#33 Notre Dame Football 2017 Preview


Notre Dame Fighting Irish


Overall Rank: #33

#1 FBS Independent

Notre Dame suffered through a dismal 2016 season. The Fighting Irish won just four games. All of their losses were close with the exception of the season finale at USC, but four wins is not nearly enough for Notre Dame. Coach Kelly has rebuilt much of his staff and the hope is those changes will turn those close losses into wins.
2016 Record: 4-8
2016 Bowl: None
Coach: Brian Kelly (59-31 at Notre Dame, 230-88-2 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Chip Long
Defensive Coordinator: Mike Elko
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Josh Adams, RB, 933 yards
Passing: None
Receiving: Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, 961 yards
Tackles: Nyles Morgan, LB, 94
Sacks: Nyles Morgan, LB, 4.0
Interceptions: Four tied with 1
Other Key Returnees: WR Kevin Stepherson, OL Mike McGlinchey, OL Quenton Nelson, OL Sam Mustipher, LB Drue Tranquill, LB Greer Martini, LB Te’von Coney, KJustin Yoon, P Tyler Newsome
Key Losses: QB DeShore Kizer, QB Malik Zaire, WR Tori Hunter, DE Isaac Rochell, LB James Onwuala, DB Cole Luke
As always, Notre Dame has talent. However, they will be breaking in a new quarterback. If Brandon Wimbush can come close to living up to the hype, this will be a very, very good Notre Dame offense. Wimbush, a 6-2 sophomore, has all the tools to be a great quarterback. Even if Wimbush struggles, the Irish offense will be good thanks to the talent around him. The line returns four starters, including left tackle Mike McGlinchey who is expected to be a first round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft. They will pave the way for Josh Adams, who rushed for 933 yards and five scores last season despite struggling with a hamstring injury for much of the year. Equanimeous St. Brown leads a relatively inexperienced group of receivers. He caught 58 passes for 961 yards and nine touchdowns. Kevin Stepherson caught 25 passes for 462 yards last season, but the sophomore will be pushed for playing time by fellow sophomores Chase Claypool and Miles Boykin.
The biggest concern on defense is on the line. Daelin Hayes and Jerry Tillery are nice pieces to build around, but there is not a lot of depth in the trenches. And there does not appear to be a consistent pass rushing threat either and that is a big problem for a team that ranked 117th in the country in sacks per game with just 1.17. Somebody has to get more pressure on the quarterback. It could come from the much more experienced linebackers. Drue Tranquill is making the move to outside linebacker after recording 79 tackles at safety last season. He could be the player who spends the most time in the opposing backfield. Greer Martini will start on the other side after tallying 55 tackles and 3.0 sacks as a part-time starter in 2016. Nyles Morgan is the leader of the defense from his middle linebacker position. He led the team with 94 tackles and 4.0 sacks last season. The secondary boasts a couple very good cornerbacks in Nick Watkins and Julian Love, but will be very inexperienced at safety.
The Bottom Line:
The offense should be potent and has the potential to be nearly unstoppable if Wimbush lives up to the hype. They should put up big numbers regardless with the new staff’s up-tempo offense. As long as the defensive front can find a playmaker, the defense will be better too. But with Notre Dame’s schedule there is not much margin for error. The Irish play five ACC teams and host Georgia in what should be a very telling game on September 9th. If Notre Dame wins that game, the expectations will start to quickly rise. With road games against Boston College, Michigan State, North Carolina, Miami and Stanford though, the Irish will eventually start coming back down to Earth even if they get off to a strong start.
Projected Bowl: Belk Bowl
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 163.3 (80th in nation, 3rd among Independents)
Passing Offense: 254.3 (48, 2)
Total Offense: 417.6 (62, 1)
Scoring Offense: 30.9 (53, 1)
Rushing Defense: 182.4 (72, 3)
Pass Defense: 196.4 (21, 2)
Total Defense: 378.8 (42, 3)
Scoring Defense: 27.8 (62, 3)
Turnover Margin: -0.33 (93, 3)
Sacks: 1.17 (117, 4)
Sacks Allowed: 2.33 (85, 3)
Madness 2018 NFL Draft Rankings:
#19 Mike McGlinchey
Madness 2017 Recruit Rankings:
#40 Brock Wright
#65 Robert Hainsey
#129 David Adams
#160 Cole Kmet
#172 Aaron Banks
#202 Josh Lugg
#204 Darnell Ewell