Notre Dame Football: 2017 Is Going to be a Good Year


Since the end of the 2016 season, Notre Dame has had player after player leave the program.

With key players like DeShone Kizer, Malik Zaire, Torii Hunter Jr., Corey Holmes and more leaving the program early, Notre Dame is faced with the difficult challenge of filling numerous voids this offseason. As dim as the light may seem, the Fighting Irish actually have a hopeful 2017 season ahead of them.

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Their biggest concern after Zaire decided to transfer, and Kizer declared for the NFL Draft was to fill the quarterback role. Lucky for the Irish, they have redshirt sophomore, Brandon Wimbush.

Wimbush competed in two games during his freshman campaign and was strategically redshirted in 2016 to keep another year of his eligibility alive. With Kizer and Zaire gone, Wimbush looks to be the next man up.

It seems that Notre Dame isn’t expecting much of a decline in talent. In fact, coming out of high school, Wimbush was regarded by some to be more talented than Zaire and Kizer. With Wimbush now getting the window of opportunity in South Bend, some of Notre Dame’s former leaders had praise for him.

“I always thought (Wimbush) was the perfect mix of what you would want,” former Irish quarterback, Malik Zaire, told NDInsider. “I’m glad that Brandon’s been doing it the right way. It’s going to be exciting to watch him grow within that team. He’s really going to be something special in the years to come.”

Before Wimbush has even been award the starting role, Notre Dame players already know he’s going to be the next South Bend star.

The Fighting Irish also have one of the best running backs in college football returning. Josh Adams will enter his junior season after two consecutive years of dominating the ground attack. In 2016, Adams ran for 933 yards and five touchdowns while averaging an outstanding 5.9 yards per carry.

Since he began working in Notre Dame’s backfield, Adams has averaged an impressive 7.1 yards per carry while rushing for over 800 yards each year.

As Adams enters his junior season, he’ll automatically be placed into an offensive leadership role. It isn’t like he won’t be able to perform well. Even though Notre Dame struggled last year, Adams was one of the lone bright spots for this team. With even more on his shoulders next season, Adams could look to have one of the best performances in the country during the 2017 season.

Wimbush won’t have to do much of the work on his own next year. With Adams being able to produce solid numbers, the redshirt sophomore’s biggest concern will be keeping his turnovers down.

That may come a lot easier than it sounds for an inexperienced passer. Wimbush will have one of the best receiving cores in the NCAA around him next year.

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Even with Corey Holmes transferring and Torii Hunter Jr. pursuing his baseball career, the Fighting Irish still have Chris Finke, C.J. Sanders, Kevin Stepherson, and Equanimeous St. Brown all returning next year.

With each of these players coming off of stellar 2016 performances, Wimbush shouldn’t have much trouble finding people to pass to next season. Between the four wideouts, they finished the 2016 season with 1,838 yards, 961 of them coming from St. Brown.

Many believe that as St. Brown matures as a football player, he plays more and more like former Irish star, Will Fuller. His speed and big play ability makes St. Brown a threat on any down. With Wimbush’s powerful arm, head coach Brian Kelly may try to use St. Brown’s elusiveness to his advantage in 2017.

The rest of this receiving unit are some of the most reliable hands in the nation. As the season progressed, DeShone Kizer began using all of these pass catchers in big play situations. If Wimbush can develop chemistry with these guys early, he could take off right from the start of next season.

The Fighting Irish will also maintain one of the top tight end groups in the country. “Tight end U” has been one of the best aspects of Notre Dame for years.

Next season, senior, Durham Smythe, will return for his fifth-year of eligibility. On top of that, Alize Jones is returning, and Notre Dame has secured two top tight end recruits in Cole Kmet and Brock Wright.

Kmet and Wright will likely be redshirted next season, but with Smythe and Jones, the Notre Dame offense adds, even more, options.

Notre Dame also gets one of their best linemen back next season. Mike McGlinchey decided he wasn’t going to pursue an NFL career just yet. Even though the o-lineman was considered a top tackle in the 2017 NFL Draft, McGlinchey stayed committed to Notre Dame and chose to return for his final run. With at least two other starting offensive linemen returning next season, McGlinchey should be the head of a powerful blocking unit.

Then there’s the defense. It’s no secret that the worst part of Notre Dame football in 2016 was their defense. With six players arrested before the start of the season, the Irish’s defensive squad to a beating before the year even began.

Cole Luke and Drue Tranquill were the only secondary players with any experience. After Devin Butler and Max Redfield had been released from the team following their arrests, Notre Dame turned to a group of freshmen to take over the starting roles.

The secondary struggled all season, accumulating just one interception on the year. But there’s hope. Notre Dame has found themselves a new defensive coordinator, former Wake Forest DC, Mike Elko. With Julian Love and Devin Studstill earning an entire year of experience, and Tranquill returning, Notre Dame’s defense could be in for a much better season.

There’s no way to fix all the issue the Irish had last year defensively, but with Mike Elko leading the way, the Irish should take at least take a step forward.

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2016 was a disaster. The Fighting Irish finished one of the most embarrassing seasons in the program’s history. Many believe that Brian Kelly should’ve lost his job and that DeShone Kizer made the wrong decision to leave early.

That’s all behind the Irish, though. 2016 may not be over for some of the NCAA, but for Notre Dame, they’re already looking ahead. With all the talent returning, and new players getting a chance to shine, the Fighting Irish are in for a successful 2017 season.