The Notre Dame Fighting Irish looked as if they might be back last year, and now look to stay on top as they enter their 2018 spring game.
The plight of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team has been a confusing one under the watch of Brian Kelly. There have been glimpses of success, but some down years when the head coach’s job has come into question. However, the 2017 season was not one of those times. The Irish looked to be back and flirted with a College Football Playoff berth.
After a classic early in the season against the Georgia Bulldogs that resulted in a loss, Notre Dame went on a seven-game winning streak. That saw them climb to No. 3 in the country — but their stay there was short-lived as they were trounced in a primetime game against the Miami Hurricanes. After losing in their season finale against the Stanford Cardinal, they found themselves in the Citrus Bowl.
Kelly and the Irish topped the LSU Tigers in their bowl game and finished the year as the No. 11 team in the country. Now, despite the departures of key offensive linemen Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey and running back Josh Adams, they’ll look to remain at those heights. But is that possible?
We’ll get our first look at that on Saturday, April 21 at the 2018 Notre Dame football spring game. And here are the players and storylines to keep an eye on.
Players to Watch
Brandon Wimbush, QB
Brandon Wimbush was the starter for every game that he was healthy last season and the Fighting Irish obviously had a great deal of success throughout with him at the helm. Individually though, the quarterback had his ups and down. Specifically, he showed continued struggles as a passer. Subsequently, he’ll need to show that he’s taken a step forward in that regard to get a firm hold on the position this season.
Tommy Kraemer, OG
As of right now, Tommy Kraemer appears slated to take over at left guard for Notre Dame to replace Quenton Nelson. While Kraemer has a tremendous amount of talent and is highly touted for his potential, he has some massive shoes to fill. How he performs in this spring game will be a good indicator as to if the line will miss a beat or have some growing pains.
Drue Tranquill, LB
The rover is a key player on the Notre Dame defense, and Drue Tranquill played the role exceptionally well last season. However, he’s now switching positions and will be more of a fixture in the actual front-seven at buck linebacker. Given his body-type, however, this could be a tough transition for Tranquill. Therefore, we’ll need to see how he looks in the spring game.
Storylines to Watch
As stated, there will be eyes on Wimbush in this game as he’ll be expected to play like a senior leader for the offense. However, Ian Book’s performance in the Citrus Bowl led the Irish to a big win and Wimbush was nowhere to be seen. Despite reports that Wimbush has looked good in spring practice, can Book do anything in the spring game to make this a viable competition?
Can the running game remain dominant?
With Josh Adams as the feature back behind Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey, it was a bloodbath when the Fighting Irish ran the ball last year. They were maulers that cleared the way in fantastic fashion. With those guys gone and the offensive line changing, it will be interesting to see if this offense will have the same pop in the running game that they did a year ago.
Notre Dame enters this season with a new offensive and defensive coordinator, and those are just the biggest changes that this staff has seen this offseason. While that doesn’t necessarily change the talent level on the field, how new tweaks and changes in schemes affect those players on the roster will be interesting to see.