The Notre Dame Fighting Irish will enter the 2012 college football season as the No. 24-ranked team in the nation, and that’s not by chance.
Notre Dame boasts some notable talents this coming season and will look to ride them to another solid year and bowl game appearance.
Without further ado, here are the top Notre Dame stars to watch for in 2012.
Linebacker Manti Te’o returns for his senior season with the Fighting Irish and will undoubtedly be the heart and soul of Notre Dame’s defense in 2012.
Te'o has more than 260 tackles over the last two seasons and will be a coveted prospect in next spring's 2013 NFL draft.
At 6'2″, 255 pounds, Te'o boasts ideal size and strength for a linebacker, and he also offers the athleticism and quickness to make plays against both the run and pass.
Te'o has 23 tackles for a loss, six sacks and two forced fumbles dating back to his sophomore season in 2010. He'll be the Irish's top star to watch in 2012, without question.
Senior playmaker Theo Riddick will return to the Fighting Irish this season with a major hand in Notre Dame's offense. Riddick is a versatile star who can provide a lift at both running back and wide receiver.
The New Jersey native averaged 4.5 yards per carry on the ground in 2011 and caught 38 balls for 436 yards and three touchdowns.
Look for Riddick to play a significant number of snaps in the backfield, as senior Cierre Wood is Notre Dame’s only proven rusher coming into the 2012 season.
The senior tight end returns to South Bend in 2012 to help provide some stability to Notre Dame’s passing attack this season.
Eifert caught 63 passes for 803 yards and five touchdowns in 2011, and is one of the best, if not the best, pass-catchers on the Fighting Irish’s roster now that Michael Floyd has gone to the NFL.
The 6'6″, 250-pound offensive weapon led the team in yards per catch last season as well, averaging 12.7 yards per reception.
Eifert's big-play ability was put on display at Wake Forest when he reeled in a 38-yard touchdown catch against the Demon Deacons.
Be sure not to miss No. 80 on the field in 2012. Regardless of how the quarterback situation turns out in South Bend, Eifert is sure to be making must-see plays down the field.
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