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Aug. 11, 2016 - DJ Boyer

2016 Fierce 40 Previews: #12 Notre Dame

#12 Notre Dame Fighting Irish

2015 Recap:
The Fighting Irish were once again relevant and if they had not dropped their game to Clemson 24-22 (one which was very winnable) this team could have been BCS Playoff bound. Notre Dame then lost their last game to Stanford in a 38-36 heartbreaker meaning they had 2 losses by 4 points heading to their Bowl Game. Ohio State was a buzzsaw and outplayed Notre Dame to the tune of 44-28 in the Fiesta Bowl.

The Notre Dame head coaching gig seemed like a revolving door for a few years with a new coach offering glimpses of promise for a season or two before falling flat on his face. Brian Kelly seems to have bucked this trend and is a very respectable 55-23 at the helm. Mike Sanford runs the offense with considerable input and quarterback mentoring coming from Kelly while Brian VanGardner runs the defense.


The offenses seems to be getting better and better at Notre Dame as the Irish finished the season ranked #27 overall. The biggest issue seems to be which quarterback will run the offense...and both have legitimate cases for why they should be the starter. DeShone Kizer led the Irish to 9 victories as a freshman. Malik Zaire was the starer from 2014 and was again in 2015 before a broken ankle ended his year in week 2. It will be interesting to see if the job audition spills into the season and Notre Dame employs two quarterbacks. It doesn;t matter who the quarterback is the weapons at wide receiver have thinned considerably. Torii Hunter Jr. is the top returning pass catcher and he is quite capable after his 28 catch year in 2015. There are very good receivers on this roster but with Corey Robinson and Will Fuller both gone it comes with unproven commodities. This could lead to the Irish running the football more and this is an area where they have the talent and experience. Tarean Folston and Josh Adams will be a formidable 1-2 punch and they run behind one of the best lines in the country. Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson form one of the best left sides in football.

Best Draft Prospects: Mike McGlinchey OT 3rd Round 2018 (Darly Declaration candidate for 2017).

                                       Quenton Nelson OG 2nd Round 2019.


We have seen Notre Dame move back and forth between a 3-4 and 4-3 primary alignment on defense and we should expect to see more 4-3 settings but we know Notre Dame likes to give offenses multiple looks. Notre Dame fails to have a big name sack artist back in the fold for this season but their is more depth along this line than even and they have improved their run defense. Isaac Rochell looks like not only the leader of the line but the defense in general. James Onwualu is an outside linebacker who could wind up reaping the beenfits of the line play and lead this team in sacks. Nyles Morgan is an emerging middle linebacker who could be the new Jaylon Smith for this team. Cole Luke and Max Redfield lead a secondary with a little bit of turnover to adjust too. Notre Dame played well defesively finishing 39th in scoring defense but failed to come away or cause the amount of turnovers we have seen in years past. The -6 turnover ratio will need to improve in the FIghting Irish want a shot at the BCS Playoffs.

Best Draft Prospects: Cole LukeCB 3rd Round 2017.

                                      Isaac Rochell 3rd Round 2017.

Special Teams:

One of the best pro prospects on this team could be the kicker Justin Yoon. There is only one season of data so far but he was as money and clutch as advertised as a freshman going 15-17. Fellow sophomore punter Tyler Newsome gives the Fighting Irish one of the best young kicker/punter combos in the land. Things are always said to happen in threes and that is the case hear as the return game also is in the hands of a sophomore who showed all kinds of promise a season ago. C.J. Sanders will serve as the primary kickoff and pount returner and he took one of each back for a touchdown last year.


Notre Dame always has one of the toughest schedules around and it's why they are talked about so highly in the national picture even when they have a loss or two more than other teams at the top of the heap. Texas starts the year and you cant fault Notre Dame for having the Longhorns here after they have fallen on hard times. This is still a huge name and Notre Dame scheduled the series years ago when Texas was a little more relevant in the national picture. Michigan State, Stanford and MIami  will all come to South Bend before we start November. Ther toughest road game should be closing out the season against USC.

Draft and Overall Outlook:

With the toughest games coming at home for a change this could be a year where everything aligns just right for Notre Dame. We feel they will make noise but have a couple of losses during the year which will relegate them to a BCS Bowl but not as a Playoff team. The prospects are all over the field and we will hear our share of Irish players drafted over the next 2-3 years.

DJ Boyer