Preview 2019: Previewing and looking ahead to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish season with what you need to know.
2018 Record: 12-1 overall
Head Coach: Brian Kelly, 10th year, 81-35
5. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE NOTRE DAME OFFENSE
– The offense exploded like it was supposed to under offensive coordinator Chip Long, but it took a while to get there. Everything picked up and rocked once RB Dexter Williams was off an early suspension and QB Ian Book took over the starting gig full-time. Book kept the attack moving, Williams hit the home runs, and for the second year in a row and fourth time in five years, the Irish scored over 400 points. But …
– Dexter Williams is done. So who’s next to take over and be the next Williams or Josh Adams in the Long offense? 6-1, 220-pound junior Jafar Armstrong will get the first look after finishing third on the team with 383 yards and seven scores, but the 227-pound Tony Jones can produce, too, finishing second on the team with 392 yards. A former wide receiver, Armstrong can bring the burst, but Jones is more of a pounder.
– With Brandon Wimbush transferring to UCF, it’s all Ian Book now … sort of. He’s the unquestioned starting quarterback after completing 68% of his throws for 2,628 yards and 19 scores with seven picks.
Book can come through with his legs as well as his arm, but 6-5, 225-pound sophomore Phil Jurkovec has the next-level tools and talent to push the ball down the field a bit more. Brian Kelly isn’t afraid to change quarterbacks, but Book would have to collapse to lose his job. Even so, Jurkovec will see a little time.
– Two of the top four receivers are gone, but the cupboard is hardly bare. 6-4 senior Chase Claypool has No. 1 target ability after finishing second on the team behind Miles Boykin with 50 grabs for 639 yards and four scores. He’ll work on the outside, and 5-10 senior Chris Finke is back on the inside after making 49 grabs for 571 yards.
There’s good overall size and a few good young options to work into the receiving rotation, but losing TE Alize Mack hurts. 6-6, 255-pound junior Cole Kmet is a talent – coming up with 15 grabs behind Mack – and junior Brock Wright is another big target.
– The recruiting class went heavy on big-time talent for the offensive line, but the front five is more than good enough for the moment with four starters back. 6-6, 319-pound senior Tommy Kraemer is a next-level guard who’ll work on the right side, and 6-6, 305-pound left tackle Liam Eichenberg will play on Sundays when he’s done in South Bend.
325-pound junior Aaron Banks is back at left guard, and 6-5, 298-pound Robert Hainsey returns at right tackle, but San Mustipher is done at center. It’ll be a battle for backup jobs and the spot in the middle when the freshman class gets a full fall camp, but sophomore tackle Jarrett Patterson has the inside track.