Notre Dame has long been one of the most storied programs in the history of college football. In a history that dates back to 1887, this is a program that has won a total of 892 games and produced 7 Heisman Trophy winners and 99 All-Americans.
They are also one of those schools that many people either love or they don’t. Either way, they are always in the discussion when the season rolls around and they always expect excellence.
The Irish are coming off of a 2015 season that saw them finish with a 10-3 record and a final ranking of No. 11 in the AP poll. Their season ended with a 44-28 loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Fiesta Bowl.
Entering the 2016 season, Notre Dame was ranked No. 10 in the first Associated Press ranking of the season. Head Coach Brian Kelly (entering his 7th season) has already had some issues to address with his team as six players were arrested after a couple of recent incidents.
Kelly decided to dismiss starting safety Max Redfield from the program and has suspended cornerback Devin Butler indefinitely. There is a possibility that more discipline may follow from the university.
Kelly is looking to put the incident behind the team and get focused on the season that is quickly approaching. With a top ten ranking and a schedule that is always daunting, the Irish are preparing to get off to a good start.
The team has two talented quarterbacks ready to compete for playing time. DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire will battle it out and Tarean Folston returns at running back after missing most of last season with an injury.
The Irish will need to find a replacement for wide receiver Will Fuller who has moved on to the NFL. Tori Hunter Jr. is expected to be the top threat while a few of the youngsters such as Equanimeous St. Brown and Miles Boykin will need to step in as well.
On defense, the team lost 6 of its key players from last year. This year, the team’s strength appears to be up front. Defensive End Isaac Rochell might be their strongest player with experience coming also from Nose Tackle Jarron Jones.
In the backfield, there is talent but a lot of inexperience. This unit may struggle early but hopefully develop as the season moves along.
Notre Dame begins play at Texas on September 4th and host Michigan State in a big early game on September 17th at Notre Dame Stadium.
The concern for Kelly and his coaches is the get the defense playing well. The team not only lost some key players but their red-zone defense was really poor last year and needs improvement.
Kelly has proven that he can produce productive offensive teams as evidenced by a scoring average of 33.5 points per game over the last 26 games.
For Irish fans, the season could turn on the Michigan State game. A victory could get them rolling to another season of double-digit wins.
It is time to see if Kelly can work some magic again.