Finally. National signing day marked the official end to the 2016 football season for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and there were a lot of ups and downs (mostly downs). Even with how bad it was this past year, I can’t help but be excited going into next year. There are many reasons to look at the program in a negative light. But as a life-long Notre Dame fan, I’ve learned that it is much more enjoyable to look for the positives and be excited about what’s to come.
The first reason I am excited for the future of the program is because of the new coaching staff. In particular, I am excited to see how well this new staff recruits. The 2018 recruiting class could set up to rival the 2013 class as one of the best in recent Notre Dame history. They have six commits already, including:
- QB Phil Jurkovec
- RB Markese Stepp
- LB Matthew “Bo” Bauer
This is a great foundation going forward. The new coordinators, Mike Elko and Chip Long, are already proven to be great recruiters. Not too long ago, Notre Dame had 15 commits in the 2017 class. The pledges seemed like they were dropping like flies. The class finished with 21 commits. The new coaching staff can flat out recruit. According to Irish Illustrated’s Pete Sampson, Notre Dame had 9 official visitors the two weekends before signing day. They ended up signing 6 of those prospects. I am excited to see what this staff can do with a full recruiting cycle.
With how bad this past 4-8 season was, most fans are overlooking how good the defensive talent that Notre Dame has coming back. There are quite a few talented players on the defense who seemed to be lost in Brian VanGorder’s system. Defensive line depth will always be a problem for Notre Dame, but I like the future that Daelin Hayes, Khalid Kareem, and Julian Okwara have at that position. I should also include Darnell Ewell who is a 2017 DT recruit. He should immediately be inserted into the two-deep on the depth chart and push for playing time next season.
Another popular problem that fans have is how Notre Dame did not get one cornerback in the 2017 class. While this is not ideal, the 2016 class of cornerbacks showed how much talent they have. Julian Love, Donte Vaughn, and Troy Pride Jr. seem to be dependable starters going forward and all have three years of eligibility left. Look for cornerback to be a top priority in the 2018 recruiting class.
On offense, most people realize how lethal they can be next year. Chip Long has never had this much talent to work with. Brandon Wimbush being the starting quarterback next year seems like a perfect fit. He will have Josh Adams and Dexter Williams as running backs next year. He will have Equanimeous St. Brown and Kevin Stepherson to throw the ball to next year. He will have Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson pushing people around up front. This is a lot of talent and experience. You can’t forget about TE Alize Jones either. This offense should be explosive.
I will always be excited about the future of Notre Dame football. This year seems a little different to me though. It could be a make or break year for Brian Kelly. The talent is in place to have a great year. A great year could turn the 2018 recruiting class into something special. This new recruiting staff hauled in 6 prospects in about two weeks. This was coming off a 4-8 season. The possibilities of recruiting off a successful 2017 season should have all fans excited. If Notre Dame has a 2017 season that I expect them to have, 2018 and beyond could be very, very bright.
It’s about time we all looked to the future and put the 2016 season to bed.