ESPN names ND's top five players

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Brian Bennett of ESPN.com had a nice rundown of the Notre Dame’s top five players, in addition to the Blue Ribbon Preview of the Irish that’s running between pop-up advertisements for “The Decision,” starring LeBron James.

Their analysis of the Irish for next season:

Notre Dame’s golden dome has lost some of its shine over the last
decade, but the Fighting Irish still have some of the best talent in the
FBS. The question is whether that talent will mesh with first-year
coach Brian Kelly’s new systems.

The biggest adjustment will be on offense, where Notre Dame will run the
spread under first-year starting quarterback Dayne Crist. If Crist
grasps the spread, the offense will be successful.

Defensively, the Fighting Irish are better suited to run Kelly’s 3-4.
Most of Notre Dame’s tougher games are in September and October. If this
team can make it to November disaster-free, it should have no trouble
winning eight games. The BCS, however, might be a year or two away.

Certainly nothing mind-blowing, but they’ve got a decent enough breakdown of the offense, defense and special teams if you’re looking for a cliff notes version of the Irish.

As for Bennett’s breakdown of the top five players, I found this a bit more interesting.

Here’s his list, and I’ll recap his rationale:

No. 5: Dayne Crist — No way to prove Crist will do it, but QBs thrive in BK’s system.
No. 4: Darius Fleming — Upside pick, the 3-4 should help turn Fleming into a sack artist.
No. 3: Kyle Rudolph — Should be regarding as nation’s best receiving tight end.
No. 2: Manti Te’o — Even while lost, he was one of top playmakers. All the tools to be a star.
No. 1: Michael Floyd — Injuries the only Kryptonite for MMF. If healthy, one of best in NCAA.

It’s always a little sports-talk radio when doing lists like this, but I actually love this topic, and would like to see this extended into the Top 25 Irish players on the roster.

(Consider this my new summer project…)

If I had to nitpick Bennett’s list, I’d flip-flop Rudolph with Te’o, and possibly even put Rudolph to the top of the list with Floyd coming in at number two. After talking with some people on staff, it’s pretty clear that they think Rudolph is an absolute specimen, and has the toughest decision on the roster for leaving early next year, more so than Floyd.

Also, while I’m bullish on Fleming this year, and think Bennett’s rationale for increased sacks is absolutely spot-on, I’d like to see Chris Stewart at the top of this list, most likely ahead of Crist, who’s only completed 10 of the 20 throws he’s made in his first season of action. Dayne is certainly the key to the season and has the potential to be the best football player on the roster, but putting him among the top five without having started a game is a little premature.