Hear Me Out.
I am an eternal optimist, especially when it comes to Notre Dame Football. I typically reserve all of my negativity towards my beloved Chicago Bears and trashy reality television. However, I am going into this year with a bit of a different perspective, both as a fan and an analyst (that’s a new title I just gave myself). There are multiple factors that are causing me to pause on this team, though I am VERY high on the potential...... I am of the mindset that I will believe it once I see it with this group. I will say, this team has both a high floor and a high ceiling, though the ceiling is reallllly dependent on a lot of things going “right”.
What Concerns Me?
They are talented and they have an incredibly high ceiling. However, you can’t replace that many starters, throw a Freshman at Left Tackle (I agree he’s not a normal freshman), and just expect things to go off without a hitch. I love that they will be starting in a hostile environment against an athletic defensive line. That first week will be a huge tell in how they play together as a unit under new starting quarterback Jack Coan. I am also very curious how Cain Madden will perform. Again, I am high on him but want to see how the first couple games play out. Regardless, I cannot wait to call him the #dumptruck.
New Starting QB
I love Jack Coan.....but you can’t expect the cleanest transition when you replace the winningest quarterback in school history. Coan is about as good as you could hope for to replace a starter as he is seasoned, has a strong arm, and is athletic. I am mostly excited to see how he meshes with more athletic skill positions than he had at Wisconsin. Also low key excited to see him take off as Jackie has some wheels.
Secondary outside of Kyle Hamilton
Kyle Hamilton will be elite as always. Outside of him, the group is is not that deep, despite them playing a decent amount of football. Some names I am curious about include Houston Griffith, Cam Hart, TaRiq Bracy, and Ramon Henderson. They all have tons of talent, but remain unproven. I do expect Clarence Lewis to be solid all year round, but the play of the others remain unproven.
Health of WR core
This is the widest floor/ceiling group on the entire team. The ceiling is top level elite and the floor is average due to lack of proven production and a history of injuries. I will say this.....if the entire group is healthy for the year, they will be the most dynamic group from top to bottom that we’ve seen in years. My dark horse of this group is Joe Wilkins Jr. I think he will lead to team is receiving in 3 games. He is a gamer and someone who will step up in some big moments, while being very very quiet in others. This group is wildly exciting, though their health and experience worries me.
So What Does This Mean?
I listed my concerns....but am very aware that most of these things can go the right way. Even if they go the wrong way....the floor is still very high. That’s what happens when you coach and recruit at a consistently higher level than almost anyone else in the country. However, I am not confident in saying this is a playoff team BECAUSE of all of those factors. I am going into this season expecting.........10-2 and a NY6 Bowl game (that they win)
Where is the Loss?
I group the schedule into 2 parts....the stretch of death starting with Wisconsin and ending with UNC and “others”. The others I could see a slip up include VT, Virginia, Stanford, GT, and FSU. College football is weird and weird things happen. ND has consistently been on the right side of the weird over the last 3 seasons, much of which can be credited to Ian Book. You don’t get the “winner” name tag without constantly winning. He knew how to win in so many different scenarios. Coan could be dynamic, but this is a new environment and a completely new team.
This is going to be a VERY good football team and if everything goes right could even be great. I expect them to be disciplined and play at a high level all season. If everything goes out way, this team has the talent to be a playoff team. The question is.....Does lack of experience hurt them and can they stay healthy.....those are the questions folks. I hope I am wrong and feel free to roast me in the comments section and as always....GO IRISH
Bonus Final Thought.
The Holy Cross Crusaders will win the Patriot League for the third year in a row. #DYNASTY