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Counting Down the Irish: Ranking Notre Dame’s 2016 roster

Notre Dame v Virginia

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - SEPTEMBER 12: Chase Hounshell #18 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and teammates celebrate after defeating the Virginia Cavaliers at Scott Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish won, 34-27. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

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With training camp set to start later this week, it’s time for us to unveil our annual preseason roster rankings. And unlike last season, there’s no shortage of opinions when it comes to Brian Kelly’s seventh roster.

With a young, talented, and inexperienced roster, our panelists had a variety of opinions on how this roster breaks down. That’s to be expected, when the Irish need to replace a starting trio of wide receivers, their best NFL Draft class in over a decade, five captains, the top five players from our list last year and seven of the top ten.

Thirty-seven different players received a vote in your rankings, up from the 33 who found their way onto last year’s list. And while we’ve spent a lot of time talking about the instant impact many freshman could have on this team, it’s interesting to note that no true freshman made our list.

While just about every Irish fan could agree on last year’s 1-2-3 of Jaylon Smith, Ronnie Stanley and Will Fuller, only one of our 12 panelist came up with the exact top three our rankings system produced. And Notre Dame’s starting quarterback? There seemed to be a consensus (both guys rated quite well), but it wasn’t unanimous.

For those looking to turn back the clock, here’s a look at each season under Brian Kelly and the Top Five players from each group (click the season for the entire list):

5. Sheldon Day, DL
4. KeiVarae Russell, CB
3. Will Fuller, WR
2. Ronnie Stanley, LT
1. Jaylon Smith, LB

5. Tarean Folston, RB
4. Everett Golson, QB
3. Sheldon Day, DT
2. KeiVarae Russell, CB
1. Jaylon Smith, LB

5. Prince Shembo, LB
4. Bennett Jackson, CB
3. Zack Martin, LT
2. Stephon Tuitt, DE
1. Louis Nix, DT

5. Stephon Tuitt, DE
4. Zack Martin, LT
3. Cierre Wood, RB
2. Tyler Eifert, TE
1. Manti Te’o, LB

5. Gary Gray, CB
4. Zack Martin, LT
3. Harrison Smith, S
2. Manti Te’o, LB
1. Michael Floyd, WR

5. Trevor Robinson, OT
4. Chris Stewart, OG
3. Manti Te’o, LB
2. Kyle Rudolph, TE
1. Michael Floyd, WR

As usual, this list couldn’t be possible without the help of many people. We surveyed a cross-section of Notre Dame experts, hitting up many of the outlets you turn to on a daily basis to cover your favorite football team.

Hope you enjoy.

Our 2016 Irish Top 25 panel:
Keith Arnold, Inside the Irish
Bryan Driskell, Blue & Gold
Matt Freeman, Irish Sports Daily
Nick Ironside, Irish 247
Tyler James, South Bend Tribune
Eric Murtaugh, 18 Stripes
Pete Sampson, Irish Illustrated
Jude Seymour, Her Loyal Sons
JJ Stankevitz, CSN Chicago
John Vannie, NDNation
Joshua Vowles, One Foot Down
John Walters, Newsweek