Welcome to the RETURN OF THE 36 CHAMBERS! After a 2 year hiatus, I'm bringing it back. Now, if you're not familiar with this series- where in the hell have you been? Depth charts are sooo 2000. In this day and age, offensive multiple personnel groupings and defensive rotations are the new normal. So, laying out a depth chart does nothing for me. A number 2 at one spot can be far less valuable than a number 3 at another.
This exercise lists the 36 players that give the most value to the team as a whole. In the past, I have done this in 18 separate posts over the course of 2-3 months. That won't be the case this time around. This will be done in 4 parts over the next couple of weeks. Hey- we got a summer to summer.
If you're going to make a list about the most important players on the team; you'd better start with the quarterback. Notre Dame is looking for Golson to make a massive step forward after what was a pretty damn good year in 2012. If the Irish are going to make another National Championship run, Golson will need to make that step and push the offense past forced ball control and into somewhere in the neighborhood of "kind of explosive." With his ability to create on the run- we just might get that.
Blatz Brocolli Ninja
Big Ass Blocker
Watt has been a starter at guard for two straight years. More than that, he has started EVERY GAME during the past two years. He's big, he's smart, he kicks the living shit out of communists, and you don't hear his name very often (which is kind of a good thing for an offensive linemen). He will help anchor the middle of a line that lost the two guys to the right of him. He's up for the challenge.
Amstel Pig Assaulter
Remember how Te'o lost a few pounds and suddenly snagged 7 interceptions? Yeah, Calabrese lost a few pounds but I wouldn't expect the same kind of production. Calabrese will be involved in a 3 man rotation that will look to prove that their production as a unit will be on the same level as last year. That's a tall order, but Calabrese is a seasoned vet, tough as a pissed off rhino, and he's hungry. I like the way he tackles.
Punter / White-Flag Bearer
Perhaps the first surprise in this list? Not really. Wulfeck is a 5th year transfer from Wake Forest, where he averaged just a shade under 40 yards per punt. Leg strength isn't Wufleck's best trait, but he has tremendous directional placement, which can be just as deadly. After the loss of Ben Turk and a spring that saw horrific punting, Wulfeck will win the job, and the team will be much better off for having done so.
George Atkinson III
GA3 Tha Beck's Artist
With the departure of Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick, there is a large void at running back for the Irish. GA3 is expected to be the starter, and with his particular skill set (speed) along with his size, this would come as no surprise. However, he must keep his pad level low and become more of a north south runner with the capability to kick it outside. Instead, he leans more to the opposite of that. GA3 can change that ratio, and if he does, the Irish should have a very dynamic back in the process. Add his ability to break things wide open on special teams and BOOM... Wu Playa.
The Gatekeeper of Guinness
Vanderdoes is the first freshman on this years list. Now I think it may be a very big stretch to think that he will be involved heavily in the rotation along the defensive line early in the season, but that doesn't mean that he won't be needed. Hell... maybe it's not that big of a stretch after all. Vanderdoes has all the makings of an excellent defensive lineman, and with his speed, power, and size, this is a pretty easy choice.
Samson High Life
Fox will be a part of that 3 man rotation at linebacker. Much like Calabrese, Fox is a seasoned vet and has two years of starting experience to help him fortify the defensive front. Fox is a wee bit more athletic than Calabrese, but not as physical. He plays smart, and he played strong for most of 2012. There is a concern that Fox may have lost his edge with the cutting of his luscious mane- so hopefully he doesn't tear down the stadium to beat USC. Or maybe he does???...
The Duke of Newcastle
There's no need to wait for parts 2 or 3 of this series to find out who that third man in the inside linebacker rotation might be. If you didn't know that it was Grace, grab a fork and stab your trachea. Honestly, we don't know a whole lot about this Junior, but we all seem to have a lot of hope in him. While I'm not expecting some crazy stat-padded season that challenges for the 2013 Butkus award, I do expect good production. Here's hoping that our hopes hop up to the hopper and fill the grain stores. (That last sentence was purely written out of the joy of "hop").