2. Zack Martin and Louis Nix Returning
Notre Dame’s run to last night’s BCS Championship was made possible by the returns of both Manti Te’o and Tyler Eifert for their senior seasons this year and the returns of both Zack Martin and Louis Nix for next year could do the same for the 2013 Fighting Irish. If there is one thing that we all learned last night it was that championship football temas are built in the trenches. Alabama controlled both lines of scrimmage and had a clear edge with both of their lines. Notre Dame has done a great job in rebuilding both lines, but clearly there is a lot of work left to be done.
Louis Nix took a big step forward this year and became the disruptive force we all imagined he would be when he signed on to play at Notre Dame and with another off-season he has the ability to be one of the elite defensive linemen in the country. Nix received some All American mention this year and should be on almost everyone’s pre-season All-American lists heading into 2013 as well. His return will also help soften the blow of losing Te’o because his ability to occupy blockers makes the lives of Notre Dame’s inside backers a whole lot easier.
Martin, meanwhile, will anchor the Notre Dame offensive line for a fourth straight year and be called upon to be one of the offensive leaders again next season as a returning captain. Notre Dame’s offensive line made some strides this year, but last night proved that there is still a lot of work for Harry Hiestand with his unit. He and the Irish will have to replace two starters – Mike Golic Jr and Braxston Cave already. If Martin had left for the NFL, his job would have been a heck of a lot harder. Martin is an elite left tackle and if Notre Dame had 5 Zack Martin’s across the line of scrimmage, last night’s result wouldn’t have been as grim for the Irish.