#6 Notre Dame Football 2019 Preview

Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Overall Rank: #6
#1 FBS Independent
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Notre Dame had a perfect 2018 regular season. They beat ranked teams like Michigan, Stanford, Virginia Tech and Syracuse along the way. The playoffs did not go nearly as well though with a tough 30-3 loss to Clemson at the Cotton Bowl. Coach Brian Kelly should have an explosive offense, but there are some big holes to fill on defense and that could keep the Irish from returning to the playoffs in 2019.
2018 Record: 12-1
2018 Bowl: Cotton Bowl vs. Clemson (L 3-30)
Coach: Brian Kelly (81-35 at Notre Dame, 134-57 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Chip Long
Defensive Coordinator: Clark Lea
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Tony Jones, RB, 392 yards
Passing: Ian Book, QB, 2,628 yards
Receiving: Chase Claypool, WR, 639 yards
Tackles: Alohi Gillman, S, 95
Sacks: Julian Okwara, DE, 8.0
Interceptions: Jalen Elliott, S, 4
Other Key Returnees: RB Jafar Armstrong, WR Chris Finke, OL Liam Eichenberg, OL Tommy Kraemer, LB Asmar Bilal, DE Khalid Kareem, CB Tony Pride
Key Losses: RB Dexter Williams, WR Miles Boykin, TE Alize Mack, DT Jerry Tillery, LB Te’von Coney, LB Drue Tranquill, CB Julian Love, K Justin Yoon
Ian Book started nine games last season and was very productive in those contests. He ended the campaign completing 68.2 percent of his passes for 2,628 yards with 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Chase Claypool emerged as a consistent wide receiver last season, catching 50 passes for 639 yards and four touchdowns. Chris Finke added 49 catches for 571 yards and two touchdowns and Notre Dame does not lack depth or talent when it comes to pass catchers. The running game has a few quality options as well, led by Tony Jones and Jafar Armstrong. Armstrong showed plenty of potential as a freshman, rushing for 383 yards and seven touchdowns on 72 carries and he could be the explosive back the Irish need to help replace Dexter Williams. Behind a very, very experienced offensive line, this should be an explosive offense that averages well over their 31.4 points per game of a season ago.
The defense has some major reloading to do. The unit ranked 13th in the nation allowing just 18.2 points per game, but that will be extremely difficult to replicate in 2019. Gone are the dominating duo of tackles Jerry Tillery and Jonathan Bonner. Defensive ends Julian Okwara and Khalid Kareem are back, yet they may not be as effective without Tillery and Bonner eating up space. The story is the same at linebacker where Drue Tranquill and Te’von Coney need to be replaced. Asmar Bilal is the new senior leader of the unit. The secondary will reload around seniors Jalen Elliott, Alohi Gilman and Troy Pride. Gilman is a big time playmaker and recorded 95 tackles, two interceptions and three forced fumbles. There are some quality pieces to build around here and there is potential for another great defensive campaign, but the Irish will not have much time to fill in those holes.
The Bottom Line:
Notre Dame begins the 2019 campaign with a trip to Louisville on September 2nd. A few weeks later the Irish head to Georgia in what will be a resume building victory for either team. There are also trips to Michigan and Stanford on the slate this year and those will be very tough games. Notre Dame will be tested in 2019 and it is very unlikely they will go undefeated again. However, if they can survive those tough road games with just one loss, this group will be looking for another trip to the playoffs.
Projected Bowl: Orange Bowl
2018 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 182.6 (51st in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 257.5 (36, 3)
Total Offense: 440.1 (32, 1)
Scoring Offense: 31.4 (41, 3)
Rushing Defense: 139.5 (36, 3)
Pass Defense: 207.9 (44, 4)
Total Defense: 347.4 (30, 3)
Scoring Defense: 18.2 (13, 2)
Turnover Margin: 0.31 (41, 2)
Sacks: 2.62 (34, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 1.92 (49, 2)
Madness 2020 NFL Draft Rankings:
#30 Khalid Kareem
#44 Tommy Kraemer
#55 Julian Okwara
#59 Liam Eichenberg
Madness 2019 Recruit Rankings:
#90      Kyle Hamilton
#112    Quinn Carroll 
#118    Zeke Correll
#156    Litchfield Ajavon
#162    Isaiah Rutherford
#164    Jacob Lacey
#168    John Olmstead