Monday, August 30, 2010
Independents 2010-Notre Dame Fighting Irish
2009 Record: 6-6
Head Coach: Brian Kelly (1st season, 0-0...171-57-2 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Charles Molnar (1st season)
Defensive Coordinator: Bob Diaco (1st season)
2009 Bowl Game: None
Offense: The changes are going to be huge under Kelly, as the passing game will become a major focus of everything that the Irish will do. Dayne Crist is recovering from a torn ACL, and he will be expected to grasp the offense quickly. He seems to be healthy and ready to run the show. Michael Floyd is the lone returnee at WR, so the others in this group will have to work harder than normal to get themselves acclamated to the pace the Kelly will expect in games and practice. TE Kyle Randolph will be a weapon, as Kelly loves to use the TE in the passing game. The line is questionable, as both guards return, but the center and both tackles must be replaced. Armando Allen is listed as the starting Rb, but Kelly will call on as many as 4 backs to carry the load.
Defense: There is a ton of experience up front for the Irish. Ethan Johnson and Brian Smith will return at the DE spots, with DTs Ian Williams and Kapron Lewis-Moore will all be back on the line. LB MantinTe'o will be the leader of the defense this season. He really came on fast as a freshman last season, and he has the skills to back up his mystique. Darius Fleming is the other returnee at LB. Junior Anthony McDonald is expected to be the new starter at LB in the 3-4 set.
Darrin Walls and Robert Blanton return to man the corners, while Harrison Smith is back at S. The defense was a mess last season, so it will be imperative to fix the issues that plagued the Irish last season.
Special Teams: Nick Tausch was solid as a freshman PK, nailing 14 of 17 FGs. Ben Turk was below average last season as punter, but will be back.
Wins: 9/4 Purdue, 9/11 Michigan, 9/18 @ Michigan State, 10/16 Western Michigan, 10/30 Tulsa, 11/20 Army (@ New York)
Toss Up Games: 9/25 Stanford, 10/2 @ Boston College, 10/9 Pittsburgh, 10/23 Navy (@ East Rutherford), 11/13 Utah
Losses: 11/27 @ USC
The schedule is rather weak in many ways. I don't ever remember a time when Notre Dame would "stoop down" to play the likes of Western Michigan and Tulsa. The rest of the schedule is rather traditional, with even Utah not being too far out of the box. I guarantee 6 wins, with several possibilities to pick up more from the toss box.
Outlook: The hiring of Kelly was a no brainer. He brings instant credibility to a program that has lost much of theirs over the last 20 years. If his offense takes hold with the existing roster, than the Irish are flying high right away. I think that it will take a little bit of time, with next season being more of a high level of expectation, rather than this season. The Irish get back to a bowl, and probably a pretty good one.