Notre Dame Football: 3 Underrated Players Heading into 2018

SOUTH BEND, IN - NOVEMBER 19: Chris Finke /

Heading into the 2018 season, Notre Dame football has its fair share of well-known names and players expected to make an impact on both sides of the ball. Here’s a short list of guys who are flying under the radar that could make an impact this fall.

The Notre Dame football team certainly has some question marks throughout their roster heading into the 2018 season. Losing two All-Americans on the offensive line, including three other offensive starters is difficult. Add three more lost starters on defense, and it gets a little more challenging. Sprinkle in the dismissals of wide receiver Kevin Stepherson and running backs Deon McIntosh and C.J. Holmes, and you’re now looking at some major holes to fill.

Fortunately, the Irish are returning some key players that are expected to have an impact on Saturdays this Fall. Sam Mustipher, Julian Love, Shaun Crawford, Drue Tranquill, Jerry Tillery, Te’von Coney — and of course Justin Yoon — are all expected to perform at a high level this year. All have certainly earned the hype surrounding them.

These players have most of the fanbase’s attention, and understandably so. However, there are a few Golden Domers who are being slept on that I believe will make an impact this season.

Liam Eichenberg, Left Tackle, Junior

There might not be larger shoes to fill when it comes to replacing the predecessors of Notre Dame’s left tackles, both literally and figuratively. Liam Eichenberg, a junior from Ohio, is stepping into the role previously held by Zack Martin, Ronnie Stanley, and Mike McGlinchey — all former first round draft picks.

Eichenberg lost a possible starting role last year to Tommy Kraemer and Robert Hainsey. He saw action in late game blowouts last season and served as the backup to Mike McGlinchey. The 6-6, 305-pound Eichenberg seems to have had a great spring, earning his way to the top of the depth chart at left tackle.  This is very promising, as Eichenberg seems confident and ready to contribute at one of the most important positions on the offensive side of the ball.

It’s understandable for many to have a left tackle hangover considering the names of those who’ve recently played the position. But I believe Eichenberg is ready to make the most of his opportunity and will be an above average player for one of the best offensive lines in college football.

Chris Finke, Wide Receiver/Punt Returner, Senior

Also known as “The Slippery Fox,” Finke is one of those fan favorites for those that know who he is. A former walk-on who earned a scholarship shortly before the 2016 season, Finke has seen limited action over the last few seasons.

Finke has hauled in 16 receptions for 224 yards and 2 touchdowns in his Irish career, primarily as a slot receiver. He also nabbed the starting punt returner position last year and has a modest 33 career returns for 226 yards.

Finke is about as underrated a player on this roster as they come. I can see him playing a much larger role this year in the slot as a third down and possession receiver. His smaller frame can be a great compliment to the taller, larger Boykin and Claypool on the outside. Don’t be surprised if he makes a few plays returning punts as well, as we saw a tiny flash of what he can do on special teams against Stanford last year.

Brandon Wimbush, Quarterback, Senior

I know what you’re thinking, and most of the Irish faithful have reason to not have a lot of faith in our signal caller from last year. Completing just 49.5% of his passes, Wimbush had an extremely up-and-down year in 2017. He’d show flashes of his athleticism one minute and then struggle to hit a receiver in stride on a 5-yard crossing route the next minute. Most thought if Wimbush was just consistently decent all year, the Irish make the College Football Playoff, and I would agree.

Because of his struggles, many have jumped on the Ian Book train, which is understandable. However, Wimbush has gone back to ground zero and has rebuilt his approach to playing quarterback this offseason.

For this reason, along with competition from Ian Book all spring, I believe Wimbush will surprise a lot of people this Fall and turn some heads. He showed improvement and looked much more comfortable in the pocket in the Blue-Gold Spring Game. An entire summer of continuing to improve will only help.

Next: Notre Dame Athletics Year In Review

While many have lost faith in Wimbush, I still believe he can get the job done this year. Look for No. 7 to make some plays on the ground — and more importantly — through the air this season.