South Bend, Indiana.
June 10, 2020.
At the end of last season, I really thought the Kelly era had come to an end, after 10 years, just one BCS semifinal (Cotton Bowl) in the College Football Playoff format, Kelly has not done what was expected from him.
In theory, Brian Kelly has something to defend himself. From 2017 to date, his record is 31 wins and 5 losses, a good litter of recruits for the 2020 and 2021 season and the support of the University President backs him up.
The 2020 season will be different for everyone, even so, the demands of the Fighting Irish are the same, to fight for the championship. Like all other college football teams, Notre Dame will have a very short preseason, with Tommy Rees, the new offensive coordinator, having little time to deploy his system on offense, or at least outside of a virtual rally.
The question is obvious: what can we expect from the Irish in the 2020 season?
The offense will have senior quarterback Ian Book (20 wins & 3 losses as a starter) at the controls, who after his horrible game against Michigan last season led the Irish to 6 straight wins and was declared leader of the team by his own teammates. For Book, having Rees as OC, will benefit him greatly, as he was his QB coach in past seasons and they know each other well.
Along with Ian Book, all the starting offensive linemen from last season are back, led by tackles Liam Eichenberg (6-6 tall and 305 lb) and Robert Hainsey (6-4 tall and 295 lb). A lot is expected this season from sophomore Tommy Tremble, who with Brock Wright is trying to put Irish tight ends on top.
The running back will be Jafar Armstrong, with several years in college but little experience on the playing field. The running game is complemented by C’Bo Flemister, who originally got commited to Georgia Tech and expects great things in the future.
The big question mark of the Irish offense are wide receivers, although there are several veterans on the list, sophomores Kevin Austin and Branden Lenzy are, for the moment, the team’s starters.
Notre Dame lost a lot of defensive talent and leadership in the last two NFL Drafts, Drue Tranquill, Alohi Gilman, Jalen Elliot and Troy Pride Jr, just to mention a few.
Only 5 starters return for the current season, veteran linebackers Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (leader with 80 tackles and 5.5 sacks) and Drew White are on the top the list. The defensive line will be led by Kurt Hinish (Middle Guard) and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa (Defensive Tackle). The Irish’s weak point is the defensive backs, only CB Shaun Crawford started in 2019. junior safety Isaiah Pryor, who comes from Ohio State, has the difficult task of securing the perimeter along with Kyle Hamilton, from whom there is already a lot of noise being generated for the 2021 Draft.
Coach Clark Lea took over the defense in 2018. Many considered him a true teacher.
He will become a head coach in the coming years.
Notre Dame’s schedule for the 2020 season (if there wasn’t any changes) begins against Navy, a longtime rival. September can be considered easy, as no opponent (Arkansas, Western Michigan and Wake Forest) is considered within the Top 25 before the season. In October everything gets complicated, the Irish visit the legendary “Lambeau Field” to face Wisconsin (October 3) from there, they host the always difficult Stanford (October 10) and on the 17th they visit Pittsburgh, closing the month with Duke’s visit.
November 7 is a date that many have marked on our calendars, the Fighting Irish will host in South Bend one of the best teams in recent years, the Clemson Tigers. A week later they will visit Georgia Tech, on the 21st they will host Louisville and they will finish the season at the Coliseum in Los Angeles visiting the USC Trojans.
After visiting one of the few practices in South Bend and analyzing the team, the Irish have no depth chart, they do have many young and inexperienced players. The game against Wisconsin will be a physically exhausting game, where the offense will have to set the time and allow the defense to rest between series. Stanford will also cost them a lot of work, the Cardinal is famous for their explosive running game. Notre Dame has to finish October with a 8-0 record, but it is much more important that they do not have impact injuries in the 11 offensive or defensive starters, as they will need all the experience possible from their leaders against one of the contenders for the national championship, Clemson.
Notre Dame will only be considered as one of the four guests to the playoffs if at the end of the season their record is 11-1, otherwise, and as is usual for Kelly, the Irish will play a smaller bowl at the end of the season in December.
(Follow Ricardo Ramírez on twitter: @Rick_Ramirex)