#22 Notre Dame Football 2014 Preview

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Overall Rank: #22
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A 9-4 record is not all that bad, especially considering Notre Dame beat Michigan State, Arizona State, USC and BYU. However, following their BCS championship appearance a year earlier, it was a step back for the Irish. In 2014 they look to step back up towards the upper echelon of the best of the best. And, unlike Notre Dame teams of the recent past, this group will do it with their offense…as long as the inexperienced line can give the talented skill players time to operate.

2013 Record: 9-4
2013 Bowl: Pinstripe Bowl vs. Rutgers (W 29-15)
Coach: Brian Kelly (37-15 at Notre Dame, 90-37 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Denbrock
Defensive Coordinator: Brian VanGorder

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Cam McDaniel, RB, 705 yards
Passing: None
Receiving: DaVaris Daniels, WR, 745 yards
Tackles: Jaylon Smith, LB, 67
Sacks: Jaron Jones, DT, 1.0; Ishaq Williams, DE, 1.0
Interceptions: Austin Collinsworth, S, 3

Other Key Returnees: RB Tarean Folston, QB Everett Golson, WR Chris Brown, TE Ben Koyack, OL Nick Martin, CB KeiVarea Russell, CB Mathias Farley, K/P Kyle Brindza

Key Losses: RB George Atkinson, QB Tommy Rees, WR T.J. Jones, WR Troy Niklas, OL NickZach Martin, OL L.G. Watt, LB Dan Fox, LB Carlo Calabrese, DL Stephon Tuitt, DL Louis Nix, CB Barnett Jackson, LB Prince Shembo

Quarterback Everett Golson is back after missing last season with a suspension. Two years ago he started 11 games during Notre Dame’s magical season, passing for 2,405 yards and a dozen touchdowns, while adding 298 yards and six more scores on the ground. Golson finds ways to win and that is the hope again in 2014. Golson has plenty of receivers to work with. DaVaris Daniels caught 49 passes for 745 yards and seven touchdowns in 2013 and should emerge as Golson’s top target. Chris Brown, Corey Robinson and slot back Amir Carlisle, who was out last season with an injury, figure to be the other top target. Throw one of the best tight ends in the country in Ben Koyack into the mix and Golson could put up surprisingly big passing numbers. At running back, Cam McDaniel returns after leading the team with 705 rushing yards last season, but he will be pushed by sophomore Tarean Folston and redshirt freshman Greg Bryant.

The defense is doing some serious retooling and there are a lot of changes being made. Building around tackle Sheldon Day, linebacker Jaylon Smith and cornerback KeiVarae Russell is a great place to start, but just about everywhere else is full of inexperience or experience gained at other positions. Former reserve outside linebackers Ishaq Williams and Romeo Okwara are the likely starting defensive ends. Safety John Turner is now a linebacker and safety Matthias Farley is a cornerback. The Irish have talent, but the lack of experience is going to catch up with them sooner or later. The biggest concern is the pass rush. Only a few players who tallied a sack at all last season are back and this was not a team that got to the opposing quarterback with any consistency as it was. Obviously the defensive coaching staff is reworking the pieces that they have in order to change that, yet in the end it could turn out to be a move that was more out of desperation than anything else.

The Bottom Line:
This should be a very potent defense and it seems likely that Notre Dame’s defense will come around relatively quickly. The Irish should have some time to figure it out. Outside of a home game against Michigan, the schedule does not start off too tough. By the time they play Stanford and Florida State in October, the defense will be nearly as good as it is going to get. If that results in a win or two against the Cardinal and Seminoles, this team will head into late November with an eye on the playoffs.

Projected Bowl: Pinstripe Bowl

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 151.3 (80th in nation, 4th in conference)
Passing Offense: 254.8 (39, 1)
Total Offense: 406.2 (67, 3)
Scoring Offense: 27.2 (74, 3)
Rushing Defense: 168.0 (70, 2)
Pass Defense: 198.2 (15, 2)
Total Defense: 366.2 (31, 1)
Scoring Defense: 22.4 (27, 2)
Turnover Margin: 0.00 (61, 3)
Sacks: 1.54 (96, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 0.62 (2, 1)

Madness 2015 NFL Draft Rankings:
#67 Ben Koyack

Madness 2014 Recruit Rankings:
#40 Quenton Nelson
#53 Nyles Morgan
#73 Justin Brent
#110 Alex Bars
#130 Grant Blankenship
#136 Corey Holmes
#140 Andrew Trumbetti
#195 Sam Mustipher


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