Spotlight: Justin Brown
Also Returning: Pat Kuntz, Paddy Mullen, Ian Williams
Lost: Neil Kennedy, Trevor Laws, Dwight Stephenson, Jr. (graduation), Kallen Wade (position change), Derrell Hand (injuries)
Gained: Morrice Richardson, John Ryan (position change), Dorian Inzunza, Martin Quintana (walk-ons), Andrew Nuss, Emeka Nwankwo (DNP as freshmen), Sean Cwynar, Ethan Johnson, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Brandon Newman, Hafis Williams (freshmen)
Really, the spotlight is on whomever starts alongside Pat Kuntz and Ian Williams. Right now, that's career backup Justin Brown, an unheralded player who looks to break out in 2008. Kuntz and Williams are the known quantities. Kuntz started last year as a Derek Landri-type nose tackle; this year he'll make a Trevor Laws-like move to defensive end in an attempt to make more plays (and hopefully establish a name for himself so writers don't continue to compare him to Landri and Laws). Williams burst onto the scene when Kuntz was injured last year, and played well enough to earn Freshman All-America honors.
John Ryan and Mo Richardson move back to defensive end after spending a year (or in Richardson's case, years) in outside linebacker/tweener purgatory. Athletically, both are more suited to be down lineman, even if they aren't nearly beefy enough to do so in the ideal 3-4. (Ryan was listed at 260 lbs in the spring, Richardson a few pounds lighter.) That's where the young reinforcements come in. Andrew Nuss, Emeka Nwanwko, and Sean Cwynar are all over 290 lbs, but are listed as defensive ends, not tackles, on the depth chart. That's a sign that Notre Dame is committed to the 3-4 defense and is recruiting the type of people who can play in it.