Notre Dame Football’s 2016 Offense: Youth and Potential

Notre Dame's offense is heavy on talent, light on experience heading into 2016. (Photo: Matt Cashore // USA TODAY Sports)
Notre Dame’s offense is heavy on talent, light on experience heading into 2016. (Photo: Matt Cashore // USA TODAY Sports)

There is no doubt that in 2015 Notre Dame had an experienced roster that had the potential to make a playoff run. If it wasn’t for countless injuries, they would have likely made the playoffs. This year the Irish have to replace of lot of experience on the offensive side of the ball. The good news is, there is a lot of talented players who have been waiting for their chance and it’s going to be fun to see who steps up for the Irish in 2016.

The position with the least amount of returning experience is the wide receiver position. The Irish lost one of the greatest wide receivers in the history of Notre Dame, Will Fuller. Last season Fuller had 14 touchdowns and 1,258 yards of receiving. He was a huge reason that the Irish were as successful as they were on offense. He could score a quick touchdown whenever the Irish needed him to. Even when he wasn’t receiving the ball, other teams still had to respect him or double team him which only helped the running game and the other wide receivers.

Notre Dame will also have to replace starters Chris Brown, Amir Carlisle, and Corey Robinson. Many thought Corey Robinson could be a key factor in the receiving game for the Irish in 2016, but with concussions becoming an issue, he decided to do what was best for his health and end his football career. His impact will go beyond the football field as he is the current Student Body President at Notre Dame and a founder of One Shirt One Body, an organization which collects sports apparel from the University and gives it back to the community, once the athletes no longer use it.

The only two receivers returning that really had any production last year are Torii Hunter Jr. and Alize Jones. Alize Jones was a tight end coming out of high school, and he is really more of hybrid between wide receiver and tight end for the Irish. Torii Hunter Jr. signed an MLB contract, but will still play football for the Irish. Hunter Jr. will be the leader of this group of young wide receivers.

The projected starters for the Irish are Torii Hunter Jr. at X wide receiver and Equanimeous St. Brown at W wide receiver. I believe that Corey Holmes will likely be starting the Z receiver spot, but C.J. Sanders will be fighting for playing time at that position and will likely see a lot of in game reps.

Also in competition for playing time this fall are Miles Boykin, spring sensation and early enrollee Kevin Stepherson, Javon McKinley, and Chase Claypool. There is certainely a lot of talent at the wide receiver position and it’s going to be interesting to see who steps up and becomes the next great Notre Dame wide receiver. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few freshmen wide receivers on the field for the Irish in 2016.

The Irish will return only 2 starters from their offensive line in 2015 after losing Ronnie Stanley, Nick Martin, and Steve Elmer from last year’s offensive line. Ronnie Stanley was selected sixth overall by the Baltimore Ravens. Nick Martin was selected 50th overall by the Houston Texans. Steve Elmer decided to end his football career and pursue a career in politics in Washington D.C.

After losing three starters the Irish still were ranked as the #1 offensive line by Pro Football Focus. That is just a testament to the recruiting by Brian Kelly and more specifically the offensive line Coach Harry Hiestand. Hiestand may be the best offensive line recruiter in the entire country.

The projected offensive line will most likely be Mike McGlinchey, Quenton Nelson, Sam Mustipher, Hunter Bivin, and Alex Bars. This doesn’t even include the stud freshmen Tommy Kraemer, Liam Eichenberg, or Parker Boudreaux. On top of these linemen Notre Dame has several of the top offensive line recruits for the 2017 class. It’s safe to say that Notre Dame will be set at the offensive line position for years to come.

Looking at the running back position the Irish won’t have to worry about lack of experience. Whether Tarean Folston or Josh Adams starts the Irish will be in great hands. Both are great running backs and running behind the best offensive line in the country is going to be fun to watch.

I’m excited to see Notre Dame’s running game dominate for years to come with a great group of running backs and a huge offensive line. Brian Kelly loves to throw the ball, but even he knows that the Irish will have superior talent in the trenches in just about every game and he will use this to his advantage.

Not to be forgotten is Dexter Williams and Justin Brent. Dexter Williams was a big recruit for the Irish coming out of high school, and he has the potential to be just as good, if not better than the other running backs, which would be crazy to imagine. Justin Brent was originally a wide receiver for the Irish, but due to injuries last season he transitioned to running back. He is a great athlete and could be a breakout running back like C.J. Prosise who transitioned from receiver to running back himself.

Finally, moving to the quarterback position, the Irish have more depth than any other team in the country. Brandon Wimbush, Notre Dame’s projected third string quarterback would likely be starting at most schools in the country.

I’ve written about the quarterback battle in previous articles, so I’m not going to discuss who I think should be starting. But I will say that the Irish have two great quarterbacks who have seen quality experience and I will behind whoever starts. But they still have a lot more in-game experience to gain, neither has more than a full year of playing time under their belt. Whoever becomes the starter will only become better each week and hopefully another full season of experience will culminate in the College Football Playoffs.

The Notre Dame offense has a lot of talent heading into the 2016 season. Just like every college football season Notre Dame will have shoes to fill in the absence of departures. The success of this offense will depend on a lot of inexperienced linemen and wide receivers. There is no doubt that the Irish have a lot of talent, but in order for the Irish to make the playoffs this season they will need newcomers to mature and develop as football players of the course of the 12 game season. I believe that if Notre Dame can develop a mature offense and leadership they will have a dominate offense in 2016.

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  1. Maybe, I’m overrating the talent on this offense, but I feel this offense if the talent is utilized properly can average 40 points a game.

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