Saturday, July 22, 2017

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Nobody accepts 4-8 seasons at Notre Dame, and because that is where this team ended up last fall, Brian Kelly is squarely in the firing line if the ship does not turn completely around in 2017. The Irish are turning up the tempo on offense under OC Chip Long, and Mike Eiko's defense will be under heavy scrutiny. Do the Irish have enough gas in the tank under this staff to make the complete turnaround and return to the lofty heights that are expected every season?

What To Be Excited About: Offense
Josh Adams returns to the tea as he led them in rushing last season as a sophomore. If Notre Dame wants to win and win now, a switch to a more balanced approach with Brown getting 18-20 carries per game would probably be more the way to do it. He rushed for 933 yards and five scores while averaging 5.91 yards per carry last fall.

The receiving group should be one of the best that Kelly has had at Notre Dame. Equanimeous St. Brown is the leader of the group, as he caught 58 passes last fall, or 20 more than anyone else. He went for 957 yards and nine scores, while averaging 16.57 yards per grab. He has the size and strength to match up well on the outside. Myles Boykin and Chase Underpool are projected as starters as well, but CJ Sanders and Kevin Stepherson will challenge for time as well. Look for Alize Mack to have a breakout season at TE after returning from an eligibility issue last fall with academics.

The line is loaded with talent, as four starters return in LT Mike McGlinchey, LG Quentin Nelson, C Sam Mustipher, and RG Alex Bars. McGlinchey and Nelson are All-America candidates.

Justin Yoon returns at PK, and hit 13/17 FG attempts last season.

What To Be Concerned About: Offense
All reports are good on Brandon Wimbush at QB, but the junior is all hype right now. He had a solid spring, but all eyes will be on the undersized QB with the golden arm as we head into the opener. If he can deliver on his promise, the season should go well, if not, the Irish are in trouble. We've seen this hype before, and sometimes it does not pay off. Here's hoping that it does.

What To Be Excited About: Defense
Jerry Tillery returns to lead a talented front line. The DT finished with a solid 37 tackles last fall, but will be joined by three new starters. Daelin Hayes and Jay Hayes will start at DE, while Jonathon Bonner lines up next to Tillery at DT. There is depth behind them as well, for a change, so the Irish could load as many as eight linemen into the rotation this fall.

LB is solid as well, as Drue Tranquill and Nyles Morgan both return. Greer Martini was a solid rotational backer who finished last season with 7.5 TFLs, and will return as well. Morgan led the team with 90 tackles last fall, while Tranquill was good for 79. Martini finished with 55 tackles. Depth looks to be decent.

The CB position is stocked well coming into fall camp. Julian Love will return to start, but will need to show major improvements if he is to help out with the rest of the secondary, which is in fluid motion as far as potential starters are concerned.

Tyler Newsome is back at Punter, and has one of the better legs in college football. He averaged 43.36 yards per punt last season, and punted just shy of five times per game.

What To Be Concerned About: Defense
While there are plenty of bodies to rotate on the line, experience is limited, and potential is what is high. Notre Dame gets athletes, but they have to come together as a unit now to prevent themselves from allowing over 182 yards rushing per game again.

The secondary is a mess outside of Love. The CB position is loaded with talented young players, but they are, as I said, young. The Safety spots are up for grabs, and nobody quite knows right now who will line up opposite Love at CB. This is a situation that bears watching when the Irish head into camp in a couple weeks.

2017 Schedule
9/2 Temple, 9/9 Georgia, 9/16 at Boston College, 9/23 at Michigan State, 9/30 Miami (Ohio), 10/7 at North Carolina, 10/21 USC, 10/28 NC State, 11/4 Wake Forest, 11/11 at Miami, 11/18 Navy, 11/25 at Stanford

Final Overview
There are pieces in place to ensure that Notre Dame does not repeat a season in which they win just four games and do not go bowling. That is basically the apocalypse as it pertains to football in South Bend. It was as ugly as it could be last season, and a repeat would surely mean that Kelly does not last the season as coach. He flirted with some other jobs last off-season, and that did not go over well with the administration or fan base. All eyes are on him this fall, and if the changes and tinkering do not work, this is going to get bad.

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