Over at Inside the Irish, NBC partner Keith Arnold began rolling out his annual top 25 Irish players series this week, with eight panelists "voting" on the rankings. I had the pleasure of taking part in the list this year, of which Keith revealed Nos. 10-6 on Thursday.
Head over to Inside the Irish to see how the panel voted as we near the top five. My picks are below:
[Top Notre Dame Players: 15-11]
10: Dan Fox (ILB, graduate student)
Fox may not be the flashiest player in Notre Dame's defense, but he has good athleticism and made 63 tackles last year, the fourth-highest total on the team. For what it's worth, he's on the Butkus Award watch list for the nation's best linebacker, and returns with 22 starts at the will spot under his belt. He underwent shoulder surgery following the BCS Championship and should be ready to go when fall camp opens next month.
9: KeiVarae Russell (CB, sophomore)
When Lo Wood went down with a season-ending injury last August, the safe bet was on Notre Dame's cornerbacks being a weakness. Thanks to the emergence of Russell as a true freshman -- he didn't play cornerback in high school -- Notre Dame's cornerbacks held their own. While Russell struggled against some of the better receivers he squared up against last year (Marquise Lee, Amari Cooper), he has a high ceiling and should continue to grow as he gains experience at the position.
8: DaVaris Daniels (WR, junior)
Daniels came on strong toward the end of 2012, even though he missed a pair of games with a broken collarbone. He caught six passes for a season-high 115 yards in the BCS Championship against Alabama, flashing the kind of potential that ranked him this high on my list. With Tyler Eifert off to the NFL, Notre Dame needs to find a No. 1 target, and Daniels has the best shot of anyone to be that guy. It's worth noting, though, that Daniels and Everett Golson had excellent chemistry, something that will have to transfer over to Tommy Rees in the fall.
7: Chris Watt (LG, graduate student)
Watt and fellow graduate student/roommate Zack Martin comprise the left side of the Irish offensive line, one offensive coordinator Chuck Martin admitted he relied on at a "ridiculous" rate in 2012. He's an aggressive, powerful lineman who returns 26 starts to Harry Hiestand's unit, and expect more of the same in 2013: a heavy reliance on the left side of the Irish line.
6: Danny Spond (OLB, senior)
Spond did a lot of things in 2012 that didn't make the highlight reel, but were extremely important for Notre Dame's defensive success. Most notably, the "dog" linebacker often stayed on the field in nickel situations and performed well in them, paramount for a defense lacking cornerback depth last fall. Spond is adept at playing both the run and pass, and while he may not have as many responsibilities on his plate this fall than he did last year (Notre Dame has much better depth at outside linebacker and cornerback), he remains a key cog in Bob Diaco's defense.