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Notre Dame Football: Top Impact Freshmen for 2012


While National Signing Day 2012 seems like ages ago, thousands of freshmen (and redshirt freshmen) will take their first steps onto the hallowed grounds of stadiums all over the nation this weekend. Most won't even dress for the varsity squad this season and some may never play a snap at their current home. But a select few uber-recruits will have the chance to make an immediate impact on the college football landscape. And Notre Dame is bringing in a second consecutive class of elite prospects. 

Related: Top 25 Impact Freshmen To Watch In 2012

Who are the new names and faces to watch for Notre Dame?

Chris Brown, WR
Michael Floyd cannot be replaced by one player so the 6-foot-2, 175-pounder from South Carolina will join forces with a handful of other talented young pass-catchers in an effort to fill the void. Brown has speed to burn and will be given a chance to push the veterans for playing time. 

Sheldon Day, DL
An early enrollee, the massive defensive lineman from Indianapolis (Ind.) Warren Central has already proven he belongs on the field. And in a defensive front that is stacked with young talent, it's even more impressive the impact the 6-foot-2, 290-pound freshman has made up front. He should be a household name in short order for Irish fans.

Everett Golson, QB
The most important new face in the Irish starting lineup will be this heralded redshirt freshman. From Myrtle Beach, S.C., Golson will make his debut in an Irish uniform in the season opener against Navy. In Dublin, Ireland no less. Brian Kelly picked the 6-foot, 185-pounder for a reason: He has loads of upside, the ability to make plays with his legs, plenty of space for upward growth and the personality to lead by example. He will make his fair share of mistakes, but Golson is the future of Notre Dame football. Or, at least, until Gunner Kiel is ready.

Romeo Okwara, LB
Ben Councell is the starter at outside linebacker, but Okwara is listed as his backup heading into the Navy game. The 6-foot-4, 240-pounder from Charlotte, N.C., has turned heads in camp and looks like he will see plenty of time against a schedule loaded with solid offensive lines and talented quarterbacks.

Davonte Neal, AP
The tiny speedster from Arizona is already the starting punt returner for Kelly's bunch. He should also be able to contribute on offense in a variety of ways, be it in the slot, the backfield or in open space with the football in his hands. Look for Neal and Brown to get plenty of touches this fall. Neal checks in at 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds.

KeiVarae Russell, CB
Formerly a running back, Russell was shifted to the defensive backfield when Lo Woods ruptured his left Achilles tendon this fall. The 6-foot, 180-pound cornerback won't just contribute on defense, as he is currently the starting cornerback. He will have an interesting mix of offensive schemes to deal with in his first month of college: Navy, Purdue, Michigan State and Denard Robinson.

Ronnie Stanley, OL
As it stands today, the big blocker from Las Vegas is the primary backup to star left tackle Zack Martin. He is listed at 6-foot-6 and 285 pounds and is the only freshman listed in the top 11 offensive linemen. He couldn't be in a better position to learn the nuances of the left tackle spot and should deliver three years of production at the No. 2 most important position on the team.

- by Braden gall

Follow @bradengall

Top Impact Freshman to Watch By Conference 2012:

Top 25 Impact Freshmen To Watch In 2012

ACC's Top Impact Freshmen to Watch in 2012
Big 12's Top Impact Freshmen to Watch in 2012

Big East's Top Impact Freshmen to Watch in 2012

Big Ten's Top Impact Freshmen to Watch in 2012

Pac-12's Top Impact Freshmen to Watch in 2012

SEC's Top Impact Freshmen to Watch in 2012