Preview 2017: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Preview 2017: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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Preview 2017: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Preview 2017: Notre Dame Fighting Irish


Previewing and looking ahead at the Notre Dame Fighting Irish season – and what you need to know.


Contact @PeteFiutak

2017 Notre Dame Preview: Irish Won’t Win National Title
2017 Notre Dame Schedule Breakdown & Analysis
– Notre Dame Previews: 2016 | 2015

What You Need To Know About The Notre Dame Offense

It would’ve been nice if new offensive coordinator Chip Long had a chance to work with DeShone Kizer and a high-octane attack to tweak. Instead, his job will be to ramp up an offense that was maddeningly inconsistent, averaging an underwhelming 418 yards and 31 points per game.

It takes a lot for Brian Kelly to change around his offensive style, but that’s what Long’s about to do – at least a little bit – as he takes over for new WKU head coach Mike Sanford.

It’s going to be a little of everything, but the goal is to crank up the tempo with lots and lots of plays to keep defenses on their heels. It’s not going to ignore the power-running game, and it’s not going to necessarily wing it around the yard. It’s going to simply be faster – if it works.

That puts all the pressure on QB Brandon Wimbush, a dangerous all-around playmaking prospect who appears to be perfect for what Long wants to do. With almost all of the top receivers returning for Wimbush to work with – and a true No. 1 in Equanimeous St. Brown – last year’s weakness going into the season should be a big-time solid with a little bit of time.

Josh Adams is the unquestioned top back, and now there’s hope for some of the dangerous options who rose up this spring to provide more than just a few decent options to work into the fold.

And then there’s the line.

OT Mike McGlinchey and OG Quenton Nelson should be in the NFL right now, but they’re back to a potentially special line if the right side gets settled in a hurry.

Biggest Key To The Notre Dame Offense

Use the left side of the line over and over and over again. There might be a new offensive coordinator, and Kelly will certainly have his hand in things – even if it’s up to Long to call the plays – but there’s no need to get too cute.

The Irish probably have the best left side in all of college football in McGlinchey and Nelson, and it’s okay to run behind them, keep running behind them, and let the ground game do all the work at times. The Irish ran for 200 yards or more four times last season after cranking out two-bills seven times in 2015. With Wimbush and Adams in the backfield, just let them roll.

What You Need To Know About The Notre Dame Defense

The run defense wasn’t strong enough, the secondary wasn’t clutch, and the pass rush was non-existent. It allowed 33 points or more six times, losing five of those games. And now it’s up to new defensive coordinator Mike Elko – coming over after doing a great job with the Wake Forest D over the last three years – to make this group nastier.

Having a top tackler like Nyles Morgan is a good place to start. There’s a deep group at linebacker with plenty of options for Elko to play around with, including creating a hybrid Rover position to do a little of everything.

With safety Drue Tranquill likely taking on that Rover gig, it’ll be a young but promising rotation in the middle of the secondary with plenty of talent and potentially good depth. With the expected rise of Julian Love at one corner spot, and several options for the other, the Irish should be okay.

The rise of DE Daelin Hayes this offseason gives a little hope to a line that has to move on without Jarron Jones inside and Isaac Rochelle at one end. There’s size across the front wall, and there’s a good-looking potential anchor in Jerry Tillery to work around, but the jobs aren’t 100% settled yet.

Biggest Key To The Notre Dame Defense

Pass rush, pass rush, pass rush. Outside of 2012 run to the BCS Championship, the pass rush in the Kelly era has been just okay, but usually underwhelming. Last year it was downright non-existent at times, coming up with a pathetic 14 sacks with eight in a two-game stretch against Stanford (loss) and Miami (win).

How did Elko’s Wake Forest defense do last year when it came to getting to the quarterback? 41 sacks.

Notre Dame Will Be Far Better If …

It wins the close games that are there for the taking. The Irish pulled off the tight win over Miami, but that was it when it came to coming up clutch. In games decided by seven points or fewer, Notre Dame went 1-6 – and that doesn’t include the eight-point loss to Michigan State.

There were chances to pull off wins in all six of those close losses – and against MSU, too – but the Irish simply didn’t have the type of team able to come up big when it had to. If they had just won three of those, 7-5 – with a bowl appearance – would’ve been a disappointing season, but not the 4-8 disaster it turned into.

Best Notre Dame Offensive Player

OT Mike McGlinchey, Sr. – In a lousy draft for top offensive linemen, McGlinchey almost certainly have been the top tackle taken this year if he had left early. As long as he stays in one piece, he’ll be a sure-thing first-rounder next year and, potentially, a top ten overall pick.

Combined with Quenton Nelson – potentially, another first round pick – the left side of the line should be dominant. The 6-8, 312-pound McGlinchey has the franchise left tackle size and power for a blocker with his height.

2. OG Quenton Nelson, Sr.
3. RB Josh Adams, Jr.
4. QB Brandon WImbush, Jr.
5. WR Equanimeous St. Brown, Jr.

Best Notre Dame Defensive Player

LB Myles Morgan, Sr. – No one’s saying he’s Jaylon Smith, but he’s looking more and more of the part of an All-America leader for a defense that has to be even more aggressive and come up with even more big plays.

The 6-1, 238-pounder started out hot with 47 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss as a freshman, but was more of a special teamer in his second year. Last season, he dominated, leading the team with 90tackles with four sacks, coming up with double-digit stops in five games including 13 against Texas.

2. S/LB Drue Tranquill, Sr.
3. CB Julian Love, Soph.
4. LB Te’von Coney, Jr.
5. DE Daelin Hayes Soph.

Key Player To A Successful Season

QB Brandon Wimbush, Jr. – DeShone Kizer was really, really good. For all the criticism and all the issues, he still threw for almost 3,000 yards with 26 touchdowns and nine picks, while running for 472 yards and eight scores.

But Wimbush might turn out to be a more interesting fit. At least that’s the hope.

The 6-1, 226-pounder is built more like a running back, but he has a next-level deep arm to go along with warp-wheel quickness in the open field. A true dual-threat playmaker, with what’s coming in the faster-tempo offense, he should be fantastic.

The big key, though, could be his durability. He has to stay in one piece with the experienced depth behind him lacking.

The Notre Dame Season Will Be A Success If …

It wins nine games. There’s not enough in the bag to make a push for the College Football Playoff, but it should be a better, stronger, more consistent team – at least that’s the hopes.

With Georgia, at Michigan State, at North Carolina, USC, NC State, at Miami and at Stanford all brutal battles, and with 11 games against teams that went bowling – MSU is the one that didn’t – it’s not going to be easy. But it’s Notre Dame, and Kelly is in need of a big year. It’s Notre Dame – winning eight games isn’t a big year.

Key Game To The Notre Dame Season

Sept. 9 vs. Georgia – The Fighting Irish really, really, really need a hot start. The overtime loss at Texas last season seemed to kill the team’s mojo. This season, after starting out against Temple, beating Georgia would do wonders for a program that desperately needs its confidence back.

With three games on the road in the next four after hosting the Dawgs – and with USC to follow – a loss could be devastating.

2016 Notre Dame Fun Stats

– 1st Quarter Scoring: Notre Dame 123 – Opponents 54
– Sacks: Opponents 28 for 163 yards – Notre Dame 14 for 88 yards
– Punt Return Average: Opponents 15 yards – Notre Dame 9.1 yards

2017 Notre Dame Preview: Irish Won’t Win National Title
2017 Notre Dame Schedule Breakdown & Analysis
– Notre Dame Previews: 2016 | 2015

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