Notre Dame Fighting Irish Preview 2022: Season Prediction, Breakdown, Key Games, Players

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame Fighting Irish Preview 2022: Season Prediction, Breakdown, Key Games, Players

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Notre Dame Fighting Irish Preview 2022: Season Prediction, Breakdown, Key Games, Players


Notre Dame Fighting Irish Preview 2022: Offense

Tommy Rees is still around as the John and Bobbie Ariotta Family Offensive Coordinator, but the attack will change around a wee bit. Last year’s offense was okay, but the pass protection wasn’t great, there wasn’t any running from QB Jack Coan, and outside of the 551 yards put up in the ill-fated Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma State, the attack didn’t work in the two games against great defenses – Wisconsin and Cincinnati.

But considering Coan is done and the other top skill guys are gone, this is hardly a bad situation. The line should be better, and the other parts should fill in starting with …

Tyler Buchner. He’s not Coan throwing the ball, but Coan wasn’t Buchner running it. It’ll be a bit more like the Ian Book era of playmaking from the position, only Buchner has the upside to be a bit more explosive and dangerous. He’s the starter, and Drew Pyne is a solid backup.

Leading yardage receiver Kevin Austin is done, but the main man is back for one more year before being someone’s big first round get. Michael Mayer caught 71 passes for 840 yards and seven scores, and while he might not have quite the same big stats with slightly less emphasis on the passing game, he should be the best tight end in the country.

Almost all the other key receivers from last year return with sophomore Lorenzo Styles the likely breakthrough wideout of the bunch.

The running game was fine, but it needs to be a lot more effective. The offensive line powered away for around five yards per carry in 2019 and 2020, and last year it was held to 4.1 yards per pop. It doesn’t have to crank up over 200 yards per game like the 2020 version did, but it was the worst season for the ground game since 2010. That’s about to change.

The offensive line was supposed to go through a rough reboot. The plus side was that the line was loaded with a ton of talent. The negative was that it was all young, but the star power is going to be there starting with veteran Jarrett Patterson at center – assuming he’s healthy after an offseason injury – and last year’s super-recruit Blake Fisher at one tackle.

Leading rusher Kyren Williams is gone, but Buchner was the second leading rusher even in his limited work, and junior Chris Tyree should be ready for a monster season as the lead back.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish Preview 2022: Defense

Head coach Marcus Freeman knows defense, and new defensive coordinator Al Golden definitely knows D – especially linebackers – coming in after working with the Cincinnati Bengals for the last few years.

Last year’s defense wasn’t the killer of relatively recent seasons, but overall it was terrific. There were meltdowns – giving up over 600 yards to Oklahoma State in the bowl loss was rough – but it all kicked in over the final month of the regular season when the D was playing as well as any in the country.

The secondary will be terrific with NFL-caliber parts. Cam Hart and Clarence Lewis are good-tackling corners, there’s room to play round with the veteran safeties, and coming in from Northwestern to ease the loss of Kyle Hamilton is Brandon Joseph – if he’s not the best safety in college football, he’s close.

Top pass rusher Isaiah Foskey is back, there’s good pressure from from the Ademilolas – Jayson on the inside and Justin on the end – and there should be a decent rotation at all four spots. This isn’t a massive bunch – it would be nice to have a giant brick wall on the nose – but they can all move.

The linebackers should be the stars considering the coaching talent in place. JD Bertrand led the team with 101 tackles – he’ll likely work in the middle – and Jack Kiser is a good all-around hybrid type who came up with two pick sixes along with 45 stops.

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