SOUTH BEND, Ind. (21Alive) - Notre Dame has had all spring to work the bad taste of a bad loss in the BCS National Championship game out of the players' mouths.
But the Fighting Irish are expected to build off a year where they went undefeated in the regular season, and averaged just over 16-point margins of victory for their 11 wins.
"If we do it like we did last year, we're going to be an 8-5 team." head coach Brian Kelly says. "Everybody has taken their motivation off of what we did last year, and have worked harder."
Graduations, injuries and transfers have led Notre Dame (preseason AP No. 14/Coaches No. 11) to use more of their depth chart to develop a roster of talent while finding the right chemistry on both sides of the ball.
"We've done a lot of good things throughout camp," quarterback Tommy Rees says "We've got a lot of guys that can make plays for us. As long as we continue to strive to be great down there, I think we've got the pieces to do it."
Rees, a senior, returns to the starting role after the season-long academic suspension of Everett Golson. T.J. Jones becomes the top offensive target, but running backs George Atkinson III and Amir Carlisle are bonafide playmakers, too.
"We definitely take a more attack mindset this year on offense," Jones says. "We're more aggressive. Whether the ball's in the air, whether we're running the ball, blocking. We definitely take a more attack mindset this year on offense."
Despite the loss of Heisman Trophy runner-up Manti Te'o, the defense looks to reload behind a linebacker corps led by Carlo Calabrese. Bishop Luers graduate Jaylon Smith will be the first freshman linebacker to start a season opener for the Irish since 1995.
"We've definitely prepared a lot more, a lot harder than we have in the past years," cornerback Bennett Jackson says. "That comes with just having another year with the same coaches. Another year to continue to build off the mistakes you made."
Notre Dame hosts Temple in the home opener Saturday. All Irish home games can be seen on NBC33.
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