The Notre Dame football program concludes their spring session of 15 practices on Saturday with the 2018 Blue-Gold intrasquad game. One thing’s for sure this weekend, the Notre Dame football team will pick up another “win.”
But seriously folks…this spring session is one that’s been filled with optimism, as the Fighting Irish have a lot of positive momentum to build upon. The program broke their New Year’s Day bowl game drought, a losing streak that had reached seven games, and extended all the way back to the 1994 Cotton Bowl. That’s history now, as the Irish handled a very good LSU team, with back-up quarterback Ian Book becoming one of the game’s heroes.
Book’s emergence created one of the major Notre Dame football storylines to watch this spring session/ in the Blue-Gold scrimmage on Saturday (12:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network)
Despite the storybook showing by Ian in Orlando, there is no QB controversy in South Bend. Brandon Wimbush was QB1 from day one of the spring and hasn’t looked back. He’s reportedly having an exceptional spring. Yes, he was heavily criticized for his lack of accuracy passing the football last season, and deservedly so, but he also engineered the offense to 93% scoring rate inside the red zone. The gig is his, and last year was just his first at the helm.
He’s making big strides this spring, (which here in the great lakes region is just winter’s extended remix single, not an actual spring) and if that carries over into the fall, he’ll be a very dangerous weapon for opponents to stop.
New Positions for some Key Defenders Under a New D Coordinator
Last season’s linebacker coach, Clark Lea, is the new defensive coordinator, replacing Mike Elko, who left for the same position at Texas A&M. Having most of the starters returning from last season, plus promoting from within, should make this transition relatively smooth. Yes, Nyles Morgan will be missed, but the starting linebackers could all be seniors. The group includes Drue Tranquill, who returned for his fifth season, instead of going to the NFL for a whole host of reasons, including the experience of playing a new position. .
Tranquill started out as a strong safety under Brian VanGorder, moved to rover LB for a season under Elko, and now plays Buck LB under Lea. Tranquill and Jerry Tillery are arguably the top pro prospects on this team, with the latter moving from nose tackle to the 3-technique. Additionally Houston Griffith moved from cornerback to safety, and safety Jordan Genmark-Heath is also seeing time at linebacker.
Defensive line projects to be the strength of not just the D, but this Notre Dame football team overall. Safety is an issue of concern from last year, and it’s definitely something to keep an eye on in Blue-Gold, but again it’s only an intrasquad scrimmage, so don’t read too much into it.
Replacing the Dominant Left Side of the Offensive Line
We did some Notre Dame football NFL Draft mocksourcing, and you can see the results over at this link. Left tackle Mike McGlinchey is projected to be a mid to late first rounder while left guard Quenton Nelson is a sure fire top ten, and most likely top five overall selection.
Obviously, it’s going to be impossible to try and replace that kind of talent and dominance, but the new front line looks very promising, and it will probably shape out, from left to right, Liam Eichenberg, Alex Bars, Sam Mustipher, Tommy Kraemer, and Robert Hainsey. In this group, it’s probably Kraemer who will be next to hear his name called on NFL Draft night, in 2020.
Go here to see where we have this duo of Notre Dame football players in our latest mock draft.
Replacing the Playmakers Part I
Josh Adams, who finished third on the school’s all-time single-season rushing list, also went early entry into the NFL Draft. Who replaces #33Trucking?
Junior Dexter Williams could be the front-runner, certainly so if he improves pass protection. Sophomores Deon McIntosh and Tony Jones Jr. are in the mix too. Jones has a skill set that can be a good complement to Williams.
Replacing the Playmakers Part Deux
The Fighting Irish’s top three receivers from 2017 in terms of yards are either no longer on the roster or are injured. Equanimeous St. Brown is also in this year’s draft and he could be a Friday night guy. We did some mocksourcing on him too.
So who steps up? Good question. The position group consists of Chase Claypool, Miles Boykin, Michael Young, Javon McKinley, and Chris Finke. Additionally, next year’s freshmen class has plenty of talent too. It may just be a trial and error, plug n play situation.
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and the Tribune company’s blogging community Chicago Now.
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