After a disappointing 2016 season which resulted in a 4-8 record, Notre Dame will be looking for a bounce back season beginning on September 2nd, against Temple.
Amid the uncertainty surrounding the Fighting Irish in the offseason, the team made the choice to bring back Brian Kelly in what will be his eighth season as head coach of Notre Dame. Kelly has had success with the program, posing a 59-31 record as head coach, which includes a 2013 national championship appearance. Kelly will look to provide stability to the Fighting Irish this season.
Perhaps the biggest position to be filled for Notre Dame is quarterback. The Fighting Irish will enter the season having seen DeShone Kizer taken 52nd overall in the NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns. Kizer threw for almost 6,000 yards in his Notre Dame career, to go along with 47 touchdowns, and only 19 interceptions in his two seasons as the starting quarterback.
Enter Brandon Wimbush, the 6-2, 228 lb. junior who will take over as the Irish starting quarterback in 2017. Wimbush was rated as a four star recruit coming out of high school by 247sports, and had offers from Penn State, Ohio State, and Alabama among other teams before committing to Notre Dame.
Wimbush has played in just two games in his career with the Fighting Irish, both in 2015 as a freshman against Umass, and Pittsburgh. Wimbush completed the most passes of any quarterback in the state of New Jersey in his senior season, with 192 completions. He threw for 3,187 yards as a senior, with 37 touchdowns, and just four interceptions. Wimbush will look to continue to lead a passing offense that ranked in the top 50 in the nation in 2016.
Something that will help take the pressure off of a first time starting quarterback is the return of fifteen starters from last season. The Fighting Irish will bring back offensive lineman Mike McGlinchey, Quenton Nelson, Sam Mustipher, and Alex Bars. Each started all twelve games a season ago, according to NBC Sports. The return of four starting offensive lineman will certainly help a first year starter having veteran leadership along the offensive line.
Along with the four offensive lineman, Notre Dame brings running back Josh Adams, and wide receivers C.J. Sanders, as well as Equanimeous St. Brown, and tight end Durham Smythe, per NBC Sports. Adams rushed for 933 yards in the 2016 season along with five touchdowns, which followed a 2015 season of over 800 yards rushing. As for the receivers. Equanimeous St. Brown posted 961 yards receiving in 2016, the most on the team, and nine touchdowns, which was also the most of any receiver on the team. Sanders had 293 yards receiving, and two touchdowns on the season.
The Fighting Irish will also return a strong secondary in safeties Drue Tranquill, and Devin Studstill, along with cornerback Julian Love. They also bring back two linebackers in Nyles Morgan, and Te’von Coney, along with defensive lineman Jerry Tillery, and Andrew Trumbetti, according to NBC Sports.
Notre Dame will look to once again return to success by making a bowl appearance under first year starting quarterback Brandon Wimbush, and 15 returning starters from a season ago. It all gets underway on September 2nd, when the Owls travel to South Bend to take on Notre Dame, in a matchup of first year starting quarterbacks.