Notre Dame 2012 Top 25 countdown: No. 15

What do you know? Another defensive newcomer who out-performed preseason expectations …

No. 15: Bennett Jackson, CB

Making the case: One of three first-year starters in Notre Dame's secondary, Jackson finished third on the team in tackles, with 65. He was second on the team with four interceptions, added 1.5 tackles for loss, had four pass break-ups, eight passes defended and one fumble recovery. And, as we found out after the season, he did all of this with a shoulder that required surgery and will limit him in spring practice. An Irish secondary that many believed would be a vulnerability ended up finishing 2012 as the No. 16 pass efficiency defense in the nation, and No. 25 overall in pass defense. Jackson was a big part of that, having to grow up fast and help bring along other newcomers like KeiVarae Russell and Matthias Farley, all three of whom began their Notre Dame careers on the offensive side of the ball.

Preseason ranking: 21

The countdown

No. 16 Tommy Rees, QB

No. 17 DaVaris Daniels, WR

No. 18 Chris Watt, LG

No. 19 George Atkinson III, RB

No. 20 Dan Fox, LB

No. 21 Matthias Farley, S

No. 22 KeiVarae Russell, CB

No. 23 Robby Toma, WR

No. 24 Kyle Brindza, K

No. 25 Chris Brown, WR