The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have been hitting their offseason workouts hard as they prepare for spring practice. Even though the euphoria of its thrilling Citrus Bowl victory over the LSU Tigers is long behind them, the cuts from November’s failures still run deep.
People love to say “SPRING IS SPRUNG” but I call “BS.” It’s not spring that is sprung (as we are most definitely still in winter) it’s that Pandora’s box of questions.
We have 5 main quaestions for this spring, but they branch off in many, many different directions.
IS THERE REALLY ANOTHER QUARTERBACK COMPETITION?
Take this question however you want. Maybe I’m being a smartass about the fact that the Irish have a QB battle like every year - or maybe I know what quarterback should be starting so anyone that opposes me is doomed for a life of bitter despair?
Any way you look at it, this ridiculous circus is coming back to Notre Dame for another year, and the Brandon Wimbush vs Ian Book battle will be the main attraction.
WHO REALLY WANTS TO HASHTAG ARRR TEEE DEEE BEEE?
Remember when everyone was all “why isn’t Dexter Williams getting the ball more?” With only 3 scholarship running backs this spring, will we be asking that same question? Will a move of Jafar Armstrong to running back affect that Dexy question? Will Jahmir Smith be like Rudy and piss off Tony Jones Jr. because he’s trying too hard?
There’s multiple routes this running back group could go, but in what direction will Chip Long and Brian Kelly push this group?
WHERE DOES THIS LINE START?
So... Notre Dame is losing two (likely) first round draft picks in Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson - which makes them two of the best in Irish history. MOTHER OF GOD HOW DO WE REPLACE THEM? Outside of Sam Mustipher at center, the entire line could be shuffled around. Who goes where? Which players step up?
Besides all of that noise, Notre Dame had to replace the best offensive line coach in recent memory in Harry Hiestand with Jeff Quinn. Will Quinn be able to have the same type of success? How will the line function with Quinn?
OH MY GOD ARE WE REALLY EXPECTING SUCCESS WITH NO NELSON, MCGLINCHEY, AND HIESTAND?
WILL CAPTAIN CLARK STEER THE SHIP IN THE SAME DIRECTION?
Even more encouraging than Notre Dame’s commitment to running the ball in 2017, was the way the way the defense played. It was such a vast improvement over, well - most any season over the last 25 years, that we really thought the future was so bright. EXIT MIKE ELKO... What will Clark Lea do in his first season as a defensive coordinator? His system will be damn near the same, but how will he go about his play-calling duties? Are his instincts as finely tuned as Elko’s seemed to be?
CAN ROVERS REALLY COME RIGHT OVER?
Drue Tranquill is moving to linebacker from the ROVER position that he played so brilliantly last season. Notre Dame has a few candidates to succeed him at ROVER... Is this the year Asmar Bilal’s athleticism gets put on display? Has Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah advanced enough after his freshman year (a redshirt year) to win this job - or at least provide crucial depth?
What does this say about our other linebackers? How bad of shape are we in if neither JOK or Bilal are able to do well at the position? What changes coukld be in store this fall with the arrival of Shayne Simon?
Yeah... those are a lot of questions to be answered, and I’m just shooting from the hip. Keep in mind that not all of these questions will be answered this spring. In fact... I doubt 15% of them will be answered before the end of August.
It’s a process, so trust it. [slams another glass of gin... neat]