ikard simply picked up where Habern left off, and now enters the '13 season as the hands-down top-rated center in the country.

Marcus Martin (USC) started 10 games at left guard as a sophomore last year, and now moves to the middle following the injury-plagued season of standout Khaled Holmes.


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