Previewing Notre Dame Football ’17 Season with ND Insider

The 2017 Notre Dame football season is just around the corner and the fine folks at ND Insider have put together a heck of a pre-season magazine to help get us all ready for what should be a pivotal year for Brian Kelly.  Tyle James, one of  the featured writers in the mag hooked us up with a copy and was kind enough to also answer some questions for us to give you an idea of the kind of content you will find in it.

If you like what you read, here are some links of ways to get a copy for yourself.

Project out Brandon Wimbush’s first season as the Notre Dame quarterback.

“In the magazine, we tried to pinpoint Wimbush’s totals for passing yards and touchdowns, and I went with 2,727 yards and 23 TDs. The numbers are mostly arbitrary, but I took a look at DeShone Kizer’s first year as a starter which included 2,884 passing yards and 21 touchdowns. I don’t think Notre Dame will have to rely on Wimbush to throw the ball constantly, so I went a little under in the yardage total. I do believe that Notre Dame will do a better job in the red zone this season, so I bumped up the touchdowns over Kizer just a tad.

I’m confident that Brandon Wimbush has the highest ceiling of any Notre Dame quarterback during the Brian Kelly era. It’s just a matter of seeing it come to fruition on the field. The talent is there. The confidence appears be there too. I expect some struggles at times, but the personnel around him should allow him to succeed.”

How big of a role will Shaun Crawford play in the Notre Dame defense and do you think he can stay healthy this season?

“I have no idea if he will be able to stay healthy, but I believe that he’ll put himself in a position to be healthy. That’s all you can really ask. I’m curious to see if there are any lingering issues with the injuries in terms of being able to compete at peak performance. From my understanding, full recovery — in terms of production rather than clearance to play — from an Achilles injury can be notoriously slow.

But if he’s close to his maximum potential, I expect Crawford to play a big role. I’m interested to see how defensive coordinator Mike Elko uses Crawford with Julian Love’s emergence at cornerback last season. It’s going to be hard to keep them both off the field with Nick Watkins. Does Crawford or Love draw inside matchups on the slot at nickelback? Both can be playmakers and could very well end up leading the team in turnovers forced.”

Do you expect there to be growing pains with the Mike Elko defense like there were with the Bob Diaco defense (see 2010 Navy example) and how much of a turnaround is reasonable to expect?

“There’s no doubt that the defense will fail at points. And unfortunately for the Irish, a tough test will come early against Georgia. But I don’t think any massive failure will come against Navy. In three matchups with Army as Wake Forest’s defensive coordinator, Elko directed a unit that didn’t allow the Black Knights to score more than 21 points in a game.

I think the majority of Notre Dame’s defensive shortcomings will be a product of personnel rather than scheme in 2017. I like many of the pieces of the defense, but the question marks from last season remain prevalent at safety and on the defensive line. However, I expect Elko to put those players in better positions than Brian VanGorder.

If we’re forecasting numbers with the turnaround, I’d project Notre Dame finishes just inside the top 40 in total defense – did you know they finished No. 42 last year? – and just inside the top 50 in scoring defense. Using last year’s FBS stats, that would put Notre Dame’s defense at allowing roughly 360 yards and 25 points per game. Those are slight improvements on last season.”

Name one offensive player and one defensive player that the casual Notre Dame fan might not know now but will by Thanksgiving weekend.

“Being wrapped up in this job all year, it’s hard for me to have an accurate gauge on names known by average fans. So I’ll just roll with players who weren’t starters last season. In that case, give me wide receiver Chase Claypool and defensive end Jay Hayes.

Finding someone on defense is hard because it seems like everyone’s already been given a chance to prove themselves. Jay Hayes has been around for a while, but maybe he’s slipped out of mind with a lack of production and Daelin Hayes, deservedly, stealing all the Hayes hype.

Claypool feels like a given to me, though I suspect even casual Notre Dame fans may have at least a passing knowledge that one of the rising wide receivers is from Canada.

If forced to dig deeper to even more obscure names, I’d probably go with wide receiver Cam Smith, who is a social media recluse and could be a forgotten graduate transfer, and freshman safety Isaiah Robertson. Both will make their Notre Dame debuts this season and have a chance to carve out roles.”

How important is it for Notre Dame to win this fall to build on the 15 current commitments and how much would a 9-3 finish like you predicted help the Irish reel in elite talent?

“I’m not sure that a season like 9-3 will drastically impact the 2018 class. But it would go a long way in keeping those commitments in the class through signing day. It could also help Notre Dame stay in the running with some of the elite recruits who are waiting to make decisions late in the process. If you increase your chances of getting more top recruits on campus for visits, you’ll likely see a bump in previously unexpected commitments.

“I would expect a 9-3 season to have a greater impact on the 2019 class. I have my doubts that a positive season will be enough to change a lot of minds late in the recruiting process for the 2018 class. The biggest change from the 2017 recruiting cycle could be the pool of recruits Notre Dame can try to poach in the final months.”

If you had to project out the remaining spots in this year’s based on a 9-3 finish – who would that include?

“There are five recruits at this point that I’d feel comfortable saying they could easily end up signing with Notre Dame: wide receiver Kevin Austin, cornerback Donte Burton, offensive guard/defensive tackle Sam Taimani, tight end Tommy Tremble and safety Paul Moala. That would put Notre Dame at 20 commitments.

I’m not quite sure how much room the Irish will have after that. But there will still be needs at cornerback, defensive end, offensive tackle and wide receiver. There’s plenty of work to be done to determine if those needs will be met and who could fill them.”

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