Notre Dame 2012 Top 25 countdown: No. 9

Today brings us to the first of three senior defenders from this past season, and the best player from Notre Dame's secondary.

No. 9: Zeke Motta, S

Making the case: Motta did not have much of a choice but to take on more of a leadership role in 2012. After all, the secondary eventually started three newcomers, and he was the only player in the group to have started his college career as a defensive back. But the senior rose to the occasion, emerging as a vocal presence for a group that outperformed any and all expectations. He finished second on the team in tackles, with 77. He added two tackles for loss, three pass break-ups, three passes defended and recovered a fumble. Motta did not miss a game during his college career, playing in all 51 contests and starting in 29.

Preseason ranking: 17

The countdown

No. 10 Prince Shembo, LB

No. 11 Danny Spond, LB

No. 12 T.J. Jones, WR

No. 13 Everett Golson, QB

No. 14 Cierre Wood, RB

No. 15 Bennett Jackson, CB

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