SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame lost a lot of offensive firepower when receiver Michael Floyd graduated and was selected in the first round of the NFL draft by the Arizona Cardinals.
Floyds departure also left the Irish thin at receiver, and that means Notre Dame could have to rely on freshmen Davonte Neal, Chris Brown and Justin Ferguson to help out in the passing game.
Junior TJ Jones said he thinks the first-year players will be able to help right away.
They all have the talent to help us this year, Jones said. We dont have great depth at receiver, so we will definitely need all three of them to make it through this season.
Notre Dames defense made big improvements over the past two seasons.
The Irish improved their total defense ranking from No. 86 in 2009 to No. 20 last season, and their scoring defense went from being ranked No. 63 in 2009 to No. 30 last year.
Linebacker Dan Fox said the defense could do even better this year.
We are having a lot of fun right now, the D is flying around and doing a great job and improving every day, Fox said.
(Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco) is doing an awesome job with us. He is getting us motivated every day.
Ready to go
Bennett Jackson made his mark on special teams in his first two seasons.
The junior was the 2010 special teams player of the year, gaining 645 yards on kickoff returns and as one of the top gunners on punt and kickoff return defense. He ranked fifth on the team with seven special teams tackles last year.
Jacksons role will expand this year as he is expected to be a starting cornerback, and after watching the graduated Robert Blanton and Gary Gray last year, the former receiver said he feels ready to start.
I learned a lot, Jackson said. Blanton and Gary both had great technique. Blanton and Gary both knew an extreme amount about the defense. They helped me take a major jump in my game. They helped me out a lot.