2017 Notre Dame Football Season Preview and Predictions

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brandon wimbush

Former Chicago Bears Head Coach Dave Wannstedt knows Notre Dame football pretty well having coached against them several times while leading Pittsburgh, his alma mater. He was surprised to see the Fighting Irish take such a step back last season, especially on one side of the ball.

“The defense falling off the way they did was a bit of a mystery to me,” Wannstedt said during our exclusive conversation.

“It really did surprise me that they could fall that much at Notre Dame, with the talent that they’re recruiting. That being said Brian Kelly has hired some really good coaches, and it’s all going to come down to those five star recruits that you get at Notre Dame.”

dave-wannstedt

“If they bounce back this year, like I think they will, then they’ll going to say he did a great job evaluating talent. If they struggle again, it’s only going to be for one reason, those five star recruits were hyped up and way overrated. It’s pretty simple for me at Notre Dame.”

Offense:

QB-

When you had the whole quarterback controversy going on between DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire a year ago at this time, many believed that the most talented guy on the roster was actually Brandon Wimbush, who is the unquestioned QB1 today. Wimbush lacks in experience, but man does he have potential. He’s a talented dual threat who will have the luxury of not having to look over his shoulder, should he make a serious transgression.

Zaire is on the Florida Gators right now while Kizer is with the Cleveland Browns. Go here for more on Wimbush and all that he brings to the table. He’s actually drawn some comparisons to Tony Rice, the Irish’s last QB1 to win a national title. Athlon ranked every likely starting QB in the nation and they slotted Brandon Wimbush 31st out of 130. Here’s a link to a whole lot more on Wimbush

brandon wimbush

OL/TE-

Unquestioned strength of the Notre Dame football team, especially the left side with tackle Mike McGlinchey and Guard Quenton Nelson. McGlinchey could have been a first round NFL Draft pick last year, but stuck around another year. He might end up being a top pick when all is said and done this April. The situation is a little bit reminiscent of Ronnie Stanley in 2016.

The tight ends are deep and talented; per usual in the Notre Dame football program. We’ve seen South Bend produce 

brian kelly

While no one is expecting the Fighting Irish to be anywhere near as successful as the 2012 and 2015 variety, they do have a similar S.W.O.T. analysis. The strength is the talented and experienced OL, while the opportunities reside with an inexperienced signal caller. Defensively though, this side is definitely not the ’12 or ’15 Notre Dame football team.

RB-

Josh Adams has an eye-catching 6.4 yards per rush during his first two seasons. Given his pace, and the fact that he enters this season with 1,768 career rushing yards, he has an outside shot of breaking the Notre Dame football rushing record. That’s provided he stays healthy and sees an increased role in the offense.

The current record holder? Current running backs coach Autry Denson.

WR-

Equanimeous St. Brown was only 39 yards shy of a 1,000 yard receiving season last year, and just touchdown grab short of double figures. Look for him to surpass those benchmarks with ease this fall, as he’ll be one of the offense’s main focal points. Equanimity is something the Notre Dame football fan will need this fall, especially if Coach Kelly gets a bit too pass happy with his play-calling, despite his team being built to succeed as a run-first attack. 

His schemes are more pass oriented, but this unit’s strengths lie in a ground attack. Beyond Brown, Kevin Stepherson can truly ball out, while the versatile and speedy C.J. Sanders could contribute; along with Chase Claypool.

Go here for our list of four Notre Dame football players to watch on offense.

Defense:

DL-

New coordinator Mike Elko has a reputation as a true guru, and it will be interesting to see what he does with this group. The d-line will be led by Jerry Tillery, Jay Hayes, Andrew Trumbetti and Daelin Hayes. Daniel Cage will miss the season due to a medical redshirt, and there is legitimate concern that his career could be over.

Go here for our list of four Notre Dame football players to watch on defense.

nyles-morgan

LB-

It was hoped that last year would be the season that Nyles Morgan established himself, and we even predicted as such. Although he was certainly a bright spot in a down season, the whole defensive unit struggled. With a new and better coordinator guiding him, and Morgan himself now lighter, faster and happier, it is indeed his time to take over.

He’s assumed a leadership role on defense, and perhaps 2017 will be the year that he truly kicks it up a notch. Drue Tranquill moves over from safety and that switch could influence the fortunes of two position groups. Greer Martini, experienced and savvy, rounds out the unit.

nyles-morgan

DB-

Cornerback Shaun Crawford is a guy who came to ND with astronomical expectations, but injury has kept him from having the opportunity to realize it. Kelly said he’s “fully cleared, doing everything. Coming off an achilles, we’ll be smart. We’ll rely on Shaun, who is extremely locked in on how he feels, and a little bit of science and GPS and probably put some restraints on him, but he’s doing great in everything.”

Kelly also expects big things from Julian Love, one of 15 returning players with starting experience. He’s a physical run defender who is also very talented against the pass. The secondary could be the strength of the ND defense.

What the so-called experts say:

It’s been a little while since we’ve such little buzz and hullabaloo for a Notre Dame football team as the season draws near. They are not ranked in either of the preseason polls. If you flash back to the tail end of the Charlie Weis era, it’s around that level. The Fighting Irish just aren’t moving the needle right now. Most prognosticators and pundits have them in the high 20s to mid 30s kind of range. Go here for more on that.

notre-dame-football

Final Analysis, Prospectus

Bouncing back to 6-6 seems like the floor. Reaching up to 8-4 would appear to the ceiling. Thus 7-5 would also surprise no one.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now and Minute Media. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and Chicago Now.

Follow him on TwitterInstagramSound Cloud, LinkedIn and YouTube

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