#12 Notre Dame Football Season Preview, Predictions, Prospectus

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Last season, Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly showed that he can handle the hot seat just fine. Kelly rebounded from a 4-8 season in 2016 to go 10-3 in 2017, and get the program’s first New Year’s Day bowl game win since 1994; breaking an eight game skid. The resurgence was based on many factors, but two facets certainly stood out above the rest last campaign- a vastly improved defense, and a running game that was as prolific and as physical as any in the country.

There have been some very significant changes in both of those areas, so we’ll cover those in detail as we do 2018 Notre Dame football season preview. Let’s go!

Notre Dame football Preview Offense:

Here’s audio of offensive coordinator Chip Long holding court at Notre Dame football Media Day below:

QB:

Brandon Wimbush plays one of the highest profile and thus, most scrutinized positions in all of sports, quarterback at Notre Dame. He’s currently off of social media, and at Notre Dame football Media Day on Wednesday he explained why. Read that at this link

Wimbush has had a couple poor practices this summer, but of course reaction to that was vastly overblown. (It comes with the territory here). A few errant throws in a practice session and people start freaking out, and not in a good way. Backup QB Ian Book has shown the ability to win big games, and BK has the utmost confidence in his ability to run the first team offense, if neccessarry.

Here’s audio of Wimbush holding court at Notre Dame football Media Day below:

“Everybody is quite confident in [Book’s] ability to run our first team,” Kelly said at Notre Dame football Media Day.

“That’s no longer an effect. If you asked me last year at this time if Ian went in there with the ones, there might be some hesitation as to can he lead us.

“We’re way ahead of where we were last year with both quarterbacks, certainly just by experience alone. We came into this (2017 iteration of media day), and your No. 1 and No. 2 quarterback hadn’t played.”

“That’s a different feeling for a head coach than coming in here and they’ve won football games and they’ve had success, they’ve been in the mix.”

Both the senior Wimbush and the junior Book come into this term more seasoned and that’s good all around for the team and the program.

OL:

All this group did last season was win the Joe Moore Award, which goes to the nation’s best OL position group. The trophy, pictured below and now on display at The Gug, is MASSIVE! Guess that makes sense, given how OL are the biggest guys on the team! It’s pretty rare for a team to need to replace two NFL first round linemen, and it’s almost unprecedented for a team to have to replace two guys who went in the overall top ten.

Center Sam Mustipher and right guard Alex Bars are two of the team’s most important leaders. Left guard Tommy Kraemer is probably the most talented of the bunch.

joe moore award notre dame football

WR/TE:

British Columbian Chase Claypool will probably be the biggest playmaker on offense this season, and possibly one of the overall team’s most important difference makers.

“We all say that if we had Chase’s body we’d be a first round pick,” said Wimbush, who has also developed an excellent rapport with Miles Boykin, who will be the secondary target of the QBs this fall. The blue-haired Michael Young and Chris Finke will also be major contributors to unit that needs vast improvement over their 2017 performance.

“We’re just a year older and much more comfortable in what we’re doing on a day-to-day basis at the wide receiver positions,” said Kelly. Tight end Alize Mack came to ND as blue as a blue chip recruit can be, but hasn’t come close to living up to that hype. This year provides his final chance to do so.

josh adams

RB:

Leading rusher and Heisman candidate Josh Adams left school early for the NFL, while Deon McIntosh and C.J. Holmes were dismissed from the program. Tony Jones is emerging as the go to guy at the position, but we still don’t know the status of Dexter Williams for week one (this is an entire article all in itself for a different time and place). For what it’s worth, Kelly has raved about the summer that Williams has had, and about the conditioning that he’s in.

Kelly also raves about the durability and physicality of converted wide receiver Jafar Armstrong, who he’s described as “the closest thing to Theo Riddick” that he’s had since he’s been here. Avery Davis converted from QB to RB to aid depth.

Notre Dame football Preview Defense:

Here’s audio of new Defensive Coordinator Clark Lea holding court at Notre Dame football Media Day below:

Lots of change on this side of the ball, Greer Martini, Nyles Morgan and Andrew Trumbetti are just some of the key defenders who need replacing and, as always, true leaders need to be established. Obviously, the big change here is the third new DC in three seasons. Last year’s DEF. Coordinator Mike Elko was as instrumental to the turnaround as any one single individual, but he left for the same position at Texas A&M. How ND adjusts to his replacement is critical to finding success this season.

DL:

Tackle Jerry Tillery has the highest ceiling and NFL Draft stock of anybody on this Notre Dame football team. He could have left for the shield last year, but his returning to school, in a pro-friendly system will certainly serve him well. His size and length has scouts very very interested.

Next to him will be another senior Jonathan Bonner, but the ends provide a lot of intrigue as they run four deep.

jerry tillery

As Kelly has said this training camp, it’s been awhile since we’ve seen the Fighting Irish roll four deep at DE. Adetokunbo Ogundeji was a big star of the spring game with two sacks, two tackles for a loss and six total tackles, but he might not even start. Khalid Kareem and Daelin Hayes likely will. Julian Okwara, a highly regarded prospect, will see time as well.

LB:

Drue Tranquill will be one of the main alpha dogs on this team, with his versatility and experience tremendous assets to this Notre Dame football team. Senior Te’von Cooney is expected to take his star turn this fall as well. After that you have question marks.

drue tranquill

“If there’s one concern, it’s finding depth and the linebacker position, but that would be my only concern,” Kelly said at the end of spring ball.

Asmar Bilal will likely hold down the final starting spot, with Jonathan Jones and D.J. Morgan in the mix.

DB:

With a lot of depth at the safety and corner positions, the defensive backs are certainly a position of strength on this team. Cornerback Julian Love has made strides this summer, and that’s due to his just getting back to basics. According to Kelly, Love was trying too hard to live up to his high accolades, and get an interception on every play. Now he’s just being himself and it’s paying off dividends.

Nick Watkins will start on the other side, with Shaun Crawford, who’s overcome oh so much during his Notre Dame football career, being as talented a nickel as you’ll find in college football. The Safeties have a lot less experience, with Nick Coleman the likely starter at free safety, and a wide open competition on the strong side. 

Notre Dame football Preseason Rankings: 

AP #12 Yahoo #13, Street & Smith’s #14 (slotted to the Camping World Bowl), Athlon #15 (ranking Wimbush the #49 quarterback in the nation)

As you can see from above, the schedule this season is FIERCE! And that’s exactly what it should be, this year and every year, if ND is to force the “can an independent make the college football playoff, despite not playing a conference championship game” conversation.

brandon wimbush

Notre Dame football Bottom Line/Expectations:

This doesn’t quite have the feel of the more elite seasons (2012, 2015, 2017) of Notre Dame football under Brian Kelly. Getting 10-11 wins, with that schedule, would be a major accomplishment. It feels more like one of those 7-9 win seasons that we have so often seen during the 2010s.

2018 College Football Season Previews 

#12 Notre Dame    Northern Illinois     Northwestern    Purdue    #11 Michigan State

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, is currently a regular contributor to SB Nation, WGN CLTV and Chicago Now.

Follow him on Twitter, Instagram, Sound Cloud and YouTube. The content of his cat’s Instagram account is unquestionably superior to any and all of his.

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