#8 Notre Dame Football 2016 Preview

Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Overall Rank: #8
#1 Independent
Even with some injuries last year, Notre Dame had a great season. They did fail to pick up a big win though. Their two regular season losses came at Clemson by two points and at Stanford by two points. Those are not bad losses by any means. The Fighting Irish earned a trip to the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State and they failed to get a big win in that game too, losing 44-28. Coach Brian Kelly has some serious reloading to do, but there is no lack of talent on his roster.
2015 Record: 10-3
2015 Bowl: Fiesta Bowl vs. Ohio State (L 28-44)
Coach: Brian Kelly (55-23 at Notre Dame, 226-80-2 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Sanford
Defensive Coordinator: Brian VanGorder
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Josh Adams, RB, 835 yards
Passing: DeShone Kizer, QB, 2,884 yards
Receiving: Tori Hunter, WR, 363 yards
Tackles: Max Redfield, S, 64
Sacks: James Onwualu, LB, 3.0
Interceptions: Cole Luke, CB, 2
Other Key Returnees: TE Alize Jones, OL Quenton Nelson, OL Mike McGlinchey, P Tyler Newsome
Key Losses: RB C.J. Promise, WR Will Fuller, WR Chris Brown, OL Ronnie Stanley, OL Nick Martin, OL Steve Elmer, DE Romeo Okwara, DE Sheldon Day, LB Jaylon Smith, LB Joe Schmidt, S Elijah Shumate, CB KeiVarae Russell
The Irish offense has been explosive the last couple of seasons and that will not end in 2016. Quarterback Malik Zaire earned the starting job last season, but was hurt after two games. DeShone Kizer stepped in and led the Irish to their very successful season. On the year, Kizer threw for 2,884 yards and 21 touchdowns and rushed for 520 yards and ten more scores. With both back, Notre Dame has a couple of great options and both may see playing time. The story at wide receiver is a little more unsettled with Will Fuller, Chris Brown and Amir Carlisle moving on. However, Torii Hunter Jr. is ready for a big year after catching 28 passes for 363 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore Equanimeous St. Brown and redshirt freshman Miles Boykin add a couple more big targets that are brimming with potential. Tight end Alize Jones is a quality target too. At running back, the return of Tarean Folston from injury will more than help replace the loss of C.J. Prosise. Two years ago Folston rushed for 889 yards and six touchdowns. Josh Adams rushed for 835 yards and six scores last season and combined with Folston, those two will be a dynamic duo in the backfield.
The losses on defense are massive. On the front line, Romeo Okwara and Sheldon Day, who tallied 4.0 sacks and 15.5 tackles-for-loss last season, need to be replaced. Isaac Rochell is back to man one end spot and the Irish will need Andrew Trumbetti to step up at the other end spot. The story is similar at tackle where Jarron Jones has experience and Jerry Tillery is loaded with potential. The losses at linebacker include Jaylon Smith and Joe Schmidt, the team’s top two tacklers. James Onwualu will take over as the team’s leading linebacker, but the Irish may have to rely heavily on younger players to fill in around him. The losses in the secondary are highlighted by KeiVarae Russell and Elijah Shumate. At cornerback, Cole Luke will lead the way and safety Max Redfield is due for a big senior season.
The Bottom Line:
Notre Dame starts the season out with an interesting road trip to take on the Longhorns in Texas. Two weeks later Michigan State comes to town. With games against Duke, Miami, Stanford and USC on the schedule, the Irish will probably lose a game or two again this year, but they should be able to pick up a couple big wins too. The program has more depth than they have had in a while and a year like this will show just how much depth and talent Coach Kelly has brought into the program.
Projected Bowl: Orange Bowl
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 207.6 (28th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 258.8 (35, 2)
Total Offense: 466.4 (27, 1)
Scoring Offense: 34.2 (34, 1)
Rushing Defense: 175.6 (72, 3)
Pass Defense: 197.1 (27, 1)
Total Defense: 372.7 (45, 2)
Scoring Defense: 24.1 (39, 2)
Turnover Margin: -0.46 (102, 2)
Sacks: 1.92 (75, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 2.00 (58, 2)
Madness 2017 NFL Draft Rankings:
#44 Mike McGlinchey
#62 Isaac Rochell
Madness 2016 Recruit Rankings:
#51 Tommy Kraemer
#65 Javon McKinley
#73 Daelin Hayes
#127 Liam Eichenberg
#194 Chase Claypool
#204 Khalid Kareem