The 2016 Notre Dame football season has been, well let’s just say substandard so far. Probably not too many were expecting the Irish to have a 2-5 record going into the bye week, but here we are. Bright spots have been few and far between, so there is of room for improvement in almost every aspect of this team. So without any further ado, here is Notre Dame’s midseason offensive grade.
The Irish Offense - B
For the first five games of the season the Irish offense was pretty much playing B+ to A ball, but the last two performances had me knock them down a grade. An offense that was once averaging 40 points and 500 yards is now averaging 30 points and 413 yards per game thanks to two lackluster performances against NC State and Stanford. Sure the NC State game can be thrown out because of Hurricane Matthew, but even in perfect conditions against Stanford the offense still could not find its footing.
The last two games not withstanding, the passing attack has been very effective. DeShone Kizer has shown he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the country, as he’s skyrocketed up everyone’s draft boards. He’s thrown for 1,775 yards, 14 touchdowns and 7 INTs.
The Irish receiving corps has been everything we’ve hoped for. Everything we heard in camp about Equanimeous St. Brown has turned out to be pretty much true. The sophomore is ND’s leading receiver with 611 yards and six touchdowns. Torii Hunter Jr. and C.J. Sanders have also been solid targets for Kizer.
The running game and the offensive line player have been two huge major disappointments thus far.
After averaging 200+ yards on the ground last season (the first time in the Brian Kelly era), Irish fans were expecting more of the same this season with the likes of Josh Adams, Tarean Folston and a promising Dexter Williams returning. That just hasn’t been the case so far as the Irish are running for 150 yards per game and a mere 3.9 yards per carry. The Irish have the horses to have a strong rushing attack; it’s the guys in front of them need to play better.
A major reason why the rushing attack has been disappointing is without question the offensive line. Before the season there was a sense that Notre Dame would just be able to plug in three new starters on the offensive line and everything would be just dandy, but that’s just not how it’s played out. The Irish have had trouble keeping Kizer upright this season as they currently rank No.110 in sacks allowed with 19. Obviously they haven’t done a good job of creating lanes for the Irish backs either.
Left tackle, Mike McGlinchey, has already said he plans on coming back for a fifth year next season. Quenton Nelson, Sam Mustipher, Colin McGovern and Alex Bars all have eligibility for next season as well. These last five games are huge for the development for this unit.
Speaking of developing, that is what we need to see from the offense as a whole over the last five games. We’ve seen what they’re capable of (first four games), but we’ve also seen a bit of regression (last two games). In an article I wrote earlier this week, I talked about how the Irish defense has slowly improved over the last three games. The Irish offense needs to start doing the same, and that starts next weekend against Miami. 24 of 25 players listed on the offensive two deep have eligibility for next season, if we can see some steady improvement and consistency over the second half of the season the Irish will return one of the most dangerous offenses in 2017.