Spring Practice Primer: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

    Alabama and Virginia Tech will play for the    
More of the load will fall on Everett Golson's shoulders this season. (USATSI)

College football never ends. And during the next few weeks, teams will be getting ready for the 2013 season in their spring practice sessions. Here's a look at the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and what they'll be working on this spring.

Spring practice begins: March 20

Spring game: April 20

2012 record: 12-1

Returning starters: 14 (six offense, eight defense)

The Least You Should Know About Notre Dame This Spring

-- Manti Te'o is gone. It's hard to know how important Manti Te'o truly was to Notre Dame's defense in the last few years, but we'll get a good indicator this season now that Te'o has left South Bend. The good news for Notre Dame is that Te'o is the only linebacker to leave. Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese, the two most likely candidates to replace Te'o, have plenty of experience on the field. The other benefit for the Irish defense is that eight starters do return, with one player missing from the defensive line and secondary as well. So while guys like Te'o, Kapron Lewis-Moore and Zeke Motta are significant losses, it's not as if an entire area of the defense needs to be overhauled.

-- The running back competition should be interesting. Both Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick have moved on and taken 2,063 total yards and 11 touchdowns with them. However, the Irish do have other backs who saw their share of carries the last few seasons in George Atkinson and Cam McDaniel, but even they have plenty of competition. Amir Carlisle transferred from USC last season before having to sit out the season with a broken ankle, and there's also redshirt freshman William Mahone, who is a big back with a perfect name to play for Notre Dame. 

-- Receiver spots are open, too. The Fighting Irish have only one starting wide receiver or tight end returning from last season, and that's T.J. Jones . Gone are Tyler Eifert, Robby Toma and John Goodman. While DaVaris Daniels should have no problem stepping right in to take over as the second receiver, replacing the production of Eifert will not be as easy. Converted linebacker Troy Niklas, Ben Koyack and Alex Welch will all look to replace one of the most productive tight ends in school history.

-- The improvement of Everett Golson. While nothing is set in stone, the transfer of quarterback Gunner Kiel is a good indicator that the quarterback position belongs to Golson for the foreseeable future and deservedly so. Golson started all 13 games for the Irish last season as a redshirt freshman. And even while Alabama was pounding Notre Dame in the title game, Golson was one of the few Golden Domers to play well. The key this season will be how much Golson can improve without the security blanket of Eifert and other key skill position players from last season.

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CBS Sports Writer

Tom Fornelli has been a college football writer at CBS Sports since 2010. During his time at CBS, Tom has proven time and again that he hates your favorite team and thinks your rival is a paragon of football... Full Bio

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